Here’s a must read if you’re thinking about assaulting the Capitol in mid-September!

I was sorry but not surprised to read in LNP/Lancaster Online (9/2/2021) that the self-styled “patriots” who supported and/or participated in the January 6 assault on our Capitol and our democracy are planning another event for later this month. Before they mount another attack on our nation, I recommend they read President George Washington’s definitive account of how true patriots conduct themselves, in his 1796 Farewell Address to the nation.

Washington urges Americans to beware those who sow dissent among the people to advance their own interests. He encourages us to embrace union over dissension, and, perhaps most importantly, to show our love for this country by defending and upholding the Constitution.

“Respect for its authority,” he wrote, “compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government, But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.”

Want to be a real American patriot? You can’t go wrong following the example of our first great president. Washington’s Farewell Address is easy to find online, even easier than the latest foolishness from Q.

[Note: I’m hoping our local paper will offer this common sense to those teetering on the edge of another seditious afternoon in D.C.]

Pace.

Many thanks, Ohio University, but I just can’t :–)

Sometimes this computer generated crap is so bad you just have to laugh…unless maybe Ohio University knows something about my physical prowess I don’t? Here’s the message they sent me today:

Hi Mark, Based on your experience, we thought you’d be a good fit for our Online Master of Athletic Administration program. Our MAA program is designed to prepare athletic directors to build successful, sustainable athletic programs. Our program is also designed with work-life balance in mind. We offer: – 100% online coursework – Graduate in as few as 1.5 years (30 credit hours) – Join a network of active Ohio University Bobcats Ready to get started? Click below!

I’m gonna’ do a couple hundred pushups and give it some thought.

Pace.

What a thing to do to a child!

The photo below is from a Trump rally in Greenville, NC back in 2019. I suspect you could have framed the same shot last weekend when he showed up to spew his Big Lie and other favorite conspiracy theories and QAnon absurdities at NC’s GOP state convention. Exposure to this madness has been shown to cause real psychological damage–a descent into delusional thinking that can lead to violent, aberrant behavior and is very tough to escape. A parent encouraging a child to absorb such hazardous information is skirting dangerously close to child abuse (in my opinion).

President Donald Trump speaks while a baby is lifted from the crowd during a rally in Greenville, N.C on July 17th, 2019.
President Donald Trump’s rally and speech at ECU in Greenville, NC, July 17, 2019. BY TRAVIS LONG

Speak the truth…over and over and over and over again.

Pace

I’m tired, too, but we can’t stop yet…

NOTE: Herewith my latest missive to our enigmatically named local paper–LNP–concerning the aftermath of the awfulness on January 6. It was published Sunday, May 3, 2021. I realize it focuses on my local problem congress person, but the spirit applies to anyone else unfortunate enough (as I am) to live in an area politically dominated by voluntarily ignorant, right wing, sedition-minded voters. They shouldn’t get away with this.

Many thanks to LNP | LancasterOnline for keeping us up to date on what I view as U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker’s relentless decline into the political muck dredged up by the immoral (and possibly illegal) behaviors of his seeming hero — our previous president.

As a Pennsylvania voter, I am deeply offended that Smucker conspired with other MAGA supporters in an attempt to erase the votes we cast for president.

There is no more sacred right in our democracy than voting. Retiring Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican, affirmed that right and condemned the plan to challenge the election results three days before Smucker and others carried it out — hours after a right-wing, MAGA-inspired mob stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Toomey wrote: “A fundamental, defining feature of a democratic republic is the right of the people to elect their own leaders. The effort … to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in swing states like Pennsylvania directly undermines this right.”

Smucker did it anyway. LNP | LancasterOnline’s April 22 editorial (“Problem solver no more”) made the seriousness of Smucker’s Jan. 7 behavior crystal clear: “He stood on the U.S. House floor and argued — without basis in law or fact — that the legally cast votes of 115,847 Lancaster County residents should be nullified.”

Smucker was joined by seven other Republican Pennsylvania members of Congress. I believe they should all be held accountable for threatening democracy. And voters have the power to do it. I propose that we deny all of them reelection until they publicly repent of their unpatriotic, politically destructive behavior and renew their vow to serve the people of Pennsylvania rather than themselves.

Or maybe we should just look for higher-caliber candidates instead.

Pace.

Ever have a dream like this?

Below is an account of a nighttime experience I had a day or two ago that left me as uncomfortable as it sounds. I offered it to our local newspaper on the eve of Impeachment #2 (from which I expect little more than a reminder of the frightening world Trump and his henchmen have created for us). Our local paper has done a pretty good job in recent weeks (called for our local congressman to resign after he challenged PA’s vote Jan. 6). We cannot just forget what these people have done/are doing. Herewith the op-ed:

Boom!

