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The headline might suggest this column is all about the 2016 presidential and Congressional election. Most of it is, but there are some good things happening in this country, although the election campaigns concentrate on emphasizing the bad and the really ugly. As an end result, our only hope is that the election will provide a moral test of government that is centuries old: “The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadow of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” The actor Tom Hanks, who is currently working on the movie “Dante,” spoke volumes the other day about our political situation: “Ignorance is one of our greatest threats—the idea of being able to solve complex issues with simplistic solutions.” In the movie his character must use clues from Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” one of the more complex stories about the human condition ever written, to prevent the spread of a terrible disease that might kill half of the seven billion people on earth. Should be a good one. The 2016 election illustrates what a threat ignorance is in our world.
The total ignorance expressed by Donald Trump and some of his ignorant cohorts about the role of 1.6 billion Muslims in the world has increased our divisiveness and our hatred for one of the world’s seven great religions. His statement about banning muslims from entry to this country, to his diatribe against the muslim Gold Star parents of an Army captain who died defending us in Iraq was really ugly. I wonder what Trump and his supporters think of the fact that American muslims have cooperated with election officials by operating 2,400 Muslim community centers and mosques as polling places in the next election. Many Trump supporters will have to enter a mosque in order to vote in their precinct. Only one mosque will not be used because of complaints. Perhaps the anti-muslims will actually gain some knowledge about Islam by crossing through mosques doors. That would be a “good’” for these perilous times.
The Supreme Court Has Done Some Really Good Things—And Some “Really Dumb”-Ugly Things
Among the good things: The Supreme Court finally made abortion legal after centuries of coat hangers, bottles of lye, back alley abortionists, and other cruel and unusual methods of ending a pregnancy. It finally brought the LGBTQ community into the mainstream by ending military “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policies and approving same-sex marriages. Perhaps in the near future they will ban discrimination against gays by telling businesses, real estate owners, and other individuals in North Dakota they cannot fire gays for just being gay. Here are some of the really dumb, really ugly things the Supreme Court has done: Equating ‘free speech” as money(!), basing 2nd Amendment decisions on the 18th century one-round musket instead of the 21st century AK-47’s rate of 700 rounds a minute, basing interstate commerce and transportation decisions on what happens to 17th century oxcarts, and allowing the conservative faction on the Court to base decisions on Antonin Scalia’s ridiculous philosophy of “originalism,” the nutty idea of trying to interpret what the original white slave owners such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson who signed the Constitution “really meant.”
I was surprised that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during an interview jumped all over black 49’er quarterback Colin Kaepernick for taking a knee during the national anthem to protest racial inequality. She said it was “really dumb” and “disrespectful” of the flag. She later admitted her comments were “inappropriately dismissive and harsh.” Perhaps even dumb. I’m somewhat surprised she doesn’t, as a liberal Supreme Court justice, have a better understanding of the race problems in this country.
We Are Now Going Through An American Apartheid
Years ago the Republic of South Africa went through apartheid, which was the official policy of keeping a minority of whites in power and a majority of blacks under the heel of the government. Many black lives were lost in the battle for racial equality--and Nelson Mandela, who later became president of South Africa, was imprisoned for 27 years because of his leadership. We are now going through an American apartheid. It will also take a few more generations to eliminate it. Ginsburg should remember that the five Republican appointees to the Court have caused many of the recent racial kerfuffles and shootings between minorities and majorities in the United State by dropping some of the sections of the Voting Rights Act. Immediately after this horrendous decision Republican legislatures in about 25 states manufactured bills that would severely reduce voting days, require voter IDs on many elderly where birth certificates did not exist, close specific precincts, make changes to poll addresses, and dozens of other provisions that would limit voting by minorities. Colin’s very effective, very visible type of protest has spread quickly to athletic contests across the country from elementary schools to professional sports. That act alone reminds all viewers and participants of our racial inequality that has to be solved. Here are a few tragic examples of our present apartheid other than the shooting of unarmed blacks by police: (1) e-mail: “The National Football League should make sure Colin Kaepernick never plays another game,” (2) e-mail: “Your parents raised a friggin’ idiot” (Colin was adopted by white parents when an infant),(3) e-mail: “Go back to Africa!” (4) A black woman flying from Detroit to Minneapolis offered to help a white man on the plane who was having a seizure. A flight attendant told her: “Oh, sweetie, we’re looking for a real doctor in this situation.” The black woman was a real doctor, (5) When three members of an all-black football team took a knee when the anthem was played before a Pennsylvania game between 13-year-olds, the racial slurs from the white home team’s audience filled the air: “If the little niggers want to take a knee, they shouldn’t be able to play.” I say, “Take another knee, Colin, until we have racial equality.” And Colin is putting his money where his mouth is. He is giving $100,000 a week to needy organizations for the first 10 weeks of the football season. That’s a cool million. I see he started for the 49ers last Sunday.
