Monday, July 22, 2019

Do you take me for a Redneck?

The attached article came across my desk this morning, but my wife and I were just discussing Rednecks last night:

I self-identify as ethnically Redneck.  I grew up in the woods shooting guns(1) and fishing, riding four-wheelers and driving tractors, drinking beer.  Mostly stuff I still very much enjoy doing today.  But...

I don't know if other people see me as Redneck or not.

I value hard work and personal accountability - I believe all honest labor is virtuous.  I believe freedom isn't free, and I honor the spilled blood of *all* the reactionaries whose sacrifices have allowed our society to progress to where we are today.  I don't think a Fancy Degree from some Ivy League School makes you one bit better than me with my GED and college drop-out status.  I grow my beard, that God gave me, like a man was meant to.  And yes, I own an American Flag and 12-ga shotgun, both of which I keep in good repair.

And yet...

My United States naval service provided me an opportunity to live for six years in two different European countries - democratic socialist countries - and opportunity to better understand what it really means to be a minority in society dominated by someone else's culture.  This means I can see with my own eyes the people in this country who are excluded from mainstream society, people now excluded that have been excluded for decades and for centuries.  It also means that I do not as readily accept the "Communist Boogeyman" arguments that Right-wing media so often peddle to my Redneck brethren.  And although I don't think the labels of "Leftist" or a "Socialist" come anywhere near defining me, I'm not afraid of being labeled as such when I stick up for Organized Labor, or to assert that the our country is doing a piss-poor job of taking care of our sick and impoverished, of treating the people in our prisons humanely, or that "Late stage capitalism" isn't working out all that great for most people - These positions may make me a pariah among the Rednecks I grew up with, although in total honestly, I'm not completely sure.

My experience at University studying Engineering provided me with new skill sets in math and science, and taught me how "vigorous research" is performed in an academic setting.  This means I'm not intimidated when Experts or The Media break out their flashy interactive graphs and damned statistics to lie to me for their stockholders' and advertisers' benefit - I can work through issues for myself because I know how to read and how to use a library.  And so while the Liberal Elites don't intimidate me, I don't think I have the visceral hatred of them that many of my fellow Rednecks do.

I am very proud of where I'm from.  But I now live 600 miles to the North and have no plans of "going home" to live anytime soon.  That's because the Arch-Conservative(2) Policies of Oklahoma's government over the past 30 years of my life, combined with the knock-on effects of Bill Clinton's NAFTA, and the Housing Bubble's Burst in 2008 - which led to the largest redistribution of wealth in our nation's history to the rich from the middle class and poor - these things have destroyed my home.

Fort Smith used to be a manufacturing powerhouse where any man could get a decent job if he were willing to work hard at Rheem/Ruud, PREDCO, Baldor, or any of the Furniture Plants.  Those high paying jobs are now gone, probably forever, and all of that manufacturing equipment now lies in Mexico being operated by people who make a few dollars an hour with no healthcare or retirement benefits.  The Public School System of Oklahoma is in shambles, as evidenced by the Teacher Strike last year (oh, and the GOP in the Legislature has since voted to pull back most if not all of the concessions the Teachers were formerly granted).  Public Healthcare is a nightmare there with so many unemployed turning to alcohol and methamphetamine to cope, and the politicians couldn't care less (although promises of "Cracking down on the Druggies" will win some Sheriff's races for you).  My home is a shell of the place it once was.

I still see myself as Redneck, but maybe the Navy turned me Pirate.  Maybe some Rebel Blood once watered my Cherokee roots, and that's the source of my dissent with the American Status Quo.  Or maybe this Redneck just got lucky enough, to get educated enough, to crawl out from under my would-be Corporate Masters.

If you'd like to get to know this Redneck better, my family has an Open Dinner Table.  Hit me up, we'll break some bread, trade some stories, and hopefully both be better equipped to understand our neighbors better.
(1) I tend to prefer using the nomenclature I learned in the Navy of "weapon", although firearm, sidearm, long arm, and shotgun are perfectly descriptive and equally acceptable terms for personal weapons.  "Guns" fire 2,700# rounds 24 nautical miles from aboard the deck of warships.

