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I have seen several people express fears about Trump becoming a dictator and the US become something similar to what Nazi Germany was under Hitler.  That we will lose our freedoms; of speech, of religion, of assembly, to vote.  That our free press will become bound and gagged.

 

While I recognize the similarities between Trump and Hitler, and while acknowledging a dictatorship is a possibility, I strongly disagree on it being probable.  Many things are possible, only a few are really probable.  So, given the many concerns I have seen expressed about this, I thought I would first explain why I do not believe it will happen.  Then I will explain what I think are the more probable consequences of Trump’s election and give what I consider a more realistic worst case scenario Finally, I will go over  what needs to happen to prevent or at least mitigate this more realistic worse case scenario from happening.

 

This is going to be a long blog so I am breaking it down into each of these component parts to form three blogs on the same subject.

 

Why the United States will not go the way of Nazi Germany

While there are similarities between Hitler and Trump, and in how they rose to power, there are also differences.  However, more important than these differences is the difference between our country now and Germany during the rise of Hitler.  People such as Alexander the Great, Napoleon,  George Washington, and Hitler come to power not only by the force of their personality or by how they do things, but also as the result of their times.  Put those same people in another setting and they may, and probably will, fail.  Greatness or notoriety do not arise in a vacuum.

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Now, there are some similarities between Germany then and the US today.  Both peoples were and are frustrated with their government.   They feel and felt that it was ineffectual, that it could not address the problems of the times, and that things were getting worse.  And there is a similarity in that, while Hitler used the Jews as a scapegoat for many of the Weimar Republic’s problems, many of Trump’s supporters use the illegal alien and Muslims as scapegoats.  And for the more racist of Trump supporters, blacks.

 

However, the similarities are limited, both in number, in intensity, and in scope.  For example, in Germany then:

 

  • Germany became a democracy in 1919. In 1933, when Hitler rose to power and the Nazi Party won the most seats in the German Parliament, the German People only had 14 years of experience with democracy.   Their prior experience was with a dictatorial government, and that was what they were comfortable with.  Or at least more familiar with, and, more importantly, associated with a government that actually worked.  When democracy did not seem to be working and unable to solve the many problems the German people face, they set up no outcry with the onset of emergency powers and the suspension of rights.
    • The US has, counting from the ratification of the US Constitution, over 230 years of democratic experience. We have faced numerous challenges from the beginning.  And through each one, we, as a people, did not wave from our commitment to democracy.  Even in the midst of our worst crisis, the Civil War, we held open and honest elections.  Our expectations are different and backed up by over 200 years of democracy surviving through war, riots, the Great Depression, immense social upheaval, and all the other detritus that we have found ourselves in.
  • Even worse, democracy in Germany did not arise from the people as it did here in the US. It was imposed upon the German people by the victors of WW2.  Because of that most of the German people of the time did not trust or really believe in democracy.  It was never theirs, never their government.
  • To make matters even more difficult, their politicians had no experience with democracies.
    • Even at our start, the founders and the colonials had some experience in democracies. And we have had over 200 years more experience now.
  • The German people were humiliated by the very demeaning terms of the Versailles Treaty. The war reparations imposed on them were economically impossible and crippling.  In 1923 the Allies grew tired of Germany’s inability to pay these reparations and occupied the Ruhr Valley, Germany’s industrial heartland.  And, instead of blaming their wartime leaders for this, the German people tended to blame the German politicians that arose out of this humiliating defeat.
    • Our democracy did not arise out of defeat, but out of victory. And we have not been defeated in the manner that Germany was, and have never been humiliated in such a fashion.
  • To add to this, Germany faced a disastrous number of problems. We look back to our Great Depression as being a terrible time for the US.  However, Germany had it even worse (something I sometimes have a hard time convincing my parents of).   Unemployment in 1932 was almost 31%.   German citizens had to contend with hyperinflation (with many staples such a bread costing 100 billion marks) and millions lived in abject poverty and thousands of children died of hunger.
    • Our economy today, by contrast, is actually strong. Our economic numbers are good.  Now, the problem today for the US is that it is not strong everywhere, and that the recovery has left too many people behind.  Further, with the changes in society and business – mainly automation, the change from coal to natural gas, and globalization – many Americans are left feeling angry and frustrated.  Yet, most people in this country are actually doing better.  Our situation today is a far cry from Germany, and while there is enough frustration to allow the election of a Trump, there is not enough widespread frustration to allow him to dismantle our democracy.  Especially as the results of his policies become clear.
  • The German Constitution at that time had a provision allowing the President to take emergency measures and issue emergency decrees without the consent of the German legislature. This was supposed to be limited to certain emergencies. However, given the state of Germany at the time, emergencies were plentiful.
    • The US Constitution has no such provision. There is a provision for the declaration of martial law by the President or Congress in the Constitution.  However, nationally, it has only been used once.  During the Civil War Congress approved most of the martial law measures enacted by President Lincoln.  During WW2, there was a partial enactment of martial law- some of which were overturned by the courts and those arrested and held then released. Others though, lamentably, were upheld (the internment of US citizens of Japanese descent).

So, the US has twice used martial law, both times during war.  Yes, there have been other declarations of martial law, but they have been made by governors at a state level and not nationally by the federal government.

Further, while the President could declare martial law, Congress still has the power to deny it or overturn it. And the state of martial law is challenged the Supreme Court could overturn it too.  Such provisions and safeguards not present in the German Constitution in 1932.

  • In Germany at that time it was expected that laws did not have to conform to the Constitution as long as it had the support of two thirds of parliament. This made it easier to pass laws that limited rights and abridged freedoms.
    • The US has no such expectation. In fact, that is totally contrary to both our expectations and practice.
  • Finally, in terms of at least going over the differences between Germany then and the US today, Trump is not Hitler. He shares many of the same traits, but he is not Hitler.  For one, Hitler was motivated by an ideology.  Trump, by his ego.  While many bad things are likely to happen, I do not think Trump would take it to the extremes that Hitler did – state sponsored terrorism against certain groups of citizens –  since his motivation is different.

 

In addition to the above differences, there are some political and social realities which would keep Trump from becoming a dictator.

