Oklahoma’s SQ 744 – A Believer’s Perspective

October 26, 2010

SQ 744. This measure adds a new Article to the Oklahoma Constitution that would require the State to provide an amount of money per pupil that is at least equal to the average of the amounts spent per pupil by surrounding states.

The proponents of SQ 744 give the following arguments for passage:

  • Give Oklahoma’s children access to the same educational opportunities as children in neighboring states, like Arkansas and Texas.
  • Over the past 2 years Oklahoma’s funding for pre-K through 12th grade education has decreased by over $200 million dollars. This has resulted in mass teacher layoffs, shortages of supplies and slashed curriculums. SQ 744 will prevent further harmful cuts.
  • SQ 744 will provide schools with the resources to recruit and retain additional high quality teachers and help provide for smaller classes, so Oklahoma students receive the individual attention they need and deserve.
  • Oklahoma ranks last in the region and 48th in the nation teacher pay. SQ 744 will help us recruit and retain the best teachers for our students.
  • SQ 744 requires accountability in school investment. It puts control of education funding in the hands of local parents, teachers and school board members who know what their students and schools need.
  • Preparing our children for good-paying jobs and giving them the skills they need for a successful future.
  • Requiring oversight, accountability and transparency in school funding, spending and performance with published annual reports to inform the public and local decision makers.
  • Investing in our schools so our children are prepared for good-paying jobs of the future.
  • A better-educated workforce draws business investment. With a well-educated population we can build a stronger economy right here in Oklahoma.

Opponents to SQ 744 offer the following “big” objections to passing SQ 744

  • No oversight or accountability of how millions of your tax dollars will be spent.
  • No guarantee that any new funding is spent on children, computers, books, classroom needs or teacher pay raises.
  • No reforms in public schools of any type are included in SQ 744.
  • No way to pay for SQ 744 without massive tax and fee increases or without devastating budget cuts to all other state programs and services.
  • State Question 744 is an unfunded mandate. It requires the Oklahoma Legislature to spend billions of dollars, but does not provide any mechanism for generating the money.

How should you vote if you’re a believer? The “Yes on SQ 744″ side wins this debate hands down. Here’s why.

Opponents say that there is no oversight or accountability, no guarantees, and no reforms. This is an interesting argument. Normally conservative voters are the first folks to champion state and local control over expensive public spending programs. Go to any Christian-coalition type web site and you’ll find rhetoric about how state and local governments are closer to the problem and in the best position to make decisions and solve problems. This proposed Article wouldn’t change any of that. All it would do is force the state government to appropriate more dollars for education. In turn, this money would be spent by the same state and local institutions so beloved by conservatives.

That takes us to paying for it. Opponents speak of devastating cuts to state programs and services. What they fail to mention is the huge amount of corporate welfare doled out by the state of Oklahoma that could be easily cut. What am I talking about? Conservatives in Oklahoma have mixed feelings about welfare and other government “handouts.” The way they talk about personal responsibility sends a clear message. It’s as if they recognize that some state aid to the poor is necessary, but to conservatives a large amount (or most of it) should not be given.  So why are they silent about tax breaks for corporations? For some reason that I can’t fathom, they act as if it’s wrong to give human beings money to help them survive, but it’s perfectly fine to give legal entities created to make profits for investors support in the form of tax breaks. Biblically speaking, what’s more important, people, or corporations?

This believer says that it’s time to choose people over profits. Let’s cut corporate welfare in the state of Oklahoma. Let’s reduce politicians’ salaries if we have to. By investing in our children, we will reap a profit to which there is no sorrow attached. Everyone in Oklahoma wins when we have good schools. Vote yes on SQ 744.

Tom Cole, Oil Boy

June 19, 2010

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) is another politician in the pocket of big oil, making decisions to benefit the oil and gas industry regardless of the consequences to our lives and our futures. Here is Rep. Cole urging you to sign a petition to “Drill Here, Drill Now.”

