The Battle of the Bulls

I want to write about the possibility of a government shut down this week, and I will write about it.

But today I’m up to my ears in alligators, family style.

So … I’ve decided that this post I wrote at the end of a legislative session here in Oklahoma might start you off. It doesn’t deal with the specific issues at hand, and the federal stand off is almost breathtaking in its ruthlessness. What I’m describing here is healthy political give and take. However, much of the psychology is the same. Read, and think about it. Then, we’ll take up what’s happening now tomorrow.

We shut down the session Friday and it wasn’t pretty. Oklahoma‘s constitution requires that we end the legislative session by 5 pm on the last Friday of May each year. What that means in the real world is that no matter what else we do, we must pass the budget by that day. Otherwise, all the money stops and the lights go out all over the state.

We did manage to get to the finish line with a budget of sorts, but not without a lot of drama. We skated to the edge of the cliff more than once in the last week, always barely avoiding the messy business of adjourning without funding the government. Egos were bruised, names were called, deals were done and legislators and staff drove themselves past simple exhaustion into incompetent somnabulence in the process.

By the end of session, most of us weren’t fit to drive a car, much less make laws for millions of people.

This annual exhibition of legislative histrionics makes the voters mad. In fact voter anger is why we have to shut it down by 5 pm on the last Friday of May. Back in the day, we used to cover the clock with a towel or sheet or maybe some unlucky legislator’s jacket, and just keep on fighting. We went right around the dial, 24-7, until the deals were done. The people of Oklahoma, in a disgusted pique, passed a constitutional amendment by means of a referendum petition that required us to take at least 8 hours off each day and to end the session on the aforementioned last Friday of May.

It was a good idea, but good ideas are very seldom a match for human nature. That’s the force driving these annual end of session train wrecks; testosterone-fueled human nature. The Oklahoma legislature is run by people with y chromosomes. It always has been. I don’t want to sound sexist, but it’s just a fact that when men who have more ego than brains start shoving each other around, the discussion quickly descends to an unacknowledged battle over who is the real alpha male around here.

All the talk about “the people” and “policy” and “rights” devolves down to who has enough manhood to make the other guy do obeisance.

I may get myself uninvited to lunch with the boys for saying all this. It’s definitely not politically correct. But it is the truth. Decisions are made which affect the lives and futures of millions of people, including people who haven’t been born yet, based on this chest-thumping battle of the bulls.

Those of us who don’t have quite so much testosterone get into it, too. Female legislators are quite as capable of standing our ground as the guys. The difference is we usually have some vague notion of why we’re actually doing it, and we aren’t nearly as likely to offer to “take it outside” and “settle it there.” In fact I can honestly say that in all my 16 years as a legislator, I have never threatened anyone with a right hook to the jaw for disagreeing with me.

Remember: This is Oklahoma. I’ve seen legislators come to blows more than once in my tenure in office. A year before I was first elected in 1980, one legislator brought a gun onto the floor of the House with the intention of shooting one of his colleagues. I met one of the legislators who disarmed him when I was elected the next year and married him a couple of years after that. Two kids and almost  30 years later, we’re still together.

I expect some people will be upset by this view from the inside of the legislative rumbles. But I have to admit, it doesn’t bother me. I don’t mind the yelling. I don’t mind the fist fights. I don’t mind the shoving and threats and bombastic carrying on. I don’t mind because, messy and ridiculous as it sometimes is, it’s also democracy in action.

I would much rather see a messy session shut down where everyone noisily had their say than a well-mannered tea-sipping shut down where only a few powerful nabobs made all the policy. We practiced hard-ball politics this week, but we also stopped some horrifically bad bills from becoming law. I am convinced that we saved lives and protected the state’s economy from ruin by the moves we made. It took both parties and every single one of us to do it.

I was so tired last Friday that I was dizzy-headed and nauseous. I had to concentrate to vote correctly on the rapid-fire procedural votes that we were shooting at one another, something I can usually do on automatic. I saw other legislators start making speeches on the mike when they were recognized to ask a question, debate the wrong bill and repeatedly get befuddled about what they were trying to do.

All of this was exhaustion, and exhaustion to that level when you’re making law is not good. It also wasn’t necessary. We wasted a lot of time twiddling our thumbs in the days leading up to this; time we should have spent hearing bills in a more judicious fashion than this last-minute onslaught.

But I still prefer that to any “reform” that would tamp down on it. When you bring  150 people together from all over a state as big as Oklahoma, from rural folks who live in counties with more cattle than people to city dwellers who worry about gangs, you’re going to get disagreement. The only way to avoid it is for some of them to sell out the people they’re representing.

That’s what usually happens. I’ve seen it over and over. I saw it this session. But something happened this last week and the House members rose up and started representing their constituents. That’s how the bad bills died.

But bad bills which are pushed by powerful people who stand to make a lot of money from them don’t die easily. The resulting fights were why we were all so tired.

Was it worth it? Oh yes.

But I’m sure glad I don’t have to do it again this week.

Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. Part 7. Democracy = We Are Responsible

Democracy is not a lazy person’s form of government.

If your idea of good citizenship is watching the dissolution of our society from the sidelines like an insomniac staring at a late-night movie, you need to move to a dictatorship. Democracy is too much work for you.

“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” Contrary to popular attribution, neither Thomas Jefferson nor Patrick Henry said this first. The truth appears to be less glamorous.

John Philpot Curran first said, “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and punishment of his guilt.”

Personally, I like Curran’s original wording better. It’s not as pithy as the more popular version. It won’t fit as well in a speech or the lead of a news story, but it says what needs saying.

Liberty is our natural state under God. If you doubt this, all you have to do is consider the extreme and absolute freedom He bestows on each of us. God does not force us to follow Him. In His own words, He sets before us life and death; right and wrong. But he lets us chose. He allows us to live our lives exactly as we decide to live them, even if that means committing grievous sin and turning our backs on Him.

Liberty is our natural state under God. But we live in a devil-besotted world that is stained and weakened by original sin. Thus, liberty, which comes from God, comes also with the requirement that we must guard it well or we will lose it.

No one wants to be a slave, but it seems that there are a lot of people who want to own slaves. Curran rightly says that if we stop tending our liberties, we will lose them and we will end in servitude.

In our generation we acknowledge that members of our military pay with their life’s blood for our freedom. What we don’t acknowledge is that the real threat to our freedom is not military invasion. No foreign power I know of is hankering to land on our shores with troops and armaments, and as Lincoln said, “by force take a drink from the Ohio River.”

This generation’s challenges to liberty come from our two political parties, our own government, our corporations and from our lazy refusal to fight for the democracy which is our inheritance. It feels good to blame the propagandists on our televisions, the amoral political parties and the equally amoral corporations who own them. Disrespecting politicians is an American birthright, a natural outgrowth of freedom of religion and speech. If we ever see the day when we can not make fun of our elected officials, we are doomed. But, worthless as they are, puppet people politicians are not ultimately to blame for this mess.

We may have, as Will Rogers said, the best government that money can buy, but the ones wearing the biggest price tag on them are not the politicians. The many millions that are lavished on political campaigns in this country are spent for one purpose: To buy us. By the time the campaigning starts, the puppet people politicians are already bought. They’ve been recruited, programmed and polished to a marketable level. Now they’re set before us for our inspection like new cars on a lot.

As I said earlier, the object of all this sloganeering, hate-campaigning, and propaganda is the manipulation of us, of we the people. Or, to put it more bluntly, the object of all this expenditure of capital and slime is our vote.

The one thing that those who want to control our government for their own ends fear is an informed and aroused citizenry. That’s why they spend huge amounts of money to feed us a steady diet of propaganda and lies. We have brains. We’ve got to think something with them. So, they spend enormous sums to fill our otherwise very good minds with half-truths and lies.

We are the products of an educational system that no longer teaches young people our American story. We’ve been taught to take multiple choice tests and not a lot else. Our educational system produces wave after wave of people who’ve never read an original source. We have large numbers of people with higher-level degrees whose entire education is the product of the digested and massaged bits and scraps of thought found in incredibly over-priced textbooks.

We have actually been taught to take other people’s pre-digested opinions about great thinkers as the works of the thinkers themselves. And we don’t have to understand these thoughts. All we have to do is exercise the totally-useless-in-life skill of getting a high score on a multiple choice test.

This is our educational system from early childhood through university level. It is nothing more than a trade school, or what we used to call vocational-technical education, on steroids.

That makes us prey for the propagandists and manipulators who want to confuse us into believing whatever sheep dip they’re dumping on us. Coming as we do from churches who preach politics rather than Christ, who sometimes preach politics as Christ, we are shorn of the moral underpinnings that would keep us from jumping headlong into abusive language, vicious slander and hate-voting.

We are, in short, easy pickings.

We can blame the manipulators, both secular and clerical, for misusing their enormous talents to do such harm. They are certainly responsible for what they do.

But ultimately, no matter how much money is spent manipulating us, it’s up to us whether or not we will allow ourselves to be manipulated.

We are Americans. We are a free people. That makes us responsible. We are responsible for what we chose to believe, how we chose to behave and whether or not we value our liberty enough to do the work and exercise the vigilance to keep it.

Liberty is our God-given right. The God of all the universe, the creator of creation from bottom to top, set us free from our beginning. He gave us such absolute freedom that we can accept or reject Him. We can do anything we want. We can create or destroy, think or blindly follow, live free or become slaves.

The equation is, again, a simple one:

Democracy = We Are Responsible

Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. Part 4. I Vote Pro-Life = Slogan-Voting

Power corrupts. Lord Acton

You cannot serve both God and mammon. Jesus Christ

 I vote pro-life!

Pro-life people sometimes make this statement as if they were throwing down a gauntlet, or perhaps, ending an argument. Talk to them about the many nuances of grown-up politics and they will try to end the inevitable confusion by announcing emphatically, “I vote pro-life!”