  • The majority of the voters voted for Hillary for President and more voters voted for Democrats than Republicans in the Senate. This indicates an already large group of people opposed to Trump and what he represents.  And provides the base for trying to limit the damage he and his administration does, and to ensure that he is, at best, a one term president
  • While the Republicans, especially of the Tea Party variety, are lining up behind him now, there are significant divisions within the party. Divisions which would create strong problems in regards to privatizing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Even the “dismantling” of Obamacare has to be handled with care.    Millions of Americans are already beneficiaries of it, millions are on the expanded Medicaid rolls.  Millions of people who would be hurt if it were just stopped.
  • Getting passage of controversial bills in the Senate is especially going to be challenging. There will be 46 Democrat Senators and 52 Republican ones (two Senators are independent).  This means on the issues that are really controversial, there are likely going to be some Republicans who will not go along.  They with the Democrats will be able to block some bills.  And nominees.
  • Trump has already backed off on some of his prominent promises – building he wall, prosecuting Hillary for example. And he is starting to receive criticism for it from those who supported him.  They are not dropping him yet, but they are starting to be unhappy with some of his decisions.  I imagine as it sinks in that most of his administration are not only rich and well connected, but extremely rich, and that they vote to their own benefit, this will become even more pronounced.
  • Those who elected him expect things from him.  For example, the coal miners.  Trump promised them they would all get their jobs back.  His method for doing this – do away with environmental regulations.  The problem, those regulations were not why the coal miners were not working.  They are not working because natural gas prices dropped as our supply increased.  How do you imagine those coal miners will feel about Trump when they realize that he did not keep his promise?   Then extend this to the economy as a whole, and what will happen if, as I expect, the economy goes bad under him.
  • I know that many are concerned about Trump and the Supreme Court. Currently there is one vacancy, which means it will probably be a conservative along the lines of Scalia.  But, that does not set us back any further than before since we have been living with that for years.  And that was a court that gave us gay marriage, upheld abortion rights, and decided that Obamacare was legal.
    • Now, if another vacancy comes up, that will be the time to worry. But, I do not look for any of the more liberal justices to be retiring until the next president comes along.  We might lose one due to health or death, but not retirement.  And, keep in mind, that there are enough democrats that they still can make it difficult to get too outrageous a candidate to become Justice.   It would not be good, but he cannot pack the court with Justices who would go along with him becoming a dictator (although they could go along with many other bad things though)
    • I would also note that on Trump’s idea to imprison those who burn the American flag, Justice Scalia had this to say: “If I were king I wouldn’t go about letting people burn the American Flag. However, we have a first amendment which says that the right of free speech shall not be abridged, and it is addressed, in particular to speech critical of the government.   I mean, that was the main kind of speech that tyrants would seek to suppress.”

I could go on for quite a bit longer.  We have a robust freedom of the press.  I am sure that Trump will try to limit that, and may well get a few victories.  However, there is still the independent judiciary.  Further, if you look at freedom of the press may go backwards many decades, but not to the point where the media becomes the puppet and totally under the control of the President.

 

In fact, overall, that is the more realistic scenario that I discuss in my next blog on this subject; that we will not have a dictator but instead many of the social gains and progress, many of the civil rights gains and progress will wind up being pushed back decades, possible even to a similar state as the turn of the 20th century in many ways.  That our economy is ruined and  taking the world’s economy with it.  And the increased possibility of wars.

 

Those are realistic worse case scenarios.  But, Trump becoming a dictator and the United States a fascist dictatorship, or a dictatorship of any kind – no, that is not realistic at all.

I had an interesting and enlightening conversation the other day with an older black woman.  I found it so because of the light it shines into one reason why so many blacks distrust the police and our justice system.

This woman is, as I said an older black woman.  She has grandchildren, one of whom is 27.  She was married to a man in the Air Force and did quite a bit a traveling until he died unexpectedly in the 90s.  She has a degree in Social Service and Political Science.

During the course of our conversation she related this story about her father.  Or more accurately, her father’s murder.  It happened when she was 13.  And it happened here in Texas.   And it happened in a sundown city.

For those too young or who may have never come across this adjective before, a sundown city was a city or town that had posted a sign stating some version of the following:

“Nigger, Don’t Let The Sun Set On YOU In [Insert name of city here]”.

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There were over 10,000 of these cities across the US up until the late 60s.  The city where I currently reside was one such, and, at least until the late 90s, was still a prime area for the KKK.  Today I still see a large number of confederate flags around.  These cities though were not limited to the south but extended to Glendale, California and up to Levittown, NY.  Indeed, most of the towns in Illinois were Sundown cities.

In fact, there were so many of these cities, and so many areas where the Jim Crow laws were strongly enforced, and so many areas where police were more threat than protection for blacks, so many areas where blacks just disappeared, that a book called the “Negro Motorist Green Book” was published annually from 1936 through 1966 by a New York travel agent named Victor H. Green.

This handy book was for blacks traveling in the United States.   This book warned the black traveler of the worse areas (at least the known ones) and about the specific dangers of that area.  It also provided the names of hotels and restaurants that would not serve blacks, and of car repair shops that would not fix their vehicles.

Just stop for a moment and try to imagine this; the country into which you were born, the country of which you are a citizen, the country in which you live and work and raise a family, this country that is supposedly yours too being so dangerous for you that you need a guidebook to help navigate its perils in as much safety as possible.  A guide for traveling in a dangerous country.  One not needed for its white citizens.

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And all of this going on until the mid 1960s.

Just stop and think of that too.  The mid 1960s is not ancient history.  It is not something from our founding.  It is recent history, a history of which millions of Americans (including myself) have personal memory of.

As does this black woman I met.

Which now brings us to what happened to her father in the not so distant past, a past that is recent in fact, recent in both years and memory.  What happened to her father when she was 13?

Or to ask another way, what happened to blacks who were caught in those sundown towns after dark?  If they were lucky they were picked up and arrested by the police, then either escorted out or jailed, and possibly roughed up.  If they were unlucky, then much worse happened; as happened to this woman’s father.

He was found the next morning strung up by his ankles from a tree.  He had been gutted and his intestines soaked the ground under him.  But that was not all.

His penis and testicles had been cut off.  But that was not all.

