A NATION OF (ILLEGAL) IMMIGRANTS

24 11 2012

music:  Buffy Ste. Marie, “Universal Soldier

Two weeks ago, I was talking to you on “Veterans’ Day,” and, uncharacteristically, one might think, had nothing to say about it.  Truth be told, it’s one of my least favorite national holidays.  Kill people you don’t know because your own private voice in your head tells you to, and you’re a psychopath.  Kill people you don’t know because the government’s voice in your head tells you to, and you’re a hero.  I fail to see a significant difference.  No matter why you kill other people, or aid and abet their murder even if you’re not the one pulling the trigger or pushing the button, it scars your soul, or your psyche, if you’d prefer a more concrete way of thinking about it.  Or, how about this:  killing people, for any reason, wounds the murderer.

Not that I blame “our troops.”  Those who end up herded into the military, whether out of a misplaced sense of duty or a psychopathic desire to kill people they don’t know, or simply because it’s one of the few places that offers a steady paycheck and halfway decent benefits any more, are, as the old song went, “more to be pitied than censured.”  Certainly, these veterans deserve all the help we can give them–far more than is available today, since our current frame of reference in regard to American former child soldiers (No matter what the law says, 18- and 19-year olds are, in many ways, still children.) makes no recognition of the enormity of what happens to the minds of those who kill for their country.  Society pays a huge price, in the form of an epidemic of post-traumatic stress disorder, millions conditioned into a very undemocratic attitude of blind obedience to authority, and denial.

And those are only the psycho-spiritual costs of our militaristic approach to the world.  There’s also the huge waste of material resources, as our limited supplies of  all the things that make a complex technical civilization possible on this small planet are, essentially, raked into a pile and burned in the process of warfare.

But denial is what I want to focus on tonight, denial of another sort.  Read the rest of this entry »





SHARIA, AMERICAN STYLE

8 10 2010

The opposition to building Muslim community centers and mosques around the country has generated a new fear buzzword for Americans:  Sharia.  People are freaking out about the possibility that they will have to obey some other religion’s do’s and don’ts.  What they don’t realize is that we already live under American Sharia.  These are laws that we grew up with, so we tend not to notice them or their religious basis, but these proscriptions and directives are based on irrational religious beliefs and not on common sense.

The situation is complicated by the fact that we actually have two dominant religions in this country, religions that sometimes contradict each other and sometimes feed into each other, and one of them is so deeply embedded in everybody’s upbringing that it’s rarely even recognized as a religion.

The two are Christianity, especially Protestantism, and….Economics.

Economics?

The Random House Dictionary defines religion, in part, thusly:

a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe…and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

If you look at what happens in this country, most decisions are made based on economic, not “Christian,” values–i.e., will it make money for me in the short run?  Even self-styled “Christians” make economic decisions, if only because economics is so deep in our bones that most of us don’t think twice about its influence.

One good example here in Nashville is the likelihood that WRVU, Vanderbilt University’s radio station, will sell its broadcast license to the highest bidder, who is unlikely to continue the station’s tradition of edgy, non-mainstream music and community participation.  If economics were not such a dominant religion, there would be no question about transferring the license to an entity that would continue the station’s current service to the community, regardless of that entity’s ability to pay top dollar for the airspace.

Here in Nashville, too, just as in most of the rest of the country, we have seen thousands of acres of woods and farms that made a huge contribution to our quality of life turn into suburban homes and strip malls because that was the way to maximize financial profit in a belief system that places a low value on open land and a high value on development.  In the same spirit, moving factories overseas to take advantage of a cheaper workforce is only a rational decision from a very narrow economic standpoint, as is the decision that the degradation of the environment is an “externality” that does not have to be factored in to the cost of production.  These are beliefs, not facts.

One point where Economic and Protestant Sharia intersect is that both accord more respect to the wealthy than to the poor.  Consider the recent Supreme Court decision granting corporations the same free speech rights as “natural persons.”  If corporations were not fantastically wealthy, they would never have gotten this recognition.

A lower court recently made corporate persons even more equal than us natural persons when it ruled that the Alien Tort Act, under which a number of aggrieved foreigners were suing US corporations for human rights abuses and environmental degradation overseas, applies only to natural, not corporate persons.  So, corporate persons have the right to spend unlimited amounts of money to freely express themselves, but cannot be held liable for harm they cause.  Pretty neat, huh?  I submit that this distinction, this free pass, was granted, at least subconsciously, in recognition of the corporations’ superior wealth and earning power.

