Scott Lively, Jerry Falwell Jr, and the Theocrats among us.

 

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Once upon a time, in a land apparently not so different than the one we live in today, African American’s achieved (as did the rest of the country) their God given right to snub Jim Crow law and attend any school they chose.  Racial integration had been achieved, and all was well in the land.

Or so we thought.

A little lesser known case than it’s predecessor Brown V Board of Education made it’s way up to the United States Supreme Court called Bob Jones Sr. vs The United States. A preacher (or a group of them, rather) angry that they couldn’t use their tax exempt status to open white only schools sued the government.

They lost in an 8-1 decision handed down by the court.

Everything still seemed right in the land. The last vestiges of the wicked minded had finally been eradicated, nothing to see here. African Americans were brought inside the castle for years of bountiful and joyous celebrations, everyone started getting along, and the Prince married the Princess.

Except that never happened. Not even close and that is more apparent today, than in any other time in my life.

Why?

Well, it’s a simple yet sad thing we as a nation did to our Black brothers and sisters.

The lone dissenter in Bob Jones Sr. vs The United States – William H. Rehnquist was appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States where he served as Chief Justice until his death in 2005.

Essentially, We opened the draw bridge to the castle, yes. They were enticed to come in, yes. Yet, without them knowing everyone bailed out, locked the doors and shuttered the windows of the castle…..and then set it on fire.

You can read about the account here in Politico’s article, The Real Origins of the Religious Right. 

TL;DR = Jerry Falwell, Oral Roberts, and Bob Jones Sr. were really really mad their little Bobby’s and Little Susie’s would have to go to school with little Tyrone. Lied to people about their stance on abortion, convinced Catholics that they didn’t think the Pope was the Anti-Christ, and their church was the Great Whore of Babylon, defeated their own Christian brother Jimmy Carter for a B Hollywood Movie Actor (and former Union Boss) Ronald Reagan.  Ta-Da – Civil Rights curtailed.

Donald Trump pandered to the religious right, supporters of Mike Pence who nauseatingly prayed over the Presidential Candidate who, despite holding up a rainbow flag and was quoted as saying, ” I love the gays,” believed him to be what it took to Make America Great again.

Nothing to see here.

Except for The White House just announcing that Jerry Falwell will be heading up the ‘Education Reform’ task force to not only address public schools but higher levels of learning.  Jerry Falwell Jr, the son of the late, great (although greatness doesn’t denote goodness) Jerry Falwell Sr. is the Chancellor of Liberty University.

“So what,” you say. We knew Public Education was about to get blown out of the water with Betsy Devos.  “After how many years of Every Child Left Behind? The average tenure of a school teacher in America is roughly two years. Their salaries are meager, the work load is enormous, I mean – come on the Tea Party has been putting nutjobs on school boards since Obama got elected. Of course we know what’s going on. They’re trying to eradicate public education or at least make it so public school kids leave those schools sounding like the idiots that graduate from non accredited private Christian schools. Why campaign and convince a generation of people to vote for you when you can grow your own?”

Hold on grasshopper, this story gets better.

A couple of years ago, Scott Lively, a radical Christian fundamentalist went to Uganda and not only spread his gospel, he decided to spread his murderous hatred for gay people. Convincing the Ugandan government that enacting anti-gay laws that killed gay people or worse, threw them into 3rd world prisons for the crime of BEING gay, was God’s Will – he was brought up on charges of Crimes Against Humanity by a Ugandan who wanted his pasty white and cowardly ass sent to the Hague to stand trial.

Seems pretty logical, right?

Try and incite a genocide – have to go stand before a court that sort of frowns on these things.

Except, Mr. Lively won his case. Yet he didn’t walk away from it unscathed. The Judge basically called him shit underneath his shoe, called him a bigot, Judge Pryor had this to say about Mr. Lively:

 “Discovery confirmed the nature of Defendant’s, on the one hand, vicious and, on the other hand, ludicrously extreme animus against LGBTI people and his determination to assist in persecuting them wherever they are, including Uganda.

 

“The evidence of record demonstrates that Defendant aided and abetted efforts (1) to restrict freedom of expression by members of the LBGTI community in Uganda, (2) to suppress their civil rights, and (3) to make the very existence of LGBTI people in Uganda a crime.

“The record also confirms that these efforts to intimidate and injure the LGBTI community in Uganda were, unfortunately, to some extent successful.

“This crackpot bigotry could be brushed aside as pathetic, except for the terrible harm it can cause. The record in this case demonstrates that Defendant has worked with elements in Uganda who share some of his views to try to repress freedom of expression by LGBTI people in Uganda, deprive them of the protection of the law, and render their very existence illegal.

“He has, for example, proposed twenty-year prison sentences for gay couples in Uganda who simply lead open, law-abiding lives.”

Scott Lively, unhappy with the Judge for calling him names is appealing the case. You can read about it, here. 

Now what, do you ask, has this to do with Mr. Jerry Falwell Jr?  I am so glad you asked.

