Monday, January 30, 2017

Back on the soap Box Again

I'm interrupting my previously scheduled blog to climb up on the soapbox again. I shouldn't be, but there it is. We apologize for any inconveniecne.

I’m supposed to be writing.
I have several projects in the works and a novel that’s due fairly soon. These are paying gigs.

And yet….

So here we go. Again.

The President of the United States, Donald Trump, is allegedly about to put a new executive order in place: This time discriminating heavily against LGBTQ persons. I wish I didn’t think it was going to happen, I wish, God, how I wish, that this sort of shit was in the past. I don’t normally like to use profanity in online writings, but sometimes you just have to. The sad fact of the matter is that less than two weeks into his career as the POTUS, this man is doing everything he can to foster fear and hatred as a way of life and it seems that he’s even succeeding to a certain extent. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU for short) is putting up one hell of a fight, so are the four million plus protesters who have made their opinions known. Stop and think about that for a second. 4,000,000 plus people have gathered already to say enough is enough. This man (I use the term to point out gender. He is not much of a man in my eyes) had FOUR MILLION protesters before he’d been in office for a week. He’s had more since because of his asinine policies and his massively egotistical belief that he is above the law.

Okay, first the link to the article that I’m responding to. Please understand something. I am again writing about something that technically doesn’t affect me. I know this causes people to scratch their heads from time to time so I’ll spell it out. I’m not trying to offend anyone I’m just clarifying here. If I were walking down the street and I saw a man punch a woman in the mouth, or I saw someone backhand a child, I would not walk past it. It’s not the way I was raised. Once upon a tome I had a neighbor who was beating his daughter so violently and screaming so loudly that I could actually hear the sound of his fist hitting her through two brick walls. They lived across an open air corridor and one door left of us.

I heard the noises, I knew what they were, and I called the police, who promptly came and handled the matter. I was ten years old. My mother was horrified. Not because she hadn’t raised me to do exactly that sort of thing but because she was afraid the man I’d called the police on might try to take it out on me. He didn’t but he sure did spend a lot of time glaring at me after that. His daughter, a friendly acquaintance of mine, was very grateful. She got out of it with only a few bruises, you see, and that was a bonus for her.

Her getting the bejesus knocked out of her had no direct impact on my life. Still, I couldn’t very well let it go on. I did what I could as a kid who was still a few years away from puberty. If I saw someone kicking a puppy, there’s a very real chance that said someone would get a kick from me. It’s the way I’m programmed; it’s the way I was raised.

A little background for you. My mother was raised during WWII. She was born in Germany and the war ended by the time she was fourteen. She was a staunch Republican when it came to economics. She also firmly believed that each and every person had the same rights. When my father left, I was still in the womb. She raised six of us on her own, Two of my sisters dropped out of high school and basically spent their days raising the four younger siblings so that my mother could make a living and keep a roof over our heads. She was a very strong woman in a lot of ways. Not a saint, to be sure, but a very strong woman.

One of her weaknesses? She never wanted to accept that the Holocaust happened. It wasn't that she didn’t think a lot of people died, it was that she was profoundly horrified by the notion that the nation where she was born and raised, no matter what the flaws it suffered from, could have ever reached a point where MURDERING millions of people was acceptable.

She believed that Nazi Germany had many flaws, by the way. Her brother, who was a soldier, made that clear to her. At one point in her schooling she won first or second place in a swimming competition. Her reward was a bronze bust of Adolf Hitler. During one of the bombings that happened frequently, as the Allies decided that Germany had to be taught a few manners, the bust feel from the shelf it was on and hit the floor. The nose of the bronze bust broke off, revealing the plaster underneath.

My Uncle Ralph, whom I never met, sadly, made my mother break the bust with a hammer. He did not feel that lies should be kept as trophies.

There are a lot of stories I remember, more I’ve likely forgotten, about the horrors of my mother’s childhood. There were good times, of course, but aren’t there always when you are a kid? Christ, I hope that’s true for every child even though I know it isn’t.

She was actually quite fond of Donald Trump, back in the eighties when he first joked about running for president.

I think she’d be properly horrified now.

You see, back to my mother, she didn’t believe that people should be judged by their beliefs. We were raised in a family where we had access to the World Book Encyclopedia (and the children’s version of the same, the name of which is currently eluding me) several unabridged dictionaries, a copy or two of the Bible and an open encouragement to ask questions and actively seek answers.

We were raised to believe that each person should be judged as a person. Not by color, or gender, or sexual preferences. In a time when it really wasn’t done that much, my mother managed to make her way to executive housekeeper at several hotels and even at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Having come from what would eventually be Eastern Germany, a Communist country (and there are plenty or horror stories about THAT, too) my mother was even seriously considered for executive housekeeper at the White House Yes, that Whites House, where President Trump currently resides. The only reason she lost out was because the person who got the job had worked with the man doing the hiring on a previous occasion. And yes, she was heavily vetted by the Secret Service before she was seriously considered. Believe me.

