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Stand down and stand by…

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I didn’t watch the “debate” last night. Instinct told me it would be ugly; I don’t need that. And by all accounts, it was a shitstorm—Trump’s shitstorm. Instead, I went to cable T.V. and saw Close Encounters of the Third Kind, probably the dozenth time I’ve seen it over the years. But a great movie, like a great symphony or painting, is always worth revisiting.

The thing that really struck me was the part about the fake poison gas leak in Wyoming that the officials dreamed up as a way of persuading people to evacuate the region around Devil’s Tower so that the scientists could have secrecy at their alien-landing site. The movie—by Spielberg, of course—was released in 1977. It was a time of conspiracy theories. Watergate had just happened. The Vietnam War was over but still fresh in people’s minds. JFK was long dead. All three events caused a segment of the American people to seriously question the media and political parties; indeed, we can trace the current skepticism about “news” and “science” to that period. Only it’s much worse now.

I remember seeing the movie when it first came out and thinking that it was completely plausible the U.S. government and military would lie about a gas leakage. We’d learned by then that the U.S. government was capable of lying about everything. It had lied about the “domino theory” in Southeast Asia and dragged us into a pointless war that killed 47,400 American service members. Nixon had lied repeatedly to the American people about the “third rate burglary” and about his involvement in the coverup. Some people actually thought the 1969 Moon landing was filmed on a Hollywood back lot. And of course, the JFK conspiracy theories ran rampant.

Well, back then conspiracy theories didn’t kill anyone. Today, they do: the anti-mask crowd is criminally negligent in spreading COVID-19. Trump has emerged as the conspiracy theorist-in-chief: in his view there are plots afoot everywhere to undermine his legitimacy and each of those plots is run by—of course—the “Democrat Party” (can we start referring to the GOP as the “Republic Party”?). Trump’s rightwing allies are convinced there’s some sort of conspiracy to destroy America, but they’re hard-pressed to state exactly how that will happen or who the plotters are. Islamic terrorists? Gays? Mexicans? Liberals? Abortion doctors? Jews? Journalists? Bill Gates? Probably all of them, say the Proud Boys. And how will they destroy America? From within, they say. They take over colleges and the media, including Hollywood and New York. They promote something called “equality,” which means letting colored people and foreigners take the decisions away from the capable white men who have always run things. Only the rightwing (they say) can correct these mistaken courses, and if it takes compromising an election in order to preserve the privileges of white men, then so be it.

It will take a lot to overcome the skepticism of the American people towards government. After the damage Trump has caused, you can’t blame people for thinking that all government and all politicians suck. That is, of course, precisely what Trump wants. I’ve seen lots of news coverage lately of people saying they’re so disgusted with everything, they’re not going to vote. I heard the same thing four years ago. Lots of people didn’t vote, and look what happened: Trump got elected. I know younger people who subscribe to the “a pox of both their houses” philosophy. All politicians are power-hungry, greedy, lying bastards. Why waste your time voting for them?

This is the Steve Bannon school of thought: make everything so putrid that people drop out of the system, which then comes crashing down. That’s always been what Bannon and Trump wanted: total annihilation of the system: banking, politics, culture, media, schools, cities, businesses, values, the economy. Raze it all to the ground, and then build it back up again. And who will do the rebuilding? The Proud Boys and their ilk: the resentful white men, angry that the land of liberty has been stolen from them. They will rebuild America, and anyone who opposes them is the enemy. And the Proud Boys, like Hitler’s Storm Troops, know how to deal with the enemy.

Well, now I’m sounding like a conspiracy theorist! But does anyone have any doubt what Trump meant last night when he told the Proud Boys to “stand down and stand by”? That is a military order. “Stand down”…for now. “Stand by”…for later. How much later? As soon as Trump sounds the alarm. When might that be? The day after the election is as good a date as any we can guess. He loses substantially…his claim that mail-in voting was rigged cannot be substantiated and isn’t believed by anyone except the hopeless cases of the Proud Boys. The Republican Senate is going down in flames as Collins, Gardner, McSally, Ernst and even Graham lose races to Democrats. The walls are closing in on Trump and his family. He can pardon himself from federal crimes but he can’t do anything about those New York State cases, or about the umpteen civil lawsuits coming his way. And, as we now know, he’s a half-billion in debt. Trapped, encircled, freaked out, Trump mobilizes the Proud Boys. What slogan, what phrase will he use? It will be a simple phrase, consisting of only a few words. “It’s time,” he might say, or “Stand up.” Something like that. Whatever the words he uses, the Proud Boys are already listening. They’re locking and loading.

