Sunday, August 12, 2018

Phrase of the Day: FULLY HUMAN, FULLY DIVINE [REVISITING 'THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST' ON THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF ITS RELEASE]


Today, I am revisiting a major motion picture that was originally released thirty years ago today.  It is a film that was not only deeply moving to watch, but also was a profound religious experience.  It is also a film that had many critics, too.  The film is Martin Scorsese's masterpiece, The Last Temptation of Christ, based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, which was first published in 1955 and later in English in 1960.


The film opens with Willem Dafoe, in the title character of Jesus, sleeping on the ground.  We hear him in a voice over:
        "The feeling begins.  Very tender.  Very loving.  Then the pain starts.  Claws slip
        underneath the skin and tear their way up.  Just before they reach my eyes, they
        dig in.  Then I remember."
 


He gets up.  The scene shifts, with Jesus now involved in making something out of wood, and his voice over continues:
        "First I fasted for three nights.  I even whipped myself before I went to sleep.  At
        first it worked.  Then the pain came back.  And the voices  They call me by name.
        Jesus."


At first we do not know what this Jesus is making.  It is only when he places the piece of wood he was working on, horizontally on two pegs roughly chest level and leans up against it that we realize what it is ... the cross piece for a crucifixion cross.

Wait ... he's making what?!  He's making what?!

It is when Judas suddenly enters where Jesus is working and strongly criticizes what Jesus is doing that Jesus, pleadingly, says that he is struggling.  When Judas wants Jesus to join him to rise up against the Romans, Jesus tells him that is not the way the Messiah will come.  When Judas asks him how will he pay for his sins -- "a Jew killing Jews" -- Jesus simply answers, "With my life.  That's all I have."  And so, the stage is set.  Not exactly the stuff of the Gospels.

That is part of Kazantzakis' point.  As noted in the opening scroll in the film...
The struggle between spirit and flesh (or between mortal human and immortality) is a very real one, examined by many over millennia, and Kazantzakis employs the ultimate subject in his novel, Jesus.  What many did not get is that this was merely a fictional rendering of Jesus' passion story, and not one to replace the Gospels.  Kazantzakis teases this out further in the first sentence of the prologue of his book:
        "The dual substance of Christ -- the yearning, so human, so superhuman, of man
        to attain to God or, more exactly, to return to God and identify himself with him
        -- has always been a deep inscrutable mystery to me."

The other point is that Jesus' nature, in Christian teachings, was both fully human and fully divine.  Not fully human only.  Not fully divine only.  Not either nature with a majority.  Kazantzakis' novel and Scorsese's film simply give more emphasis -- not sole emphasis, simply more emphasis -- on Jesus' human nature.

Most depictions of Jesus in film do not give as much attention to Jesus' human nature.  Here, with more emphasis on Jesus' human side, we can see the struggle the man, the human being had with what he was being called to do.  At no point in the film does Dafoe's Jesus say God isn't real or God isn't his father.  Rather, it shows someone who believes in God -- even posing the question "You can't cast out God, can you?" -- being called to do something frightening and seemingly insurmountable.

If any of us were asked to do what Jesus did, would we all simply charge ahead, never questioning, never doubting ourselves (or even God)?  For those who theologically are not able to accept a Jesus who doubts and questions God, Jesus' exhortation on the cross -- "Father, why have you forsaken me?" -- shows, even at the end, his human nature remained intact.

There are points throughout the film that many religious individuals will be unable to accept.  My point, as one voice regarding the film, is not to criticize you and neither is it the point of the film or the novel.  While controversial, the film's idea is that the journey is just as important as the destination.  You may not want to "go there", but I would offer that religious teachings about Jesus aren't only about his crucifixion, either.

There are many things about which Christians have complained about in the film (and no doubt there will be more), so I will start right off looking at them.  Please keep in mind, this is not a complete list of what Christians have complained about in the film.

At one point, Jesus says -- and no, this is not in the Gospels -- "God loves me.  I know he does.  I want him to stop."  He says this because the physical pain he feels is too much for him, not because he is a non-believer or a prodigy of Satan.  He simply wants his pain to end.

A possible relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene is suggested early in the film.  When Jesus visits her at her place of business and speaks with her, Mary condemns both Jesus and God, saying, "He took you away from me."  Jesus tells her to blame him, not God.  Jesus having any kind of romantic involvement with anyone, let alone a prostitute, has been rejected countless times.  For me, Jesus having any romantic relationship is irrelevant, for what does his being in a relationship do to his message?  My answer remains to this day: nothing.

