Confusing Patriotism with Religion

First off, as a veteran, I support anyone’s right to peacefully protest.  As many have already said, that is a fundamental right paid for with the blood and lives of our finest men and women.

Now let’s talk about one of the fundamental flaws in our country right now: the treatment of patriotism as a religion.

Religion is comprised of a combination of faith, rituals, symbols, and ideology.  It’s the mixture of faith and symbolism that make attacks on the symbols into attacks on the religion.  Defiling a crucifix, taking the Lord’s name in vain, depicting images of the Prophet, burning sacred texts… these all translate into personal affronts for those that hold those symbols dear.

Patriotism, on the other hand, doesn’t have to rely on faith.  True patriotism is acting in support of the ideology and protecting the home.

The flag and the national anthem as symbols of patriotism aren’t worth very much if the ideals that they represent are not being followed and protected.

I’ve spoken before on this blog that I’m not a very good patriot.  In light of current events, I’m forced to re-evaluate my position.

I support the Constitution and I’m willing to fight for it.  I support the ideals that my country was founded on.  Every individual is created equal and endowed with rights and freedoms that shall not be infringed, because these rights are not granted to them by a faceless state.  These are rights are inherent, and some of them are redundantly spelled out as amendments to our Constitution.

From 1993 to 1999, I served in the Air Force.  If my country had called on me to bleed or die to protect it, I would have done my duty.  It is now 2017, and I no longer have a uniform.  But if my country called on me to bleed or die in the service of the Constitution, if I was called to protect the rights that I believe are so important, then I would do so.

Maybe I am a patriot, after all.

But even as a patriot, I don’t subscribe to America as my religion.  The flag is a symbol.  A useful symbol sometimes, but the flag is not my country.

The ritual of standing when the flag is presented and the national anthem is played… that isn’t part of my religion, either.  I usually stand because it feels rude not to, just as it would feel rude to use profanity in certain company.  But if I felt that it would make a difference to sit or take a knee… if I believed that in silent protest I could fight to protect the rights and lives of American citizens, I would do so, without hesitation.

That’s what Kaepernick is doing.  That’s the movement he’s started.  He kneels because American citizens are dying in their own country.  They are not receiving the protection that they deserve.  He’s fighting for their lives, and he’s doing it without a gun or hurting anyone.

Kaepernick and those other athletes that are kneeling with him are demonstrating true patriotism.

I think it’s important to examine your actions from time to time and evaluated the reasoning behind them.  Looking at someone taking a knee and understanding why they are doing it, I see true patriotism.

When someone complains about the silent protest, I have to examine that action as well.  What is the motivation behind trying to make someone stand for the national anthem?

If we are to be a great nation, we must regard the ideals more highly than the symbols.  We must honor the Constitution, the rights of all Americans, and the rule of law.  We must put those ideals above the flag, the national anthem, and the religious trappings of American Nationalism.


Here’s Why We Should Forgive Sean Spicer

I’ve been looking through my news feeds and my social media, and I’m seeing a common theme: Sean Spicer lied to the American People, and he should not be forgiven.

Here’s a link to a CNN article which goes in depth on that point.


Here’s an example of the kind of tweets I’m seeing:


The idea is that there is no room for forgiveness for any of the people doing Donald Trump’s dirty work.  They have sinned against the Will of the American People, and for that, they should be punished.  It is a great injustice to celebrate Sean Spicer at the Emmy’s.

I’d like to take a step back from that and offer some counterpoints.

Sean Spicer was a Mouthpiece

The first point is that Spicer stood in front of the podium and lied at the order of the President.  We know he lied, and we knew he was lying right from the very start.  We have photographic evidence refuting his lies.

Everyone’s saying he lied, and I’m agreeing.  I just want us to take a step back and acknowledge that they weren’t Spicer’s lies.  They were Donald Trump’s.

We can criticize Spicer for his lack of integrity.  Perhaps he’s a coward.  Perhaps he believed that broadcasting his boss’s lies was for the good of the country.  We can’t know for certain why Spicer continued to do the job as long as he did it.  But he’s clearly not doing that job anymore.

We might even criticize him for being bad at his job.  He is not the best liar Donald Trump has employed.  I think that mantle currently rests on the shoulders of Sarah Huckabee Sanders.