The Liberty Counsel is the Law firm that represents Liberty University and their very own King James – Mr. Jerry Falwell Jr. They were the same legal counsel for Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis who infamously refused to give a gay couple a marriage license.

Now, what does this have to do with everyone else? Especially gay people?

One of the last things Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said to his followers before he was assassinated was, “You know, we’ve struggled long and hard for the victories we have attained. Yet there is something that troubles me deeply. For all the Civil Rights and all the things we’ve done….I have come to believe that we are integrating into a burning house…we have no choice but to become firemen.”

Just like our African American brothers and sisters, we’re facing a real and motivated threat. There are those who are angry at us just for simply having the right to live as human beings live. They’re angry that we have the same rights they have. Yet among those who are angry, there are some who have allowed their anger to fester into cancerous hate. We’ve called them Republican, We’ve called them Tea Partiers, but the truth of the matter is we had better call them what they are. Fascists. And not just any kind of fascists, Theocrats.

These people aren’t interested in a democracy, or a democratic republic – they’re interested in created The Kingdom of God on Earth. Taliban who? Isis wha..?

Liberty as a word written down, or something vocalized, is not Liberty actualized. He can call his university Liberty University, they can call their law firm Liberty Counsel. Yet Freedom and liberty are as far from their minds as their belief in Global Climate Change, Civil Rights for minorities, Gay marriage, and believing Muslims should be allowed into the country. As a matter of fact they are, as are people like Franklin Graham, extremely vocal in demonizing the latter. Just remember those that push this nonsense don’t want to relieve the world of religious oppression; they want to oppress you with theirs.

Liberty, real liberty, is being threatened.  As Sinclair Lewis famously put it, “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”  We, like our African American brothers and sisters, may have been run into our own burning building with the SCOTUS decision. Watch this space, this story could have a very sad ending for us all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fundamentalist Inside Me.

bigger-boat

 

The fundamentalist in my head – that little part of me – that ‘thing’ so wretched and vile, so unmerciful and braggadocious, has been whispering to me all day.
In that corner of my consciousness. In the back where I keep the memories of the past so malignant like cancer, that stinks like spoiled meat, has been echoing its angry voice through my head all day.
I see in my head truth becoming a lie. Facts have become fiction. Climate change is ignored for coal production and more fossil fuel extraction.
I see in my head the rise of authoritarianism. Conway is calling the media the ‘instigators’ of trouble – when her boss is the ultimate trouble maker. For having whipped a country into a feeding frenzy with the wretchedness of his speech.
Although, I see compassion blazing white hot. When a Mosque was burnt to the ground due to the encouragement by the sitting president to mistreat foreigners and strangers – Jews, the people Christ first went to, the most persecuted people in history, hand over the keys of their synagogue for their distant cousins to worship. And when I see people march for their rights, for their futures, and for their posterity – it is met with scorn and ridicule from a populace that’s been encouraged to bear its teeth.
I see the rise of white supremacy. “Go back home,” “We don’t want your kind here.” “Speak English.” “Build a wall.” “Turn refugees back.” “Make America Great Again.”
I see the rise of fascism. “The newsmen are all liars.” Denial of Russian Involvement in this election. Denial of the popular vote. The rising up of power hungry preachers into key positions in government ‘to investigate’ higher learning. The placement of a woman to teach children ‘creationism’ in place of good, solid, fact-based science. Someone who will eradicate history. The great agitators who speak of Christ out of one side of their mouth yet starve men in the streets, cut off workers compensation, make health care less affordable, while living in palatial splendor. Those who castigated the Popes of old and called the church “The Great Whore’ while wearing thigh high boots on television with their 1-800 numbers convincing old women to endorse their social security checks to them. Men, more in love with power than the God they pretend to serve.
While that Pope, seemingly powerless, begs the world not to head into the direction it is heading. While he tries – maybe in vain – to steer the world back from the brink by reminding them of supremacy’s failed history. While he tries to hold back the flood.
I see a nation teetering on the edge of oblivion. While the world shudders in horror and absolute fear. I sense a war on the horizon. The drums beating down from inside the bowels of the earth. Perhaps The Church was His church after all.
No, that little troll isn’t warning me. He’s celebrating. He’s basking in the glow of what he sees as this ‘world’s’ comeuppance. He is the one so filled with rage and contempt for the world that didn’t lock step into what he thought it should be. They didn’t believe exactly how he believed. He who thinks himself superior to all others. He who thinks he is saved of the saved and everyone else is damned. This is the voice of radical. This is the voice of a hatemonger. This is a fearful and loathsome creature who can never ever be satisfied.
And no – Donald Trump is not the Antichrist. No. To Republicans and their voters – he is revenge. He is justice. He is law and order. He is no longer having to bite their tongue when someone whom they consider lesser demands equality. He is no longer having to bite their tongue when cruelty and malice rage forth like bile. That turn a blind eye when they see someone on the street hungry and abandoned. When they blame the woman alone for becoming pregnant. When they call a soldier a hero but the veteran a drag on society. No, Donald Trump is their hero.
To us -who know better – He is the Beast.
We’re gonna need a bigger boat.

