We’re Secular, Bitch

I watched El Camino, the Netflix film that continues the story of one of the best TV series of all time, Breaking Bad.

It’s a respectable effort to complete the arc of the series from BB’s creator Vince Gilligan even if it doesn’t soar to the same heights.  Still, we get to know what happens to our favorite dim bulb sweetheart of a crystal meth maker, Jesse Pinkman, witness a brief encounter between him and… (Note: Okay, NO SPOILERS HERE!) and realize once again that once you heavily enter into the world of drug dealing and drug taking no good will come of it.

Nothing de-glorified the illicit worlds of drugs and toxic masculinity better than Breaking Bad.  It’s certainly not the only example of that in popular culture but its ability to eschew proselytizing and instead focus on the lives of the people who choose this road made it one of the most respected, watched and memorable TV series of all time.

Quality TV, bitch

Jesse Pinkman grew up in a two parent household with a Christian mom and dad who, by his own admission, did the best they could to raise him with the moral values he needed to sustain himself in the world.  He was fictional yet somehow familiar, like the lovable doofus next door who once showed potential but somehow, and in some way, went on to break bad.

Jesse came of age in the early nineties, right around time our current U.S. attorney general, William Barr, first served in that post (1991-1993).  This was under then Pres. George Bush, Sr. and at the time, as now, it was Mr. Barr’s task to set the standard for the legal, and, in turn, moral tone for the country.  In other words, he is the custodian of what passes as the rule of law.

Preach

A devout Catholic, Mr. Barr’s tone and morality have remained constant and virtually unchanged since the time young Jesse Pinkman was looking for guidance on how to be an adult.

By way of explanation, here are some nuggets from a speech Mr. Barr, our sitting A.G.,  gave this week to an audience of law students at Notre Dame Law School, many of whom never heard it because they were too busy protesting his appearance outside of the auditorium on campus from which he spoke.

…Judeo-Christian moral standards are the ultimate utilitarian for human conduct…We are told we are living in a post-Christian era, but what has replaced the Judeo-Christian moral system?… Among the militant secularists are many so-called progressives, but where is the progress?…

We see the growing ascendancy of secularism and the doctrine of moral relativism…Basically every measure of this social pathology continues to gain ground…Along with the wreckage of the family, we are seeing record levels of depression and mental illness, dispirited young people, soaring suicide rates, increasing numbers of angry and alienated young males, an increase in senseless violence and a deadly drug epidemic.

….New Jersey recently passed a law requiring schools to adopt a LGBT curriculum that many feel is inconsistent with traditional Christian teaching,

….Over 70,000 people die a year from drug overdoses. …But I won’t dwell on the bitter results of the new secular age. 

Jesse is not a fan

Attorney General Barr is on a familiar frontline of American governmental religious fervor and his perception is that there is a decided lack of it that is causing the moral decay or our world.  Or at the very least, it’s lack is the primary reason for our social problems and the key to why so many people, both young and old, disobey the law, misbehave in general and seem so, well…unhappy.

If you lived through the thirties, the fifties, the eighties/nineties or were paying attention in the latter half of this decade, aka yesterday on Fox News or the Christian Broadcasting Network, you’ve heard this before.  If not, you can go through the speeches of Father Coughlin (1930s), Joseph McCarthy (1950s), both Bush POTUSes and Barr himself (1980s/1990s/2000s) and catch up.  Or better yet, view Mr. Barr’s Notre Dame speech here:

… and prepare to lose your lunch

What it boils down to is a society whose problems have mostly to do with straying from a strict RELIGIOUS doctrine. It is a school of thought that conveniently (and very purposefully) ignores the many secular advances in the world like, say, women having equal rights or laws against them being stoned in town square for cheating on their husbands – to – laws preventing members of the LGBTQ community from being fired from their place of employment, barred from their local marriage license offices or, say…being stoned in town square for simply…being.

Most importantly what it seeks to do is blame the Jesse Pinkmans of the world – either fictional or real – on the fact that they were raised in a country or household where government and home teachings of the Bible were not somehow enshrined in their being and viewed as the gold standard of citizenry, if not the requirement and guiding principle of its government and its leaders. (Note:  This would presumably include our current American “leader”).

pretty much sums up my thoughts

In times like these it is important to remember, repeat, and rinse and repeat again, that this line of thought was precisely the opposite type of doctrinaire thinking on which our country was first founded.

