Church and State

To the editor:

Christianity, and religion in general, has a complex and checkered history in America. Many among the first settlers were religious refugees fleeing persecution by the Church of England and seeking freedom to practice their beliefs, which included the fanatical Puritan Salem Witch Trials. The separation of Church and State was the caveat then applied to freedom of religion when both were enshrined in the Constitution.

The result is that America today is a virtual patchwork, jigsaw puzzle of religious beliefs and places of worship, all living in a relative state of accepted coexistence, albeit not without longstanding tensions between Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and now Islamic believers. There have been noteworthy crossovers between the two sectors. The Church of Latter-day Saints was forced to disavow polygamy to allow statehood for Utah and black Southern Baptist churches have been the target of White Supremacists after the passage of voting rights legislation, but peyote is now recognized as a legal sacrament for the Native American Church and we have had both a Catholic and a Black President, although JFK had to state his Catholic beliefs would not intrude into office, and Barack Obama was caught continually in America’s Black/White divide. Christianity itself, be it Protestant or Catholic, seems deeply divided over a preference for Old Testament or New Testament values, and currently the separation of Church and State is under constant attack.

Betsy DeVos, as Secretary of Education, is pushing for public funding of religious schools, and the opposition to contraception, abortion, and same-sex sexuality as interpreted in the Bible is being pressed into federal and state legislation. Catholics on the Supreme Court appear poised to upturn earlier decisions on these issues. Clearly a line esteemed by the Founding Fathers is being crossed and should be patriotically resisted. 

RP

Futures

To the Editor:
As we sit around wondering how to fill our socially distanced days, this seems an excellent time to imagine how we might like our post-Corvid-19 life to be. Ingrained ways die hard, but there is hope that a better world can arise from the ashes of yet another failed global economy. A viral pandemic presents a far different dynamic than the 2008 financial collapse caused by the precipitous capital greed and mismanagement of the banking industries. Rather than having just one leg of the three-legged economic stool, capital. labor, and consumer, collapse, two legs have been knocked out. There are many, particularly among those nations and people who prospered most, who hope this collapsed structure of exchange can and will be rebuilt, but perhaps this is instead a golden opportunity to seek other answers to the global concentration of wealth and power in elitist classes and nations. Perhaps the Corvid-19 pandemic is not a signal of the coming End Times, but one of a new beginning for humankind. 

RP

The Master

To the Editor:…and the COOTER, the combined ClioOscarObieTonyEmmyRazzie award goes to…drum roll…Donald J. Trump! No finer actor of the modern era has so captivated the spotlight and imagination of America and the world like this masterful performer on every stage he appears. The question remains, who is the man creating this remarkable theater? Future historians may pull away the mask, but for now we can only marvel at the performance we witness day after day. He is the consummate master of absurdist theater, a bit fantastical but, as in the layered subtext of film noir, a larger than life persona exhibiting flashes of insight into the sinuous threads of human desire. 16,000 (and counting) lies have been noted and documented, but is it truly lying when every public appearance is a stage performance blending fantasy and reality, a Gordian Knot to be untied? The sad tragedy of this rare gift is the damage being done by stagehands behind the scenes.    

RP

Taking the 5th

To the Editor:
While there is much discussion over the 2nd Amendment and the rights and limits of gun ownership, we hear less and less about the 5th, which states that a person sworn under oath to tell the truth is allowed to not answer self-incriminating questions. Underlying this right is a profound respect for both a sworn oath and truth saying. Given the seemingly decaying value of truth in public and political life today, one wishes that all those sworn to uphold the Constitution would take the 5th rather than proclaiming outright lies

RP

Metaphor

To the Editor:
Historically, WWII, “The Last Good War”, was fought to prevent Hitler’s military conquest of Europe and the Soviet Union. Metaphorically, it can be likened to radical chemotherapy aimed at stopping the aggressive spread of Hitler’s White Nationalist elitism. The Nazis were defeated, but the cancer has now metathesized into authoritarian regimes across Europe and into Conservative politics and religion here. That the Americas are regarded as God’s gift to the white race, its Manifest Destiny, is the greatest blasphemy of American Christianity. 

-RP

Mockery

To the Editor:
 That Donald Trump finds it necessary to mock Greta Thunberg for being selected over him for Person of the Year by Time Magazine reveals how “needy” he is for the glitz and glamor of celebrity and wealth, a child’s ego ruled by wants. “A 16 year old, flat-chested girl is more important than me? Impossible!” (I’ve caught flak over the un-#Me Too use of “flat-chested”, but I am only imagining the President’s inner voice.) What he and his myopic, echo-chamber followers fail to realize is just what a refreshing voice in the wilderness Greta is. She speaks clearly, with focus. There is no equivocation, no manipulation, none of the usual double-speaking “Yeah, but…” Everyone needs to pay attention to what we are doing to the Earth. There are no loopholes, no evasions, no easy outs. That she has also created her own echo chamber by mirroring his mocking tweets back at him is another sign of an unusual mind. Wake up world, before it is too late.

