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One of my pet peeves are people who believe in the literal meaning of almost anything. The argument is that people know what the words mean so there is no excuse for not understanding the clear and obvious meaning of whatever. Where I live the Bible and the Constitution are the most common items where this belief holds sway.  But it can hold true on other topics and areas too.

Just recently, a person used this argument on me in regards to the U S. Constitution. What follows is what I said to this person, in a slightly more organized and cleaned up (grammar and spelling, not what you are thinking) version of that response.

 

DictionaryYes, words do have meanings. However, when those words are applied to specific situations, fuzziness results. For those interested in science, consider it sort of a reverse quantum effect where instead of becoming more defined when measured or looked at, as happens with atomic particles, words become less defined and more fuzzy.

To illustrate this, let’s take a non-political, non-religious, and, hopefully, non-controversial example – colors. Haven’t most of us at some point disagreed with someone on the color of some object?  Is that dress red or pink, or is that car black or grey or Color testspossibly dark green. Some of you may have, at one time or another, looked at one of those  color perception tests where they lay out a large array of color circles– say blue on one end and green on the other with small differences going on in between. At what point do you say this circle is blue green, or that one green?  Yes, people can agree on the definitions of words, on the definitions of colors, but once you start applying that definition to what people are looking at, disagreements come about.

And that is the crux of the issue. Yes, people understand the dictionary definitions of words. But, in applying those definitions to the world and that understanding fuzzes.

It gets worse.

Words make sentences. Sentences make paragraphs. And paragraphs make pages.  Each rise in the number and ordering of words also increases the complexity of the meaning of those individual words since each word is modified and changed by the other words around it.   Because of this, when these masses of words are applied to the real world, greater fuzziness results.

Now, when talking about the Constitution, people who make this literalist sort of argument often also say that the reason people do not read the words as written is due to an agenda or politics or being lazy and not wanting to go through the process that the founders of this country created to change the Constitution.

However, these people never seem to consider the fact that the actual men who wrote Constitution-1250x650the Constitution disagreed, often strongly disagreed, on what those words meant and how they should be applied to real world situations.  One of many examples of this was the creation of a national bank.  Alexander Hamilton believed it to be Constitutional.  James Madison believed it to be unconstitutional.  Yet both men were there and helped in creating the Constitution. This fact alone should be strong evidence that it is not just a matter of reading the words and following them.

For another example, read a good biography of George Washington, especially his years as our first President.  He frequently worried and discussed what this or that passage of the Constitution meant and how it should be applied with his staff and advisors.  Although composed of well defined words, their meaning was not clear and simple to him. And he was the President of the Constitutional Convention.  Again, strong evidence that it is not just a simple matter of reading the words.  Words become fuzzy when applied to everyday life and reality.

This means that a person’s views of the world – of law, of the issues, etc. – are going to play a role in his understanding of what the Constitution means and says in regards to this application of its words or that application of its words.  There is no way it cannot.  But, and this is also important to understand, this does not mean that anything goes.  Fuzzy is not the same as having no shape or form.  A fuzzy boundary is not the same as no boundary.  Fuzzy means that the edges of meanings of the words are not clear and sharp and distinct, but are, instead, vague and blurred. This becomes even more true when they interact with the fuzzy meanings of other words.  In other words,  there is a great deal of room for honest disagreement and dispute.

As a final example of this fuzziness, let me use this a bit of this person’s own words in his comment to me; “we the people”.

This is a phrase used many times by people all along the political and social spectrum.  And each word of this phrase is easy to understand. And even the whole when looked at abstractly can be reasonably understood. But then try applying it to the real world, as I did with this person.

“What does that mean?  Do you include those who believe and think like me?  Or just those who think like you?  Do you mean everyone, rich and poor, educated and non-educated, communist, KKK member, John Birch Society, farmer, scientist, Muslim, Christian, Atheist, and Jew?  Or is its meaning more restrictive?”

Puzzled

 

I am sorry sir, but your meaning is not clear.

 

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Often America is called a melting pot, a place where people from different countries come with different languages, beliefs, and customs and are then made into one people.

However I don’t see this.   And don’t think I would care for what I saw if I did see it.

I don’t see this because in traveling through my home city, through America, in reading my local paper and listening to those friends and acquaintances at work, I can see that we are not melted into one people.

Just within my own hometown city I see many different communities – Latin American, black, Asian, Muslim, Hindu, Irish, German, and more.  All with their own celebrated customs and foods, dress and religion.  Many with voices leavened with accents, pronunciations, and words from their ancestral country.