And this is what it’s come to: both sides catastrophizing, expecting the worst. Which is exactly what happened in the weeks before Fort Sumter and the beginning of the first Civil War. Then, the U.S. military was divided: some general officers elected to uphold their oath to the Constitution and remained with the Union. Others, most famously Lee, violated their oath and went over to the rebels. This time around, senior U.S. military officers are going to have to choose from among the same options.


Nullification? Gov. Newsom may have to consider it

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I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.” – Martin Luther King, “I Have a Dream” speech, Aug. 28, 1963

“Nullification” is “a legal theory that a state has the right to nullify, or invalidate, any federal law which that state has deemed unconstitutional with respect to the United States Constitution (as opposed to the state’s own constitution). The theory of nullification has never been legally upheld by federal courts. The related idea of interposition is a theory that a state has the right and the duty to ‘interpose’ itself when the federal government enacts laws that the state believes to be unconstitutional.”

The theory of nullification has for the most part been discredited in this country, with most Constitutional scholars  arguing that federal law supercedes state law. Therefore, if the federal government enacts a law—or if the federal Supreme Court issues a ruling—then states are required to uphold it.

The reason why Dr. King was so ticked off about nullification was because southern states routinely ignored or blocked federal laws and Supreme Court rulings when it came to segregation. Following the High Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling, some states tried to nullify it; Arkansas, for example, attempted to block the Little Rock Nine from enrolling in high school, with Gov. Orville Faubus, an arch-segregationist, sending the Arkansas National Guard and the Little Rock police to surround Central High School and keep the black students out. That infamous episode led a very reluctant President Dwight D. Eisenhower—no fan of civil rights for Negroes, as they were then known—to federalize the Arkansas National Guard and protect the students as they entered the building.

Faubus had attempted to nullify the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling, and even a conservative Republican like Eisenhower couldn’t let that happen. “Nullification” became a bad word for liberals in the Civil Rights movement, hence Dr. King’s use of the word.

The way I see it, “nullification” is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, if a state sincerely believes its rights and the freedoms of its citizens are being compromised by an overreaching federal government. In the end, “nullification” in itself is neither right nor wrong; it’s a tactic and is subject to the realities of politics. Eisenhower was right to federalize the Arkansas National Guard, because equality of education is a fundamental right of all American children, whether the Constitution explicitly says so or not. Central High School ought to have been opened to black students, not because of Brown v. Board of Education, but because it was manifestly the right thing to do (and black as well as white tax dollars paid for it). The fact that Brown v. Board of Education had been ruled by the Supreme Court merely made opening the school easier and more legitimate.

I use this example because I can easily foresee situations in which I would want my own state, California, to nullify future Supreme Court rulings that are obviously wrong. The two most salient examples concern abortion and gay rights. When Amy Coney Barrett is installed on the Supreme Court, the Court will have six (of its nine) Justices who are Catholic. The Catholic Church explicitly condemns homosexuality and abortion—this, despite the fact that it has systematically murdered millions of human beings over the centuries, including many homosexuals. If these Catholics who form the majority of the Supreme Court take away the rights of gay people to marry and of women to terminate their pregnancies, then I would want California and our Governor, Gavin Newsom, to nullify those decisions, because those decisions would be immoral and wrong.

