June 23, 2005


NOT THAT I DON'T still bear the Democratic Party an enormous and multifaceted grudge. Once a "lifelong Democrat" -- formerly even a Democratic precinct committeeman -- the fact remains I was driven from the party not only by its fanatical opposition to the right to keep and bear arms but also by its increasingly generalized yet ever more implacable hostility to blue-collar and working-class concerns in general. The latter goes far beyond personal experience; it is a party-wide malaise first noted by the late Jack Newfield -- one of the Left's most astute political journalists -- nearly 40 years ago. And many many times worse (indeed as far as I am concerned ultimately unforgivable) is what the Democratic Party and its policies did to me personally: by facilitating the imposition of gender quotas on social services in my residential state of Washington -- quotas imposed in compliance with the radical-feminist doctrine that all social services to male Caucasians should be punitively embargoed until women and minorities have absolute economic parity -- the Democrats literally destroyed my life, their quota-mongered denial of vital treatment turning a temporary disability permanent, condemning me to spend the rest of my years in inescapable, ever-worsening poverty.

(For those of you who have followed my present-day struggles to stay afloat economically, it is increasingly apparent that nothing I do -- nothing whatsoever and no matter how diligently -- will suffice to rescue my journalism career from the abyss into which it was flung by the welfare bureaucracy 18 years ago. I have no other abilities, journalism skills do not transfer well into any other accessible realm, and in any case the requisite work is simply not available -- at least not to me, no doubt largely because of my age, my obvious talent be damned. Certain bankruptcy, probable homelessness and the terminal silence either one will impose now seem inevitable, though I will continue writing here for as long as I can -- that is, until this computer burns out, my creditors pull the plug or I drop dead, whichever happens first.)

But while I will never forgive the Democratic politicians and bureaucrats their trespasses against me and my life, I am at last willing to set aside the lingering anger that prompted me to vote Republican in revenge. The subversive dangers of radical feminism (its "freedom is slavery" attack on the Constitution and its viciously anti-intellectual war against Western Civilization), our national cowardice resulting from pacifist erosion of the right to self-defense -- these are but vernal zephyrs compared to the gathering tempest of Christianity's Dominionist onslaught. The Republicans -- now unabashedly the party of Christofascism -- have become the greatest threat to liberty in the history of the Republic.

Proof of the extent to which this is true lies only partly in the ever-more-disturbing disclosures about the horrors of Dominionism or "reconstructionist" Christianity (for which see "A New Threat to American Liberty," here, plus the several revealing reports available here). The ugly truth is even more apparent -- glaringly so -- in the evidence provided by the outcome of the recent Pentagon investigation into runaway Dominionist viciousness at the U.S. Air Force Academy. In a word, the probe was a brazen whitewash, a defiant cover-up that -- given the realities of chain-of-command -- could never have happened had the Bush Administration not specifically ordered it.

Quoth The New York Times:

A Pentagon inquiry's finding of no overt religious discrimination at the Air Force Academy strains credibility, considering the academy superintendent has already acknowledged it will take years to undo the damage from evangelical zealots on campus. Indeed, amid its thicket of bureaucratese, the report by an Air Force investigative panel goes on for page after page describing cases of obvious and overt religious bias. But it tosses all of these off as "perceived bias," as if the blame lies with the victims and not the offenders, and throws up a fog of implausible excuses, like "a lack of awareness" of what is impermissible behavior by military officers.

The Times editorial, dated today, is entitled "Obfuscating Intolerance." (It is linked here, though registration may be required.) . It continues:

This muddle stands in stark contrast to an earlier investigation by Yale Divinity School that found widespread problems with intolerance at the academy. That study described faculty members, chaplains and even the football coach as pressuring cadets toward Christian beliefs and hazing them about divergent views on religion. The Pentagon study insisted that this did not amount to a widespread problem for non-Christian cadets who complained of ranking officers encouraging an evangelical fervor.

I would have not been so cravenly deferential to the administration as The Times' editors were, and I would have given the editorial a somewhat less euphemistic head. Perhaps "Obfuscating Theocracy" or more aptly "Theocratic Cover-Up" -- for that is precisely what it is.

