Politics

Tea Party Speaker Touts ‘Schools Are Liberal And Evil’ Message In My Conservative, Rural Town

Lisa Watson is a modern-day Apostle Paul.

According to Christian tradition, Paul was travelling to Damascus when a voice from heaven and a bright light interrupted the trip. The episode led to his conversion and, indirectly, to the creation of most of the New Testament.

Watson, a speaker on the Tea Party circuit, also experienced a conversion. A self-described former member of the Left, her moment of truth included a voice and new outlook on life. Something was missing in Watson’s life, she said, and one evening, she sat down to watch “I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist.” This is how she described the aftermath (as reported in my local newspaper).

“By the time the show is over, I’m actually lightheaded. I curled on the side of my bed dizzy. And I heard a voice. The voice said, you are being lied to. My mind is racing. I’m thinking about everything he said.”

Fiscal Conservative Gone Bad

Watson presented her views in a small, inexpensive Eaton, Ohio venue ($25 an hour). The parking lot was filled on the night she advocated for a non-government funded approach to education — schools, she envisions, being operated by preachers and unpaid volunteers. The overall theme of her message (based on the newspaper article) was ‘public schools are the enemy — because they are liberal — and they are educating your children.’

She presented this message in a county:

  • That has supported a conservative political agenda for more than a century.
  • Where, in 2016, three out of four voters chose Trump.
  • That struggles to get ‘outsiders’ to teach — or substitute teach — in their school systems.
  • Where the local branch of the community college shuttered after less than a decade of service.
  • Where 11 percent do not graduate high school
  • Where 9 percent have an associate’s degree
  • Where only 14 percent have a 4-year college degree

Despite the lack of liberals in our educational system, and because of the lack of liberals in the community, her fear-based message resonates here.

Poor Choice of Venue

In a movement that prizes frugality above all else, the low-cost of the structure may have been a deciding factor, but Watson, and her supporters, could not have picked a more inappropriate edifice for the speech.

She presented the repressive ideology inside the Eaton Youth Center, located on the corner of Decatur Street and Park Avenue. When the building was constructed by Preble County youth, from reclaimed material, in the late 1930s, it was funded by the federal government as the activist government was seeking was to give young, unemployed individuals in small communities employment, and purpose. The head of the National Youth Administration, which funded the venture, said the building project was the ‘practical expression of the belief in the democratic form of government.’ In a Sunday edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the director said he was ‘especially proud of the Eaton Youth Center.’

But more desecrating than an ignorance that government involvement — and not unpaid volunteers — brought about the creation of the Youth Center — is the slap in the face of Stephen Decatur.

A Real Hero

Stephen Decatur, the man the street is named for, was the epitome of bravery. He faced a true enemy — as opposed to Watson’s manufactured ones. Decatur’s enemy was not his neighbors or fellow citizens.

In 1804 Decatur, and about 80 men, were commissioned to blow up a captured American ship. It was a suicide mission since the ship was anchored in a heavily-guarded enemy harbor. They embarked on the mission at night, without guns, so they would not alert nearby ships, and engaged in bloody hand-to-hand combat, before capturing the ship, setting it on fire, and escaping with their lives. The act was instrumental is changing the tide of the Tripoli War.

Preble’s Real Problems

Decatur’s history is obscure, so I would not expect Watson, or local members of the Tea Party to know it, but local organizers do know that Decatur Street is not heroic. If Watson, or her organizers, had researched problems affecting Eaton, and Preble County, they would have known that Decatur Street is home to much of Eaton’s drug activity.

About a month after Watson spoke, police agencies in Preble County conducted a ‘drug interdiction sting’ and posted the results on Facebook. In the comment section, one resident listed a Decatur Street home, close to the venue, as a drug house. But even a cursory look through the Eaton police reports demonstrate that Decatur Street has a drug problem.

Watson is correct on one thing — our society has problems in need of solutions — but she is woefully wrong on where she is placing the blame.


Afterthought

In Preble County we could start by:

  1. Improving wages for residents
  2. Creating more affordable housing
  3. Treating chemical addiction as a mental health issue, instead of a crime
  4. Removing blight buildings
  5. Developing amenities that improve the quality of life
  6. Upgrading our infrastructure
  7. Removing echo chambers and creating a community
  8. Solving the drug issue by going after distributors, and not focusing on small-time users/dealers
  9. Having employers create careers, instead of temporary jobs, so workers can build a future here
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Categories: 8th congressional district, My America, Politics, Preble County, Understanding Trump Counties | Leave a comment

Political Sabotage Behind Redistricting Scheme

For sale signs, including $50,000 off, adorn lawn of Preble County home.