In the event of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, I would want Gov. Newsom to immediately announce that California will protect, using force if necessary, all women’s reproductive health centers in the state. And if the Supreme Court throws out Obergefell v. Hodges, I would want him to say that California will continue to recognize gay marriage and all other rights to which gay people are entitled, and which the Catholic Supreme Court in its hysterical homophobia will try to take away. If the federal government in retaliation (let’s say Trump is re-elected) threatens to punish California in some way (for instance, by withholding federal dollars for infrastructure or for wildfire protection), California has a big ace up its sleeve: the federal income taxes of Californians provide more money to the federal government than any other state, nearly as much as New York and Florida combined. If California withheld that money from the federal government, the federal government in all likelihood would no longer be able to sustain its obligations. Of course, withholding California’s taxes from the federal government would dramatically re-raise the topic of California leaving the union and becoming its own country (perhaps together with Oregon and Washington State). That’s a topic we can talk about at another time. In the meanwhile, Californians who thought that nullification was a horrible thing in old days should reconsider the possibility of employing it in order to resist the imposition of a religious, anti-democratic theocracy upon us.


Democrats hate Coney Barrett because she’s Catholic? Don’t make me laugh

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Republicans and Catholics are complaining that Democrats hate Amy Coney Barrett and don’t want her on the Supreme Court for a single reason: because she’s Catholic.

We’re being mean to her, they say. We’re not treating her fairly. Question: Was the Catholic Church fair to the hundreds of thousands of gay human beings it persecuted and murdered over the last 700 years?

We all know the church’s history towards gay people: the auto-da-fé. Tie ‘em up to a post, pile wood all around them, set the wood on fire, and sit there watching them suffer and burn, while the Catholics clasp their bibles and praise God.

And the church has never, not once apologized for this genocide.

It took the church more than 300 years to finally get around to apologizing for their harsh mistreatment of Galileo, for his unpardonable sin of telling the truth: the earth revolves around the Sun, not the other way around, a stupidity which the church fathers peddled for centuries.

For this, Galileo was labeled a heretic, and was lucky to escape with his life. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest. The church hated scientific truth then, and it still hates scientific truth, which is why people like Coney Barrett and her “People of Praise” cult apparently believe that evolution is—as Trump would say—a Democrat hoax. Instead, these pontificating Catholics insist the universe is only 6,000 years old, and little Cain and Abel played with dinosaurs—real dinosaurs, not toys—in the Garden of Eden.

Maybe 300 years from now Catholics, if any remain, might get around to apologizing for systematically kidnapping, torturing and murdering gay people. And while they’re at it, they might apologize for millions of other “heretics” they burned at the stake, beheaded or drove into exile when they ran Europe. And they might apologize for their genocide of millions of native peoples of color in the colonies they invaded.

Why are we do worry about pointing out the Catholic Church’s horrendous crimes? This morning’s San Francisco Chronicle has a front page story headlined Dems wary of focus on nominee’s faith. It describes how Dianne Feinstein got hit with a wave of scorn when she asked Coney Barrett about her “manifest dogma” in the courtroom where, as a judge, her anti-feminist, anti-gay bias—stemming from Catholic Church teaching—made her an impious aberration of justice. Democrats, the Chronicle article pointed out, hope to win over the votes of many American Catholics, so if the Dems are hard on Coney Barrett, it might trigger an anti-Democratic backlash.

That could easily be true. At the same time, are we supposed to sit back and muzzle the truth? No. Somebody has to say it, no matter how many feathers it ruffles: the Catholic Church has been Murder, Inc. for a millennium. (And I’m not even talking about the pedophilia!) Estimates of the number of people they killed during the Inquisition alone range from 50 million to 68 million–and that was during a 200-year time frame. How many more did they kill before and after the Inquisition? Clearly, the Catholic Church has ruthlessly, systematically liquidated more human beings than died in World War II.

I’m not keeping my mouth shut. This is truth. The Catholic Church may have done some wonderful things (Gregorian chants, the art of Raphael and Michaelangelo, the music of Bach), but it has also been the most barbarous outfit in the history of the world. And now it is giving us yet another Supreme Court justice, in addition to the five already there. With Coney Barrett, they will make up 60% of the Court’s justices, while Catholics constitute only 20% of the American population.

Why do conservative Republican presidents love appointing Catholics to the Court? Because they know that their political agenda—homophobia, science denial, protection of the rich, union-bashing, authoritarianism, racism—will be protected by Catholic justices, while Jewish justices tend to uphold Democratic positions.

