Friday, January 3, 2020

Muslims and Pagans

Dear Readers,

It is hard to believe that it has been more than a year since I set virtual pen to virtual paper on this blog.  Life has just been too busy and exhausting, and the gruesome reality show that is the Trump presidency has so alarmed, aggravated and depressed me that at times I have not been sure what to talk about here, as there is such a constant cavalcade of erratic and destructive actions and ignorant and hateful rhetoric exploding from the House of Tweet that I find myself at times too overwhelmed to respond. Add to that the rising tide of Trumpian right-wing nationalist politicians and parties around the world from India to Hungary to Britain to Brazil and the dispiriting effect is only magnified  a hundredfold, and I fall into anguished silence contemplating how the world that I once knew, in which Fascism had been vanquished in a World War and there was a general understanding that Nazism was an evil thing, seems to be falling apart and past hatreds and cruelties rising up again, with delighted mobs deliriously cheering blood-lust.

What brings me to write today is the very sad realization that someone who I have worked with for a long time in the academic world, someone I have respected for his work in Pagan Studies and thought I knew, someone who I considered a kindred spirit, seems to have been fully converted to the hateful outlook of the new global right wing. I noticed him making very characteristically far-right  Islamophobic statements on a blog that he writes, seizing on the extreme rhetoric of one particularly aggressive and offensive Muslim cleric and seeming to trumpet this as proof of the overall vileness of Islam, the religion of some 1.3 billion human beings on this earth. I contacted my friend and pointed out that it is neither accurate nor intellectually honest nor morally defensible to lambaste all the members of a group or religion for the actions or statements of a single person or small minority within that group. He backed off a little bit, but only a little, acknowledging that not all Muslims were bad people but adding that overall, he still finds Islam a malevolent force in the world. He observed that while some academics and intellectuals might feel it important to respect Islam out of their dedication to religious tolerance, this  was, in his opinion, a misguided "ivory  tower" view that overlooked the true reality of the world in which Islam was a  threat to the tolerant lifestyle of Western societies, a threat that had to be defended against.

Having spent some serious time in the last several years researching right-wing nationalism and extremism, particularly anti-Muslimism, also known as Islamophobia, its close relation, anti-Gypsyism, and their older sibling anti-Semitism, I was very sad to see how almost every word my friend had to say about Islam was right out of the hackneyed, hateful hymn book of the modern  far right. Islam as threat to the west has been the mother's milk trope of right-wing Islamophobia for decades, going into overdrive after the 9/11 attacks and asserted with renewed vitality after the horrific Charlie Hebdo incident in France. This is not to say that the homicidal brutality of Muslim persons in those incidents was justified or forgivable. Those responsible should be prosecuted and punished for such crimes. However,  the vast majority of Muslims worldwide who live peaceful lives of daily toil and experience the same range of human triumphs and travails as others, should not be blamed or vilified, demonized or disadvantaged due to the actions of a few within their community. To do that is to begin following the old playbook of racial and religious prejudice that cherry-picks the most unpleasant and offensive behaviors, beliefs or customs to be found among the members of any group, whether defined in ethnic, religious, or other terms,  holds this up as the essence of the group, and proclaims the need to suppress, segregate, deport or exterminate said group. That way lies Pogroms and Final Solutions.

We all have our quirks and shortcomings, and I wish I could just write off my friend's anti-Muslim bias as a quirk of his personality, something I could simply agree to disagree with him about and then put behind us. The problem is, I am bound to this person in an academic enterprise in the field of Religious Studies. Though my friend's particular expertise and interest is in regards to modern Paganism, it is axiomatic in modern Religious Studies to accept the basic validity of all religions on their own terms,  practicing religious tolerance and respect for diversity. I now have reason to believe that my friend has either never really believed in religious tolerance and diversity, or has turned a corner in his mind where in the case of Islam, the principles of tolerance and diversity do not apply.