The unhappy truth is that they can’t vote pro-life. “Pro Life” ain’t on the ballot.

All they have to choose from when they go vote is people. That’s why candidate ratings by pro-life groups have such power. Voters don’t have any other way to judge.

There is a strategy of sorts behind all these ratings. It’s two-pronged. The first goal, the one I am directly engaged in as a state legislator, is to elect legislators who will vote to whittle away at Roe v Wade gradually, to inflict a death of a thousand cuts on the killing machine. The second goal is to stack the United State Supreme Court with pro-life justices so that they will one day overturn Roe v Wade.

The first goal, the whittling away goal, is having an impact. But it’s reaching its practical limits. Supreme Court decisions that are designed not only to legalize abortion, but to ensure its availability, maintain a protective barrier around legal abortion. There are only so many ways in which we can whittle away at these decisions and remain within the law.

The second goal of stacking the Court is an utter failure, a debacle. After almost forty years, all it has given us is a court that found that life begins, not at conception, but at incorporation.

How did that happen? It happened because that’s what the people who appointed these justices wanted to happen.

Neither political party wants Roe v Wade to go away. Republicans would lose their vote-getting machine. Democrats would lose their money-raising machine. They need Roe v Wade, or at least the corporations who own them do, to keep us from considering what a lousy job both of them are doing of governing this country.

We are at a stalemate. We have been for forty long years. Pro life people engage in this Sisyphean struggle, laboriously rolling the electoral ball up the hill over and over again. Every time they do it, they let themselves believe that things will be different this time.

Republican legislators ardently support pro-life when they are out of power. Oklahoma Republicans fought like tigers for pro-life legislation when Democrats had the majority. They held legislators accountable for every squeak of a vote. They made speeches that sounded so sincere they would make a pro-life mother weep.

When they gained a majority in the House, they continued the fight against the Democratic Senate and the Democratic Governor. They were, once again, pro-life champions. But as soon as they won the whole thing — house, senate, governor, every office from top to bottom — they started killing pro-life bills.

They were careful at first. They only killed pro-life bills that didn’t count toward their pro-life-legislator rating from Oklahomans for Life. That way, they could still claim to be “100% pro life” when they campaigned.

Pro-life bills backed by organizations such as the Family Research Council and Americans United for Life bit the dust. These “100% pro-life” legislators killed every pro-life bill that didn’t affect the 100% rating that they used in their campaign ads.

They also passed pro-abortion laws. The worst I remember is a law that puts drugs that will induce chemical abortions, as well as date-rape drugs on the shelves in veterinary supply shops where anyone can buy them without a prescription.

As I’ve said in other posts, I knew that some of my colleagues were hypocrites. But I was still amazed by their arrogant bullying of their own supporters. That alone was enough to surprise me. But witnessing the way the pro-life activists sold out to them almost pushed me to despair.

I am certain that if a Democrat had tried to pass a bill putting abortifacients on the shelves where anyone could walk in and buy then, they would — and should — have been legitimately criticized for being amoral and pro death. I would have helped call them out. But almost no one would do anything when this amoral, pro-abortion bill came from the Republican leadership acting on behalf of a major “conservative” lobby.

One pro-life group did make a statement opposing the bill, but they were unable to maintain their stand in the face of the Republican leadership. The only pro-life voice that came out against this bill and didn’t back down was the Catholic Church.

The next year, these “100% pro-life” legislatorsabandoned the inconvenience of passing the pro-life bills that went on their pro-life ratings. They killed almost all the pro-life legislation for 2012, including over half the bills sponsored by Oklahomans for Life.

How did they get away with this? They did it the old way; behind closed doors, with secret votes, ruse votes on meaningless resolutions and procedural moves; the same way that pro-life bills have been dying since the 1970s.

Then, as has become standard practice with them, they forced the pro-life organizations who had supported these bills to back down, kiss Ceasar’s ring and apologize for trying to hold these “100% pro-life” legislators accountable for their actions. It was shameless.

How did this happen?

The answer is easy, if you have the stomach for it. Republicans need pro-life voters when the two parties are close. That pro-life percentage can make a difference in a close election.

Once their hold on the electorate is established, the real owners of the party step from behind the curtain. Money, as they say, talks.

The pro-life issue is the vacuum that sucks in the votes for the Republican party. But the big money people own the party and most of them are either pro-choice or they don’t care. The little-known fact is that the governing boards of major Republican contributors such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Oklahoma State Medical Association overlap with the boards and supporters of secularist, pro-choice organizations such as Planned Parenthood.

Legislation limiting embryonic stem cell research or the harvesting of women’s bodies for eggs has repeatedly gone down in flames in the Oklahoma legislature, particularly in the Senate. The Chamber and the Medical Association, working together, have a 100% pro-death record for killing pro-life legislation dealing with either of these areas.

By now you may be getting antsy and a more than a little angry with me. “Is she trying to tell me to change my party? Does she honestly want me to believe that the Democrats are better?”

