Romney

The Theology of Rape

This is not just a provocative title. Sadly, it is very real, and was voiced by Indiana’s Richard Mourdock, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. During a debate this past Tuesday, he stated: “Even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” No matter the spin, no matter Mourdock’s protestations to the contrary, it still comes across as God’s plan. Is that offensive? Yes. Worse still, it makes God into a monster. It is theological rape.

This is hardly surprising. Mourdock is another member of the ideologically extreme religious right that has taken over the Republican Party. Their position on abortion simply is not tenable. It is built on no scientific, philosophical or even theological foundation. Like all fanatics, when they speak they guarantee absurd and offensive statements.

Let us grant the premise that God is the author of life. Let us grant also that human life begins at conception. This is the teaching of the Catholic Church and some other Christian Churches. Some non-Christians, among them Mormons, believe the same. But what does it mean? God does not author life by the act of conceiving. God’s involvement in the process is to directly create the individual human person, or soul. However, there is no sustainable argument to suggest that happens at conception. In fact, just the opposite is true.

As I previously have reasoned in a
series of blogs, we cannot state with clarity that the individual person is created before day fourteen. In the case of rape, then, use of an emergency contraceptive measure, such as the morning after pill, would not constitute abortion. However, to process these ideas, requires more than faith. It also requires thought.

Unfortunately, the new Republican leadership operates from a combination of laziness and ignorance—a willingness to embrace simplistic concepts about life coupled with an inability to nuance thought. Indeed, there is not much thought present to begin with. That is one reason why Romney and Ryan, McConnell, McCaind and Cornyn continue to support Mourdock.

Paul Ryan gave a good demonstration of laziness when he said: “The method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life.” Ryan does not even pretend a willingness to think through the issue.

Romney has an even greater problem. As a Mormon he believes that every person pre-existed prior to conception. Therefore, Romney chooses to remain ignorant about the biological development of the embryo. Why let scientific knowledge interfere with one’s pre-conceived beliefs?

In the movie “Inherit the Wind,” the character of Henry Drummond comments on the human power to think. While questioning the religiously bigoted prosecuting attorney he asks the following: “Mr. Brady, why do you deny the one faculty of man that raises him above the other creatures of the earth, the power of his brain to reason?”

There is more than a touch of irony here, because “Inherit the Wind” is a fictionalized account of the 1925 Scopes trial about the teaching of evolution. Much like the uneducated, religious fanatics of 1925, Mourdock, Romney, Ryan and their ilk seem quite content to shield themselves from a complex world. They prefer hiding in a closet with likeminded simpletons. The real world, however, requires use of God’s gifts. It requires us to think.
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Citizens United--An Amendment

Words, whether spoken or written, are our primary means of communication. For this reason, even as words evolve, it is essential that we agree on their meaning. No one is above the law of definition. The alternative is an inability to communicate with reason, and confusion more disruptive than Babel.

At the Iowa State Fair on August 11, 2011, Mitt Romney made his now infamous declaration: “corporations are people, my friend.” That statement simply does not pass muster. Romney was roundly
ridiculed by citizens in the crowd. In news reports, members of the media chimed in. However, few people took the time to analyze the danger not only of his idea, but also his misuse of language.

In the Declaration of Independence, we read the following: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men
(sic) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights….” Whether or not one believes in God, the point here is that people, not corporations, are so endowed.

The problem is that Romney equivocates on definition and defies the conventions of logic, for a corporation exists only as a legal entity. As such, its rights and obligations do not accrue naturally, as they do with persons. It is true that a corporation is made up of individuals, but collectively it is not a person.

On the one hand, it is easy to see why Romney thinks corporations are people. He has never had to work a real job in the real world. Almost all of his wealth is derived from sitting in boardrooms and deciding which companies are most attractive for the “purchase, dismantle, sell and workers-be-damned” model of business.

On the other hand, Romney is not entirely to blame. He is not known for original thought, and in this case his idea emanates from Supreme Court and its
Citizens United decision of 2010. Prior to that decision, most rational persons would never have dreamed of calling corporations people. But once one accepted definition is dismissed, it is easy to alter the meaning of other words as well. All of a sudden, money is defined as speech.

I have a friend who suggested the Supreme Court did not anticipate that their decision would undam the flood of corporate money that has so corrupted the current political season. I am a little more cynical. And for good reason. Even if one were to grant a certain naiveté in the
Citizens United case, the Court revealed its true colors this past June by doubling down in another 5-4 decision, the American Tradition Partnership case. In that decision, the court struck down a century-old Montana campaign finance law that prevented corporations from spending money on political campaigns. This may be a terribly disturbing image, but the truth is that the Supreme Court essentially disrobed and flashed American society.

