I understand that things are a bit wonky over there in the GOP-led House of Representatives. And by “wonky” I mean “ungovernable.”
So I figured I’d offer the GOP a suggestion:
Whaddaya think? Am I on to something?
As I often do, I’m snagging something else from my bloggin’ buddy, Father Kane over at The Last of the Millenniums. Because, really, I haven’t seen such a good summary of why folks have guns in a while (Not Safe For Work).
I give you Australian comedian Jim Jefferies:
Like many of us, I’ve been wondering what I should say since I woke up Thursday morning to the news of the latest gun massacre, this time, in Charleston, South Carolina.
I often feel like I’m beating a dead horse here at FiftyFourAndAHalf. Do you really need me to go off on another rant about sensible gun laws? I didn’t think so.
There is plenty of outrage on so many levels with this latest shooter. The deed itself. The fact that he sat in church with his victims for an hour and then killed them. The after-the-fact suspicions of his friends that he had been planning this for a while and nobody spoke up.
There is plenty of outrage with the idiotic reactions on the part of just about every member of the GOP, particularly their presidential candidates. They stammer. They point the blame on other things — Rick Santorum says it’s a “War on Christians” (huh?); Rick Perry says it was the fault of Big Pharma (huh?). Jeb! says he just doesn’t know if racism played a part — in spite of the words of the shooter that he wanted to start a race war.
But I save my greatest outrage for Senator Lindsay Graham. He hemmed and hawed at first. And then he said it.
“The Confederate Flag,” Senator Graham said, “is who we are.”
And you know what? Lindsay Graham is nothing if not consistent. Worse, he speaks for a whole swath of folks who still believe in the principles of the Confederacy. Who believe in the symbol of the Confederacy, the Stars and Bars. The symbol of slavery, of racism, of bigotry. The symbol of resistance to integration. The symbol of hate.
Senator Graham speaks for folks who didn’t get the news:
These folks have clung to their racist beliefs. Their strong belief held fast in the 150 years since the Confederacy lost, in the mistaken idea that African-Americans, blacks, Negros, colored folks (depending on the era we’re talking about) weren’t “created equal.”
With all I’ve read in the last two days, one article, The Confederacy is Not Our Heritage, really struck home with me.
First, Mr. Sumner put to rest the lie that the states seceded over “States’ Rights”:
The Confederacy was launched not on a platform of slavery, but on a foundation of racism. That it maintained slavery as an institution was a feature. That it upheld racism was the design. Read the words of Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, speaking at the Athenaeum in Savannah, Georgia:
The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions—African slavery as it exists among us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with; but the general opinion of the men of that day was, that, somehow or other, in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. … Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of a Government built upon it—when the “storm came and the wind blew, it fell.”Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition.
. . . look with confidence to the ultimate universal acknowledgement of the truths upon which our system rests? It is the first government ever instituted upon the principles in strict conformity to nature, and the ordination of Providence, in furnishing the materials of human society. Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race; such were and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature’s laws.
So much for States’ Rights. That, like the Glory of the South (and proclamation that “The South Shall Rise Again!”) is a myth, belied by these words.
The author grew up in Kentucky surrounded by the vestiges of the Civil War. Here in my adopted state of Virginia, they surround me as well. But they are not the vestiges of a defeat and the lessons that should have been learned from it. No, they proclaim the heroism of the Generals, the glory of the battles, the fierceness of the Rebel yell. Here in Virginia, there is a state holiday in January — Lee-Jackson Day. A couple hours south of here is the Stonewall Jackson Shrine. All proclaim the glory of the Civil War, as if it, and the reasons behind it, were — and still are — worth fighting for.
If you don’t know the history of who won and who lost, well, you’re not going to find it in the South.
As Mr. Sumner says:
The Confederacy is not my heritage. It’s not anyone’s heritage. The Confederacy is our shame.
Is it part of our history? Yes, it is, to our everlasting shame. It’s a part of our history the same way that the apartheid state is a part of South African history. It’s a part of our history the same way that the Nazi Reich is a part of German history. It’s a part of our history that should embarrass us.