I find his stance not only offensive to my own sense of ethics and my own commitment to respecting religious diversity, but extremely puzzling and ironic in someone who is a long-time supporter of modern Paganism. It is the principles of religious tolerance and respect for diversity that have made it possible for Pagans to practice their religion in many countries today without fear of persecution or violence. If we start saying that Islam is not to be tolerated because of certain behaviors or beliefs of a small minority of its members, do we not begin to dismantle the structures that uphold the edifices of tolerance and diversity that we Pagans shelter under? Does that not lay the groundwork for persecution of minority religions  including forms of Paganism such as Wicca, Druidism and Heathenry, that many Christians find offensive and Satanic?

I would welcome comments from readers about their own viewpoints on Pagans and Muslims. Do you agree with me that  upholding respect for all religions is the best protection for minority religions like Paganism, or do you feel like my friend that in America and other Western societies, Islam cannot be tolerated and Muslims are not welcome? Do you think we should "Build the Wall" against Islam? Or should we be looking to build bridges and find common ground? I will be curious to hear your voices.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Triumph of Diversity in the "Blue Wave" Election of 2018

Readers, I have been away from this blog a long time. It is partly that I have been very busy, with academic and political involvements, but is it more so because I have been too depressed and dispirited by the unending cruelty, venality and inhumanity of the Trump era. I have never felt so afraid that America might devolve into a brutal, Fascist state as I have been this year, in light of  the Trump administration's disregard of law and ethics, and racist obsession with demonizing and abusing immigrants, particularly Latino immigrants, not to mention various expressions of hostility toward African-Americans and Muslims. But as of Tuesday night, Nov. 6, 2018, when the results of the 2018 midterm election started to come in, and the evidence of a Blue Wave of Democratic party victory across the country began to mount, my spirits have lifted, though I was heartbroken by the defeat of the truly inspiring Texas Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke as well as the apparent losses of two very impressive African-American candidates in southern states, namely Stacey Abrams running for governor in Georgia and Andrew Gillum for governor in Florida. It now seems that Abrams and Gillum might yet emerge victorious as the final counts and possible recounts proceed.

In my own home region in New York State, I saw a racist campaign against a highly qualified African-American House of Representatives candidate, Antonio Delgado, fail to derail Delgado's ascent to victory, and a progressive State Senate candidate, Jen Metzger, prevail over a Republican candidate who in the past would have been a shoo-in, this being a generally conservative-leaning part of the state. This kind of Democratic victory at the state level was part and parcel of a vast Democratic surge nationwide, with 350 Democrats elected to state legislatures and 7 states opting for Democratic governors, shifting the balance of governorships from 32 Republican vs. 16 Democratic to 26 Republican vs. 23 Democratic, with one of those Florida not entirely certain, and Georgia still to be decided.

Overall, the election shows a real triumph of diversity over the Trumpian preference for white male leadership and possibly also white supremacy. Consider how many barriers were broken, how many "firsts"  were registered. In Colorado: the country's first openly gay governor, Jared Polis. The country's first two Native American women  were elected to Congress: Debra Haaland, in New Mexico, and Sharice Davids in Kansas, who is also the first lesbian congresswoman elected in the state. The nation's first two Muslim women were also elected to Congress: Rashida Tlaib in Michigan and Ilhan Omar in Minnesota. In Massachusetts, the state's first African-American female was elected to Congress, Ayanna Pressley. In Texas, the state's first two  Latina congresswomen: Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia. In New York, the youngest ever congressperson was elected, Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. There was just one such "first" on the Republican side: Tennessee's first female Senator, Marsha Blackburn. Overall, the Republicans had their best showing in white-majority, economically struggling, rural areas, while the Democrats prevailed in urban and suburban areas with more diverse populations.

I believe that this nationwide embrace of racial, ethnic and religious diversity represented by these Democratic victories shows the tolerant, open dimension of the American national character coming to the fore, and demonstrating that it can stand up to and indeed face down the specter of ethno-national Fascism offered by Trump and his ilk.  This may be the start of America waking up to its "better angels," in the phrase made famous by Abraham Lincoln, the American leader who chose to stand up against the slavery of African-Americans rather than acquiesce to it, which would have been the easier path, which the pundits of the time might well have assumed was the logical, pragmatic course. Lincoln stood up for the more idealistic option, choosing to embrace diversity rather than deny it, and on Nov. 6, so did America.