I see people with short hair, long hair, no hair; people in jeans and in suits, in saris and burqas, in hijabs and short skirts, in robes and shorts. I hear people speaking in different languages, eating different foods, going to different houses of worship, or none at all. I hear people expressing different thoughts and views.

A melting pot implies that these differences are melted out and that we are all then just one homogenous people.  But we are not.  Instead we are a diverse people.

 

And that is good.

 

It is our diversity that gives us new ideas and new ways of doing things.  It promotes innovation and an ability to adapt to a changing world.  It provides us with a pool in which we can dip in order to better understand the world.

It is our diversity that makes us interesting.  Different foods, different and wonderful customs and ways of life.  New words to use. Different ways of thinking and viewing the world.

Instead of a melting pot we are an orchestra.  And the music we create together, that is America.

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Manchester International Roots Orchestra

Strings over here, woodwinds there, and drums over to the right.  Lets add the sitars next to the harps, the mandolins and banjoes next to the piccolos.  And the hurdy gurdy accordion next to the piano.  The Kora and Kalimba playing next to the tin whistle and kuuchir.

And let each play the music that is dear to them.  Let each play what they believe it means to be an American.

Oh, there is a framework for the music, a score if you will.   It is the Constitution and a belief in freedom and liberty. And of human rights. But the score is a loose and largely improvised one, one that is made to promote and protect diversity, not uniformity.

Of course the ideal would be that together we create a music that is beautiful and harmonious.  The truth is though that often there are discordances in the music – tones and notes out of key with others.  Differing rhythms and scales. During the worse of times each instrument, each player seems to be playing his own tune without regards to the others, and a cacophony is created instead of music.

But out of that cacophony, eventually,  a new music is created, a new variation on a theme of America.

 

 

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This blog has been lurking around in the corners of my mind for quite a while now, ever since July 1, 2016 when I passed a church bulletin calling for all to come to its celebration of God and America. This sign bothered me for several reasons.  Of course, me being an atheist will probably cause most to figure out some of the reasons it bothered me. But only some. As for the rest, well, the rest I thought would be surprising and I hope interesting.

It bothered me because not only is such a mingling of church and state bad for the state, but it is just as bad for the church.

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Let me first say that this church, and the many others that I saw with a similar message, have every right to do so.  However, not everything that is legal and that people have a right to do is also wise. And in this blog I plan to discuss why it is not wise for a religion, in this case Christianity, to mix religion and nationalism. To do so, I will speak as if I were a much younger me, young enough to still be a Christian.

Let’s start with a question – what is the purpose of the Church?

Answer, to spread the good news of the Gospels, the news about Jesus and his redemptive death and resurrection.  The church was also meant to provide support and teaching to fellow Christians, and to those who come to its doors seeking. And the church was also meant to serve as a moral guide and conscience of people, of societies, of nations, of the world.

While spreading the news of the Gospels might be easier done when part of a government, as part of the inside group, it does so at the expense of corrupting the church, and of causing great pain and suffering to others outside of that church.

A church is not the state.  Nor is it meant to be.  It is not meant to be a supporter of the state, an auxiliary of the state, a co-ruler with the state.

A church is meant to be an outsider in regards to government.

Christianity was born an outsider.

Jesus was born an outsider with Mary being pregnant before being married

Jesus was born into and preached to a people who were outsiders, the Jews.

Jesus served the outsiders among the Jews; tax collectors, the lepers, the unclean, the sinners.

An outsider preaching to a people of outsiders, that is part of what gave Jesus’ message its power.   His message was not to the rich and powerful, although it was theirs for the taking should they choose to listen.  His message was to the poor and powerless.

His message was not how to create a civil society, how to govern a country or state or city.  His message was about God’s love for humanity and how best to receive and spread that love.  It was a message of hope, not political positions.

Jesus, as the outsider, accepted all, but did not change his message, his standards, nor himself for any.

Jesus changed the world.

From its birth to its early years, Christianity was a religion off outsiders looking in.  Often ridiculed, sometimes persecuted, they nonetheless still for the most part, held firm to their standards and beliefs.  And they grew.

And then came the great split. No, not the Catholic and the Protestant split. Nor the disagreements among Christians, which had been present since the beginning as can be seen in the arguments about the nature of Jesus and his relation to God.

No, the great split I am referring to concerns the split from being outsiders to becoming insiders. The conversion of Emperor Constantine transformed Christianity from being a religion of outsiders to being a religion of the insiders, of those with power and money. Or rather, one particular set of Christians became insiders.  As part of the bargain, with Constantine, they had to have a uniform set of beliefs.  So, one set modified some of their beliefs and won, the others became persecuted and died, along with the pagans.