Gee….if corporations have all the rights of natural persons, and then some, shouldn’t conservatives demand that they demonstrate that they’re of different sexes to merge, also known as–marry?

And that question brings us to this month’s “truth in strange places” award, which goes out, a few months after the fact , to Judge Vaughn R. Walker, chief judge of the US district court of northern California.  The judge was initially appointed by Ronald Reagan, blocked by Democrats who feared he would be insensitive to gay and low-income issues, then finally appointed to the bench by George Bush the First.  Asked to rule on the Constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage, he struck down the measure, saying:

the Court asked whether a majority of citizens could use the power of the state to enforce “profound and deep convictions accepted as ethical and moral principles” through the criminal code. The question here is whether California voters can enforce those same principles through regulation of marriage licenses.  They cannot.

He stated further that “the state has no compelling interest” in the sex or sexual orientation of individuals applying for a marriage license, concluding:

Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license.  Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples.  Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

The judge didn’t come out and call Proposition 8 what it really is, but I will:  American Sharia.  Our homegrown Sharia is also responsible for laws against abortion, marijuana and other drugs, laws limiting or prohibiting alcohol sales, limits on public assistance, the push for prayer and Bible classes in public schools, discouraging the teaching of sexuality and birth control in public schools, laws against nude bathing, attempts to limit unmarried individuals’ access to birth control and other anti-sexual attitudes and legal restraints, calls for censorship of the arts, and probably other things that I am so used to looking at that I can’t even see them.

When I was a kid there were “blue laws” that prohibited stores from being open on Sundays, the Christian sabbath…in a way I miss that, it was kinda nice to have a recognized non-commercial day of the week (tho I was brought up Jewish!). But, in modern America, it’s commerce, commerce, über alles!

All this is by way of pointing out that what makes Islamic Sharia scary to people is that it’s somebody else’s church’s rules, not theirs. Most of those who oppose Islamic Sharia seem all too eager to impose their own, homegrown version on the rest of us.  No, thanks.

An America under conservative Christian law–no abortions, no overt homosexuality, wives subordinate to their husbands, is the pipe dream of the “Christian dominionists,” a group whose views have been widely ridiculed, most notably by the “Dear Dr. Laura” letter, which famously asks questions like,

I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15:19- 24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

Yes, friends, these are the kind of questions that “following Biblical law” leads us into.  There is currently an uneasy alliance between business conservatives and religious conservatives, each attempting to use the other to advance their own agenda.  If next month’s election proves to be as much of a disaster for the Democratic Party as many predict, we can look forward to a clash of the Titans as Karl Rove’s crew and the Christian dominionists battle for hegemony.

My prediction?  Neither will be successful, and the country will fall into ruin around them as they struggle.  You think there have been some wild drops on this roller coaster ride?  You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Jackson Browne:  “Before the Deluge





MILLION-DOLLAR SOLDIERS AND MISPLACED PRIORITIES

12 09 2010

Nine years ago yesterday, something awful happened in downtown Manhattan.  Whether it was the work of a small, dedicated group of terrorists who slipped through our defenses or a “Reichstag fire” has still not been settled.  While I find it hard to believe that the World Trade Center caught fire so readily and collapsed so neatly and completely without skilled assistance (including a building that did not get hit by an airplane but did contain surveillance equipment that could have told us who-knows-what), I also find it hard to believe that, in this Wikileaks age, nobody who’s in on the secret has spilled any beans so far.  Maybe it really was done by Israeli intelligence operatives.  They are some mean, dedicated mofos.

Speaking of mean, dedicated mofos, let’s give a shout-out to the US Congress for failing to pass a bill that would provide funds to help the thousands of people who are still sick today because they inhaled WTC dust.  Kudos to Bush’s EPA secretary, Christie Whitman, who announced that it was safe to work in the rubble without protective equipment. Kudos to the “support our heroes” Republicans who wouldn’t support the bill because it was  financed by closing a corporate tax loophole, and kudos to the Democrats who hobbled the bill by proposing it in a form that required a 2/3 majority to pass.  What a wonderful government we have, yessir.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.  The rubble from the World Trade Center has been consigned to the dust bin of history, and is unlikely to ever be exhumed and examined, to the great relief of whoever is keeping whatever secrets there may be about this event.  In response to the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, because a bunch of Saudi Arabians allegedly attacked us, and the Afghans were allegedly giving them shelter, aid and comfort.