My mother believed even back then in hiring without discrimination. You see, as a female, she had already been discriminated against and as a German with a green card (That’s former Nazi Germany AND Eastern Germany, so TWO strikes before she started) my mother was all too familiar with how discrimination tasted. My first experiences with Hispanics, blacks, gays and lesbians were all people who worked for my mother, the staunch Republican.

The staunch Republican who taught us that discrimination was wrong. Period. End of discussion. The staunch Republican who raised us to make up our own minds about religion, faith and God. My mother believed and so do I, that religion has no part in the governing of a nation, because there are too many religions, you see, and forcing your beliefs down somebody else’s throat was not right.

My mother, by the way, eventually became an American Citizen. It was the proudest day of her life. She cried when she took her oath and she smiled as much as any person who’d ever won a lottery.

She would have hated what Donald Trump has become. Not because of his business beliefs. She would have probably agreed on a lot of those. No, she’d have hated his obvious contempt for anyone who is not like him. I suppose some of my siblings might disagree with me. They are entitled to their opinions. I go solely off the discussions I had with the lady in question, who was, you may rest assured, very much a part of my formative life.

My mother, who had no problem stating her opinions on what the Middle Eastern rulers who replaced the Shah of Iran could do with their ruling through religion, could do with their philosophies, would be appalled at the way the POTUS has tried to block off access to this country.

My mother, who took in complete strangers on several occasions when emergency situations called for it, would have been disgusted by his actions. My mother, who was as proud as any patriot ever born in the USA, would have had a few choice words for the president and for the extreme right wing Republicans who are currently in charge of the Senate and the House alike. (She’d have had a few words for President Obama as well, but they would have been different words, though likely just as critical of some of his actions.)

My mother, who was often surprisingly calm in the face of national adversity and was an avid follower of American Politics, would have, pardon my vernacular, flipped her shit the very first time the now POTUS talked of internment camps. She’d have gone through the roof in her outrage if she’d heard him talk about grabbing any woman’s privates.

My mother, who was absolutely confused by the very notion of homosexuality, would have ground her teeth and made more than a few comments about the POTUS and his level of contempt for the people of this country if she heard about his plans to use “Religious Freedom” to allow people to deny any service to anyone. Ever. Gays, Lesbians, Transgenders, Bisexuals…My mother might not have understood their choices (and to her, they were choices, I heard many debates) but she would have been outraged by the very idea that anyone should be refused service. She would have pointed to the world before the Civil Rights movement. She would have gone on about her absolute hatred of the KKK in any and all incarnations. She would have pointed out that she grew up in Nazi Germany and saw good people dragged from their homes. She would have pointed out that Eastern Germany was just as bad when it came to people who spoke out.

She would have, once again, gone off about the news channels and their endless need to preach, instead of actually keeping up with the news.

I was raised by my mother to think for myself. I was also raised with many of her beliefs instilled in me via endless questions and countless discussions. When I asked about God we talked about the different faiths. She was raised Lutheran. My father was Methodist and I can count five Bishops of the Methodist Church from his side of the family, including the man I was named after, my great grandfather, the Bishop Arthur James Moore. I was raised to consider all faiths as valid, but especially those that preached peace and balance. The Dalai Lama fascinated my mother and Gandhi was one of her heroes, as was his daughter.

Common sense was my mother’s religion, but it was also tempered with compassion and empathy. She taught us to love debate, not arguments. She taught us that the best way to know anyone was to discuss everything. She warned against discussing religion and politics, because both end friendships. I decided not to listen on that last part, but that’s on me.  

Equal rights was a given for me. I heard constantly about how uneven those rights were, and long before the term White Privilege came around I was aware of the concept. Full disclosure here, I wasn't really in agreement with the concept when I was younger, That had a lot to do with moving all over the country, going to seventeen different public schools and being the short, fat, new kid with glasses who got his ass kicked a lot. Didn’t feel like privilege then, but with age comes perspective. My mother would have fully understood the term.   

When I was growing up my sister’s best friend was a young man named Gordon. Gordon was gay. Through several states and decades, my sister maintained a friendship with Gordon and through him made other friends in the LGBTQ community. Much like my mother, when I was younger I had trouble wrapping my mind around the entire concept. It didn’t stop me from hanging around with my sister and Gordon and several other people who were not exactly heterosexual. It never bothered me. They were people. They were good and some of them were less-than-good, much like with everyone else I’ve met in my life. Just like everyone else, actually. What an amazing concept: the LGBTQ community is made of people! Just like Soylent Green, only not meant to be used in your casserole recipes. Instead they are meant to be treated like, gasp, people. It’s actually very easy when you leave it at that.

