Building Walls Of Ignorance

Ed Raymond

Remember that infamous pair of TV ne’er-do-well kids named Beavis and Butthead from over a decade ago? Their creator, Mike Judge, produced a 2006 cult comedy called Idiocracy.  The film hardly made a dime because many considered it to be too over the top about the future. As Alternet writer Paula Young Lee writes, it was probably too much like Beavis and Butthead. But in these days of Donald Trump, it accurately predicts what has happened to the United States in just ten years. Was Judge over the top when he predicted that the president of the United States of the future was Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, a five-time “Ultimate Smackdown” professional wrestling champion who also had a busy career as a porn star? In this country Joe Bauers is proclaimed to be the smartest man in the country—although the president tells him in the White House: “I thought your head would be bigger. It looks like a peanut!”
In this fictional (hopefully) future the Congress is filled with hapless idiots who do nothing but yell at each other and at the president: “You’re a d—k!” The jails are filled with the poor who can’t pay their debts.  The top cable TV channel is the Violence Channel. A film with no discernible plot dominates the Academy Awards. Most of the population speaks an ugly unsophisticated combination of southern hillbilly and inner-city slang punctuated by a number of gravelly grunts. Starbucks runs prostitution rings on the side while Fox News is anchored by ex-wrestlers. The mass retailer Costco awards law degrees and the new energy drink Brawndo actually owns the Federal Drug Administration. Brawndo has replaced everything drinkable except for water in toilets. The owner of Idiocracy, 20th Century Fox, quietly put the film back in the can in 2006, probably because it lacked humor!  I think that if they distributed it to theaters across the country again, moviegoers might think it is a very accurate documentary of life in the U.S. today.
The first stanza of T.S. Eliot’s poem The Hollow Men describes our current political leaders accurately:

We are the hollow men/ We are the stuffed
 men/ Leaning together/ Headpiece filled
 with straw.

Alas! Our dried voices/ When we whisper
together/ Are quiet and meaningless as
 winds in dry grass.

Or rats’ feet over broken glass in our
dry cellar.

World Research Proves We Are Delusional, Prudish, And Selfish Religious Nuts

The Pew Research Center has studied numerous surveys of American and European attitudes from recent years and reports there are plenty of cultural differences. As an example, our gun culture accepts the killing of 11,000 and the wounding of up to 60,000 citizens per year so we can continue the worship of the Second Amendment. We lead the world in gun violence while we watch violence channels. The murder of 20 first graders at Sandy Hook actually made more profits for the NRA and the gun manufacturers. The NRA’s latest push? They want felons to be eligible to purchase firearms as soon as they are released from prison. But they don’t think felons who have served their time should ever be allowed to vote again. We have almost six million who can’t vote because of current or previous felony convictions. Do votes have more power than assault rifles?
Supposedly Americans are much more religious—more “Christian”-than our European counterparts. Almost 75% of Americans say religion is important to them, with 53% stating religion is “very” important to them. That is much higher than every European country polled. The Poles top Europe at 28%, saying religion is important. My relatives, the French, are dead last in the surveys. Most of our political speeches of note end with “God bless America,” while our athletes point to the sky, thanking God for helping them hit a homerun or score a touchdown. I have yet to see a defensive end point to the sky and give thanks for stopping a runner at the one-yard line. He will run around in circles, pounding his chest, pleading for an increase in his contract. It’s certainly a more practical approach.
The United States ends up in the middle of 40 world countries that survey that religion is important to its citizens. Most Muslim countries register from 84% in Malaysia to the high 90’s in Indonesia, Ethiopia, and Pakistan. The U.S. is at 53%, while other “Christian” countries are as follows: Mexico, 37%; Canada, 27%; Italy, 26%; Germany, 21%; Spain, 21%; Great Britain, 21%; and France, 14%. No wonder we have serious problems with the Muslim world. I think it’s interesting that the two oldest “civilizations” in the world end up at the absolute bottom of the surveys: Japan at 11%, China at 3%. Pew also discovered in the last year that white Christians in the United States are now a minority.
How Religion Impacts Sexual Mores

No doubt the strongest religious views are in the Muslim world and the Christian United States when it comes to sexual mores. In the Muslim world, honor killings, the stoning of adulterers and fornicators, and other sharia laws on marriage highlight how religion impacts sexual mores. As late as 2013 over 30% of Americans said sex before marriage was “morally unacceptable,” but every country that placed a lower importance on religion disagreed with that stance. It’s interesting that 30% of the Russian people, with only 19% who claim religion is important in their lives, still feel pre-marital sex violates moral teachings. Only 6% of the French, my liberal relatives, believe it is morally unacceptable. The sober and placid Germans are tied with the wild French in this category. Now it may be shocking to some that according to a 2006 Guttmacher Institute study 95% of Americans have had pre-marital sex—and that 9 in 10 women born in the 1940’s had sex before marriage. Is there a lot of hypocrisy floating around in the Christian world? According to recent surveys, 60% of American teenagers have had sex by age 19, and 80% of unmarried evangelicals ages 18 to 29 commit sexual sins by the gross. (Evangelicals also have the highest divorce rate among religious denominations in the U.S.) Our “religious” hypocrites in responsible political positions evidently have been pushing abstinence programs on our young possessed by raging hormones--without success. We have the highest teen pregnancy rates among wealthy countries. European countries have pregnancy rates a fraction of our own. Why? They have decided that premarital and marital sex is normal behavior for humans, so the willing and perspiring participants need to have skills, information, and contraceptives to cope with their hormones. Gee, sex is here to stay. Even the Bible is loaded with it.