So spare me the crocodile tears about Coney Barrett. She represents a truly awful, savage organization. Wouldn’t it be nice if, during her upcoming hearings, some Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee asked Coney Barrett about her church’s history of murdering gay people? And wouldn’t it be nice if Coney Barrett responded, “Yes. I feel personally terrible about that. I’d like to apologize to the LGBTQ community around the world for what we’ve done to you and your ancestors, and I hope Pope Francis apologizes also.”

But that won’t happen. Not for another 300 years. And how many more gay people will Catholics have murdered by then?


Coney Barrett: craziness in a petticoat

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The National Catholic Journal, the official propaganda rag for the Church of Pedophile Priests, is already anticipating the attacks against Amy Coney Barrett. Why? Because they know she’s batshit crazy, and they know the media is going to call out her cray-cray.

In a piece headlined “Three Ways Liberals Will Attack Amy Coney Barrett’s Faith,” the arch-Catholic, David Mills, argues that “liberals and pro-choicers” will “hit” her with “hysterical” criticism. Okay. Mills has at least one thing right: Yes, we’re going to hit her with criticism. Let me start the process right now.

The “three ways” Mills refers to are:

  1. Claims that her Catholicism is in itself disqualifying. This is bullshit, because the Supreme Court has always had Catholics on it, and it has Catholics on it now, so Mills lies when he says we’ll claim Catholicism is disqualifying.
  2. Claims that all or most of Coney Barrett’s illiberal beliefs are “religious and therefore forbidden.” Well, Coney Barrett is going to vote to strike down abortion and she’s going to vote to strike down gay rights (including gays in the military). These two beliefs are, in fact, straight out of the Vatican. Coney Barrett will obey that nice old Pope Francis—and that is, by definition, religious.
  3. Claims that Coney Barrett is not just a Catholic, but “a fanatic.” By this, Mills presumably means we’ll attack her membership in the secretive Catholic cult, People of Praise. This is an organization Coney Barrett has so far refused to comment on, although now she’s going to have to, thoroughly. According to People of Praise, wives must be “absolutely obedient” to their husbands. The husband makes all the decisions; this includes “submission of your will, your desire, your actions.” This is an extraordinarily troubling thought; if Coney Barrett makes it to the High Court, will her husband make all the decisions?

People of Praise’s website claims the cult was started in 1981 “in response to a call from God.” Now, whenever you hear someone say that God told them to do something—whether it’s the Taliban or People of Praise—head for the hills. Clearly, a woman who says God told her to join a cult that instructs her to submit her “will, desire and actions” to her husband is a “fanatic.”  If these people went off to the country and lived as simple farmers and artisans, like the Pennsylvania Dutch, it would be one thing. They wouldn’t bother us, we wouldn’t bother them. But no, these People of Praisers, like their evangelical cousins, insist on forcing their craziness on the rest of us. Normally, we would just laugh them off. But if Coney Barrett is on the Supreme Court, we won’t be able to laugh her off. She’ll have absolute power, and she’ll be joined by the other religious fanatics on the Court—especially Crazy Clarence Thomas and Brett the Rapist Kavanaugh—in foisting a rightwing Christian agenda on 330 million Americans, whether we like it or not.

Back to David Mills, who wrote the Catholic Register propaganda. He also runs a little outfit called “Hour of Our Death,” a blog that claims to be about the Catholic view of death and dying, but is actually a weird hodge-podge of mystical, pseudo-intellectual nonsense. Its premise is that “the truth of our dynamic body-soul existence”—which means the Catholic view of it—is “threatened” by “neo-Gnostic impulses at play in our society.” How’s that? Well, you don’t need a degree in philosophy to know that, according to far-out religious fanatics like Mills and Coney Barrett, whatever “threatens” Catholic beliefs must be Democratic, liberal, atheistic, possibly Jewish, and secular, and might even have ties to terrorism. The website goes on to insult non-Catholics by stating that, unless you follow Mills’ extreme Catholicism—belief in the resurrection, the existence of heaven, hell and purgatory, angels, the sin of assisted suicide–you’re somehow guilty of “ancient errors regarding human dignity, meaning, and purpose.” In other words, unless you’re Catholic, you don’t know the meaning of dignity, meaning or purpose.

That is fanaticism!

How many times do we have to tell these people that America is a secular nation! We will not allow a religious cult—any cult—to impose its beliefs on us. Not the Taliban, not rightwing Hasidic Judaism, not fundamentalist Christianity, not Wicca, and certainly not People of Praise!