The answer is nope and nope.

Don’t change your party, whichever party you are in. And the Democrats are definitely not better.

What I want you to do for now is take the partisan blinders off and realize that there is no way you can go into the polls and “Vote Pro Life.” You have to vote for people, and some of the people you vote for will be liars.

No matter what they say at campaign time, very few of the people in either party care about the issues of life. That is the truth as I know it.

Don’t despair. There are things we can do. I’ll get to them.

It’s enough for today to know the equation. It’s a simple one:  I Vote Pro Life = Slogan Voting

Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. Part 2: High Dollar Campaigns = Government of the Puppet People

There are two ways to campaign for office: hire a consultant or do it yourself.

Consultants cost money; lots of it. They earn this money by raising money. Like lawyers who work on contingency, campaign consultants take home a piece of the money action that the campaign generates. They also run high-dollar, glitzy campaigns that are long on smears, slogans and invective-filled one-liners, all designed to pound home the party line while hiding the actual party agenda.

Candidates who are recruited by political parties get saddled up with a party-approved consultant early on. The candidate signs a contract with the consultant and that ends their contribution to the thinking end of the campaign process. From then on, their job is to meet voters and repeat what they’ve been told to say.

The weird part is that we wonder why they “betray” us once they’re in office. They don’t betray anybody. We just misunderstand. In truth, these party loyalists who ignore the needs of their constituents to line the pockets of the people who paid for their campaigns are keeping their word. This is what they were recruited and created to do.

The other way to campaign, do it yourself, has mostly passed from fashion. A few dinosaurs like me cling to it and manage to get elected, but we’re definitely old school, remnants of an almost forgotten past. Do it yourselfers have to think their way through a campaign. They’ve got to raise their own campaign funds, explain themselves to the voters, design their own media and decide for themselves what they believe.

The best thing about do-it-yourself campaigns is that they are a kind of natural selection process. Genuine idiots can’t get themselves elected in a competitive do-it-yourself campaign. They just don’t have the brains, the tactical sense or the communication skills to become elected officials.

Old-style do-it-yourself campaigns didn’t necessarily produce a bi-annual crop of Washingtons and Lincolns. Those campaigns could be heavy on the schlock and name recognition, light on the issues. Here in Oklahoma, we elected candidates to office named Cowboy Pink Williams and Happy Camp. Will Rogers ran for office decades after the well-known humorist was laid in his grave, and Wilbur Wright managed to get elected to statewide office and then almost impeached, presumably because voters thought he invented the airplane.

None of these colorful candidates would have gotten through in today’s big-money climate. They were elected simply because uninformed voters picked a name on the ballot that sounded familiar. The Cowboy Pinks won when the competition was light.

In a rough and tumble do-it-yourself campaign, and there were lots of them, the best candidate usually won. By best I mean the candidate who could think on his or her feet, learn from mistakes and think tactically under pressure. That doesn’t mean they were the nicest, but in a surprisingly effective way, these races usually elected people who had what it takes to govern.

Money-based consultant-run campaigns, on the other hand, eliminate election based on familiar names by the simple expedient of dumping so much money and advertising on the race that voters become aware that this Wilbur Wright didn’t invent anything. Unfortunately, the money obscures the candidate just as effectively as voter indifference ever could have, and it does it in a far more dangerous way. The old way put a sprinkling of buffoons in office with every passing election. But they weren’t puppets, and they did care about this country. Their damage was limited to their particular office and their personal lack of talent.

Today, instead of a familiar name, we elect a familiar face. The difference is that, while the Cowboy Pinks decided to run and got elected on their own, today’s familiar faces were recruited and are controlled by outside forces. We elect people on the basis of celebrity and how they make us feel in ads that are so dishonest they could never rise to the level of schlock. We don’t know these people. Our votes aren’t any more informed than they were in the days of Cowboy Pink and Happy Camp. They are just more maliciously manipulated.

We are encouraged by advertising to imagine candidates in a certain way that usually has no relation to the people they are. It’s a skillful sort of propaganda that uses advertising that is heavy on long-shots of the candidate walking across the prairie while a lone trumpet plays soulfully and an actor with a resonant voice tells us that the candidate is a series of adjectives that add up to exactly nothing. We come away from these ads, thinking we’ve been told something when in fact all that’s happened is that we’ve been induced into feeling something. We take this feeling and attach it to the candidate. In this way, today’s political advertising induces us to create the candidate in our own minds and then vote for whatever we imagine him or her to be.

These ads, combined with orchestrated internet smears and other propaganda designed to enrage and terrify us to the point that we can’t think, lead us to vote the way the consultant wants. We think we’re voting for a candidate. We’re actually voting for a trumpet solo.

The Cowboy Pinks, Happy Camps and Wilbur Wrights more or less blundered into office, then bumbled around once they got there. There’s nothing blundering or bumbling about the verbal blood baths we call campaigns today. It takes a lot of talent to manipulate the electorate and there’s no lack of it in these consultant-driven races. But this talent is not directed toward representing the people or the good of the country. It’s focused on servicing the needs of the people who paid for the consultants, advertising, polls and think tanks who created this campaign engine in the first place.