As Paul Johnson wrote in his A History of Christianity:

How could the Christian Church, apparently quite willingly, accommodate this weird megalomaniac in its theocratic system? Was there a conscious bargain? Which side benefited most from this unseemly marriage between Church and State? Or, to put it another way, did the empire surrender to Christianity, or did Christianity prostitute itself to the empire?”

Now, instead of criticizing the government and society, Christianity and the government tyndale-martyrdom-resized-600were one, and actions against the government were also actions against Christianity, and actions against Christianity were also actions against the government.  Given this, how could most Christians criticize any government action, no matter how bad or how flawed?  How could any government allow any deviation from the established religion, no matter how well argued and supported?

They couldn’t

An attack on the religion supported by the state was an attack on the state, and an attack vc006367on the state was an attack on the religion.  Such was the root cause of most of the religious violence and persecution throughout the years; the Inquisition, the forced conversion and persecution of the Jews, Catholics vs. Protestants, Protestants vs. Puritans, Puritans vs. Quakers, and on and on and on.

In addition to the violence against people, was the violence done to beliefs and morals as Churches assumed stately power. Compromises with principles and beliefs were common, as were the flat out ignoring of such principles and beliefs.

This violence against people and against the teachings of Jesus and of God is probably why the first person to propose an absolute and total separation of church and state was a Puritan theologian and the founder of the Baptist Church in America – Roger Williams. And he lived up to that ideal when he founded the state of Rhode Island.

The United States was the first secular government in the world. Something that the writers of the Constitution did intentionally, and with great forethought.

1st-Amendment_eroded_4

Their foresight and awareness of history is something lacking today by too many Americans, and is evidenced by so much more than just the signs I saw that inspired this blog.  This lack of forethought and awareness is seen whenever anyone:

  • Claims that the United States is a Christian country. And then advocates for laws to make it so – prayer in the schools, recognition of the Bible as the state book, etc.
  • Work to limit or take away the rights of those who are not the right sort of Christian or believer.
  • Tells Muslims to go home, even those who were born in the United States. And then tries to make it so.
  • Whenever permits are denied to religious groups due to their beliefs.
  • When President H. Bush commented that atheist could not be patriots due to not believing in God.
  • When Trump sends out a White House bulletin in which he states “America is a Nation of believers. As long as we have faith in each other, and trust in God, we will succeed!”

We, as a nation, as a people, have never been very good at remembering. But, today, that

two-kingdom-flag-church-cross-copy

lack of memory, of awareness, seems stronger than ever.  The evangelical support forTrump shows how far too many Christians and Christian organizations, are willing to go in dealing with the devil in order to gain political power.  And how many of their values and morals, and how much of the teachings of Jesus they are willing to ignore or give up in their quest for political power.

 

I think that they need to go back and read the history of religion, and of what happens when it becomes part of the state.  Some Madison, or Jefferson, or several others would be good.  But, perhaps, it would be best if they rediscovered the writings and thought of Roger Williams.  Before they manage to harm not just people, but the Constitution that will allow such harm to, eventually, be redressed.

 

 

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While Obama was President I signed up to receive the White House Memo, a daily emailed news bulletin on items about President Obama’s activities and stances. I still get it now that Trump is President.  The other day, there was this little bit in it.

index

“Today’s announcement of his “Comprehensive Plan for Reforming the Federal Government and Reducing the Federal Civilian Workforce” returns the Federal government to its primary purpose, to provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty. “

So, Trump considers one of the primary purposes of the Federal government is to “promote the general Welfare”.

Wow, can’t tell that by his actions.

However, I am going to take him at his words and accept that he believes that what he is promoting is for the general welfare of the American people.  Hey, what can I say, I am just that sort of guy.

So, being that sort of guy, what does taking Trump at his word tell me about Trump.

Well, looking just at his budget proposals, it tells me that Trump’s idea of promoting the general welfare of the American people consists of just one primary metric – money.  What is worse, it is a short sighted, immediate measure of money.  He has no concept of investing in the future, or of what the future costs of an action might be.  He only looks at the monetary bottom line right now, right at this moment in time.

Wow, no wonder he had so many bankruptcies.

Looking at his budget, you see several examples of this sort of thinking (and during his campaign it cropped up constantly, such as in his initial evaluation of NATO – although now, thanks to Trump of course, NATO has been made current and relevant).   For example, his budget regarding medical research and public health.  Trump proposes cutting the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget by 20%.  Further, the Obamacare repeal, which Trump has taken up again, would reduce the CDC by 12%, and his budget rejiggers how it’s money is used in a way that will lower the amount again.

