The Watering Hole; Thursday April 30 2015; Frederick Douglass

“Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” ~Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass was born a slave, in 1818, on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay in Talbot County Maryland. He escaped slavery in 1838 on his third attempt, thanks to the assistance of his future wife Anna Murray, a free black woman in Baltimore with whom Douglass had fallen in love. Over the years following, Douglass emerged as one of the most famous intellectuals of his time, advising presidents and lecturing to thousands on a range of causes.  During his lifetime, he became known as an eminent human rights leader in the abolition movement [and] was the first black citizen to hold a high U.S. government rank. In 1845, after publication of his (best selling) autobiography, Douglass sailed to Ireland and stayed for two years in order to evade recapture as a runaway slave. During those years, Douglass’ British supporters gathered funds to purchase his legal freedom, and in 1847 he returned to the United States a free man.

After his return to America, he wrote and published abolitionist newspapers, and in 1848, he was the only African American to attend the first women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York. . . . By the time of the Civil War, Douglass was one of the most famous black men in the country. He used his status to influence the role of African Americans in the war and their status in the country. In 1863, Douglass conferred with President Abraham Lincoln regarding the treatment of black soldiers, and with President Andrew Johnson on the subject of black suffrage. In 1872 he became the first African American nominated for vice president of the United States, an event which marked the first time that an African American appeared on a presidential ballot.

Douglass died on February 20, 1895; his legacy as an intellectual and literate abolitionist and human rights advocate — a former slave — and as an accomplished author persists through the current day.

I find it ironic that this day in Baltimore — the city where escaped slave Frederick Douglass enjoyed his first moments of freedom — there remain in full view those issues of racial bias and unrest triggered by deeply embedded remnants of that pre-reconstruction darkness. I also find it fascinating that so many of Douglass’ words continue to describe so much of what today remains so terribly wrong with this country — those racist irrationalities which so effectively serve to negate her myriad claims of freedom and equality for all. Below are selected Douglass quotes which exemplify both his reality and his vision.

“[Y]our national greatness, swelling vanity; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.”

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

“In thinking of America, I sometimes find myself admiring her bright blue sky — her grand old woods — her fertile fields — her beautiful rivers — her mighty lakes, and star-crowned mountains. But my rapture is soon checked, my joy is soon turned to mourning. When I remember that all is cursed with the infernal actions of slaveholding, robbery and wrong, — when I remember that with the waters of her noblest rivers, the tears of my brethren are borne to the ocean, disregarded and forgotten, and that her most fertile fields drink daily of the warm blood of my outraged sisters, I am filled with unutterable loathing.”

“…I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of the land… I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never was there a clearer case of ‘stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in.’ I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me. We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus. . . . The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand in hand together. The slave prison and the church stand near each other. The clanking of fetters and the rattling of chains in the prison, and the pious psalm and solemn prayer in the church, may be heard at the same time. The dealers in the bodies of men erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutually help each other. The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity. Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other—devils dressed in angels’ robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise.”

I cannot begin to explain why it is that this nation’s racist past still remains so deeply embedded, why evidences still emerge so regularly and in such widespread fashion. The names of recent victims are manifest; from Trayvon Martin, to Michael Brown, to Eric Gardner, to Freddie Gray — and who can count how many before and since — each and all point to those deeply embedded flaws, to the attitudes that make a mockery of this nation’s premise of equality for all. Frederick Douglass summarized the essence of our dilemma considerably more than a century ago when he wrote,

“The great problem that confronts the American people today is a national problem — whether this great nation of ours is great enough to live up to its own convictions, carry out its own declaration of independence, and execute the provisions of its own constitution.”

The question remains: whereto from here, America? Can you banish the hates and fears of your heritage? Or are you intent on remaining neck deep in the quagmire of the ignorance which so vividly defines both your past and the present day?