During his journey out into the desert, he tells a villager he has sins.  The villager replies everyone does.   Even though Jesus says he doesn't fight, steal, or kill, he does say that he is a liar and a hypocrite.  This is another huge sticking point because, in Christian teachings, Jesus was without sin.  How can this be so?  He says it with a straight face, but is he saying that to convince the villager or to convince himself? 

He further tells the villager that his God is fear.  This is insight into the man.  He won't do certain things out of fear of God.  Many people behave certain ways out of fear.  (And yes, we still do many things out of fear, not just of God, but of many things.  Fear remains a great motivator.)   

Lastly, he tells the villager that Lucifer is inside of him, telling him he's the son of God.  Here, Jesus shows his unwillingness to accept his destiny.  And yet, it is this villager who is the first person in the film to recognize that Jesus is chosen by God.

The film slowly unfolds the ministry of Jesus and just before it, going from rebelling to simple confusion to acceptance.  A visual parallel is a montage showing Jesus walking with his followers, with the number of people with him growing and growing.  That unfolding represents what any human being would go through to fulfill such a destiny. 

We see Jesus in the desert being tempted three times, and at the end of the third temptation, the devil says they will meet again, and they do ... and it's a whopper.

The final act begins when Jesus, nailed the cross, in great pain, cries out, "Father, why have you forsaken me?"  (A key point to remember here is that this is the exact moment, when Jesus feels that God has abandoned him, that the devil -- who Jesus does not recognize as the devil -- puts his grandest scheme into effect.)

Suddenly, there is no sound.  Jesus sees a young girl looking up at him.  She tells him she is an angel and that he is not the Messiah after all.  She takes him down from the cross and shows him a new path.  Jesus gets married to Mary Magdalene (further suggesting they were involved once).  Magdalene dies and the angel tells Jesus that God killed her.  The angel focuses Jesus' attention to Lazarus' sister, Mary, and they start a family together.    

In what might seem like a science fiction sequence about alternate or parallel timelines, we see an older Jesus walking home with his family when he hears someone preaching.  The one preaching is Paul (formerly Saul).  He preaches the story of Jesus as how it would be recorded in the Gospels.  Jesus confronts him and calls him a liar, saying he didn't die on the cross.  Paul reiterates that the Jesus about whom he is preaching did die on the cross. 

We then see Jesus, now much, much older.  He is startled by people screaming that Jerusalem is on fire, just as he predicted, and the Romans are killing everyone.  The scene switches to Jesus lying on his death bed.  He is visited by a few of his disciples, including Judas, who is extremely upset with him since he and the disciples did what they were supposed to do, but Jesus did not.  Once Jesus realizes what has happened, without hesitating, he crawls outside, looks up, begs for forgiveness from God.  However, time is of the essence, since dying as a mere man simply from old age would deny God's salvation.  He pleads with God and is returned to the cross. 

"It is accomplished."

Let me reiterate my belief that a married Jesus with a family takes nothing away from his message.  The key factor here is that, when offered a life without the struggle he had with God, Jesus accepted, but when shown that the life as merely a man has been a lie, he immediately embraces what was his destiny all along.  That is a powerful message.

Seeing a more human Jesus in this film, as opposed to other celluloid depictions of him, made him more real for me.  Instead of his humanity being portrayed as a coincidence -- no denial of his walking, talking, preaching, and dying intended -- his humanity being portrayed as equally important makes his death on the cross even sadder and more relatable.  If the Son of God lived as a man among us and felt things as we do, such as fear, anger, confusion -- none of which are sins, thus keeping his lived-without-sin existence intact -- then the depiction of Jesus in this film enriches the nature of Jesus as both fully human and fully divine.

There are those who will never see the film because of their religious beliefs.  Those who have, or will, see it may not like it either as a film or on religious grounds.  I respect both opinions and my goal is not to label you as "wrong".  My point is also not to have the film and/or the novel replace the Bible.  (I doubt that was the intention of Martin Scorsese or Nikos Kazantzakis, either.)  My point is that this film is, or perhaps can be, a deeply moving experience, and, although controversial, does not thumb its nose at the biblical texts.  It is, as Kazantzakis states, a "fictional exploration of the eternal spiritual conflict". 