These organizations deal with such national issues as bioterrorism and large disease outbreaks. They also though deal with a host of both national local health issues in communities across the US, from diabetes and heart disease, to cancer and arthritis.

Diabetes, to mention just one area, is expected to affect about 1/3 of the US population by 2050.  That will be a huge cost on people and on businesses.  Cutting the research for ways to prevent and better treat or cure diabetes will save us money now, but cost us much much more in a few years.

Or maybe not even within a few years.  According to a 2016 study the NIH alone sends funds to over 2,600 institutions within the United States.  This creates more than 313,000 full and part time jobs.

So, what do you think is going to happen to those jobs if these organizations lose a significant piece of their funding?  Even worse, this money is used to buy equipment and supplies from various businesses.  What do you imagine is going to happen to jobs in those industries if these cuts go through?

How does Trump propose to make up those lost jobs?

How does Trump overlook that these programs are a direct benefit to the welfare of the American people?

Part of the answer is that Trump is not concerned with any impact other than money being spent right now.  What cutting these items will mean in the future, even near term future, is no concern of his.  What these cuts will to the lives  and health of millions of Americans is of no concern to him.  The money right now is all that he focuses on.

The same holds true with is actions in regards to our environment and to climate change.  A new study came out about the negative health effects that climate change is having on us in the United States already.  And this doesn’t even address the problems cities and coastal communities are having with the rising sea levels caused largely by climate change.

The same sort of thinking is seen throughout his budget and his actions.  Yes, there can be cuts, and keeping jobs should not be the primary interest in determining budgets.  But it should be a significant concern.  And there needs to be carefully thought out justifications for those cuts and an appreciation of the ramifications of those cuts, all of the ramifications and not just the money.  However, thinking is not one of Trump’s strengths.

But, there is more .

It is important to remember that the United States consists of over 318 million people.  So, which group of American’s welfare are we going to take care of?  With 318 million people, welfares are going to conflict.  Whose welfare a President chooses and how they go about it says a great deal about that President.

So, what about Trump then?  Whose welfares does he look after first?  And how does he fit priority with all the other welfares in this nation of ours?

I think Trump’s budget proposals start to give an idea of that.  But, just to build up the suspense, I am going to allow a little white space to accumulate while you think and ponder on this question – whose welfare is Trump going to look after above all others.  A hint:  it involves money…again.

OK, enough white space. In case you haven’t guessed, consider Trump’s executive order  halting the implementation of a rule that requires financial advisers to act in the best interests of their clients.  Currently financial advisers do not have to, and often do not, act in the best interests of their clients.  Instead they often promote investments that will help them out whether those investments are best for their client or not.

So, it seems that Trump is most concerned with the welfare not of the common people, not the everyday citizen, not with those struggling, but, instead, with big business and investors.  The money people.

A look at his cabinet also reveals this to be true. This impression is further supported by a look at his cabinet and advisors.  With a few exceptions, business people with ties to the biggest businesses, and the wealthy seem to be his primary consideration in picking them, not their qualifications and knowledge of whatever they have been put in charge of, or of government and of how it works.

So, yes, Trump is concerned with the welfare of the American people.  But, his view of what the welfare consists of is a limited view, a pinched view focused solely on money and in the moment. It is almost a Scroogian sort of view, if Scrooge (pre-spirits of course) had also been an egotistical narcissist.  It is also a concern mainly with that population of the American people who are big businesses and who have money.

The rest of us can just go get screwed, which is what is happening right now,

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INTRO:

In the past we have had superheroes who flew, who possessed amazing strength, astounding agility, could stretch and duplicate.  Superman, Spiderman, Batman & Captain America were the heroes we read about in comic books, fantasy universes superimposed over our own real world.

Today though, we need a new hero.  One firmly rooted in reality and our world, because our foe is the politician who lives in a fantasy world, a fantasy world that he is trying to impose upon our own.  And, if successful, will usher in a time of pain and suffering upon the innocents, and will wreck this once great country.

His tool for accomplishing this goal?  The lie.  And, thus is born Truth Matters Person.  Unlike most prior superheroes, Truth Matters Person has no set age or sex or gender identity or race or religion.  Truth Matters Person consists of everyday people who look for and do not turn away from truth, and then are not afraid to tell that truth to all.

All of these stories contain only part of the truth, a necessity in order to achieve brevity.  However, at the end of each there will be links to the more complete truth.  Also, all words spoken by Trump in these stories are actual quotes from his tweets and his speeches.

