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Blast From The Past: Political Mischief, Thou Art Afoot! Intolerance in the Name of God – American Style!

This is a copy of an article that was published on Let’s Talk Nevada as a two-part article on July 8th and 9th of 2015. It was published one week before Donald Trump announced his run for president, so I didn’t know that Trump was going to run when I wrote this. You don’t really know whether you know anything or not until you can make predictions based on your so-called knowledge. If your predictions are consistently accurate, then your ideas are squaring with reality. If your predictions fail, then there is a hole in your knowledge somewhere. I invite others to comment on where I got things right and wrong…………………….

Albert Einstein once said that the world isn’t a dangerous place because of people that are evil, but because of people that don’t do anything about it. The man was certainly in a position to know. He lived in Germany while the Nazis were on the rise, and being Jewish, he ended up as a refugee.

My concerns about the direction this country is headed in began during the summer of 2002, while I was a youth working for the National Audubon Society near Frankfort, Kentucky. During my summer internship there, a local preacher by the name of Jeff Fugate proclaimed before a crowd of five thousand people that opponents of Christianity should go into exile, and that non-Christians shouldn’t bring their religions with them when they immigrate to the United States. His exact words were, “If you don’t want a Christian nation, then go to one of the many nations that are heathen already, rather than perverting ours. America already has its own Bible and its own Christian faith. You’re welcome to come but leave your religions, your bibles, all your other things back where you came from.” And “Islam and America are opposites. They hate us. They want to kill us. I’m not anti-Jewish or anti-Catholic. I’m anti-Islam because that religion right there is anti-American.”

He received thunderous applause.

It wasn’t Jeff Fugate or his intolerant preaching that concerned me. Instead, it was the sheer number of people who cheered him on, and for weeks afterwards, sang his praises in the opinion columns of the local newspapers. I realized that we have Christian extremists in this country that are potentially every bit as dangerous as the Islamic extremists that we are fighting over in the Middle East, and one only needed to examine medieval Europe to know that Christianity isn’t innocent.

Amid the unity and the newfound sense of patriotism that the 9 /11 attacks had instilled in us, they had also succeeded in breathing life into something very dark and ugly in American society. An ignorance based fear and an urgent sense of threat had been generated, raising a heap of self-righteousness and bigotry to the surface.

Just prior to this, for roughly six months, I had been a member of the Christian right myself. This turned out to be a gift, as I had been granted a first-hand glimpse of how these people view the world. I concluded that with white Protestants projected to be a minority in the near future, these folks were liable to freak out. Despite this, the vast majority of these churchgoers didn’t have any more nerve to carry out acts of violence or repression than a Woodstock gathering full of hippies, but they were certainly gullible enough to vote violent characters into office that were willing to exploit them, provided that they talked the Biblical talk. Ignorant, irreligious thugs would carry out the actual violence if it came to that.

So what is it that possesses people to kill or support killing in the name of God? Well, literal simplistic readings of both the Bible and the Koran tend to create the impression that anyone that doesn’t follow the faith is Hell bound. If people end up believing that God, the most benign entity in the universe, is going to send people to suffer horribly in Hell for all eternity for failing to follow their religion, then they may think nothing of supporting or inflicting violence on those that believe differently because they are convinced that they will be in agony forever anyway. It’s fairly easy to de-humanize others in this context.

I made my little prediction as a teenager, and now, as an adult, I have yet to find a reason to call myself a fool. I am still looking.

During the recent midterm election, less than 40 percent of the population bothered to vote. Less than 40 percent! Not only is that pathetic, it’s dangerous as well. Why? Because roughly twenty five percent of the U.S. population is now part of the evangelical Christian right, and this segment of the population is politically active. In a nation where only half the population bothers to vote, a candidate only requires the approval of 25 percent of the population—and it’s important to keep in mind that these elections can be rigged as well. The majority opinion means nothing if the majority of the people out there are not engaged.