One of the essential pillars of American democracy is and always has been the separation of church and state.  Don’t take my word for it.  It’s the very FIRST AMENDMENT to the U.S. Constitution.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

What this means is feel free to NOT BELIEVE in God and religion or BELIEVE in any God or religion you want.  But bottom line – leave RELIGION and whatever you believe it to be out of our government.

It is also important to note that the very definition of secularism (Note: Barr’s dreaded word) is: the principle of the separation of the state from religious institutions.

You know.. unless you live in this universe  #seeyourselfoutRudy

This in no way means that we can’t consult many sources, include our religion, to define what is right and wrong individually for us.  But as a government, a basic tenant of American law is that we leave our religion at the door.

As Americans we are guided by a set of norms and law that evolve over time, not ones enshrined in early A.D or B.C.  We have our problems, particularly these days, but this freedom to think any way we like, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, is in our DNA.  It has made us the most prosperous nation in modern history and, until recently, the one country the vast majority of immigrants in the world have chosen to migrate to.

Hmmm, perhaps what this attorney general and his cohorts from up above are trying to do by him speechifying about the enshrining of our country with an old/new religion is nothing more than their latest strategy to stem immigration?

Unlikely.

The game Barr and his ilk are playing is far simpler.  In fact, it’s all about the simplicity of thought.  Quiet the masses by evoking a past that never existed and ignore, prosecute, condemn and persecute (legally or by any means necessary) anyone who dare speak against them.  When all that fails, claim the sinners are the ones taking away THEIR freedom of choice, their religion, and stifling their ability to simply be who THEY ARE.

There is an immoral majority in American society right now but it’s not the Jesse Pinkmans of the world.  Rather, it’s the members of our top government elite, such as Barr, who think we’re all too dumb to catch on to their bait and switch game of immoral strategy to retain power and do what they please behind closed doors. (Note: I’m trying NOT to imagine anything I can’t unsee or unthank).

Well, they underestimate all the rest of us sinners at their own peril, don’t they?

Hopefully.

Nick Lutsko – “The Ballad of Jesse Pinkman” 

The First

I love Kathy Griffin and loathe Donald Trump. I like Rosie O’Donnell and am fed up with Rosanne Barr, who I would probably loathe if I didn’t believe she was in the grip of a severe mental health crisis.

Of course, I believe that Trump has severe mental health issues too and I still loathe him.

Maybe it’s because he occupies the office of what used to be the Leader of the Free World and can actually change the course of history, not to mention end the entire world as we know it.

All Roseanne can do is hate tweet, post ranting videos and be on a sitcom I wouldn’t watch.

This all bubbled up on Thursday night after seeing Kathy Griffin do a hilarious, dishy, touching and sometimes sad three-hour solo comedy show at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

The sad part wasn’t so much about the comic as it was about us and the cesspool of faux outraged, social media manipulated, human rights curtailing, conspiracy-based citizenry we have become.

I’m taking bids now

Many of us falsely believed that the social upheaval of the 1960s gave birth to a new time where we left McCarthyism behind and people could feel free to express their politics in any way they saw fit as long as they didn’t physically hurt anyone.

I, for one, can recall the late 1970s when, as a Jewish kid in grad school in Chicago, I heard the Nazis had chosen, of all places, to hold a big rally in the nearby heavily Jewish neighborhood of Skokie.

How could I be studying journalism in the U.S. and deny that these Hitler acolytes had the legal right to march right down the streets of that neighborhood? I couldn’t if I believed in freedom of speech, of religion, of the press and of peaceful assembly.

I mean, sure – I could will them to eat shit and die but I couldn’t actually poison it myself or let anyone else do it. I could show up in a counter demonstration where I sang Barbra Streisand songs or played the score of Fiddler on the Roof from my boom box but back in 1977 I’m not sure anyone would have gotten it.

sing it with me now: PEOPLE WHO NEED PEOPPPPLLLEEEE….

There was always the option of hurling rocks at them and starting a brawl but at 20 years old I was not ready to betray anything I believed in…quite yet.   And even if I could, I’d never be able to throw straight.   At that point I was having a hell of a time even being straight.

The above all refers to rights enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution, which reads as follows:

Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

In the last 40 years we have evolved on many issues.   Gay people have the right to be married; public schools are integrated, as are most private institutions. Women can work and get closer to equal pay (well, 80 cents on the dollar) and, as of this weekend anyway, they still have the right to choose.

Very win-win, right?

Not feeling super confident on all of these points, Chairy.

But what we are beginning to fail at miserably is holding up the very basic tenants of the first amendment.