If you can only read two chapters in Ratf**cked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count by David Daley, start with the short chapter on Mapitude. It will give you a feel for how easy it is to manipulate our democracy. You will begin to understand what GOP operative Karl Rove knew years ago — whoever controls redistricting controls the country. Then read the chapter, Iowa, to see how competitive districts can be created allowing the best candidate to win (okay, except for Rep. Steve King, his district is the only automatic win in the state — so even Iowa has not perfected the task.).

As the book notes, the software program Maptitude comes with all the expected political Census data — which regions voted for which party — and that info is delivered at the city block level — which and when election maps are imported — it creates makes it a powerful tool. That, in and of itself, though is not new, it’s just more precise and easier to manipulate due to computer technology, but the program also includes marketing type data — similar to online tracking ads — that enable map makers to project expected voting patterns with increasing accuracy because

…you can create an index that bounds enough of the right people, in the right way, to guarantee a result throughout the decade, no matter the overall direction of the electorate. In states such as Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, partisan mapmakers used complicated indexes like this with the intention of drawing not only as many Republican seats as they could, but seats that would remain reliably Republican even in an off-year for the party.

Partisanship On Steroids

As an Ohioan whose U.S. Congressional vote has been disenfranchised, I am well aware of the downside that the unethical redistricting maps has caused. For starters, it created an environment that gave rise to the Freedom Caucus, which has at least two Ohio members (including Warren Davidson who presides over Ohio’s 8th Congressional District where I live). The Freedom Caucus does not have a reason to compromise (which the book does discuss). This unwillingness to compromise adds to the partisanship destroying Congress — at the expense of small towns like mine which are economically deprived and filled with a tainted labor pool due to our overly-aggressive approach to drug addiction. No solutions exist at the local level and no help is offered from the state or federal level. So small communities, like Eaton, Ohio, falter while Davidson and Freedom Caucus members push an anti-safety net agenda in line with what groups like Club for Growth want instead of what constituents need.

Controlling Swing States

Although courts are now pushing back against the partisan gerrymandering, the average voter fails to understand that political operatives have more power than them. These operatives seek ways to manipulate the system to keep their party in power. The book looks at some of the key states where gerrymandering has impacted the nation. These include:

  • Pennsylvania
  • North Carolina
  • Michigan
  • Ohio
  • Florida
  • Wisconsin
  • Arizona

Daley dedicates a chapter to each of the states, interviewing and reporting on the key mapmakers in each. Of course, this could become very dry material so he mixes it up with non-state chapters.

Even though gerrymandering is not a subject most Americans care to study, the book is written in laymen terms so the casual reader can understand how it eliminates their vote. For political operatives, the American voting system is just a game of chess, complete with intense, well-thought out strategies, to control the process. The end result, when the system is not seen as fair, is a disinterested public manipulated into accepting a party’s agenda, even when the agenda does not represent what the majority of Americans want.

Ohio is a fairly evenly divided state — which is why we are considered a swing state — but, due to gerrymandering, 12 of our 16 U.S. Congressmen are GOP. And, as the book points out, when the 2010 redistricting campaign was underway in Ohio, the GOP worked hard to keep the public out of the process. Ohio state representative Kathleen Clyde, a Democrat currently campaigning for Ohio Secretary of State, interviewed in the book, comments on how the map-drawing process was handled in Ohio. Clyde notes two tactics used by the GOP, the majority party in state offices, in 2010.

  • scheduling public meetings during working hours
  • conducting meetings without any proposed redistricting maps for the public to view.

Clyde explains,

They do that on purpose, too. Chaos, confusion, trying to make government look incompetent. It’s a very cynical approach designed to keep people from having faith in their government and wanting to participate in the electoral process. When less people turn out, Republicans do better. Especially in Ohio.

REDMAP 101

For non-political junkies, the 2010 GOP REDMAP strategy may come as a surprise which, again, is to be expected due to the complicated nature of Congressional districts. Since the book is critiquing the tactic, many of the counterarguments provided are from left-leaning individuals who feel a representative democracy should, well, be representative of the population.

As Mark Sailing, resident fellow at Cleveland State University’s Levin College of Affairs, notes a level of hypocrisy from those who believe in limited government interference.

People on the right complain about big government taking away our rights. Yet the most fundamental right of a democracy, the right to have your vote count, these same people don’t seem to be worried about it. It strikes me as insane.

The Term

In order to make the book more publically accessible asterisks were used in the title. Ratfuck is a Washington D.C. term for political sabotage. If one watches shows like Veep, they learn that D.C. is filled with people who love to use a lot of ‘colorful metaphors.’

Rating 5/5. This is an excellent, easy-to-read, primer on gerrymandering and why, due to technological advances, gerrymandering is a legitimate threat to democracy.