My question to Rep. Cole is, “How’s that ‘Drill Here, Drill Now’ thingy going, anyway?” I don’t think that he’s been checking out the NOAA Interactive map of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Incredibly enough Cole thinks the disaster is an “Act of God.” The rest of us thought it was caused by human greed and incompetency.

What do you expect from someone who’s one of the top recipients of oil money and who’s voted in favor of big oil companies 90% of the time from 2005-2007?

We need new leadership in Congress. It’s time to vote out the Oil Boys and replace them with elected representatives who can think, decide and lead. Not lackeys who sell their votes to the highest bidder.

Sarah Backs Another Loser

May 27, 2010

Sarah Palin recently was fund-raising for a Republican running in a primary election in Idaho’s 1st congressional district. The man’s name is Vaughn Ward and his grasp of foreign affairs rivals Sarah’s. At a recent debate, Ward lamented the cost of extending statehood to any other country. He was talking about Puerto Rico! His opponent in the debate corrected him, to which Vaughn replied, “I really don’t care what it is. I mean, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care…”

If you don’t believe me, check out this article.

I comfort myself with the thought that it could be worse. Vaughn lost the primary in an upset. He was beaten by a Tea Party candidate!

Welcome to Arizona! Latinos, Please Have Your Passports Ready

April 25, 2010

I’ve got good news for Democrats in my adopted state. The Arizona governor signed SB 1070 into law and Oklahoma no longer has the distinction of having the nation’s stupidest toughest anti-immigration law. Arizona’s Draconian measures beat ours hands down. We no longer live in the most anti-Mexican state in the Union!

Check out the enforcement mechanism that the Arizona law contains. It “requires a reasonable attempt to be made to determine the immigration status of a person during any legitimate contact made by an official or agency of the state or a county, city, town or political subdivision (political subdivision) if reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the U.S.” (http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/49leg/2r/summary/s.1070pshs.doc.htm).

You’ve got to love the phrase “reasonable suspicion.” What on earth does that mean? The Arizona governor has issued an executive order mandating guidelines to prevent racial profiling. I can’t wait to see what they are. How do you avoid racial profiling if all you need is “reasonable suspicion?”

The law specifically states that Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) may not solely consider race, color or national origin (http://hotair.com/archives/2010/04/24/correction-the-actual-arizona-immigration-bill/). Unfortunately, the law doesn’t require a “preponderance of evidence” or “probable cause.” Thus it actually allows for the possibility for a LEO to add just one other factor. For example, a LEO could use color (“Here’s a brown-skinned person with black hair and dark-brown eyes”) and language proficiency or lack thereof (“They speak very broken English”) to stop somebody and demand proof of citizenship. Or the LEO could take color and geographic location (“They were in a location known to be frequented by illegal immigrants”) to be the basis for an enforcement action. After all, two factors are all that is needed for “reasonable suspicion” to not be solely based on race, color or national origin.

Most supporters of this new Arizona law are quick to point out that they are champions of the rule of law. I’m guessing that also means that they support the U.S. Constitution. Last time I checked, the 4th Amendment read as follows: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The standard of probable cause requires that an arresting officer needs to have something more substantial than “Looking and Sounding Mexican” or “Looking Mexican in a Bad Neighborhood” as the basis for the arrest. Unfortunately for the millions of Latinos that are hard-working, law-abiding citizens, in Arizona the 4th Amendment is being taken as the 4th Suggestion. They don’t need probable cause any more, they only need reasonable suspicion to ask you to produce proof of citizenship.

My advice to Latinos who have to live, work, or travel in Arizona is to carry your papers at all times. A U.S. Passport is the best; after all, you can fill out an I-9 with just that one document. If all you have is a driver’s license and a notarized birth certificate, then you’ll just have to hope that your birth certificate is accepted as a real one.

After all, Arizona State House representatives have recently passed a controversial ‘birther bill’ that would require any United States presidential candidates to be able to prove that they were actually born in the country as is required by the Constitution. It’s not law yet, but the motivation for the bill is the widespread belief among Republicans that our President doesn’t have a legitimate birth certificate. That would make him an illegal alien, wouldn’t it?