We never have found that pesky Bin Laden, in spite of all our vaunted high-tech surveillance and the presence of around 160,000 US soldiers, over 100,000 mercenaries, aka “private contractors,”  and the deputization of around 200,000 Afghans as soldiers and policemen–although, given the shoddy state of record keeping in Afghanistan, one of those deputies could very well be Ben Laden…but, I digress.  The country is relatively small, about 250,000 square miles, which means that there are nearly two foreign or Afghan soldiers per square mile of Afghanistan.  Many of those square miles are incredibly rugged, but others are flat as a pancake, with nowhere to hide. That should be enough “boots on the ground” to find whatever’s there, but Bin Laden, that former CIA asset, still eludes us, as do thousands of his supporters, aka a sizable percentage of the people of Afghanistan.  Yet another batch of mean, dedicated mofos.

So, the U.S. has sent 160,000 soldiers to one of the most isolated, primitive places in the world, and is trying to make it comfy for them.  When my father fought in World War II, he was issued  a blanket to sleep in and a tent to put his blanket in.  The war was nearly over before he got a real sleeping bag.  In Afghanistan, Uncle Sam is providing air conditioning for tents in the desert.  That’ll boost your expenses.  In fact, the war is costing the U.S. a million dollars per soldier per year.  This comes to about six thousand dollars a year for each of the approximately twenty-five million citizens of Afghanistan, whose per capita annual income is estimated to be about $800.  Gee…might they become a lot more peaceful and open minded if we withdrew our soldiers and instituted a guaranteed annual income of $1600 per person?  We’d save a lot of money, too, which we could really use over here, dontcha know?

Meanwhile,just south of Afghanistan, Pakistan is suffering from devastating flooding.  The immediate cause of this is an unusually strong monsoon, but what has made this worse is that Pakistan’s hills have been denuded by firewood seekers and grazing animals, so there is nothing to catch the water as it falls on barren hillsides and swells the country’s rivers.  Over 800 million dollars has been raised for Pakistan so far for immediate relief; more would be necessary to actually fix the deeper problem.  Eight hundred million sounds like a lot of money–but it’s the cost of maintaining just eight hundred of the 160,000 American soldiers in the region.  That’s one-half of one percent of the troops and the budget.  But we can’t spare it–gotta make Afghanistan safe for democracy, or oil pipelines and mineral exploitation in any case.  The US has kicked in the equivalent of just 150 soldiers from our Afghan expedition–a tenth of one percent.  That’s seven and a half dollars per displaced person in Pakistan.  Pakistanis are dying from malnutrition and bad water while U.S. soldiers eat steak and sleep in air-conditioned tents.  What is wrong with this picture?

US soldiers in Afghanistan are making enemies just by being there.  Scrimping on aid to Pakistan because we’re fighting a war in Afghanistan is making enemies by not being there.  In the Middle East, this contributes to the perception that the US would rather shoot Muslims than save them.  Here at home, where mass demonstrations against mosques are all the rage from Murfreesboro to Manhattan, Americans are likewise pouring gasoline on the fire of Muslim anger at our arrogance in imposing our secular/Christian, commercial way of life on them.  Some Muslims are indeed violent and misogynistic, but we lack the moral authority to inspire them out of those bad habits.  Not only are we pretty violent and sexist ourselves, but our secular, commercial, “Christian” culture is revoltingly shallow compared to theirs, in which spiritual considerations take precedence over commercialism.

“Secular/Christian”?  How can our way of life be both?  OK, this is the “deep green” part.  One of the changes in thinking that marked the emergence of Protestantism from Catholicism was that Protestants viewed a person’s path through life, whatever it might be, as, at least potentially, a “calling,” a spiritual enterprise, and identified material success in the world as a sign of spiritual success.  That is, if God loves you, He will make you rich.   Therefore, if you profess Christianity, and you’re wealthy, God must love you.  That is how secularism and Christianity can reinforce each other.  If you want to learn more about this, read Max Weber‘s “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.”  Weber was a prophet.

