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“Wanna Play The Blame Game?”: Conservatives May Be Biting Off More Than They Can Chew

If conservatives really want to play the blame game over the murder of New York police officers, they may be biting off more than they can chew, as Kevin Drum suggests:

I assume this means we can blame Bill O’Reilly for his 28 episodes of invective against “Tiller the Baby Killer” that eventually ended in the murder of Wichita abortion provider George Tiller by anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder. We can blame conservative talk radio for fueling the anti-government hysteria that led Timothy McVeigh to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma City. We can blame the relentless xenophobia of Fox News for the bombing of an Islamic Center in Joplin or the massacre of Sikh worshippers by a white supremacist in Wisconsin. We can blame the NRA for the mass shootings in Newtown and Aurora. We can blame Republicans for stoking the anti-IRS paranoia that prompted Andrew Joseph Stack to crash a private plane into an IRS building in Austin, killing two people. We can blame the Christian Right for the anti-gay paranoia that led the Westboro Baptist Church to picket the funeral of Matthew Snyder, a US Marine killed in Iraq, with signs that carried their signature “God Hates Fags” slogan. We can blame Sean Hannity for his repeated support of Cliven Bundy’s “range war” against the BLM, which eventually motivated Jerad and Amanda Miller to kill five people in Las Vegas after participating in the Bundy standoff and declaring, “If they’re going to come bring violence to us, well, if that’s the language they want to speak, we’ll learn it.” And, of course, we can blame Rudy Giuliani and the entire conservative movement for their virtually unanimous indifference to the state-sanctioned police killings of black suspects over minor offenses in Ferguson and Staten Island, which apparently motivated the murder of the New York police officers on Saturday.

So no, conservatives shouldn’t “go there” in claiming that liberals who asked questions about the police killings in Missouri and New York and elsewhere were in some way responsible for this weekend’s tragedy. As Kevin concludes:

Maybe lots of people support lots of things, and we can’t twist that generalized support into blame for maniacs who decide to take up arms for their own demented reasons.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, December 22, 2014

December 24, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, NYPD, Police Brutality | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Wasted Life Of Fred Phelps”: It’s Hard To Mourn A Monster

And what shall we say now that the monster has died?

His estranged sons Mark and Nate told the world just a few days ago that their 84-year-old father, Fred Phelps, was in the care of a hospice and “on the edge of death.” Thursday morning, he went over the edge.

The senior Phelps, of course, was the founder of Westboro Baptist “Church” in Topeka, KS. He was the “God hates” guy. As in “God Hates China” (its divorce rates are too high), “God Hates Islam” (for being a false religion), “God Hates Qatar” (for being rich) “God Hates The Media” (for saying mean things about Westboro), “God Hates Tuvalu” (for having too many holidays), “God Hates America” (for tolerating homosexuality) and, of course, most notoriously, “God Hates Fags” — Phelps’ odious word for gay men and lesbians.

He was also the man who applauded the deaths of American soldiers and picketed their funerals, under the dubious formulation that their dying represented God’s judgment upon this country.

Westboro is a tiny “church” — hate group, actually — said to draw its membership almost exclusively from Phelps’ extended family. His sons say Phelps was excommunicated from it last year for some reason, which the “church” refused to confirm or deny, saying its “membership issues are private.” For what it’s worth, last week Phelps was conspicuous by his near absence from Westboro’s website, which once displayed his words and image prominently.

Now the monster is gone. What shall we say?

The people hurt and maligned by Phelps didn’t wait for his actual expiration to begin answering that question. They started days ago when his sons announced that his end was near. One woman tweeted about Death needing rubber gloves to touch the body. Another woman set up a “Fred Phelps Death Watch” on Facebook, the tone of which can be inferred from one posting depicting feces in a toilet as a photo of Phelps in hospice care.

After his death, one person tweeted the hope that “his final hours were filled with immense physical pain and horrifying hallucinations.”

You can hardly blame people for not being prostrate with grief. This man cheered the lynching of a young gay man in Wyoming. He turned the funerals of American military personnel into circuses. It is hard to imagine anyone more loathsome, despicable and justifiably reviled than he.

And yet it is also hard not to feel saddened by this reaction, diminished by it.

If one is a Christian as Phelps claimed to be, one may hear the voice of Jesus arising from conscience: “A new command I give you: Love one another.” And you may demand an exemption from that command, because being asked to love the spectacularly unlovable Phelps is just too much. But, if you love only the lovable, what’s the point? What does that say or prove? Indeed, loving the unlovable pretty much constitutes God’s job description.