Nor do I doubt for an instant the "evangelical zealots" were infinitely more vicious than the Pentagon allowed to be reported. Growing up as I did mostly in the South -- my schooldays belonged mostly to a father and stepmother who lived below the Mason-Dixon Line, my summers to a mother who lived far above it -- I know all too well not only the stench of Christofascist oppression, but the bruising power of evangelical fists and the threat of Fundamentalist gun-muzzles also -- the oft-confirmed need for armed defense against the latter a primary reason I am such a staunch supporter of Second Amendment rights. As parochial school students, my schoolmates and I were frequently attacked as "idolators" who "worship an abomination," the Virgin Mary. Though our nuns forbade us fighting, the eager knuckles of the Fundamentalists left us no choice but to strike back, just as generations of Irish Catholics have had to protect themselves from equally militant Protestants, Irish and otherwise. Indeed I cannot count the number of times I had to "write lines" ("I will turn the other cheek...") as a result of after-school rumbles with Fundamentalist bigots. Later, as a young adult associated with the Civil Rights Movement, I lived under constant threat of retaliation by that singularly American death-squad known as the Ku Klux Klan: an organization so inseparably linked with Southern Protestant Christianity -- Fundamentalist and main-stream as well -- its gatherings were known colloquially as "the Saturday Night Men's Bible Study Class." And as a young newspaper reporter, one of my stories so enraged the Klan its minions deluged me with telephonic death-threats and even poisoned my dog, a black-and-tan German shepherd I had named Brunhilda, a beloved companion of memorably sweet disposition, a four-legged friend I had raised from puppyhood. In those years I never went anywhere -- not even to bed -- without a suitably large-caliber handgun, loaded and ready and always within easy reach.

Though I lived also in Florida, Virginia and West Virginia, and was stationed in South Carolina, Maryland and Georgia before the Army shipped me to Korea, I spent most of the southern part of my life in East Tennessee, the beautifully mountainous end of a state where the teaching of evolution was not only illegal (and may still be, for all I know) but was vindictively prosecuted in the infamous Scopes "Monkey Trial," for which Google. But as I have already implied, the Fundamentalist malice on exhibit in Dayton, Tenn., was only the tip of a very cold iceberg indeed: throughout the South, the Fundamentalist preachers were the defacto political commissars in a malevolently fascist system the intent of which was to shackle coal miners, agricultural laborers, textile-mill workers, all their blue-collar brothers and sisters (and even their white-collar cousins) forever in serfdom to the mine operators and the other members of the ruling oligarchy. It was Fundamentalist "gospel" (and the fire-and-brimstone "fear of the Lord" so induced) that terrorized Southern workers into permanent bondage: the plutocrats were "God's anointed leaders," the robber-barons "favored by the Lord"; everyone else was doomed to the earthly perdition of permanent impoverishment -- this in lifelong punishment for sin and sinfulness -- and not just the sins spelled out in the bible.

Among the deadliest of these extra-biblical sins in the South of my boyhood years was the sin of being "uppity" -- aspiring to rights, dignity and comforts beyond those prescribed for your class. One of the most lethal forms of "uppity" was unionism: joining a union could literally get you killed. But an even more fatal risk was being "uppity" for integration and civil rights. In fact I don't think anybody has ever calculated the combined death toll the oligarchy inflicted on both movements, all in the name of suppressing the lower classes, whether black or white. But given the dread commonplace of atrocities such as the killings of organizers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman, or all the deaths such as those in the Coal Creek War, the dead themselves surely cannot number less than thousands.

And -- lest some Northerners become too self-righteous -- never forget such casualties aren't limited to the South. Add in horrors like the machine-gunning of striking textile workers in Massachusetts, not to mention all those industrial "accidents" that resulted from management's indifference to worker safety (like the Fraterville Mine Disaster in Tennessee or the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York City) -- and the casualty list nationwide may reach to the tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands. All murdered for the "sin" of wanting better lives for themselves, their spouses, their children. With the Bible-thump preachers blessing the plutocrats as "God's elect" and the plutocracy's vigilantes as "servants of the Lord."

Sound vaguely familiar? It's American History -- the history they don't teach in school, the history you can find only in the better textbooks or on the Internet, the history of Fundamentalism the preachers like Pat Robertson don't want you to know or remember. It's history that portrays precisely the kind of society the Dominionists want to re-impose on the entire United States -- and President George W. Bush and his Republican Party are helping them do it. They may not machine-gun us in the streets any more -- at least not yet -- but downsizing, outsourcing and the loss of health insurance can kill us just as dead.

