Nebraska Goes All-in for Unreason

To the roughly 60-odd percent of registered Nebraskan voters who voted, thank you. To the other 40-ish percent, well, you’re probably not reading this anyway, so whatever. Here we are; a state bridging the central Northwest with Dixie. A bridge that had two of 93 counties vote one way—barely—while all the others voted another. The question is: beyond connecting a great swath of orange, er, red together, where are we a bridge to exactly? Unreason is where.

I will not join in my candidate’s categorization of 50 percent of Trump supporters as being in an irredeemable basket of deplorables. I will not blame 3rd Parties either since those folks’ 46,000 votes here would not have altered the overall outcome (although they could have made a difference in the 2nd District, maybe). I will say though, Nebraska voted overwhelmingly to reject reason on November 8th. I will provide just four (of many) examples:

1) The repeal of the repeal of the death penalty is the first. Research is all over the map on whether capital punishment serves as a deterrent. Some studies say yes, some say no. What is clear and demonstrable is the cost. With Nebraska’s looming budgetary challenges, the state—thanks in large part to an overridden Governor’s personal financing effort—has signed-on, no matter the cost, to attempting to kill the prisoners which it has been unsuccessfully trying to kill for decades despite the previous legality of this ultimate punishment. This is inherently unreasonable. I get it. There are very bad folks among us and hopefully, we can remove them from our communities before they do too much harm. If we can’t, we can—again hopefully—keep them away from us after the fact. Killing them on the other hand is expensive and could, I say could, open the State up to wrongful death litigation. The State has been wrong before in such matters, luckily before they killed somebody.

2) Climate change is a scientific reality yet we have elected non-scientific thinkers into each seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and to the Presidency.  Add to this our sitting U.S. Senators and we have a trifecta of fingers-in-their-ears deniers shouting, “Nah-nah-nah! I can’t hear you!” officials representing nearly two million folks largely dependent on the natural world and its changing climate. Again, this is an unreasonable and unscientific position. Seems we have opted to have our children and their children deal with an issue so that we can pretend we defended ourselves from a “nanny state.”

3) Evolution. Mr. Vice President-elect Pence, please hear this: Biological Evolution—descent with modification—is true. It has been going on for millions and millions of years and continues today. I know you don’t understand the difference between theory and hypothesis so let me do my civic duty and help you out. From Dictionary.com: “Theory, noun. 1. a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena” You know, as in; germ theory—you do wash your hands I hope? Heliocentric theory, the crazy “only a theory” idea that the Earth revolves around the Sun. You get where I’m going with this I think. Good. Because my hypothesis is that if you don’t, you’re choosing not to for purely unscientific reasons.

4) Abstinence only education in our public schools. The Grab Our Pu, sorry again, the Grand Old Party’s platform, “...sets abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior. That approach—the only one always effective against premarital pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease...” except, of course, it isn’t effective at all. Federally funded studies have shown that not only are youths enrolled in current abstinence-only education programs NOT any more likely to delay sexual interaction but, that the U.S.—where abstinence only education is widespread—has the highest teen pregnancy rates of any industrialized country in the world. Unreasonable thinking produces unreasonable policy.

So fellow Nebraskans, here we are. On the bridge we built. The bridge we asked for with our votes or non-votes. It isn’t as nice as the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge but will certainly turn out to be more expensive. At least in terms of Nebraskan and American competitiveness. To this onlooker, it reminds one of a notorious bridge from political skirmishes years ago...the bridge to nowhere.

 

Letter to a Fundamentalist Minority

With homage to Sam Harris for the title of this short letter, let me dive right into what this is about and whom it is to, in case the title leaves any doubt. For those of you, and there are quite a few of you, who believe in an inerrant bible, who believe America is a Judeo-Christian nation by writ, who believe your religious freedom entitles you to “special freedom” the rest of us do not enjoy, and for those of you who regularly shriek “religious persecution!” whenever you don’t get your special freedoms catered-to, this letter is to and for you. I won’t be unnecessarily long winded but neither will I be overly gentle. So, belly up to the bar of reason dear fundamentalist, it’s time for a couple shots of reality.

And they're on me.