OPEN THREAD

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The Watering Hole, Wednesday, April 29, 2015: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of the Right to Discriminate

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

One of the above passages is from the Declaration of Independence, the other is from the Constitution. Unfortunately, some lawmakers don’t know the difference. The pursuit of Happiness, for some, is the pursuit of the right to discriminate based on their “deeply held religious beliefs”. Based on those beliefs they seek to deny women’s reproductive health care, intervene between a woman and her doctor, force gestation, then leave the woman and child without healthcare, food, clothing and shelter once the child is born. Based on “deeply held religious beliefs” some people, in the name of Christ, want to discriminate against people who love people of the same gender. Make no mistake about it, this is a violent sect of Christianity. Its followers kill doctors who perform legal abortions. Its followers kill gays in some rather horrific ways. Its followers turn to the courts and have obtained the blessing of the highest court in the land to deprive women of healthcare. And now, they turn to the courts to establish the right to discriminate, based on their “deeply held religious beliefs”. This is their Pursuit of Happiness: To turn this country into a “Christian” Nation, according to their view of an authoritarian Christ who rules by the sword and condemns all who do not worship Him. Although this sect (some say cult) is relatively small, they have a disproportionate voice in government. Why? because they vote. The vast majority of eligible voters don’t bother. But this majority is like a sleeping genie. Once awakened, it will be most difficult to put back into the bottle.

OPEN THREAD

What’s your pursuit of happiness?

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 27, 2015: See Our Best (Again)

With the help of my wife, Jane, I wrote this song parody almost four years ago, and I find that it still applies today. This time the Republicans are trotting out a different cast of characters, some of whom haven’t made their presidential aspirations official for legal and technical reasons (such as they don’t really intend to run for president, like Donald Trump), to beg and plead the Koch Brothers to give them money so they can attack Hillary Clinton, who recently announced that she will accept the nomination of the Democratic Party to complete either Bill Clinton’s or Barack Obama’s third term. Or maybe she’s going to finally finish the work of the president she did once work for, Richard Nixon. This time around, Sheldon Adelson (Billionaire – Israel) will play a major role in the elections, but don’t think for a moment that just because he’s not one of the Koch Brothers that he must be good. He isn’t. He has pretty much made it clear he wants a President of the United States who will put the interests of a foreign nation (in this case, Israel) ahead of the interests of the United States and its citizens, especially those who do not agree with Israel’s policies and human rights abuses. Why he thinks Marco Rubio is that person is beyond me.

For those who don’t seem to “get it,” let me try to explain why this is bad. The disastrous, and totally insane Citizens United decision made it perfectly legal to Continue reading

Sunday Roast: Rhymes with Bucket List

The President having fun at just about everyone’s expense at Sunday’s White House Correspondent’s Dinner.  I love how much fun he’s having with his Fuck It List, and you can definitely tell he has no more campaigns to run.

“Luther the Anger Translator” is up at 14:35, but he gets scared off four minutes later — by the President I wish we’d had for all this time.  🙂

This is our daily open thread — Enjoy!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 25th, 2015: Just Say No to FRC

Yesterday I received an email from Faithful America, an organization of what I would consider to be ‘true’ Christians, who speak out against social injustices perpetrated and perpetuated in the name of Christianity. The email said that Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council – or NAMBLA, er, FRC – is supposed to be a guest on Face The Nation tomorrow. The email said, in part:

“With the Supreme Court about to issue a historic decision, CBS News is turning to an anti-gay hate group leader to speak for Christians.
This Sunday, Face the Nation is scheduled to feature Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. Perkins has repeatedly accused gay men of molesting children, causing the Southern Poverty Law Center to formally name FRC to its list of hate groups.

Perkins was once a regular on CNN and MSNBC, but those networks have increasingly abandoned him as mainstream Christians have challenged his decades-long record of spreading ugly misinformation about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people…Tell CBS News: Cancel Tony Perkins. He doesn’t speak for Christians.”

If Bob Schieffer would take a few minutes to just check out the FRC’s website, I’m sure that he would understand that this is a group that should NOT have a voice in the same-sex-marriage debate.

First, an excerpt from FRC’s “Washington Update” from Thursday, under the heading “What About Bobby?”:

“If liberals want to pick a fight over religious liberty, they’ll have their hands full with my home state: Louisiana. Unlike other governors who have been quick to raise a white flag, Bobby Jindal is leading the charge for his state’s Marriage and Conscience Act, warning that he won’t back down. “In Indiana and Arkansas, large corporations recently joined left-wing activists to bully elected officials into backing away from strong protections for religious liberty. As the fight… moves to Louisiana, I have a clear message for any corporation that contemplates bullying our state: Save your breath.”

