Some ideas are just bad

Tonight a small group of mostly Democrats gathered in a room at the local community college to watch President Obama give the State of the Union Address. The event was sponsored by both Democrat and Republican student organizations. We gathered about half an hour early and talked about what we wanted to hear him say, and we were happy afterward that he covered our concerns. I was particularly pleased, since his speech proved that he has been reading my e-mails.

During the discussion before the speech, one member stood and declared himself to be a Republican. We see a lot of these in southwest Virginia, so we were not frightened. He did not have an issue that he wanted to see President Obama address in the speech, but he did have an idea to present. He pointed out that we were all Democrats except himself, and he asked us to crash the Republican primary and vote for Ron Paul so that the Republicans would go to the convention with a split vote. He had some rationale for this being a good thing, based on his assertion that he would never vote for Romney or Gingrich, and somehow a split ticket would make the Republicans give him a better option — presumably Ron Paul.

Virginia has an open primary, and on March 6 Republicans here will choose between two candidates, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. Perry, Santorum, Gingrich, and Huntsman failed to qualify for the ballot, sued the Virginia State Board of Elections and the Virginia GOP for an exception to the rules, and lost.

I am a Virginia Democrat who knows from working at the polls that when we have a primary it is standard practice for Republicans to cast spoiler votes in our primary, I know it is possible for us to do this dastardly deed as much as it is for Republicans to do it to us. That is, it would be possible for us if:

  • we thought governing was a game that you should game
  • we had no ethics, and
  • we didn’t mind being on the phonebanking lists for the next 10 years as Republicans.

I’m not saying that no Democrat ever voted in a Republican primary, but I am not aware of any Democrat ever doing that. Certainly we do not do organized get-out-the-vote party crashing. We could not, because we are, well, Democrats.

Most particularly we should not even consider voting in this Republican primary to advantage Ron Paul, a racist sexist isolationist snapping turtle who throughout his career has bitten the hand — that would be the government hand — that feeds him. And if a Republican wants Ron Paul to win, he should be out campaigning for Ron Paul, not trying to finesse an unethical spoiler vote in the primary from outside his own party.

If you want to know where I am coming from

I suppose it is not fair to talk about religion without letting people know where you are coming from in the religious context. So before I take on the dominionists for not being on the right path, I will give you some background on my perspective.

I was born into Christianity, but as the dominionists moved in — at first they called themselves the Moral Majority, and then the Promise Keepers — I found myself moving out. When the church quit supporting labor unions and civil rights and public education, i moved out further. To be quite frank, they never supported women, but for a while I thought they were coming along on this matter. But maybe they never did.

I was familiar with Christian scripture, belief, story, and practice before I entered high school. I taught a Sunday School class, taught Vacation Bible School, and was the president of the youth organization Christ’s Ambassadors in the Assembly of God church. Yes. I know. Sarah Palin. In college I earned around 20 credit hours of courses in religion, all of it in the Christian perspective, and all on Christian topics with the exception of one course in comparative religions taught by a Christian professor. I still recognize myself as a Christian, but to my Christian birth family I am an apostate heathen heretic.

I can insult many members of my Christian family by quoting the Sermon on the Mount, telling the story of the Good Samaritan, or pointing out that Jesus told the Woman at the Well that the true worship of God was not tied to race, creed, or geography, and that his message was addressed to individual people, not nations. They feel abused also when I point out that Jesus refused the opportunity to have dominion over the earth, and a dominionist can’t possibly be following in Jesus’s footsteps. But they can in retaliation observe that the Devil can quote scripture. So knowing, using, and citing scripture doesn’t keep me from being an apostate heathen heretic. And then I can remind them that if the Devil quotes scripture, it is still scripture.

So there you have it. I am an apostate heathen heretic, perhaps otherwise known to a few souls of the scattered remnant as a Christian who is not a fundamentalist and not a dominionist. I believe in evolution, in spite of the current round of GOP debates. I am pro-choice.

Some people think I am a Buddhist, and maybe I am because I finally learned to spell it last year. And in my heretical manner of pointing out, I will point out that some people think Jesus was a Buddhist. On that subject, I can see how Buddhist ideas translated through the Hellenistic lens could have produced the early Christian movement. Somebody needs to write a book about that. If you have, send me the ISBN so I can find it and read it. I am sure it is obscure.

I read obscure books.

Happy Birthday!

A world of difference?

This raises a question about whether or not we all actually live in the same world:

Kids on the Street need a hand!

If you wonder where journalism has gone …

What to do in that 5th District Delegate race

Making a long story short, I am voting for Michael Osborne. If you want to know why, read on.

In the 5th District House of Delegates race in Virginia, we have two candidates:

  • Republican Israel O’Quinn, community and government relations director for Food City’s parent company, K-VA-T Food Stores
  • Independent Michael Osborne, a former pastor educated at Graham Bible College and Liberty University who owns Our Father’s House Christian Bookstore and regards his major disagreement points with Democrats “the moral issues.”

I have read the newspaper interviews, but I have not heard Israel O’Quinn speak. If you haven’t noticed, Republicans aren’t making house calls. They are speaking to their own choirs and not very available to the public. I have bumped into Michael Osborne twice without even trying.

