Why I Won’t Vote in November

As things stand now, I’m not going to vote in the general election in November 2020. What choice do I have?

Now that Bernie’s dropped out, It’s between two mentally impaired dirty old men – Donald Trump on the one hand, and Joe Biden on the other. Both are showing clear signs of dementia.

Trump stands accused of sexual assault by multiple women. Biden has a still unanswered but very credible similar charge outstanding. And no one in Biden’s party or in the press will even raise that accusation for discussion. (Trust me: Trump will! So, goodbye, Uncle Joe.)

And both men are serial liars. With Trump, that is a foregone conclusion. But Biden’s a liar too.

In one of his previous candidacies, his history of plagiarism made him surrender his bid. He’s lied about his education and his achievements in law school. Then there are those lies about his civil rights activism, about his history with Nelson Mandela, and about his attacks on Social Security. He just makes stuff up.

And neither one of them – neither Trump nor Biden – can put two sentences together without confirming their dementia. Every time he opens his mouth, Trump sounds like the doddering Mafia Don he is. He slurs his words, repeats himself, and can’t even remember what he just said. He hasn’t a worthwhile thought in his head. Never has.

Biden’s even worse! His sentences wander; he forgets what he’s talking about; he constantly leaves his audiences wondering, “What?” Or “That’s (to put it nicely) simply embarrassing!”

In a country of more than 350 million people, is this the best we can do? Are these our best and our brightest?

(However, I have to say that debate between these buffoons will make great television. It will be highly amusing and comical. But that’s what politics in this country has come to. It’s all Kabuki theater; it’s a cruel joke.)

That’s another reason I’ll not vote in November. The political system in general is completely broken. The politicians that are supposed to represent me have nothing to do with my concerns. They’ve completely sold out. They represent no one but their rich cronies. (Now I know how people in the Soviet Union must have felt in the late ‘80s.) The system just isn’t worth my participation.

And that goes for AOC, Ilhan Omar, the rest of the so-called “squad “(and Bernie too). In the most recent bailout, they all caved. They gave grandstanding speeches about the injustice of it all. But in the end, they voted against us, didn’t they? Their loyalties are to party and career, not to me or to you. We have NO ONE to represent us.

Democracy in this country is dead. The system is completely rigged. They don’t even want us to vote. The obstacles they’ve set in terms of the electoral college, gerrymandering, disenfranchisement, crooked voting machines, interminable lines, and Citizens United make a mockery of the entire process.

And please don’t try to shame me into voting because of the Supreme Court. That body is totally corrupt as well – completely politicized. No justice there – not even a glimmer of hope. Only clowns like the sexual predator Clarence Thomas (whom Biden ended up supporting over Anita Hill), the accused rapist Brett Kavanaugh, and a coward like John Roberts (who, remember hardly spoke a word while presiding over the recent sham impeachment hearings). The SCOTUS has no credibility at all. It’s irreformable. So, dear Ruth, you may go in peace.

The hell of it is that we don’t have any time for reform. Mother Nature won’t allow it. Climate change is breathing down our necks. What are the scientists giving us – 10 more years – or is it 8? You can now subtract 4 from that number. Neither Trump nor Biden will do what needs to be done. (Remember, Joe told his corporate friends, “Nothing fundamental will change.”)

And no one cares. I mean, with COVID-19, we can make the entire world stop. But with the far worse threat of climate change: not so much. It’s all business as usual. And it’s all nuts.

But in a way, maybe that’s the only ray of hope we have – from Mother Nature. While our system won’t object to climate destruction, maybe Our Great Mother just won’t allow this madness to go on. In any case, it’s now up to her. She will have her way.  

It’s all so discouraging on this morning after Bernie’s surrender. In the face of it all, and as things stand now, that’s why I’ll boycott this election in November.

Jesus’ Supreme Court: His Preference for Blasey-Ford’s Style over Brett Kavanaugh’s

Kavanaugh

Readings for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Is. 53:10-11; Ps. 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22; Heb. 4: 14-16; Mk. 10:35-45

Like many of you, perhaps, I’m still reeling in the aftermath of the confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh.