Stop and think for a minute. Why should it cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to get elected to an Oklahoma House seat that pays $38,400 in salary and represents around 35,000 people? Who would invest that kind of money in something with such a minuscule return?

The answer is that the return is not minuscule; at least not for the money men behind the scenes. They’re not making an investment. They’re certainly not “supporting” a candidate. They’re buying. And what they are buying is control of our government. In exchange for a few hundred thousand dollars they get control of a vote on a budget that runs into the billions; on other votes on bond issues that will put hundreds of millions of dollars through their companies; on tax breaks, government give aways and competitive advantages that, over time, become an endless river of government money.

Why would corporations in Florida and New York, Texas and Mexico care about who represents a single senate or house district in Gotebo Oklahoma? Because money is fluid; it flows from one place to the other. That, and because these legislative seats are the seed corn for bigger crops. They supply the candidates when it’s time to re-load at the national level, where the money goes from huge to unimaginable.

President Obama is an example. He was elected to the Illinois State Senate in 1997,  ran for and was elected to the United States Senate in 2004, and then four years later, to President of the United States. His example is extreme, but it is of a type that is re-played continuously all over the nation. State legislatures are the seedbed of national politics. This process of selecting/grooming/electing candidates who will act as operatives for money interests now and into the future is what the two political parties actually do. It is, as I said in Part 1, about power.

Money spent to gain control of the taxing/regulating/treaty-making/military-sending/contract-giving/appropriating power of government is smart money. It is also destructive, amoral, uncaring money. It harms our country. It endangers our democracy. It threatens our future as a great nation and a free people.

It’s a simple equation:   High Dollar Campaigns = Government of the Puppet People

Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. Introduction

Stop slogan-voting. Stop hate-voting. Stop being manipulated.

We are in a fight for religious freedom in America. Religious freedom is sometimes called the “first freedom.” It is, after all, enshrined in the First Amendment. But there is another reason to call it the “first freedom.” Religious freedom is the basic human freedom on which other freedoms are built. It strikes to the core of our souls, of who we are as individuals and how we view ourselves and other people. All the questions of human worth and the proper relationship of government to the individual person have their genesis in the right to religious freedom.

If the government takes on itself the power to subjugate religious institutions, to bring them under its heel, it will also take onto itself the power to, as Elizabeth I said, “open a window” into its citizen’s souls. That is what is at stake.

The only hammer we the people have in this debate is our vote. Like the good citizens we are, we do vote. We vote. And then the people we elect proceed to represent the same special interests they represented before we voted. We change the people who hold office, but we can’t change the direction of government. It’s as if we pull a lever and find it’s not connected to anything.

I’ve spent the past few days thinking about all this; praying about it, and trying to decide what I can do in my small Oklahoma world to aid in this fight. I think that the truth is our best weapon.

I am going to write a series of posts which I will publish here on Public Catholic every Monday. I want to use this series to tell you the truth about politics as I understand it. That means I’m going to tell you some things you don’t want to hear, including things about we the people that we don’t want to face. What I’m going to say isn’t The Truth. It’s not absolute. It’s not part of the eternal verities by which we all should seek to live. It’s not anybody’s gospel, not even mine. It’s just how I honestly understand the process and what I think is true about our situation.

While what I say is not The Truth, my ideas are certainly informed opinions. I’ve spent many years in elected office and many more on the political sidelines. I’ve been on the inside of at a least one of the critical issues we face as a nation,

You can disagree with me all you want. It doesn’t bother me in the least. My goal isn’t to manipulate you into thinking as I think. My goal is to jump-start your understanding and to inspire you to begin thinking for yourself.

We the people are giving away the power of our vote by letting ourselves be manipulated into hate-voting and slogan-voting. It’s time to stop.

This Came From the President of the United States? Part Two

That didn’t take long.

There is already a parody of the First Time ad that President Obama’s campaign put out.

The parody is titled, My First Time in a Sexist Ad and is put out by TokenLibertarianGirl, who evidently has 71 videos on YouTube. I haven’t watched any of her other videos, but I did look at their titles. Based on those, I am guessing that she’s a strong supporter of Governor Romney’s bid for the presidency.

I agree with the parody’s assertion that the Obama Campaign ad is sexist, and that it implies that women are only interested in laws that affect their reproductive capacities. The new political mantra from the Obama Campaign seems to be that all women really want is an abortion and a packet of birth control pills.

I don’t agree with a number of things the parody says. But I agree wholeheartedly with the primary contention of the parody that the President’s ad demeans and sexualizes women. I also think it is beneath the dignity of the office of President.

Here, if you’re interested, is My First Time in a Sexist Ad.

YouTube Preview Image

 

 

This Came From the President of the United States?

