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Texas Baptist Church Massacre and The Divine Answer to Gun Violence in America

Well, America has had another tragic slaughter of innocents by another deranged individual who misused innocent rapid-fire, high-capacity magazine to slaughter people on a Sunday morning engaged in worship.  

Here is a perspective:

I’m holding on to The Promise that God answers prayers. And with the President, and every holy, sold-out-to-Jesus, GOP legislature beseeching the Almighty for the safety and protection of the American people from the nut-jobs among us, then surely The Lord will answer this time and we’ll have no more of these senseless tragedies.

I would suggest to every Prayer Warrior that when persuading the Almighty to do something, it may be beneficial to include some specific suggestions so that Providence will clearly know just what you are asking for. For instance, humbly suggest that the killer’s trigger-finger go into a painful spasm so he is unable to squeeze the trigger to his semi-automatic, high-capacity magazine, weapon.

Or, perhaps, when the mass killer is planning a massacre, and he goes to his local gun shop to load up with what he needs for his killing spree, when he is checking out with boxes and boxes of bullets and semi-automatic weaponry – where no questions can ever be asked – that God would make his debit or credit card to electronically fail to process the transaction and he’ll walk out with no hardware and unable to harm anyone. Sweet Jesus, we need your divine intervention in this public health matter since there is no help from our elected officials!

Yes Lord! Make it happen! Thou hast the power! Lord, we are laying-claim to the promise of your protection! Amen and Amen!

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Common White Attitudes in the South During the Last Century

Being raised in Tennessee in the 50s – 70s, I  absorbed left-over remnants of Confederate ideology without knowing it.

Here’s a summary of “white” thinking during that period in the South:  The Civil Rights movement was viewed by most white southerners as composed of “Yankees” and “communist agitators” from the North invading our tranquil racial order of segregation and Jim Crow laws and inciting our “negro” citizens to become unhappy and wanting change.

Of course, in my teen years I ran across John Birch literature and films and they had an even more grandiose – but seemingly evidenced-based perspectives – on all the racial and urban turmoil that was happening.  As a teen-age John Bircher member I was able to trick my  high school civics teacher into showing John Birch films which said that the whole push for civil rights for African-Americans was a trick by communists to create political chaos so they could install a Soviet socialist government on us all!  Their proof for this “communist” origin for civil rights movement? Sympathetic quotes from leaders of The American Communist Party that African-Americans should be treated equally and all laws which discriminated against them should be repealed! Of course, Confederate ideology was all premised on white supremacy so equality for our black citizens just seemed like a crazy idea. White southerners took it for granted that our black citizens were less-than us whites in intelligence, abilities and motivation and they could not handle such total “freedom” that whites were privileged to have; thus, discriminations were warranted for everyone’s “good”.

Of course, white southerners never bothered to look at the fact that for hundreds of years they had engaged in a complete, systematic sabotage of any African-American efforts at improving their lives educationally or economically.  And that they had also psychologically terrorized and traumatized generations of African-Americans. The white elites of the post-Civil War South had rigged the entire social order to benefit their kin and race and to limit and stifle any kind of black advancement.  Then the white elites would point to black poverty and educationally lag as “evidence” that blacks could not compete with the smarter and sharper whites!  Yes, it’s just all superior genetics!  LOL!  Kind of like tying a millstone around a man’s neck, throwing him into the river and then criticizing his swimming ability!

Anyway, in college and grad school, I was exposed to other views and read first-hand documents which overthrow the sanitized, southern white spin of the Civil War and Jim Crow justifications.  All this nonsense I had been raised with as a boy and teen in the South, I discarded. . . and I’m so glad I am free from such mental garbage.

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Ken Burn’s Vietnam War

I’m really looking forward to seeing this new special by filmmaker Ken Burns on The Vietnam War.

Here’s why:

From the 4th through the 12th grades, Vietnam was a constant part of the background of my childhood and teen years; as it was for everyone of my generation.