His penis and testicles were not near him as his intestines were.  They were missing entirely.  The sheriff told this woman’s mother that they were probably fed to the pigs.

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This happened within living memory.

Yes, we have changed laws and processes to reduce and de-institutionalize these more overt forms of racism and bias.  But, do those who would deny that racism plays any significant role today in hiring, in education, in justice, in law enforcement, in society; do those who would argue that there is no real racism in our institutions other than what is being played up and stoked up by trouble makers and liberals out to make political hay; do those people really believe that such deeply embedded institutions, deeply held beliefs, deeply held hatreds, do they really believe that these can be changed as quickly and as easily as a law?

Really?

Laws change more easily and more quickly than attitudes.  Laws change more easily than institutions.

The 1960s were the start of significant and needed changes in regards to race in our country.  But a start is not the finish.  To pretend that it is, to deny this basic fact is then to work to undo that start and push us back to that a different version of that recent past.

The vast majority of blacks realize that the changes needed to enact true and equal justice for all regardless of color is still only in its beginnings.  They have the stories of their still living mothers and fathers, the stories of their still living grandmothers and grandfathers, the stories of their still living uncles and aunts and cousins to tell them so. Stories of loss, of denial, of pain and suffering, of injustice backed by government and institutions, stories of death.

Stories that are reinforced and proven true in their daily lives today.  And by the fact that

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so many whites deny them the lessons of both their personal history and their own current experiences.

They have good reason to be distrustful of police, of the justice system, and of our government overall.   It has been changed, but not totally reformed.  And they remember.  As should we all.

 

Recently I got into a discussion with some die hard Hillary haters about Hillary’s honesty.  In some ways debating these people reminds me  of the days when I debated creationists; their use of cherry picked facts and evidence, the omission of relevant information, the slanting of the evidence, and most especially the overly simplistic and black and white nature of their views.  And just like creationists, if you concede a point they often take it and run with it, proclaiming victory is ours.

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Which is one of the reasons why I got myself into the mindset of not ceding any ground in this debate about Hillary’s honesty, even at the expense of being completely truthful.

Another reason for why I let myself get into this position is that the truth is often complicated and takes some time to explain fully.  It is rarely purely black and white and even more rarely simplistic as the Hillary haters and creationists like.

So, for both of those reasons I overextended myself in my claims and defense of Hillary’s basic honesty.  Hence, this long mea culpa post – to more fully explain why, while not perfectly and totally honest, I consider Hillary a basically honest person and politician.

At the time of the aforesaid discussion with the Hillary haters, I had already pointed out that Hillary did not lie when she claimed in her website bio that “After law school, Hillary could have taken a high-paying job in Washington or New York. But instead, she went to work for the Children’s Defense Fund.”

As evidence that this was a lie the Hillary haters cited part of her memoir “Living History’ where she wrote:

“I had taken both the Arkansas and Washington D.C. bar exams during the summer, but my heart was pulling me toward Arkansas. When I learned that I had passed in Arkansas but failed in D.C., I thought that maybe my test scores were telling me something.”

The Hillary haters argued that this showed that her working for the Children’s Defense Fund was not a choice but a necessity since she could not have taken a ‘high-paying job in Washington or New York” since she did not pass the Washington D.C. bar exams.

However, these Hillary haters overlooked some facts in their rush to severe judgment.

First, read the bit from her memoir again.  Did you note that she said that her “heart was pulling me towards Arkansas”?

Now, combine that sentence with these two facts.

Fact one, anywhere from 10% to 40%, dependent on where it is being taken, of people fail the bar exam the first time they take it. Many subsequently go on and take the bar exam and pass it a second time.  This is not a one time test.

Further note, that she did pass the Arkansas bar exam.  I am not sure how many people take two bar exams at the same time, but very few I would imagine since the material covered and needed to be studied would vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  And I would also imagine this would increase the percentage of those who fail at least one of the two.

Fact two, her interest in children and working with them goes at least back to her high school days where she volunteered to baby sit the children of migrant workers.  During law school Hillary volunteered at Yale’s Child Study Center to learn about childhood brain development.  Further, she also took up cases of child abuse at the New Haven Hospital and provided free legal service to the poor.

In other words, working with children has long been a strong passion for Hillary.

Now, putting this all together, the one sentence and two facts, I would say it would be reasonable to believe that she purposely decided NOT to try for the Washington DC  bar exam again.  I would also say it would be reasonable to conclude that she chose not to at least partly on the basis of following her heart.

Which means that there is no rational basis to say that Hillary lied on this.  Unless, of course, you already have a strong aversion to all things Hillary.

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The other area where I felt I successfully defended Hillary’s honesty is, of course, Benghazi.  Specifically on the claim about whether Hillary told Patricia Smith, the mother of Sean Smith, one of the victims of Benghazi attack, was the result of a video.

Fact one, while Mrs. Smith and some of the other families did say that Hillary did mention a video as the cause of the attack, several of the other families do not remember her talking about a video.  They do, however, remember Hillary crying and being sincere in her sympathy.

Fact two, the family of Ambassador Chris Stevens have come out strongly in support of Hillary on this and on the whole Benghazi issue.

Fact three, after this meeting with the families of the victims Hillary did state:

“This has been a difficult week for the State Department and for our country. We’ve seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.”

Please remember there were attacks on two embassies that day, one in Cairo which most definitely was caused by the video, and the other by terrorists, although at the time she made this statement the idea that the video had a role to play in this attack was still in play.

Fact four, at the time of Hilary’s meeting with the families, the situation surrounding the attack at the compound was still unclear.  In fact, according to multiple investigations run by Republicans, the cause of the attack was not totally resolved until the day after Hillary’s meeting with the families.

Yes, but what about Hillary’s e mail to Chelsea stating that the attack was carried out by terrorists.  Well, that brings me to fact five.  Initially an al Qaeda affiliated group claimed 65989-56396responsibility for the attack.  This was the basis of Hillary’s e mail to her daughter.  However, this group later retracted their claim.

 

Fact six, there were several bits of conflicting information in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi attack.  I know, because I was trying to keep up with them in real time.  Further, the multiple investigations also showed this conflicting information.

In fact, what is of interest is that Hillary, while believing that Benghazi was a terrorist attack does believe that the video did have a role to play, probably as a motivating factor.  A belief several other experts share, probably because of the fact that some of the actual attackers stated that the video was part of their motivation for attacking the compound.

So, I believe that Hillary sincerely believes she did not say anything about the video being the cause of the Benghazi attack.  However, in this emotional moment with the tears and the sorrow and the seeking of answers, Hillary may have mentioned the video without saying it was the reason for the attack.  Or, this could have been woven into the memory of those families who remember the video being stated as the causes through other sources, possibly even Hillary’s comments after the meeting that I quoted above.

Memory is not a fixed thing.  Our brains do not faithfully record events as they happen.  This is especially true when there are strong emotions involved.  Mistakes are made and remembered as true when they are not.

In this regard, it is important to note that someone can be mistaken and still not be a liar.  In fact, that is what Hillary has said of those families who remember her blaming the attack on the video, that they made a mistake due to the confusing and conflicting amount of information going around at a time of strong emotions.

Perhaps a simple example would help.  This is something that happened many years ago to my father.  He and a friend were walking in a city park (I cannot remember which) when they saw from across the park a car hit another car and then drive away.  When giving their statements to the police they both said they clearly remembered the color of the car that did the hit and run.  My father said one color, his friend said a completely different color.

Now, do I believe that one of them was lying?  No.  One of them had made a mistake, something quite common with memory.  In fact, it is quite possible that both of them are wrong.

The take away from this is that one can be wrong, but still not be a liar.  That applies to my father and his friend,  to those families who remember Hillary stating that a video was the cause of the attack, and to Hillary who states she did not say that.  For that matter, it applies to all of us.

Bottom line on this, I do not believe that either Hillary or the mother,  Mrs. Smith, are lying.

 

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Now, we come to my mea culpa.  The point at which I defended that which I should not have.  A lie of Hillary’s.  This lie involves her statements about not sending confidential e mails on an unsecure server.

Part of what makes this an interesting question is the Hillary haters have been using it to say that Hillary lied and perjured herself in testimony before Congress.  My answer was and continues to be that she probably did not.

What? I can hear you say.  This is the bit where you are supposed to be writing about Hillary lying.  And so I will, because I do believe that she is lying now in regards to not sending confidential e mails.   The reason for this distinction lies in FBI Director James Comey’s statements regarding Hillary’s e mail system, both his initial statement on the findings of the investigation and his subsequent testimony before Congress.

What is of most relevance here is that in his statement about the investigation and in later Congressional testimony is that only a few of these confidential e mails were marked as classified.  Further, the way they were marked is with a small “c” beside the classified material rather than a header proclaiming it classified.

In his Congressional testimony Comey further testified that if someone is not familiar with the rules regarding the handling of classified information, it is entirely possible that they may not have known what the “c” stood for and assumed that if it did not have Classified at the top that it was not.

As he said, this was sloppy and careless.  However, it does mean that Hillary may have honestly testified before Congress that she did not send any classified e mail.  At that time, she believed she had not.

An aside here – there are some Hillary haters that take being sloppy on security means being sloppy in all areas, a generalization that is not justified.  Especially since Comer in his report and the internal audit done by the State Department showed that the State Department had been rather lax about classified material.  This includes the time period before Hillary became the head of the State Department.  This would have also contributed to her belief that she was not sending classified material.

However, this was at the Congressional Hearings which were held before Comey released his findings and recommendations.  And this is where we now get into the bit where Hillary is lying.

She is still saying that she did not lie and was absolved.  Not quite.  And with Comey’s statement before her she knows it.  So, today she is lying.

And this is what I tried to defend.  I included it with my arguments about the Congressional testimony when I should not have.

So yes, Hillary is lying today when she talks about not sending classified material.

Now, what makes this instructive and interesting is the light it sheds on certain political truths.  This sort of lying is called spin and all politicians engage in it.  The only real difference is in how they engage in it and how often.

Hillary has taken note of part of Comey’s report while ignoring other parts to provide a narrative more favorable to her.  As I said, this is something every politician does and that every politician in a democracy has to do to a greater or lesser extent.

In fact, in my next blog I plan to argue that in any democracy – no matter the country, no matter the time – politicians have to lie.  It is an integral part of being a politician in a tumblr_m5hfehtGNj1r7wa9pdemocratic system.  I will only put this out there for your consideration here and wait for my blog to develop the argument for this claim.

However, that means that the divider between politicians is not between whether one is totally honest and the other lies, but, instead, between how often they lie and about what subjects.

As I have discussed above, on two out of three items in which Hillary haters have claimed she lied, she actually hasn’t.  On the third one, she probably was speaking truthfully at the Congressional hearings, or at least there is enough information from Comey to raise a reasonable doubt in any impartial jury looking at criminal charges for her for perjury.  But, she is not now when discussing these e mails.

Using that criteria, how often Hillary lies, Hillary is actually one of our more honest politicians.  According to Politifact, of all the Presidential candidates both Republican and Democrat, Hillary was the most honest (although both Bernie Sanders and John Kasich came very close to being as honest).

And that is part of why I believe Hillary to be a basically honest person.  I also believe this throws some light on something most have overlooked about our political system.  Namely that dishonesty is a basic part of the process and has always been so and will probably always be so.  But more on that in a later blog.

 

I am getting freaking fed up with the amount of digital thinking I am seeing today.  I have never been a fan of it and argued against it, but now I am also seeing it creep more and more into the political arena with possible disastrous consequences for the United States.

 

First though, what do I mean by digital thinking?  Actually this is a term I use that conflates two closely related mistakes in reasoning.

One such mistake is the all or nothing fallacy one is either one thing or the other.

The other mistake is the belief that if one part of something is wrong then the whole of it is wrong.

These are known by several other names in works about logical fallacy, but I like the term digital thinking.  Both assume a binary sort of thinking – something either is or is not.  Something is either red of white.   Something either is a democracy or not (my latest interesting discussion).

However, most of life, and especially our social structures and personal lives are analogue.  There is a continuum of possibilities.  In fact, often it is more than one continuum as one possibility branches off and creates its own continuum.  It is why life is often so complex and messy.

For example, in regards to red and white, there is pink.  In fact, there are a range of pinks ranging from more red than white to being almost white, with the dividing line between red/pink/white being a very subjective judgement.