It’s the part of our history in which traitors who not only didn’t believe in the American union, but also didn’t believe in the basic ideals of America, formed a state whose core was nothing less than pure racism.
It should be no more acceptable to wave a Confederate flag in the United States than it is to fly a swastika. No more acceptable to proclaim yourself sympathetic to the Confederate cause than to proclaim yourself a supporter of ISIS. There is no moral difference. None. These are the banners of the enemies of our nation and of our ideals—enemies whose existence is based on inequality and subjugation.
President Obama is right. It’s time to put the Stars and Bars in a museum. It’s time to end the hate.
Just like three years ago, I am anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act. Three years ago, I was fairly certain that the right-leaning Court would deem Obamacare unconstitutional. Three years ago, I was lucky. And I wrote about it here.
Today, tonight, as I wait for the decision on a far more pedestrian case, I’m still worried. OK, I’m worried again.
You see, the “Prime Directive” of my life, from the age of 17, has been having and maintaining health insurance.
That’s what happens to you when you develop health problems, regardless of the age. You need to put your square peg of a life into a round hole of getting the treatment that you need. It never fits. And you always lose a lot of yourself. Oh, and all of your dreams.
And frankly, I resent it.
Healthy folks don’t understand just how thoroughly something most people take for granted — good health, good health insurance — can literally mean the difference between life and death.
Because I’m sure — positive — that the Supremes will be reading this blog, and for the new-ish friends who haven’t read this piece, I’m re-posting my most intimate post.
Friday, the first of October, 1982, was a really bad day.
Actually, it was a mostly normal day even after I found a memo and a pamphlet in my office in-box. The law firm where I’d worked for more than three years had just changed health insurance companies. The information about our new policy, beginning November 1, 1982, three weeks before my scheduled surgery, would be with Liberty Mutual. I didn’t give it a thought.
But Andrea, one of my bosses, suggested I give them a call. “You’d better make sure they know about your operation and don’t need more information.”
So I called the number on the brochure.
Forty-five minutes later, Andrea found me at my desk, staring blankly at the ‘Sitting Duck’ poster hanging on my wall. It showed a white cartoon duck wearing sunglasses. He’d been enjoying himself, sitting in the sun in a turquoise blue lawn chair on the side of his house, sipping a soda. But he was looking in wide-eyed surprise over his right shoulder at two bullet holes in the wall.
I knew that if I looked over my shoulder, I’d see some bullet holes as well. I was that sitting duck — I always seemed to be dodging bullets. Life with chronic illness had become one fucking thing after another. Now, just when I’d accepted and agreed to the surgery that so terrified me, my insurance was gone. BANG! BANG!
“What’s wrong?” Andrea asked.
“It’s not covered,” I said, numbly, without a hint of emotion. Then I began to hyperventilate. “’Pre-… pre-… pre-existing condition,’ they said.”
I explained what I’d been told, that the new policy didn’t cover anybody for 30 days and that it didn’t cover pre-existing conditions for a year. The firm had changed insurance to save money. Their decision would cost me everything. Everything.
I didn’t want to have the surgery — it terrified me. But I’d adjusted, accepted that I was, in spite of my attempted denial, quite sick, and that I had to have the operation. But I couldn’t possibly pay for it. Where was I going to get the tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars I’d need? I lived pay-check to pay-check, and rarely had a nickle to spare; I had no savings. My parents were retired, living close to the bones themselves. My siblings were likewise broke. And I had insurance!
Loss of the insurance meant one of two things. I could have the surgery that I really didn’t want to have anyway and pay for it myself. Or I’d face another year of ever-worsening illness — hemorrhages, bleeding, weakness, diarrhea. Dr. C had been clear — my colitis was not just going to go away, as much as I wanted it to.
Without insurance, even if I could convince my surgeon, the hospital and the zillions of other folks involved in a major operation to actually do the surgery on someone without insurance, I knew that I would spend the rest of my life trying to pay the bills. Bills that would have been covered just the day before.
