Monday, August 29, 2016

Week of 08/29/2016

Georgia’s Hypocrites Expose Christian Privilege
There is nothing more terrifying to a self-righteous person than the realization that they may actually not be the center of the universe.
It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the actual universe or the “universe” that they survey, the self-righteous hoard power and domination worse than any obsessive-compulsive hoarder in those cable-channel TV shows.  They believe that the universe operates in a particular way and that it is by cosmic design. 
Of course, it’s no small coincidence that this great “design” happens to benefit them.  This benefit doesn’t have to be much either.  It could simply be living their lives as they are right now.  It could just be their mundane job and their mundane marriage and their mundane family in their mundane neighborhood.  It could just be the great status quo, which they believe everything has always been and always will be.
And like any compulsive hoarder, they feel absolutely threatened when anyone or anything comes to disrupt their “perfect” living.  It doesn’t even have to affect them directly. It doesn’t even have to physically be in “their universe”!  It could be something they heard on the cable news channels or talk radio or whispered in those chat rooms and email threads they get.  Whatever it is, it challenges what they believe is how things should be, and thus it is a “threat” to them personally.
And that brings us to Newton County, Georgia.  It’s a podunk little good-ol’-boy county just south of my location.  Then again, pretty much everything outside of Atlanta is a podunk little good-ol’-boy county.
It seems some very religious people want to set up a house of worship in their quaint podunk little good-ol’-boy county. A place of worship and a cemetery.
The good news is that bible-thumping self-righteous citizens here in these quaint podunk little good-ol’-boy counties will rubberstamp the approval of any house of worship and cemetery faster than you can say “Amen”!
The bad news is that this only applies to Christian houses of worship and cemeteries... and the group of religious people we’re talking about are not Christians.  They’re Muslims.
They had might as well be Satanists.  Actually in the fragile little minds of these people from podunk little good-ol’-boy counties, Satanists, Muslims, Agnostics, and Atheists are all one-in-the same. They all fall into that black-and-white category of “Not Us”.
No, the so-called “God-fearing” Christians of Newton County do not tolerate Muslims. They are, after all, the enemy. Just ask Donald Trump. He’ll tell you so. They’re terrorists.  They’re murderers.  They’re evil to the core. They hate America and they want to subjugate the world to the worst kind of law that ever could be invented... Sharia Law.  And don’t think for a moment that I’m over-exaggerating the sentiment these “God-fearing” Christians of Newton County exhibited over this subject!  This was all over the news, especially on the local talk radio stations, where the echo chamber of propaganda amplified their fears and magnified their paranoia.
“The Muslims are coming!  The Muslims are coming!  And they’re coming for your children if you let them come in!” That’s the script they regurgitated on 106.7FM.  One good-ol’-boy even circulated fliers that suggested letting Muslims come into their “God-fearing” county would be the death knell for the United States.
Oh they tried to be civil about it.  They tried to have a rational conversation about it.  They even brought in a representative from the Counsel on American-Islamic Relations, which, to many a thumper was like bringing in “Baghdad Bob”, the former mouthpiece to the late Saddam Hussein.
But they had to at least put up the front.  They had to pretend to be civil.
And then the county leader did what they felt they “had” to do when faced with this much vitriol and outright Islamo-hate.  They simply made a blanket ban of all houses of worship from setting up shop in their podunk little good-ol’-boy county.  They couldn’t discriminate against one religion, so they discriminated against all religions.
God bless America!  Land of the not-so-free and home of the gutless cowards!
But I’m really not surprised by this!  Not in the least!  The Muslims were going up against years upon years of entrenched self-righteousness and bigotry.  You can’t overcome that overnight, especially in a time of neo-conservatives, Brexit, and Donald Trump!
And this isn’t even the first time we’ve seen this happen!  This is actually the third county in the past few years that Muslims were met with self-righteous hostility simply for wanting to be there!
But that isn’t the punchline to this sad and pathetic social joke we call Georgia governance. 