There is hope!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Revenge of Love: Two Films That Made Me Cry

Dear Readers,

I do find myself at a loss for words at times in this awful era of the Trump presidency. Not that there is nothing to say, but rather that so many bad things are happening so fast that I often cannot decide where to begin to respond or comment. The separation of families at the border.... the weird coziness of Trump with Putin in Helsinki, treating him like the best person in the world, right after insulting America's allies at the NATO summit, and always, grinding away in the background, the nonstop destruction  of programs, policies and regulations that protect the environment, help the poor, and uphold human decency...It is too much, and I fall dumb. This is either evil genius or brutally effective instinct on the part of Trump and his team: to so bombard us with crazy, cruel and contradictory things that we are shocked into silence and inaction. I must confess that at times, I fall right into this trap, which means the bastards win that day. I wish I were stronger.

Two films that I saw recently, both dealing with childhood, brought me to tears. One was a film that I remember first seeing in my early teens, the animated Beatles film "Yellow Submarine" that was first released in 1968, The other was "Won't You Be My Neighbor,?" the new documentary about Fred Rogers, the late host of the long-running, public broadcasting children's program "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood." Both films, in their different ways, are eloquent statements of the importance of  love as the glue that holds humanity together. "Love and peace," in the 1960s phrase. This is not merely romantic, sexual love of boy meets girl or girl beckons boy, or boy desires boy or girl goes for girl, but love in the deeper sense of universal brotherhood, the "peace on earth and good will toward men" trumpeted in Christmas carols but known in all or nearly all religions and worldviews as a very important thing indeed.

In "Yellow Submarine," the world is brought to a frozen, deathly state enforced by brutal, fascistic forces known as the "Blue Meanies."  The cartoon Beatles save the world by reviving the frozen, lifeless band, which is an alternate form of the Beatles, that is, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, who then overpower the fascistic Meanies by singing the song, "All You Need is Love."  Now I must admit, there were times when I was younger when I found this song sophomoric, so utterly simplistic in the face of all the complex problems that beset humanity. "Sure, if you have enough to eat and a roof over your head and some measure of security, great to sing about love. How about the poor and the homeless?" But now, in this grim and fearful time when Trump is empowering the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency  as well as local police and sheriffs and others to be true "blue meanies" in ripping apart families and causing irreparable psychological damage not only to young children but to the rest of their families as well, creating trans-generational trauma that will create future problems for these families and others, all for what? For the "sacred," racist purpose of discouraging brown-skinned Latinos from thinking that American society might in any way be open to them. In this time, when Trump continues peddling misleading stereotypes and ranting about how America must be cleansed of unwanted foreigners and immigrants, the Beatles song rings very, VERY true as a very potent response to the sadistic policies and the apparent delight in cruelty of the Trump regime.

We do NOT have to be hateful and cruel toward immigrants, foreigners and refugees. We do NOT have to build walls and imprison people in institutional settings that are just modern versions of concentration camps. We could instead be loving and welcoming to the vast majority of immigrants and refugees who only wish to live in peace with us, to make a new life, to be part of this society.  In this spirit, I applaud all those who are taking up slogans like "Nation of Immigrants" and "Welcome Refugees" and reminding us of the words on the Statue of Liberty. We need that. We need.... love. That is the ultimate weapon against Trump and his minions, to declare that we want to get along, get together, stand together, work together, live together, co-exist and seek the best in one another and in others... and build bridges of common purpose, not walls of fear and hate and menace.