I'm sure that any questions about whether or not I would recommend seeing it have been answered.  'The Last Temptation of Christ' is a film that you will not just remember, but one that will remain with you long after you see it ... maybe even thirty years afterward.

Terry

Monday, August 6, 2018

Phrase of the Day: HUGS OF SUPPORT

It is no secret that those in the LGBTQ community, even with the huge strides made here in the U.S., still take a lot of criticism, ridicule, and shaming.  Less than half of all U.S. states have laws on the books that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.  (Some of those states provide these protections for public employees only or for sexual orientation only, with two states -- Arkansas and Tennessee -- that prohibit any such laws from being passed.)  Changing laws is, after all, far different than changing minds and hearts.

On an even more personal level, many times they face negativity from friends and family, often being ridiculed or shunned by those who are supposed to be closest to them.  There is a non-profit organization made up of a growing group of parents who are trying to bridge that gap and to provide healing and support to those who can be hurt the most through no fault of their own.  This group is made up of parents of who have LGBTQ children of their own and are sharing the love with other LGBTQ children   The organization is called Free Mom Hugs.

It was started by Sara Cunningham, whose son is gay, and whose eyes were opened up to the gay community through him.  She saw how religion can, at times, come between LGBTQ individuals and their parents.  After attending a pride parade in Oklahoma City four years ago with her son and husband, Cunningham started an online support group for mothers of gay children and wrote a book titled How We Sleep At Night: A Mother's Memoir.  She attended the same pride parade the following year, donning a button that read "Free Mom Hugs" ... and that's exactly what she offered to anyone who wanted one!  That experience led her to starting Free Mom Hugs.  (She is nicknamed "Mama Bear" and refers to herself as a "professional hugger".)

Free Mom Hugs goes around to different parts of the country, attending pride events and other events, giving ... you guessed it, free hugs.  It is a way of showing support in a motherly way to those in the LGBTQ community who, sadly, do not have that support from their own parents.  The group also offers education and information intended to bridge the gap between parent and child and between religion and families with LGBTQ children.  They also support information for parents, as well as businesses, schools, and hospitals.

The organization has been around for a few years, but Cunningham and her organization garnered a lot of attention after she posted the following on her Facebook page just a couple of weeks ago...
The caption underneath reads: "PSA.  If you need a mom to attend your same sex wedding because your biological mom won't.  Call me.  I'm there.  I'll be your biggest fan.  I'll even bring the bubbles."

Clearly, Sara Cunningham is a mom with an abundance of love to give, and who does so freely, as do all those involved in her organization.

Last year, the organization began its annual Free Mom Hugs Tour.  Last year's tour visited ten cities across six states, and this year's tour visited twelve cities across eight states.  (Both were in the month of May.)

Bridging the gap of misunderstanding is a good thing, a very good thing, and Sara Cunningham's organization is a very good one, doing wonderful work.  You can visit Free Mom Hugs' website to find out more or to donate to their work.  You can also check out their Facebook page, their Twitter page, or their Instagram page

Terry

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Term of the Day: SUPPLEMENTAL VENDING

This blog is no stranger to positive, uplifting stories.  It has, however, been a while since I have written on something uplifting, so I decided today was the day to do so.

The focus of today's blog is an overseas charity that addresses a serious problem in many parts of the world, homelessness.  The charity is called Action Hunger and bills itself as "a charity with a new approach to combating homelessness".  Based in Nottingham, United Kingdom, its first project is a series of vending machines strictly for the homeless to provide necessities 24/7.



The idea is that homeless individuals must check in with a local homeless shelter once a week in order to qualify for a keycard to access the vending machine.  In other words, homeless shelters are not giving out the keycards willy-nilly.  My understanding is, if a homeless person does not continue to check in with a participating homeless shelter, his/her keycard will be deactivated, thus halting access to the vending machine's items.  This way, the vending machines, which are not intended to replace the work of shelters and other organizations, are merely a supplement to them.  The weekly check-in keeps those who are homeless with access to other programs and any available means to get back on their feet again via those shelters.  The use of the keycards also provides information on which items are needed more than others or less than others, which can help to refine the program.

The first Action Hunger vending machine was installed in Nottingham at the Broadmarsh shopping center last December.