Even beyond the obligations imposed by faith, though, there is something troubling in the idea that some of us willingly become what we profess to abhor, adopt extremist hatred in protest of extremist hatred. As Martin Luther King famously put it, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

It is hard to imagine that anyone beyond, perhaps, his immediate family, is sorry Fred Phelps is dead. And that is probably the truest barometer of his life and its value. But as most of us are not sorry, some of us are not glad, either. What we feel is probably best described as a certain dull pity.

Phelps was given the gift, the incandescent miracle, of being alive in this world for over 80 years — and he wasted it, utterly.

If God hates anything, surely God hates that.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Opinion Writer, Miami Herald; Published in The National Memo, March 24, 2014

March 25, 2014 Posted by | Christianity, Religion | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Unabashed Bigot”: Should We Go Picket Fred Phelps’ Funeral?

Now that the Rev. Fred Phelps is dead, decent people are being tested. The conundrum is, should we picket Phelps’ funeral?

Phelps, of course, was head of the Westboro Baptist Church – though it seemed less of a house of worship than a home for institutionalized hate – which is known for picketing funerals, especially those of fallen U.S. soldiers. Was he antiwar, and protesting the deaths (or service) of members of the military who lost their lives in war? Oh, no – there was not even the pretense of behaving badly in the name of advocating for a more peaceful world. Phelps was an unabashed bigot – and in his mind, according to the church’s own website, God was punishing soldiers and basically all of America for the nation’s increasing acceptance of its gay and lesbian citizens. Phelps and his cohorts picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a young man beaten to death because he was gay; the group picketed the funerals of Elizabeth Edwards (who surely went through enough stress in life) and of Michael Jackson.

But it was the military funeral demonstrations that were perhaps the most galling. There were families, understandably distraught over the loss of (often) very young people who died in the line of duty, and all Phelps could see were the rightful victims of God’s wrath. The picketers would carry signs saying “God Hates Fags,” among other appalling epithets.

The Supreme Court ruled that the picketing – in the case of a military funeral, at least – was acceptable under First Amendment tenets. It wasn’t an endorsement of the harassment (and it was, indeed, harassment), but a statement that we don’t quiet people who want to be heard in this country, no matter how offensive their views are.

It would be tempting to turn that concept back on Phelps and whatever loved ones he might have. It might feel satisfying to disrupt his own funeral, carrying signs that say “God, and people of faith, and people who have no religion at all, hate bigots.” It might be cathartic for people who believe in Hell to discuss openly, in front of mourners, what kind of accommodations Phelps will have in eternal fire. Phelps refused to let gays, lesbians, transgender and bisexual people live lives of dignity; he refused to let service members be mourned and buried with honor, and he interfered with the basic right of human beings to say peaceful good-byes to those they have lost. Why should he be given any of those considerations now?

The answer is because Phelps is dead, and with him, hopefully, is some of the poison he distributed. Behaving decently isn’t about the impact on people who may or may not deserve our decency. It is a practice that by definition must be exercised without discrimination. The reason we should not picket career hater Fred Phelps’ funeral is simple: because we are not Fred Phelps. We need not mourn his death. But neither must we endorse his bigoted and destructive tactics by continuing his tactics.

 

By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, March 21, 2014

March 24, 2014 Posted by | Bigotry | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Imaginary Dark Vision Of The Future”: Ted Cruz And His Manufactured Doctrine Of Pretend Paranoia

Texas Senator Ted Cruz has found a new and improved angle with which to push his war against marriage equality in America.

In an interview with Christian Broadcast Network’s David Brody, Cruz raised a full-scale red alert when announcing that gay marriage will put us on the road to placing our First Amendment protections at severe risk.

Seriously. He really said that.

“If you look at other nations that have gone down the road towards gay marriage, that’s the next step of where it gets enforced. It gets enforced against Christian pastors who decline to perform gay marriages, who speak out and preach biblical truths on marriage and that has been defined elsewhere as hate speech — as inconsistent with the enlightened view of government.”

Fearful that my own support of equal rights under the law for all Americans might lead to the loss of my constitutionally protected opportunity to be as offensive, prejudiced, bigoted and disrespectful in my own speech as humanly possible, I went looking for those ‘nations’ Cruz referred to—nations where same-sex marriage has led to the criminalization of free speech.

Fortunately, Glenn Beck’s “The Blaze” was there to show me the way by relaying the sorry tale of Aake Green, a Pentecostal pastor in Sweden who was prosecuted under Swedish law for having some unkind things to say about gay marriage when addressing his congregation.

Writes The Blaze  —

“Green’s plight corroborates the worries that Cruz has surrounding America’s current trajectory. In 2003, the preacher (referring to Green) likened homosexuality to cancer during one of his sermons. As a result, he was brought up on charges over these claims — statements that, in America, would currently be protected by the First Amendment… Mr. Green was convicted in June 2004 but allowed to remain free pending appeal.”

