Pic of the Day


Fascist, or Authoritarian Wannabe?

When I was doing research for my PhD, I spent four weeks in Italy. It was truly a wonderful experience. I found Italians to be some of the kindest, friendliest, and most welcoming people I have ever met. However, one incident will always stick out in my mind. I was going somewhere in Rome, and I had taken the Rome Metro, which back then was only an X across the city (they were just beginning work on the C Line when I was there). I don’t remember where I was going that particular day, mainly because of what I ran into when I emerged from the Metro. The street was full of people marching and dressed in black. Angry shouts were coming from the sidewalks from people not dressed in black. One of those dressed in black walked up to me and put a leaflet in my hand. That’s when I realized I’d emerged someplace that I did not want to be. The leaflet was for one of Italy’s neo-facist organizations. I am not fluent in any language but English, but because I studied Spanish throughout my years in school and dabbled a little in French and Italian, I do have a familiarity with most Romance languages, and while I can’t speak any of them well, I can read enough to understand what I’m reading.

When I see the hate groups today marching in the streets of the United States and bolstered by our president, I do see similarities between that Italian neo-fascist parade and what we see today in the United States. The biggest difference is that the Italians were mostly peaceful, the American versions are not. The American hate groups are armed and threatening. While the neo-fascists in Italy had very little representation in the government, we not only have a president that supports them but a political party that is silent about them. The same political party also defends their rights to carry weapons in the streets and terrorize other American citizens. These same political leaders send in secret law enforcement officers to attack peaceful protestors who are trying to change problems with police brutality against minorities but do nothing when the protestors are supporting the current administration, violence and hate. Watch Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) question Attorney General Bill Barr about federal officers who descended on protesters near the White House ahead of a photo-op for President Donald Trump yet ignored protestors who threatened to kill the Michigan governor. 

In a Washington Post op-ed published on his retirement, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who was a key witness in President Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry, wrote, “Our national government during the past few years has been more reminiscent of the authoritarian regime my family fled more than 40 years ago than the country I have devoted my life to serving.” So, is Trump just an authoritarian wannabe or is he in fact a fascist? We like to use the word fascist for all kinds of authoritarian regimes, but what does it really mean to be a fascist? Scholars generally agree that there are 14 characteristics of fascism:

  1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism 
  2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights 
  3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause 
  4. Supremacy of the Military 
  5. Rampant Sexism 
  6. Controlled Mass Media 
  7. Obsession with National Security 
  8. Religion and Government are Intertwined 
  9. Corporate Power is Protected 
  10. Labor Power is Suppressed 
  11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts 
  12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment 
  13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption 
  14. Fraudulent Elections 

Does Trump fit the characterizations of a fascist? Some but technically not all. He is not a mass murderer like Hitler, but he is a bully like the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and shares some similarities to the fascist corporatism of Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar. (1) Trump claims a powerful and continuing nationalism but his seeming loyalty to Vladimir Putin says otherwise. (2) He definitely has a disdain for the recognition of human rights: immigrant children in cages, transphobic and racist rhetoric, etc. (3) Without a doubt, Trump identifies his enemies and those he uses as scapegoats as a way to unify his base. Trump ALWAYS has someone else to blame for everything. (4) Trump claims to fully support the military but his actions when dealing with soldiers such a Vindman who have showed criticism of his policies or Capt. Brett Crozier, who was relieved of his command because he sounded the alarm about an outbreak of COVID-19 aboard his ship, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, while the government denied the pandemic was a problem. The military knows that it cannot trust Trump, a man who knew that Putin had paid bounties for the death of American soldiers yet did nothing and says he did not know about the bounties, contrary to what those closest to him have reported. (6) The next characteristic is rampant sexism. Do I even need to elaborate on that one? 

(7) While Trump does not control the mass media, except he has the support of most of Fox News and the One America News Network, he really wishes he could control the media, but that pesky First Amendment stands in his way. (8) Only when he wants to deflect from another disaster he has caused, does Trump seem to become obsessed with National Security. He seemingly worries about China but not the more dangerous Russia or North Korea. (9) Trump has pandered to and protected corporate power, especially when it pertains to his own business interests. The Republican Party elite is made up of an industrial and business aristocracy, who put Trump into power and created a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and an even more powerful elite. (10) Trump has been no friend to organized labor or the average American worker, especially evident during the pandemic when the country has reached record highs in unemployment and his administration is trying to cut needed relief packages for unemployed workers. 