It had its supporters and detractors.  The Nottingham city council was one of those entities that was not enthused with the machine, calling it "ill-informed" and "misguided" and an over-simplified addressing of the complex issue of homelessness which encouraged people to remain living on the streets.  Those involved with the installing and the stocking of the machine said it was not intended to address all aspects of the homelessness issue.  The Broadmarsh shopping center's general manager said they had agreed to a trial of the machine to get it off the ground, but not to having it as a permanent fixture there.  In April, the city council voted to have the Action Hunger vending machine removed, and it was.

Undaunted, Action Hunger has set its sights on installing its vending machines in other cities, including Manchester, Birmingham, and London, as well as throughout Europe ... and even here in the U.S., including New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.

To this blogger, the work of Action Hunger is not, as some have suggested, a vanity project and not a means of replacing homeless shelters, food banks, church-run food pantries, and various other organizations that assist the homeless in both short-term and long-term ways.  It is good work.

If you are in the United Kingdom and want to donate food, contact the organization FareShare.  Here in the United States, food donations may be made by contacting the organization Rescuing Leftover Cuisine.  


If you would like to donate to Action Hunger and/or find out more about it, check out its website.

Terry

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Word of the Day: TRAITOR


The President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, is a traitor.

He is now among the likes of the U.S. Revolutionary War's Benedict Arnold, World War II's Tokyo Rose, and the Cold War's Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and is the first president to do so.  He also joins the ranks of perhaps lesser known traitors, such as CIA operative Aldrich Ames, Navy communications officer, John Walker, Jr., and former FBI agent Robert Hanssen.

You may be surprised to know that, while a traitor president has never happened before, such behavior did reach up to the vice-presidency.  Thomas Jefferson's first vice-president, Aaron Burr -- the same Aaron Burr who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel -- tried to militarily bring about the annexation of Spanish territories in Louisiana and Mexico, with the intent of forming a republic separate from the Union.  (He was not indicted at a first court appearance, but fled the country when asked to return for a second appearance.)

The legal definition of treason includes someone "owing allegiance" to this country who: a) levies war against this country [which Trump is allowing, but has not done himself]; b) "adhering to [our] enemies" [which Trump has clearly done time and time again], and/or c) providing our enemies with "aid or comfort" whether here in the U.S. or outside the U.S. [which Trump has also clearly done both here and abroad].  The list of punishments for treason in the legal code include a minimum prison sentence of five years, a fine of at least $10,000, being disqualified to hold any office in the United States ... and even the death penalty.  (The legal definition is narrow -- which is why Aaron Burr was not convicted -- and any punishments would, if pursued, likely be tangled up in the courts for a long time, and likely not put into effect if approved.) 

President Trump has displayed behavior that clearly shows his admiration of, and possible desire to emulate in his presidency, authoritarian and despotic regimes.  He has been showing U.S. allies indifference, dismissiveness, and disdain -- take last month's G7 summit and last week's NATO summit as examples -- while showing such dictators nothing but respect, praise, and comradery.

And in the case of Russian President Vladimir Putin at the recent disastrous "summit" in Helsinki, Finland, sharing who knows what.


To begin with, Trump has a private meeting with Putin, just the two men and their interpretors.  With no one from Trump's cabinet present, there is no one else with knowledge of what was said ... or what Trump gave away to Putin, as he did with halting military exercises with South Korea as a gift to North Korea's Kim Jung Un.  He has displayed this shifty behavior for some time now, including hosting Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office in May of last year with no American press allowed.  Even the U.S. National Intelligence Chief Dan Coats knew nothing about that meeting ... and he knew nothing about Trump asking National Security Advisor John Bolton to invite Vladimir Putin to the White House in the Fall, which was announced today.  

Trump claims he told Putin no more meddling during that one-on-one alone time, but who knows?  His level of trustworthiness outside of his base is anything but stellar.  At their joint press conference, the world watched to see if the U.S. president, whose country was cyber-attacked during the 2016 election, would publicly condemn the attacking country's leader, Vladimir Putin, standing directly to his left.  He did not.  Instead, he blamed the United States for its lousy relations with Russia and said he believed Putin's words of denial of interference over all of his own country's Intelligence agencies' findings to the contrary.  His reading of a prepared statement two days ago trying to say he really meant to condemn Russia -- he meant "why it wouldn't be Russia" instead of "why it would be Russia" -- was disingenuous and visibly forced, with his own unscripted rote addition of "it could be others, too" added in for further deflection.