No, the punchline comes from the “’Murican” that called in and said that the reason why they don’t want the Muslims to set up shop in the United States is because “they support Sharia Law”, while we “have the separation of Church and State”.
Since when, Goober?  Since when?!?
Don’t get me wrong, Goober; we really do have the Separation of Church and State.  I don’t deny that at all.  But since when did you and your ilk suddenly become believers of it?
You see, it wasn’t that long ago that all of the bible-thumping self-righteous Christians threw screaming temper tantrums when Georgia’s governor vetoed their so-called “Religious Freedom” bill.  It was a bill that would have legalized out-and-out discrimination on the basis of religious bias.  It was to make sure that people like Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis wouldn’t be held to account for their religious discrimination here in Georgia.
And every time the subject was about bringing prayer into schools, or removing “In God We Trust” from our currency, or shoving huge Ten Commandment monuments on government property (which actually were done as publicity props for the Cecil B. DeMille movie), or outlawing same-sex marriages or same-sex nightclubs or anything involving the LGBT community, you and your ilk scream at the top of your lungs that there is “no such thing” as the Separation of Church and State!  That it supposedly “doesn’t exist”!  It’s just a “figment” of the liberal imagination!  It’s “manufactured”.  “’Murcia is a Christian Nation”, you cry out each and every time, and you supposedly have a right, if not an out-and-out God-mandated obligation, to impose your beliefs on the community through laws and policies and regulations.
But when it comes to Muslims?  Suddenly the whole “Separation of Church and State” magically appears, and the very idea that a certain religious belief could possibly influence local government is suddenly “dangerous”.
Except, of course, when it is your own.
Let’s get brutally honest here... the hyper-inflated hyper-politicized hysteria over Muslims even existing here in the South has exposed not only the ugliness of the self-righteous redneck ‘Muricans, but it also exposed something even more destructive to American freedoms: Christian Privilege.
Christian Privilege is exactly what it suggests.  It presupposes that Christianity – be it a particular sect, or in general – is somehow superior to all other religions in society.  When you say that America is established on Judo-Christian laws, you are claiming Christian Privilege.  When you claim that America is a “Christian Nation”, you are claiming Christian Privilege.
And when you claim that America needs to enforce laws based on your Christian beliefs – such as prohibiting same-sex marriages – while at the same time screaming at the fear of any kind of Sharia Law being introduced, you are claiming Christian Privilege.
Look at the supposed “conditions” being imposed by the self-righteous on any idea of the Muslims coming into Newton County.  They demand that all Muslims condemn extremism, condemn any and all forms of terrorism committed around the world by any other Muslim, and they demand absolute and unconditional assurances that nobody attending any future mosque service not have any connection to terrorism, either personal or familial. 
What if we imposed those kinds of rules twenty years ago when Baptist extremists were telling followers to kill doctors that perform abortions?  What if we demanded they go above and beyond to prove that all Baptist ministers don’t advocate murder or other acts of terrorism?  Or how about the Catholic Church, when there were rampant stories of them hiding away and shuffling around pedophile priests?  How loud do you think the cries of “persecution” would be?  How fast do you think the judiciary would leap to put a stop to that kind of reaction?
And yet we have self-righteous ‘Muricans making demands on all Muslims based entirely on fear and hysteria for the “privilege” of living in “their” county, and nobody thinks twice about it.  That too is Christian Privilege.
I wish I could say that I’m disgusted at what I see, but I can’t... because I’ve lived here in the South for almost thirty years now and I know this is what is at the ugly core of many of the people here.  And these aren’t just county leaders or church officials.  These are neighbors and friend and family members.  These are people I work with and talk with and meet at social gatherings.  And all I can do is just smile and tolerate their biases and be thankful that I’m not at the receiving end of it.