Like elected officials, the Justices are entrusted with protecting the Constitution. As the final arbiter of law, the Supreme Court’s obligation transcends even that of the President and the Congress. What recourse does society have when the Court, itself, tramples the Constitution and substitutes chaos for the rule of law?

The
Citizens United decision necessitates a constitutional amendment. This is a remedy that I recommend with great reluctance. There is always a danger that fanciful ideas rooted in unrestricted emotion might make their way into constitutional law, as happened with the Eighteenth Amendment prohibiting alcohol. To its credit, the United States has passed only twenty six amendments, one of which, the twenty-first, was passed to reverse the foolishness of the eighteenth.

A constitution that is amended too frequently becomes a useless document. Still, a constitution is comprised of words, and the meaning of those words matters. Corporations are not people and money is not speech. If integrity is to be restored to the electoral process, the United States needs a twenty-seventh Amendment that overturns the Citizens United decision.
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Voting Rights and Election Monitors

Throughout the world, mostly in emerging democracies and dictatorships, there has long been a need for independent, international election observers. It is a common occurrence to see vote manipulation and downright fraud in many third world countries. In the western world, one expects a different situation. Voting should be free and universal, honest and accurate.

Maybe it is the ease with which corruption embeds itself in the exercise of power; maybe it is insecurity after an opponent has unmasked one’s vacuous concepts; maybe it is the fear of losing control; maybe it is the dread of a rising and empowered populace; maybe it is merely the fact of human weakness. Whatever the cause, the electoral process as practiced in the Western world is not as elevated as we want to claim. This is one reason that the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is called upon to monitor elections around the globe, including longstanding democracies such as France, the United Kingdom, and even the United States of America.

It is a necessary and daunting task. Take for example, the United States, the root of modern democracy. In the current election cycle, fraud rules the day. Not the fraud of unregistered, illegal, or even dead people voting. The real voter fraud is far more pernicious. It is not merely an effort to influence the outcome of an election. It is an attempt to prevent a large portion of the electorate from participating in the first place.

Not surprisingly, this fraud is exercised primarily by elected state officials, specifically Republicans, striving to cement their uncertain grasp on power. In a manner most deceitful, they espouse lofty principles even while they seek to undermine those principles. They use simple sounding words and frame their policies as “Voter ID laws.” That seems reasonable. Everyone would agree that there must be some regulations around the act of voting. Sadly, it’s just not that simple.

These Republicans know it is only a matter of time before their true intentions and their policies come to light. Unable to win by the force of their arguments, they seek to solidify their grip on power through oppression. Will these legions of darkness be allowed to prevail? That depends on whether or not people will see the truth, expose it to the light, and fearlessly condemn it in speech.

Many commentators, I presume unintentionally, play into the hands of corrupt Republican legislators by describing these machinations as disenfranchisement. That sounds almost harmless. Such language, however, is many degrees removed from the very real and deleterious effects of these laws, enabling politicians to disguise their true motives.

This is not the only corruption. Employers such as David Siegel, the Koch brothers and Richard Lacks are pressuring their employees to vote for Romney. Robert Murray forced coal miners in Ohio to attend--without pay--a Romney rally during the summer. The miners were even used a backdrop behind Romney during his speech.

This is where international election observers come in. They cannot affect the outcome of an election, but they can help reveal the truth of corruption. They can expose the real American election fraud to the entire world—on election day when people are turned away from polling places, and before elections begin when minorities are deliberately shut out of voting procedures or when voters’ freedoms are stripped through employer coercion.

The surface question is whether or not the people of America care what others think—does America’s standing in the world matter anymore? The deeper question is whether or not America’s founding values still matter to Americans, themselves.

I don’t know if Americans are gullible, ignorant, or if they just don’t care. This country used to stand for great things: for equality and equal opportunity. The American Revolution started something new in the world. The U.S. Constitution laid the groundwork for modern democracy, and the United States stood as a beacon of hope and progress in a changing world. These new “Voter ID” laws, coupled with employee coercion, crumble the very foundations of democracy.

Every person running for President is required to declare: “The United States is the greatest country on earth.” That kind of hyperbole was never really true, but it soothes the anxiety of a people who are insecure and need to feel important. It should be said, that citizens of most countries share that angst. In the United States it is amplified by this question: Are we as good as the generations who came before us?

At least when it comes to voting rights, the answer is clear. No. We are not.
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Romney's Entitlement Problem

When I was growing up, my parents forbid me to use what they euphemistically called “four-letter words”. I suppose most people had the same experience. As I grew older, however, I realized that longer words are also included in the prohibition. What I did not learn until recently was that “entitlement” is one of those words. In this case it is not only the use of the word that is taboo, but also the meaning. I am left to wonder: How is that right wing politicians have been allowed to turn something good and essential into the equivalent of a four-letter word?