The Artists’ Job (Merlye Streep)

​The Artists Job – Meryl Streep – is to remind people of their humanity. That is why the arts have always been referred to AS the humanities. 

The Fascists job is to remind people how to get rid of their humanity. 

The President Elect is a petulant manchild who has exposed this country’s greatest weaknesses. It’s racism, it’s homophobia, it’s sexism, it’s myopic world.

Essentially, he’s a mirror held up to the American public to show it’s mediocrity. 

And it isn’t pretty. 

It’s petty. 

It’s slow, and slothful, and stinginess. 

Why do you think the klan backs him? why do you think the skinheads back him? 

Hell, the evangelicals? 

Sure –  his supporters are loud as fuck. 

But they’ve always been loud. 

Because their certainty is threatened by anything other than those who look, act, and live outside of what they’ve deemed as ‘acceptable.’

These people will target artists – because, well – we make easy targets. We don’t live in direct relationships to certainty. 

We are not addicted to the opiate of absolutism. 

We question the world around us. 

We are constantly in the world’s ear asking, “Are you sure?” 

We are doubt. 

We are their conscience. 

Their hesitation.

And when they tell someone to shut up and act, or shut up and sing, or shut up and write – they’re telling their conscience to shut up and stop reminding them of their shared humanity. 

No one ever runs into an abortion clinic shouting, “IM NOT SURE!!!”

No one flies a plane into a building shouting, “COULD BE WRONG!”

No one ever murders someone saying, “Things are kinda fuzzy but just in case….”

No, those who do – do so knowing with 100 percent clarity that what they’re doing is right. 

Those that that purports to have the greatest of faith usually have the least and the bravest person in the world is the one who stands in uncertain times and stands in truth. 

Even if it’s detrimental to them.
I’ve refused – in part- to accept this since the election. I’ve advocated for – and still do – calm. But the notion that my life and others lives are in a heightened state of danger given that this election went the way it has – makes me afraid. 
And I HATE being afraid. 
Meryl Streep was right, a democracy is only as strong as its media. We’re only as strong as those we send in to question the establishment. The writers, the journalists, are the ones who advocate for transparency. 
Donald Trump may have the most powerful position in the country – but he is still a servant of the people. And he WILL bow to the WILL of the people – all of the people- or he WILL be replaced. 
I will NEVER bow my knee to fear. 
I will NEVER allow anyone else to either. 
And I will NOT allow Donald Trump to assume that he’s free of the watchful eye of the fourth estate just because he thinks he ought to be. 
He’s in for a shock. 
Thomas Jefferson’s final line in The Declaration of Independence was thus: “… we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
A written DOCUMENT that has survived the ages. 
Our grandparents showed us fascism can be defeated. Our forebears showed us tyranny can be shrugged off. And as long as mankind has walked the face of the earth, the pen has always been mightier than the sword. 
Authors, artists, actors, singers, we have a sacred obligation not just to America, not only to each other, but to humanity. We’re the ones who’ve been left stewards of it. 
As Patrick Stewart once declared, “The line is drawn, here. No further.” 
It’s time we explain that. 
 https://www.cpj.org/
Please, consider a donation.

Message in a Bottle (Part 6)

“Do you know if you were to die today, that you would go to heaven?”

Yikes. That’s the million dollar question that could have many different answers. But it was a question posed to me by my father in our home in Detroit when I was seven years old. I remember it clearly.

I was sitting on a picnic table my father had built for a kitchen table inside of the house. I remember sitting next to him as he asked me that question. I remember it was summertime. I remember that his friend Mr. Z came over afterward.

But I remember my father sharing with me the gospel and him reading to me the Bible where it says that every man is a sinner and without Jesus would go to Hell. And then he described Hell to me – a place of eternal torment, where the body and the worm is never consumed, and it lasts for all eternity.

Your damn right I ‘got saved’. And afterward, he explained to me that I was 100 percent saved and could never lose it. Ever.

Everyone loves certainty. Right? Knowing what’s going to happen next? Knowing 100 percent that no matter what, you’re gonna be alright?

It’s sort of a rare thing in this world.

Or is it?

The foundation of Fundamentalism in Christianity is that 100 percent pure certainty. And it’s not just in regard to going to heaven. That amount of certainty exists in other facets of it as well. The 100 percent belief that The Bible is God’s word. The 100 percent belief that the King James Version is the only correct translation. The 100 percent beleif that the pastor is God’s chosen man and anything he says, does, etc. is all anointed by God. His political views are your political views, his words are your words, his social views become your social views. His opinions on books, movies, prime time television, going to the movie theater, the mall, the beach, how to raise your family, how to punish your children, how to punish your wife, how a wife should look for her husband, and on and on that goes…

And all of it is certain.

Yesterday, 2 events took place inside of the United States and as far as we know, Isis – or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (and curiously the name is identical to an Egyptian goddess) has claimed responsibility.  That person(s) stabbed a group of people at all mall. Hurt a lot of them. Also last night, someone detonated a bomb in the neighborhood of Chelsea in New York City. It is unknown at this time who was responsible. Like the certainty I was offered on the picnic table, certainty that I took because Hell sounded like it sucked, these people also acted on certainty.