Because I know what it at the heart of their biases and paranoia.  It’s not that some Muslim would show up in “their” universe, or that some same-sex couple will move into “their” neighborhood.  It’s the fear of the inevitable reality that drives them to hypocrisy.  It’s the fear that one day they won’t be the center of their universe.  That the universe they know won’t reflect anything they believe in.  That one day, more people in “their” universe will be less like them and more like everything they abhor. 
They fear that at some point in the future they may have to entertain the speculation that they could be... wrong.
It’s easy to say that everything is “right” when everything in “their” universe validates it.  They don’t have to defend the righteousness of their beliefs.  “Their” universe does that for them.  That’s the power of the status quo, and it’s easy to become addicted to it and to hoard as much of it as they can.
Unfortunately for them, nothing lasts forever... even in “their” universe.  And hoarders learn eventually that their obsession with holding on to those things causes rot and stagnation.  And in Newton County and other places here in Georgia, that hoarder’s rot is getting noticed.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Week of 08/22/2016

Atlanta’s Ongoing Delusion with History
I consider myself to be an “Old New Englander”, even though I’ve lived here in Georgia longer than I have in any other state.  Sure, I can talk like a good ol’ boy and give the right drawl depending on which part of the state I’m in.  I’ll enjoy a good chicken biscuit for breakfast and even some biscuits and gravy.
But, in my heart, I know I’m still a New Englander.  I’ve never eaten grits and I don’t plan on doing so anytime soon.  I can’t stand Georgia’s summer humidity, which has gotten even worse here in Atlanta than when I moved to the southern part of the state in 1988. 
I like seeing the beautiful women of the south, but, for the life of me, I just can’t understand why people in Atlanta can be so delusional and still function. 
Maybe it’s the heat and humidity.  Maybe if you’re exposed to it long enough it fries that huge green tomato in your skull.  Maybe it has something to do with the pollen, which has also gotten worse and worse over the years.
Or maybe it’s just generations of southern self-righteousness and ignorance.  This is, after all, the state that not only boasts of being the birthplace of the Civil Rights movement, but also where the greatest enemy of that same movement was resurrected.
Either way, the people of Atlanta are not doing themselves any favors when they live in continual delusion about certain things, especially when it comes to its own history.
Take, for instance, the Olympics.
If you were to read the Atlanta newspapers or watched the local TV channels of late, you’d think that Atlanta hosted the most perfect Olympics ever back in 1996!  They want us all to believe that from the moment the late Muhammad Ali lit the torch until the closing ceremony, everything went off without a hitch, that everyone was kind and cordial to each other, and that Atlanta was the perfect and most gracious hosts that ever could exist!
Except that is all just a pile of chicken poop.
You see, I was here during the Olympics. And so were some of my readers.  I started my weekly column earlier that year, and I know the real history that the Atlanta media does not want you to remember!
First of all, you know those stories you were hearing earlier this past month about how Rio de Janeiro isn’t ready to be hosting the games right now?  How they’re not finished with some of the arrangements? Well, guess what?  We weren’t exactly ready for prime time either, and we had eight years to prepare for it!  A lot of what we did was last-minute too, and I seem to recall a few event locations weren’t “finished” by the Opening Ceremony either.  So we have no business at all complaining about Rio’s lack of preparedness.
Second, we had our share of embarrassments as well.  Remember Cobb County and their anti-gay platform?  Yeah, it cost them the volleyball venue, but it also exposed the ugly “good ol’ boy rednecks” that are in abundance in the state.  It’s like saying “Here’s Miss America, and now here’s a close-up of the bright-red oozing and infected pimple that’s on her butt.”
Funny, isn’t it, how the human mind will ignore the 99% beauty and focus on the 1% ugly?
The Atlanta delusion says that everyone prospered during the Olympics, but I was there in the city during the games.  I went to the restaurants and stores inside the city and I saw the frustrations of those store owners and restaurant workers who thought they’d be bursting at the seams with international customers.