Sean Spicer’s Actions at the Emmy’s Confirms the Lies

When Melissa McCarthy stood behind a podium on SNL and mocked Sean Spicer, she gave voice to the outrage over the administration’s lies through satire.  She exaggerated Spicer’s idiosyncrasies.  She helped reinforce what we all knew: that the messages coming from Spicer’s podium were a lie, and could not be trusted or taken seriously.

When Sean Spicer wheeled out the podium at the Emmy’s, he validated Melissa McCarthy’s performance.  He confirmed that what he’d been spouting from the podium, starting with the “largest crowd in history” comment, was a false narrative.

That’s huge.  Who else has left Trump’s administration and come clean like that?

And before I leave this point, consider this.  There are still people that are drinking from the Trump trough and believe every word from the administration is the gospel truth.  Those people remember who Sean Spicer is, and they know how the liberal elite gather at awards like the Emmy’s.  What kind of message do you think Trump supporters are reading out of Spicer’s performance at the Emmy’s?


We Should Make it Easy For People to Leave Trump

Suppose Spicer didn’t go to the Emmy’s.  Suppose that Spicer was black-balled from speaking engagements, exiled to obscurity, and punished in the ways that social media seems to think he should have been punished.  What is gained?  We still have Trump’s shills and enablers doing the same dirty work that they did yesterday.  We still have a Republican senate trying to take away people’s health care.  We still have an unqualified narcissist with no empathy and a short attention span as our President.  We gain nothing from punishing Spicer.

But if we embrace Spicer and give him a chance to tell us, through actions if not words, that he really had been a stooge?  That could give hope to every other person in the administration that has an inkling of a conscience.

The message we should be sending is this: We know what you’re doing, and we know who is really responsible.  Grow a spine, quite doing Trump’s dirty work, and you can still come to our parties and hang out.  Maybe we’ll share a laugh about this whole mess, someday.


Criticizing President Trump Honestly

My plan is to finish the third (and hopefully final) draft of my novel today.  I’m excited to do this.  I’ve got a new ending in mind that I’ve lost sleep over.  This is going to be great!

Before I can get to this, I need to get this idea out of my head and onto the blog, because it’s getting in the way.  It’s an itch that I’ve put off scratching, and I don’t think I’m going to get any fiction written today until I resolve this.

Let’s talk about criticizing the President.

A Question of Patriotism

The idea was put in front of me recently that it is unpatriotic to criticize the President.  They said, “He’s our elected official, and we need to stand by him.”

I have to disagree.  He has been elected to the Executive Branch, and has been endowed with certain powers.  Freedom from criticism is not one of those powers.

In fact, I think it is our patriotic duty to be critical of the President when he (or someday, she) is not doing their job well.  The Constitution is law, not the will of the President.

Particularly cruel or unusual acts by The President must be met with objection.  It is our country, and it is our responsibility to hold our leaders accountable.  That’s what it means to be a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Besides, if our leadership can’t handle criticism, they shouldn’t be in such positions where they’re certain to receive it.

Don’t Focus on The Inconsequential

The color of Trump’s skin does not matter.

The size of Trump’s hands does not matter.

When we attack Trump, focusing on his physicality or other details that are not pertinent to his ability to govern, we are wasting time, weakening our arguments, and giving fuel for those that blindly support him.

There are plenty of actual, substantial areas to hold Trump responsible for.  We don’t need to keep going for the low hanging fruit.  Maybe it’s satisfying in the moment, but it’s not worth it.  Often the people talking about Trump’s orange skin or small hands would be appalled if similar criticisms were leveled on anyone else.

Let’s not be hypocrites.  Leave Trump’s physical peculiarities out of it.

Do Focus on Actual Issues

The latest absurdity to come from Trump is the ending of DACA.  This is an act of cruelty that does not make our country greater.  There is no good reason or justification for doing this.

It is easy to find other areas of substance that deserve attention.  Threatening to shut down the government if the budget doesn’t include a border wall, for example, is an easy topic for discussion.  Not only is the border wall ineffective, expensive, and an even dumber idea after the massive flooding of Texas, Trump’s take on paying for the wall is contrary to his campaign promise.  Mexico is not going to pay for the wall.  Mexico will never pay for the wall.

I could probably spend thousands of words focusing on issues of actual substance where Trump should be criticized.  These aren’t even Republican versus Democrat ideas, but actual issues where the Constitution is being ignored or violated (Emoluments Clause, anyone?).