I bring this up because of today’s Gospel reading. There two of Jesus’ disciples, the sons of Zebedee, actually make application for a much higher Supreme Court than any SCOTUS we might imagine. James and John ask to sit one on Jesus’ right hand and one on his left, when he “comes into his glory” precisely (as Matthew puts it) to judge the 12 tribes of Israel (MT 19:28). They want to be Supreme Court justices on steroids! James and John want power – the highest they can imagine.

How male of them! How patriarchal!

But Jesus’ response is surprising. It’s surprising, because it indicates that Jesus’ idea of judicial power is not masculine power-over, but servant leadership – something more, well . . . feminine. It is not what Bret Kavanaugh sought, but what was demonstrated in the attitude of Christine Blasey-Ford.

To get what I mean, please recall the final day of the Kavanaugh hearings. It was a perfect portrayal of patriarchal judgment contrasted with servant-leadership.

In the Senate chambers, Republicans – all of white men; many quite elderly – enjoyed tremendous power-over. And they could do for Brett Kavanaugh exactly what James and John wanted Jesus to do. In fact, they could give Kavanaugh much greater power-over the rest of us than even the senators themselves possess.

In doing so, they appeared to sit in judgment, not over Judge Kavanaugh, but (ironically) over a bright sensitive woman, who displayed the qualities that Jesus highlights in his statement on judicial leadership. Her testimony was a model of dignity, restraint and self-sacrifice. She explained that she had decided to put her own life and the safety of her family in danger to fulfill what she considered her patriotic duty.

And the way she carried herself as a witness bore out the truth of her words. Her answers to her questioners were always on point. There was no hint of self-promotion, defensiveness or ad hominem claims about her own virtue, intelligence, or scholarly accomplishments. Instead, she spoke sincerely and sometimes through quiet tears.

Her dignified manner and humble words stood in sharp contrast to Brett Kavanaugh’s blustering patriarchal harangue. He did what patriarchs typically do and what women could never get away with. He played “poor-me,” shouted indignantly, huffed and puffed, wept uncontrollably, accused, and talked over his interrogators. He evaded answers, changed the subject when he found questions uncomfortable. He bragged shamelessly about his accomplishments, virtue, and hard work. He “proved” his case by appealing to the testimony of Mark Judge, the very man Dr. Ford had identified as Kavanaugh’s accomplice in the crime she alleged.

If it weren’t so tragic, it would have been quite comical. On “Saturday Night Live,” Matt Damon made that point as you’ll see here:

Just imagine if Dr. Ford had acted similarly! Game over in that case.

Yet, in the final analysis, the aged patriarchs sitting on their thrones of judgment over one of their own dismissed Dr. Ford out-of-hand. They chose to believe Brett Kavanaugh. As I said, they actually turned the tables. They gave the impression of sitting in judgment over the accuser rather than over her alleged assailant; they proceeded as though Kavanaugh himself, not Dr. Ford, was the victim-of-the hour. They found his absolute denials convincing as (like Clarence Thomas, Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton before him) he predictably and emphatically denied any wrongdoing.

To put a finer point on it: the patriarchs gave every indication that they would believe Bill Cosby if (similarly to Kavanaugh) he argued, “How dare you accuse me of rape! I’ve played Cliff Huxtable. And your accusations don’t coincide with the image I’ve believably cultivated over the years. Millions have looked up to me as a fatherly role model. I’ve received honorary degrees for my work. So, I couldn’t possibly violate women. Cliff Huxtable certainly wouldn’t do that. It’s preposterous to believe I would! I’m Cliff Huxtable!”

Put otherwise, the all-male Republican panel followed a theatrical script aired 27 years earlier (and countless times in western history) when Anita Hill, accused another SCOTUS candidate, Clarence Thomas, of habitual sexual harassment. And they were led in their skepticism by the president of their men’s club (and of the country), who himself has gleefully admitted his general habit of objectifying and assaulting women, and who has been accused by many of quite particular sexual misconduct.