(11) Trump has always shown his disdain for intellectuals, while claiming to be a genius and the smartest person in the room, yet he had to cheat to even get into college. He has consistently dismissed scientist over climate issues and dismisses legitimate scientific and medical experts when dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Yes, he did support Dr. Stella Immanuel, a doctor and pastor who claims include blaming medical conditions on witches and demons who have “astral” sex with humans, alleging that alien DNA was being used in medical treatments, and that scientists were cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious. The preeminent infectious disease expert in the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci, stated that most European countries shut down their economy by 95%, while functionally the U.S. only shut its economy down by 50% and that this is part of the reason the U.S. has continued to see a surge in cases while European countries have seen a sharp decrease. Trump responded in a tweet, “Wrong! We have more cases because we have tested far more than any other country, 60,000,000. If we tested less, there would be less cases.” Last week, Trump retweeted a message that said Fauci had “misled” Americans on a number of issues. Fauci disputed that claim: “I have not been misleading the American public under any circumstances.” Earlier, Trump had characterized Fauci as “a little bit of an alarmist.” Fauci also pushed back on that assertion, saying he considered himself “more a realist than an alarmist.”

(12) With Trump’s current campaign message as being the ‘law and order” candidate and his violent suppression of protesters, he is certainly showing an obsession with crime and punishment, except when it comes to his friends. He cares nothing about following the rule of law himself, yet he had crowds chanting “lock her up” referring to Hillary Clinton during his 2016 campaign and even continued encouraging the chant during his time in office. (13) The Trump administration has been one of the worst administrations in American history for rampant cronyism and corruption. Usually the top of the list of corrupt administrations are those of Grant, Harding, and Nixon (though Reagan’s administration should also rank near the top), but Trump seems bound and determined to outdo them all. A staggering number of people in the Trump administration and his associates have been convicted of crimes and sentenced to jail. A few of these criminals, Trump has distanced himself from but others such as Roger Stone, he pardoned or continues to support. (14) We also know that Trump encouraged the Russians and even the Chinese to interfere with the 2016 election and then did everything he could do to block the investigation into how much election tampering Russia accomplished. Now he is claiming that the coming 2020 election will be fraudulent so he can question the legitimacy of the election, even going to so far as to call for moving the date of the election. All of his election tactics in 2016 and 2020 has been meant to call into suspicion any election that he might not win.

In 1933, Salazar stated: “Our Dictatorship clearly resembles a fascist dictatorship in the reinforcement of authority, in the war declared against certain principles of democracy, in its accentuated nationalist character, in its preoccupation of social order. However, it differs from it in its process of renovation. The fascist dictatorship tends towards a pagan Caesarism, towards a state that knows no limits of a legal or moral order, which marches towards its goal without meeting complications or obstacles. The Portuguese New State, on the contrary, cannot avoid, not think of avoiding, certain limits of a moral order which it may consider indispensable to maintain in its favor of its reforming action.” Trump will never be as blatant as Salazar had been about his authoritarian regime because at the end of the day, he does have to answer to the US Constitution and the American people. He may not like it, and he may threaten to circumvent the Constitution and the will of the majority of Americans. He doesn’t understand the rule of law or care anything about knowing the rule of law, but at the end of the day, we have a Supreme Court that has stood up to him (though not always), and we have a House of Representatives that will hold him in check as much as they can. We also have an election coming up that he cannot stop or postpone. We have some governors and mayors who are fighting tooth and nail against his oppression in their states and cities and his ineptitude in dealing with the current pandemic.

So, while like Salazar, he is not a fully-fledged fascist because American laws prevent him from going too far, Trump is without a doubt a wannabe authoritarian. He may have the religious right backing him simply because he’s a Republican and against abortion (he cannot claim to be pro-life due to his lack of sympathy for the death of over 150,000 Americans due to his own ineptitude). He may even have fringe militia groups and hate groups ready to fight for his political survival. What he does not have is the heart and minds of American troops or a positive approval from the majority of Americans. He will never be able to force the United States to reject the election results if he loses. When November 3, 2020 comes and the American people vote him out of office, his term will end at noon on January 20, 2021. For all the Americans who read this blog, it is imperative, it is your duty, and it is your ability to vote Trump out of office that will save the United States. Because if we do not defeat him in November, I fear there will not be a United States to see him reach the limit to his terms of office in 2025. If we want our republic to survive, we must vote for Joe Biden as president on November 3. We need stability and progress in the United States, and we need someone who will respect the laws of this country. So, while you’re at it, vote against every Republican on the ballot and let’s make this a Blue Wave in November.