Does Climbing The Ladder Of Success Depend On Hard Work?

How many national politicians have tried to convince you they work terribly hard to solve the problems of our society—while doing absolutely nothing about the major problem—income inequality? Over 70% of Americans actually believe that consistent hard work is a primary predictor of life success. Only 35% of Europeans think hard work and strapping on comfortable boots makes a difference. Kayli Holloway of Alternet notes that “The 20 richest Americans …possess more wealth than the 152 million poorest Americans. Turns out what you really need those boots for is wading through the thick swamp of bullcrap that is the myth of the American Dream.”  (A Gulfstream G650 luxury jet has room for the 20 wealthiest.)  Americans work longer hours than those workers who inhabit the other richest countries. Hard work in America gets you longer hours and a quick evaporation of the Dream. A study by the Economic Policy Institute says there’s far less class mobility in America than in wealthy European countries—as well as Canada, Japan, and Australia.
Thousands have written millions of words about the nonpolitical incorrectness of Donald Trump, so I don’t need to add to that total. Besides, his jarring words have not disturbed the rapidly disappearing white middle-class and the rich willing to vote for him—or any verbal “strongman” who will maintain them in power. The last Republican president was a son of plutocrats, of average intelligence, but too lazy to learn anything. If we examine the list of mental disorders in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and compare them to the texts of Trump’s interviews, speeches, and tweets, how many disorders could we come with? His verbal diarrhea splatters over every political subject and issue, earning condemnation from both right-wing and left-wing commentators. It’s as if truth, perspective, and introspection have been slashed from his brain by a frontal lobotomy. He lives in Trump world, a hollow, stuffed man not restrained by the world surrounding him. Besides, he’s “very rich!”

We Have Made Some Progress Since Alabama Governor Wallace Yelled “Segregation Forever!”

So far the perpetrator of our current transgender bathroom battles, Governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina, has not blocked a public restroom door and yelled “Thou shall not pee in this bathroom!” at some poor person with crossed legs, as Alabama Governor George Wallace back in 1963 yelled “Segregation Forever!” when blocking a door to keep blacks from attending college classes. I wonder if McCrory knew that Jim Crow legislation passed throughout the South in the 19th Century allowed separate bathrooms for white men and women, but only “all gender” single bathrooms for blacks, regardless of gender. One could say: “Once bigotry, always bigotry.”
There are now 12 states suing the Obama administration to overturn the rules on the use of bathrooms by transgender students. These Republican states have a dual reason to challenge this “massive social experiment”—politics and religion. It’s amazing how quickly a majority of this society has accepted the LBGTQ community as just another group in society. Evil?  A mortal sin? The devil made them do it? Same-sex marriage and gays in the military have now been established. An openly gay man, Eric Fanning, was recently confirmed as secretary of the Army. During a lengthy confirmation hearing he was never questioned about his sexual orientation. Just five years ago gays were banned from serving in the military.
It took the Vatican 400 years, 23 years after we landed a man on the moon, to accept the scientific fact the earth orbits around the sun. How long is it going to take theologians of many stripes and haircuts to accept the biological fact of homosexuality, instead of the ruminations of ignorant old men? What would Jesus do? Real Christians should answer that. Like Europeans, Americans are no longer filling the pews of churches en masse. Some who have left organized churches are still spiritual, but do not find the right spirit while in the pews. The wide acceptance of same-sex marriage and the LBGTQ community over the protests of Catholic and Protestant theologians in such a short time proves that premise.
A gay Hutterite named Kelly Hofer is speaking out so that gays in the 50,000-member Hutterite religion based in 450 colonies across Canada and the United States can be accepted by the church. Hutterites grow their own food, often sew their own clothes, build their own homes, and accept only a portion of the technology available to them. They live by the words in the Bible. Gay Hutterites did not exist before Kelly. The colonies feared to use the word “gay.” Kelly first heard the word when he was 14. Teenaged Hutterites didn’t discuss sex. But Kelly, now 25, knows there are thousands of gays among the Hutterite colonies. Kelly now lives in Calgary and is a photographer. His dream: “That the Hutterite culture be accepting of gays like me.” So far, he gets a lot of quoted passages from the Bible condemning him. But a few are accepting.