If Barack Obama would have trouble proving  to the satisfaction of Republicans in Arizona that he’s a citizen of the U.S. using only his driver’s license and his birth certificate, ordinary Latinos have no chance. If you haven’t already, get your passports now!

My First Attempt At Yellow Journalism

April 16, 2010

For some reason I really wanted to try my hand at yellow journalism. After all, it’s so popular these days, I figured that it wouldn’t sully my reputation like it might have in days gone by. I’m putting my bluechristian journalism (soon to be trade-marked) piece first. Then you can read the original for yourself. It’s so easy to just spew verbiage without fact-checking, but I’ll try not to make a habit of it. 

BlueChristian Journalism Example

Ruled By Idealogues – An American’s View

One of my favorite lines from the New Testament appears in 1 John 3:17: “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” It is hard to swallow the fact that Evangelicals are content to vote in a lot of loveless Christians to serve in Congress and to support a party that has no vision for America. Who else but loveless Christians and the Party of No would choose to bolster the pocket books of the insurance companies, for-profit healthcare agencies, and big pharmaceutical companies while withholding pity on their fellow Americans in need?

The notion that, in the face of scripture, Evangelicals would continue to ignore the doctrines of Christ and deny healthcare coverage to their brethren in need demonstrates that the love of God is no longer in the Evangelical churches. The fact that Evangelicals would choose to believe that the GAO is wrong and that the recently passed health insurance reforms are an expansion of entitlement programs is testament to the fact that, like Adam and Eve, we have chosen to call a lie truth and the truth a lie.

And it’s not like there aren’t any voices of reason. Respectable, non-partisan organizations have examined the healthcare legislation and decided to support it. Included on the list are: American Association of Retired Persons, American Medical Association, American Association of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Nurses Association, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Center for Social and Economic Justice, Commonwealth Institute, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, League of United Latin American Citizens, NAACP, National Association of Certified Professional Midwives, National Consumers League, National Council of Jewish Women, National Congress of American Indians, Women’s Health Foundation, etc. The list is a very long one. The problem is that Evangelicals won’t listen to the voices of reason. We have abandoned the doctrines of Christ and formed an unholy alliance with a political party that professes to care for the unborn but heaps scorn upon the already-born poor. We have failed the basic test. Will they know we are Christians by our love?

I am all for Christians being involved in politics, but like millions of thinking Americans I am baffled by Evangelical Christians inability to question the ideology the Republican party has been spewing. It is frightening that the lies and distortions of loveless Christians have the upper hand in the arena of public opinion. Published originally in 1927, the now classic novel, “Elmer Gantry” spelled out what happens when individuals use religion as a tool for social advancement. It is a portrait of the selfishness and hypocrisy of one who pretends to be a Christian while living a life far removed from biblical principals. To unsaved people, the Evangelical churches have become filled with Elmer Gantrys.

Timothy Potter, Evangelical Free Press
April 16, 2010

The Original (For Purposes of Comparison)

Ruled By Children

One of my favorite lines from the New Testament appears in Corinthians II, Chapter 13, verse 11: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, but when I became a man, I put aside childish things.”  It is hard to shake the notion that Americans have voted a lot of children to serve in Congress and the greatest child of all, Barack Obama, to be our president. Who else but children would continue to enact new programs that “entitle” Americans to receive all manner of services for which there is no money?…

The notion that, in the face of this reality, the Democrat-controlled Congress would create an expanded Medicare entitlement, adding millions to its rolls while slashing a half trillion from its funds (taking over one sixth of the nation’s economy) is so astonishingly stupid it defies beliefThis is what happens when children are in charge and some 330 million Americans are about to discover what it is like to live in a third world nation. The 12 to 20 million illegal aliens in our midst already know what that is like. It is the reason they came here.

It’s not like Americans don’t know how serious the problem is. They showed up at town hall meetings last summer. They showed up in the hundreds of thousands in Washington, D.C. last September. Thousands attended a huge Tea Party rally in Searchlight, Nevada last month.  The problem is that children are in charge in Congress. The problem is also that a child, abandoned by his birth father, then by his step-father, and finally by his mother, is president.