An entitlement program is a guaranteed government benefit, the two big ones being Social Security and Medicare. Romney’s infamous 47% statement—in which he dismisses and treats with disdain half the country—includes many people benefitting from these two programs. Other politicians, including Ryan see these as social evils, and they are twisting themselves into knots in an attempt to pacify seniors, stating that they will preserve the benefits for current recipients while essentially eliminating those benefits for younger Americans. There is something very sinister at work here.

Paul Ryan grew up in a very rich family. Sadly, when Ryan was sixteen years old his father died. As a result, Ryan began receiving Social Security payments. Nothing illegal there. It is the law. It is rooted in the fact that Ryan’s father had paid into Social Security and it is only fair that his son receive some kind of payments until age 21, even if he did not need financial support at the time. Ryan has altered his attitude toward this government entitlement since the days when it benefitted him. Still, it seems to me that the problem is deeper than mere hypocrisy.

Other writers have countered this attempt to roll back entitlements with the observation that these government programs are contracts. They were entered into in good faith. What people receive in retirement and health care is not dependency. It is money and subsistence that they are owed. It is a return on their investment. That is language Romney should understand. Still, the issue goes beyond contracts. This is a question of values and morality.

Romney ridiculed 47% of the nation with the statement that these people “believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.” I say ridiculed, because if one listens to the actual recording, Romney’s inflection on the word “entitled” says everything anybody needs to know about Romney and his attitude toward humanity. It is obnoxiously corrupt. Entitled to food? Entitled to health? Entitled to a place to live? Give me a break! Romney is deficient both religiously and politically.

Every major world religion, every humanitarian organization believes that people are “entitled” to these things. At least to food and good health. Although Romney is not a Christian, his Mormon faith includes the New Testament in which Jesus makes clear his preferential option for the poor. Jesus, himself broke the social and religious taboos of his own day. He ate with sinners and he touched the unclean.

The Declaration of Independence, which gave birth to this great nation states that all people “are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Do Romney and Ryan really believe starving, untreated illness and homelessness define the God-given “Right” to life?

Mr. Romney, listen up. Entitlement is not a four-letter word. American democracy is rooted in entitlement. We do not just owe people a secure retirement and good health. They are entitled to it.
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When Politcs Trumps Religion

People hold fast to many different sets of values, perhaps none more tenaciously than those of religion. That is one reason the First Amendment is first—it cements religious freedom in American life and politics.

I have explained in previous writings why Mormons are not Christian. I have also demonstrated that when it comes to elected office, it does not matter. The freedoms in the First Amendment are not just for Christians. All people are guaranteed the right to worship and believe as they choose. Even the freedom not to believe.

Of course the First Amendment cannot guarantee authenticity. Sadly, many religious people in modern America are misinformed, the values to which they cling are false, their subsequent choices counterfeit.

For example, the claim that Barack Obama is a Muslim, simply is not true, and no repetition can make it so. Obama was born and raised Christian. He lived for a period of time in Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim country. But he is today, as he has been all his life a Christian. That is fact. Still, there are fundamentalist Christians on the far right who will not vote for him because they errantly think he is a Muslim. And they will not vote for a non-Christian.

On the other hand, they do not apply the same principle (one which I reject) to Governor Romney. Romney is Mormon. That also is a fact. But since Mormons are not Christians, how can the far right vote for him?

I firmly believe that a person’s faith is not a measure of whether he or she is fit to be president. But for those poor, misguided souls who do think that way, Romney is not a viable candidate. Certainly not a viable alternative to Obama. This raises a deeper question. What is really going on here? Could it be that Obama is African-American and their minds are so small that they cannot tolerate a black man in the White House?

From before Obama took his oath of office, some leaders in the Republican Party decided that their primary goal would be to deny him a second term. As a result, they shouted a petrifying silence when Trump and other buffoons questioned if Obama was born in America. Equally deafening was their condemnation of those who claimed Obama was a Muslim. Two indisputable facts. And yet, these same leaders do not address the fact of Romney not being a Christian.

If far right Christians are to be faithful to their beliefs, they cannot vote for either candidate. That would, of course, be a loss to the democratic process. Then again, if people are ignorant enough to think that Obama was not born in the United States, or to believe that he is a Muslim; if they are ignorant of their own Christian theology and do not understand why Romney is not a Christian; if they do not realize that a person’s faith should not be a criterion for holding office; if they are mired in the mud of racism, then just maybe these people not voting, is not a loss to democracy after all.
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