At a still deeper level, we are falling victim to good, old-fashioned Christian dualism–good and evil, Devil and God.  “We who are saved are good, those who are not saved are evil.”  If we are saved/good, any “evil” must be “out there–our own mind is pure because we are saved, so somebody else is the problem.  This has been a consistent theme through American history–some group has always been demonized, starting with the Native Americans, then witches, Quakers, Irish, Germans, Italians, Eastern Europeans, Negroes, Chinese,  Jews, labor organizers, Communists, hippies, gays.  Now it’s Islam’s turn.

Nor can we ignore the fact that the real villains in American history–the ruling class–have distracted the masses into these foolish prejudices to preserve their own power. And no, I am not just pointing to another “enemy out there.”  We are all deeply enmeshed with those who rule us.  It’s called “the American way of life,” and the sooner we admit that it is, in fact, negotiable, the easier it will be  not just on  us, but on the whole planet.

music:  Jackson Browne, “Soldier of Plenty





SAD BUT TRUE

19 01 2008

Coal Industry Plugs Into the Campaign

 

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 18, 2008; Page D01

A group backed by the coal industry and its utility allies is waging a $35 million campaign in primary and caucus states to rally public support for coal-fired electricity and to fuel opposition to legislation that Congress is crafting to slow climate change.

The group, called Americans for Balanced Energy Choices, has spent $1.3 million on billboard, newspaper, television and radio ads in Iowa, NevadaSouth Carolina. and

One of its television ads shows a power cord being plugged into a lump of coal, which it calls “an American resource that will help us with vital energy security” and “the fuel that powers our way of life.” The ads note that half of U.S. electricity comes from coal-fired plants.

Yes, and as Uberfuhrer Cheney has proclaimed, “the American way of life is not negotiable,” even if it means keeping our hobnailed boot on the neck of a bunch of ignorant ragheads and darkies no matter how much they bitch and moan and plot our demise…. we will live as we please until we choke on it…private cars, fast food, big-screen tv, central heat and air…build me ever more pretentious mcmansions, oh beelzebub….in the Bible that all these so-called Christians profess to elevate above all other books in wisdom, the pagan god Baal was reviled for demanding the sacrifice of small children….but what are we doing with the non-negotiable Amerikan way of life but demanding the sacrifice of small children–Bill (and Hillary’s) Iraq boycott back in the good ol’days killed thousands of Iraqi children, and the Bush-Cheney junta’s war for oil has killed thousands more…who do they worship?

music:  Leonard Cohen, “The Story of Isaac”





PUSHING THE HOT BUTTONS, IGNORING THE KEYS

13 01 2008

I recently received an email communique from Tennessee Rep. Gary Odom, touting the legislature’s achievements this year. He didn’t mention my favorite, which was a state resolution opposing the Real ID Act. That passed back in June and was sponsored by my State Representative, Gary Moore, and I am quite proud of him for that. Hey, it was a bipartisan agreement–even Lamar Alexander came out against it. Lamar’s opposition is not enough to make me proud of him, however, for a wide variety of reasons. He does get a Truth In Strange Places nomination, though, for saying,

“We have just assumed that every single State will want to ante up, turn its driver’s licenses examiners into CIA agents, and pay hundreds of millions of dollars to do an almost impossible task over the next 3 years.

“We did that without any recognition in this legislation that we are not the state government, we are the federal government, and, if we want a national ID card, we should be creating a federal ID card. “

And that’s something Lamar thinks we need. Maybe after this term in the Senate, he’ll be nominated for a position in the Supreme Soviet. May I see your papers?

(After I wrote this, Homeland Sekurity Reichsfuhrer Michael Jerkoff announced that they have set the compliance date back to 2014, which gives a possibly saner Congress the chance to repeal the mess.  The junta never admits it’s flat-out wrong about anything, but this is probably as close as we’re going to get.)

Well, opposition to Bush junta policies is probably a little edgy for Mr. Odom, who, as the Majority Leader in the Tennessee House, has got to keep himself firmly in the mainstream.

And the mainstream achievements Mr. Odom is proudest of are: more funding for education out of the lottery revenue stream, continued funding for highways in the state, and a tougher crime package.