We now have elected (sort of) a president who ran his campaign on, and is actively trying to, ban Muslims and any other number of non-whites from entering the country in the name of national security; defends the point of view of white nationalists and foreign dictators as good people and strong leaders; and attacks the mainstream, fact-based press daily by calling its multi-sourced, fully vetted stories fake news and its reporters very bad people.

This, of course, has nothing directly to do with the cost of health care, whether or not we’ll make more money at the end of the year or if we can even get employment next year.

Until it does.

I need a nap

When you strip us right down to the studs (Note: And these days, who’d NOT want to), the core attraction of America is our FIRST amendment. Theoretically everyone here has the same rights and can say whatever the hell they want under the law. Even if it doesn’t always work out perfectly, from the top on down we have always strived for that ideal. Or, at least, pretended to.

Now the president is proposing that football players get suspended for taking a knee during the National Anthem and fired if they do it more than once. This is a far more stringent punishment than any of the Nazis got who marched in Charlottesville last year and actually killed an innocent woman.

Which brings us back to Kathy Griffin.

Spilling the T

The job of comedians is to make us laugh by being — provocateurs. They share their lens of the world by telling stories and jokes, pushing boundaries in the ways they see fit. It is their very point of view, mixed with some truth telling, that makes them unique and, in essence, defines their talent.

Last year, in response to Trump’s bull-in-the-china shop approach to tearing down the norms of government and insulting anyone who disagreed with him in a shockingly offensive manner by using coded graphic words and actions (and, behind-the-scenes, pornographic ones), Kathy decided to use her comic chops in a photo shoot that would shock us all to attention as to just what this man was doing not only to the country, but to the world.

So she had someone buy a $12 rubber Trump mask, doused it all over with ketchup, held it up as if it was his severed head, and then took a picture…which she then posted on social media.

I, for one, thought it was a hilarious, outrageous and very necessary political statement/response to the times we were and still are living in. In fact, I still do. So, in solidarity, here it is again:

blood coming out of his.. wherever

But because Trump is technically our Electoral College POTUS and has a lot of power, as well as a large following (Note: Though not as large as Hillary’s) here is what she got in return for 6-12 months and counting:

1- Her name on the no-fly list

2- Her name on Interpol (an international criminal police organization)

3- Daily death threats

4- The cancellation of all of her bookings in the U.S., often because venues were afraid of bomb threats.

5- Daily character assassinations on Fox News and TMZ, both of whose owners are rabid Trump supporters.

6- Marginalization by all the major network powers-that-be, who were terrified of offending potential sponsors (nee corporate $$) and the new Trump power base.

7- An international P.R. campaign, spurred on by Fox, that convinced millions of conservative viewers that she had become an actual member of ISIS.

8 – A relentless social media Russian bot patrol attack.

9 – Investigation by the Secret Service, the FBI and others about her plotting to actually assassinate our Electoral College POTUS.

10 – A Trump supporting next-door neighbor who cursed at her and verbally harassed her so consistently that she eventually had to sell her house and move.

She explains it much more thoroughly and with a great deal more humor in her current LAUGH YOUR HEAD OFF (Note: Yeah, that’s right) tour.

In addition, there are also GREAT and unexpected stories about Ellen, Stevie Nicks, Kim Kardashian, Jim Carrey, Jamie Fox, Billy Bush and even Stormy Daniels if you’re as much of a star/media f-cker as I am.

We’re with you KG

But what stood out the most to me leaving the show is that political protest has swung back about a century here except for the use of technology and social media by the powers-that-be doing the oppressing.

When Roseanne sends out an offensive racist tweet comparing a non-white person not elected to office and no longer in the zeitgeist to an ape for no other reason than she felt like it, it is hard to see what she is satirizing other than herself with a bad one-liner.

Nevertheless, she is covered by the first amendment and is free to do so. Much in the same way the corporations that employ her are legally able to fire her.

The same applies to Kathy and those also choosing not to work with her.

The difference is – Roseanne was NOT put on the no-fly list, NOT listed on Interpol, NOT checked out by law enforcement officials for a crime, and NEVER victimized by Russian bots.

my version of hell at least

However, she WAS publicly supported and tweet cheered by THE ONE PERSON person who is still the de facto Leader of the Free World – our current sitting Electoral College POTUS. With all the power that HE is allowed.

Think about that the next time you sit down for dinner with Trump supporting friends and relatives or find yourself in an impromptu political discussion with those who say you’re being too sensitive, paranoid or reactionary.

But don’t laugh your head off quite yet. You will need it – and A LOT more – in the coming months. COMRADE.

Little Anthony & The Imperials – “Goin’ Out of My Head”