My mind whipsawed between the injustice of the loss and terror at what would happen to me if I didn’t have that damn operation.
Andrea came around to my side of my desk and put her hand on my arm. “We’ll figure this out, Elyse. It’s late now, everybody’s gone. But we’ll work this out on Monday.”
She sounded reassuring; I was unconvinced.
“Really, it’ll be OK,” she repeated. “But in the meantime, I need you to …”
Her voice trails off in my memory. Andrea was a compulsive workaholic, an A-type personality. Work always came before anything else. Other people at the firm thought it was annoying, insensitive, or worse. But for me, it helped. It was exactly what I needed. It took my mind off me. I did what she asked, finished up and went home.
Of course I fell apart once I was home and told my roommate, Keily, the news. I ranted, raged, and cried — I wallowed all evening.
“I don’t even want to have this operation,” I shouted as loudly as I could to Keily as I sat in the bathroom, the door open. My gut, naturally, was erupting. It almost always was by then, especially when I was upset. Cramps. Diarrhea. Blood. Urgency. My shitty symptoms mocked me, proving that I couldn’t avoid the surgery. That I couldn’t put it off until my insurance kicked in. That I was totally screwed.
Keily sat outside the bathroom at the top of the stairs, stroking Goliath; that was her perch as I got sicker and sicker. She sat there and talked to me. She kept Goliath out of the tiny bathroom (Keily’s only successful effort at getting the Goose, as we nicknamed him, to obey.) That night, she held Goliath, and soothed him and me at the same time. She let me vent, rage, rant.
“It’ll work out. There’s some mistake. They can’t just do this to you. You need to trust the folks at your office.” Keily said repeatedly.
“You mean the ones who agreed to the new policy?” I wasn’t in a mood to listen.
That night I’d skipped Goliath’s after-work walk. It was getting on towards 10 p.m. and he needed to go out. I needed to do something else, or at least cry somewhere else. Walking clears my head, lets me figure out how to fix a problem, helps me find an answer. I knew a walk would help.
“Do you want me to come?” asked Keily. She often did, and that night she was concerned. I was so shaky and upset.
“No, thanks, I think I need to be by myself,” I responded. “I’ll be OK.” Actually, I was wishing I could leave myself behind. I was sick of me. Sick of sick me, anyhow.
So Goliath and I got into the VW and headed to the Capitol grounds, where we walked most nights. It’s such a beautiful, inspiring place. Plus for a woman walking her dog, it’s perfect. Of course it’s well lit — you can see it for miles. But there are also security patrols that never bothered us but nevertheless made me feel safe. A 120 lb. German Shepherd helped make me feel secure, too.
It was a clear night, with a half-moon casting shadows from the beautiful cherry and oak trees, from the enormous rhododendron bushes and other carefully tended shrubs across the expansive West Lawn. Nobody else was in sight.
I let Goliath off his leash. Deep in my own thoughts, I didn’t pay much attention to him. Unusually, he stayed right with me that night. He was as worried as Keily.
I cannot believe this is happening to me, I thought, rage building again at the injustice. Because my whole entire adult life had been focused on making sure I had health insurance.
From the time of my first hospitalization at 17, I had lived my life — made every single decision — with health insurance in mind. My dreams of acting, of singing, of writing? Of doing whatever the hell I pleased? They’d all been flushed down the thousands of toilets I’d had to rush to over the 10 years since my diagnosis.
After my first hospitalization, and with word from the doctor that my ulcerative colitis would likely flare up repeatedly throughout my life, my parents forced me to go to secretarial school – a career path that had never figured into my plans. My mother was an office worker and she’d always hated her job. It seemed boring and demeaning. Secretarial work had once been a good career path for bright women. But that, I thought in my young “know-it-all” way, was no longer the case. Mom was stuck with it, and she and Dad stuck me with it, too.
I complained bitterly; I was talented, funny, smart. It wasn’t fair.
I was wrong about both the work and the women who worked as secretaries. I quickly became pretty ashamed of my attitude, and some of the secretaries I knew became great friends.
