I thought this would be a nice way to dive into the new year. On Monday, CNN re-ran an episode of Anderson Cooper 360 where he interviewed Stephen Colbert for a full hour. (Without commercials, it runs about 38 minutes.) It's really terrific, and it seemed right to repost here. It's smart, funny, geeky at times, insightful, and then for almost 20 minutes -- which they get into in large part because Cooper's mother Gloria Vanderbilt had passed away about two months before -- and they talk about grief. This is a subject that Colbert notably got into with Joe Biden, and it's just as interesting and moving here, but takes on its own dimension because of how raw the subject clearly is to Cooper. All in all, it was just really good conversation.
It turns out that Dennis Prager has a video out with him "pontificating wisely" (tm) in front of a fireplace with a personal observation that he tries to make oh-so very clear is not for every man but...well, but for "some," and not just some, but "enough that I can make this point" -- so, despite his insistence, it's clear that this pertains to a lot. A LOT. And it's that "enough" men today are growing beards because "feminism and the Left have crapped on masculinity" and they need to say "hello, I'm not a female."
Interestingly, that is the exact same reason that was given for men having beards in 19th century England! And also in 1250 B.C. Jerusalem.
And Donald Trump Jr. and Ted Cruz in 2019.
And Santa Claus.
And Abraham Lincoln, father of the Republican Party.
Reading or listening to what Dennis Prager has to say is an ethereally mind-numbing experience. Not always. Some of the time. And enough of the time that I can make this point.
Actually, now that I think of it, it's most of the time. I was just being polite before.
And it got me to thinking of an article I wrote about Mr. Prager on the Huffington Post back in 2010. It was the result of an exchange of emails I had with a friend who's a reasonably well-known public figure, very right-wing and a friend of Prager. Initially, when I decided to re-post this here, it was only because I think "enough" of what Dennis Prager writes and says is crushingly empty, made under the seeming guise of sage advice, and I wanted to follow-up on his little video chat with my encore from the past. But as I re-read the article, I realized that in many ways the two pieces are connected, that indeed both of them have a similar theme of Mr. Prager -- a total mis-understanding of historical fact, and insistence that the cause of the world's ills, which tend to be things different from him as seen through his small, myopic view of life, are due "enough" to liberals.
By the way, this is an especially-ludicrous perspective to have, given that conservatism is about protecting what's good about the past, and liberalism is about finding what's good about changing and progressing into the future -- and 10,000 years or so of history have shown that, in fact, life actually changes. A lot.
But then, as I said, not understanding history and the reality of life is so-very Dennis Prager. Well, okay, not understanding some of it. And enough of it to make this point.
June 3, 2010
Dennis Prager: Making the World a Crueler Place, One Word at a Time
A conservative friend has me on his mailing list. He forwards me diatribes from his circle about how the world will end because of liberals, a term loosely defined as "anything that isn't conservative."
These articles have two things in common. One is that they all border on fear, and the other is their relationship to facts is similar to P.T. Barnum's.
What is unfortunate is that my friend - and his circle - accept them all on faith. And the problem of accepting temporal matters on faith is that it doesn't develop the power to think for oneself.
The other day, the latest forwarding was an article by Dennis Prager. It was an essay that, on the surface, appeared to discuss a philosophic argument comparing religion to the evils of the secular world. In reality, it was just bulldozing facts to make a political point.
This below isn't whole article by Mr. Prager. In fairness, I only got through the first four paragraphs. But I include those four, so that what follows would be in context.
* * *
May 25, 2010
The World Is a Cruel Place -- and If America Weakens, It Will Get Crueler
By Dennis Prager
One of the many beliefs -- i.e., non-empirically based doctrines -- of the post-Christian West has been that moral progress is the human norm, especially so with the demise of religion. In a secular world, the self-described enlightened thinking goes, superstition is replaced by reason, and reason leads to the moral good.
Of course, it turned out that the post-Christian West produced considerably more evil than the Christian world had. No mass cruelty in the name of Christianity approximated the vastness of the cruelty unleashed by secular doctrines and regimes in the post-Christian world. The argument against religion that more people have been killed in the name of religion than by any other doctrine is false propaganda on behalf of secularism and Leftism.
The amount of evil done by Christians -- against, for example, "heretics" and Jews -- in both the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity -- was extensive, as was the failure of most European Christians to see Nazism for the evil that it was. The good news is that Christian evils have been acknowledged and addressed by most Christian leaders and thinkers.
But there were never any Christian Auschwitzes -- i.e., systematic genocides of every man, woman and child of a particular race or religion. Nor were there Christian Gulags -- the shipping of millions of innocents to conditions so horrific that prolonged suffering leading to death was the almost-inevitable end.
This is as far as I got. It was either keep reading or stop before my head exploded. I opted for the latter.
The problem, you see, is that there are a great many things Mr. Prager far too self-comfortably and intentionally overlooks. Like, for example, giving a pass to the Spanish Inquisition and its Auto-de-fe torture. He does this by conveniently (and simplistically) self-defining religious mass murder on his own very-limited terms, as systematically killing "every" person of a religion. Of course, in reality, even Nazism didn't systematically kill "every" Jew by his own definition, any more than Spanish Catholics did in the 356 years of the Inquisition. But what the Inquisition did during those 3-1/2 centuries was pretty darn systematic and massive. Not to mention that it was torture.
And though he eases his conscience by insisting, "Nor were there Christian Gulags...", he again intentionally (because if not intentional, it is ignorantly) overlooks 800 years or more of horrors that cumulatively likely were crushingly worse than any Gulag since they defined nearly a millennium of daily culture.
But mainly, I didn't get that far because Mr. Prager showed an unacceptable lack of history and reality when he wrote, "The argument against religion that more people have been killed in the name of religion than by any other doctrine is false propaganda on behalf of secularism and Leftism."
While this statement sounds authoritative, it is of course backed up by…nothing. Not a single word of it is backed up by - anything. It is words strung together.
I actually read history. I have no doubt that Dennis Prager does, as well. But I can't speak to what he reads, or chooses to remember, or include. But honestly, his above is a numbing statement. Last year, I finally finished reading Will and Ariel Durant's brilliant and legendary 11-volume Story of Civilization. Probably around 8,000 pages. Up until about the year 1600, probably the bulk of wars were religious-based, and many wars beyond that, through 1800. National governments were religious for much of history, as kings ruled their nations by divine right, and fought off opposing armies for fear of another king's religious encroachment. The Holy Roman Empire dominated Europe. Muslimism, Hinduism, Buddhism dominated much of the rest of the world. Pure secular rule only came later. Villages of 20,000 people - 30,000 or 50,000 people - would be wiped out without a thought, becoming almost commonplace, century after century for a thousand years or more, from the beginning of history through the early 17th century. (In the early volumes, Durant writes of such ghastly massacres with eloquent horror. Later, as they continued through the centuries, the historian instead wearily addresses them as almost footnotes before moving on to the next.) The continuing Crusades of Christianity against Moslems were almost unendingly devastating to the society it crossed and ravaged. For over 200 years, there were 11 of these Crusades, all of them religiously-approved wars.
But more than that, as Mr. Prager tries to whitewash what was done specifically to Jews throughout history by focusing on Nazis, let me offer a passage from Volume 6 of the Durants' history, "The Reformation." Pages 730-731. An important thing to keep in mind is that this was written in 1957. After World War II. After the Nazis. Written by a renowned historian who made it his life work to study the history of mankind. Durant begins the passage this way --
"The Black Death was a special tragedy for the Jews of Christendom. The same plague had slain Mongols, Moslems and Jews in Asia, where no one thought of blaming the Jews; but in Western Europe a populace maddened by the ravages of pestilence accused the Jews of poisoning the wells in an attempt to wipe out all Christians."
Durant then continues with a lengthy tale of how such "fevered imaginations" swept across all of Europe. "Nevertheless, some Jews were tortured into confessing that they had distributed the poison...Merciless pogroms broke out in France, Spain and Germany. In one town in southern France the entire Jewish community was cast into flames. All Jews in Savoy, all Jews around Lake Leman, all in Bern, Fribourg, Basel, Nuremberg, Brussels were burned."
(If Dennis Prager is looking for "systematic genocides of every man, woman and child of a particular race or religion," that long list of "all" is a good place to start. But I digress...)
And then, after this lengthy passage describing these many dark years, Will Durant concludes by writing -- and I repeat, this was written a decade after World War II by a man who made it his life work to study the entire history of man --
"It would be hard to find, before our time, or in all the records of savagery, any deeds more barbarous than the collective murder of Jews in the Black Death."
So, while Dennis Prager wants to whitewash history for the sake of making a political point -- shame on him.
Shame on him.
And his shame extends further. It's when Prager writes, "The good news is that Christian evils have been acknowledged and addressed by most Christian leaders and thinkers."
"Good news"?? That's the good news?
Yes, to Dennis Prager in his political, high-wire, contortionist act, that's the "good news." It all makes up for the Inquisition and a thousand years of torture and persecution. Good news indeed! "Sorry we tortured you and killed you and wiped out entire villages for hundreds of years. Our bad." Good news? That's great news! Of course, it would have been even better news if all Christian leaders and thinkers acknowledged Christian evils, and not just "most" of them, which could mean only 51 percent... But hey, who am I to quibble?
Mind you, all Dennis Prager says is that most Christian leaders and thinkers merely "acknowledge" these "Christian evils" - not that they are horrified, repulsed and mortified by them, or ever did anything to make up for them. Just that they "acknowledge" their existence. Okay, sorry, "most" do. (However many "most" is.) Given that "it would be hard to find," as Will Durant said, "in all the records of savagery, any deeds more barbarous than the collective murder of Jews in the Black Death," I guess that in Dennis Prager's politically conservative world the best we can get is to accept that as "good news." Swell.
I got no further than these opening paragraphs. To be fair, maybe in the rest of his article Dennis Prager had a complete change of viewpoint. But I didn't have it in me to keep going and see if such a miracle had occurred. Because I was reading empty and dishonest words. All designed to misinterpret history to make a political point.
None of this is to criticize religion or praise secularism. There is room for an honest discussion of that. It is, instead, to note solely that what Dennis Prager wrote is not acceptable.
Actually, what he wrote is pathetic. And I'm sorry my friend and others accepted it as the truth. Because it ignores the reality of history. If a person wants to share the same political beliefs with Dennis Prager or with anyone amongst themselves, that's fine. But one should still be willing to tell those you otherwise agree with that they're wrong when they are very wrong.
"Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters," said Albert Einstein, who knew something about pursuing the truth carefully, "cannot be trusted with important matters."
Dennis Prager says the world is a cruel place. Maybe it just looks that way when you are so careless with the truth.
I meant to write about this story when I first read it in Politico three weeks ago, but...well, other Trump News Stories kept showing up even more noteworthy, and then we hit the Ukraine debacle and impeachment hearings and...well, it kept get being pushed back. But even there are are even more Trump News Stories yesterday -- two, in fact -- one, that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on the phone calls when Trump strong-armed the Ukrainian president, and the other there is now a second instance of Trump and Pompeo trying to get another foreign leader (this time the prime minister of Australia) to help discredit the FBI investigation into Russian collusion -- I thought that was lull enough (can you imagine?? That would be banner headlines across every newspaper in any other administration) to finally get to this.
The story is how Trump is starting to lose a bit of support in perhaps the most important and loyal part of his base, white evangelicals. But no, it's not because of what you think, which is what so fascinates me.
Is he losing support of white evangelicals because of putting immigrants in cages? No. is he losing support of white evangelicals because he's taking immigrant children from their parents? No. Is he losing support of white evangelicals because of his heartlessness toward poor people who were sick and dying in Puerto after Hurricane Maria? No. Is he losing support of white evangelicals for surrounding himself with the NRA after three gun massacres over one weekend? No.
So, what could Trump have possibly done to so deeply offend these supposed God-loving white evangelicals, if not all this???
His use of bad language has gotten worse.
When Trump was at a recent West Virginia rally, he was talking about bombing ISIS and told the crowd, “They’ll be hit so goddamn hard.”
That was just finally too much for some of the constituents state lawmaker Paul Hardesty, who said that people in his district were complaining about Trump “using the Lord’s name in vain.”
Hardesty told Politico, “I’ve had people come to me and say, ‘You know I voted for [Trump], but if he doesn’t tone down the rhetoric, I might just stay home this time.”
I suspect they won't though. After all, callous hypocrisy is a mighty tall hurdle to get over. But -- well...if anything can accomplish that -- not taking children from their parents; not ignoring the poor, sick and dying;not ignoring gun massacres and not condemning white supremacists -- then using the Lord's name in vain might just be the thing. After all, it's one thing to take children and ignore the poor and dying and support hatred all supposedly in the Lord's name -- but for goodness sake, it shouldn't be in vain.
You can read the full article here.
Yesterday, in a delusion of grandeur overwhelming by his own outlandish standard, Trump not only retweeted a truly-demented and deeply anti-Semitic note sent to him by some random, albeit unhinged member of the populace that, among other things, called Trump the "King of Israel" and being loved like the "second coming of God." -- after which Trump himself, talking to the press outside the White House, referred to himself as "the Chosen One."
No, really. This is all true. No doubt you saw it on the news -- not in The Onion or Psychology Today -- since it was pretty hard to ignore.
The thing is, if Trump was actually The Chosen One, you'd think that God would at least have let him get more popular votes that Hillary Clinton.
In case anyone was wondering, no, this is not normal.
How "not normal"? Forget for the moment that Trump has his finger on nukes...as well as your life -- if he was merely your next-door neighbor and thought he was The Chosen One and said people considered him the King of Israel and Second Coming of God, would you let your children simply talk to him??
(Fun Fact: much as Trump and his correspondent want to believe otherwise, and want you to believe it, as well, Jews, perhaps most-especially those in Israel, don't actually believe in the "Second Coming of God." They're just fine with His first appearance, thank you very much.).
And this on the day when it made the news that the U.S. budget deficit hit one trillion dollars. NBC News sent out a tweet that referenced the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office explaining this deficit was substantially "more than previously expected due to legislative packages passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump," In truth, it was only not "previously expected" by the blind and feverish acolytes who think Trump is The Chosen One. Most others sentient Americans not only expected it, but were certain and said so at the time. But hey, perhaps he can turn a deficit into a surplus. Unfortunately, the rest of the country is unable to walk on water and is slowly sinking in it.
And further, it was the day after Trump said that the 79% of Jews who voted Democratic were "disloyal." Because, hey, when you're a virulent anti-Semite, why wouldn't you say that? And this.
By the way, the two retweets that Trump sent were far-more insane that the very little I quoted above. I just don't have it in me to re-post them both in full. Nor do I have it in me to debate those who have been trying to point out that re-tweeting someone calling you "The King of Israel" and the "second coming of God" and thanking the person isn't the same as claiming it yourself -- especially when "you" did call yourself later "The Chosen One." I'm perfectly fine with Trump's supplicants twisting themselves into a knot in order to prove he's not totally insane, merely a pscyhoneurotic who wants everyone else to believe that what was said in his retweets were true. Although explaining away that "The Chosen One" is a little more difficult. I have no doubt that they'll bring out the Golden Oldie, "He was just joking.".
Remember: "maga" in Nigerian means "victim of fraud."
Hey, the good news in all this is that by Trump's new standards, he wouldn't be allowed to buy a gun. So, he's just limited to nuclear weapons.
And not a word of horror from Republicans. Meaning we must repeat -- this is not about Trump, we know who he is. (And no, I don't mean "King of Israel," "The second coming of God" and "The Chosen One.") This is about the elected officials of the Republican Party who enable him and are complicit.
And in honor of it all, we present a musical interlude. "King Herod's Song" from Jesus Chris Superstar. Follow the bouncing loon.
So, I suspect some of you probably wonder what it would have been like if the creators of the musical Les Miserables had written about the Passover story instead of the French Revolution -- and got an a capella group to perform it. Well...good news, here are the Maccabeats.
(I do think they would have been better served not taking themselves SO seriously when doing what is at heart a parody, and also if perhaps they told the story more rather than strung together fairly-generic songs that could have been about most anything. But still, it's ambitious and nicely done.)
President Emmanuel Macron of France has announced that there will be an international fundraising effort to help rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. At the same time, French billionaire François-Henri Pinault has said that he, his father and family are pledging 100 million Euros for the restoration (which is $113 million). While a massive amount, that won't cover the cost since the current restoration that had previously begun to repair damage that had built up over the centuries was expected to cost $150-180 million.
(As a side note, Pinault is married to actress Salma Hayek, not that being a billionaire and CEO of an international luxury group whose holdings includes Gucci and Saint Laurent isn't noteworthy enough. (As a bonus, he's also president of the French holding company which owns the fine arts auction house Christie's.)
The French government's fundraising site hasn't hasn't been set up yet, but at the moment there are two other venues for donating. And while I suspect they will meet their goals with donations pouring in from around the world, and other major donations from wealthy French individuals and those across the globe, if you're interested in donating, these are the two leading charities which news sources have pointed to --
Friends of Notre-Dame has offices in both France and the U.S., It previously established itself as a 501c3 charity when the restoration had earlier begun that was in operation when the fire broke out, and had been the primary organization raising money for the restoration already under way. You can reach their website here, although the site seemed to be down much of last evening, perhaps from overload, though I did finally get through.
Fondation du Patrimoine is a French nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of historic, cultural sites throughout France. It has established a special Note Dame rebuilding fund. You can get to their website here -- just know that the site is in French. However, most browsers should pop-up a window asking if you want the page translated. If you don't get that, the boxes asking for information should be pretty clear. Also, it asks for donations in Euros, so know that one Euro equals $1.13,
By the way, in addition to the foundation structure being saved, along with much artwork, relics and icons inside, it was wonderful to find out that it appears the famous North Rose Window was not lost.
It's also worth noting that, for all the emotional attention given to the spire burning and being demolished, I later read that it turns out the spire was not from the original cathedral, but rather had been part of a reconstruction done around 1860. While that's certainly very old, it's not 800-year historic which I would guess most people likely believed. In fact, there is a certain comforting connection to history that as a reconstruction it, in turn, will itself be reconstructed.
Last month, outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) basically fired the House chaplain, Rev. Patrick J. Conway, who offered his resignation. Yesterday, he wrote a letter to Ryan -- on the advice of counsel (counsel??! Yes, that's how convoluted this whole affair has gotten, angering both Democrats and Republicans alike) -- that he was rescinding his resignation, and explained his reasons.
One of those reasons dealt with the meeting he had with Ryan's Chief of Staff, Jonathan Burks. When Rev. Conway asked why he was being requested to step down, he says that Burks told him, “Maybe it’s time that we had a chaplain that wasn’t a Catholic.”
As you might suspect, Burks says he strongly disagrees with Rev. Conway's interpretation of the meeting. And he might be right. But given a battle of two recollections, whose side would you fall on? The Chief of Staff to Paul Ryan, or the House chaplain?
Whatever the truth, Paul Ryan has backed off, and Rev. Conway is back in his old job. Not all members of Congress are satisfied, though, still disturbed why he had been asked to resign in the first place, wanting the matter looked into.
I have two reactions.
One is that just imagine if there was a story that a Democratic Speaker of the House -- let's say Nancy Pelosi -- had asked the House chaplain to quit -- for any reason. But most especially imagine if the story got out that Nancy Pelosi had asked the House chaplain to quit because "Maybe it's time that we had a chaplain that wasn't a Catholic." I think holy hell would have roared out, and the walls of Congress would have come tumbling down.
And the other is -- maybe it's time that we didn't have a chaplain for Congress at all.
By the way, President James Madison -- not only a Founding Father of the country, but a founding writer of the Constitution and considered the principle author of the First Amendment -- didn't believe the House and Senate should have a chaplain, arguing that it couldn't be supported by the separation of Church and State in the Constitution. In an essay, he wrote, "Is the appointment of Chaplains to the two Houses of Congress consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom?” In the end, he answered his question: “In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative.”
So, I'm not alone. And in good company.
And so, we get an argument of whether there should be a Catholic chaplain. Or what about a Protestant, or Baptist or Lutheran chaplain? What about a Unitarian chaplain. Woe betide us if we had a Jewish chaplain. Or Buddhist or...yes, dare we even imagine it -- a Muslim chaplain. (Okay, you can quit laughing now. I'm serious. Within context.) Or fill in the blank of your religion of choice. I suppose an atheist chaplain is out of the question, but it would probably be more Constitutionally supportable than the others.
Given how unconstitutional -- not to mention how fraught with controversy -- it is having a House and Senate chaplain, it would seem to me that the best compromise would be that IF you really, absolutely insist on having a Chaplain for Congress...and given, after all, that this is Congress...the Chaplain should be Charlie.
Last night, I went to a Passover seder at a home I've been going to for years. It's always very enjoyable, except for one particular thing: about five years ago, the host switched from a very simple haggadah – which is the book used for the service (and unless you're with an especially serious group, people tend to prefer simple, and the simpler and more lively and fun, the better ) – to something called The New American Haggadah. In a word, it is interminable (though happily we don’t read through most of it) and in a few additional words, it's pontificatingly awful and pompous, about 100 pages long -- a preferred haggadah is about 30 -- edited by a fellow named Jonathan Safran Foer. It might be something interesting to read is you were on a desert island and feeling devout. But as a haggadah for people who want to celebrate and get through the wine, matzoh, gefilte fish, camaraderie and meal, it’s dismal, and I don’t think anyone there likes it. Even the host has started to grow weary of it. But he's determined and sticks with it, editing the service more and more each year. As is only right and proper.
But his self-awareness was especially noticeable when he himself brought up that only a few days ago, he had seen that The Onion did a satire piece about…Jonathan Safran Foer!!! Yes, the editor of the haggadah. The headline of the article alone is funny enough and I could have stopped right there, “Jonathan Safran Foer Guesses It’s Time to Give Up on Silly Dream of Becoming a Good Writer.” Hilarious. I have no idea what brought this about -- Foer has actually had a successful career, including the novel, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, which was made into a movie I quite enjoyed. Perhaps The Onion writer has been through one too many seders with The New American Haggadah, or if that was just a happy coincidence and a genial jibe in general. But it did my heart good. The article is very short – one paragraph, but quite funny. If you’re interested, here’s the link.
I read the thoughtful statement by Tamika Mallory (one of the founders of the Women's March) about the reasons for her support of the Nation of Islam. It's heartfelt -- and wrong. There's no denunciation of Louis Farrakhan, who she's lavished praise and photos, and who among a great many other things has himself called Hitler "a great man." While I understand the comfort the women of the Nation of Islam brought Ms. Mallory at a difficult time in her life, even Barack Obama broke with his long-time pastor who spoke inappropriately just once (that we know of). Farrakhan has a long history of hate and virulent anti-Semitism.
Trump was properly vilified for for saying there were some "very fine people" among neo-Nazis. There aren't, they're neo-Nazis. And no mater how much needed solace Ms. Mallory received when it was critical to her life, it doesn't excuse a career of spreading hate by Louis Farrakhan.
Al Franken took a joke photograph years earlier when he was a comedian -- and when entertaining U.S. troops at war -- and resigned from the United States Senate.
Meghan McCain was correct today on The View and Joy Behar was wrong. There's no wiggle room here, as unfortunate and uncomfortable as it is for Ms. Mallory who otherwise has such noble qualities and co-founded an important organization. The lifelong hate speech of Farrakhan is hate speech and vile. Period. This isn't about someone who years ago did something politically incorrect that he's deeply-apologized for. Louis Farrakhan is a person who has built himself on a foundation of hatred and is still at it today.
If Tamika Mallory wants to regain her credibility as a "freedom fighter," she has to do no less than what Barack Obama when he set the standard. She must show that she understands why what Louis Farrakhan stands for is unacceptable on every level and not to be tolerated, even by those who benefited from his organization when it was critical to her. Period.,
Yesterday was another of those maniacal news days that have become all too common in the Trump administration, with multiple Top Headline stories overlapping on any given day. Monday, for instance, had half a dozen stories what would normally on their own each be banner headlines that it was so overcrowded I even forgot about one -- evidence that Roger Stone had direct contact with Wikileaks, contrary to his long-insistence lying that it never happened.
And then again today, I was going to delve into the latest menagerie of stories, headed by the big New York Times scoop about Jared Kusher getting loans totaling half-a-billion dollars from two financial institutions that he met with in the White House. Mind you, before that story broke late in the day, while trying to decide among a handful of other headlines, like Hope Hicks resigning, and the spokesman for Kushner and Ivanka Trump resigning, the president calling his Attorney General "disgraceful," and how Billy Graham, someone who had been purely a religious figure, would unacceptably be lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda, the seat of government, against the Constitutional concept of separation of church and state. On top of which Billy Graham, who was a divisive figure throughout his career, was also shown to be anti-Semitic on the Nixon tapes.
But I read something else later in the day which bothered me far more than any of these stories that I've decided to write about instead. Not that it's more important -- on a National News scale, it's minor -- but rather it galled me personally the most. That said, though my reaction here is purely personal, I also think the tiny story speaks to what has been a long-growing undercurrent in American society that has become more prominent and disturbing.
In an appearance on "Fox News, former Congressman Jason Chaffetz -- who's now a crack analyst for the channel -- was discussing the shooting massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School and he said (I swear) -- that among all the debate on assault weapons, the NRA and new gun laws, is that what is perhaps most important to address is that the survivors of the shooting "need a belief in God and Jesus Christ."
Here's the video.
Personally I think it's possible what Jason Chaffetz himself may need is an exorcism. But that's another matter entirely.
So, let's take a step back and take a look at what, to some, may sound like a nurturing call for greater faith in a Divine Being. (I was going to say, "take a closer look," but then I realized that you can not only see it just fine from far away, but also if you get too close you risk your head exploding.)
And it begins with putting aside perhaps the most outrageous and most galling aspects of the comment.
So, forget for the moment that 40% of the school is Jewish, which is a lot to put aside (but easy, since most people probably don't know that), and forget too that six of the people killed were Jewish -- and how the shooter has a history of anti-Semitism, including having written in an Instagram chat that "My real mother was a Jew. I am glad I never met her" (again, easy to forget since it hasn't been much reported) -- and forget how disgraceful it is for Mr. Chaffetz to say amidst all that how believing in Jesus is what is missing at the school, forget ALL that for the moment, which I know is a lot to ask to ignore, the larger reality of what Jason Chaffetz is suggesting is that a belief in Jesus Christ would have saved those 17 killed, and that, in the opinion of the former Congressman now "Fox News" commentator, Jesus must be okay with the 23 deaths in school shootings this year alone. After all, why would Mr. Chaffetz believe that if Jesus cared enough to comfort the survivors, He wouldn't care about protecting everyone in the first place?
Just to be clear, it's important to remind the Jason Chaffetzes of the world who proselytize otherwise that believing in Jesus didn't do much for the nine people killed at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Nor did believing in Jesus help the 26 people who were killed at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Faith in Jesus Christ or whatever God one wishes to believe is a fine thing. But it has nothing to do with mass shootings, even if that belief is just to comfort all of those involved, after the fact. Without question, if such faith is what any individual needs for comfort, hopefully that will bring great solace. But to suggest that "Belief in Jesus" is the answer -- under any conditions, but most-especially when 40% of those affected are of another faith entirely -- is egregiously, cold-heartedly irresponsible, ignoring the needs and comforts of others. It is pandering to a political base on the grieving of others
It's pretty sickening to think that Jason Chaffetz was up until recently, when he resigned from the House, the Chairman of the Government Reform Committee. It's hard to imagine that this is the guy you'd want reforming government. Or anything.
Okay, the moment is over. You can stop forgetting all those other things now. Feel free to consider it all. Feel free to consider now that Jason Chaffetz is telling us from his "Fox News" holy pulpit that what the 40% of survivors of a massacre who are Jewish need for solace and protection from gunfire and death is to have faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Feel free to consider it all.
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, is a regular columnist for the Writers Guild of America and was for the Huffington Post. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
Feedspot Badge of Honor