Episode 1:   The Dangerous Hordes of Refugees

2ff1cd0ecda4a9a2b839be9fb4611b56“Refugees from Syria are now pouring into our great country. Who knows who they are – some could be ISIS. Is our president insane?”  “Refugees from Syria over 10k plus more coming. Lots young males, poorly vetted.”

No Donald.  The truth of the matter is that we do not take in many refugees at all asian_girl_vol__1_by_animegamer001compared to other countries.  Canada has taken in 32,400 for example.  And this is out of 4.9 million Syrian refugees.

Of those that the United States has taken in, 72% are either women or children under the age of 14.

22868475614_e0f545173a_bBut, but, but the vetting, there is no vetting.   “Altogether, under the Clinton plan, you’d be admitting hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East with no system to vet them…”

I’m glad you brought that up Donald.  The truth of the matter is that we have an extremely asian_girl_vol__1_by_animegamer001thorough vetting system for refugees, more thorough than any other in the world.   It takes on average 18 to 24 months for a refugee to go through this process.

It starts with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees interviewing and checking refugees and deciding which ones should be forwarded to the US as a potential refugee for the United States.  From there, the refugee has to pass numerous interviews from several agencies, their biometric data collected and checked against several security and law enforcement data bases, more interviews, and more checks.  During this process the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department,  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services,  Department of State, and the National Counterterrorism Center check their identity and backgrounds against several databases.

The link provided below by Natasha Hall, whose job was to vet these refugees, is an interesting read and highly recommended.  Often those countries that many are claiming do not have enough documentation –  such as Iraq and Syria –  do have more than enough to properly check people out.  And, if there is not enough documentation on a particular candidate, then that person does not get through.

Further, there are medical evaluations done, and towards the end of the process, the refugees have to attend a Cultural Orientation to teach them about practices and customs here in the United States.  By the way, once in, they are not just let loose.  Instead, various different agencies whose purpose is to help the refugee settle in and find jobs meet them and guide them during this initial period.

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c07c45_61a2c43deb564d6fa3857650cbe3858f.jpg_srz_1903_1269_85_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srzWe “are letting tens of thousands of people come in from Syria and nobody knows who these people are and a lot of those people are ISIS.” “We have no idea who we are letting in. You’ve seen what happened.”

 

Donald, a lie does not become truth just because it is repeated.  I have already shown you that we do know who we are letting into our country.  And, the truth is, that we have seenasian_girl_vol__1_by_animegamer001 what has happened by letting these Syrian refugees in.   We save lives, and give people who are suffering and afraid and lost a chance to create a new home.

And despite the claims that these refugees are a burden on our economy, they have proven to be a benefit.  As the PBS article linked to at the bottom notes, they add to the labor market and add needed skills.  As the US News article notes, also linked to at the bottom, while Cleveland spent $4.8 million dollars settling refugees into their area, they wound up creating an economic benefit of $48 million dollars through increased demand for goods and services and because refugees start up new businesses that hire people.

As for the danger they pose, so far there have been no fatal attacks by any Syrian refugee in the United States.  As the Atlantic article notes, also linked to at the bottom,  over the last 40 years the United States has accepted 3.25 million refugees.  Only 20 of them have been convicted of attempting or committing terrorist acts in the United States.  Further, only three Americans have been killed in attacks by refugees, and these were by Cuban refugees during the 1970’s.

Due to our already extreme vetting system, refugees  pose no more danger to you and to the citizens of the US than any other citizen.  In fact, most of the attacks carried out by Muslims in the United States have been by permanent residents or native born citizens who had become radicalized.

The truth is, instead of being afraid of the refugees, we should be welcoming them.  Instead of turning the United States into a Fortress of Solitude and Isolation, we should live up to our reputation of welcoming the weary and embrace our common humanity.  We should be showing the world that we have the courage and decency to act upon our empathy for those in need instead of allowing overwrought fear to cause us to spread hatred and rejection.

Ka pow

And the Truth Shall Keep Us Free!

To learn more both for personal satisfaction and in order to better spread the truth, check out these links.

On the demographics of the Syrian refugees,

From Migration Policy

http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/syrian-refugees-united-states

From the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

http://www.unhcr.org/en-us

http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php

Good article about Syrian refugees by US News

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2016-12-19/countries-hosting-the-highest-proportion-of-syrian-refugees

More information about our refugee vetting system.