For 15 years, America has been combating certainty. Absolutism. Another term for that is FUNDAMENTALISM. And for fifteen years there has been a hyper-awareness of the religion Islam. Now, prior to 9/11 most people didn’t know where Afghanistan was on a map, didn’t know who the Mujahadeen were, had no clue what a Taliban was, Osama Bin Laden may have been a bit more familiar given then 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center by Mohammed Yousef, but not much more. Today, however, especially in New York – people know these terms.

And politicians do what politicians do – especially if they suck at being politicians and want to distract from their own platform – and do their best to draw attention to a group of people as a distraction. Is ISIS a threat? Yes. Duh. Were the Taliban a threat? Sure. How about Al-Queada? Hamas? Hezbollah? The PLO? Sure. Yes. These people often kind of suck.

What do they all have in common?

The dummies would say Islam. Or Michelle Bachmann, Steve King, and Donald Trump – but I repeat myself…

Someone who knows better, who grew up in fundamentalism, would know better. The things they have in common is fundamentalism. Absolutism. And most of all, Certainty. They’re very very sure of themselves. They know 100 percent their convictions are correct.

Sound familiar?

 

What if I were to tell you that Fundamental Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal is to Christianity what The Taliban is to Islam?

Oh, you’re kind of reaching, some would say.

Am I?

See, Certainty can be a real mother for people who don’t possess it.

Certainty causes people to fly planes into buildings, shoot abortion doctors, call women who’re seeking an abortion, whores. Certainty allows children to be beaten and tortured, women to be raped and told to apologize to their rapist in America, stoned to death in the Middle East. Certainty allows cognitive dissonances. It hides sociopathy. And is starting to be considered not only by The Pope, but by health professionals, as a mental illness.

In interim before society takes that leap. Listen to who the biggest screamers are over Islamic Fundamentalists setting up Sharia Law, etc. People like Franklin Graham who is so not his daddy. Jerry Falwell Jr who is his daddy. The far alt right, the fundamentalists – those who have insisted that man live under THIER thumb. See Isis isn’t so much an invading force to them as it is a threat to their power. Franklin Graham – notoriously anti-lgbt – even tried to plead with the LGBT community to resist them.

“They throw gay people off buildings over there!”

Yeah, Frankie? How uncivilized of them. Here, we just guilt them into suicide because you make them so CERTAIN that they are better off dead than being gay.

I’ve changed my mind on my whole ‘saved’ state of being. Mostly, because I’ve had to give up on certainty. Certainly tells me that the hell I went through as a kid was justified. My head, my heart, my soul, and my conscience, say otherwise. I don’t even believe in Hell anymore. And I’m kinda suspect on the idea of Heaven. I think these aren’t destinations and agree with Pope Paul, I think it’s a state being. I’m not certain, though. But I am getting to be okay with that.

America has it’s own problems with fundamentalists. Just because ours don’t ‘have funny names’ doesn’t make it untrue. 411722_orig

I’ll write more when I can

 

Change is coming, Preacher. And it’s coming fast.

We’re coming up on a year of marriage equality.The world has changed. My world, has changed. Many people’s lives were changed. Those who are gay, their world changed for the better. Those who aren’t gay. Their lives didn’t change at all. Their marriages are still together – one would assume. Their families are still together- one would assume. All the chicken little sky’s a’ fallin’, rhetoric hasn’t come to pass. Much to the religious right’s chagrin. And recently, the Obama administration came out in support of the Transgender community – now that the eye of the religious right has moved from us and upon them. Mostly, with the same old recycled things that they once said – and to the most part- continue to say about gay people.

The lives of gay people and the transgendered community coming into their own, is symbolic. It’s symbolic of humanity stepping forward in one instance, and it’s symbolic of the hold of the religious right’s influence on this world – breaking apart and crumbling. And it isn’t going to go easily. Right now, 11 States (republican states I may add) are suing the Obama administration over the Federal Directive for Transgendered student’s bathroom use. Because of course they are. In the 1980’s the religious right and the conservative party entered into an unholy matrimony with one another – that not only was detrimental to the AFrican American population but also with anyone who found themselves in the category of ‘other’. And in this instance it is anyone ‘other’ than white, male, and straight. And there are still some religious strongholds.