As if he could be trusted in such matters, the man in question, President Donald Trump, actually made fun of and mocked Dr. Ford. While dismissing her, he expressed compassion for Judge Kavanaugh and for young men and boys who, he said, find themselves vulnerable to false testimony by devious women exactly like Christine Blasey Ford – and his own accusers.

How male of him! How patriarchal!

Yes, that’s the way of patriarchy pure and simple. In terms of today’s Gospel, the Republicans (along with Democrat Joe Manchin) gave reality to Jesus’ words, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Ford’s demeanor and testimony was more in accord with Jesus’ description of justices in his much higher Supreme Court: “But it shall not be so among you,” Jesus said. “Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

In summary, Jesus’ idea of judicial wisdom reflects “servanthood,” self-sacrifice and putting the needs of others first. It is far more like what we witnessed in Dr. Blasey-Ford’s testimony. It’s the model of female leadership and judicial restraint displayed by women throughout Mark’s Gospel.

There, from outset to conclusion, it is women who are referred to in servant language. In the beginning of Mark (1:31), the first act of Peter’s mother in law upon being cured by Jesus is to serve food to her benefactor and his companions. And at the end (MK 15:41) Mary Magdalene along with another Mary and Salome are identified beneath Jesus’ cross as “those who used to follow him and provide for him when he was in Galilee.”

To repeat, all of that suggests that in today’s reading, Jesus is proposing the notion of “servant leadership” on his Supreme Court — and, it seems, on ours. It suggests that the practical content of that concept is typically embodied not in men, but in women.

It seems then, that in Jesus’ eyes, a woman like Christine Blasey-Ford would have been a far worthier choice for Supreme Court justice than any Brett Kavanaugh.

I for one am going to keep all of this in mind on November 6th.

A Judicious Wise Woman Shames an Emotional Muddle-Headed Man: Blasey-Ford for SCOTUS!

Kavanaugh

Did you watch the Brent Kavanaugh confirmation hearings yesterday? I couldn’t help myself. I watched much more than I at first intended. I found it all quite fascinating and very conclusive in terms of filling the Supreme Court post left open by the resignation of Anthony Kennedy.

Surprisingly, I decided that if presented with the improbable choice, I’d vote to approve Christine Blasey-Ford, not Brent Kavanaugh, for the vacant post. Her testimony yesterday exhibited the qualities I expect in a judge. She also evidenced a sharper legal mind than the actual nominee.

Let me explain.

At issue, of course, was Dr. Blasey-Ford’s accusation that 36 years ago, when she was 15 and he was 17, Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a drunken high school party. Perhaps even more importantly, the issue has become whether or not Judge Kavanaugh is lying about the event in question.

Dr. Blasé-Ford’s couples-therapist has notes to prove that the alleged crime remained a disturbing issue long after the alleged event and well before Kavanaugh’s nomination to fill the soon-to-be-vacant SCOTUS position. Blasey-Ford says she is “100% sure” that Kavanaugh was her attacker. She has also taken and passed a lie detector test to that effect.

Her request is that the F.B.I. investigate her allegations – specifically that they take a deposition from the only witness to the crime, one Mark Judge who, she says, was at least an accessory to the crime, if not an active accomplice of the young Kavanaugh she describes. Blasey-Ford alleges that Judge egged Kavanaugh on and that he ended up jumping on top of the pair as the future SCOTUS nominee attempted to disrobe her.

Throughout her testimony, I found Dr. Blasey-Ford’s testimony low-key, measured, open, matter-of-fact, and un-defensive.

For his part, Judge Kavanaugh denies the whole thing. His testimony was loud, aggressive, angry, extremely emotional, tear-filled, defensive, and punctuated by snorting, huffing, puffing and frequent pauses for long gulps of water. With raised voice, he repeatedly talked over his inquisitors. At points, it appeared that he was having a nervous breakdown.

Along with his Republican male colleagues, the judge painted himself as the innocent victim of a calculated smear campaign. Though Dr. Blasey-Ford may well have endured the horrific attack she describes, Kavanaugh maintained that she had mistaken the identity of her attacker.