(2) Arch-Conservatism dominates in Oklahoma in both the political and popular-religious spheres.  It is a firmly held belief of mine that the two of these reinforce one another, by design.  If I'm right, it means the solution to the woes of my home may be neigh un-fixable... unless the Rednecks Revolt taking back both their government and their religion from The Powers That Be.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The people who want the Citizenship Question on the Ballot are totally not-racist towards Brown People

This 20 minute podcast from Slate does a very good job of explaining what's going on with the Census Question, and explains the "smoking gun" evidence that was very recently found in the hard-drives of a deceased GOP Political Operative.
Deceased GOP Operative: "So, uh, *TrumpAdministration/RepublicanLeadership*.  Um, you know, if you do *THIS*, then it is *STATISTICALLY GUARANTEED* to help Conservatives and WhitePeople get greater representation in Congress and hurt MexicanAmericanCitizens' representation in Congress.  As a bonus it will piss off the Liberals.  Oh, and uh, when you inevitably get sued for this, make certain you *DON'T* say that I came up with it or what it will do.  Instead you say "We, the Federal Government, we need the citizenship question on the census so that we can better enforce the Voting Rights Act."[1]
This is not an exaggeration.  It's not hyperbole.  It's not my opinion.  It's what the record reflects.

When the Trump Administration and GOP originally decided to put the Citizenship Question on the Census, they did so to hurt Hispanic Citizen's representation in Congress.  And then the government lied about it, under oath, on the record.  But because this evidence only came out after Oral Arguments were held before SCOTUS, it is yet to be seen what influence this new evidence will have on the case.
[1] The Conservatives that support this Census Citizenship Question measure and supported the Robert's Court gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 [a], they insist that they aren't racists... And that's probably right, even if it requires applying a somewhat tortured definition of "racism".

For example, I used to live next to a Christian Separatist compound called Elohim City [b].  The flavor of Christianity that they follow is called "Christian Identity" (CI) [c].  They believe the biblical "Curse of Ham" [d][e] cast upon Noah's son is where black people originated.  Following from there they assert that the Bible teaches that black people are "mud people" and that white, christian people should not inter-marry with them.  These CI folks don't lynch black people to my knowledge.  Being kind, Southern Folk, I can imagine that they would help a solitary black motorist who broke down on the road.  But ... if that black motorist has a white woman riding shotgun with him, then that couple is an Abomination Before God and should be shunned, you know, kinda like how some conservative evangelicals see gay-people.

So, if your bar for racism is: "I am not lynching people."  Then yeah, CI people are totally not-racist against black people - they just have firmly held religious beliefs.  And the conservatives that want to rob Hispanic American Citizens of their rightful representation in Congress, since they aren't actually laying any white hands on those brown bodies, it could be that they're not racist either.

But then again if that's *really* your bar for racism, you just might need to "have a little talk with Jesus."

[a] Robert's Court overturns a key provision of the VRA

[b] Elohim City

[c] Christian Identity

[d] Curse of Ham

[e] Resolution unsuccessfully denouncing the Curse of Ham at the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

To Argue, or not to Argue? Is that the question?

The other day I was asked how effective I was at changing the minds of the people I call RepubliChristians.  How well I perform at convincing them that they are wrong about things and that I am right.  I'd like to explore that a bit, because I believe the question was asked in Good Faith, and propriety in argumentation is a very important thing me.

In my rural public high school I was blessed to have the privilege of participating in debate class. Two debating disciplines were available to students: Cross-Examination Debate (Policy Debate) and Lincoln-Douglas Debate (Values Debate).  The year I won my Class 2A Lincoln-Douglas Debate State Championship the question was "Resolved: the intervention of one nation in the domestic affairs of another nation is morally justified." [As an aside, this was 17 years before Russia interfered in the United State's 2016 domestic elections, but when I read the Mueller Report today, it covers ground that I've already put a significant amount of intellectual work into] Students participating in L/D debate construct two cases addressing the question utilizing concepts from Philosophy, one case supporting the resolution, one case opposed.  Then, at competitions after a coin-flip to determine who takes which side, we argue those cases one-on-one against another debater before a judge.

That experience changed my life.  It taught me how to construct an argument: What do I value? What criteria do I apply for Judgement? What evidence do I offer to support my position?  It taught me to think critically, to look at both sides of an issue and ask Good Faith questions.  It taught me to covet precision in my speech.