Ah, the lottery revenue stream. A lottery is OK, but an income tax is unmentionable…lottery participation is voluntary, but an income tax in Tennessee will mostly come out of the pockets of the wealthy, which is why the anti-tax demonstrations we had here a few years ago consisted of well-dressed, mostly overweight people stopping traffic around the State Capitol while they honked the horns of their SUVs.

Lottery ticket buyers, on the other hand, tend to be under-educated, low-income, and black. Not a political force to be reckoned with, y’know? There is something strangely ironic about having the least-educated members of society fund improvements to the educational system that are unlikely to ever be of any benefit to them–unless they’ve got four-year olds, which, come to think of it, is a good possibility, since ignorance breeds children. But how many of those children will ever make it into college?

The Nashville Scene recently wrote an editorial chiding the Democrats for moral laxity over the Tennessee Waltz convictions and a couple of other incidents of lawmaker misbehavior. The Republicans, they seemed to imply, held the high moral ground in this state. As a Green, I’m not about to carry water for the Democrats, but the Repugs certainly have done their share of sinning. After all, the Tennessee Waltz entrapment was schemed up by a politicized Republican Justice Department that was out to make the Democrats look bad. How moral is that? And how moral is it to completely demonize the idea of a progressive income tax in Tennessee, leaving us with a sales tax system that burdens the poor much more than the wealthy? All these so-called pious Christians don’t seem to have much regard for the Jesus who frequently warned against the dangers of too much material accumulation, or for the early Christian community described in Acts, in which believers pooled their belongings and gave to each person as he or she had need. But I digress. I am not advocating turning Tennessee into a Christian Communist state!

Back to Rep. Odom and his list of achievements…he was happy to report that state highway funding will continue, hand in hand with efforts to produce ethanol from non-food crops here in the state. both of which indicate a determination to carry on with things just as they are for as long as we possibly can rather than look for serious alternatives like mass transit that works, redesigning our infrastructure to lessen the need for commuting, or widespread local solar power generation (which, among other things, could power electric cars). These bold moves were not made.

The legislature “got tough on crime” by creating more DA’s and public defenders and making gun crime penalties harsher. Well, from a certain perspective, this approach has worked. Between 1994 and 2004, the crime rate in Tennessee dropped about 4%, but the number of people incarcerated went up 58%. “Getting tough on crime” is now a for-profit industry, with prisons replacing factories as the economic engine that drives some counties in our state. This is not a healthy development, and I don’t think that pushing people through the court system faster and mandating longer sentences is a good answer. A courageous criminal justice program would end the death penalty, outlaw private prisons, decriminalize or at least abolish jail time for victimless crimes, and put more money into educational and psychological services for violent or large-property criminals. Let’s be clear: by “psychological services” I don’t mean putting them on meds! And white-collar criminals? Let ‘em chop cotton and break rocks! But seriously, it’s a scare tactic to keep the public focussed on violent crime and the occasional twisted child molester while our environment is raped and plundered, corporate thievery is rampant, and elected officials steal elections and vandalize the Constitution.

Speaking of stolen elections, Tennessee does appear to be on the verge of dumping its touchscreen voting machines and working with optical scan equipment. There has been a lot of citizen pressure on this issue which seems to have helped move it along–state legislators don’t get the volume of mail that national legislators receive, so it’s easier to influence them, which is a good thing. Votesafetn.org has a website set up that makes it easy to contact the committee members.

The legislature did allocate money to improve broadband internet access in rural parts of the state. This is a good thing. Some of us are on the information superhighway, and some of us are following mud ruts to town. With physical travel due to get a lot more difficult as the price of gas, or ethanol, or whatever, continues to spiral on up, we need to do what we can to expedite the flow of information and communication. The four million they put into broadband should have been forty million.

In a sop to low-income Tennesseans, the legislature cut the sales tax on food by a half of one percent. That’s fifty cents less taxes on every hundred dollars worth of groceries. Whoopie! How magnanamous!

Other key issues that saw no action from the legislature, from my “deep green perspective,” are questions of land use planning and forest preservation and regeneration and promotion of local agriculture and industry that might return a measure of self-sufficiency to a state that has to import just about everything that it uses. A century ago, Tennessee was a poor but self-reliant state; the current widespread ownership of automobiles, electronic devices, fancy kitchen appliances, and central heat and air systems would certainly appear lavish to a traveller from the past, as would the proliferation of supermarkets and big box stores.