He further argued that there was no need to depose Mark Judge. It was good enough, Kavanaugh said, that the one Dr. Blasey-Ford had identified as his accomplice or accessory had submitted a statement swearing to the innocence of Kavanaugh (and, naturally, of Judge himself).

Similarly, for Kavanaugh, further F.B.I. investigation would be pointless. Much less would it help for him to take a lie-detector test. He intimated that his detailed calendar from 36 years ago, along with his own interpretation of its meaning was more credible than any such testing might ever be.

And that brings me to the conclusion I mentioned earlier. I thought of the whole spectacle in terms of a job interview. After all, that’s the bottom line here. Regardless of his guilt or innocence, Brent Kavanaugh is interviewing for a position on the highest court in the land. The real question here is not about the alleged event of 36 years ago, but about hiring him for a life-long job with iron-clad tenure.

To help answer that question, I recalled my years of work at Berea College in Kentucky and of the innumerable job candidates I interviewed there. What if Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh were applying for a job there? How would I and my colleagues evaluate their performances? Who would be most the most effective candidate.

It would not be Kavanaugh.

To begin with, measured, thoughtful, humble and articulate would be judged far more favorably than strident, defensive, accusatory and accompaniment by snorting, huffing and puffing. That contrast alone would disqualify Kavanaugh from serious consideration.

But then there’s the more serious question of professional competence. I and my colleagues would wonder who exhibited more . . . well, judiciousness? Who gave evidence of a better legal mind?

Clearly, it was Blasey-Ford. She called for full investigation of new charges. She requested deposition, cross-examination, and judgment based on eye-witness testimony. Meanwhile, he preferred reliance on investigations prior to recent charges. For him, testimony of the accused, endorsements by his friends, and trusting the written self-exoneration of an alleged accomplice or accessory were good enough.

I’m sure I and my colleagues would see such reasoning as sloppy and . . . well, injudicious.

In the words of a Great Man, I’m certain we’d conclude in effect: “Judge, Kavanaugh, you’re fired!”

Improbably, we’d offer the position to Dr. Blasey-Ford instead.

The Boston Marathon Bombing: Our Wake-Up Call

Pakistan Drone Victims

Last Tuesday I shocked some of my blog readers by observing that the carnage of the Boston Marathon bombing paled in comparison with the mayhem the U.S. inflicts daily on anyone who happens to be near designated enemies in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere. My observations were dismissed by some as “incredibly insensitive” and as the “garbage” comments of an armchair philosopher unacquainted with the brutality of “those Jihadists.” One former army chaplain accused me of having a screw loose somewhere.

Be that as it may, I was in reality simply trying to highlight the double standard most of us have internalized concerning our own victimhood when tragedy strikes close to home. We wring our hands and ask “Why us?” Meanwhile we exhibit little compassion for those our country’s policies punish with the equivalents of Boston Marathon bombings virtually every day. Our media regularly ignore those tragedies and so insult our country’s victims with the mainstream media’s (and our) own brand of incredible insensitivity.

The implication of ignoring the suffering of the victims of U.S. policy is that “American” lives and children are more valuable than the lives and offspring of “those others.” We seem convinced that our “holy wars” are somehow different from their jihads. Any fool, we imply (and sometimes state) would see that we are good and they are evil. We are, after all, the exceptional, indispensable nation.

That conviction of American exceptionalism seems impervious to fact and memory. It allows U.S. perpetrators of human rights abuses such as wars of aggression, death squads, drone killings, torture, imprisonment-without-charge, voter suppression, and incarceration of whistle-blowers to pontificate about those same human rights violations when they occur in other countries.

Consider the following:

• The Obama administration is currently withholding its recognition of the results of last week’s election of Nicolas Maduro as president of Venezuela. Maduro was the personal choice of U.S. bête noir, Hugo Chavez. Standing alone in its refusal to recognize his electoral victory (except for the arch-conservative Spanish administration) and despite assurances of international election observers and the Venezuelan National Election Commission, the United States solemnly insists that Venezuelans deserve a complete recount of every single vote.