In evolution, a scientific finding that the evolutionary tree of man was incorrect and that this species actually was not our ancestor or that this one was does not disprove evolution.  Evolution consists of multiple strands of evidence with some strands being of more importance than others.  It is not either all correct of none of it is correct.  Changing our views on who our ancestors were based on new fossil evidence is not critical to the fact of evolution since it is so well supported by thousands of other strands of evidence.  Nor was unexpected finding of dinosaur proteins fatal to evolution as some creationists assumed.  It showed, instead, that our ideas of proteins and fossilization was wrong; there was actually very little evidence for our ideas about the possibility of finding proteins in ancient bones whereas there is a great deal of evidence for how ancient those bones were.

The same is true with Climate Change.  Those who deny it like to point to the Antarctic actually growing instead of melting as evidence that climate change is wrong.  Their thinking is that if any part of it is wrong then the whole is.  Which ignores all the other evidence that strongly supports the theory of Climate Change. Part of it can be wrong, but the whole still be correct.

It is not only in the sciences you find this.  You also find it in conversations and judgements about our government and social issues.

To some, if you argue for gun control then you must be for banning all guns and confiscation of such.  All or nothing.  Similar arguments for the other side.  The same holds true for anti-vaccers, GMO, and other issues.  Usually you can find examples from both sides of the issue engaging in this digital sort of thinking.

However, as this is getting longer than I intended, let me cut to the chase.  Hillary Clinton.

I am so freaking tired of having people point to her speeches to Wall Street companies and the donations she gets from big business and say “See, she is not really liberal.  She is no different from Republicans.  From Trump.”

As if her prior actions as Senator and as first lady and throughout her life as well as the positions she takes doesn’t matter in evaluating her.   For the digital thinker, if she takes big business money in any way, shape, fashion, or form then she is like the Republicans.  Digital thinking at its finest – which is not a good thing.

Or they point to  her e mail and say “See, she is not honest, not trustworthy.  Just like Trump.”

As if something is either a lie or the truth with nothing in between.  As if there are no variations of lies and truths, no gradation of truth.  Yet these same people understand perfectly fine when a fact check was mostly true, or partly true or pants on fire.

They act as if there exists a politician who has never spun the truth, emphasizing part of it while ignoring the rest.  Such an art is a necessary part of being a politician and always has been.  To damn Hillary for it but excusing Trump, to damn Hillary saying that her doing so makes her just as bad as Trump without checking how often and how badly – that is digital thinking at its finest.  And that is not good.

As if Hillary’s rating from different fact checking organizations showing she has been the most truthful presidential candidate either Republican or Democrat during this campaign, and one of the more truthful politicians overall does not matter.  She has lied, she has spun the truth, and therefor is like Trump.

As if the mere fact of her doing so makes it unnecessary to look and compare her record with that of Trump’s many problems with truth and reality.

Digital thinking at its finest.  Again so very not a good thing.

Digital thinking leads to mistakes and errors in judgment.  In believing things that are not true.  In dismissing true things as untrue.  Life is too complex for digital thinking to be anything other than an easy road to error.

Were we to follow the way of the digital we would be creationists, we would deny global warming and go full speed ahead on mining and burning coal and to hell with renewable energy.

And it may give us a Trump presidency if we are not careful.

Obviously, this is aimed primarily at Bernie supporters who say that Hillary is as bad as Trump and they are not going to vote for either. And this is where another aspect of digital thinking comes in – wanting it all at once, I can’t get all I want at once so I am not going to do anything at all.

However, progress rarely happens all at once.  It is incremental and gradual.  It has compromises and half measures.  Until such a time as enough changes have accumulated that sudden progress can be made.  Progress is rarely digital.  It is analogue.

No, Hillary cannot give you all you want, but she can take some steps down the path you want.  She has done so in the past.  Her policies for the future contain much of what you want, and the seeds for more to eventually flourish.  She will not give you all you want, no one could given our current political realities.  However, she can give some.

Trump however will  not even take a step down that path he will destroy the path.  He will uproot any seeds for future change that might be planted.  And this is something Bernie Sanders recognizes and why he is supporting Hillary.

I hope that enough of his followers give up their digital views and do the same.

 

 

By the way, as far as I know I am the originator of this term.  If it turns out that I am not, that someone has already used this term in this way, then don’t tell me.  There are times my ego needs a little harmless stroking.

Trump World

I watched part of Trump’s speech on Thursday. Read about the parts I did not see, or saw some video clips. The thing that struck me most forcefully is the picture of America that he painted. Let’s call it Trump World to distinguish it from the real world.

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In Trump world crime is rampant in America and no one can walk the streets safely anymore.

In Trump World America is facing an imminent existential threat from ISIS and terrorism.

In Trump World America’s economy is collapsing and almost totally destroyed.

In Trump World America is despised and loathed not respected even by our allies.

In Trump World America is on its last legs and gasping out its last strangled gasp.

But, that is Trump World.  One that he created out of words; short words, dramatic words, emphatic words, words of lies, of falsehoods, twisted words depicting a twisted reality.  All spouted with vim and vigor and certainty. Words rooted loosely in some bits of reality, but made huge, made big, made worse, made lies.

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Trump World is not the America that I see. It is not the America that is see in the numbers, in the statistics, in my daily life, in reality.

Yes, we have problems. We always have. With countries as with life, there are always problems.  And yes, some of those problems are serious. That too is a constant with countries.  At no time in our history have we not been faced with problems. Serious and numerous problems.  Out time in that regard  is no different than other times.

The fact that there are serious problems facing our nation is nothing new.  Nor is it cause for despair and doom.  The problems we face today, while serous, are not even close to being the worst we have ever faced.

I think of the time I grew up in, the 60s and 70s. While today there are definite and serious issues with our justice system being able to dispense justice impartially and being blind to a person’s race, our racial problems when I was growing up were worse.  Much worse.  And what it took to correct many of those problems entailed more violence, more riots, more disruption even to the extent that the National Guard had to be called to escort children to schools just because they were black..

Compared to racial discord at that time, what we face today is civil. And, like it was then, this discord today is necessary. Yes, it is not comfortable and yes it is at times divisive.  And yes, there is violence when there shouldn’t be, and pain and suffering of victims and their families. But that is part of change. It was when I was growing up and it is now.