I believe the dangers of this time cannot be overstated, but I also believe that because we are Americans, we may yet awaken and avert them all: the external onslaught of jihadist Islam, the now seemingly petty domestic threat of Leftist authoritarianism, and the looming unspeakably malignant jeopardy into which every principle and institution we value has been placed by the would-be tyrants of the Christofascist Right. But we are just now too many of us still benumbed by dread and confusion -- the legitimate fear of terrorism , the equally legitimate horror of poverty, the fretful confusion inflicted by perhaps the most obfuscatory political campaign ever waged by the worst candidates ever nominated, the myriad daily worries that yammer at the edges of our minds in a constantly worsening economy that is increasingly destructive to both the family budget and the planetary environment. Just now we are numbed to silence, all the more so by the extent to which we working folk have been betrayed by the DemoPublican politicians of both parties. But I like to think that eventually realization will prevail, that little-by-slow we will begin to wake up and speak up -- and perhaps even take appropriate action. The last time there was such a needful awakening -- such a great speaking-out -- we elected Franklin Delano Roosevelt our president. May the Holy Mystery some call God grant us at least such a savior again.

Posted by Loren at 07:30 PM | Comments (2)

June 09, 2005


I HAD LONG IGNORED the Ohio presidential election controversy as a combination of sour grapes and agitation by fruitbowls and nutcakes, and though I was surprised by the contradictions between exit-poll results and the final outcome, I did not suspect any grave election thievery beyond the suspicious circumstances that so embarrassed my home state of Washington.

To set the record straight once again, I must admit with great shame I voted for George Bush – a pro-war vote I now deplore because – though I still support what by all rights should be called the War Against Islamic Aggression – it is also obvious Bush’s domestic policies will be far harder on the poor (myself included) than ever I imagined. But I also voted for Christine Gregoire – yet I deplore too the apparent vote-thievery by the Seattle Democratic machine that gave her the governorship. But one of the lesser reasons I voted for Bush was that I believed John Kerry would probably win the election by one to three percentage points – just as the exit polls indicated – and on that basis I regarded my vote as a kind of pro-war protest. Conversely, the only reason I voted for Gregoire was that I assumed (and based on Bush’s record since the election, obviously assumed correctly) that Dino Rossi would further the Bush/Dominionist scheme for savaging the social safety net, turning poverty and the fear of poverty into a vicious flail with which to beat American working folk into ever more frenzied competition in the Rat Race. (Such are the enfeebled considerations that weigh upon the alleged mind of a genuine Independent.)

But back to the Ohio election: as I said, nutcakes and fruitbowls – until I read the Christopher Hitchens piece that ran in the March issue of Vanity Fair. I came across this vital work after a dear friend had suggested I research the ongoing controversy about the Ohio vote-count. Here is what Andrew Sullivan would call the Hitchens report’s “money paragraph”:

I am not any sort of statistician or technologist, and (like many Democrats in private) I did not think that John Kerry should have been president of any country at any time. But I have been reviewing books on history and politics all my life, making notes in the margin when I come across a wrong date, or any other factual blunder, or a missing point in the evidence. No book is ever free from this. But if all the mistakes and omissions occur in such a way as to be consistent, to support or attack only one position, then you give the author a lousy review. The Federal Election Commission, which has been a risible body for far too long, ought to make Ohio its business. The Diebold company, which also manufactures A.T.M.s, should not receive another dime until it can produce a voting system that is similarly reliable. And Americans should cease to be treated like serfs or extras when they present themselves to exercise their franchise.

The entire disturbing analysis is available here. It is long enough – and thought provoking enough – I will hold off on the other links I had intended to post tonight, perhaps saving them for some other day.