 

President Barack Obama, official portrait

In a new low for campaign ads, President Obama’s campaign released an ad in which actress Lena Dunham likens voting for Obama to losing her virginity.

The President’s campaign ad uses a juxtaposition of double entendres to create the impression that the actress is talking about sex.

“Your first time shouldn’t be with just anybody.” she says. “You want it to be with a great guy. Somebody who cares about and understand women.

“Who cares about whether or not you get health insurance, specifically if you get birth control … you don’t want to do it with a guy who doesn’t think that gay people should never have beautiful and complicated weddings of the kind we see on Bravo and TLC.”

Further on she adds, “My first time voting was amazing. It was this line in the sand. Before, I was a girl. Now, I was a woman. I went to the polling station and pulled back the curtain. I voted for Barack Obama.”

In what appears to be an effort to heap sleaze on top of creepy, Obama for America Campaign Manager Jim Messina announced the ad by tweeting “Your first time voting is important. Trust @lenadunham — you are ready.”

I am not going to link to the ad and I don’t encourage you to go to it. I have no interest in pushing this. The ad is clever, and it does grab you at first. The actress does a good job and the production is good. However, it’s content is trashy and demeaning to women.

The idea for it is also copied from someone else’s work. According to a LifeSiteNews article, the ad concept appears to mimic an ad used by Vladimir Putin in his last campaign.

I watched it and thought: This came from the President of the United States?

 

Patheos Election Month Coverage: Faith Matters, Yours and Mine

The cogent question about any candidate for elective office is always What will he or she do with the power if they get it?

We’ve come a long way since the days that candidates shook hands, kissed babies and stood on the backs of flat-bed trucks to make their pitch for office at the State Fair. Nowadays, it’s not only possible but highly likely that you will go through an entire campaign season and never meet any of the people who are asking for your vote.

You will see their faces and hear their voices on television and in radio ads, see them perform in debate circuses and hear their friends asking you to vote for them on robo calls. But the candidate his or herself will be as hermetically sealed away from you as the ebola virus at the cdc.

Sifting through the slick advertising and carefully-coached debate responses to get to an answer to the all-important What will he or she do with the power if I give to them question is daunting. Unless you’re a little bit psychic or a whole lot familiar with politics, it’s downright impossible. How does anyone judge which lies are total lies and which are partial truths when they’re trying to discern the facts about someone they’ve never met and who is being branded, packaged and sold to them like a can of corn?

That makes the question of faith even more important than it would normally be. Faith, for all its tricky points, is still a tough one to completely fake. Oh it can be done, but the doing of it almost requires a willing compliance on the part of those who are getting faked out.

For instance, (I’m painting a bulls-eye on my back by saying this and I know it) does anyone really think that Rush Limbaugh or Newt Gingrich are nice people? Is there anyone out there who thinks that when Vice President Biden says he (1) knows abortion murders a child, (2) is opposed to abortion personally, (3) wouldn’t have one himself (whatever that means), but won’t tamper with the law, that he’s making any kind of sense?

We pretend we do. We pretend that the vicious things some pundits say don’t count against their Christian witness, that the logical hash politicians make of their Christianity in order to say they are Christian and total party loyalists both at once makes as much sense to us as they hope it will.

But do we really? Do we really believe this? There’s a kind of complicity in these political lies that lives in the no-thought land of those who lie and those who chose to believe them. It seems to fall along the lines of I’ll pretend to believe your lies if you tell me what I want to hear.

So if a Rush Limbaugh or a Newt Gingrich is saying ugly things about someone we don’t like for reasons we agree with, we pretend that they are not behaving like callous demagogues, but are demonstrating stalwart Christian fealty. If the Vice President wants to save medicare, we will let him get by with his claims to be going in two directions at once on a core moral issue. We pretend that he’s stumbled on some heretofore lost jewel of logic that protects religious freedom rather than privatizing and limiting the applications of faith in public life.

For politicians and their acolytes to successfully lie to us about faith, we’ve got to be their willing accomplices. We must, in short, chose to believe them in the face of every objective criteria to the contrary.

And that, my friends, is where faith comes in. Not their faith. Ours.

The question isn’t should politicians be allowed to reference their faith in public discussion and debate. Of course they should. It is also not a question of whether we are free to consider our religiously-based values in picking who we will vote for. Of course we can.

The question is, will we put our faith ahead of our party loyalties and our feel-good, my-guy-against-your-guy tribal togetherness and hold these people accountable? It isn’t our job to make them tell us the truth. Our job is to stop being so eager to believe them when they lie.

Our job, as Christians, is to put Jesus ahead of our political parties. We need to follow Him, not them. And we need to stop letting them get by with facile lies that we know very well are facile lies about their faith commitments.

Let’s take the issue of abortion for a moment. I don’t think for one minute that we have a choice between a pro abortion candidate and a pro life candidate in this election. We don’t have the option of voting pro life. Our choice is between one candidate who promises us abortions. And another candidate who promises us lots of abortions. That’s it. Pro Life doesn’t get in there.