Frank Schaffer, one of the founders of this religious movement as well as this wedding between the conservative base and fundamental evangelicals- has come out in full force against what he says he, ‘bitterly regrets’. I had recently read his book, “Why I am an Atheist who believes in God” and some of you here have seen him on Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal, helping her explain how this dastardly mix of fundamentalism and political ambition came to be. And I applaud him. He doesn’t mince words. He’s pretty blunt about who and what these people were and the damage that they’ve done to people who found themselves in the ‘other’ category.So often we hear on the news about Islamic fundamentalism. We saw it played out on September 11, 2001, we see it all the time on Fox News as they zero into the Middle EAst where fundamentalism has hijacked Islam. We saw it play out in London. And most recently at the Bataclan in Paris. And when we think of fundamentalism we think about these groups like ISIS, the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and we all sit in shocked silence at what it’s capable of. But we’ve not, until recently, started to look inward at a country whose been under the political sway of fundamentalism for the past thirty five – forty years. But we are beginning to. It’s beginning to happen as the rhetorical flourish of the far right becomes heightened, as they become more extreme in their actions, and as people like Frank Schaffer come forward to speak.You are going to learn or have learned some of the movers and shakers of this movement.

Just like Osama Bin Laden, Anwar Al Awlaki, etc and so forth names have been thrown out into the social consciousness or reintroduced into the social consciousness. Names like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Bob Jones Sr., Oral Roberts, Jack Hyles, Lester Roloff ( Rebekah homes in Corpus Christi), Dr. David Gibbs of the Christian Law Association, Dr. Curtis Hudson (Sword of the Lord Publishers), Jack Patterson (New Bethany homes- a protege of Roloff) etc and so forth – men, who for the most part, created this political, familial, and social black hole of absolutism, rhetorical flourish, control, misogyny, and any and all forms of abuse that can be thought of. The past thirty five to forty years as been a new dark ages when one takes a long view at the falling backward of rights concerning ‘other’. Gay Marriage has only succeeded in pushing forward, as well, as trans issues because of the loosening of the hold of these men and men like them, over the body politic of this country. And over time, these names are going to come to light and historians are going to have to deal with them.But there are other stories to be heard. And not just from people like Frank Shaffer or those minorities (black, hispanic, gay, women) as a whole who’d been directly affected by this unholy union of power and religion, but you’re going to begin (hopefully) to start to hear from people who lived under the direct influence of these men. Whose lives were directly impacted by absolutism.

Now that Pope Francis, and even several secular scientists – have come forward calling fundamentalism a mental illness (and one they contend can be treated if not cured), the question now is what do you with those who had been inside families of these mentally ill people for extended lengths of time. Mostly, I’m talking about the children, the survivors, of these homes and indirectly- these men who practiced what they preached.A friend shared a blog post  and a lot of other people have been circulating a blog post from some preacher admonishing these far right pastors for their behavior – and of course you’ve seen preachers show up to campuses, you’ve seen them outside of abortion clinics screaming at woman and workers, you’ve known they’ve sent amicus to the courts, and recently you saw a video where one walked through target with her bible screaming at the top of her lungs about transgendered bathrooms. But you’ve only caught a whiff of it. A hint of the sewage. Imagine being that woman’s children, imagine being the children of someone like Fred Phelps, imagine being directly involved with that amount of religious passionate fervor on a daily basis.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris gave a Ted Talk (follow here) recently about ACES – or Adverse Childhood Experiences (abuse :sexual, physical, mental, emotional, a mentally ill parent, etc) and essentially made it clear, that the higher your ACES score ( My score is an 8) – the higher your risk for chronic disease such as: Lung cancer, heart disease, chronic pulmonary lung disease, depression, and suicidality. “…With an ACE score of 4 or more, things start getting serious. The likelihood of chronic pulmonary lung disease increases 390 percent; hepatitis, 240 percent; depression 460 percent; suicide, 1,220 percent. “http://mbcc.mt.gov/…/Now%20that%20you’ve%20got%20your%20sco…Now when some people think about abuse they think about drug users, alcoholics, low income earners, sort of “those people” in “those areas” but the evidence doesn’t bear that out. Out of the 17,000 people tested they were all white, middle class – upper class, college educated people with health care through Kaiser- permanente.These children, these survivors, their lives are already statistically shortened. I think we need to start hearing from them. Because as this all starts to unravel, as the powers that be are forced apart from their religious donors and voting base – I think you’re going to find a terrible truth this country has been hiding for forty years. A lot of things have changed over the past year – and I think a lot of things are going to be changing from here on out.

The LEast of These (Christmas in MAY short story)

