Friday, July 4, 2008

He'll be here soon

Originally uploaded by HazelFiver
So many people wanted to fill in much an earlier date of death on this grave marker. Too many people. Quite sad, when you come to think of it. It brings to mind one of the most intensely hateful lines in the American Theater:

"I hope you die. I hope you die soon. I'll be WAITING for you to die!!" - Regina Giddons to her husband Horace, The Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman.

Satan is NOT Dead: Some Evil Thoughts on Jesse Helms

Note: This was a totally accidental placement of an ad for a baseball's team 4th of July picnic on top of Helms' obituary. I think they've apologized by now. Then again, maybe not.

Dying on The Fourth of July puts Senator Jesse Helms in quite elite company: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe (see previous post). Whether or not he deserves to be in such august company is another matter altogether. Through the wishful thinking of the American public, many people thought he was dead long ago.

Of course, I will always remember him as the bulwark of prejudice against people with AIDS. He hated homosexuals with a venom that made some Republicans wince. He opposed all funding for AIDS agencies or research.

He was known as "Senator NO!" And it seemed that everything he attempted or touched had a negative quality to it. His first Senate campaign was based on ethnic bias ("Vote for Helms - He's One of Us") against Congressman Nick Galifianakis of Durham, NC.

Here are some telltale quotes from "Senator NO":

"The Negro cannot count forever on the kind of restraint that's thus far left him free to clog the streets, disrupt traffic, and interfere with other men's rights."

"Crime rates and irresponsibility among Negroes are a fact of life which must be faced."

"All Latins are volatile people. Hence, I was not surprised at the volatile reaction."

"Homosexuals are weak, morally sick wretches."

"Your tax dollars are being used to pay for grade-school classes that teach our children that cannibalism, wife-swapping and murder of infants and the elderly are acceptable behavior."

"To rob the Negro of his reputation of thinking through a problem in his own fashion is about the same as trying to pretend that he doesn't have a natural instinct for rhythm and for singing and dancing."

Satan? To some, perhaps. But I tend to think of him as a precursor to Satan: someday the supreme Christofascist might take hold of the country - HE will be Satan.

The Curse of the Fourth: What Is It? Will Obama or McCain Get It?

John Adams - Thomas Jefferson - James Monroe

The principal Founding Fathers--Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin--were in fact deeply suspicious of a European pattern of governmental involvement in religion. They were deeply concerned about an involvement in religion because they saw government as corrupting religion.*

Does Independence Day have a curse attached to it? John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe - all Presidents, two signers of the Declaration of Independence - died on July 4th. (See side bar "On This Day").

All three were Diests, all three were idealists, all three advocated strict separation of church and state. Did God curse them because of their beliefs?

Oh, Brother! Here we go again on the "America Was Founded As A Christian Nation" rant! I'll admit: this is not one of my most coherent posts, but it's not exactly an anti-Christian rant. I tried to find out what past presidents really thought about religion. is a very good place to start. By clicking here you can find out about the religious affiliations of all the presidents PLUS some of their views on religious tolerance and separation of church and state. For example:

"I believe in the American tradition of separation of church and state which is expressed in the First Amendment to the Constitution. By my office -- and by personal conviction -- I am sworn to uphold that tradition." That's Lyndon Baines Johnson talking (- Interview, Baptist Standard, October, 1964)

With religion playing at the forefront of the upcoming elections, we might reflect about the philosophies of past presidents. So, which presidents were abhorred Deists? Which Presidents advocated separation of church and state? Which of them championed religious tolerance? Read again the quote at the top of this post:"...saw government as corrupting religion." But what about RELIGION CORRUPTING GOVERNMENT? I believe that many presidents came across the very same question.

List of Deists: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Tyler, Lincoln. (Note: most of the Founding Fathers were listed as Episcopalians because they were, by law, to profess the Anglican - Church of England - faith)

List of Unitarians: John Quincy Adams, Millard Fillmore and William Howard Taft. In the eyes of today's Religious Right, Unitarians are not really Christians.

List of Jehovah's Witnesses: Dwight David Eisenhower.

List of Dutch Reformed: Martin Van Buren, Theodore Roosevelt

Strict Separation of Church and State: Jefferson, Madison, Jackson, Garfield, Johnson (Lyndon).

Presidential statements on religious tolerance:

"The lessons of religious toleration -- a toleration which recognizes complete liberty of human thought, liberty of conscience -- is one which, by precept and example, must be inculcated in the hearts and minds of all Americans if the institutions of our democracy are to be maintained and perpetuated. - Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"Here we now have the freedom of all religions, and I hope that never again will we have a repetition of religious bigotry, as we have had in certain periods of our own history. There is no room for that kind of foolishness here." - Harry S. Truman

Political religionists of today must really detest these presidents. Pat Robertson, for example, has stated that separation of church and state is NOT in the Constitution. James Dobson says the same thing (but more emphatically). Religious tolerance? Take a look at Rod Parsley:

"I'm urging you to fight," Parsley preached on May 4th. He declared that the United States is in a two-front war against "rabid Islamo-fascism" and secularism at home.

So why didn't God send a message and kill most of our presidents on Independence Day? Perhaps He respected them and their ideologies after all. Perhaps these men were respected because of their reverence for truth and - reason:

"It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a populace, that they are incapable of exercising their sovereignty. Usurpation is then an easy attainment, and an usurper soon found. The people themselves become the willing instruments of their own debasement and ruin." - James Monroe

"If an election is to be determined by a majority of a single vote, and that can be procured by a party through artifice or corruption, the Government may be the choice of a party for its own ends, not of the nation for the national good." - John Adams

Happy Independence Day:

Independence of Governance.

Independence of Choice.

Independence of

* From: Rick Shenkman, "An Interview with Jon Butler ... Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?", posted 20 December 2004 on History News Network website (; viewed 30 November 2005):

The Mighty 4th of July: Free To Be...Stupid

America - Ya Gotta Love It!

Or Else!

One of my favorite quotes:

For a long time, when someone was called a "Philistine," it was an insult - a derogatory term for a boorish, classless, ill-educated person with no appreciation of life's finer things. The French have a different word for such a person - "American." - Kenneth C. Davis, Don't Know Much About the Bible.

We all joke about stupidity (yes, I usually equate it with George W. Bush, but who hasn't?). Stupidity is the main form of our entertainment. And it's the only way we can laugh at ourselves without being too self-conscious about it.

Stupidity is not, nor will it ever be ignorance. Ignorance is simply not knowing about something: its makeup or its circumstances are not known to us. Ignorance implies lack of education. Stupidity, on the other hand, implies either willful ignorance or doing something in spite of knowledge.

On this Fourth of July, we celebrate our freedoms - all of them. And that includes the freedom to be stupid. And boorish. And classless. And just plain dumb.

So in this post, let's celebrate our freedom to be stupid Philistines.