In "Won't You Be My Neighbor," we see that Fred Rogers was not just a simple TV personality, but a moral visionary deeply concerned with the healthy emotional development of children... and society in general. He was an ordained minister, the world was his flock, and he used the medium of television not for fame or profit but as  a form of ministry. He did not make a point of treating children with love and respect and telling them they were special in order to raise little self-centered narcissists, as has sometimes been charged, but because he wanted all people to feel safe and loved that they might grow up to seek a community of love and peace, not aggression and suspicion, one group against another, one race against another, one religion against another. Fred Rogers was rightly appalled by all the mass entertainment that glorifies guns, violence, speed and death, when what human beings really need... is love. Corny? Perhaps. Trite? You could say so. Simplistic? In a way, of course. But as we now live in a time where our country's president and government are enforcing policies reveling in cruelty, discord and aggression, totally lacking in love, except for the narcissistic cult of King Donald, an orange meanie in place of the blue ones prophesied in the Beatles film, Mr. Rogers' invitation to us all to be good neighbors is a very good thing indeed. This is not sappy. This is not a cliche. This is your life raft and survival manual.

We are struggling to stand upright against a disgusting, fecal barrage of hateful misinformation and confusing propaganda dished out daily by the Trump-Putin-Fox News axis that wants nothing more than to foment division and anger so that authoritarian forces can impose  "law and order" with guns and brutality. We should remember John Lennon's advice to never forget to "imagine" a better world, and to play positive "mind games" that can keep us sane and stable even if the world seems to be turning into a sewer. There have been terrible times in the world before, let us not forget, and one of the best things we can possibly do to survive this time and hopefully reach toward a better one in a near or distant future, is to try our best to love each other.

May the spirit of peace and love be with you. May you walk in agape, karuna, ahimsa and frith.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy Fascist Fourth of July

Dear Friends,

In the last year I have written fewer entries in this blog than in any previous year. The reason is the depression and despair that I feel living in America today and watching with horrified eyes how the ignorant, cruel, pathological bully president Donald Trump is bit by bit succeeding in tearing down and torching so much of what I have always believed in, what I have always hoped could be possible for America, while constructing a new America built on hate, fear, racism, anger, division and confusion. The last week has been especially hard to bear. The recent decisions of the Supreme Court whitewashing his latest version of the Muslim Travel Ban, diminishing the power of labor unions and further restricting Affirmative Action are undoubtedly going to embolden Trump and his hard right cohorts. Did I say "hard right?" I misspoke. The correct term is Fascist. The president is creating Fascism in America, a style of politics and governance that relies on brute force, intimidation, a cult of personality around a charismatic leader, a constant scapegoating of ethnic and religious minorities that is becoming more and more overtly cruel and aggressive, all under the banner of  purported patriotism, which is actually just 1930s style Fascist nationalism wrapped in an American flag.

It would be restful to my downtrodden soul if I could look abroad and find hope in what is happening in other countries, but this is not the case. Though in years past I vigorously opposed German Chancellor Merkel's part in the EU's cruel austerity policies toward Greece, I have come to respect her for standing up for the decent treatment of Muslim migrants entering Europe from Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and elsewhere. I now note with great sadness that she too is now buckling to the anti-immigrant hysteria being generated by right-wing politicians in one European country after another. Hungary... Poland... Czech Republic...Austria...Italy.... one by one they are falling to  right-wing, anti-immigrant, pro-authoritarian leaders and political movements that seem increasingly Fascistic in their priorities and programs. On top of this, Trump's trade wars and obvious hatred of international cooperation are beginning to take a toll on the post-WW II world order. Imperfect as such structures as NATO, the WTO and the EU are, it is hard to imagine that throwing them away will lead to anything more than chaos and mischief. The same leaders who rise to power scapegoating vulnerable minorities in their countries may very well find it tempting to blame the problems of their closed, shrinking and increasingly xenophobic societies on other countries, and then go to war against them as the next act in the hackneyed drama of Fascism. After all, leaders like Trump, who love to glorify the military and strike patriotic poses, and who clearly have little regard for human life, would probably find going to war an attractive means of galvanizing support for their own regimes, should their popularity begin slipping in the polls.