I can remember sitting with my dad in the 1960s and watching the evening news with Walter Cronkite. Cronkite would announce the latest “body counts”: “low” (usually several hundred a week) US deaths vs. the “high” numbers of “communist” deaths (usually a thousand or more). The big differences in the numbers meant we were winning. If we killed enough of them, then we would be the winners for that’s how we had done it in WW2. But as the years passed by, our syllogism did not seem to hold true in Vietnam: no matter how many of them we killed it didn’t seem to make a dent in stopping their ability to continue to wage a deadly and persistent war. For a nation who had defeated the very powerful Axis Powers of WWII, we could not seem to make the same successful tactics work for us just twenty years later in Vietnam.

Near the end, even those who supported the war realized it was a quagmire/stalemate and that no amount of military resources were going to bring about victory. But no one on the pro-war side knew how to publicly and politically admit this and bring the war to an end. Losing at war seemed so un-American. Americans never lose at war. We are always the good guy riding the white horse coming to vanquish the evil-doers. We came to Vietnam with the same attitude: we are good; they are bad; we kill the bad guys. End of story. But our denial and delusions were strong. The end result was that we kept feeding the lives of young Americans into the useless slaughter machine called The War in Vietnam.

For the most part, American leaders thought they were fighting to halt the spread of a world-wide, totalitarian, communist revolution. But that is not how the The Vietnamese saw the conflict. To them, they were fighting a war of national liberation which meant they wanted to be free of all foreign powers, whether they be French, American or Chinese. The whole communist thing was a secondary issue for them.

Our indiscriminate bombing campaigns throughout the jungles and villages of the Vietnam countryside did kill some communist forces but mostly they killed tons of innocent civilians whose surviving, grief-stricken relatives became angry and dedicated to seeking revenge against American soldiers. Our “carpet bombing” and
“kill zone” tactics undermined all our other efforts of winning the “hearts and minds” of the people over to our side.

Years after the war had ended, some of our top national military and political leaders of that era admitted in interviews that they didn’t understand the culture or national psychology of the Vietnamese people. The late Sec. of Defense Robert McNamara, though a statistical whiz-kid from Harvard who had sought to apply American business principles to The Department of Defense and the practice of war itself, would later admit that he had never even read one book on the history and culture of Vietnam (why we need liberal arts majors and not just business technocrats running things!) before or during his service as head of the Dept. of Defense.

Anyway, I’m very interested in seeing what Ken Burns does with it,

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I disagree with Senator (R) Orrin Hatch on most things but I appreciate his clear and specific condemnation of the so-called “Alt Right” crowd in Charlottesville.

We need to quit calling them “Alt-Right” and just say how they identify themselves: “We are Nazis”. These Neo-Nazi groups often over lap in membership and projects with Klan and Neo-Confederate groups. All these “white” folks getting all angry and political are manifestations of the same thing: White Supremacy.

And when these groups start talking about “taking back America” what they mean is they want to take America back to the days of slavery before the Civil War and to re-establish the Confederate States of America. They yearn for those “good old days” when White privilege meant that minorities were subservient and could be capriciously used, abused and murdered with no questions asked. Thankfully, those days are largely behind us but as we see they are not completely gone.

The white nationalists chants in Charlottesville for “Blood and Soil” may sound odd but this was a Nazi slogan and a reference to the Nazi mythology of the Aryan race.

Of course, the simplest way of understanding all these groups positions is this: “Whites” matter but non-whites don’t. A more religious version of this would be, “White Christians matter but non-White Christians don’t; and non-Christians really don’t matter!” Of course, this is simply white, Christian tribalism. Nothing bugs the hell out of these racists and bigots more than the slogan “Black Lives Matter” because it challenge their core assumption which is that Blacks Lives don’t matter!

Nothing gets an anti-American hater more upset than the idea of “liberty and justice for all”. They hate this American idea while loudly proclaiming that they alone are the true patriots! Pleeaasseee! They only want all that “liberty and justice” stuff to apply to white folks and to hell with everyone else!

Hitler and the Nazis were not an isolated anomaly and neither are these various “Alt-Right” folks. The Nazis were a part of a larger anti-democratic, nationalistic and authoritarian political movements that had formed throughout Europe following WWI (i.e., Fascism). The Nazis had plenty of allies and sympathizers throughout Europe. And for those up on their history, Hitler also had a big following in America too before the war began. The best illustration of this non-German, pro-Hitler sympathizers can be seen in the fact that when Hitler faced his end in the bunker, his SS guards were largely composed of French fascists who had joined the 33rd Waffen Charlemagne (1st French) Regiment.