I am all for representative democracy in the conduct of our republic, but like millions of Americans I am baffled by our inability to have any impact whatever on those currently holding political power in Congress; the Democrats. It is cold comfort that we must wait until November 2, 2010 to rid ourselves of them.
Publishing originally in 1954, the now classic novel, “Lord of the Flies” spelled out what happens when a group of British schoolboys are shipwrecked on an island. It is a portrait of cruelty and lawlessness until they are rescued by adults. There is nobody left to rescue America except its adults.

Alan Caruba, Canada Free Press
April 9, 2010

Love live yellow journalism? I don’t think so. There’s too much bold print in it.

Why Senator Coburn Really Says No

April 15, 2010

From his current e-mail message, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma tells why the Republicans say “No.” Here’s his example:

“Though it has failed to receive many headlines, a recent Inspector General investigation revealed that of the $5 billion in stimulus funds the Department of Energy awarded for its home weatherization assistance program, very little has been accomplished. Advertised as among the most “shovel ready” stimulus programs, less than 5 percent of projects have been finished and an [sic] in many states, zero projects have been completed. Despite all of these failures, the Department of Energy awarded itself $270 million of the stimulus funds to “administer” the program.”

Senator Coburn provides a link to the report from which he gathered the facts listed above. I think he mischaracterizes the report’s findings knowing that few will take the time to read it. I did. Here’s my take.
 
First, here we have a program that was designed to benefit the folks receiving weatherization assistance (they would have lower energy bills thus freeing more money for themselves to purchase goods and services) and to benefit the economies of the states themselves (because they would hire workers to complete the projects, thus fighting high unemployment by actually employing people). That’s good government, getting a double benefit for the money spent. A perfect example of stimulus spending. That’s they way it’s supposed to work.
 
But it hasn’t. At least not so far. Why not?
 
The report tells why. The Stimulus Act required that the states pay the weatherization laborers the prevailing wage. The problem is, the states had never done that before and no one knew what the prevailing wage was. It took till October 2009 to determine what to pay the laborers and virtually all states waited until then to start any projects. Other problems arose. For example, some states put hiring freezes in place and decided they couldn’t hire weatherization laborers even though their wages would have come from the federal grants and not state budgets. Other states decided not to work on getting the grants approved because they were busy resolving budget-related issues to the exclusion of getting money to work on weatherization projects. Some states missed the application deadlines by as much as 6 months.
 
Any reasonable person would look at the report and conclude that it was various state governments (with the notable exception of Ohio) that dropped the ball here. It’s not that any money was wasted. It simply wasn’t spent. The folks responsible for spending the money couldn’t get their acts together enough to plan to spend the grants. (Note: the program has a duration of 3 years and may yet show fruit).
 
So, who loses because of the failure of the states to take advantage of this stimulus money?
 
First, the states themselves. In difficult economic times, there’s no excuse for not taking federal money and paying people to complete weatherization projects. It’s a win-win situation for the states. But, there are other folks who lose out because of the incompetency of the states. The grants were exclusively reserved to improve the energy efficiency of nearly 590,000 residences of low-income citizens. The states have failed to perform a basic Christian duty of having charity towards the poor. They could have worked harder to get the grant applications completed and turned in and then worked on the projects. But they didn’t. After all, it’s not as if low-income people vote in large numbers in primary elections. Again, the poor are ignored by people in power and the consequences are to rob the poor of the chance to have more spending money and to rob the state of having more jobs.
 
Interestingly, Coburn claims that the figure of $270 million that was reserved for administering the grant program amounted to waste. Let’s put that claim to the test. To check the administrative overhead we divide 270,000,000 by 5,000,000,000 to find out that 5% of the monies for the program were reserved for administrative purposes. It is considered to be a measure of good stewardship when a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization has an administrative overhead of 10%. I’d say the DoE is doing a good job with the money. They are being responsible, not irresponsible.
 