Take the issue of waging war to generate corporate profits and build empire. We don’t have a candidate on the ballot in this presidential race who we can trust to absolutely not commit American troops for any reason other than the protection of the people of this country. What we do have is a choice between a candidate who is partly sold out to corporate interests and corporate desire to make war for money, and another candidate who is totally sold out to corporate interests and the plan to make war for profit.

I could do this on almost ever issue. I could go on all day taking one issue after the next and explaining how both parties and their candidates are not representing you and me.

But the point here is not that the political parties are shills for special interests. The point is that when you are a Christian you have to stand clear of this and demand better of them.

We live in a Democracy. Involvement in our political process is both our right and our duty. As Christians, we have a job of work in front of us to bring the Kingdom. We are here in this life to be Kingdom Builders.

If we are going to do that in the political process, we need to start taking a clear stand for Gospel principles at the precinct, state political party and ballot box levels. When one of our political pundits we agree with starts sounding like hate-filled brass, we need to send them an email telling them we are switching the channel and then actually switch the channel. When one of our politicians raises moral reasoning to an oxymoronic level, we need to let both him and our party officials know that we know the he’s lying.

If we start doing this consistently, they’ll get the message in a surprisingly short time. The only reason they’ve sunk this low in their behavior is because we have rewarded them for doing it.

Does faith matter in this election? Absolutely. But the only faith that really matters is the one that empowers you and me to walk our talk of Christian faith in all aspects of our lives, including the political.

That, and not more gummy rhetoric, is what can save this country.

Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. Part 8. Hate-Voting = Using the Devil’s Weapons Instead of the Armor of God.

Hate-voting for Christ is an oxymoron if there ever was one.

Hate-voting is the fine art of defaming the people you disagree with in order to punish, diminish and hurt them. Hate-voting destroys your Christian witness. When you say you are a Christian, other people will judge Jesus by you. When you spout a steady stream of invective aimed at people you disagree with politically, you are telling the world that following Jesus means being full of hate, rage and engaging in slander.

Hate-voting destroys your witness for Christ. It also separates you from Him in your heart.

I have no right to attack other people in the name of Christ and neither do you. As the bumper sticker says, we aren’t perfect; we’re forgiven. Stop for a moment. Think honestly about your own sins. You deserve to go to hell. So do I. We are saved, by the horrible price of the cross, from getting what we deserve. We owe a debt we can never repay. We who have been forgiven so much, do not have the right … we don’t have the right … to put ourselves in the place of AlmightyGod and viciously attack other people made in His Image.

It’s not all our fault. We’ve been deliberately manipulated into hate-voting by political pros who make extraordinary amounts of money for getting us revved up and full of hate. Remember the first equation: Your Vote = Their Power? That’s what this expensive manipulation of little ole’ us is about.

Political demagogues abound in our world. They mouth hatred at us from their “news” desks in the corporate press. Faux religious leaders, bent on gaining political patronage, follow suit, declaiming slander from their pulpits. Over in the cheap seats, bloggers chime in by passing along scandalous lies and making up a few of their own.

The political candidates themselves wage campaign battles focused on personal attack and talking about the other guy. We almost never hear one of them talk about what they would do with the power of government if we gave it to them. Even when they do, they confine their discussion of “the issues” to bullet points and bumper-sticker-speak. Both sides do it. Every election.

So, hating isn’t 100% our fault. Anyone who spends too much time listening to the loony hate-filled invective that passes for political discourse in our country today will find hate-voting hard to resist. However, no matter how much we are provoked, no matter how skillfully we are incited, each one of us is responsible for what we say and do. We’re not children. Children don’t hate-vote. Hate-voting is, by definition, the act of a legal and moral adult. I don’t think the old “the media thou gavest me” tempted me excuse will work for us any better than it did for Adam.

Hate-voting gives us the fruits of another, darker, spirit than the one we claim to follow. It’s fruits are bitterness, anxiety, self-righteousness and grandiosity.  It’s like a drug that clouds the mind, and like all mind-altering drugs, it is highly addictive. Hate-voters become addicted to the satisfying sense of power that comes from hurting other people, the grandiosity they feel from elevating the person they oppose to demonic status and then seeing their vote as a high moral drama with themselves as the hero of the story. This sense of power and grandiosity is the high of the drug hate-voting.

The search for another hate-vote fix leads people to keep on piling on the invective between elections, and then to continue hate-voting over and over, election after election. The names and faces of the candidates they oppose change, but their self-righteous certainty that this person is the devil incarnate transfers from one candidate to the next.

Hate-voting is the antithesis of how a Christian should approach their responsibilities as citizens in a democracy.

There is something evil in each of us, me included. None of us escapes original sin. We take nasty delight in repeating vile accusations. We enjoy the feeling of camaraderie that comes with being part of the crowd that hates together.

On the other hand, we do not like the aloneness of being the one who says “Wait a minute. I disagree with this person, but I don’t think he or she is a monster.”