But with oil, consumer credit, and our whole economy sliding down the tubes, we may soon be asking ourselves if we really are better off than our horse-drawn, wood-heated, dirt farming predecessors. If I were a state legislator, I would be thinking about that. Judging by Rep. Odom’s report, they’re not.

music: Richard and Linda Thompson, “Civilization”





PRO-LIFE?

10 03 2007

Stacey Campfield, a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives, has gotten a lot of publicity for his bill proposing that aborted foetuses be issued death warrants. This bill was termed “the most preposterous bill I’ve seen” by Judiciary committee chairman Rob Briley. It joins Campfield’s list of wacko unpassable legislation, such as a bill that would require women to pay their husbands’ legal bills if they filed for an order of protection and it was denied. Some have termed this “the wife beater protection act.” Campfield has also introduced legislation to substitute a tax on pornography for the state sales tax on food, and another bill intended to prevent university professors from introducing their opinions into classroom discussions. In his two terms in the legislature, he has not introduced any legislation that actually passed.

Campfield actually managed to win a contested election to get into the Tennessee House, unlike many of his fellow Republicans and Democrats. His opponent promises to try harder next time, and the ten thousand people who voted for him should be ashamed of themselves for giving this bully a bully pulpit.

If Stacey Campfield were serious about being a Christian and upholding the preciousness of life, he would be doing something to free Paul House from death row here in Tennessee. Paul House was found innocent by the US Supreme Court, but somehow, nearly a year later, he is still in jail, suffering terribly from multiple sclerosis and getting virtually no medical care for his condition. Call Governor Phil Bredesen at (615) 741-2001 and ask him to grant a full pardon to Paul House.

music: Eliza Gilkyson, “Man of God”





WWDD?

17 07 2005

Let’s engage in a little freewheeling fantasy, folks:

What would a demon do?

A demon, in Western religious tradition, is a servant of Satan It’s a demon’s job to make hell unpleasant for the rest of its inhabitants. And how might a demon torture thee? Let me count some of the ways:

Demons can make sure souls are trapped in unhappy situations—for example, a life in which your mother didn’t want to have you in the first place and lacks the motivation, support, and resources to bring you up happily. Hell for you, hell for her.

Or a life born to parents who wanted you, but who find their own lives disrupted and crushed by vast forces beyond their control—drought, flood, war, disease, overpopulation, famine, marauding oil companies—you know, the classic horsemen of the apocalypse. A refugee camp in Africa for your kindergarten? Hell for everyone.

Or something subtler—a life in the American underclasses as reshaped by the skinflints who have controlled our government for the last 25 years—Bill Clinton was the best Republican president this country’s had since Teddy Roosevelt–a life devoid of intellectual stimulation, emotional support, psychological understanding, nutritional intelligence, material comfort, and challenging opportunity, a life filled with distraction, exploitation, denial, dead-end jobs and constant glimpses of inaccessible luxuries enjoyed by the rich and famous. That’s America for a lot of people—and that’s hell.

These are all things demons could or would do to make life miserable for people—and the sad thing is, most of the people trapped in those hells would have no idea they were in hell.

Another thing demons can do to torment souls is to keep them from dying. For example, suppose someone were blind and unable to speak or move, suppose they needed a feeding tube to eat and were unable to respond to, or possibly even notice, any kind of outside stimulus whatsoever. Suppose that person’s brain had decayed to half its normal size?

Whatever shred of consciousness such a person might have left would perceive itself as being in a dark, soundless room, unable to move, for a period of time that would seem infinite, for they would have no way to mark time. Doesn’t that sound like the kind of torture someone would encounter in hell?

Wouldn’t the compassionate, loving, Christian thing to do be to let that poor, trapped soul die and go to heaven? Doesn’t it seem demonic to force such a person to stay for years in the dark room of what is left of her mind? Sounds worse than Abu Ghairab to me!

Of course, to be a demon, you need to be inconsistent, so while you are sparing no expense to keep people alive, you must at the same time make it harder for people who are consciously and intentionally clinging to life to do so—by limiting how much financial assistance you give them, and making it harder for them to declare bankruptcy.

Another thing a demon would do to make life hell for people is be unforgiving. If you’re a young girl and you get pregnant, you’re going to have that baby. If you’re a young person whose learning curve happens to include petty theft, overt expressions of anger, wild driving, or the indiscreet enjoyment of sex or the wrong drugs, the demons would make sure that your youthful deeds follow you and cripple your opportunities for the rest of your life.