I have been saying among my friends for several months that I think Putin has something on Trump, some sort of dirt on him, that is keeping Trump in line.  After Helsinki, political pundits are asking the same, including many of them and their guests saying Trump is acting like he is compromised by Russia in some way.  Even some national security experts are not saying that Trump is a spy for Russia, but that he is acting like a "controlled spy".  Putin denied any dirt on Trump at their joint press conference, but he did admit he wanted Trump to win over Hillary Clinton.

At a campaign speech just eight days before the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton made the case against Trump regarding his connections to Russia.  (Her comment about Trump being Putin's puppet at the third and final presidential debate has been played far more than the video below.)  Three days prior to this speech by her, then-FBI Director James Comey reopened the E-mail investigation into Clinton, so this speech was overshadowed in the news, since Trump received more television coverage than Clinton overall and Clinton's saying this after Comey's reopening of the E-mail case might have been seen as nothing more than a desperate move by her to counter bad press, anyway.

Turns out, she was right after all.

To their credit, many leaders in the POT (Party of Trump) and commentators on the POT-loving Fox News (and even some on the Fox Business Channel) have condemned Trump's behavior in Helsinki.  It is the most speaking out against the president they have done the entire time of Trump's presidency.  However, what actions will they take to counter Trump's obsession with turning the U.S. into a rogue state, beholden to Putin, just as he is.  One has to ask here: without knowing what was said in the private one-on-one session, what specifically would they be countering?  Just as you cannot fix what you do not know is broken, so, too, you cannot counter what you do not know has taken place.  Talking on the floors of the Senate and House of Representatives so that it goes into the Congressional record, and talking in front of cameras so that it spills into the homes of the American public, are just words.  Appropriate words, yes, but just words. 

Just two days ago, members of the House POT blocked a measure by Democrats to simply condemn Trump's comments in Helsinki.  If the POT will not even allow a condemnation, what more can they be expected to do to serve the country and uphold the Constitution?

The actions in government in general are also suspect.  The Treasury Department announced on Monday that non-profit organizations will no longer be required to disclose donations of any donors who contribute $5,000 or more.  Included among those affected by this ruling is the National Rifle Association, which is now embroiled in controversy with the arrest of Russian operative Mariia Butina.  (The NRA did recently admit to accepting monies from nearly two dozen donors with ties to Russia.) 

Mr. Trump has not only shown a bastardized view of the world and of the U.S. presidency, as well as an unfitness for the highest office in the land, but he has shown himself to truly be a puppet of Vladimir Putin after all, a worshiper of demogogues, and a traitor of the United States of America.

Terry

Monday, July 16, 2018

Film of the Day: DON'T BE A SUCKER

A short film was released by the U.S. War Department (which would later become what we know as the Department of Defense) that oddly and sadly has relevance again seventy-five after its release. 

In 1943, during the height of the second World War, the U.S. War Department produced a short film about how political and social propaganda was being used to recruit Nazi sympathizers ... not just in Germany, but also here in the United States.  The title of the film is 'Don't Be a Sucker', and many elements in this film are sadly being seen again.

I invite you to watch this film.  (Running time is approximately twenty-three minutes.)



Terry

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Sentiment of the Day: R.I.P. AMERICA [Part 6 of 6]


Much of my focus the past five days has been on politics in general and the current administration specifically, but I have also focused on our society.  While politics is not the totality of a society, it nonetheless does have a major impact on it.

In terms of politics, and what I mentioned yesterday about the need for us to stop casting votes out of fear, we need to be smarter and more active.  A number of other steps that may be taken to address this:  Perhaps a "None of the Above" option on all ballots or writing in "No Confidence" (as I did for President in 2016).  Certainly, the ending of gerrymandering is necessary and abolishing the Electoral College would be a very good thing as well.

One final note here of a political nature: We need a president who does not find inspiration from, and does not want to emulate, despots.

In 1948, three years after the end of World War II, the United Nations, during what it called the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, defined what constitutes genocide.  In Article II of the declaration, there are five definitions of genocide listed.  One of the definitions is: "forcibly transferring children of the group to another group".

Sound familiar?

Granted, none of the citizenry put this policy into place, but this is a stain on our collective soul.  What have we become and what are we becoming?  We are both supporting and protesting this activity and we are arguing among ourselves more and more.  Agreeing to disagree is being replaced with fighting because we disagree.