I’m not going to go into it here.  Instead, I’m going to encourage you to find the issue that bothers you the most and carry the conversation forward.  Maybe you’re pissed at how much Trump has spent traveling to golf courses?  Maybe you (rightfully) think that Trump focusing on removing transgender people in the military is needless, expensive, and unwanted?

Seriously, Trump is the worst President we’ve ever had.  If you haven’t taken issue with something that he’s said or done, then you’re just not paying attention.

Stick to the Truth

Trump lies so often that I’m forced to question if he has some psychological condition.  Do you lie more when you’re senile?  He lied throughout his campaign, and he started off his presidency with lies about his inauguration crowd size.  Trump lies constantly.

That doesn’t give us an excuse to lie ourselves, or continue spreading lies.

When it comes to honesty, we have to be better than Trump.  That’s a pretty low bar.

In regards to the truth, try to find primary sources.  If someone says that Trump said something or did something, look for a video or pictures of Trump doing that thing.  There are plenty people on social media that are spreading misinformation.  Try to avoid the memes, especially when they’re not true.

This point goes a little deeper, though.  We need to be honest with ourselves.

An example is how we talked about Hurricane Harvey and Trump’s response.  A lot of time was dedicated to Trump’s first visit.  He commented on the crowd size.  He didn’t visit with any actual victims.  He was about as far as he could be from the most affected areas.

The bandwidth we gave to that particular visit isn’t particularly honest.  Were we supposed to be shocked that Trump showed no empathy?  That’s practically his brand.  At his core, he is a dishonest narcissist with no empathy, often motivated by fear and misinformation.  Did we expect him to change just because dozens of people died in one of the worst natural disasters of our time?

But maybe people thought giving that particular story more energy would help show Trump supporters just what kind of man he is.  If those supporters are blind to the other stuff, why would this change their minds?

Finally, Trump did wind up going back, and he did go to where there was damage.  He tried to help.  He still said some stupid stuff, but he apparently worked at a food kitchen and helped in some token way.

That second visit didn’t get nearly the amount of energy that the first visit did, and that’s where the dishonesty is most visible.  Trump did something that is contrary to the current trend of Trump bashing, and social media swept it under the rug or ignored it because it didn’t jive with the narrative.

The most troubling aspect of the times we live in is our disregard for the truth.

Trump is a terrible president and a reprehensible human being, from everything I’ve seen.  But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to ignore any good he might do.  From what I’ve gathered, his second trip to Texas was what his first trip should have been.  Maybe he was forced into it by his family.  Maybe he did it try to and change the Hurricane Harvey story.  I don’t know, and I can’t know for certain because we are letting our biases impact what we share and believe.

Please note that I’m in no way bashing the media on this point.  I think that some of what I’m saying applies to them, but I honestly believe that journalists are doing their best.  It’s journalists that made me aware of Trump’s second visit to Texas.

Changing People’s Minds

The whole point is to try and get that friend or relative that seems to be a blind Trump supporter to change their mind, right?  Or maybe you’ve got a coworker that isn’t looking at the news at all, and thinks that everything is just as it always has been, and it doesn’t matter if Trump is president.  Maybe you want them to care, right?

The reality is that you’re not going to change anyone’s mind.  Trump’s approval rating isn’t going to go much lower.  There will continue to be people that are all about party over country.  There will continue to be people that listen only to Hannity or Alex Jones.  Hell, there will continue to be racists like David Duke that are paying attention to everything Trump is saying, and the words are music to their ears.

If there is any hope to changing anyone’s mind, it’s through Trump’s own words.  That’s how I’ve come to the conclusions I’ve come to.  I didn’t read some op-ed or analysis of Trump’s presidency.  I listened to the man speak, all by himself, and found what he was saying to be antithetical to what makes this country great.

My mind can be changed about Trump, but it would take Trump himself to do it.  He would need to make up for a lot of his own history, from “grab them by the pussy” to his recent jabs at South Korea in the face of North Korea’s nuclear aggression.  Trump hasn’t given me any reason to believe that there is a great man inside him, waiting to emerge and be the president we deserve.  If anything, from his blatant nepotism to his hawking of $40 USA hats, I’m thinking that we should have taken an inventory of the White House before he moved in.


Now that that’s off my chest, I’m going to write some fiction.