Yes, we have blacks being unjustly treated and killed too often. We have police being murdered on the streets. Yet, the number of police killed is down from past years. And although we desperately need to correct the unequal justice we still have, it is better than when I was growing up. And Black Lives Matter a far more peaceful group than many others that existed when I was growing up.

Further, there is more and more dialogue between groups that has resulted in change. Not enough yet, but still there.

And yet Trump would have you believe otherwise.

Our economy is among the strongest in the world. We have recovered from the great recession faster and better than most other nations. And our economy is growing. It is not growing for all, but it is for most. It is also not growing as fast as we would wish, but it is growing.

It is also changing, changes that are the result of our growing technology. And change is painful. But, we are not in danger of economic collapse. Indeed, the world thinks we are a rock of stability that they invest in during times of trouble by buying US bonds. Our currency is the bedrock currency of the world because of their regard for our economy.

Yes, our economy has problems. But we are nowhere near economic collapse as Trump would have you believe.

Crime, crime is not running rampant. Our crime is the lowest it has been since the 60s. There has been an uptick in some cities, but if you look at trends you see ups and downs due to a variety of reasons. The uptick in some cities is not enough to say crime is running rampant, or at least not to say it truthfully. Especially since even counting the uptick, we are still far below the levels of the 90s. As for crime, we have rarely been so safe. But not to hear Trump talk.

ISIS and terrorism. Yes, they are serious challenges. But they are nowhere near an existential threat to the US. ISIS is losing ground in the Middle East. The country they said they were going to create is being whittled away. Their idea of a  powerful global caliphate is being destroyed before it is even created. Which is why they are changing their nature to one like other terror groups. They are changing because we are winning there, so they have to change the battlefield.

But the nature of the threat here in the US has not been direct action from ISIS. Nor has it come from immigrants or refugees. Instead it is the lone wolf terrorist, someone who is acting on their own and who has become radicalized. In fact, most of the attacks both here in the US and in Europe are from citizens. Not outsiders, not immigrants, and not refugees, but citizens.

As for the US terrorist attacks, while horrific and we need to take what measures we can without losing who we are in doing so, they are small scaled, especially when you look at what happens in Turkey, Iraq, and other places.

Yes, terrorism and ISIS is a danger. But not one that is going to destroy us unless we let unreasoning fear guide our actions.

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In other words, America is actually in good shape. Not perfect. There are flaws and problems, some of them being severe. We have many challenges and problems that need to be worked on. And the working out of them is going to be accompanied by pain and sorrow, suffering and hurt. But also by joy as we do solve them and then move on to the next set of problems that our solutions will inevitably create.

I do not recognize the America Trump has created. I look at our past and see the present America in largely better shape than our past. I look at the world, and I see the US holding its own with any other country.

And as for respect, respect for the US is up and strong in most of the world.

When I was growing up we had riots and demonstrations and blood being shed over the war in Vietnam, over the accumulated weight of hundreds of years of racial injustice, over women finding their voice and their power.  Presidents fell.  And yet the United States continued on and did not collapse.

And my times were  far from the most challenging the US has ever faced.

I can only conclude that Donald Trump must believe that the United States has become a wimp if the challenges we face today are going to lead to its imminent collapse.  But then, I don’t really think Trump believes this.  He has created Trump World not because he believes it to be real but because he believes he can profit from it.

Trump’s America is not the one I see or live in. It is a fear plagued vision created by him in order to use fear and anger and hatred to win first the Republican nomination and now trying to win the Presidency. Trump World has very little contact with reality.

I wrote this first as a posting on my Facebook page, but decided to revise it for a blog.  The reason is that Trump World bothers me.  In fact, it frightens me. Actually, it is the fact that so many are starting to live in Trump world instead of the real one that frightens me.  The actions needed to solve the irreality of Trump World would only create a true existential crisis in the real one.

Let me just end this with the fervent hope that we will reject fear, reject anger, reject hatred and reject Trump’s vision of America for one of hope, respect, and reality.

 

Black Live, Blue Lives

DISCLAIMER

Since I have in the past, and will probably again despite this statement, been accused of excusing the acts of individuals by looking at why they did what they did, let me state unequivocally, absolutely and sincerely that those who have recently shot and killed police in Dallas and in Baton Rouge are and should be held responsible for their own actions.  Had they survived their encounter I would have fully supported going after the maximum sentence possible short of the death penalty (which I oppose).   They deserve our utter condemnation for their brutal and inexcusable actions.

Sigh.  I am pretty sure this disclaimer won’t make a lick of difference, but there you go.

 

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There is a relationship between the Black Lives Matter Movement and the recent shootings on police officers.  However, it is not the nice and tidy narrative that many people, especially conservatives, believe.

It is not that there is no problem with racial inequality in either our legal system or in our law enforcement.

It is not that any racial unrest is being fomented by Black Lives Matter/ liberals/Obama/ Hillary or a host of other liberal rabble rousers.

It is not that this is something that can be solved solely by condemning these murderers and cracking down on law and order.

No, that is not the relationship.  Instead, the true picture is something more complex.

The first relationship lies in the fact that there really is a problem with our justice system and law enforcement system in regards to racial equality.   Instead of going into all the data and make this blog way too long, let me refer you to a recent and excellent blog by Libby Anne titled “The White Invisibility of Racism”.

Let me though show this video of two police officers serving an arrest warrant for a man named Michael.  The only problem is that the man they arrest is named Patrick.

Now, to be fair, the police say that this video has been deceptively edited.  They have released the full 30 minute video of this incident.  You can view them here.

A few take aways from this.

First, Patrick did identify himself as Patrick.

Next, although later in the video the officers say they asked for his ID three times, they never did.  They assumed that he was lying and acted on that assumption without asking for his ID.

Ask yourself, would this have been as likely to happen with a white person?   Statistics strongly say no.

The next take away is that they arrested him and took him in even though he was not the person they came to arrest.  Now, this man who had committed no crime, will now have to post bond.  Given that I doubt they have a lot of money, this plays into creating a hardship on them.  If it takes some time to arrange bond and get him out, he could miss work and wind up losing his job.  As I discuss later, this is a domino effect that plays out all too often in the black community.

Statistics show that if he had been white, this probably would not have happened, and if it did there would have been no arrest.

And now that I am thinking about it, there is another take away.  The fact that the police department thinks that there is something in the complete video that vindicates the actions of  these officers.  Since the differences occur after they did not ask for his ID, did not show him the warrant as he requested, and had tased him twice, I think the police are really reaching with that.

I also found the discussion at around the 28:28 mark, between one of the officers and another black man who was trying to explain how their approach instilled fear and helped give rise to some of the actions of Patrick, who was thinking about losing his job and such due to being arrested, informative.  Especially when the police officer says that if he had done nothing wrong he would have nothing to fear.

And this is the issue in a nutshell.  The officers are unaware of their own actions and how they are perceived by the black community.  They honestly thought they had asked for ID when they had not.  And they did not see themselves as being threatening to anyone who had done nothing wrong.  Yet do not see the irony of Patrick having done nothing wrong but being arrested anyway.  And they do not seriously consider the black man’s statement at all about blacks being afraid of police and instead blow it off.

 

When watching this, ask yourself, what do you think would have happened if Patrick had been white?  Would the police have been less likely to do strong arm tactics?  When he said he was Patrick and not Michael would they have been more likely to ask for his ID?   While in some cases they may have acted the same.  In all too many though, they would not.  Being white makes a difference.

And what makes this so “invisible” as Ms. Anne puts it, is that these reactions are unconscious.  These officers did not say lets go harass a black man today.  Instead it is a matter of who they find more threatening.  More suspicious.  Who they find more resistant and how they feel they should deal with that resistance.

This is what causes a black person to be treated differently from a white person on average.

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The other point from Abby’s blog that I liked was that Black Lives Matter was sparked by more than just police shootings of unarmed blacks.  That is only the tip of the iceberg of a full weight of grievances and injustices.

I think about all of this when I hear white people claim that if black people would just comply with police they wouldn’t get in trouble. This isn’t just about black people killed by police. It’s also about all of the times black people are stopped and asked for their ID for no reason whatsoever, all of the times black people are treated by police as inherently criminal, all of the times when black individuals are given longer sentences than white individuals accused of the same crime. It’s about black parents having to give their sons “the talk” to ensure they won’t end up killed by police, and about a population that feels under siege every single day.

As she also states in her blogs, it is the constant being pulled over for no reason.  It is being used as a money stream for cities despite being usually the poorest community, as happened in Ferguson.  It is being followed in a store when whites are not.  It is the accumulation of thousands of grievances.

 

Or consider the case of Philando Castile, the black man who was shot and killed in St Paul Minnesota, who had been stopped by police at least 46 times (of which only six were items the police would notice from outside the car).   His life is a perfect example of how this system harms blacks in several regards – emotionally, always being suspected, being harassed, the one who gets caught and fined due to the color of your skin.  And then the financial impact, the always having to find money to pay fines, not being able to afford insurance because of this and then being fined again.  Losing your job due to lost time due to being in jail for not being able to pay your fine.

As in Ferguson, this was a money stream for the city based upon those who could least afford to pay.

From the NPR story on this, “The Driving Life and Death of Philando Castile”.

This week, the St. Anthony Police Department released statistics on its traffic stops. They show that officers issue citations at the same rate as neighboring suburbs, but police disproportionately arrest African-Americans.

About 7 percent of the residents in the area patrolled are African-American, but this year they make up about 47 percent of arrests. The data show that since 2011, African-Americans have been making up a larger percentage of arrests.

………..

Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve, a professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Temple University and the author of Crook County, which documents the problems in the criminal justice system of Chicago, said Castile was the “classic case” of what criminologists have called “net widening,” or the move by local authorities to criminalize more and more aspects of regular life.

“It is in particular a way that people of color and the poor are victimized on a daily basis,” Gonzalez Van Cleve said.

Many times, both Gonzalez Van Cleve and Sandvick agree, the system leaves citizens with no good choices — having to pick, for instance, whether to pay a fine or pay for car insurance.

There are three things that make this very real problem so easy to ignore and pretend that it doesn’t exist for so many.

First, as I said, it is not an explicit sort of racism usually.  It is more in the unconscious ways risks and decisions are made.  Unconscious choices that wind up benefiting the white person but harming the black.

The second issue is that this shows up in statistics most clearly.  On a day by day basis some whites, some blacks, some Hispanics and so forth are stopped, arrested, and fined.  But, at the end of the day, the ones who are stopped most often, who are fined most often are the blacks.  And they know this.  Instead of being a statistic, for them it is a frustrating reality.

Finally, the third thing that makes this so easy to ignore is that police departments vary greatly across this country.  This is a widespread problem, but it is not universal to each and every police department.  So the fact that one does well with race relations makes a convenient excuse for many to ignore the many more who do not do well.

The good news is that this is starting the change.  More and more cities are learning and establishing polices and training to improve.  Dallas has done well with this, implementing many of the recommendations from President Obama’s commission on police.  They stressed taking the time to evaluate and de-escalate situations.  They provided training on implicit biases.  They worked to establish ties to the community.  And when shootings occur they are quick to get in touch with the community and are open and forthcoming on the whats, whos and what is happening now of a shooting investigation.  Because of this, they have not experienced the riots and violent protest other places, such as Ferguson, that were not doing this.  Dallas is far from perfect and  has more work to do, but they are going in the right direction.

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In fact, before the tragic shootings in Dallas that took the lives of five police officers, many of the Black Lives Movement and the police were taking pictures together and talking.

And this is the first relationship between the Black Lives Matter movement and police.  It was the inequalities in our system, most especially in our justice and law enforcement ones, that created the need for Black Lives Matter.  The very public shootings of unarmed blacks by police was the spark but the tender had been accumulating and building for decades and longer.

Black Lives Matter is needed to keep this issue front and center because so many deny implicit racism’s very existence.  Without their pressure this is a problem, an injustice, that would be remedied only with an explosion of even worse violence.  And only after more black lives have been harmed.

 

 

As for the other relationship between the Black Lives Matter and police, it inflames emotions.  This is unavoidable.  The emotions are there and for better or worse, Black Lives Matter helps provide a focus for those emotions.

For the majority this will have the result of driving them to make speeches, vote, support candidates, push for laws and policies, etc.  But, at times, for some, the rhetoric becomes too heated and slides over the line.  And then for even fewer, but too many nonetheless, it slides over to taking lethal action against those seen as oppressors.

In other words, the Black Lives Matter movement provides a focus for anger and frustration.  For most, that is good in that it calls them to take action to change things.  For a few others, it instead leads to action of another type, lethal and murderous.

Despite this, Black Lives Matter is necessary.  Just as police are despite the issues mentioned.

I do know that if we ignore its message, do not deal with the problems that created this movement, the problems will only get worse.  Today there are serious issues in regards to racial inequality, but in the 50s and 60s there were even more serious and resulted in more violence than we are experiencing today.  If we want to avoid that then we need to have politicians, law enforcement, black leaders, Black Lives Matter leaders meeting to discuss their differences and issues, and finding common ground upon which to work.  President Obama facilitated just such a meeting after the Dallas shootings.  A meeting that most say was productive and worthwhile, but whose true worth can only be determined by follow up meetings and actions.

Some of the needed actions to my mind are:

  • First and foremost, acknowledge that there are real issues with racial bias in our law enforcement system.
  • Work together with law enforcement and others to find ways to improve. There has been some good movement here and there in this regards.   But so far it is in a minority of police organizations and needs to become the majority.  For something about what Black Lives Matters is promoting in regards to change, click on this link to a good piece from Atlantic Magazine about it.  Or this piece from the Black Lives Matter site.
  • Watch the language carefully to avoid unnecessarily inflaming passions too far. And continue to condemn the actions of those who murder police, or advocate doing so.

Let me briefly mention one common argument that is used to denigrate the Black Lives Matter movement.  Black on black violence, that if you are so concerned about blacks deal with the bigger issue of black on black violence.

This is something I addressed in my blog “On the Irritating Wrongness of the Black on Black Violence Counter-argument“.  Instead of rehashing all of this again, I have provided a handy little link to that blog.  Let me though just summarize the problems with this argument.

  • It assumes that you cannot be working on both at the same time.
  • It assumes that both issues are the same. They are not.  Black on black violence is indeed terrible.  But, they are not the police, not the people who are supposed to unbiasedly enforce the law equally and to provide protection for the citizens.  The former is a terrible crime.  The latter harms our societal structure.
  • Related to the above, it assumes that you cannot be outraged over unjustified killings of blacks, about the racial bias targeting blacks unless you get black on black violence down. It further assumes that there is no link between the two – poverty, lack of education, etc.
  • It assumes that no one is working on reducing black on black violence. In fact, there is much being done to decrease black on black violence, much of it successful.  This includes, by the way, sit ins and demonstrations in many different cities.  Just because they are not getting as much news coverage nationally does not mean they are not happening.
  • It assumes that there has been no improvement in regards to black on black violence. The reality is that there has been improvement.  However, in the last 20 years there has been a decrease in black on black violence.  The victimization rate has fallen from 39.4 homicides per 100,000 in 1991 to roughly 20 homicides in 2008.  And the offending rate for blacks has dropped from 51.1 per 100,000 offenders in 1991 to 24.7 offenders per 100,000 in 2008.

All of these are dealt with in more detail and with supporting links in my blog about this.  However, there is one other problem with this attempt to use black on black violence to denigrate the Black Lives Matter movement.

No one denies that black on black violence exists.  No one denies that black on black violence is a real problem.  However, too many people do deny that implicit racism and institutional racism are affecting our legal system.  Too many people deny that this is a real problem.  Too many people would rather remain ignorant and let the pressure of continued injustice build.

And that is why Black Lives Matter matters.

Protection by Suicide

Republican presidential candidate Gingrich speaks at a meet and greet at the Willow Ridge Golf Course in Fort Dodge,

“We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background and if they believe in sharia they should be deported

…………

“Look, the first step is you have to ask them the questions. The second step is you have to monitor what they’re doing on the internet. The third step is — let me be very clear — you have to monitor the mosques. I mean, if you’re not prepared to monitor the mosques, this whole thing is a joke.” Gingrich on Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

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“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” campaign press release

 

“Do you think we might need to register Muslims in some type of database, or note their religion on their ID?” Yahoo Reporter

“We’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely. We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to have to look very, very carefully.” Donald Trump response

……….

“Should there be a database or system that tracks Muslims in this country?”  MSNBC reporter

“There should be a lot of systems. Beyond databases. I mean, we should have a lot of systems.”  Donald Trump response.

 

And with these statements both Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump have stabbed with intent to kill that which both have professed to love and protect – the Constitution

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 “…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States..” Article 6  United States Constitution

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”  First Amendment, United States Constitution

 

An integral part of being an American is being able to live your life in accordance with the dictates of your conscience and religion.

For those Jews so inclined there are rabbinical courts.  For those Catholics so inclined there are diocesan tribunals.   For other religious groups both Christian and not, there are organizations that, for  those so inclined, will resolve marital issues, individual disputes, business disputes, rule on inheritances, and more – all based on the precepts of that religion.

All of this is allowed by the free exercise clause as long  as they meet the following standards:

  • Participation is voluntary on the part of everyone.
  • What is decided does not violate US laws.
  • What is decided does not violate the US Constitution.

This is part of what being free to live in accordance with your conscience and religion means.  It applies not to just a few, not just to some, not just to most, but it applies to all Americans.

But Gingrich, Trump, and too many others wish to deny this Constitutional right to our Muslim citizens.  They would say to these Americans,

“No, you cannot follow your religious laws under the same guidelines as others follow theirs.  In fact, you are not allowed to follow them at all.  And yes, we are instituting a religious test on who is considered a full and good citizen of the United States.

And yes, although we may deny it, in doing so we are destroying that  which we profess to love and swore to protect.

And yes, by doing so we show that our true love is to the United States as a nation first and its ideals only a distant second.  And preferably a nation of Christians with a few Jews tossed in.”

 

Oh, what joy this must give our enemies who have charged us with hypocrisy, to have their once lies now made true.

Oh, what pain it gives seeing too many of our leaders recommending suicide as a way to protect our nation.