If you search for "country [loses/lost/losing] its soul" on Google, you will find links to articles arguing that we have, indeed, lost our soul or are in the process.  Some of them were even posted after the one-year mark for President Trump, and not just in response to the current manufactured crisis. 

When compromise is anathema, when differing views are equated with hatred toward one's country and fellow human beings, when being different is condemnable, and when hate itself is emboldened, how can a nation's soul be intact?  How can it be pure?  The sad truth is it can't be either intact or pure. 

Right about this point in this posting would be the time to project a positive message about the future.  I am not projecting a positive message, at least not fully, and I am not pushing an utter doom-and-gloom scenario, either.  Looking at the title of this six-part series, I do believe America is dead.  Oh, it's still called the United States of America ... its total land mass is the same ... the number of states is the same ... and our forty-eight contiguous states are still in between the countries of Canada and Mexico ... but America is dead. 

Now, can it be revived?  Yes, but it would take a massive effort from all of us -- and I do mean each and every one of us -- to bring that about.  The question is can we all do that?  Well, can we?  I've thought long and hard on this, and just it seems to me, sad to say, that the idea of a country working together -- not just pockets of that country, but the entire country -- is no longer feasible.

Additionally, is there one person alive in this country, walking around, doing whatever he or she is doing, who can solve everything?  No.  We are a nation of pill takers for all sorts of ailments, and it seems we think our solutions have to be as easy as taking a pill, too.  I could go into great detail on what my take is on how to bring about a huge change, at least organizationally -- although it may be, admittedly, a bit pretentious -- but let me say here that a huge part of it needs to be an attitudinal change, the hardest kind of change.  We need a huge paradigm shift to revive this country ...

... but how bad do we want it?

We have plenty of energy to complain about things in this country -- I've found myself doing that, too, now and then -- but we don't have the stomach for doing the hard work.  Part of that, I think, is that things are so rough for people, in terms of the economy, that they have to focus on taking care of themselves.  Making ends meet is always a priority and a tough thing to do.  I get that ... I really do.  The problem is, if that trend continues, might a sense of hopelessness become second nature, like breathing?  Have we arrived at the point where we know we are being ignored and all hell has to break loose in order to affect any kind of change?  (And all hell breaking loose about every single issue?)  Not yet, but we are teetering on that precipice far too often. 

There were a lot of memes of a gravestone with the inscription of "R.I.P. America 1776-2016", following the election of Donald Trump.  I had a sliver of hope, ever so thin that it was, that there would be enough people watching and involved to stem a tide of destruction.  In just a year-and-a-half, that sliver of hope is gone.  There is a way back, as covered with brush and darkness that it may be right now, and maybe we will find it.

In the meantime, at least for now (and for however long), Rest In Peace, America.

Terry

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Sentiment of the Day: R.I.P. AMERICA [Part 5 of 6]

There have been many presidents who were not as well-liked as other presidents, either during their term or afterward.  Names such as Richard Nixon, Herbert Hoover, John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Warren G. Harding, and George W. Bush come to mind.  To be fair, the job of President is a difficult one, no matter who occupies the position, and there is no way to train for it.  When you are President, you have to realize and accept that you will never please everyone all the time; it comes with the territory.  Having, say, a steely resolve and clear intentions are certainly insufficient to guarantee likability and/or success in the position. 

There will always be those citizens who are strictly one political party or another all the way.  There are those who may vote primarily for one party, but have voted for candidates of a different party from time to time.  My parents were always siding with the Democrats, saying they were for the working man, even though, to my knowledge, they never voted.  (Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion.)

I fully understand the sentiment of voting being pointless because of such criticisms as politicians lie too much, they never keep all of their promises, and they mostly serve the wealthy, which includes themselves, not the common folk.  All of that is not just sour grapes.  The past presidential election showed two key elements: One, voting out of fear is still, sadly, alive and well in this country; and two, an unfriendly country (Russia) was able to meddle in a presidential election.  If we send people on missions, usually through the United Nations and other global watchdog groups, to observe whether or not various elections go smoothly, then we need to exercise that same intent within our own system.

Beware!  That meddling in 2016 does not mean it cannot happen during mid-term elections this November.

It is easy and, quite frankly, lazy to label all those who voted for Donald Trump.  Calling names might make the caller feel good, but it solves nothing.  Mr. Trump was savvy enough to play on the fears about immigrants (fear of "the other") and fears about jobs to win the election.  It is not a new tactic, and I have to admit to feeling disheartened thinking that his use of it will likely not be the last time it's used in an election or in trying get legislation passed. 