Of course, if these Neo-Confederate/Klansmen/Nazis ever bothered doing a little DNA testing they may be surprised to learn that they are not so Lilly White as they think. And if they ever bothered reading the gospels, they would discover that they definitely are not “Christian” by any stretch of the word.

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchGOP senators rally to McConnell’s defense amid Trump attacks Flake voices support for McConnell amid Trump attacks…
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My Experiences with The John Birch Society in Chattanooga, Tennessee in the Early 1970s

I knew all the local John Birch leaders and members in Chattanooga in the early 70s. I was just a teenager at the time but even at a very young age I was already a junkie. I grew up enjoying watching the evening news with my dad (usually Walter Cronkite or Huntley & Brinkley.

But my far-right political bent was easy to understand:  I had been born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee where we called people who lived up North as “Yankees” and where the common and casual way to refer to African-Americans was not “colored” but the N-word.

I did not realize it until years later that it finally hit me that from the day I was born in 1954, I had been fed a daily diet of left-over political ideas from my family, the defeated Confederacy, our local Republican newspaper (The Chattanooga News-Free Press) and my hyper-fundamentalist Baptist church.

These institutions taught me how to “see” the world as a white, male in the South.  They taught me to be fearful, distrustful and dismiss anything that was not “Christian” and “Southern” (actually, “white” Christian and “white” Southern!).

So, even though I was curious, creative and had an intellectual bent towards learning and asking questions, all that was smothered in a daily avalanche of social, political and religious memes during childhood and young adulthood of  fear, paranoia and the anti-intellectual traditions of the post-Civil War, Southern ethos.

My folks had supported Goldwater in 1964 and in 1968 they supported former Alabama Governor George Wallace’s third party bid through his American Independent Party.  But don’t think for a second that my parents were part of some kind of extremist, political bent.  Absolutely not.  Their political leanings were “normal” for the majority of white Chattanoogans and white Tennesseans.

My love of reading also got me in with the John Birchers.  I started out being an obsessive “Marvel Comic Books” in the 60s but when I started to mature, I grew tired of reading invented stories of  Good Vs. Evil and found real history and stories more interesting.  When I came across Birch books, they seemed to make sense and also alarmed me as they presented “facts” which showed America was being betrayed from within by leading politicians and institutions.

So, as a became aware of this controversial group known as The John Birch Society, I did a little research and discovered that there was a John Birch bookstore in Chattanooga on Brainerd Road (American Opinion Bookstores).  I didn’t have a driver’s license yet so I had my dad drive me over to the address listed in the phone book and discovered that the bookstore was actually just a little cleared out area with bookshelves in the back of The Delaney Furniture Store. Nevertheless, I was still excited as I saw dozens and dozens of books and pamphlets explaining “the truth” about how  America was being sold out and betrayed.

I learned from the older man who owned and operated the store,  Mr. Earl Delaney, that the Birch Society held weekly meetings there and though they did not have any “young people” coming, I was welcomed to attend and be a part of their discussions and Birch film showings.   For the next four years, I was hooked on all things John Birch!   And outside my friends at school and on our block, these older John Birch members became my friends and family.

I also became good friend’s with Earl’s younger – and more energetic – wife – Sara Delaney, who was the main, local Bircher firebrand during that time.

At that time, it seemed that John Birch membership in Chattanooga was largely drawn from members of the fundamentalist Churches of Christ.  I was very aware of this because my fundamentalist Baptist church had taught me that the Church of Christ were a “cult” which the religious error that salvation was by water-baptism (immersion) “plus faith” and not by “faith alone”.  But for the sake of saving America from total collapse and communist take-over, our religious differences never became a point of contention or discussion.

So, John Birch members were largely middle-age, middle-class, white Americans who were un-nerved by the rapid social and political changes they were seeing and were attracted to the easy-to-understand John Birch conspiratorial way of thinking.  The John Birch Society had a seemingly elegant and fact-based view which taught that all the social upheaval that was going on in America was being created by a small group of hyper-liberal-pro-Communists- and actual communists who happened to also be wealthy elites who were hell-bent on turning America into some kind of Soviet style, socialist police state.