Coburn on the other hand is truly irresponsible. He wants to stir up anger so that the public will call for the cancellation of a project with a double benefit of aiding the poor and creating jobs. He method is to distort the truth expecting the public to not examine his argument carefully. It looks to me like this “Family Doctor” isn’t too keen on helping the poor families that would have their homes weatherized. This “Citizen Legislator” doesn’t seem to care about some of his poorer fellow-citizens. This “Independent Voice” sounds just like a typical Republican, expecting those who need a helping hand to help themselves while denying any responsibility towards their general welfare. His brother’s keeper? Senator Coburn is not.

I think Senator Coburn should be highlighting the failures of the program for the purpose of getting the barriers to implementation removed, not trying to get the program cancelled. Instead of removing the weatherization program, we should vote Coburn out of office and replace him with someone who has a little more common sense.

Right Wing Media Bias

March 24, 2010

We hear so often a canard that there is a liberal bias in the media. Supposedly, Fox News is telling us the unbiased truth so that we can make up our own minds. My republican Evangelical friends listen to, forward, and repeat stories from Fox News all the time. In the majority of Tulsa’s public spaces with a television to help us pass the time, I’m talking about McDonald’s or the doctor’s office or what have you, Fox News is what is spewing forth from the boob tube.

It’s time for a reality check. A new Harris poll shows that there is actually a right-wing bias in the media. Lies and distortions of truth that cause a disconnect from objective reality have been repeated uncritically in all the major news organizations so many times, that they have become facts for a significant portion of Americans.

The Harris poll that will be released tomorrow will contain some interesting revelations. We have to wait a day for the full story, but Harris released a preview of some of the ways that a right-wing media bias has permeated the American consciousness. It turns out that the lying liars of Fox News are doing a pretty good job. Check this out:

  • 67 percent of Republicans (and 40 percent of Americans overall) believe that Obama is a socialist. That’s a lie. Hugo Chavez is a socialist, Obama is not and has never been a socialist.
  • 57 percent of Republicans (32 percent overall) believe that Obama is a Muslim. Another lie that’s been refuted so completely and thoroughly that it boggles the mind to think that it’s still repeated.
  • 45 percent of Republicans (25 percent overall) agree with the Birthers in their belief that Obama was “not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president.” Here’s where it starts to get scary. Nearly half of all Republicans believe a conspiracy theory about Obama. It’s a conspiracy theory, people, like the one about the Bush administration causing 9/11 to push their agenda forward. It’s a lie.
  • 38 percent of Republicans (20 percent overall) say that Obama is “doing many of the things that Hitler did.” When anti-abortion/pro-life radicals compare legal abortion to the holocaust, it allows them to sanction the murder of abortion doctors in the name of God in order to prevent more deaths. If there is a widespread belief that Obama is doing the same things Hitler did, then it won’t be long until extreme right-wing Republicans justify the assasination of our duly, freely elected President of these United States in order to prevent some kind of imagined social holocaust.
  • 24 percent of Republicans (14 percent overall) say that Obama “may be the Antichrist.” I threw this one in for fun. I’m actually surprised that only 24 percent of Republicans think that way about Obama. It’s probably because World Net Daily, back in 2008, told them specifically that the Antichrist wasn’t Obama, but somebody just like him instead.

Unfortunately, the full results of the poll, which will be released in greater detail tomorrow, are even more frightening. It turns out that high percentages of Republicans believe that President Obama is “racist,” “anti-American,” “wants the terrorists to win,” and “wants to turn over the sovereignty of the United States to a one-world government.”

Painting Obama in these terms raises the spectre of the Spanish Inquisition. Republicans and their Evangelical allies seem to be moving towards a position that anyone or anything anti-American should be suppressed and silenced, even if it requires violence to do so. That’s what Inquisitions are for, to violently purge the heretics from our midst.