Apparently, the Obama folks have forgotten the 2000 election of George W. Bush when its country’s own government refused to perform a recount, even though the eventual loser had verifiably received more votes than the winner. That victor was finally selected not by popular vote but by the Supreme Court dominated by his cronies.

In the light of such irregularities, not to mention gerrymandering, legalized vote-buying sanctioned by “Citizens United,” voter suppression of minorities, and refusal to set up the paper trail the Venezuelan system has so firmly established, wouldn’t you think our government would recognize that it’s lost all moral ground to lecture others about or adjudicate “free and fair” elections? No – not when inconvenient truths can be successfully flushed down George Orwell’s memory hole. Despite evidence to the contrary, Americans are still convinced their election system is the world’s gold standard. Go figure.

• The week before last Beyonce and Jay-Z decided to celebrate their 5th wedding anniversary in Cuba. Their decision drew immediate response from Miami expatriates of Cuba who descried the couple’s implied support for such an egregious violator of human rights as Cuba.

Apparently, the objectors had forgotten that the U.S. has a higher percentage of its population in prison than Cuba or any other nation in the world for that matter. Additionally, the “Americans” maintain a world-wide system of secret jails for political prisoners. Practically all of the 166 incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba are currently on hunger strike protesting their inhuman treatment there. The “American” torture and even murder of its political prisoners is better documented than any alleged mistreatment of prisoners in Cuba or anywhere else you might care to name.

And yet, U.S. patriots somehow feel free to lecture Cuba about respect for human rights. Can you say “denial;” can you say “1984” or “memory hole?” Once again, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Americans are still convinced that the United States is somehow the world’s leading defender and observer of human rights.

• Last week the Obama administration’s press secretary, Jay Carney sanctimoniously justified (with a straight face) the refusal of visas to 18 Russian citizens. The banned individuals were all linked to the case of Sergei Magnitsky, a whistle-blower lawyer who had exposed widespread corruption and theft of national resources by high officials in the Russian government. Magnitsky had died in prison while awaiting trial. His death sparked congressional passage of the “Magnitsky Act” to protect whistle-blowers – in Russia.

Carney intoned,

“This administration is committed to working with the Congress to advance universally recognized human rights worldwide, and we will use the tools in the Magnitsky Act and other available legal authorities to ensure that persons responsible for the maltreatment and death of Mr. Magnitsky are barred from traveling to the United States and doing business here.”

Apparently, Carney wants us to forget the fact that untold (literally) numbers of incarcerated individuals have died in U.S. political prisons – many of them directly under torture. He wants us to forget that the Obama administration has virtually transformed whistle-blowing (i.e. the exposure of government and military crimes) from an act of virtue to a felony.

More specifically, Carney’s consigned to the memory hole the fact that the Obama administration has indicted more whistle-blowers than all previous administrations combined. In doing so he has criminalized the prophetic act of speaking truth to power. This is best illustrated in the case of Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army whistle-blower who obeyed his conscience and Army regulations by going public with the war crimes he observed. His reward? Imprisonment without charge, torture, and a possible life sentence. Here again we’re expected to believe that the United States respects “universally recognized human rights worldwide.” We really respect them universally only in places like Russia.

You see, it’s not just that official hand-wringing over the Boston Marathon Bombing highlights U.S. hypocrisy concerning the injuries and deaths of the innocent people it’s responsible for killing; it’s that such hypocrisy has become a way of life. It has blinded U.S. citizens to the fact that their country is not at all exceptional except in its disregard for universal human rights and international law.

It’s time for “Americans” to realize that their country long ago lost any moral ground they once believed it occupied. It’s time for politicians to observe humble and repentant silence about human rights, election validity, and whistle-blowers.

As it turns out, the Marathon Bombing is only a faint “retail” reflection of the wholesale mayhem the United States routinely wreaks in every corner of the planet. Cuba is a paragon of virtue compared to the U.S. Nicolas Maduro owns far more legitimacy than did George Bush who committed those war crimes Bradley Manning has been punished for exposing.

The Marathon Bombing was a wake-up call.