A further fear of mine is that Russia will find it increasingly tempting to interfere in the Baltic States, what with Trump continuing to express scorn for the EU and NATO and to seek warmer relations with Russia. Trump was recently asked about the issue of Crimea, and the president refused to condemn the Russian occupation. So, while calling for a nonsensical, expensive wall on America's border with Mexico, to defend America against a nonexistent, truly "Trumped-up" threat from Mexicans and others, Trump is showing indifference, if not acceptance, of an actual, non-imaginary threat on the borders of Ukraine and Europe.  This once again exposes Trump's intellectual dishonesty, his geopolitical inconsistency and his moral bankruptcy for all to see, but the frightening thing is, some 30-40% of Americans seem willing to follow Trump off any cliff he desires to take them over. It terrifies me that some definite portion of the American population seems to truly enjoy Trump's circus of cruelty. It is like we are back 100 years ago when racist mobs would turn out to watch lynchings as entertainment.

I am 58 years old and this is the darkest time I have seen for America and the world in my lifetime. Until three years ago, I could never have imagined that I would live to see my country and much of the world marching toward a Fascist future. I mus t confess I am finding it hard to summon hope or the will to fight. On this Fourth of July evening, when many Americans are watching patriotic fireworks, I feel only dread at how all the parts of America that seemed worthwhile to me when I was younger now seem to be going the way of those fireworks, being blown up one by one.

As a Pagan, it especially pains me to see how Trump's environmental polices are actually anti-environmental policies, which will only make our world more ugly, more industrialized, more polluted, more unhealthy and more unlivable. Can't his followers see that making our country and the earth more polluted and poisoned will be bad for all of us, regardless of political affiliation? Apparently not. In Trumpian circles, environmentalists are seen as The Enemy just like journalists, civil rights activists, feminists and intellectuals. Ironically, the military establishment in America is well aware that global warming and rising sea levels will have a very negative impact on America's military capability, and that droughts, floods and famines will generate tension and conflict around the world. Yet we hear not a peep from our supposedly patriotic military leaders about the dangers to our nation, our world and our military forces of Trumpian anti-environmentalism. I hope that they will gain some courage to engage in public discussion, but courage seems in short supply these days.

For the first time., I fear that the Ragnarok scenario in Norse myth, which I always took to be a cautionary tale, may indeed be prophetic. We have leaders fomenting ever-greater division and conflict, and a rising risk of environmental collapse in the not very far off future. I dearly hope we will see some sign of hope, some sign that the winds are turning soon. Perhaps the 2018 elections? Perhaps...or perhaps not. I feel like a Nazi-rejecting German in the 1930s, hoping that this Hitler thing will pass, while fearing in my bones that it will not.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A Brief Note on Sociopathology in American Politics

From the Oxford Dictionary of English, definition of "sociopath" : 

"A person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior."

This seems to me to describe U.S. President Donald Trump quite well, considering his recent immigration policy of dividing children from parents, his indifference to the destruction of the environment, and his tendency to heap praise on homicidal dictators. However, I do not know what word to apply to designate a population that willingly votes to make a sociopath the leader of their government. Maybe "sociopathophilic?" Or "sociopathological?" Feel free to add your own suggestion.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Holding Steady in the Storm

Like many of you, I am sure, I am finding it very hard going to be a thinking, feeling, conscious person in this era of the Trump Dynasty. Just watching the news each day is exhausting. So much much much stupidity and short-sightedness.... so much pettiness,  spitefulness, vindictiveness...Many qualified, experienced people quitting government service while unqualified flunkies devoted to the Donald flood the ranks of government, some soon having to leave because they are so obviously ethically compromised... And at the top of this parody of government, what do we find?... A spoiled child-emperor, a would-be caudillo dictator thrashing around incoherently, stuffing himself with cheeseburgers and yelling abuse through Twitter... An intellectually stunted bully unable to think more sophisticated thoughts than the angry, simplistic, hate-stirring, people-slurring slogans of his reality TV-styled presidential campaign: "Build the wall!" (even though immigration from Mexico and Latin America is down, not up, and far from our biggest problem); "Bring back coal!" (even though most of the carbon-fuel companies now prefer fracked gas and are also investing in renewable energy technologies for the day when they have to switch over); "End immigration!" (even though our country is built on immigration, and his own hotels and casinos rely on low-cost immigrant labor); and all manner of threat, insult and insinuation against minorities from Muslims to Mexicans to Salvadorans to Haitians...and now this idiotic announcement of trade war against half the world, with the reassuring statement, "Trade wars are good and easy to win!" Sure, that's what made the 1930s such a jolly old time. It was indeed a good period for Fascism, so maybe that is what our leader is going for:  maximum ethnic nationalism and militarism, minimum internationalism, diversity and compassion.