That brings us to one final poll result. It turns out that a significant percentage of Republicans also believe that Obama is a “domestic enemy” as set forth in the Constitution. If you google the search phrase “domestic enemy constitution” you’ll find that Obama has company in this regard. It turns out that Nancy Pelosi, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and even the Southern Poverty Law Center are considered “domestic enemies” by the lunatics who are no longer just on the fringe.

To my fellow Evangelicals, I have only one thing to say. You claim to pray daily for our President. Do you really want him to be assassinated by some right-wing extremist who thinks of him as a socialist, racist, muslim, fascist, terrorist, domestic enemy? Your failure to denounce “extremism in the defense of liberty” is a vice. Do you really want to have the political violence of the 1960′s repeat itself? Unless you turn off Fox News and start praying for Obama’s safety and protection, you’ll reap the consequences of right-wing media bias in a way that no one who’s a Christian wants to see.

1 Trillion Dollars — Are You Kidding Me?

March 24, 2010

One of the most oft-repeated talking points I’ve heard in the last couple of days revolves around the cost of healthcare reform. An e-mail showing you what 1 trillion dollars looks like in dollar bills is designed to make you incensed that anyone would propose such a huge government program/takeover. How dare our representatives spend 1 trillion dollars on healthcare reform? The e-mail goes on to encourage me to throw the bums out when they come up for re-election.

My initial response was kind of knee-jerk. We know that there are two great commands in the Bible. Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Extending healthcare to 47 million uninsured people is an example of loving your neighbor. We were sad that so many Christians we know preferred to keep our broken healthcare system just the way it was by putting pressure of fellow Christians to not support the bill. All 5 representatives from Oklahoma (4 Republicans and 1 Democrat) voted Nay on the bill. Our position is that we will now be working to vote them out, especially John Sullivan.

But the more I thought about it, the madder I became.

When George W. Bush and the Republicans passed tax cuts that by and large benefitted only the richest Americans (in the meantime the middle class was losing buying power and economic prosperity compared to the upper classes), they did so knowing that they were borrowing from Social Security and running up a projected 10-year deficit of $2.3 trillion dollars (http://www.commondreams.org/views04/1022-26.htm). The assumption was that real estate speculation and financial services profiteering would go on forever, thereby erasing the projected deficit.
 
Now the greatest recession since the Great Depression has wiped out all of the savings and tax revenues counted on to pay for the Bush tax cuts and we’re left with 1 trillion dollars of deficits caused directly by the Bush tax cuts.
 
Who would Jesus spend 1 trillion dollars on? Helping the rich get richer or helping the poor, the bankrupt, and the unemployed get health insurance?

Proverbs 19:17 One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, And He will repay him for his good deed.

Matthew 10:42 “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”
 
Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”

I’m so disappointed in my fellow Evangelicals. This one is a no brainer.

The End of America

March 23, 2010

This post will cover random thoughts about the hysteria surrounding the passage of healthcare reform. My fellow Evangelicals are in a tizzy now that it has passed. I’m hoping my words will add to their distress.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

“Write those letters now. Call your friends, and tell them to write them. If you don’t, this program I promise you will pass just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow. And behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country, until, one day . . . we will awake to find that we have socialism. And if you don’t do this, and if I don’t do it, one of these days, you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.”

Who said this? John Boehner? Glenn Beck? Rush Limbaugh? Multiple Tea Party protestors? This quotation is from an LP vinyl recording entitled “Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine.” The 19-minute recording featured a 2,000-word, 11-minute, impassioned address by Reagan and was produced in 1961 to foment opposition to Medicare.

Right before the passage of the historic health care reform bill of 2010, John Boehner said, “This health care bill will ruin our country. It’s time to stop it.” I imagine that he’s about as prophetic as Ronald Reagan was on Medicare.

Signs of the Times

September 23, 2009

There is a web site created by Glenn Beck that is called The 9-12 Project. (For those who don’t know, Glenn Beck is a conservative commentator on Fox News who is famous for being a Christian and for being the guy who said that President Obama hates white people during one of his shows). The stated goal of Beck’s “Project” is “to bring us all back to the place we were on September 12, 2001. ” So where were we on that day? Apparently we were in a mythic America where no one was “obsessed with Red States, Blue States or political parties” but rather we were “united as Americans, standing together to protect the values and principles of the greatest nation ever created.”