Here is the article by Natasha Hall, the former immigration official whose job was to vet refugees.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/02/01/refugees-are-already-vigorously-vetted-i-know-because-i-vetted-them/?utm_term=.304f0cda8b00

From the US Department of State, the graphic at the bottom of the article provides a very good guide to the process.

https://www.state.gov/j/prm/ra/admissions/

The New York Times provides a simpler version of the same graphic I mentioned above about the vetting process.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/29/us/refugee-vetting-process.html

And here is an article by a refugee who went through the process.

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/01/i-went-through-americas-extreme-vetting-214703

On the dangers of refugees. 

Here is an Atlantic article about the “dangers’ of refugees.

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/01/trump-immigration-ban-terrorism/514361/

And one from CNN on the same subject.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/29/us/refugee-terrorism-trnd/

On the economic impact of refugees,

An article from US News

https://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2015/09/15/would-syrian-refugees-be-an-economic-boon-or-burden

And from PBS

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/making-sense/whats-the-economic-impact-of-refugees-in-america/

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Finally, a short blog.  At least, shorter than the other two.

First and foremost:

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Next:

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Now, big broad dramatic actions, while nice, are not necessary and are not what is going to turn things around.  It will be the actions of millions of people working on mundane and often boring tasks that will turn things around.  It will be the actions of millions of people donating time and money to organizations that work to protect our rights, our economy, our schools, our environment, our nation that will turn things around.  It will be us, the majority, who will turn things around.

National groups are nice, but look local too.  The Republican conservatives who support Trump control too many states, and that needs to change.

Write letters to your local paper, to your elected representatives at all levels from city to state to national.  This means be aware of what is happening both nationally and locally.  Join in local organizations that are working to improve the environment, poverty, homelessness, civil rights, and all of those things that are most in danger now.   If you are up to it, get involved in local boards on different subjects and problems.  Volunteer to testify on issues that most concern you – locally in city councils to testifying before state committees.

 

For myself, I have never registered as a Democrat or Republican, preferring to be considered an Independent.  And early one there were Republicans who I could and did vote for.  However, those have vanished over the years as the Republican Party became more radically conservative and radically right religious.

So, for the first time in my life, I will become a registered Democrat and work with the local party here in Beaumont.  There are other things I will be doing, and there are a great many groups and organizations that you could become a part of.  Here is just a short and not even remotely exhaustive list of them linked to their websites, in no particular order.

 

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Common Cause

National Center for Science Education

Texas Freedom Network –  for those living in Texas, this is a group I have worked with before and will become more active in now.

Planned Parenthood

Sierra Club

Friends of the Earth

National Organization for Women

League of Women Voters

American Civil Liberties Union

Southern Poverty Law Center

Center for Responsive Politics

Campaign Zero

Black Lives Matter

 

This is not a complete listing by far.  It barely scratches the surface in fact and doesn’t even cover all the areas of concern.  Look and find something that fits your interests and greatest concerns.

And, perhaps most important of all, remember we are all Americans.  We are all human.  Look at your neighbor, at your town, your city, your county, your parish, your state, and your country, and be aware of whatever threatens your neighbors well being whether it involves civil liberties and equal treatment under the law, the environment in which we all share, education or any of host of other areas that look like they may well be under attack during a Trump Presidency.

Because of this, of our shared humanity and identity as Americans, seriously consider even going beyond if things go badly.  If the Trump administration starts a registry for Muslims, register as Muslims.  If President Trump voids the Dream Act, write and call and protest – demonstrations and marches in solidarity with those who are most affected.  If you are white, go ahead and march in a Black Lives Matter protest.  If you are black, then demonstrate in support of that 18 year old American college student brought here from Mexico when she was 3 but being deported now, if you are an Atheist march with and in support of the American Muslims and the refugees.  Let your voice and presence be heard and seen in as many ways as possible.

Be aware and act.   And vote.  Vote in local elections.  In state elections.  And in National ones.  And, hopefully, we can blunt the damage that I fear is coming.  And in 2016 start to not only blunt but turn it around.

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In my first blog on this series I went over why I did not believe a Trump presidency would degenerate into a dictatorship.  What I will be going over here are what I consider to be the more realistic fears of what a Trump Presidency will bring.

I do not know if any or all of these will happen as I am waiting for some actual policies and actions on Trump’s part.  And to see how Congress, the courts, and the public respond to them. However, based on his past comments, statements, and actions during the campaign and based upon his current tweets and actions, his calls to foreign leaders, his refusal to listen to experts and those with experience, and his appointments so far, I tend to be more pessimistic on how bad it is going to be rather than optimistic.   What actually happens though depends on a large number of things interacting in complex ways, and until we actually see how they work out when Trump actually assumes the office, it is hard to say how bad.