I have no doubt that Coney Barrett will be on the Court in the next few weeks. The Republicans in the Senate—degraded, pathological creatures—will see to that. But the fight is on. If they strike down abortion, American women will continue to get abortions. Progressive states, like California, will continue to provide access to women’s healthcare services. What’s Coney Barrett going to do about that? What is a Republican President going to do about that? Send in the Army to shut down abortion clinics in Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland? I’d like to see them try. And if they try to stuff the LGBTQ community back into the closet, there’s going to be hell to pay. Every man that Lindsay Graham ever had sex with is going public. Ditto for every closeted Republican politician in America. Do they actually think that 25 million screaming Queens are going to just let them ride roughshod over us?

Ain’t. Gonna.Happen. We Democrats love a good fight, especially when we know we’re right to defend freedom. Republicans might do well to remember the old warning: Be careful what you wish for; you might just get it.


From the Personal Diary of Donald John Trump

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To be honest, Dear Diary—and you know I always am—I don’t see where in the Constitution it says we have to have elections. I mean, I’ve read through the whole damn thing—well, most of it anyway—well, a lot of it—and I haven’t seen a single place where it says, “You have to have elections.” It’s an option, at best. And we all know that during national emergencies in the past, elections were canceled. Didn’t Abe Lincoln cancel the election? And FDR? Well, we’re in a national emergency now, right? With Biden’s emails proving he took money from Lukashenko and sold America out. Why the hell doesn’t the “paper of record,” the failing New York Times, report on that? Because they’re too busy with fake news about me.

Anyway, I love freaking everybody out by saying I might not have an orderly transition. Everybody’s so jumpy! Relax, people. Where’s your sense of humor? These Democrats are so serious all the time. “Oh, we need healthcare for everybody.” No you don’t! We already have too many poor people in this country. They’re everywhere. I see them sometimes when I’m traveling with my Secret Service detail. You can always tell a poor person. They’re so unkempt. Melania hates them. She spends hours every day trying to look her best, with her makeup and her hair and her fashion and accessories. She’s always saying, “Donald, I am the First Lady. I have to look gorgeous all the time.” Why can’t these poor people take the time to look good? Besides, they don’t pay taxes, most of them. They’re takers, not givers. Romney had it right about the 47%. He’s such a jerk, that Mittster. I can’t stand people like that. One of these days he’s gonna get what’s coming to him. In my second term, I’ll—

Well, they’ll find out. Election, shmelection, as Jared might say. Great kid. He’s as ruthless as me. Maybe more so. Ivanka chose well. I don’t know which one of them should succeed me. Maybe it should be Junior. Well, we have some time before I make that choice. We’ve been meeting, me and the family and Barr, planning our strategy. We can’t lose, let me tell you that. I’m not sure exactly how we’ll pull it off, but we have decision trees that include every possibility. There’s no way, repeat, no way I won’t be sworn in next Jan. 20. Maybe I’ll win outright, although my advisors tell me that’s unlikely. But I’ll definitely win the in-person ballots and there’s no way we’re going to allow mail-in ballots to count. Look at what just happened in Pennsylvania! The U.S. Attorney there, Freed, did exactly what he was supposed to do. I remember when I met with him to interview him for the appointment. He was so ambitious. I said, “Freed, I’m gonna appoint you on one condition: you owe me a favor. I don’t know when I’ll need it, but I will. And I’ll expect you to be there for me.” And he said, “Mr. President, you can count on me. For anything. Anything.” And it came a little sooner than either of us thought. Good boy, Freed.

And even if some mail-in ballots survive the onslaught of lawsuits we’ll throw at them, I still own the Electoral College. When they meet on Dec. 6, guess who’s gonna constitute 75% at least of them? Trump supporters, that’s who. I don’t give a fuck what the popular vote is in Wisconsin or Pennsylvania or Florida or Arizona or Michigan or anyplace else. I’m winning all those states. You heard it here, Dear Diary. Besides, by then, I’ll have my new nominee on SCOTUS. That gives me six guaranteed votes. If this stupid election lands up there, my Justices will see to it that I’m elected. And Democrats can just go shove their heads up their rear ends.