RP

Fake, fake, fake!

Donald Trump made the first splash in his campaign for President with a “fake news” story that Obama was not born in America. Now he and his supporters cry, “Fake News!” at any reporting not favorable to him or his message, particularly in regard to the Russian involvement in his campaign. Looking past the tacit racism underlying the questioning of Obama’s “Americaness”, the claim of fake news has become a political tool to confound and confuse public perception of what may or may not be factual. A truthful evaluation of the Republican effort to Repeal and Replace Obama’s Affordable Care Act would term it the Fake Health Care Act in its denial of quality health care for those less fortunate, which also exposes the Fake Christianity of Republican politicians who choose to ignore the teachings of the Beatitudes. Through it all, it reveals that Donald Trump is a truly Fake Savior of America’s Greatness.

Robert Porath

Education

To the Editor:
    Up until Ronald Reagan was elected Governor, public education through college was free for any citizen of California.  One could call it socialist education, an entitlement program that benefited anyone wishing to become better educated.  As the “Question Authority” and Free Speech movements and the anti-Viet Nam war protests grew on college campuses, the Conservative sentiment became “education is not for the masses” and must be relegated to a select few, easily manageable and fully buying into the status quo and America’s self-image, and the push has been to render higher education increasingly more expensive and privatized.  What better way to ensure compliant behavior is there than to have everyone indebted to the financial industries?  There is a lot of braggadocio about the “freedoms” inherent in capitalism, but being constantly indentured, be it to a bank or, for that matter, to “must-have” telecommunication services, does not seem much like true freedom. The great irony is that the emphasis on the monetary value of education, in reality, only cheapens its true value, both to an individual and to society at large.  Call it socialism, if you must, but like healthcare and retirement planning, education should not be placed so heavily under the thumb of for-profit institutions.
– RP

Elderly Care in America

Dustin Hoffman’s film Quartet besides being a gentle gem of acting and film-making, should also be seen in contrast to the state and status of the elderly in America. A Home for Retired Musicians is, of course, a completely unique institution and who wouldn’t like to live out their last days on a bucolic country estate in England, surrounded by people of like interests still engaged in and sharing of their passions, but we must not ignore the grim reality of old age institutions here which, for the most part, resemble dormitories for minimum security prison hospitals . Eldercare in America is in a great conundrum: the Senate is the most elderly branch of government, but with its members having generous retirement plans and substantial accumulated wealth, it tends not to be a personally high-priority issue; and the younger House of Representatives generally thinks only one term to the next, and both political parties seem content to ascribe the misnomer “entitlement” to any federally administered, non-profit insurance program for retired people. So where are we aging boomers to turn?

In the film, the Home for Retired Musicians appears to be maintained by a combination of charitable giving and government subsidy (Maggie Smith’s character, despite having been an operatic diva, is there essentially “on the dole”), but it also operates somewhat like a working, almost “tribal”, commune with classes, lessons, and concerts to supplement its survival. However, while marijuana use seems on the comeback trail (drug use as the curer of all ails never left), one thing we boomers learned in in our hippie days is that communal living and finding tribal compatibility are next to impossible, some might even call it “downright unAmerican”. Classical musicians are unique in that, despite rivalries and jealousies, they embrace both the value of collaborative work and a strong sense of self. For the rest of us, the future is more a toss-up. Perhaps in time, all the new communication technology will change how the next generation relates to one another, but today a distinct worry is that our tendency to individualism, independence, and newness will leave us ultimately isolated, alone,and forgotten.

The Super Bowl? More like Commercial Bowl.

To the Editor:
    I think it important to note that the word “football” does not appear in the title “The Super Bowl” and, judging from the amount of post-game commentary over “winners and losers”, this media extravaganza could more realistically be called the Commercial Bowl.  Further, with either CBS advertising itself or the NFL targetting parents and young athletes to counter recent negative revelations of brain injury from the sport, the official 60 minutes of playing time actually amounts to less than 40 that are commercial-free, and real-time action, from the snap of the ball to the end of the play, is less than 20.  I timed the 2nd half at 9 minutes and I suspect that the Go Daddy commercial prompted as much visceral and glandular response as Jacoby Jones’ kickoff return (and lasted longer).  So is it really “football” that we are watching?
– RP