My best friend from high school and first adopted brother came down to Atlanta that week for a visit.  His first vacation in forever.  He saw the rowing competition from the edge of our cove, then I took him into the city for the afternoon.  We went to the Sundial restaurant, thinking that it would be packed since it was the perfect place to see the whole city in an hour.  It wasn’t packed.  In fact, it was pretty much empty.  The staff were eager to have anyone there.  It turned out that while “the whole world” may have come to Atlanta, they all pretty much stayed within range of the venues and the Olympic Park.
Yes, there were business opportunities, but not for everyone. In fact, attorneys blatantly violated the First Amendment of the United States Constitution by claiming common words were somehow copyright protected. We couldn’t even say what state, city, or country we were in!  Any merchant that wasn’t an “official sponsor” of the games couldn’t even sell T-shirts that said “Welcome to Atlanta” without getting slapped with a lawsuit and an emergency order to cease-and-desist.  Having $40 million to be an “official sponsor” means you can afford an anti-American legal goon squad and never feel guilty about it. 
I don’t know about you, but I have a problem with these kinds of attorneys and the piece-of-crap power-mongers that hire them.  There is no hell that can be imagined that can properly dish out the kind of cosmic justice these bitches and bastards deserve.
Don’t remember it, Atlanta media?  You were the ones that were covering it!  You were the ones pointing it out.
And then... there is “the moment”.
You know which “moment” I’m talking about, Atlanta media!  The one that shocked everyone!  The one that pretty much ruined things for us.
The moment when a Christian terrorist named Eric Robert Rudolph planted a bomb in Centennial Olympic Park in the middle of the late-night Olympic festivities that took the life of one and injured dozens.  The moment that paused the games and ruined our “perfect” experience.
But what really did us in wasn’t the bombing.  It was what we did afterward.  We were so damned quick to find the culprit that we were ready to railroad an innocent person and send him to prison.  And not just any citizen; but the very security guard that discovered the bomb and was getting people to safety when it detonated.  Richard Jewel was his name, and he was the one that kept the loss of life to just one person.
Of course, I can understand why the Atlanta media doesn’t want us to remember that time.  They don’t want people to remember how they railroaded an innocent person and tried and convicted him in the court of public opinion and then tried to force the government to have him arrested and sent away just to have the whole bombing matter closed and done away with.
But I remember it well.  Hell, I even warned the Atlanta media not to do it!  But, of course, they don’t listen to people like me.  I’m just some guy on the Internet doing a weekly column that reached out to people around the world.  They’re the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB TV and WSB Radio and they’ll tell us what to think!
So, yeah, they don’t want you to remember that part of the whole 1996 Olympic experience.
Oh, and let’s not forget our little temper tantrum, shall we?
Yes, we threw a fit when International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch refused to close the Atlanta Games by saying they were “the best Olympics ever”.  As if we were somehow entitled to this distinction after all that we did!  “How dare he not bless us with that distinction”, we said.  “How dare he?!?”
All of this is conveniently forgotten when the Atlanta media wants us to look back at the events of twenty years ago and try to pretend it was a glorious spectacle.  Oh, it was a spectacle all right.  Just not the kind that we wanted.
Let’s get brutally honest here... we do ourselves a phenomenal disservice when we try to view our history with rose-colored glasses, no matter when it comes to the issue of slavery, to the Civil War, to Civil Rights, or even to our time hosting the Olympic Games.  Every time we refuse to recognize our failings, we fail to learn the lessons of them.  We can’t do better the next time around because we refuse to believe that we did anything that needed improvement.  So we’ll end up doing the same things again and end up with the same results and then wonder why that is.
And let’s not forget that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is otherwise known as insanity.
Face it, Atlanta: we weren’t that great during our time hosting the Olympics.  Our ugly sides were exposed like that hypothetical infected pimple on Miss America’s butt.  And if I can remember those events clearly, it’s a sure bet that others can as well.  If we truly want to be hosting international stages again, we need to stop living in delusion and denial about all that went on in the past.