It’s good to be President, Dear Diary. So much power. And who knew that the Constitution is so easily manipulated? I can’t believe how previous Presidents failed to take advantage of its loopholes. Nixon should never have given up in 1960. Reagan came close to ignoring it, but in the end he was too timid, too cautious. Not me! Timidity is for losers. Fortune favors the bold. People say I cozy up to dictators. Well, hell yeah! Why not? Dictators are winners! And I’ve said it before, Donald J. Trump is not a loser. I don’t lose. Ever. I do what it takes to win, and if a fucking piece of paper, the Constitution, gets in the way, I tear it up and throw it in the garbage. And what the hell is anyone gonna do about it? The Senate Democrats? Don’t make me laugh. Pathetic Nancy “Pantsuit” Pelosi? I don’t think so. Biden? I’ll shred him next Tuesday, you’ll see. Sleepy Joe is gonna be Sloppy Joe when I get through with him. I’ve got shit on Hunter he won’t believe.

Well, gotta go. I’m playing golf with Tom Selleck and Lindsay. I love that Lindsay. My FBI got some nice little photos of him with another guy. Everybody’s always asking, “Why did Lindsay Graham get so tight with Trump?” Well, that’s why. He does my bidding, the same way I do Putin’s, and for the same reason: Vladimir’s got that videotape of me with the prostitutes in Moscow. Well, that’s okay. I understand how the game is played. This is the big time, not tiddlywinks. Donald J. Trump plays for the highest stakes in the world. And he wins.


Vengeance is mine, saith Democrats

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Like many of you, I’m super-downcast over the Supreme Court situation. I didn’t blog yesterday because I was too depressed. For the same reason, I’ve been staying away from watching the news on T.V. I can’t even take MSNBC; the news is too infuriating. Just the sight of McConnell’s monstrous, chinless head makes me want to hurl a brick at my television.

Is this what Republicans want—to demoralize us going into the elections? What McConnell has done is, quite simply, the worst political thing I’ve ever seen in my life—and that includes Republicans impeaching Clinton, Republican SCOTUS judges handing George W. Bush his 2000 victory, the rise of the racist, homophobic and deeply anti-democratic Tea Party, Republican efforts to undo Obamacare, and, of course, McConnell’s first treachery: refusing to allow a Senate vote on Merrick Garland. Not to mention Republican tolerance of Trump’s rapacious crimes.

Those were awful, atrocious things for Republicans to do. But they’ve now outdone themselves. You know it, I know it, Mitt Romney knows it, everybody knows it. I’m sick and tired of the word “hypocrisy.” It has become normalized, the way Trump’s perverted behavior has become normalized: we see it so much that we become inured to it. There are no adjectives to adequately describe today’s Republican Party, the way there are no adjectives to describe the Holocaust. To attempt to describe such things trivializes them—throws them into the world of things that can be described, which is to say: everything else. The Holocaust deservedly stands alone in history; so, too, ought the modern Republican Party to stand alone in American political and cultural history. An anomaly, a singularity—but there I go again, trying to describe the indescribable.

As depressed as I am—we all know there will be a new Republican Justice in the next few weeks—I also know that if I tune out, crawl under the covers and binge on Netflix, I’m playing the Republican game. That’s what they want me, and you, to do. They want this for two reasons: to discourage as many Democrats as possible from voting, and for the sheer sadistic pleasure of torturing us. I guess I can’t blame them in that respect: if the shoe were on the other foot, I’d take pleasure—schadenfreude—in Republican unhappiness, as I did when we elected Obama in 2008 and re-elected him four years later, as I did when Democrats took control of the House in 2018, as I did when the John Roberts Supreme Court allowed Obamacare and gay marriage to stand.

But this time, I want revenge. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said it well yesterday: McConnell is “playing with fire” by holding a vote. What does that mean? I don’t know and I don’t think Rep. Ocasio-Cortez knows, but we don’t have to have the specifics spelled out at this point. All we need is to hold onto our rage. The day will come, as surely as the sun rises in the East, when we will get our chance to extract vengeance. Now, having said that, I’m flooded with guilt: we’re not supposed to hold onto anger, we’re supposed to get along with each other, we’re supposed to strive for bipartisanship. Even Joe Biden talks about “reaching out” to Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents. Vengeance is said to be a very bad thing. It’s unhealthy in a democracy. We should be singing Kumbaya, not wanting to incarcerate our political opponents.