Pic of the Day


Hypocrisy

Then in the audience of all the people he said unto his disciples, Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation.

Luke 20:45-47

On Friday, I wrote about my mother’s Southern Baptist pastor passing away from COVID-19, and I admitted that I have two prejudices: Republicans and Southern Baptists. Besides the unwelcoming nature of Southern Baptists, I thought I would explain why I think they are the modern-day equivalents of the scribes and the Pharisees that Jesus laments about several times in the Gospels. The Pharisees and scribes were upset because they believed the people were abandoning the purity of the covenant that Jews had made with God. They believed that Jews in the Roman Empire were being lax in their morality and in their obedience to the commandments of God. So, they sought to draw together and draw apart from the masses and to set a moral example. These were the conservatives of the day. They had a high system of honor and virtue, and they committed themselves to obeying God. Yet, they outwardly professed their faith the loudest, but they secretly did not follow their own beliefs and morals. They were hypocrtites.

Growing up in the South, the religious right was often centered around the Southern Baptists. They are the largest Protestant denomination, and they tend to be the loudest. Of course, there are other denominations that follow suit, but it is often the Southern Baptists that try to speak for all Protestants and condemn those who do not believe like they do. One reason for this is their seminaries and universities, and another reason is because of the press the annual Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) receives, especially when it comes to their views on the LGBTQ+ community.

In its history, the SBC has issued several resolutions in which it rejects homosexuality as a lifestyle and refers to it as a “manifestation of a depraved nature”, “a perversion of divine standards and as a violation of nature and natural affections” and “an abomination in the eyes of God.” It opposes same-sex marriages and equivalent unions. The SBC has urged churches not to show any approval of homosexuality; however, it also holds that “while the Bible condemns such practice as sin, it also teaches forgiveness and transformation, upon repentance, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” But that is only if a person turns away from the sexuality that they were born with. I personally think it is a gift from God. The SBC doesn’t even allow the term gay Christian because they say that even if you are celibate you cannot identify as both gay and Christian at the same time. The SBC only allows members of the LGBTQ+ community to worship with them if they denounce their sexuality.

My sister and I were raised in the Church of Christ. My father was far angrier at my sister for converting to being Southern Baptist when she got married than he ever was for me being gay. Yet, to show you how filled with hate he has become, he and my mother now attend a Southern Baptist Church. When I was growing up, he hated to even step foot in one of their churches. My mother was raised a Southern Baptist but claimed years ago that she was truly a member of the Church of Christ where we attended. I just don’t understand the sudden change in them. The only excuse I can find is because the church is convenient to where they are now living, and all my parents’ friends and neighbors attend that church. I find it disgusting that they would attend a church that is part of such a hate filled denomination. They think I will attend with them the next time I am home. I will not be. It will probably cause some strife, but I will not budge on this. I have been to a Baptist Church a few times in my life, and I always felt an evil surrounding me.

I am probably being a hypocrite on this because the Church of Christ is no better when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues. However, there are fundamental differences between the Church of Christ and the Southern Baptist Church. Most importantly, every congregation of the Church of Christ is independent. Southern Baptists claim the same thing, but they have the Southern Baptist Convention that governs all their churches and the denomination’s doctrine. The Church of Christ has no equivalent. Each Church of Christ could decide on their own to affirm the LGBTQ+ community because the elders of the church are in charge, but the Southern Baptist must abide by the doctrine of the SBC. Therefore, while I hold no hope for the SBC ever changing their stance, I do believe that the Church of Christ could and should. Will it ever happen? I can only hope and pray. One day, Christianity will accept the belief in a true universal love of God and will act accordingly.


Pic of the Day


Moment of Zen: Cats

I can’t have a Moment of Zen about cats without my own girls. Here is Isabella. If you don’t know, she’s the cat I adopted in Vermont and currently lives with me.

I’m not sure I have ever posted pics of my other girls on this blog before, but here is Lucy (L-gray calico) and Edith (R-black calico). They are my girls who live in Alabama with my aunt. I adopted them after Victoria, my cat of 16 years, died. I wasn’t originally allowed to bring them to Vermont because I couldn’t find an apartment that would let me have cats. They had to stay with my aunt, who now won’t let me have them back. She really would, but they are happy where they are. It’s the only home they have ever known besides the animal shelter.