I really wish the Robert Mueller investigation into Russian involvement in the election would hurry up and bring this thing to a head, as the president is clearly flipping out under the pressure of having whatever ties or obligations he has to Russia exposed. My guess is that Trump has received a lot of Russian financing over the years, since his business empire has always required outside financing to keep from going under, considering how many times he has had to resort to bankruptcy, and that this web of murky financial relations is what keeps him subservient to Putin and his oligarchs. It is also exactly in accord with how Putin has built up his power since the 1990s, through corrupt (and corrupting) business deals underwritten with the threat of violence and the occasional assassination of this or that politician or journalist. See Masha Gessen's book The Man Without a Face for an analysis of Putin's gangster path to power, and then try to stay calm when you realize that Donald Trump may be just another greedy businessman ensnared in a KGB style "kompromat" scheme.

Worse of all is stopping to consider the reality that the American people voluntarily elected Emperor Cheeseburger. I think it is very likely that Russian propaganda and misinformation fed into social media helped seal the deal, but the whole thing cannot be put down to Russian plotting or the electoral college system. Russian methods may have helped tip the scale, and the electoral college certainly helped Trump by giving greater representation to rural areas, but the fact is, a lot of our countrymen and women were really and truly very happy to vote for this uneducated, unqualified, uncouth and uncaring idiot. Worse still, the simple fact that well-educated, well-informed, intellectual types like the author of this blog hated Donald and all he stood for may be more than half the reason why they love him. "If those over-educated liberals support Hillary and reject Trump, then Trump must be our guy." When you have a population that doesn't like to read or think, a skilled manipulator of rage and resentment like Trump has a distinct advantage over a more cerebral politician like Clinton, especially since many of those who voted for Trump had been trained to respond with rage against liberals, immigrants, feminists, activists and intellectuals by media outlets like FOX News and right-wing talk radio. Sadly, this divide-and-conquer, burn-it-all-down style of politics is catching on in other regions too, and the USA can no longer serve as a counterweight to authoritarian trends in other countries, because the U.S. president is now the world's foremost supporter of authoritarianism and autocracy.

How can we fight back against this? Should we just throw in the towel and consider ourselves in the position of Jews or liberals in the Third Reich circa 1934, unable to oppose the coming storm and just hoping to somehow weather it by keeping a low profile? I can see a certain logic to that position, but I do not want to live my life cowering in the corner and trying to survive by escaping notice. I think we do have to fight back, and fortunately, we are seeing signs of more and more people willing to stand up and do just that.  The  #MeToo movement and the gun control advocacy efforts of the students who survived the Parkland, Florida shooting are signs that the human desire for a better, fairer, and more humane society, not a more brutal and fear-driven one,  has not been totally vanquished just yet.

Of course, to successfully wage a battle, you have to know what you are fighting for, and who and what you are fighting against. In this age of divide-and-conquer social media disinformation campaigns, this is not easy, because the media landscape we live in now is designed for ultimate distraction and division. Google, Facebook and other such digital leviathans get more hits and thus earn more millions through hate and anger, and falsehood than by sharing accurate information and thoughtful analysis or long-term solutions. It's all about the quick emotional reaction. A lot of the anti-Hillary media was irrational and demented, but it was all carefully designed to make people keep clicking and chuckling, and continual exposure to such garbage gradually colors how a person feels, and finally, how s/he thinks, and how s/he votes, including not voting at all, which redounds to the benefit of whichever candidate has a more energized following, not who has the better-informed followers. Advantage, Trump.

So we have to stand up, hold steady, and be ready for a shit storm of abuse and irrational anger to come down on us for speaking out against the Emperor of Anger and his thuggish, resentful followers, who feel that no one cares about them except their reality-TV messiah. We have to be beacons of rationality and positive purpose for those who will tire of King Chaos and start to yearn for something different. Against those who sneer and jeer at the Other, whose voices are growing hoarse from yelling "Build the Wall!" and "Lock Her Up!", we have to tell them that there is a more humane vision that will work out much better for all of us, including them, in the long run. We have to promote good ideas for expanded public services paid for by higher taxes on the wealthy, even when the first reaction of the Trump-believers is to think that government is evil except for the military and the police. We have to keep hammering on that income gap issue, because they know it is real even if they have temporarily signed up for the sad illusion that beating up on the poor and cozying up to the rich will make them rich too. Keep reminding people that other countries have lower cost education and health care, less violence and poverty, and that this can be done here too, and that this need not mean Soviet Communism, but maybe just Swedish or German-style Social Democracy. They may not know what that is, so you will have to explain it.  When they talk about not wanting to see their tax dollars wasted, remind them how much it costs to incarcerate non-violent offenders and to keep undocumented immigrant workers in detention facilities. Remind them of how much we have spent on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and how little benefit we have received, least of all any greater sense of safety. Instead of numbly thanking veterans for their service, start a conversation about how much good those soldiers could have done inside the USA if we had put them to work building bridges, road and schools here instead of raining down destruction on other countries. Ask them if they really and truly want to live in a more polluted environment and see more people sicken and die from respiratory ailments and cancer. Find out the pollution hot spots in your local area, and ask them if they want more of this or less. Ask them if  they know anyone suffering from asthma or other respiratory or cardiopulmonary ailments. Show compassion and then tell them that to reduce such illnesses we have to reduce pollution. I think very few people can not agree with that to at least some extent.

Above all, point out to your conservative friends and neighbors how Trump is not keeping his promises, but instead putting in place policies that are creating further problems. Did he really "drain the swamp" and stop government corruption, or just bring in a whole new group of cronies to fatten themselves at the public trough while seeking to slash budgets for programs that help the poor and middle class? Did he really stop the wars that he claimed were stupid, or did he send more troops and expand our involvement in military quagmires?  Can his Korea policy, bringing us closer and closer to nuclear war, really be counted as a success?  And for those who like the modest tax cuts they have received, point out that the wealthy are getting much bigger cuts, that the tax cuts that they have received are temporary, and that the effect of the cuts is to greatly increase our national debt and to greatly reduce the ability of the government to provide services or maintain infrastructure. For those who are gun enthusiasts, and there are many in the rural areas, ask them if they really need an assault rifle to go hunting or target shooting, and ask them if they wouldn't sleep better knowing that fewer people had access to such highly dangerous weapons. Tell them you are all in favor of responsible gun use, just not turning the whole country into an unregulated shooting range with mass shootings on a regular basis.

This is hard work and many people are not comfortable speaking out on these issues. But if you do not rise to the occasion and speak out, you only have yourself to blame for the continuation of Trumpism. Trump is supported by an empire of words, a fog of angry, hateful, misdirecting words that cause people to hate government, hate immigrants, hate other races, and to see a mean-spirited, white supremacist charlatan as their messiah if not their fuhrer.  You have to fight back with words that express an alternate vision. So please, please, PLEASE start talking and don't stop. Speak out every time and every place you can. If you cannot convince some hard-core Trumpians, at least let them know that right in their neighborhood, there are people who  think otherwise. Don't let them believe that only Trumpians have a voice or a presence or the courage to advocate their views. Remember, many people today live in a FOX news cocoon, and  they may literally not realize how many people do not.  Let them know there is opposition and resistance, but do this with kindness if you can, offering positive alternatives whenever possible. Suggest the advantages of green energy jobs over  coal mining or fracking jobs, for example.  If they get this message often enough, they might start considering other ideas. This is what we must hope for. This really is a war of words and ideas. Silence and keeping quiet will NOT work.

Stand up, stand tall, speak up, speak out! That is the way forward.
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