The evidence of this conspiracy were self-evident:  with Hollywood stars like Jane Fonda going to North Vietnam and giggling while being show how the communists shoot down American planes with their Soviet made anti-aircraft weapons to treasonous anti-Vietnam war demonstrators waving the flag of the Viet Cong Liberation Front!

The former Soviet President Nikita Khrushev had already said they planned to “bury” us (Capitalism and The West) so why are our leaders not going ahead and nuking the Soviets and “Red” Chinese to kingdom come!

Of course, many of the Birch beliefs were simply more extreme versions of ideas which were already current and common among American conservatives: anti-government, anti-regulatory, hyper-pro big business/corporate interests, anti-taxation, being “soft” racists and macho American militarism as a way to deal with any and all foreign issues; you know, God, Guns and Guts stuff!  They were a continuation of the late Senator Joseph McCarthy’s politics of American paranoia with no nuance.

I never found the local Birchers to ever promote any type of direct racist or anti-Semitic views. Interestingly, two of the Society’s most popular national speakers in those days were minorities: the African-American Charles Smith, who went around denouncing MLK,JR and the Civil Rights Movement; and the prolific Jewish, John Birch writer, Alan Stang. I know the local Birchers in Chattanooga had refused to accept Klan and Minutemen who had wanted to join.

I eventually saw that all the over the top, The Sky-Is-Always-Falling rhetoric the Birchers used was simply untrue and so I shifted into a more mainstream GOP conservatism. But with more years of reading and simply paying attention to history and events, I eventually became one of those “damn liberals” I had been taught since childhood to despise! LOL!

Unfortunately, Birch-think is still very much with us. Their old paranoid and poorly evidenced form of political conservatism has in fact taken over the modern GOP via The Tea Party and now Donald Trump. And though billed as a “grass-roots” uprising by common Americans, The Tea Party was in fact funded in large part by the billionaire Koch Brothers (and others like them). The Koch Brothers father, Fred Koch, was on the Board of Directors of the John Birch Society for many years.

President Trump’s advisor, Steve Bannen, is a conservative in the John Birch tradition of paranoia, fear and beliefs not rooted in evidence and science. And, conservative pundit Glenn Beck has been a big promoter for the last ten years of old worn Birch views. He even went so far as to republish the old John Birch “The Naked Capitalist” text and gave away tens of thousands of copies to his listeners.

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Memory Flash: The first time I saw the movie “Easy Rider” was at The Post Theatre at Ft. Knox, Kentucky while going through the first part of US Army ROTC Basic Training in the Summer of 1973. It bothered me that this Hollywood, pro-hippie and anti-war film was being shown on post but at the same time I had to admit that it did have a great soundtrack! In a way, it was evidence that that the hippies and liberals had won the culture war. The Vietnam War was still going on but the draft had ended (thankfully) in 1972 before my senior year of high school. 

President Nixon was exiting us out of Vietnam through his “peace with honor” program what he called “Vietnamization” – which meant the Vietnamese – and not Americans – would be taking all the bullets from there on out.

During that Summer, when I was able to catch a few brief moments of radio or TV during out jam-packed schedule of learning basic soldering skills and officer leadership, the news was all about the investigation of the Watergate hearings about whether the President had anything to do with the break-in at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, DC. Of course, my focus was on how to properly march and call cadance and not screw up too bad before my peers and the NCO instructors who were giving us hell about what miserable pieces of ROTC shits we were!

But, with my already three years of active involvement with right-wing, conservative political culture via the John Birch Society and Young Americans for Freedom, I knew all these aspersions being cast at our then President Nixon were a ruse and a slander by “the pinko-commie-fags” on the Left and that there was nothing to be concerned about because Nixon was too smart and patriotic to have ever authorized anything so stupid as a break-in of the Democratic National Committee’s Office at the Watergate Hotel at the height of his own political popularity!

But at 18 years of age, what did I know?! LOL.