Sorry. I’m not buying it. Not to overuse a cliché, but you don’t bring a flower to a knife fight. The Republican Party made the decision fifty, sixty years ago to fight dirty. This happened when the evangelicals joined up with the professional conservatives to remake the Republican Party into a mafia. Let me tell you, friends, there’s nobody that fights dirtier or tells more lies than a political evangelical! Meanwhile, for all those years, Democrats in Washington tried to play nice. We conciliated, we shied away from street brawls, we refused to call Republicanism what it is: a sick little cult, because we didn’t want to “alienate” all those nice Christians, who were our brothers and sisters and co-workers. We thought, if we treat them with respect, maybe we can get our real message through: universal healthcare, higher wages, a woman’s right to choose, equality for gay people, fair taxes on the rich, respect for the environment.

It didn’t work. The nicer we were, the nastier they were. And now, here we are. It’s time to put niceness away. Niceness doesn’t work. What works is power. Republicans have it now: they’re going to put a whacked-out Christian psycho lady onto the High Court and there’s nothing we can do about it. But there is: we can vote on Nov. 3. We can keep the House, take the Senate, and elect Joe Biden as President. And then, come next January, we can begin the work of undoing the damage Trump, McConnell and the rest of the thugs have inflicted upon America. We can—yes—begin to extract revenge.


The Last Democrat in South Carolina

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Part 2

Back in New Ellenton cousin Willie gave me heck. “Reverend Dennison sure likes you a lot!” he giggled, as we trudged our way through the slush of Lee Meadow heading up to the school. We was gonna meet some of our friends there and then do who knows what.

“I bet you gonna be doin’ the Holy Rollin’ by the time he done with you,” Willie teased.

“Now don’t you be actin’ so superior like,” I replied. “He just want to help me pray.”

That was on Friday. Two days later I told momma I was gonna take my bike and go to Jackson, and when she asked why, I explained that Rev. Dennison had told me he wanted me to pray with him. Momma knew who Rev. Dennison was. The grapevine in that rural part of the state is pretty good. Momma was, like I said, religious in her own right, but she’d heard that Rev. Dennison was “one of those,” which is how the ladies of the Second Methodist Baptist Church referred to Pentecostals, whom they regarded as just a little too eccentric to be proper Christians. She was quiet for a moment, eying me the way I knew so well: the left eyebrow arched higher than the right, her lips tight and disapproving.

“You sure you want to go?”

“Well, momma, I said I would, and besides, Auntie Esmina wants me to.” The eyebrow remained arched; momma was not a big fan of Esmina Hunke.

“All right. But don’t you dawdle, and you be back here by three or your poppa’s gonna be angry with you. We eat proper at four.”

I can’t say I really wanted to go see Rev. Dennison, but I also can’t say I didn’t. After all, he’d singled me out, not Willie, not even Uncle Mitch. That was sort of special recognition, I guessed, and besides, there’d been something about Rev. Dennison I liked. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Maybe it was his hair that went over his collar. All the other adult men in the area kept their hair close cropped. Some of the younger ones, who’d been in the world war or Korea, even had what we called buzz cuts. It was unusual for a grown man to let his hair grow out. (Ten years later, mine would be halfway down my back, but that’s another story.)

Rev. Dennison had told me to go up to the rear of the church, where there were two little steps leading up from a muddy yard that led to a screen door. I rattled on the screen and a second later he opened it. He was wearing what looked like pajamas, which surprised me because he was supposed to preach. He must have seen the surprise on my face, because he looked down at himself, then back up to me, and laughed. “Oh, I canceled the service,” he said, almost apologetically. “Weather’s too bad. Didn’t want to make folks come out in this slush and mud. I don’t think our Lord will mind.