All my girls are very sweet. Isabella is my constant companion. Edith is always demure at first when she sees me, but she eventually warms up and is happy to see me. She just doesn’t always show it right away. Lucy is the shy one and a real scaredy cat. No one but my aunt ever sees her, except when I come home and she hears my voice, then she will come out, but only when she is certain no one else is around.


Pic of the Day


Temptations

In 1976, Jimmy Carter famously said in a Playboy Magazine interview, “I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.” Carter was referring to a particular Christian theological idea about sin. I was taught two things about sin growing up: 1) all sins are equal in the eyes of God and 2) if you contemplate a sin, it is no different from committing it. I have always had a fundamental problem with both. Carter did not. I think the supposed sin of a “lie of omission,” which is leaving out part of the truth on purpose and is still considered a lie, is not nearly as bad as murder. How can the two sins be equal? Furthermore, we all contemplate sins at various times. Many of us lust after people we shouldn’t but that is not the same as acting on lust nor is it adultery even if the person is married. If contemplating a sin was really a sin, then I am going straight to hell, “do not pass go, do not collect $200.”

I had the opportunity to be very cruel yesterday, but I held my tongue. My mother called upset that her preacher had died of COVID-19. I said I was sorry to hear it, but what I did not remind her of was that he had refused to wear a mask even though he was in a high risk category, and he had continued to hold church services even when he was told he shouldn’t. The man was elderly and had Parkinson’s but did not try to protect himself, his family, or his congregation. Did he get what he deserved? No, no one deserves to die like that. However, I am not going to feel a great deal of sadness over it either. Will those around him that still refuse to wear a mask learn from this? Again, no, they won’t because they would rather listen to the lies of a president who denounces science only because he is against abortion. I will not feel great sorrow for them if they get sick either. I will admit that I have a few prejudices; Republicans and Southern Baptists are at the top of the list. Both groups have done so much harm to the LGBTQ+ community and to me personally, not to mention minorities and whoever else they deem to hold in contempt. 

As I mentioned in my post about depression, when I needed my mother the most, when I was at the two lowest point in my life, she was not there for me. She never knew that I attempted suicide when I was a teenager, nor did she really care. She never understood the bullying I faced at school or my struggle with my sexuality and when I have tried to point out the bullying to her, she refuses to listen. She also constantly reminds me how wrong it is to be gay. When my friend died five years ago, and I called her because I wanted to hear her voice and wanted her to comfort me, she dismissed my sadness because my friend was gay. Some of you may be asking why I would have even sought comfort from her, but I used to be very close to my mother, and I so desperately wanted her to try and make it better. She has failed me many times, and yet, I still keep her in my life. I still love her. I know my relationship with my family is far from healthy.


Pic of the Day


Happy International Day of Friendship!

According to a resolution by the United Nations, today, July 30, 2020 is International Day of Friendship. Since my Thank You post early today surprisingly coincides with this day and this blog is read internationally (see below), I want to again say thank you for being my friends.

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From the United Nations:

Our world faces many challenges, crises and forces of division — such as poverty, violence, and human rights abuses — among many others — that undermine peace, security, development and social harmony among the world’s peoples.

To confront those crises and challenges, their root causes must be addressed by promoting and defending a shared spirit of human solidarity that takes many forms — the simplest of which is friendship.

Through friendship — by accumulating bonds of camaraderie and developing strong ties of trust — we can contribute to the fundamental shifts that are urgently needed to achieve lasting stability, weave a safety net that will protect us all, and generate passion for a better world where all are united for the greater good.

The International Day of Friendship was proclaimed in 2011 by the UN General Assembly with the idea that friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities.

The resolution places emphasis on involving young people, as future leaders, in community activities that include different cultures and promote international understanding and respect for diversity.

To mark the International Day of Friendship the UN encourages governments, international organizations and civil society groups to hold events, activities and initiatives that contribute to the efforts of the international community towards promoting a dialogue among civilizations, solidarity, mutual understanding and reconciliation.

The International Day of Friendship is an initiative that follows on the proposal made by UNESCO defining the Culture of Peace as a set of values, attitudes and behaviors that reject violence and endeavor to prevent conflicts by addressing their root causes with a view to solving problems. It was then adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1997.

Why does the UN mark International Days?

International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool.