Monday, February 16, 2009

My Two Cents Worth on the $787 Billion Stimulus Bill... and Atheism

by Al Falafel

Well, nobody said it was going to be easy, but after a full month of sustained whiny Republican obstructionism, the economic stimulus bill finally passed and will be signed by President Obama on Tuesday. I was personally relieved that the final bill deleted the $1 Billion in nuclear weapons spending snuck into the Senate version. Also stripped from the plan was another wasteful, nonproductive $50 Billion in loan guarantees for the nuclear power industry and $4.6 Billion to support the fiction of "clean coal" technology.

It has been incredibly irritating to watch the Republican clowns in Congress trying to upstage the new administration's attempt to do something about the economic mess those Bozos spent so long building up. How can you not be pissed off knowing that every single House Republican and all but three arm-twisted Republican Senators voted against the bill - which is in no way perfect - because it does not give enough in tax cuts to their rich friends? The These jerks would rather sit back and let the global crisis escalate rather than go along with a stimulus plan that they know has a chance of staving off a total economic meltdown.

When the GOP cries "Country First!" they are obviously talking about the country of Iraq.

Republican tax cuts will do no more to stimulate the economy than their deregulatory mania, their expensive and opportunistic invasions of foreign countries and their egregious violations of our Constitutional freedoms did to keep us from arriving at this desperate point in history.

In fact, Congressional Republicans have been so wrong on every important issue that has affected our lives over the last half-century, why don't they just shut the hell up and go away for good?

Of course, that's not likely to happen. Right wing extremists have their heads so far up their behinds they do not even realize how out-of-touch they are with reality. But don't expect that to stop them.

By all appearances they have taken a cue from their new de facto GOP leader, Rush Limbaugh(!) and adopted the strategy of knee-jerk opposition to everything Obama stands for. Under the dildo-head's leadership they will work to make sure Obama's every program fails in hopes of maintaining their standing as the only viable opposition party in order to regain power in 2012 or sooner.

And to think, until the Cheney/Bush Administration left the stage right-wing talk-show hosts used to take their cues from the Republicans in government!

Of course, the recent change in Administrations and political party dominance has also brought about a swift uptick in the activities of the GOP's base - the fanatic religious right.

While our progressive coalition catapulted Obama and the Democrats to their lofty positions of power the radical right minority has wasted no time in puffing themselves all up to regroup and recoup their losses. Typically they have ramped up their active vilification of all their enemies: anyone who does not accept Biblical authority or Jesus Christ as their lord and savior.

After the Obama plan fails, you homos will all have to head back to San Francisco. You of the too-far-left will always have a place in Gitmo (on the Communist island of Cuba). You blacks can catch the next boat home to Africa, and you freakin' atheists can just go to hell. Those lines all intersect and cross in many of the voters who made up the winning coalition and gave us the new distinction as the ruling party's base.

Because our diverse coalition is seen as the right-wing's opposition base we are naturally ranked by order of detestability. To them, the lowest of the low among us are we who subscribe to no religion as they know it at all. Worse than suicide-bombing Islamic terrorists, our mere existence is so unfathomable to them as to offend their deepest sense of identity as human beings.

For those of us who are possessed of this one variable of human reality - commonly identified as "atheism" - the religious right apparently holds little more contempt than the American public at large. In fact, this is a point on which they seek to find common ground with the majority and may do so even more effectively than they have been able to find it with their common distaste for same-sex marriage, which has been pretty damn effective. The thing we queers have going for us, however, is that we are almost all born of heterosexual parents and, like it or not - know it or not - everyone has one of us in their family. Not so with atheists. Families tend to implant and perpetuate whatever religion they subscribe to, even among gay family members.

It is clear that religion is a major factor Americans use to evaluate political candidates. To this day there has been one and only one person ever elected to Congress who proclaims a personal non-belief in God: Rep. Pete Stark (D, of course) of the "East Bay" 13th District of California (of course). Rep. Stark has served continuously since 1973 but only came out as an atheist in 2007. In contrast, Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank is the most well-known, longest-serving and most powerful gay person to serve in Congress. Frank has been out of the closet since early in his tenure which began in 1981. He has since been joined by two other openly gay candidates who ran while out, unlike Frank who waited until 1987 to publicly acknowledge his homosexuality and only did so after a mostly non-sexual sex scandal while in office. At the time this was still the norm as set by former Rep. Gerry Studds, also from Massachusetts, who came out in 1973 after being caught in a tryst with a congressional page - an accusation Studds never denied (ironically, Rep. Frank faced a censure attempt by none other than Rep. Larry ("I am not gay") Craig of the Minnesota Airport Men's Room toe-tapping fame.

Rating about a + 8.5 on the Kinsey Scale myself, I have for over 30 years been actively involved in the on-going struggle for recognition of the simple fact that sexuality does not define a person's social or political worth in and of itself. At the same time and all along I have also held that philosophical points of view - including religious, spiritual and worldly identities are equally irrelevant to an individual's standing in an ideal social construct.

I strongly believe that America's unique foundation, at the deepest level, has always rested our sometimes unconscious development toward that ideal. Seldom has the promise of this country's potential ever moved steadily along the path toward realization of that ideal for very long. After all, we are just a renewable collection of imperfect humans living through our limited time on earth, struggling with so many flaws, idiosyncrasies, and ever-changing distractions, cirumstances-not-of-our-making and priorities. Like wars and our economic survival.

We are all just gathered at the same big table waiting to order dinner, as it were. If we may use such a simple-minded metaphor what does it matter if my taste runs to chicken while you may prefer the beef? Excuse me, vegetarians are OK too. As long as there are enough edibles to go around, what do I care what you eat, how you think it should be prepared, what utensils you might use, and where it should come from... Ah, but that's where it gets tricky, isn't it?

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