 

Race and Civil Rights

While there will be no government actions against minorities (except possibly Muslims), there will be an increase in private groups and organizations and in individual actions against blacks and Hispanics.  The federal government will no longer be willing to fully investigate these incidents and will definitely not investigate possible instances of bias and discrimination among law enforcement or government agencies and businesses.  This will result in a greater distrust of the police and of government overall by minorities than we have now, with increased tension and outbreaks of violence.   And this administration most definitely will not be interested in looking at such things as bias in hiring, in employment, and other such places.

As for Muslims, there may well be some sort of registry.  I do not think that it will advance to actual internment camps though, there is too much opposition to that, even among many Republicans.  But, registration, yes.  Also, quite possibly intensified surveillance of Muslim individuals and groups just because they are Muslim and not due to any real intelligence.

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Just as bad as the registration though is the ill thought out comments from President Trump on Muslims and terrorism, and from his administration and many Republicans.  Comments that will sow distrust and fear that will likely result in actions by individuals and groups against Muslims – protests against Muslims, Mosques, etc.  Add to this efforts by many state and local governments to limit their freedom of worship by refusing them permits to build Mosques and cemeteries and schools, or to limit the wearing of the burqa.  And guess what, a possible increase in recruitment for Islamic terrorist groups and an increase in lone wolf incidents from Muslims due to these playing right into their propaganda and recruitment pitch.

As for gay marriage, that is here to stay from what I can see.  However, crafting and enforcing laws limiting LGBT rights in the guise of protecting religious freedom – oh yeah, that will be going full speed ahead.  Especially when you consider that the Evangelical Christian Republicans supporting Trump are against LGBT rights and that Mike Pence has tried to limit such rights when he was governor of Indiana.  My expectation is that Pence is going to have more say and power than any vice-president in history during Trump’s term.  And guess what, that is not good for the LGBT community.

Women’s rights.  Also not good.  Expect that access to effective birth control will become harder to get, mainly because of cost with it being most likely cut out of Obamacare.  Further, expect more restrictions on the right of a woman to decide what to do with her body, in other words abortion.  Trump has said he is fine with letting it go to the states, which is not good.  Most states have laws just waiting for such an event that would outlaw most abortions.  Even without that expect more and more restrictions.  Also, expect less sympathy and support from the federal government on workplace inequalities.  This, of course, holds not just for women but also for minorities.

Overall, not a good time for civil rights that apply equally to all of our citizens.   As a result, I consider it very possible that there will be a large increase in demonstrations (and a real possibility that I may be joining in on a few).  Also, I consider it possible that strong arm responses on the part of law enforcement and government will become more likely.

Oh, and it was just announced that Ben Carson was put in charge of HUD.  So much for fair housing, for finding ways to help the poor and needy, and for having an effective and working HUD.  Again, minorities taking the brunt of it.

 

The Economy

Unless you are very rich, do not expect good things from a Trump presidency.   And even then, in the worse case scenarios even the wealthy are going to have difficulties.

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First, look at who Trump has appointed to his administration.  All very wealthy individuals for the most part.  Indeed, his administration will be the richest by far of any administration.  This does not mean that they will be bad in and of itself, but it does mean that they are more likely to look out for their own interests.  This is especially true for Trump.

And conflicts of interest are every where you look.  And that was an argument used against Hillary?  Oh, and there is a former Goldman Sachs person in his administration too.  And quite possibly an Exxon CEO for Secretary of State.

This gloomy assessment of the future state of our economy is buttressed by the tax changes he proposed during his campaign.  The poor and middle class will see a 2% or less increase in bring home pay.  The very wealthy will receive at least a 16% increase.  Wowza.  Oh, and that’s not to mention the fact that our deficits and national debt will balloon.  But what the hell, let the plundering of our economy by the rich begin in earnest.

In some ways, this reminds me a bit of the hand off of the economy from Bill Clinton to W. Bush.  Bush inherited a strong economy with a surplus that was actually reducing the debt.  And due in part to his tax cuts, we wound up with deficits and increased debt.  Only, this hand off has the potential to be a lot worse under President Trump than it did under President W. Bush.

Add to the above President elect Trump’s threats to engage in trade wars, and the outlook for our economy looks worse and more worse.  Historically such actions have resulted in large recessions with the loss of millions of private sectors jobs, mostly among the lower paying workers and non-skilled jobs.

Worse case, it could even negatively affect the whole world economy, for the worse.  The US has actually recovered from the recession in much better shape than most other industrial nations.  Many of them are still on the edge right now, and us going under like this could also cause them to also go under, precipitating a world-wide economic crisis.