When you think of 9-11, what do you think of? I flashed on an image of businessmen running panicked towards the camera while a massive cloud of gray smoke filled the street behind them. I remember the image of firemen walking resolutely towards the danger, faces covered with white dust masks, stepping over debris, the sky completely fogged over with particulates. I think of the image of Mychal Judge, a Catholic priest who ministered to firefighters, and who died when the south tower collapsed, his body being lovingly carried from the rubble. And I think of an image of an impromptu prayer circle formed by workers, firefighters, paramedics, and State Department employees as they stood next to the devastation.

When I think of 9-12-2001, I remember a country that prayed to God, that rallied around a President, that put the needs of others first, that reconsidered what it means to love your country. There was a spirit of unity in the air as we temporarily cast aside our differences to stand together and face a common enemy.

So let’s see where Glenn Beck and I agree about the “place we were on September 12, 2001.” Praying to God. Check. Love your country. Check. Putting the needs of others first? Hmmm. Glenn Beck thinks that when God is the center of your life, you should have compassion on some folks but not others, and it is up to you to judge who is deserving of your charity. (See the 9 Principles on The 9-12 Project web site). So who would Jesus have compassion on? I know, the deserving!

Let’s continue checking. Rally around the President? Wait, isn’t Glenn Beck rallying against the President? Stand together to face an external enemy? But Glenn says that the enemy is the Obama administration, that the enemy is internal, that the enemy is any elected official that seeks to destroy Glenn Beck’s way of life. It turns out that Glenn Beck and I were in two different Americas on the twelfth of September in the year 2001.

So, where is Glenn Beck’s 9-12 Project really taking us? What is our destination? All we have to do is examine the signs along the way. They’ll tell us where we are going. So, here’s my examination of signage that appeared at the 9-12/Tea Party March on Washington on September 12, 2009. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/42448313@N03/sets/72157622224474669/).

As we enter into the land of the 9-12 Project, the first signs I see speak of a people who get all their information from a single news organization. Apparently Fox News is God’s Tru TV. Some examples:

One sign read, “God bless Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Greta Van Susteren, Mark Levin, Monica Crowley.” Another one said simply, “Thank you, Glenn Beck.” Then there was “MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Obama’s news czars AKA The 5 Stooges.” And this one, “If you can see this, you must be watching Fox News.” But my favorite sign in this category was carried by a man wearing a T-shirt that said, “Christian, American, Heterosexual, Pro-gun, Conservative. Any questions?” His sign read, “Fox News, 21st Century Paul Revere.” 

Signage check. Fox News as an objective source of information so that we can make rational decisions concerning important issues facing Americans? Scary wrong. In fact, Fox News viewers overwhelmingly believe the four biggest lies about healthcare reform that are currently circulating: that the plans would give health insurance coverage to illegal immigrants; that reform would lead to a government takeover of the health system; that the plans would use taxpayer dollars to pay for women to have abortions; and that the plans will allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing care for the elderly. (http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2009/08/19/2036015.aspx). Fox viewers believe these lies in part due to the biased commentators that fill so many of Fox’s airtime slots. On a 2 day period in August, Fox News guests that were opposed to healthcare reform outnumbered supporters and neutral observers by a 6 to 1 ratio (http://thinkprogress.org/2009/08/13/report-fox-health-coverage/).

Fox’s objectivity has been frequently questioned by media critics. And with good reason. Fox News heavily promoted the 9-12 rally. Then, when on the scene, a Fox News channel producer was captured on video urging the protestors to cheer louder so that the crowds behind the on-air commentator would appear more angry and enthusiastic. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/19/fox-news-producer-caught_n_292529.html). After it was over, Fox News even took out a full page ad criticizing the other network’s coverage of the event. (For CNN’s rebuttal, see this: http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200909180056). So many Christians I know are quick to point out the dreaded liberal bias of the mass media. The antidote to this perceived “problem” is not to swallow propaganda from a blatantly biased right-wing news organization.