Open minded thought processes, it seems, are easier when you leave religion out of it. Not always, heaven knows, but too damned often. Religions sometimes have the silliest notions, like that people should be considered property. Like it’s okay to knock the crap out of your wife, or your child if you feel the need. Like gender should make a difference or that if someone doesn’t think like you, they must be a sinner. Most of that, by the way, is open to interpretation. Most of that, unfortunately, gets interpreted in the dumbest possible ways by a lot of people. Not all. Still that old line from the song One Tin Soldier pops into my head, “Do it in the name of heaven, you can justify it in the end.”

Or as I like to think of it: the Philosophy of My God Is Better Than Your God. Just in case it slipped anyone’s mind, all of the aforementioned faiths share the same deity. It’s how they share Him that seems to cause most of the problems. It’s all about how the words are interpreted. Old Testament, new testament, that stuff that got edited out over time and the stuff that came later.

One upon a time there were people who followed the Hebrew faith. Later, after a disagreement about whether or not a man named Jesus Christ was the prophesied Son of God, there was a split in the religion. Along came Christianity. It went through a lot of changes over the course of time (as religions are wont to do) and branched out. A lot. Somewhere along the way another group branched off, convince that a man named Mohammed spoke for god and just might be the prophet of the Lord. Obviously, there’s a lot more to it than that, but I am neither a historian nor much of a follower of any religion. I have my beliefs. They are between God and me. 

Time has made changes to facts, and interpretations, and a lot of hurt feelings have come up as time has gone on. A lot. Now, the new POTUS seems to be using those hurt feelings to drive a wedge into the country that my mother was so proud of, that my mother loved more than, well, basically any other nation that ever existed.

My mother, by the way, was an avid viewer of the nightly news. When I was growing up Walter Cronkite told us the way it was. The facts, and only the facts. On incredibly rare occasions an editorial. 

There have been a lot of comparisons made to what The POTUS is doing and what Adolf Hitler did when he was in charge of Nazi Germany. They may or may not be accurate.

I know this: A great deal of what Donald Trump is doing has nothing to do with a government for the people and by the people of these United States. Many of his actions seem, as I have already said, determined to drive wedges between people. He has shown a tendency toward racism, toward nepotism, toward misogyny, and an elitist philosophy. He has used fear as a catalyst to explain why we must ban people from this nation. He has determined that a massive wall is the best way to defend ourselves from our southern neighbors, and in less than two weeks has managed to enrage or terrify people and nations alike.

If you’re guessing that I did not vote for the current president, you are not mistaken. He made too many comments (look them up, folks. I have a novel to get back to) and taken too many actions that back the last paragraph, and like that short dictator with the Charlie Chaplin mustache back in the WWII, he has telegraphed his actions. Sweet Jesus, he even told people he what he was going to do and for some insane reason that made a lot of people very happy. Enough that he somehow managed to win the election, though not the popular vote (Say what you will, that’s still a crock of feces for me).

Some of them aren’t as happy now. A lot of the people who voted for him and now shaking their heads and wondering what the hell just happened. Not all of them, but a decent percentage.

My mother said to me once, “Mark my words. The US has never had a serious terrorist attack from another country, and no one here knows how lucky we are. But someday that will change.” She told me that after one of the embassies in the Middle East got attacked.

My mother passed away mere months before 9-11. Sometimes I think about that and I’m grateful that she didn’t live through the grief and fear that came as a result. I think she managed to keep a bit of optimism and I know she continued to love this country.

Those words stuck with me. A lot of her words stuck with me. A lot of her actions and beliefs stuck, too. I am my mother’s son, after all.

My mother was a Republican. I understand and can even appreciate some of the beliefs held by that party.

I cannot understand the need to generate fear and hatred. I will not accept that being LGBTQ, or Muslim, or female, or African America, or Hispanic, or Native American or, (Insert your Target for Hatred/Fear Here) will ever be a just reason to have someone’s civil rights crushed under the government’s heel. It is supposed to be a “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” at least according to Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address.

I like to think that he was on to something there. I don’t believe the current administration would agree with me, if I’m being honest.

What a damned shame.

So it’s like this. I’m supposed to be writing. I might have to set that aside from time to time. I might even have to join in on a few marches. You can bet I’ll stand by the rights of everyone I see getting the shaft here.

My mother taught me that fear is to be overcome, and anger is best used as a motivational tool to reach your goals.  Terrorists win if we let fear rule our lives. Anger can focus you, make you remember what you are supposed to be fighting for when mostly you'd rather just give up.

And a reminder, seriously, that there’s another election in under two years and a lot of seats in the whole of Congress will be up for grabs.

You can bet I’ll be voting, too.