6 January 2016: A realistic—not pessimistic—view of 2016

There was a sardonic political cartoon recently in which the battered 2015 old man, wrapped in bandages and leaning on a crutch, greeted the new babe of 2016 and said, “if you think it was rough for me, yours will be worse.”

My life philosophy is to focus on the positive and fight through even in the worst of times, but in this case, optimism seems unwarranted. Call it my inner pessimism, or my refusal to live in a fantasy world viewed through rose-colored glasses.

The fear and hate mongers have finally convinced me that they are not interested in finding common ground or compromise. For the fifty-something time, congressional Republican leaders will open the circus called Congress by putting on a fecal show to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It’s likely they’ll get it to Obama’s desk where he will promptly veto it. They then will vote to override it, which will fail. At that point, they’ll stand before the fire-breathing pitch-forkers to herald their achievements, which will be none except for fueling more anger.

In February, expect the same with the same results. Another version of insanity, which used to be defined as keep repeating an act and anticipating a different result. This though is about repeating an act over and over despite knowing the outcome.

Three-ring circus: Republican presidential candidates, congressional and state leaders, and rightwing media.

P.T. Barnum famously observed, “There’s one born every minute.” He understated the numbers. Between the terrorists abroad and those at home, there’s no respite.

I equate calls for “religious liberty” with those for states’ rights during the Civil Rights Movement. Both with ulterior motives. The states’ rights movement wanted, in George Wallace’s infamous proclamation, “Segregation now and segregation forever.”

The religious liberty zealots want to deny those who don’t fit their religious constructs their constitutional and human rights. Republican legislators will pass laws restricting women’s right to control their bodies. They’ll also pass laws that restrict the ability of same-sex couples to marry. In those states, it will be legal to discriminate. Those will be done in Jesus’s name. In Iran, it’s done in Allah’s. Same stuff, different locales.

In the forefront of that crowd is Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, for whom it would be more fitting if he donned a cleric’s robe rather than the court’s since he pontificates rather than adjudicates from the bench.

President John Adams, the first true conservative president, stated unequivocally that “the United States is not a Christian nation” to assure the Moslems of his time. Scalia disagrees. To him, America is a theocracy.

One can be a democrat or a theocrat, but one cannot be both. Nowhere in the Constitution does it provide for religious control. Quite to the contrary, the Constitution limits the power of religion in the public square both by omission and commission. Nowhere in the Constitution are the words God, Jesus, or Christian. Given the founders and writers of the Constitution were pretty bright men, one could safely conclude that if they intended for God, Jesus, or Christian to be in the document, they would have included them.

Article VI expressly forbids religious tests for public office. Soft-spoken but fire-breathing Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson apparently either can’t read or prefers ignoring the literal wording. One supposes Scalia agrees.

One of the beauties of our constitutional system in comparison to Iran’s is that ours presupposes a Moslem or an atheist could be America’s commander-in-chief. In Iran, it would be impossible for a Christian to be president. But Scalia, Carson, Donald Trump and their fellow-traveling theocrats want parity with Iran.

It can be frustrating if not depressing, but then I believe in the wisdom of the American people to realize the greatest dangers America faces are not from outside but insidiously lurk within.

I have to believe; otherwise, why write this column, eh?

The dark forces might seemingly be winning the battle for America’s soul, but they won’t win the war as long as we refuse to give in to fear and anger.

So perhaps I am not a pessimist after all. Just a pragmatic realist who realizes the situation at hand and the task and challenge before us.

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