Still when the chance emerged to turn a secretarial job into a job as a legal assistant, I jumped at it. In the job I’d had now for three years, I wrote for a living, analyzed legislation and regulations for the firm’s clients and learned about U.S. politics and policy. It was a terrific job. The firm had been good to me. And my parents were happy because I was still working in an office. With health insurance.
Another wave of anger came as I walked down the groomed hillside.
And then I saw it. Something I’d never seen there in the dozens of times I’d walked that route. Inexplicably, on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building, there was a pole sticking out of the grass with a chain attached at the top, and a ball hanging down.
I walked up to it and started smacking that ball. I’d only seen cheap sets with rope attaching the ball to the pole. This one had a strong chain that was covered in a canvas sheath. But instead of improving my mood, hitting the ball deepened my feelings of desperation.
SMACK. I hit the ball as hard as I could. “MY BODY HATES ME!” I shouted as I pushed the ball around the pole.
WHACK. “MY LIFE SUCKS!”
SLAM. “Fucking, fucking FUCKING INSURANCE!”
SMACK, SMACK, SMACK. “Hopeless. Hopeless. Hopeless.”
With each hit of the ball, I pushed myself towards the end of my own rope. There was no way to unravel all the problems I was facing, the problems that kept expanding. Just as I thought I’d licked one, it would multiply. No way to fix all the crap that kept piling up. Crap that I suddenly felt that I was facing alone.
That was the moment when I realized, with surprising clarity, that life just wasn’t worth the trouble. At least mine wasn’t.
I decided at that moment to hang myself. I would hang myself from the tetherball chain on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. It suddenly became the perfect solution.
I saw no way out. I couldn’t continue, didn’t want to continue. And I’d gotten way past the amount of shit I could deal with.
I sat down on the grass on the hill just above the contraption and allowed myself one last cry. Naturally I didn’t have any Kleenex. Snot running with my tears did not make me feel any better.
The first problem I discovered was that I couldn’t quite figure out what to call the thing. It seemed important that I know what to call it if I was going to die on it.
I wondered: Is it a tetherball set? A tetherball apparatus? A tetherball thing-y? I didn’t know the answer.
Goliath tried to distract me, to cheer me and when that didn’t work, he sat down next to me and let me use his shoulder. He tried to lick my tears away, but they kept coming. He butted his head into me. But he got bored with my misery and wandered away.
I didn’t watch where he went, I didn’t care. It didn’t matter where he went, what he did. Whom he harassed. I was done.
The decision was made.
I got up and walked up to the tetherball thing-y and realized what I hadn’t noticed before: that the chain was actually quite short. Too short, possibly, for my plan. The ball itself fell to just the height of my shoulder.
I was shocked. How am I going to do this?
I reached up, stood on my tippy-toes like a kindergartner, grabbed the chain in my left hand, and tried to pull it down a little more. But it was a chain, so it was very strong and not at all stretchy. It was also pretty thick, about 2-1/2 inches wide and not terribly pliable.
I stood there, grunting, sobbing, trying to stretch my body. I held the ball and the bottom of the tether chain in my hand, trying to figure out a way to make this work. Wondering if I could quickly have a growth spurt.
How can I get this short thick thing around my neck?
Even on my tippy-toes and pulling it as hard as I could, it wasn’t long enough. It just reached from my chin to my shoulder — not even half way around my neck!
What sort of an idiot designed this damn thing with an impossibly short chain? I wondered. You can’t even smack the ball around the pole more than a couple of times.
Not to mention that it wasn’t at all helpful for putting me out of my misery.
I pursed my lips and moved them from side to side like Charlie Chaplin’s little tramp. I rubbed my chin and scratched my head. Tried to solve the shortcomings.
Naturally, other problems popped up too.
What can I jump off of?
Of course, the answer was “nothing.” I was on the manicured grounds of the Capitol. I couldn’t pile up debris and jump off of it because there was no debris. The neat grounds rarely had much in the way of move-able objects. I was starting to get annoyed.
I want to die. Now. Tonight. On the tetherball thing-y. How the hell can I do this?