The radical Christian right has merged with the Tea Party, a band of economic conservatives funded by a small group of wealthy and powerful elites, such as the former house majority leader Dick Armey and his Freedomworks organization. Other organizations that sustain the Tea Party include Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute. Several of these organizations are bankrolled by a number of right wing businessmen, the best known of whom are Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries, the sons of Fred Koch, a founding member of the extremist John Birch Society, which was created in the 1950’s to convince Americans that Communists were infiltrating the government. Lobbyists are also involved. These elitist organizations are all about defending unfair power and privilege and convincing the common man to do the same.

What all of this means is that the Tea Party movement is a farce, and unfortunately evidence from surveys suggests that most ordinary Tea Partiers know very little about the powerful organizations that fund their movement and capitalize on their efforts. And while not all Tea Partiers are extreme in their beliefs, the movement has become a magnet for some rather ignorant and xenophobic characters, which could end up dominating the movement if conditions favor it. Racist and anti-gay sentiments, for example, while not present among most Tea Partiers, are more common among them than what one finds in the general population. Moreover, Americans that support the conservative Christian movement also tend to support the Tea Party. Those that fund the Tea Party no doubt think they can control it—a dangerous assumption on their part.

Freedomworks, Americans for Prosperity, and Fox News are the three main organizations that mobilize the Tea Party. The financiers of the movement attempt to manage the public message away from the social issues that the Christian right obsesses over while they capitalize on their public support. At the other end, the leaders of the Christian right who support the Tea Party capitalize on the momentum of the Tea Party movement, thus promoting the centrality of their objectives. Even though the economic elites do not agree with the religious right, they dare not dispose of them because without them, the movement has no mass.

The economic conservatives and the religious right meet in the middle, and are represented in the legislature by individuals such as Michelle Bachman, Ted Cruz, Jodi Ernst, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, and many others. All of these candidates have deep roots in the Christian right and pursue policy goals in accord with both groups on issues such as abortion, gun control, gay rights, taxation, and the separation of church and state.

By examining the clowns that the Tea Partiers have voted into office, one can obtain a sense of what it is they are creating. There are now more of them than ever. You have Ted Cruz, who became famous for a 21 hour filibuster against the Affordable Care Act and his underlying support for the embarrassing government shutdown in 2013 that resulted from GOP efforts to tie Affordable Care Act funding to government funding. It’s a sloppy piece of legislation to be sure, but what Ted Cruz promoted was reckless.

He, like many of the other Tea Party candidates, is pedaling a ludicrous message that conservative Christians are somehow being persecuted. On the campaign trail, Ted Cruz actually had the nerve to say that gays and liberals are waging a jihad against people of faith that respect the Biblical teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Huh? What! When you place the Biblical quotes into their proper context, the sinfulness of gay marriage is actually pretty ambiguous.

Shockingly, at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Summit, he had the gall to say that the Democratic Party has decided that it has no room for Christians, and it has become so extreme and intolerant that there is a liberal fascism that is dedicated to going after and targeting believing Christians who follow the Biblical teachings on marriage. Is this guy on drugs? Not only are there plenty of Christians who are registered Democrats, but anti-liberalism is a defining attribute of fascism.

Actually, Ted Cruz is intelligent enough to know better. He’s simply capitalizing on the passions and fears of twenty percent of the population as part of his strategy to get himself elected.

At the Values Voter Summit, Marco Rubio, who is far less extreme in his rhetoric, also pandered to the idea that conservative Christians are somehow being persecuted for their values. How is it that these guys are able to make such outrageous statements and remain presidential candidates? Because they know that most people don’t vote and won’t speak out against them in any meaningful way.

In perhaps the most horrific display of ignorance of all, the Tea Party darling Sarah Palin, while speaking at an NRA event in Indianapolis, stated, “Well, if I were in charge, they would know that water boarding is how we baptize terrorists!”

For that, she received thunderous applause. In the video of her speech, no booing could be heard whatsoever.