The first time that I met Osborne, who likes to be called “Oz,” was at a candidate forum at Virginia Highlands Community College. He did not talk about the issues, just about being a minister and a Christian, and I think he mentioned coal. Then someone asked him about Cap and Trade, and he stated that he was against it. I asked him if he knew of any places in the United States or elsewhere that Cap and Trade was being used, and he did not. I told him there were such places and suggested that he do a Google search and inform himself on the issue. Then I put Oz in my book as a social conservative who did not have any knowledge of other issues and decided I wouldn’t vote for anyone in the 5th District race for Virginia House of Delegates.

Tonight I got to talk with Oz again when he attended the Washington County Democrats potluck at Abingdon High School. I saw him come into the room, and he came directly to me and told me he had done as I suggested and informed himself on Cap and Trade. We talked about Cap and Trade for a few minutes, then about energy in general, and about the future of energy, the Keystone XL pipeline, and associated ideas, like national energy independence. He was still not incredibly well-informed on a wide range of the energy issues, but to be fair these are national issues and not state issues. More to the point, he had remembered my question, he had learned about Cap and Trade, and he was talking with me about it.

Personally, I think Oz would make a better Democrat than he would a Republican, since I have not met a Republican in the past 15 years who was interested, willing to learn something, or willing to discuss an issue with someone who disagreed.

His opponent Israel O’Quinn is a Republican with a possible personal interest in privatizing the ABC stores in Virginia, which is an economic mistake at least equal to the car tax fiasco. He will be a rubber stamp for the regressive administration now in Richmond, otherwise he would not be their pick or have their solid — and impressively well-funded — backing. There is a chance that with Oz we will have a delegate who informs himself on the issues, thinks about what is best for southwest Virginia, and listens to his constituents and not just to his political and corporate sponsors.

Why Occupy?

The folks who are standing up to tear gas and rubber bullets have a reason. If we understand it, we can fix it, starting in November:

Mitt Romney’s pledge

Pro-choice, multiple choice, or pro-life, Mitt Romney rejects a hyphenated title. He pledges instead “to preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose.” This is not a label or a reaction to any endorsement. He has not changed his mind, and he will not change it. Listen to his statement:

Luke 16:19-31

My friend asked, “Why do Republicans hate taxes and the Department of Education?” This is an interesting question that deserves a thoughtful answer.

Republicans explain that education should be in the private sector, and parents should have “educational choice.” This means that corporations and private foundations can make money from schools as parents pay for the education of their children. Wealthy people’s children will have better education than poor people’s children, but that is as it should be. I am reminded of when I taught ninth grade English at Edgewood High in San Antonio, Texas, in the late 1960’s, using fifteen-year-old textbooks sent to the inner-city school district from affluent schools north of the city. These books reminded me — then and now — of the “crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table.” (Luke 16:19-31) The Remote Area Medical Clinics here in Virginia make me think of that parable, and of food ministries giving backpack meals to hungry children. Reducing the quality and availability of public education establishes a de facto underclass limited to low-wage jobs and permanently mired in poverty.

Taxes maintain infrastructure and essential public services that should not be left to the ups and downs of market influences. Interestingly, most of the things we define as infrastructure — roads, bridges, airports, seaports, electric and sewer lines — support the market itself. Trucks could not bring inventory shipments to market without these supporting structures. So the market rests upon infrastructure built largely by tax money. Individuals use the same roads and bridges, driving their cars to work and to the store. But wealthy business owners who move tons of freight and count on the roads and bridges to bring both inventory and customers benefit enormously from tax-supported infrastructure.

It appears fair to me that these giant beneficiaries of public infrastructure should pay a larger share of taxes. But Republicans say that taxes are redistribution of wealth, taking the wealthy person’s hard-earned money and returning it to deadbeats who would themselves be wealthy if they had worked as hard as millionaires have worked. Reason and experience tells you that most poor and middle-income people work harder than millionaires, but Republicans do not operate from reason or consider experience. They have an “idea” that guides their thinking, which is why we say their approach is “ideological.”

The idea that drives much of the radical right-wing agenda is a Christian doctrine called “dominionism” that seeks to make the Bible the foundation of law in the United States. Their doctrine, or ideology, teaches that God is the only legitimate ruler. God rules through powerful people that he has put in place. You can tell that these people are chosen by God by the mere fact that they are wealthy and powerful. Working people should be content with their place, work hard, and if God decides they are worthy, they may become wealthy. But if they do not, they are still supposed to work hard and be content, and enough money will trickle down through charities and jobs given to them by wealthy people.

Dominionism also includes the social agenda — opposing LGBT rights and women’s right to choose, and assuring that traditional power structures remain in place. The social agenda is the preservation of ideological control, setting up a society in which rules from the Bible become laws.

The dominionist belief that God gives governments the right to rule runs counter to the ideas of democratic government, which come not from the Bible but from secular thought prevalent during the French Revolution and the American Revolution. Thinking about liberty and equality encouraged people to refuse to believe that God had given their kings the right to rule, and instead people began to believe that governments draw their just powers from the consent of the governed. Democratic forms of government with citizens casting votes for their legislators and heads of state originated from this set of ideas, not from the Bible.

If it seems that the GOP is trying to “roll back” progress and “rewrite history,” it is because they are trying to do exactly that. In order to do it, they have to break public education in science, math, history, social science, and the arts. They also have to convince people that God made them either rich or poor, and they must be content with their station in life. The poor receive charity from the rich, and the rich are appreciated and respected because God gave them riches and put them in charge.

That is why the GOP hates taxes and the Department of Education.