What I will offer here is to say that the 2016 presidential election must become proof, once and for all, that simply voting out of fear cannot be a viable motivation.  That is not to say fear is easy to ignore when voting, but it can no longer be your biggest reason for heading to the voting booth on Election Day.  And yet, that is part of the reason the election went the way that it did.  Simply put, when fear is a motivator in an election, the result and aftermath are not always pretty.

Think back to when you feared something -- and I mean fear of something life-affecting -- and ask yourself how clearly did you think in that moment?  Were all of your actions clearly thought out to their logical conclusion?  Not every major decision I've made in life was a smart one, even when fear wasn't involved, and any made while being fearful were not easily made or produced the best results.  No less must be true when it comes to voting in an election.

The 2016 presidential election is not the only example of voting out of fear and maybe, sad to say, this year's mid-terms will play out the same way for the same reason.  (I sincerely hope not.)  Let me offer this as food for thought:  Can you think of a candidate, any candidate, who did not mention jobs?  If you look back in history, will you find any candidate who did not mention jobs? 

Now take those questions and expand on them further:  Can you think of a candidate who campaigned on taking away jobs?  Yes, there have been some whose policies or promises might lessen jobs for certain sectors.  What I mean here is can you think of any candidate who just came right out and said If you lose your job, oh well or I will work to increase unemployment numbers?  Of course not.  They are not going to campaign on losing jobs.  What candidate would?  They certainly wouldn't get very far if they did.

My point is that jobs will always be a concern, even if mostly everyone had a job ... that is, a permanent, full-time, livable-wage job.  When a candidate is harping over and over again about jobs, maybe even about a certain kind of job or a certain sector of jobs, unless the reported unemployment numbers are like those during the Great Depression, those candidates are playing on your fears.

Similarly, when they talk about "the other", usually this is about immigrants but not solely them, unless there is proof that the vast number of them are (as Trump said in his speech announcing his presidential campaign) "bringing drugs [and] bringing crime [and are] rapists", then they are playing on your fears.  Have there been those who crossed the border illegally who brought drugs with them?  Sure, but far more drugs come into this country through means other than via illegal immigrants.  Have there been any who crossed over into the U.S. who committed crimes?  Sure, but out of the total number of crimes committed in this country, the number committed by those here illegally is a small percentage.  (The current administration, but not just the current administration, likes to conflate and cherry-pick numbers to make it sound worse than it is.)  Have there been any rapists who crossed into the U.S.?  I do not know for certain, but I would suspect that, with the fervor against immigrants in this country, if the number of rapists and rapes were significantly high, that information would have come out long before this blog posting.

All of that is not to say we should, as a nation, start approving crime ... of course not.  However, when you highlight something as being so terrible, when the numbers simply do not back you up, then you are using disproportionate highlighting to play on people's fears.  It is akin to far more terrorist attacks in this country being committed by citizens rather than by foreigners coming here for that sole purpose, but stating that the threat from outside our borders is greater.  For the voter, it should be a case of if you can't back up what you're saying, then I can't back you.

Instead, what we currently have, and this phrase popped up on many news programs last week, is a cult of personality for our political system.  Forget democracy, never mind a republic, it is a cult of personality.  The GOP (Grand Old Party, the nickname for the Republican Party) is gone and has been replaced with the POT (Party of Trump).  (It is not just R.I.P. America, it is also R.I.P. the Republican Party.)  

None of this is all one group of persons' fault.  It is not just the fault of the voters -- they are, after all, the ones casting votes -- and it is not just the fault of the politicians.  My point throughout all of today's post is we are indirectly responsible for what politicians who were voted in do while in office because we put them there, but we are directly responsible for what we do.  That includes when we go to the polls.  We must be wiser collectively when we vote.

In his first inaugural address, on March 4, 1933 -- it wasn't until his second inauguration that the date of inauguration was changed to January 20 -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt, this country's thirty-second president, said these immortal words:
"THE ONLY THING WE HAVE TO FEAR IS FEAR ITSELF."

How true and how ominous those words are now after years of voting out of fear.  For what we can do, for the one part we play in a democracy, we must reject that as normative.

Terry

TOMORROW
THE CONCLUSION