Let’s continue our journey into 9-12 Project territory and take a look at another group of signs. These three signs all have one thing in common. President Obama is pictured in white face with exaggerated lipstick markings making him look like the Joker in the movie “The Dark Knight.”

What a diabolical image. First, it tries to associate the freely elected President of the United States with an anti-social, psychopathic terrorist bent on subverting society and forcing a violent descent into anarchy through random acts of violence. Second, and more subtly, it is a reversal of the despicable tradition of blackface in American theatre.

In minstrelsy or blackface, white performers would blacken their faces with grease paint and exaggerate their lips to caricature African Americans. The typical stereotypes portrayed were buffoonish, lazy, superstitious, cowardly, and lascivious characters, who stole, lied pathologically, and mangled the English language. In this role reversal, a black man, President Obama, is shown in whiteface, the imagery suggesting that he is pretending to be a white man (one of us?) when in his heart of hearts, he’s really just an anti-social, anarchist, terrorist, killer.

The captions on these signs match the extreme imagery. First up, “Unamerican cap and traitor”. (Apparently the cap and trade system for carbon dioxide emissions is really a terrorist plot disguised as environmental legislation). Next up, in a nod to Joe Wilson, we have, “”Stop lying! I don’t want your debt. Obama Bin Laden.” (Apparently this sign maker still believes that Obama is a secret Muslim). But the craziest caption is, “Stop him now, before it’s too late. It’s not about Obamacare, it’s about power! When we smell the burning flesh from the ovens, it will be too late for us all. Socialism.”

This position is so extreme that it boggles the mind. This idiot would have us believe that healthcare reform is really just a grab for power by a would-be fascist dictator who if not stopped will one day carry out a Hitlerian final solution plan to destroy Glenn Beck’s America. It is just not possible for any semi-rational person to conflate President Obama and Adolf Hitler. There are simply no similarities. To do so desecrates the memories of all the Jewish victims of Nazi evil. And it goes beyond Joe Wilson’s racist disrespect into psychotic conspiracy land.

Speaking of psychotic conspiracy land, let’s look at a third group of signs, all evidence of a total break from reality that hints at extreme right-wing violence. The captions on one of these signs read, “We came unarmed this time.” (Good thing the rally wasn’t held in Arizona). The next read, “Revolution: Montana armed and ready.” Then came, “Oust the Marxist usurper!…his czars and thugs! Honduras did it!”

But the scariest sign to me is this one, “I repeat, Sir, we must fight. An appeal to arms and to the God of Host [sic] is all that is left to us.” That caption is echoed by a T-shirt for sale at the rally. It depicts Jefferson’s “tree of liberty” and over it the phrase, “An appeal to heaven.” It’s bad enough that some of these crazies are hinting that they’re ready for armed revolution. It worse that they do so thinking that God would bless their insanity.

And there we have it. In Glenn Beck’s 9-12 Project America, good Christians get their news from a biased right-wing media outlet that sponsors fake grass-roots rallies against a black man who is not really one of us but has illegitimately usurped the position of highest power in our political system and is plotting to take dictatorial control of all of our institutions and destroy all good, white, patriotic, heterosexual, pro-gun, Christian, Americans. Any questions?

I have one. How in the name of Jesus did Christians get associated with this lunacy? I truly feel ashamed to call myself a Christian when I read the signs at the 9-12 Project/Tea Party rally. When did Yahweh start to support racism, lying, hatred, and the violent overthrow of the democratically elected American President? Would Jesus have been at that rally holding up one of these signs?

My advice to 9-12 Project supporters is this. Stop watching Fox News and start thinking for yourself. The America that you want to bring back is an America that is filled with intolerance, racism, and the violent repression of ethnic and religious minorities. And based on the photos at the 9-12/Tea Party rally, it’s 99.9% white. God will never bless that kind of America.

Timothy


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