But—inconsistency rules! Demons let other demons get away with all kinds of behavior, especially if they are corporate demons. Did you ever notice that for-profit corporations are demons? They are legally considered “persons” but their basic, declared purpose is profit—that is, the “soul” of a for-profit corporation is essentially selfish. That’s quite different from how you and I are set up, isn’t it? I believe that my basic purpose is to bring about greater peace, love and understanding, and I believe that generosity is a far better impulse to exercise than selfishness. I’d guess you think pretty much the same way. You can’t write generosity into the charter of a for-profit corporation. But I digress.

Another thing a demon would do is demean the creation. Cut down the forests, pave the plains, pollute the air and water and be sure to spread shame and distortion around that extraordinary Divine creation, the human body. You know, it’s only flesh and blood and electricity, and it blooms and decays in the blink of an eye, but there really is nothing else like it in the Universe, as far as we can tell so far. We seem to be the only, almost infinitely tiny, piece of this entire, vast cosmos that knows that the whole show is here.

I have respect and admiration for the intelligence, wisdom, and communicative capacities of dolphins, pigs, wolves,and our various primate cousins, as well as octopi and the fabled giant squid, but until I hear them weigh in on cosmology or its equivalent, I’m presuming we know some very important things they don’t. But, I digress.

Maybe it’s just my DNA talking, but I appreciate the human form and like to see it celebrated—as in Alan Lequire’s exuberant sculpture at the head of Music Row. Well, maybe it’s because one of my friends posed for that sculpture and I love seeing her in all her radiant glory right there in the middle of that vast ugliness. But a bunch of people picketed that statue recently—there’s a campaign going on complaining that Alan’s statue is indecent. As they said in this week’s Nashville Scene, uncovered breast cancer is a lot more indecent than uncovered breasts. But this is just another aspect of the demonic campaign to convince us there’s something wrong with our bodies and their needs and urges.

Too big, too small, wrong color, smells wrong, wants to relax the wrong way with the wrong person—wrong, wrong, wrong. Love is not the law among demons—the name of their game is control and shame.

Is oppressing souls unpleasant for the demon? The demon doesn’t think so—demons are inured to their obnoxious environment and the pain they cause others. They are full of the self-righteousness that comes from knowing that you are doing the Lord’s Work and Giving Sinners What They Deserve.

But the fact is, that the evil a demon does is corrosive to him or her. Poor diet, stultified emotions, a blunted intellect and a warped world view eventually take their toll, and it is far more unpleasant to be a dying demon than it is to have been one of their victims, though that is scant consolation to those victims.

Now, you may have noticed something through my little discourse on demonology: All those things that would logically be done by a demon for the right and proper conduct of hell are being done by people who call themselves Christian. So-called Christians are against abortion, birth control, and serious aid to the profoundly impoverished. So-called Christians support the bland, malnourishing pablum of mainstream culture—their self-serving squawks against Hollywood vulgarity are just windowdressing.

So-called Christians fought to keep the tortured remains of Terry Schaivo alive, even as they moved to cut welfare, medicaid, and social security. So-called Christians have propelled the so-called war on drugs until it and its collateral damage have given this so-called Land of the Free the highest prison population per capita of any country in the world. So-called Christians have moved to relax environmental standards and ease up on corporate crime, while tightening the bankruptcy laws and changing the tax laws to remove incentives to large-scale charitable giving. So-called Christians create an atmosphere of obsession and compulsion around the human body that distorts perceptions for all of us and makes a rational, emotionally adult society an impossibility.

And yes, the good news is that these so-called Christians’ indulgent disinclination towards personal lifestyle changes and spiritual evolution means that those of us who know how to take care of ourselves in those ways will probably outlast them, although we may not have much of a world left to enjoy.

Meanwhile, under the thick armor of every smug, selfish, self-righteous Christian/demon there stirs a sad soul that is crying out for love and understanding.

It is our compassionate duty to them to dodge their thrashing as best we can, regard them with love and caring, and pray that a chink in their armor somewhere, sometime, somehow, will let someone give them the love they need. Hang in there, brothers and sisters—patience is a cardinal virtue.








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