“But come on in, Bertram, make yourself at home.” He was allowed use of the small apartment at the rear of the church, which had a tiny kitchen and a Murphy bed, as well as a T.V. set. An old wooden dresser with a mirror stood by the wall. I wiped off the mud on my boots on the mud scraper and then Rev. Dennison told me to sit down on the couch. “You wanna watch T.V. or something?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said. Rev. Dennison said he was just scrambling up some eggs and hash browns and would I like a plate. I’d already had breakfast, but the trip from New Ellenton—about ten miles—had made me hungry again, and besides, I was growing like a weed in those days and always seemed to be famished.

As he stood at the little stove and cooked the eggs, his back to me, Rev. Dennison kept up a steady pace of conversation. “I recall bein’ your age, Bert. You prefer Bert, or Bertram? Okay, Bert it is. I couldn’t wait to grow up and start going out with the young ladies. Know what I mean?” He turned around and winked at me, then back to the eggs and taters. “There was this one gal, Katharine Ann, we called her Katie-A. She was a beauty. Only eleven, but she was already fillin’ out. My oh my, yes, she was a special little gal. You got yourself a sweetie?”

“No, sir.” I replied.

“Well, that’s all right. Plenty of time for that. But I bet you think about it, don’t ya?”

I squirmed a little. “Well, to tell you the truth, sir, there is a girl I kind of fancy. Her name’s Betty Lou, you might know her daddy, he’s the deputy sheriff.”

“Betty Lou,” Rev. Dennison repeated, tasting the words in his mouth as though it were the eggs we were about to eat. “All right, Bert, grab yourself a plate from over there by the sink and let’s dig in.”

We ate away. Rev. Dennison turned on the T.V. but the reception was terrible, just a bunch of gray static and wavy lines, so he gave up. “I need to put up some kind of antenna but I never get around to it,” he said, absent-mindedly. Then: “You’re an athletic kind of boy, ain’t ya?”

That caught me kind of by surprise. “A little bit, sir.”

“What’s your sport? Or sports, as it may be.”

“Well, sir, I like fishin’, and ice skatin’ when Crockpot Creek is all froze, and baseball in the summertime.”

“What’s your position?”

“Third base, mainly, but sometimes I pitch.”

“Ah, pitchin’,” he said. “Pitcher’s gotta be in prime shape. You lift any weights?”

“Sir?”

“You know, barbells, dumbbells, that kind of thing? At the gym?”

“No, sir. We aint—uhh, don’t got no gym in New Ellenton.”

“That’s a shame. A damn shame. We have a couple in Aiken. Myself, I worked out a lot at the Y.M.C.A. Great place for a young man to meet other men. Pool, Turkish bath, dry sauna. Meet some mighty nice folk there.”

I didn’t know how to reply to that. I didn’t even know what a Turkish bath was. So we was silent for a couple seconds.

“Tell you what. I got some weights over in that there closet. Just a couple of five-pound bells, but I like to have ‘em around. Let me show you how to use ‘em.”

Rev. Dennison proceeded to teach me bicep curls and tricep curls. “Whenever you work a muscle, you gotta work the opposite muscle, or you get unbalanced. See?” He did ten quick curls in both directions. “Now you try it. Take off your shirt, Bert, and stand there in front of the mirror and watch your muscles as you work ‘em.” As I watched my bicep tense and bulge, then relax, Rev. Dennison kept talking. “You see, God wants us to have perfect bodies. He gave us perfect bodies when we was born—well, most us, anyhow. But too many men let it go to pot, what with all their beer guzzlin’ and bacon eatin’ and such, ‘til by the time they’re thirty they got these great big bellies. It’s an affront to our Creator.” I thought of poppa.

“Keep on doin’ it, Bert,” Rev. Dennison instructed. My arm was getting tired. As I strained, Rev. Dennison put his hands on my arm, lightly, just enough for me to feel his fingertips on my aching bicep. It was warm and strong. “See? You gotta do it until it starts to hurt. No pain, no gain.”

An hour flew by, maybe more. Then I told Rev. Dennison I had to go home because we ate Sunday dinner early.

“Sure, sure, Bert,” he said. “That’s a good boy. You be careful, lots of slush and ice out there. Two weeks time, you come back now, y’hear? We gonna work on your lower body.”

It wasn’t until I reached Jackson, halfway home, that it occurred to me we hadn’t prayed at all.


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