Hi all,
I was inspired by a recent law passed in my home state of Michigan, that outlaws what they call, “Aggressive Panhandling.”
And instead of writing a blog about how outraged I am, and pointing out that it was passed on party lines, from people who claim to love God the most, I figured I’d address it in a short story.
So, here you go.
The Least of These.
“The meeting of the city council of Corpus Christi will now come to order. Today’s meeting is to hear from the general public over City Council resolution 777, concerning the fining of aggressive panhandlers. The ordinance proposed by council member Melissa Hatfield would impose a one hundred dollar fine in the event that a complaint is made against the above mentioned by someone in the public or witnessed by a law enforcement officer. Soon we will hear conflicts concerning this bill before we vote on the matter. But first, I turn the floor over to Melissa who will explain the rationale for this bill, so, Melissa if you will, “Mayor Peabody finished speaking and sat back in his chair as he gazed out over the crowd of faces that were in the meeting hall this evening. It was six thirty and as his stomach rumbled angrily, reminding him that he had skipped breakfast and lunch today and knew his wife would have dinner waiting for him when he got home. Thankfully, none of the people here seemed to be moved by this proposed bill, and he was sure that he’d be able to get this meeting over. That is, of course, if Melissa didn’t take her sweet ass time explaining away her rational. She did so love the spotlight and as the public access camera turned toward her, he saw her sit up straighter in her chair and quickly brush aside her styled hair with her manicured fingernails, and grinned sweetly.
“Thank you, your honor, “Melissa said to the camera. “I am not only a member of Corpus Christi’s city council but, as I am sure you are all aware, I am also a business owner of a small bridal boutique on Staples Street here in our GORGEOUS city of Corpus Christi. And as such, I propose this bill in an attempt to remove a certain blight on our fair city. Now, I am a Christian woman, and I do not doubt that these poor souls who are seen on the corners of our city streets are in need of some help. But I also know, that some of these people are scam artists. Or are addicted to drugs and alcohol. And like so many of you out there, I’ve given to the poor countless times. But not with money. If they’re hungry, I offer to buy them food. And I did so the other day to one particular homeless woman. And do you know what she did. She refused me. She wanted money. “
Sweet Jesus, this is going to take all day, Mayor Peabody thought as he patted his ample belly. He hoped the growling in his gut wasn’t being caught on tape. But no one in the audience turned their head away from Melissa thankfully.
“So, CC 777, I believe would free people from the unsightly and often criminal element that is plaguing our streets. Panhandling is not only bad for our business, it’s bad for the people who engage in it. Everyone knows, hard work, is the only key to success in life. And these people, are trying to bypass that truth with handouts. Thank you.”
Through the hall there was a smattering of applause, the people who were there must not have come to hear about this issue, alone. Some of their faces were blank, some of them looked like they’d just sucked on a lemon, however, the majority of those gathered nodded their head in agreement with what Melissa had said.
She’ll be reelected that’s for sure, Mayor Peabody thought as he leaned forward and picked up his gavel.
“Does anyone want to address this issue before we take it to a vote?”
Please, can we just get through this? I’m starving!
Mayor Peabody raised his gavel and was about to announce the vote when a voice from the back spoke up, “I do Your Honor.”
A murmur rippled through the crowd as onlookers turned to see him standing there.
Mayor Peabody raised his head to see a man standing in the back of the room dressed head to toe in well-manicured fashion. His suit was finely cut and hugged his tall frame well, his face was clean shaven, and his hair combed back off his brow. He looked as if he’d come off the pages of a fashion magazine and walked forward with a certain self-assuredness that meant prestige. As hard as he tried, Mayor Peabody couldn’t for the life of him figure out who this man was as he approached the podium to speak. Surely, he would have crossed paths with a figure like that in the city during his election campaigns, fundraisers, debutant balls, or the ballet. However, he couldn’t figure it out.
He even turned his head toward various members of the board who all looked as blank as his mind was. Melissa even shrugged her shoulders when Peabody’s eyes met hers. As the mayor turned his head toward the people in the audience, he found all of their eyes glued to the figure who now stood at the head of the room awaiting, probably, the mayor’s permission to speak.
“Uh, uh, please state your name for the record, sir.”
Melissa looks nervous. Is this guy a lawyer? Probably some fag from the ACLU? That’s all we need. Jesus, I’m not going to make it home for supper.
Mayor Peabody turned his attention back to the man and when their eyes met, he felt himself shrivel inside. The man’s brown eyes were staring at him so intently, and a fire burned inside of them, the mayor feared that he may have spoken aloud. There was something about this man. Something Peabody couldn’t place…. but a hush had taken the crowd of onlookers.
“Before I introduce myself, your honor, ladies and gentlemen of the city council, ladies and gentlemen of the city of Corpus Christi, I want to make clear that I am here on behalf of several interested parties. I have been pulled from my place of work, my industry, to come and speak to you. My time is limited, given the current state of the world, I am working overtime. We all are. So, please, I intend to be succinct.
“Excuse me, Mr…but who are these interested parties you represent,” Melissa asked sitting forward. A smile had slid upon her face. Amusement. The rest of the board shifted uncomfortably in their seats.
“I represent the interests of humanity, Madam. Mercy, Charity, Benevolence, compassion, empathy, Forbearance. “
Melissa grinned and smiled sitting back in her chair. “Is that right? Well, sir, would you please state your name for the record.”
The man turned in the podium and addressed her, “I am the Ghost of Christmas past.”
Although Mayor Peabody heard some laughter in the audience, he noticed that most people had remained silent. Exchanging glances, some of them rolled their eyes, but others kept their eyes on the figure in front of them. The man’s face didn’t color, his eyes didn’t betray his statement, he didn’t smirk, he stood there in his statement as if he believed every word.
He’s nuts, Mayor Peabody thought. Once more the man turned his head to look at him, and once more his gaze was so intense that Peabody swallowed with a clicking noise in his throat. His stomach, once grumbling with hunger, squeezed itself with unease. He looked over to his right, passed the rest of the council to the police officer who stood watching the man with the same curiosity as the rest of the room. When Melissa spoke again, Peabody winced at her tone.
“Well, fortunately for us, Spirit. This is the end of May. It seems you are little early. Or late, depending on how you see it.”
The man turned his gaze once more to Melissa, “No ma’am. I believe I am right on time. As a matter of fact, I am here not only in my capacity as the ghost of Christmas past, but I am also here as a representative of The ghosts of present, as well as future. You see, like I said, we are being made really busy these days. So I promise not to delay much of your time. But I am here to address this council and to make a plea to the city’s people. You see, we don’t normally do this. We don’t interact with you.”
He’s off his rocker, his cheese has slid right off his cracker, Peabody thought as he started to motion for Officer Martinez to have him removed. But the man, spoke up, and his words chilled him to the bone. Without looking back at the mayor, but keeping his eyes on Melissa, he said, “I assure you, Mr. Mayor that I am not, in fact, nuts. My cheese – as it were- is safe and I am well sat upon my rocker. I also not a faggot from the ACLU nor any other outrageous and patently offensive things you may be thinking.”
Peabody felt like the floor had fallen out from underneath him as his jaw fell open. The council as well as the audience all muttered. Melissa was taken aback at his language, and her face had drained of color as she started to rise in her chair.
“Please sit, Melissa. “
The chair beneath her seemed to shift forward quickly and caught her behind her knees. She went down with a squeal that quickly was cut off with the raise of a finger of the man’s right hand. He now had everyone’s attention.
“Mr. Mayor, if I may continue?”
Peabody nodded.
“Corpus Christi is translated from The Latin for Body of Christ. And it is the irony of this certain bill that has brought me forward this evening to address you all. See, there’s more to a name, than just a name. When you name something, you invoke something. And this bill, from what I understand from these interested parties, flies right in the face of the name that you have bestowed upon yourselves. “
The spirit pulled out a single sheet of paper from his pocket and unfolded it and began to read, “The word aggressive written herein on the bill to be fined a maximum fine of one hundred dollars should they be found non-compliant in this ordinance.”
He raised his head, “The term aggressive can be widely interpreted. To include everyone. And these wide interpretations of ordinances and laws is what is keeping myself and my colleagues extraordinarily busy these days. You see, the irony of a bill like this, in a city like Corpus, in a state like Texas, and in a nation that so proclaims its love for Christ – write and enforce laws that are so morally abhorrent to humanity for whom Christ served. Now,” the man said turning to look around the audience, “…some of you are thinking that some of these people are drug addicts, are scammers, and some of them are alcoholics.”
A murmur rippled across the audience as some of the people sat up straighter in their chairs. But the man continued. “And it’s true. But ladies and gentlemen, one doesn’t have to be a spirit to understand that statistically there are alcoholics, drug addicts, and far worse in the midst of us right now who agree with this legislation. Although they shouldn’t as they themselves, given the nature of the current legal system, are one DWI, DUI, injury, or legal conundrum from being in the exact position as the least of these – find themselves.”
He continued, “But this bill has nothing to do with their situation, nor the state of their circumstances – although you don’t hesitate to cast judgement on them for it – this bill, is for you. Because seeing people like that, bothers you. It upsets you. It makes you uncomfortable. And despite the popular belief system that says rich people are somehow blessed by God and poor people must be sinners – that has allowed for this explosion in the creation of the category of ‘other’ something about all of that, doesn’t ring true when you see people like this. And you’re right. There is something about their state, that offends your conscience. And it should. That’s your humanity trying to speak to you. So your response? Remove them from your sight. Problem solved.”
“Sir, I find that offensive. We are Christian …,” Melissa started but stopped when the man held up his hand.
“No. The interested parties I represent; say no you aren’t. They also want to make it very clear, that when you put people into that category of other due to circumstances, you are moving yourself into the category of other as far as these parties are concerned. And the problem is far from solved. ‘That which you bind on earth, will be bound in heaven,’ and the chains that you forge in life, will be carried with you into death. You’ve been led to believe, that people are poor because they are lazy and refuse to work, and people are fat, because they are lazy and eat too much, or people are gay because of a choice they made. That they deserve to be castigated and cast out of society and deserve whatever chance has in store for them.”
Mr Peabody leaned forward, “So what you’re saying to me, is that we have to solve all the homelessness here in Corpus otherwise we’re damned?”
The man shook his head, “No. That is impractical. There has always been and will always be poor. What you’ve done was forgot that Christ was once homeless. And poor. And because you forgot that, you’ve abandoned your conscience and you stop trying to make homelessness go away. Now you just want the people to go away and pretend homelessness and other parts of humanity that are unlike your circumstances– don’t’ exist, due in large part to junk gospel of snake oil salesmen.”
“I’m sorry, your calling yourself the ghost of Christmas past. Taken from a book written by Charles Dickens but your pontificating like an angel from heaven.” Peabody said.
“Why am I not one and the same? Where do you think Charles got his influence? You read your Bible and yet you know God himself did not write it. Man did. Now, Mr. Mayor – Melissa- members of the city council, ladies and gentleman of the citizenry of the Body of Christ, I am going to leave you. You will not be visited by anyone else. No one else is coming. This was a last ditch effort to change your minds. No one else cares for the situations you’ve put yourselves in. We’re too busy intercepting your ‘others’. There are a lot of them now, more than ever. Remember what I said about the chains. Thank you for your time.”
Melissa was about to say something when the man raised his right hand and snapped his fingers….
“The meeting of the city council of Corpus Christi will now come to order. Today’s meeting is to hear from the general public over City Council resolution 777, concerning the fining of aggressive panhandlers. The fine proposed by council member Melissa Hatfield would impose a one hundred dollar fine for the above mentioned in the event that a complaint is made against the above mentioned by someone in the public or witnessed by a law enforcement officer. We will now hear from the public concerning this matter. Afterward, the council will adjourn for a vote. But first, I turn the floor over to Melissa who will explain the rational for this bill, so, Melissa if you will, “Mayor Peabody finished speaking and sat back in his chair as he gazed out over the crowd of faces that were in the meeting hall this evening. It was six thirty and as his stomach rumbled angrily, reminding him that he had skipped breakfast and lunch today and knew his wife would have dinner waiting for him when he got home. Thankfully, none of the people here seemed to be moved by this proposed bill, and he was sure that he’d be able to get this meeting over. That is, of course, if Melissa didn’t take her sweet ass time explaining away her rational. She did so love the spotlight and as the public access camera turned toward her, he saw her sit up straighter in her chair and quickly brush aside her manicured hair, with her manicured fingernails, and grin.
“Thank you, your honor, “Melissa said to the camera. “I am not only a member of Corpus Christi’s city council but, as I am sure you are all aware, I am also a business owner of a small bridal boutique on Staples Street here in our GORGEOUS city of Corpus Christi. And as such, I propose this bill in an attempt to remove a certain blight on our fair city. Now, I am a Christian woman, and I do not doubt that these poor souls who are seen on the corners of our city streets are in need of some help. But I also know, that some of these people are scam artists. Or are addicted to drugs and alcohol. And like so many of you out there, I’ve given to the poor countless times. But not with money. If they’re hungry, I offer to buy them food. And I did so the other day to one particular homeless woman. And do you know what she did. She refused me. She wanted money. “
Sweet Jesus, this is going to take all day, Mayor Peabody thought as he patted his ample belly. He hoped the growling in his gut wasn’t being caught on tape. But no one in the audience turned their head away from Melissa thankfully.
“So, CC 777, I believe would free people from the unsightly and often criminal element that is plaguing our streets. Panhandling is not only bad for our business, it’s bad for the people who engage in it. Everyone knows, hard work, is the only key to success in life. And these people, are trying to bypass that truth with handouts. Thank you.”
Through the hall there was a smattering of applause, the people who were there must not have come to hear about this issue, alone. Some of their faces were blank, some of them looked like they’d just sucked on a lemon, however, the majority of those gathered nodded their head in agreement with what Melissa had said.
She’ll be reelected that’s for sure, Mayor Peabody thought as he leaned forward and picked up his gavel.
“Does anyone want to address this issue before we take it to a vote?”
Please, can we just get through this? I’m starving!
No one in the crowd moved to approach the podium.
Thank God.
Mr. Peabody sat forward to speak again in the microphone and stopped himself. He swore he could hear the rattling of chains. The police officer moved from where he was standing to check the side door.
Other members of the council noticed as well and looked among themselves. Melissa’s face had gone white as a sheet.
“Mrs. Hatfield, are you okay? You look like you just saw a ghost.”
She raised her head to look at him and leaned forward to speak, “I uh…. I…uh…. maybe we should table this for another day.”
“Why? It’s perfectly reasonable? No one thinks there’s a problem with it.” Mr. Peabody said as they turned their attention to the people before them. The ones who had looked content with the bill were now murmuring angrily with each other.
Maybe she won’t be reelected.
Peabody watched as a fine sweat had broken out on her face as she surveyed the room and then back to the council. One of the other members sat forward in their chair, a representative of a poorer district asked “Did you just have a stroke of conscience?”
Peabody watched as she jumped at the question “What? Yes! Yes. This bill is wrong. This isn’t right. I’m sorry for even writing the damn thing. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
Peabody rolled his eyes, She’s nuts. Her cheese has slid right of her cracker.
“Can we just get this over with, I’m starving. Let’s bring it to a voice vote. All those in favor say aye.”
Five people on the council said Aye.
“All those opposed?”
Six said Nay.
“Very well. The ordinance doesn’t pass.”
And even though there was an angry murmur from those gathered, Melissa looked as if she’d dodged a bullet or been saved from perdition itself. She rested her hand over her heart and was breathing deeply.
She’ll lose her election, someone else will snatch that bill up, and use it against her. She knows that! What was she thinking?! She’s off her rocker.
“Very well, on to other business…….”
The End