There on the West Lawn of the United States Capitol Building — with security patrols passing every 10 or so minutes — I was hell-bent on committing suicide by tetherball. I was trying to stretch, to grow, to find a ladder, a chair, anything I could jump off of with a piece of US Government-issued sports equipment wrapped around my neck. Wanting to and trying to die.
And then it hit me.
Or rather, he hit me. Goliath, of course.
SLAM! Something hard hit the back of my legs.
From somewhere on the grounds, Goliath had picked up a huge stick – an uprooted tree by the size of it. It was at least five feet long and four inches around. His mouth was stretched to the limit holding it. And he’d hit me with it in the back of my legs.
WHACK! He did it again. I turned and saw that he’d lowered his chest towards the ground into a bow. He kept his rear end high in the air, wagging the whole back half of his body ferociously.
He’d had enough of me feeling sorry for myself. It was time to play. So he rammed me with it again.
“Owwwww, Goliath STOP THAT!” I commanded.
He didn’t listen. He went around to my left and hit me with it again. His eyes caught the moonlight – they sparkled. He was laughing at me.
SLAP! “Owwww, NO! That hurts. Cut it out!”
He bounced to my right side with the long thick branch firmly in his mouth. Pretending to loosen his grip on it. Teasing me. Trying to get me to play. Wanting me to reach for the stick, which he would never give me.
(Come on, Mom, catch me!) He was play growling at the stick and at me. He bowed again, swung his head to and fro, and the long stick swung left to right, wobbled up and down. It got stuck in the ground for a second, and then he forced it back out again with a flick of his massive head. Goliath came close to me and then bounded off with his treasure. Circling me. Approaching me, but backing off before I could get to him. He never got close enough for me to grab that damn stick.
(Come on, Mom, try to grab it!) We were going to play, whether I wanted to or not. And he hit me with the damn thing again.
“Give me that stick!” I ordered. He wouldn’t. He danced around me and the tetherball thing-y and bashed me and the pole repeatedly.
I’m not sure if he knocked me over or I sat down in defeat, crying. He bashed it into me a few more times, but then lost interest. Goliath dropped his weapon — well out of my reach — and sat down beside me. He put his paw on my lap, his head on my shoulder and nuzzled me. Chewed at my hair and my ear. Let me scratch his ears.
“You silly Goose.” I said pulling his ears and tail affectionately. Hugging him. “You’re gonna kill me one of these days.”
I knew then that I couldn’t kill myself, that night or any other. Nobody in their right mind would take my stupid dog.
* * *
I learned when I went back to work on the following Monday that the person I spoke with at the insurance company was wrong. Mistaken. My company’s coverage was considered continuing coverage and so my condition was insured. I had my surgery and became healthy for the first time in about a decade.
Since the enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, started, I have been haunted by the memory of the night I nearly ended my own life in a fit of desperation. And while I think we can all agree that it was the silliest suicide plan ever constructed, that misses the entire point.
And that point is that folks who lose their insurance or who are without insurance are often desperate. And close to the end of their rope. I certainly was .
How many other Americans have been in that position? Hundreds? Thousands? Millions? How many think, consider, and/or attempt suicide?
The New England Journal of Medicine reported the following:
First, many suicidal acts — one third to four fifths of all suicide attempts, according to studies — are impulsive. Among people who made near-lethal suicide attempts, for example, 24% took less than 5 minutes between the decision to kill themselves and the actual attempt, and 70% took less than 1 hour. (Miller and Hemenway, 2008) (Emphasis added.)
I am not a traditional candidate for suicide, I don’t have the risk factors. But I was, literally, at the end of my rope because of a combination of constantly dealing with a difficult disease, being broke because I was young and just starting out, and suddenly losing my insurance. I would have had a huge financial burden I would never be able to pay off. All through the bad luck of bad health. Simple bad luck.
When I hear the anti-Affordable Care Act folks preaching about how we need to get rid of Obamacare, I want to scream. Because a flawed system is better than the old system, where pre-existing conditions — the very thing that makes insurance absolutely necessary — will be the very thing that made insurance coverage impossible.