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I was once a minister. My goal in life was to be a full-time minister and later to become an active duty Army chaplain. Well, I partially reached my goals. I obtained undergraduate and graduate degrees in bible and theology. I did “youth ministry,” evangelism, preached in “missions” and churches, did bible-based counseling, taught Sunday School and conducted bible studies, did Christian apologetics, prayed in English and learned to pray in tongues, conducted exorcisms and was a highly moralistic and judgement bastard towards “sinners” who needed to REPENT BEFORE A HOLY GOD!!!” My life was God-filled and purposeful. My faith helped me to make sense out of the chaos of life. I was standing on the “solid rock” of biblical truth and the All-Powerful Creator of the Universe!

I later learned that I was not standing on solid ground, but that my feet were firmly planted on quick-sand of hopes, wishes, mental placebos and ancient fictions which I was conditioned to believe were literal and solid evidence.  Only in hindsight did I realize that I was just like one of billions of people on planet earth across the centuries who ran their lives off of delusion and denial.  But like drinking too much alcohol or doing some kind of powerful, mind-altering drug, for a while it was real fun.  But the human mind is a wonderful thing and always found myself slipping into asking questions and trying to patch up with the duck-tape and bondo of faith why my beliefs did not make sense.   So, there was something of a childlike innocence that my faith communities continually perpetuated.   Asking questions was viewed as a sign of lack of spirituality.   But like the fellow who discovers that his “pure” wife has been fucking the entire Board of Deacons, I lived and loved the bliss of my ignorance of my time in my religion days.

Now, those days seem so distant and silly.  I guess I eventually started to emotionally and mentally grew up and out of my “faith”.  My faith community taught me that to no longer believe was a terrible thing but that’s what faith communities always tell their followers.

I’m sure back in Rome when people decided to become indifferent to Jupiter worship that people were aghast about those folks too.

Religion, and religious leaders, are kind of like show-biz people when you get right down to it.  Both groups spend time cultivating an image and a mystic about themselves and what they do.

Both Entertainers and Religious Leaders’ “living” comes from making people believe in ideas and images which are not there but which seem to be there.  The preacher who tells heartfelt stories of love, devotion and courage is doing to his audience what a good actor does to his:  they make you “ffffeeeeeeeeeellllll” things real intensely and hopefully make you think about things too.

We pay people to help us feel.

Musicians, actors, artists and preachers.

They all sell myths and metaphors.

And we need myths and metaphors to make sense out of our lives.

And the Religious Entertainer of the Year Award goes to. . .

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I was in the 3rd and 4th grades at Rivermont Elementary when Beatlemania hit.

I remember a contest that was promoted by a Chattanooga radio station (probably WFLI) in 1964. It was a “Who is most popular: The Beatles or Elvis?”. It generated a lot of excitement and energy among school kids (I was in the 4th grade). The Beatles won, but not by much. We were so happy at this victory! I told one of my cousins who lived in Memphis, Tennessee about the Beatles’ victory and she informed me that they had one of those type contests in Memphis but Elvis had won.

People may not recall, but The Beatles were viewed by many fundamentalist Christians, as a sinister group of young men. And Chattanooga, being a hotbed of hyper-fundamentalist center of Baptist and “bible churches,” jumped in to condemn the new music, look and hair styles of The Beatles as ungodly and perhaps a satanic-inspired group sent to cause young people to be defocus off of Jesus an church!

In my childhood church (Rivermont Baptist now Grace Bible Church on Hixson Pike), St. Paul’s dictum that it is a dishonor for men to have “long-hair” (though it was never clarified what length qualifies for ‘long hair’) was quoted as a biblical basis for rejecting the Beatles (This was pre-John Lennon’s off-hand quip that “We are more popular than Jesus”, which set off a fire-storm of Beatle record burning at my fundy, childhood church and throughout the South).

I also recall going to the skating rink that was down the road from the big DuPont plant. During this 1964 Beatlemania phase, they promoted days in which they would only play Beatle records over their sound system for us to skate to.  And we went round and round the rink listening to “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and their seemingly, endless string of hits

Yes, the music and cultural world changed overnight when Beatle Mania hit my hometown.  Overnight I went from listening to Bobby Vinton’s “She wore blue Velvet” to “Help”!

It was an exciting time that has never been duplicated.  As a ten/eleven year old kid I got to witness one of the biggest musical and cultural shifts in our country caused by the “Liverpool Lads”.

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