“Although corporations are already turning up the heat on Jindal, the Governor says, “They are free to voice their opinions, but they will not deter me.” Realizing that this is a watershed moment for religious liberty, Jindal writes, “Liberals have decided that if they can’t win at the ballot box, they will win in the boardroom. It’s a deliberate strategy. And it’s time for corporate America to make a decision. Those who believe in freedom must stick together: If it’s not freedom for all, it’s not freedom at all.” With the Left’s attack dogs on the loose in Louisiana and elsewhere, religious liberty is almost certainly going to be a major issue in 2016 — in more ways than one.

While conservatives scratch and claw for their right to exercise the same tolerance the Left enjoys, leaders like Speaker Boehner have their eyes on the global crisis. Religious liberty is at the center of ISIS’s storm, as dozens of innocents are slaughtered for the faith our country is so reluctant to protect. In a new blog post, the Speaker’s office catalogues the latest horrors, and asks: Is the Obama administration doing “all it can” to protect Christians all over the world?”

There’s just so many things wrong with that last paragraph alone, my irony-meter went past 11, then shattered.

1) “Conservatives scratch and claw for their right to exercise the same tolerance the Left enjoys”? What they are scratching and clawing for is their right to exercise INTOLERANCE.

2) “Religious liberty is at the center of ISIS’s storm…” ISIS’s brutal acts have nothing to do with “religious liberty”, and if these conservatives had an honest bone in their collective bodies, they’d admit it.

3) “Is the Obama administration doing “all it can” to protect Christians all over the world?” Why on earth should the Obama administration, or any other president’s administration, have to “protect Christians all over the world”? The U.S. government cannot feasibly protect U.S.citizens “all over the world”, how could it be expected – no, demanded – to protect all “Christians”? More importantly, how would using the U.S. government to favor the lives of one religious group possibly be Constitutional? Not to mention that it would certainly require “big government”!

Under “HOMOSEXUALITY”:

“Family Research Council believes that homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed. It is by definition unnatural, and as such is associated with negative physical and psychological health effects. While the origins of same-sex attractions may be complex, there is no convincing evidence that a homosexual identity is ever something genetic or inborn. We oppose the vigorous efforts of homosexual activists to demand that homosexuality be accepted as equivalent to heterosexuality in law, in the media, and in schools.”

What the FRC believes doesn’t mean squat when it comes down to science and biology. Just because there is no evidence that will convince the FRC “that a homosexual identity is ever something genetic or inborn” doesn’t mean that there isn’t evidence in medical science. And just how does FRC separate the “homosexual identity” from the person? It would appear that, since they do not look upon homosexuals as individual human beings, they would not accept homosexual people, U.S. citizens, “as equivalent to heterosexual[people] in law, in the media, and in schools.” So what class of citizen would these braying amoral charlatans demote homosexual Americans to?

“Sympathy must be extended to those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions, and every effort should be made to assist such persons to overcome those attractions, as many already have.”

I haven’t noticed anyone from FRC, or any other anti-gay faux-religious group, extending “sympathy” to gays – maybe they just extend sympathy to gay people who don’t want to face the fact that they’re gay? And hasn’t FRC heard that there’s no scientific or medical evidence that “praying away Teh Gay”, or any other “treatment” purporting to turn gay people “straight”, is actually effective. They should just ask Marcus Bachmann about that.

And take a look at the titles of some of their “Policy Publications”:

“Leviticus, Jesus, and Homosexuality – Some Thoughts on Honest Interpretation” They wouldn’t know “honest interpretation” of any part of the bible even if Jesus appeared and called a convention of alleged “Christians” to set them straight. So-to-speak.

“The Other Side of Tolerance – How Homosexual Activism Threatens Liberty” Goddammit, will someone, any one of these people who glibly (and probably incorrectly) spout words like “freedom” and “liberty” please tell the rest of us exactly how they define those words? I hear them used with regularity by people who seem to want to limit others’ freedoms, so I’m pretty sure that such people don’t consult the OED, they just make up their own definitions.

Okay, enough ranting from me. For now, anyway.

This is our daily Open Thread – go ahead, have at it.

Music Night, April 24, 2015

It can be a lot of fun surfing through YouTube, starting out with one intention and following the breadcrumbs to something very different. At any rate, I ran across this video of one of my all-time favorite guitarists, John Cipollina, best known for his work with Quicksilver Messenger. This is from a band he formed with the terrific blues-rock belter Nick Gravenites (think Butterfield, Electric Flag). This cut is almost all Cipollina which is, I think, a rarity. From 1980.