We need this program or we need a better program. Going back to the old system is already unthinkable.
Is Obamacare perfect? Nope. Is there a perfect solution? Nope. But it is an improvement. A huge, huge improvement. And the problems will be fixed.
Health insurance for many people makes the difference between life and death. Literally and figuratively.
You will be surprised to learn that I didn’t plan on posting about this.
I figured that anybody who has ever read my blog knows precisely where I stand on this issue. So I left it in that barren wasteland where all unused posts go — DRAFTS.
But then tonight I read a blog post that broke my heart.
Most of you know my bloggin’ buddy, TwinDaddy of Finding Twindaddy. He has a new job doing tech-ie stuff at a school, and he wrote about ALICE at his school in a post called “A Sad State of Affairs.”
Alice? Who’s ALICE?
Alice is an acronym that stands for: Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate. The drills that students, teachers and administrators of our American — Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition — schools must perform periodically so that everybody is ready in the event that an active shooter comes to their school.
High School Students, Teachers and Administrators
Junior High School Students, Teachers and Administrators
Elementary School Students, Teachers and Administrators
Somehow, I don’t think this has gone down to the nursery school level. Give it time.
Anyway, deleted what I had drafted because it was lame. But after reading Twin Daddy’s post, I thought I’d show you the algorithm that one school in Michigan came up with. It’s quite creative.
Because, you see, not only do they (and folks in other states) have to worry about some nutcase coming through the door blasting, but they have to worry about other nutcases. Yup, folks in many states need to figure out how to deal with potential crisis situations because of the folks who have been dubbed “ammosexuals.” Ammosexuals are those particular nutcases who believe that their right to openly carry any fucking gun they please, and to waive it around, proclaiming their god-given/NRAsponsored right to bear arms, trumps your kids’ rights to, well, you know, breathe.
Because, of course, in states where it is legal to “open carry” guns, how can you tell the “good guys” from the “bad guys.” So they had to come up with a decision tree:
(Click to Enlarge)
Of course, by the time any school administrator could figure out that, well, that’s a bad guy, they’re probably dead. Not a whole lot of help, then, is it? Oh well, what’s a few more gun deaths in America? It’s what we’re becoming famous for worldwide. Once folks thought our streets were paved with gold — now they are paved with blood and bullet casings.
* * *
We really need to figure out, as a society, how to get a handle back on our brains, so that we can protect, at a minimum, our kids.
Oh and as an aside, I passed through Newtown a few months ago. I saw a pickup truck with this bumper sticker:
This is the ammosexuals’ response to the message that sane people in Sandy Hook put forth after the massacre:
And it made me realize just how important gun control laws are. Because I wanted to shoot the asshole driving that truck.
We all thought it would be different, didn’t we. After Columbine. After Aurora. After Sandy Hook.
But no. Nope. Nada. Didn’t happen
We’ve all gotten used to thinking the unthinkable: Not a chance for change. Not with the money the NRA has behind them. Not with the gun folks getting progressively crazier.
So some creative thinking was called for.
Naturally, the gun nuts are going, well, nuts. As reported in the Huffington Post where I found the video:
The National Rifle Association’s New York affiliate immediately condemned the stunt and called for an investigation into whether the organizers violated New York’s gun laws.
“[It is a] felony violation of the Sullivan Act for a person to possess a handgun anywhere in New York without a license. The video clearly shows individual ‘customers’ handling various handguns and doing so in an unsafe manner,” New York State Rifle and Pistol Association President Thomas King said in a press release.
Because, you see, it’s not OK to “handle” a gun, but the 2nd Amendment gives us all the right to own them. And use them.
* * *
Timiny Cricket, a commenter, said that he’d
like to hear about some of the positive examples where a gun scared away someone about to commit a crime or even was used in self defense and saved the owner’s life.
Today, I rise in support of the Gentleman from Missouri.