It’s Taken About Six Generations To Get This Far
The completion of the first National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington has marked significant progress in our tortoise pace to racial equality. It signals momentous progress and is a good thing. But we still have a long way to go beyond lynchings and shootings of unarmed blacks. It’s also a good thing to finally see the number of black faces in TV commercials and productions. And who would have thought a decade ago that a black president and first lady would help Ruth Bonner, the 99-year-old black daughter of a man born a slave in Mississippi, ring a bell at the dedication of the museum that came from a black church that had not been rung since segregation was finally ended. There were four generations of the slave present for the opening, including seven-year-old Christine. The slave Elijah Odom ran away from slavery as a young boy, lived through the tough Reconstruction days in the South, survived Jim Crow, farmed, went to medical school, and raised a beautiful family.
When will Christians believe science and genetics instead of Leviticus? We must now report a really ugly scene. Now, “Christians” are blaming the LBGTQ community for bringing Hurricane Matthew to Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas because Orlando and Savannah planned Pride Parades for this month. Right-wing religious nuts started this prediction. Right Wing Watch reported: “We know that Florida is an area that is infected with sin, especially cities such as Miami and Orlando, which are veritable dens of sodomy. So “evil sodomites” are now being blamed for Matthew. Gays are often blamed for natural disasters, the dangerous Hurricane Sandy being another one. The approval of same-sex marriage was blamed for a tornado in “Christian” Illinois three years ago. Did gays cause the Holocaust? “Christians” want to know. This is ugly at its ugliest. Well, maybe this is worse. Pastor Kevin Swanson of the Reformation Church in Elizabeth, Colorado, says parents should drown their children before allowing them to read about the gay Dumbledore in Harry Potter books. I suppose this idiot is at a high approval rate with white evangelicals.
Can Someone Tell Me How Many People Have Died Of A Marijuana Overdose?
While Big Pharma enthusiastically peddles killer drugs such as Oxycontin, Percocet, Hydrocodone, and other drugs so the streets of America are loaded with them, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration refuses to remove marijuana from the Schedule One list of dangerous drugs, saying it “has no currently accepted medical use.” Nonsense. Big Pharma—and the Congress it has bought--would suffer economically if pot is legalized. We are killing over 47,000 a year with drug overdoses, many of them by prescription drugs while Big Pharma, selling $1,000-pill-cancer drugs and EpiPens costing $8 to make for $608, evidently manufactures opiates up to four times what the legitimate market could use--and sells to anybody. How many died of an overdose of pot last year? No one. What about this “no currently accepted medical use” Why do doctors in the 17 states that have legalized the use of medical marijuana prescribe fewer antidepressant drugs, fewer seizure drugs, and fewer anti-anxiety drugs? Because medical marijuana helps to relieve these conditions. It’s estimated that over 8,000 North Dakotans suffering from cancer, AIDS, HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder, Hepatitis C, epilepsy, and other diseases would benefit from medical marijuana.
Our 45-year war on drugs has turned out to be one of our ugliest wars. It’s been a failure from the beginning. The only way you can stop people from stuffing their noses, putting holes in their veins, and swallowing pills is through education and treatment. Forget the arrests and imprisonment. We have to show kids meth addicts with rotting teeth, skimpy hair, malevolent bleeding eyes, and skinny bodies. We have to show them the heroin addict grotesquely withdrawing from his pleasures. We have to show the oxycontin and percocet addicts resting in their coffins. On any given day we have 137,000 people behind bars on simple drug-possession charges. Jails don’t cure much but teach a lot of crime. Texas has 116 people serving life sentences for simple drug possession. Seven of those people were arrested with quantities of drugs weighing between one gram and four grams. That’s less than a sugar packet for your coffee. In 2015, 78% of Texans sentenced for felony drug possession actually had less than a gram.
The best description I have read about heroin addiction was written by Richard Farrell, author of “What’s Left of Us, A Memoir of Addiction”: “There is nothing on this planet more euphoric than sticking a needle into my vein, watching the blood register like a snake slithering quietly before it strikes its prey, slowly pushing down on the plunger, feeling the warmth moving up into my shoulder, exploding into a head-to-toe rush the instant the white liquid hits my heart. I’m in love. Nothing can stop me from getting heroin. I will rob you. I will manipulate you. If my mouth is moving, I’m lying. I don’t care who you are or what kind of history we had together. You are nothing to me. Heroin is my god. Heroin is like licking the breath of god.” It took Farrell 10,771 days to beat heroin—after he took it the first time right after his father died.