Never mind that Pastor Green was acquitted by Sweden’s Supreme Court as a result of a determination that Green’s speech was protected by the European Convention on Human Rights—the superseding law protecting Green’s right to say any ridiculous thing in public he likes. And given that the laws established by the European Convention take precedence over a Swedish law that was in conflict, the Swedish law under which the good pastor was prosecuted was rendered moot and unenforceable leading to no prosecutions of this nature in Sweden since this one, solitary 2005 case.

For that matter, I can find no evidence of any such prosecutions anywhere in the world, despite Cruz’s assertion that his paranoiac premonition is based on the examples of multiple nations.

While Senator Cruz was unwilling or unable to follow the Swedish case to its happy ending when forming his fears for a future without First Amendment rights in America as a direct result of gay marriage —happy endings don’t fit well into Cruz’s doctrine of pretend paranoia—one might have thought that this one-time Solicitor General for the State of Texas would have been able to research the law of his own nation before making his dire prediction.

In the famous 2011 Supreme Court case of Snyder v. Phelps, the free speech rights of the despicable Westboro Baptist Church—the church group famous for crashing funerals so that they may scream terrible things about gay people at grieving funeral attendees—were upheld by an 8-1 vote in the U.S. Supreme Court. In that case, Chief Justice Roberts, while referring to the behavior of Westboro Church members as “vile”, stated—

“We cannot react to [Snyder’s] pain by punishing the speaker. As a nation we have chosen a different course – to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.”

Could the Chief Justice’s statement possibly be more on point when it comes to contradicting Ted Cruz’s dark vision of a future with same-sex marriage?

And yet, Senator Ted Cruz, a man whose job was once to argue cases on behalf of his state before that very same United States Supreme Court, wants us to believe that he fears that gay marriage puts us at risk of forfeiting our right to free speech.

Nobody should be too terribly surprised as this is but the most recent expression of Cruz’s political formula guaranteed to send a warm thrill up the leg of right-wing extremists everywhere.

It is a formula as simple as it is winning.

You take a political issue that rattles the right-wing to its core, draw a line connecting the legalization of that issue to the possible loss of a constitutional right—no matter how ridiculous and far fetched the connection may be— and…presto…you’ve got one great political pitch sure to get the attention of those who thrive on the Doctrine of Pretend Paranoia.

This is not the first time Cruz has played this game.

Recall, if you will, that day on the Senate floor when Cruz’s suggestion that background checks before purchasing guns would place us on a path to a national registry for gun owners, despite the fact that the legislation under debate—the Manchin-Toomey Bill—specifically barred such a federal registry.

If you do not recall this, you might want to take a look at Cruz’s debate with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) as Schumer highlights the preposterous nature of Cruz’s paranoiac visions of the future.

Just like his efforts to connect same-sex marriage with the destruction of First Amendment rights, in the instance of gun control, Cruz took a piece of legislation that deeply upset his base, despite being popular with the overwhelming majority of Americans, and drew a line to an imaginary consequence.

What happened?

Cruz’s base ate it up and the legislation went down to defeat.

Mr. Cruz’s latest effort to scare the crap out of his right-wing following—no matter how ridiculous the perceived end result of a policy with which Cruz followers disagree with may be—is simply a refinement of the time-honored and highly effective GOP practice of using fear and loathing to inspire votes. All one need do is look at the success of a “death panel” pitch that did so much to skew public opinion against the Affordable Care Act and the effectiveness of this approach is crystal clear.

Of course there was no rational connection between the actual healthcare reform law and the paranoiac prospect of government death panels, but that really did not matter, did it?

Just as Cruz ignored the realities of the Manchin-Toomey background check legislation which specifically barred the national gun registry Cruz claimed to fear, Senator Cruz knew his delusional argument would appeal to the paranoia of his followers; and just as the 2011 Supreme Court case would make Cruz’s paranoid vision of gay marriage leading to the destruction of First Amendment rights nothing short of preposterous, Senator Cruz knows full well that creating fear and loathing, in his own unique style, makes for a reliable game plan as he begins his drive towards the White House.

Let’s hope that, in the final analysis, American voters will see through Ted Cruz’s fully manufactured and dark vision of America—or at least the pretend vision that the Senator wishes to sell us. There are enough ‘real life’ things in this world to be paranoid about without purposely supporting a candidate dedicated to purveying his pretend brand of paranoia in the hopes of frightening Americans into going down dark roads that don’t actually exist.

 

By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, July 24, 2013

July 25, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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