Of course, a lot of this is dependent upon whether he follows through on his campaign promises or not.  If not, then we will have to wait and see what replaces it.  It is possible that he will not be a total disaster here.  Instead, it would be just Bush bad.  But, I think it could well be worse than just bad.

Although his not following through on this would, again, be a broken campaign promise, one that also, again, was highly touted repeatedly by Trump.  Between this and backing off on the wall and immigration and on prosecuting Hillary I wonder how much of his base he can keep.

 

Education

Short answer – vouchers, voucher, vouchers.  Less money and support for public schools.   More sympathy for creationism and official school prayers.  Now, how far will it go is pure guesswork at this point.  The vast majority of voucher plans when put to the vote at the state level have failed.  And creationism has lost every court battle so far, and the courts are not going to be changed that quickly.

There will, of course, be none of this nonsense about protecting transgendered students now.  Nor support for gay students.  But, there may well be more attempts and support for getting Christianity officially back into the schools instead of being neutral.

 

Separation of Church and State

I expect it to be weakened, but not destroyed.  Not sure yet in what form, although many of the items I already discussed have elements of this in them.  But, given the fact that conservative evangelical Christians largely supported him, that his Vice President if a conservative Christian favorite, and that the Republicans as a party owe a great deal to the conservative evangelical Christians…then yeah, expect some cracks to show on the wall.

Keep in mind though that many Christians, including evangelicals, understand why the separation of church and state are so important for all people’s freedoms.  Keep in mind that there are a great many more people who are not conservative Christian evangelicals than are.  Keep in mind that we are a religious diverse nation, and getting more so.  And, that the courts today and for the next few years are the same ones who have done a basically good job of protecting that wall.

 

The Environment

To continue a running theme, short answer, not good.

I imagine the EPA will become more like the Environmental It’s OK Go Ahead and Do It.   I expect our environment to take a  major hit, with, of course, an increase in health problems and issues.  Not to mention a loss of biologic diversity.  And trying to limit the damage from Climate Change and preparing on how best to deal with it will now fall upon the individual states, cities, and businesses.  It will no longer be a national effort, with the result being a loss in impact and effectiveness.  A huge problem now becomes bigly huge.

Foreign Affairs

In short, as with the others, so very not good.

Trump is ignorant of diplomacy and of world affairs.  Ignorance is not something to be ashamed of though, as long as you are aware of it and work to change your ignorance to knowledge.  Trump though shows no sign of this.  Even worse, he thinks he knows it all already.

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He knows more than all of our intelligence organizations and agencies.   He knows more than our generals and military.  He does not bother with most of the daily intelligence briefs.  He calls and takes calls from world leaders without bothering with getting information from the State Department.

And he tweets.

He tweets and attacks other countries through his tweets.

Between his egotistical ignorance, his fragile ego that cannot ignore a slight no matter how slight such that he has to fire back at a TV show, his lack of discipline, his aggressiveness, his questioning of our allies and those organizations and treaties that help hold our alliances …. all of this and more make war more likely under President Trump than any recent president.  Accidentally or on purpose.

Due to his policies and penchant for isolationism, I see both Russia and China moving in and becoming more prominent in world affairs at the expense of the US.  And of democracies in general.

In other words, I think it a realistic to see a more unstable world during Trump’s presidency.

 

OK, that’s my down and dirty worse case realistic expectations of a Trump Presidency.  I realized I have not provided any supporting arguments for these, but that is not my purpose here (besides which it would increase an already long blog at least tenfold).  Here I am just outlining what I think are some real possibilities with Trump as president.  And I realize it is incomplete.

Now, a few things to note here.  The first is that all of this is something that the US can survive.  And still remain a great nation.  A cracked, bleeding, and damaged great nation, but still.  We are too big economically and militarily, have too many strong institutions internally for us to be totally gutted.  So, we will survive and can and will recover.  But, we will have to suffer through a lot of pain and tears and blood, and almost terminal national embarrassment before we do recover.

The next thing to note is that I could be wrong.  It might not be any worse than any other conservative Republican administration.  I don’t think it likely, but it might happen that way when all is said and done.  In fact, I greatly hope that I am wrong.

Finally the above is my realistic worse case scenario.  Whether these actually play out, or how bad they are if they do play out, depends on a great many things – one of which is what we do.  Which is the subject of my third and last blog of this series.

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Let me end this one with what I think we will most likely wind up with under President Trump – a Kakistocracy.  That is a Greek word I just came across that means seems to sum up my thoughts about a Trump Presidency fairly well.  It means a government run by the worst elements of society – the unscrupulous and the unqualified.

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