This woman was one election and one heart attack away from being president of the United States, but again, it isn’t Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, or Marco Rubio that concerns me, it’s the heavily armed fools cheering them on. Think the NSA is terrifying? What happens when the people that they are ignorant enough to vote for get ahold of it? What sort of policies would such characters promote to keep their supporters happy? What might the supporters try to do if they cannot get their candidates elected?

I am a strong believer in second amendment rights, and I’m the proud owner of a 12 gauge shotgun and have several other guns on my wish list, but I have to acknowledge that when it comes to some of the people in the NRA, something is clearly wrong. The fact that Sarah Palin could make such a comment to such applause—without any audible booing—tells one volumes about the type of people the NRA is drawing into its ranks. The NRA seems to be less about protecting constitutional rights and more about simply frightening people in order to sell guns. Scared people are dangerous people.

Speaking of dangerous people, how about the Tea Party affiliated militias that arrived at the Bundy Ranch to stop that cattle roundup? These militia groups pointed high powered weapons at park rangers, used and openly admitted to utilizing children as shields (see the links below to videos of this), and threatened hotel workers with violence. In addition, there were the wannabees Amanda and Jarred Miller, who shot two police officers in a Cici’s pizzeria in Vegas, and an armed Good Samaritan who attempted to stop them from taking over a local Wal-Mart. Cliven Bundy actually proclaimed that God himself told him to fight the Feds. Oh yeah! And how about that band of heavily armed thugs that arrived in front of that Mosque in Arizona, protesting not that specific Mosque but the Islamic faith as a whole? It’s peculiar that such people care so much about the second amendment, but care nothing for the first.

A whole year has passed since the Bundy debacle, and so far, very few of these folks have been prosecuted. When a political movement begins gathering an army of thugs that can operate outside of the law, serious trouble is right around the corner, and the fact that these guys have been free for well over a year qualifies them as operating outside of the law. Even if they are eventually prosecuted, the time delay is a very bad omen. One has to wonder what the generals in the Pentagon think of this clown show.

It has been said that liberty cannot exist without an informed, literate population. I’ll turn that upside down on its head. No tyranny or terrorism can exist without the support of the ignorant. No one takes power, they’re given power.

Some people call this movement crazy and others call it extremist. I have another word for it—evil. However, the bulk of the ordinary people that affiliate themselves with this movement are by no means evil. Just as fish are unaware they are in water, the people that join dangerous movements are often oblivious to their true nature. And make no mistake! These folks have legitimate grievances. The outsourcing of jobs, the destruction of community life, a sluggish economy, and a dysfunctional legislature are among many of the issues that have lured desperate people into this movement. These things have done tremendous damage to our society and many of these people are feeling the brunt of it.

The Tea Partiers are not wrong on every single issue. They are legitimately concerned about the future of programs such as social security and every bit as disgusted with corporate bailouts as many other people. More progressive organizations, disorganized and lacking focus, have failed to adequately address these issues and provide a viable alternative for them. Mocking the Tea Partiers the way pundits like Bill Maher does is foolhardy. None of this is funny. When these folks say they want a revolution, they mean it.

Since George W. Bush was president, I too saw a need to replace our two party system with something better, but a revolution led by right wing extremists and those that capitalize on people’s emotions isn’t what I had in mind. Most revolutions simply result in one tyrant being replaced by another. What did the French get with the French Revolution? Napoleon! What did the Communist revolutionaries get? Stalin! What did the Afghans get when they rose up against the warlords? The Taliban! Nazism was a revolution and look where that went! Revolutions based on bad ideas make things even worse.

Sociopaths, in their rise to power, appeal not to people’s dark passions but to their sense of nobility, and a revolution can catapult them to power. It’s telling that more people have been killed in the name of God than in the name of the Devil. You see, to get large numbers of people to follow evil, you have to convince them that they’re delivering justice.