Posted by Loren at 03:50 AM | Comments (0)

June 02, 2005


ONE OF THE CHILDHOOD memories I have of my maternal grandparents is riding with them on Memorial Day to a cemetery somewhere in Michigan so my grandmother could put fresh flowers on her father’s grave and replace the flag in the bronze-wreathed GAR flag-holder that commemorated his service in the Civil War. I do not remember what automobile we were in, so I cannot say with any certainty what year it was, but given other details, I suspect it was 1948 or 1949, and the cemetery was probably in northern Lower Michigan, most likely somewhere in Roscommon County. In fact if I remember correctly we were returning from early season trout fishing at the place everyone in that family called “the Cottage,” a small infinitely snug white frame house on the South Branch of the fabled Au Sable River, one of the world’s legendary trout streams, in a blessed realm of towering pines, white-trunked birches and air deliciously perfumed by the spice-scent of sweet fern. It was not a particularly remote region, but because of its outhouses and wood-burning stoves and hand-pumped well-water that truly caressed your taste buds, it was a wondrous place seemingly light-years from despoilment by civilization, a domain of Pure Nature that had not yet been violated by either telephone or electricity, and indeed well into the 1950s remained genuine wilderness: my original Samothrace, my personal holy land.

Nor is this an aging writer’s absent-minded digression: the Cottage was built by my grandmother’s father on land he had been granted for his military service – a mid-19th Century equivalent of the G.I. Bill, just as GAR stood for Grand Army of the Republic, the Civil War equivalent of the American Legion – and though my maternal great grandfather died years before I was born, it was in large measure by the Cottage that I knew him. By any and all accounts, he was a truly great man. His name was Henry Heber Woodruff, officially “the Honorable” because of a judgeship, but also because of a much greater truth, the valiant and honorable service he had rendered the Union in the 16th Regiment of Michigan Infantry, where he stood with his comrades in that bloodiest of bloody fights at Little Round Top – the pivotal Gettysburg battle for which the 20th Maine earned greater renown but in which the 16th Michigan fought just as bravely and decisively. Indeed he soldiered through the entire war and was mustered out a captain – a company commander. My grandmother still had his sword, and I – typical bloodthirsty child – was fascinated by it and the stories it might have told.

But Grandpa Woodruff’s ultimate legacy – at least for me – was spiritual. It was because of my fortunate connection to the Cottage he built on the South Branch of the AuSable that I was granted the freedom to wander deep woods, and it was the awareness I brought out of those deep woods that would lead me on a lifelong spiritual quest: another story for another time (and in this public space, maybe not ever) – though what is “quest” but a synonym for life itself?

When I was a child, Memorial Day was often still called “Decoration Day” and I believe it was my grandmother who explained to me that while it had come to be a day for honoring all our nation’s war dead, it was originally the day on which the Civil War’s dead were honored. The history of that day is described in detail here – though I should make it clear I do NOT support the appended petition to cancel the present three-day holiday. It is not an aside to note how that petition, though ostensibly motivated by patriotism, is more likely motivated by the Demo/Publican war against working families – a war so successful, the U.S. worker already puts in more hours and gets less time off than any other worker in any other industrialized country in the world. Thus I would no more sign that petition than I would willingly sign an agreement to work more hours for less pay – though that is precisely what is being forced on us every day by the ever-more-outsourced, ever-more-downsized George Bush economy. In this context, I am not sure what is more obscene: to camouflage in patriotic rhetoric a brazen attempt to worsen the lot of working families, or to overtly vandalize war memorials as reported here.

At least the politicians demonstrate the shameless step-right-up presumptuousness of their snake-oil kindred. The vandals, in contrast, show us nothing but pathological tantrums fueled by bottomless cowardice. They claim to be Leftists, but theirs is a pseudo-Left the violence of which proves their alleged pacifism an even greater falsehood. In their craven fear and raging hatred of all soldiers of all times is revelation of their malevolent elitism: they make no secret of their ultimate contempt for those of us they believe “reactionary” enough to serve in the military. Thus they spit in my great-grandfather’s face, they spit in my face, they spit in all our faces, thereby revealing once again the toxic malignancy that has eaten away the heart of the Democratic Party. Such is the venom for which we must somehow find an antidote if we are ever to take back the government from the Cheap Labor Republicans and their Big Business allies: those who would reduce all the rest of us to the implicit serfdom of the Herbert Hoover years, a serfdom from which we were rescued by another American hero we should remember on this day – Franklin Delano Roosevelt, during whose presidency the United States not only saved itself from armed revolutions Left and Right, but literally saved the world from fascism as well.

Posted by Loren at 02:48 AM | Comments (0)