Making a Good Argument is a feat of skill - and so is something that can be learned.  A good argument is logically consistent, unambiguous, and supported by evidence.  But a good argument is only persuasive to participants who will engage with it in Good Faith.

It is my personal view that RepubliChristians do not operate on Good Faith - they are religio-political ideologues who presuppose the answers to big questions being asked of our society.  They are the 4 out of 5 white evangelicals who are followers of President Donald Trump, himself the counter-archetype of one who makes Good Arguments.  President Trump perpetually makes claims that are logically inconsistent, vastly ambiguous, and don't even attempt to be supported by evidence.  Critically, this means that when he says something he actually says nothing.  Because what he says is *nothing*, his followers can take him to mean *anything*.  This is a situation that cannot be refuted with Good Arguments, because the only response to nonsense is to call it such and those who will accept nonsense as reason will not be swayed by rational arguments.

And so I stand on my social media soapbox and scream into that black nothingness the truth of reality as I see it.  Not to convince the RepubliChristians to change their views, but to call out to Faceless Non-Voters of our society and alert them that RepubliChristians exist, they *do* vote ... and they are driving national policy towards racist, hateful, misogynistic ends that are very much real, because that's what they think the right thing is to do and they have Bible verses to "prove" it.

I understand that voicing the utterance "White Evangelical Christians are an existential threat to our liberal democracy" is pretty much the flip side to the GOP's "Hurr durr durr Democrat Party Communists hate America!!" argument.  I don't like having to say it.  But it is consistent with what I see, and I believe I would be derelict in my duty as a citizen to sit in silence and let the RepubliChristians run this country unchallenged.  The stakes for my neighbors is too high.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019


This post is my response to this:

As a proud son of the Cherokee Indian Nation, by natural right, I claim heritage to the forced familial separation visited upon my ancestors' in our native lands and in the foreign lands that we were forced to journey to.  Native Children were forcibly separated from their Native Parents at the hands of The Religious People - White Christian Hands - fully sanctioned and empowered by the government of their time.

Forced Family Separation upon the brown bodies of the Cherokee People was an act of terrorism then, and Forced Family Separation upon the brown bodies at the Southern Border is an act of terrorism now.

I make my plea for human decency, a supplication for the foreclosure of Forced Family Separation from the toolbox of our Federal Immigration Policy enforcement tools - to the non-christian, non-voting, people of goodwill in this country.  To the so-called "Religious NONES"; You can repudiate this disgraceful stain upon our modern republic in 2020 if you capitalize on your privilege and vote.

Understanding the big picture of immigration in America is difficult - it takes an investment of time, it requires reading, it is hard work.  The Christian-nationalist and White-nationalist propagandized narratives of MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! are much more easily consumed, as fascism usually is.

If you have questions about: the "Flores Consent Decree", the Executive Orders and Policy Documents implementing "zero tolerance" and Forced Family Separation at the border, the litigation in a number of our Federal Courts concerning those EO's, the policy handbooks that govern DHS and ORR, the transcripts of depositions given by Administration Officials related to their interpretation of our immigration statues and regulations, the dire situation of our country's back-logged Immigration Courts System - I stand willing to share what I know with you.

I have no desire to persuade The Religious People who support "no tolerance" to change their view.  White evangelical christians like the President's personal pastor, Ralph Drollnger, who use scripture to justify torture and terror - let them have their beliefs.

But to the NONE's of a like mind to myself, I urge you to stand up to Ignorance, stand up to Bigotry, and be counted among those who care For The Least Of These.  Join me.

"Tiny Horrors: A Chilling Reminder of How Cruel Assimilation Was—And Is" - Indian Country Today, 01Jan2013

"Indian Country remembers the trauma of children taken from their parents" - Indian Country Today, 19Jun2018

"Unaccompanied Minors and the Flores Settlement Agreement: What to Know", Nat'l Conference of State Legislatures, 30Oct2018

"Behind The Departure Of Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen", NPR, 07Apr2019

"The President Who Doesn't Read", The Atlantic, 05Jan2018

"Why America’s ‘nones’ don’t identify with a religion", Pew Research Center, 08Aug2018

"Inside the White House Bible Study group", BBC News, 08Apr2018

"Free Bible Studies" from Capitol Ministries, the official Bible Study Group of the Whitehouse