We only got lucky with our founding fathers, and even then we didn’t have all the rights we have now. If you want a revolution, you had better be very careful that your grievances are not being exploited, and the Tea Partiers, caught up in their emotions, have not been careful about this. Any revolution worth its name begins not with guns but with ideas, and the Tea Party is severely lacking in ideas.

Ever since 9/11, I have watched elements of the Republican Party grow nuttier and nuttier, and have seen no convincing evidence that this trend is going to wane anytime soon. This type of insanity carries with it a terrible momentum, and how far this momentum will go is a question that has yet to be answered. Will it breed domestic terrorism, drive the Republican Party into the ground, or worst case scenario, cumulate in the killing of American Muslims and illegal immigrants in some kind of genocidal temper tantrum? (This sort of thing happens every ten years somewhere on the planet, so I’ll give it a 5 percent chance). Only time will tell and only one thing is for certain; even if no Tea Party candidate ever wins the presidency, they will succeed in injecting more of their extremism into the mainstream. Even Jeb Bush spoke at Liberty University, one of the main centers of indoctrination for the Christian right.

One way to predict extremist groups is to pay close attention to the ludicrous things their leaders accuse others of. Devious individuals often unintentionally expose their own intentions in this manner because they have a natural tendency to assume that others are like themselves. These movements, however, are fairly easy to stop, so long as they have no real power. If a wing nut gets the nomination, people are likely to freak out and flood the voting booths to vote for the other candidate. Also, the Supreme Court just recently dealt the Christian right a serious blow. Love is stronger than hate and the only thing that people have to do is get engaged. Half of democracy is simply showing up.

Sources:

America’s Changing Religious Landscape (2015): Pew Research Center, Demographic Study: www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape

Angelia R. Wilson & Cynthia Burack (2012): “Where Liberty Reigns and God is Supreme”: The Christian Right and the Tea Party Movement, New Political Science, 34:2, 170-190

Chip Berlet (2011): “Taking Tea Parties Seriously”: Corporate Globalization, Populism, and Resentment, Political Research Associates, PGDT 10 (2011) 11-29

David Weigel (2015): “Ted Cruz Encounters Former Cliven Bundy Security Chief on the Campaign Trail”, Bloomberg Politics: www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-04-22/ted-cuz-encounters-former-cliven-bundy-security-chief-on-the-campaign-trail

Jane Mayer (2010): “Covert Operations”: The Billionaires Who Are Waging a War Against Obama, The New Yorker: www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/08/30/covert-operations-

Jessica Chasmar (2015): “Former Marine Plans ‘Draw Muhammad’ Contest for New Hampshire”, Washington Times: www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jun/15/jerry-delemus-former-marine-plans-draw-muhammad-cd

Lindsey Cook (2014): “Midterm Turnout Down in 2014”, U.S. News: www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2014/11/05/midterm-turnout-decreased-in-all-but-12-states

Ralph Nader (2013): “People Want Full Medicare for All”, Counterpunch: www.counterpunch.org/2013/09/27/people-want-full-medicare-for-all/

Vanessa Williamson, Theda Skocpol, and John Coggin (2011):”The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism”, Harvard University, Volume 9, No. 1

http://www.suindependent.com/news/id_5756

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEr6SfUNY0c

www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/03/cliven-bundy-iap-god-civil-war-_n_5646121.html

www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2014/04/28/sarah_palin_waterboarding_is_how_we_baptize_terrorists.html

www.rightwingwatch.org/content/ted-cruz-gay-community-waging-jihad-against-religious-freedom

www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2015/04/27/cruz_there_is_a_liberal_fascism_dedicated_to_going_after_christians.html

www.c-span.org/video/?315587-1/values-voter-summit-morning-session

About Author

Kevin L. Reichling is a naturalist. He has written articles for Lets Talk Nevada, the Boulder City Review, and the Wilmington News Journal on environmental and political issues. He worked for a state park as a naturalist, for the National Park Service on an exotic plant control crew, and at a county park as a conservation technician. In college, he majored in wildlife management and educates others on environmental and social issues.

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