Anyone who takes this stand will immediately find themselves on the outs with the hate-voters in their world. It is never enough for hate-voters that a person is willing to stand and fight for the issues they both believe. They will only accept people into their tribe who are willing to cast aside their thinking faculties and join them in their invective and hate. It is a tribal thing, and it has nothing, nothing, to do with Jesus Christ.

The cost of refusing to join in with the gang hate-offs that inspire hate-voting can be, will usually be, the loss of that cozy in-with-the-crowd belongingness that feels so good to most of us. Following Jesus almost always means standing for Jesus against the crowd. It just does. This is true even when the crowd in question is a group of professing Christians.

The surprising benefit to it is that refusing to hate-vote tends to clear your mind. The addiction to hate, bitterness, and slander fogs your brain. It swings the door to your heart wide open and lets the devil sashay his way in to control of your life.  From what I’ve seen, the more you focus on other people’s sins, the more you forget about your own. The more you forget about your own sins, the more self-righteous you become. The more self-righteous you become, the further away from God you move.

Refusing to hate-vote doesn’t mean you also refuse to say the truth of the situation. It doesn’t mean that you make excuses for sinful acts and give up your intellectual and moral capacities to weigh, evaluate and decide the right or wrongness of policies and behavior. It simply means that you focus on the wrong that is done, and not the person. This will make you more effective in your stand for what you believe, not less so.

The early Christians were confronted with living the Gospel in a world far more hostile and pagan than our own. It must have been tempting for them to turn to violence and terrorism. But St Paul told them to follow another way. “Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil,” he said.

And what is that armor that he spoke of? Was it swords and shields and clanking breastplates? No. It is righteousness, truth, peace, faith, salvation and the Holy Spirit.

There is not one word in this about calling other people names or tearing them down to build someone else up. St Paul further said, that they — and we — are not engaged in a war against people. We are fighting “powers and principalities.”

We can not defeat the devil by using the devil’s weapons. That is why I am so emphatic that we must stop attacking persons and begin talking about the ideas and ideals that we believe. We must lay down the sword of defamation and put on the armor of God — truth, peace, faith, salvation, the Holy Spirit and true righteousness born of a humble awareness of our own sinful state.

This brings us to our final equation. It’s simple to understand and hard to accept. But if we want to live as Christians, we must make the effort.

Hate Voting = Using the Devil’s Weapons Instead of the Armor of God

Singin’ Those Swing State Blues

According to a recent Associated Press story, the upcoming presidential election will come down to how people vote in these seven states:

Colorado

Florida

Iowa

Ohio

Nevada

New Hampshire

Virginia.

The message for residents of these states is clear: Lock up your babies and little old ladies. It’s going to be a bumpy fall.

For the next three months, you and your vote will be the quarry of big-game hunting politicos willing to twist every knob, turn over every rock and crawl down every hole in search of that elusive 51% of the votes in your state.

You and your vote are the object of their desire, the purpose of their actions and the subject of their dreams. The candidates and their campaign teams will become your new best friends. They’ll prove it by never letting a moment of any campaign day slide by without reaching out to touch you in some fashion.

They’ll come to you over the phone with robo calls from the candidate, his wife, the governor, the mayor, your preacher and maybe a Hollywood star or two. Flip on your tv and they’ll blare at you with yappy ads. Go to your mailbox and there they’ll be again. You’ll be observed, polled and think-tanked to smithereens.

The reason for all this attention is simple. You can’t make up your mind.

After what seems like years of campaigning and political back and forth, you still don’t know which one of these two guys you want for your president. I’m not sure what it is about Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire and Virginia that makes you so indecisive, but it does seem that this happens to you a lot.

While you folks are getting pummeled and pushed, the rest of us who live in the states that made up our collective minds a year ago will watch. We’ll see the “focus groups,” “on-the-spot-interviews” and on election day, the “exit polls” telling us minute by minute what your reactions are to each itty bitty piece of jaffe reporting and the rare actual issue that will come up.

We’ll see you become more tense;  hear your voices as they spiral higher. We’ll watch as the constant hammering from your new best friends Romney and Obama wears away your patience. We’ll listen as you sing those swing state blues.

But we know you. You will not make up your minds. When election day rolls around, you’ll surprise everyone by what you do, including, probably, yourselves.

Until that day (and may it come soon) you’ll just have to suffer your quadrennial punishment while the rest of us watch. Around my house, we’re going to lay in a store of popcorn, soft drinks and snacks so that we can kick back and have a good time at the upcoming three-month-long watch party.

As for those of you in the barrel, you are the front line of active Democracy. You know and I know that the day the election is over, your new best friends will pack up and go back to where they came from. They probably won’t even issue a good-bye robo call. The only way you’ll know they were ever there will be by the tilted campaign signs wilting in the rain and an occasional campaign mail piece hanging out the back end of a trash truck.

My advice to you is to spend the quiet of that day after the day when America chooses its next president unpacking your babies and little old ladies. You can tell them that it’s safe for them to come out now.


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