This morning, when I received a challenge from my friend Mark of Exile on Pain Street, well, I wasn’t sure I was up to it. I tried, really i did. But I just didn’t think I had it in me to answer his challenge:
I defy you to say something positive about the GOP. One thing.
When I look at today’s GOP, well, I don’t see anything positive. I see a lot of hate. I see a lot of stupidity. I see a lot of folks in office that, well, really should just go back to where they came from.
And I feel compelled to write about it. To shout from the rooftops, actually. To get one more person out to vote against the folks who really should not be in positions to impact our lives.
But, you know, I felt bad when I realized that Mark is right. Because I didn’t always feel this way. I wasn’t always anti-GOP. In fact, under the right circumstances, I might have become a Republican. And today, a Republican showed me exactly why I might have joined the GOP.
Then I found my one positive thing!
Have you heard the news out of Missouri?
A leading contender for the GOP ticket for Missouri governor died last week. Of course, that’s sad news. It’s sad when anybody dies.
But of course there’s more to the story. Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich (R) killed himself. And suicide is a whole different ball game.
Mr. Schweich had believed himself to be the victim of a whispering campaign, by state GOP chairman John Hancock who was “off-handedly” spreading the word that Mr. Schweich was Jewish. [It’s a sad statement of life here in America that that should be seen as a problem.] There was also a nasty radio ad. And Mr. Schweich was, by reports, a sensitive man.
These tactics have become part and parcel of our political “debates.”
But today, somebody stood up against it. Against what politics has become.
Former Senator John Danforth was that man. REPUBLICAN of Missouri. Senator Danforth is part of the old school of Republicans. Honorable men — they were all men. Men who stood up for what was right and what was good. Men who believed in their country and what we as a nation could do.
In his eulogy for Mr. Schweich, Senator Danforth called out all of us on what we’ve let politics become. Anything Goes.
I have never experienced an anti-Semitic campaign. Anti-Semitism is always wrong and we can never let it creep into politics.
As for the radio commercial, making fun of someone’s physical appearance, calling him a “little bug”, there is one word to describe it: “bullying.” And there is one word to describe the person behind it: “bully.”
Indeed, if this is what politics has become, what decent person would want to get into it? We should encourage normal people — yes, sensitive people — to seek public office, not drive them away.
Senator Danforth continued:
We often hear that words can’t hurt you. But that’s simply not true. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said just the opposite. Words for Jesus could be the moral equivalent of murder. He said if we insult a brother or sister we will be liable. He said if we call someone a fool we will be liable to hell. Well how about anti-Semitic whispers? And how about a radio ad that calls someone a “little bug,” and that is run anonymously over and over again?
Words do hurt. Words can kill. That has been proven right here in our home state.
He explained why it happens:
There is no mystery as to why politicians conduct themselves this way. It works. They test how well it works in focus groups and opinion polls. It wins elections, and that is their objective. It’s hard to call holding office public service, because the day after the election it’s off to the next election, and there’s no interlude for service. It’s all about winning, winning at any cost to the opponent or to any sense of common decency.
And then an idea, a promise. A pledge:
Let’s decide that what may have been clever politics last week will work no longer. It will backfire. It will lose elections, not win them.
Let’s pledge that we will not put up with any whisper of anti-Semitism. We will stand against it as Americans and because our own faith demands it. We will take the battle Tom wanted to fight as our own cause.
We will see bullies for who they are. We will no longer let them hide behind their anonymous pseudo-committees. We will not accept their way as the way of politics. We will stand up to them and we will defeat them.
This will be our memorial to Tom: that politics as it now exists must end, and we will end it. And we will get in the face of our politicians, and we will tell them that we are fed up, and that we are not going to take this anymore.
When Senator Danforth was in the U.S. Senate, it was an institution filled, more or less, with people of principle. Some of the members I respected the most were Republicans. They believed in cooperation and compromise. The loyalty was to America, not to the GOP.
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It is vital to have people in office who hold different ideas, different principles. But it is time that we elect folks who have principles. Wouldn’t that be great?
* If you are unfamiliar with Mark’s blog — run, don’t walk over to his blog. He’s a gifted writer.
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