I don’t usually remember my dreams, but the nightmare I had recently was so vivid and frightening that it woke me up. I’ve been doing a lot of reading, trying to understand how we became such a divided people and what experts advise for knitting ourselves back together and moving forward. Just before I turned in for the night, I read the story of a woman Lenka Perron, mother of three, works as an insurance consultant) whose concerns about modern America led her into QAnon and the cult of conspiracy theories that, along with Donald Trump, fueled the violent assault on our nation’s Capitol on January 6, 2021. (“Trump Just Used Us and Our Fears,” The New York Times, Jan. 29. 2021) She eventually managed to free herself from Q, but in telling her story, she confirmed what many experts understand about QAnon followers: most of them refuse to be rescued from its vicious, unsubstantiated, and false convictions, including their heinous accusation that Democratic leaders are pedophiles and Satanists. (Perron tried counseling a 40-year old disciple of Q whose marriage failed as he chased conspiracy theories, but she gave up. She said, “I couldn’t even make a dent.”)

I fell asleep that night with the same sense of dread—that conspiracy theory-fueled Americans might mount further attacks on our nation—that haunted me before January 6 and continues to haunt me now. All of which probably explains my dream. It began with me realizing I was in some sort of concrete bunker with a number of other people. Moments later we heard a loud whistling sound (like a bomb dropping) and then a massive explosion shook the bunker. I turned to my companions and asked what was happening. They told me the QAnon/conspiracy theory forces had actually declared total war on America and those not part of their cult. I’m not big on interpreting dreams (my wife’s dream-sharing group is far better at that), but I would venture to suggest that my mind, as it processed all of the conspiracy theory stuff and factored in the Republican party’s decision to make room for anti-democratic cultists, was warning me to beware and maybe encouraging me to add my voice to those speaking out against the cult of Q and the Donald.

After the murderous attack on the Capitol on January 6, Republicans were quick to call for a renewed sense of unity among Americans and to move on. They asked us to overlook the seditious actions of more than 100 senators and representatives (including Lancaster County’s Lloyd Smucker) in voting to overthrow the results of a free and fair (and secure) election. Then, for whatever reasons (it may simply be a depraved effort to appease the dangerous cult of QAnon/Trump and retain power), the GOP opened wide its gates and chose to overlook party members’ undemocratic attack on the electoral process and even embraced a newly-elected congresswoman who, among other cultish, extremist acts, “liked” a social media post proposing assassination of the Speaker of the House.

In all of these things, in making room for white supremacist cultists (as the party made room for racist southern Democrats in the 1960s), the Republican Party has voted to prolong the current period of national anguish and fear, not end it. One essay I read suggested that we give up trying to talk to each other across the political/moral divide, and instead try working together on mutually beneficial projects, like building roads and parks. That’s a fine suggestion, but what kind of future awaits a nation in which one of two major political parties now sides with violent, extremist, delusional cultists and white nationalists? It seems to me that we must take steps to reduce the sense of dread that hangs over us and hold those who engage in violent, undemocratic acts accountable—not just the Capitol hill gang of insurrectionists but any and all elected leaders who willingly violated the Constitution they swore to uphold when they were elected to public office. A handful of Republicans have stood up against the seditious behavior of their colleagues. We should applaud and appreciate them, and encourage other Republicans—who still believe in the basic principles of democracy—to throw their hats in the ring in 2022 and 2024, and replace those who chose to serve themselves rather than their nation.

Pace.

I don’t need your help!

I had an encounter this morning that drove home to me the enormity of the task facing those of us who sincerely want to help heal the wound, mend the great rift in our social fabric, unify the nation, and generally reduce the affective polarization that has people on opposing sides of the political fence calling each other terrible names, avoiding each other, rejecting our children’s choice of partner (if that person is of the opposite political stripe), refusing to sit beside each other in a restaurant, and, in the terrible, most extreme instances, willing to kill fellow citizens to impose a particular, twisted perception of reality on the entire nation. Here’s the story:

My wife and I were nearing the end of our morning walk when we reached an intersection where workmen were directing traffic. The first vehicle in line at the traffic light (a full-size, black pickup truck) was occupied by a sixty-something (I’m guessing), casually dressed gentleman. Behind him, in an older car, was a young man (30’ish?).

When the light for their lane turned green, the older gentleman was prevented from moving forward by the flagman at the corner. The younger man behind him, who could not see the flagman over the large pickup truck, allowed a couple of seconds to pass before he blew his horn four or five times, to get the pickup truck moving. We were standing on the sidewalk beside the cab of the pickup truck at this point, and I saw the older driver shaking his head, apparently irritated by the young man’s horn blowing.

I made eye contact with the older man and tried to gesture that my wife and I would inform the younger man that the work crew was preventing traffic from moving at that moment. The older man waved me off, rejecting my assistance. As he did so, he lowered the passenger side window and told me, in a tone of voice that was either agitated or angry, “I don’t need your help!”

Puzzled by his response, I leaned toward the window and asked, “Sir, why can’t I help you?” Gesturing toward the jacket I was wearing (it has an NBC peacock logo and the call letters of my old station in South Bend, WNDU, stitched on the left breast), he said, with unmistakeable disgust in his voice, “N-B-C. That’s all that needs to be said.” With that, he closed the window, turned his head away from me, and waited for the flagman to let him proceed.

I will confess I did not see that coming. I also confess it left me feeling sad and discouraged. Political scientists have been measuring the increasing polarization of our society. And we all refer to it in conversation. But encountering this very respectable looking man (he certainly wasn’t wearing horns and face paint as one of the Capitol insurrectionists did) made me realize more than ever how vehement many Americans are in their rejection of things I consider essential for the functioning of a healthy democracy (like objective, accurate, truthful, mainstream news reporting). I also realize it’s a lot easier to say I want reach out to these disaffected souls and bring them back into lawful discourse than it will be to do it.

Pace

Throw the bum out…and then what?

I am eager to see Donald Trump answer for his many sins, not least among them the poisoning of millions of American minds. How do we begin to heal this awful rift in the fabric of our society? I’ve been reading some studies lately that suggest name calling and avoidance only drive alienated people farther away from each other. One suggestion is to emphasize the things we share or could share as Americans, in language that doesn’t inflame. With that in mind, find below my latest missive to our local newspaper (which has courageously called for Trump to resign immediately, in a community that’s wicked conservative):

Like many of my neighbors here in Lancaster County, I am deeply disappointed that our Congressman Lloyd Smucker has chosen—for whatever reasons—to side with a president who encourages any behaviors, including violence against our elected leaders, so he can remain in the most powerful office in the world. But I am absolutely heartbroken to see so many Americans—who call themselves patriots and Christians—willing to endorse such lawless actions. Did the founding fathers labor to write the Constitution, establishing the laws by which we mutually agree to live our lives (and conduct elections), only to see it trampled by those seeking to impose their particular set of values and beliefs on the entire nation?
The First Amendment to the Constitution vows that should not happen. We are all Americans, one people. I would ask those who believe their sacred duty is to overturn the presidential election, by force if necessary, no matter the harm to democracy and the harm to those who disagree with them, this question: Is that what the Lord of love would do? Would those who shaped this nation, a nation of laws and not of men, approve? I honestly think not.
Since the assault on the Capitol, quiet voices have begun calling for unity. But others are planning further assaults on government to take back “their country.” Can unity arise out of this mess? I believe it can, but only if we recommit ourselves to the rule of law and the rule of love.
Reclaim Democracy

It’s time for Republicans to help save lives!

Below is my latest missive to our local paper triggered by fear, frankly, that what Donald Trump and his Republican enablers are doing to subvert the presidential election is not only immoral but increasingly dangerous. It’s time to demand that Republicans, whether they serve at the local, state or national level, do the right thing and stand up to the madman in the White House and tell him he lost. Please send sentiments like those below to every Republican you know and urge them to stop endangering our democracy and the people who help run it (like election workers). This letter will be in the December 11 issue of LNP/LancasterOnline.

If you see Facebook posts or tweets claiming the Supreme Court has accepted a Texas case seeking to block Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia from voting in the Electoral College, don’t believe it, especially if President Donald Trump is the source.

The fact-checking website politifact.com offers a succinct and accurate statement of the case. These are excerpts as of Thursday morning:

“Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has sued four states that went for President-elect Joe Biden on grounds their election procedures violated the law, and he’s asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block those states from voting in the electoral college.

“Legal experts have characterized the lawsuit as a long shot — the court has yet to take up any election disputes. And on Dec. 8, the Supreme Court rejected an effort led by a Republican congressman to reverse Pennsylvania’s certification of Biden’s victory there.

“But on Facebook, the high court has agreed to hear the Texas case against states including Pennsylvania.

“‘JUST IN,’ one Facebook post said. ‘The Supreme has decided to take up the Texas case. Let’s give Texas a YEEHAW!’

“This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. …

“We rate this Facebook post False.”

Such falsehoods, in my view, stir up Trump’s more violently-inclined supporters and raise false hopes. Election officials are being threatened across the country. I fear that when the Trumpists can no longer avoid the truth, someone might get hurt. I pray that all of Pennsylvania’s Republican legislators and members of Congress, including U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, will publicly acknowledge Biden’s victory and help defuse the tension.

Pace.