You are a fundamentalist Christian and you probably haven’t read your holy book. Sure, you’ve noodled through a couple passages here and there, you can probably even quote some of the all time hits such as John 3:16, Matthew 5:3-16, and one of your fav of favs, Leviticus 18:22 (this is the one where your God says he hates fags). As a fundamentalist, you are more likely than not to thump your little-read screed while parroting the talking points of your local mega-church charlatan or worse, the regurgitations of used-car-salesman-turned-fundamentalist-sweet-baby-Jesus, Sean Hannity. You are preached to from ignorance, hate, xenophobia (this means you don’t like other tribes), and misogyny (this means you don’t like girls, icky!) and you lap it up. You say Halleluah! when your imam, er, preacher, laments on God being kicked out of our public schools (a god could be kicked out of anywhere like some drunk at closing time?). You say Praise Jesus! whenever Bill O’Reilly calls for the Ten Commandments to be put back in court rooms (you do know that many of your beloved Ten Commandment monuments were essentially installed by Hollywood to promote a movie in the 50’s right? Wait, you probably don’t, never mind.). And unfortunately for the rest of us, you vote in droves for the politicians who have dialed-in to your special type of bigotry. If you’re smirking approvingly at that last sentence, you’re a moron.

Let’s get something straight though, your days of shoving the rest of us around are numbered. And they’re numbered not because of violence or force. They’re numbered thanks to the scientific method and a secular Constitution.

Your “evolution is a theory” (it is, just like gravity and germ theory are), “climate change is disputed” (it isn’t), and “we are a Christian nation” (we’re not) rhetoric-as-policy era is passing. Ever so slowly if you asked me, which you didn’t but, I’m writing it anyway so na-nana-boo-boo. Yes, you still have politicians willing to pander, even Democrats (Democrats!?) and of course, your most recent huxster-in-chief, Donald Trump. Wait. Really? Donald freaking Trump?!? Okay I digress. So, back to your era passing…

While fundamentalist Christians, quaintly called “evangelicals” by the press so as not to offend (they gotta sell toothpaste too you know), remain a significant voting bloc at about 20%, the non-religious are at 21% and climbing. That’s more than you, the Catholics, and mainline Protestants. The “Nones,” get used to that term, are not just atheists and agnostics, granted, but they are those Americans who for one reason or another either don’t identify with a religion or reject religion altogether. I will say it again, get used to it and add that you only have yourself to blame. Your American Sharia campaign, which started in the 1970’s, with a shout out to the 1950’s anti-communism hysteria, was born out of political necessity and, like the fig tree your Lord Jesus cursed, is now withering.

So what to do, what to do? Well, the way I see it, you have a couple options…you can, 1) Continue on your current path and nominate losers who espouse your hate, scream about religious preference while attempting to discriminate against your brothers and sisters, and generally refuse to acknowledge the rest of us are passing you by or, 2) Get with the program already! Don’t worry, you can keep your cult and all of its Stone Age belief systems, we just won’t let you inflict its ignorance, filthy racism, and anti-science on the rest of us. Begrudgingly, you can still cast your dirty looks onto the person at the store who says, “Happy Holidays” but you won’t be given any press for protesting why they didn’t say or observe a “Merry CHRISTmas!” (Just for fun, use your Google machine—brought to you by the scientific method, not faith—to research how Christians outlawed Christmas right here in ‘Murica. It’s a hoot!).

You won’t be allowed to scheme your ignorant creationism into our public-school science classes either. While you may still deny climate change, you won’t be allowed to cow the scientific community or policy makers into continued inaction. And finally, finally, we will remove the ridiculous “In God We Trust” from our publicly funded police cars, our publicly funded buildings, and our public-means of funding anything, our money.

Your good ole days are never coming back. By the way, what were the good ole days, i.e. “When America was Great”? Was in when we allowed slavery? No? Maybe before women could vote? How about before blacks could vote? Maybe when we were this close to nuclear war? Oh, maybe you mean before 9/11? Or just after, when there was some semblance of working together in this country, for about 30 seconds anyway? How about before all the Mexicans? Of course, that was after all the Jews, Irish, and Asians right? Those cats are okay but the Mexicans??? That’s where you draw the line…or build a wall. Again with the digression…

So, your days of fundamentalist white privilege are fleeting. Fundamentalism has lost its majority (if it ever really had it) and the non-Hispanic white population is trending in the same direction. Buckle up buttercup.

You might oughta take what’s behind door number 2 dear fundamentalist. As you are all too well aware, picking on a political minority who doesn’t look like you or believe like you seems to come easy for a politically fueled “majority.”

Even if for no other reason than your own self-interest, it is time for you to play nice. Come, join in our reindeer games. Big things are on the horizon and we’d rather have you with us. You can bring along your magic, myths, and superstitious toys even.

You’ll just have to play by our rules.
And stop bullying the brown kids, the gay kids, and the geeky kids.