Categories: 8th congressional district, My America, Politics

‘American Prophecies’ And The Vision Of A God-Ordained U.S.

We have lots of Stand With Israel signs in Preble County. One can only speculate what the signs would say if the Shepherd of Hermes, instead of The Revelation of John, had been included in the Bible as originally planned. This sign is attached to a Baptist Church in Camden, Ohio.

Two men walking up the hill, one disappears and one’s left standing stillI Wish We’d All Been Ready, Larry Norman, Upon This Rock, 1969. This song, which includes the phrase, ‘the Son has come and you’ve been left behind,’ was a conservative Christian anthem in the late 60s and early 70s. It may have been the inspiration for the Left Behind series penned by Tim LeHaye and Jerry Jenkins. More than 65 million of the books have sold worldwide. The song has been recorded by Pat Boone, Cliff Richards and a slew of CCM artists.


Let me begin by saying, I don’t believe it.

I don’t believe in the Rapture. I don’t believe in Armageddon and I certainly don’t believe that Israel is part of God’s plan. It’s about politics and exploiting fear.

But I wanted to learn about the Israel movement because of the overwhelming number of ‘Stand with Israel’ signs in my county. When I first noticed them years ago, I mocked them, not grasping what they really meant — that a regressive, apocalyptic worldview was invading my community. It’s a worldview that believes the end of time will occur with Armageddon in Israel.

Growing up in an evangelical church whose brand had a muddy view of the end times, I was never overly interested in Armageddon — or its common partner — the rapture. The rapture is a worldview that asserts the righteous will be ‘taken away’ into paradise while the rest of us are left on earth to learn a hard lesson.

This worldview was told (and sold) in exhausting detail via the Left Behind book series.

The Fearful Faithful

Fundamentalism is the preferred form of Christianity in my part of America. Literal signs of this belief structure are everywhere — from the ‘If you die tonight, will you go to Heaven or Hell?’ billboards along I-70 to the ‘repent and be baptized’ sign as you enter Camden, Ohio. In the past several decades, despite a declining population, we have seen the number of our churches grow — with an increasing move toward stricter interpretations of what the ‘Bible really means.’

Despite our growing number of churches, fear is pervasive, with many local churches compelled to remind citizens that we are a ‘Christian nation’ under siege by the forces of evil. In a recent letter to the editor the minister of the Eaton Church of Christ explains the presence of small white crosses starting to pop up throughout Preble County.

“We have decided that if our local, state, and federal governments are going to bow to the demands of those who would see all the symbols of the Christian foundation of this nation removed, then we will do our best to remind them…They (the white crosses) are a way to remind those around us that this nation became the greatest nation in the world because of its Christian foundations: true morality, Christian principles and the providence of the one true God and creator.”

This approach to interpreting America’s history is common among fundamentalist who have decided that, just like with the Bible, they are the only ones to be trusted with understanding our country’s nuanced beginnings.

God Knows Best

Fundamentalism exploits the simple faith of many, and few do it better than bestselling author Michael D. Evans. In American Prophecies: Ancient Scriptures Reveal Our Nation’s Future, Evans details how America is in the path of prophecy as he analyzes current and past U.S. events surrounding the Nation of Israel. According to Evans, the U.S. and Israel were chosen by god as part of a divine plan to save (most of) the world.

The book is worth reading to better understand the reasoning behind the Stand with Israel movement. This peculiar, fundamentalist movement has believers sadistically waiting for a nuclear war to prove their interpretation of the Bible is correct.

Evans builds his case for Israel’s holy role in America (and vice versa) by relying on Old Testament verses that, he says, prove America is part of the ‘prophecy stream.’ He details the various times in American history when presidents succeeded, or failed, to follow God’s will concerning the Jews. Overall, it appears that the GOP has been better at understanding God’s will than the Democrats, as one would expect based on the author’s political affiliations. But, politics aside, Evans does appear to truly believe that we have divine protection as a country.

God’s Protection

One example Evans gives is General George Washington.

According to Evans, on the battlefield bullets tore through Washington’s coat, but did not pierce his flesh. This, and other events like it, are proof to Evans that that God’s hand was working as a shield for Washington as God guided the country’s inception. But, as anyone who has read war accounts know, these type of ‘miracles’ are fairly common throughout history.

By Evans’ logic Dick Winters (Band of Brothers) or a Preble County WWII vet I met years ago were protected by God. This local soldier’s story of survival includes many ‘intuitions’ that saved his life (‘move away from that tree’) and in one incident, as an 18-year-old soldier, he was one of only two to survive a SS ambush. This man, who detailed other unexplainable events, said he struggled with understanding how he was saved in battle when the guy next to him was killed.

This phenomenon is commonly referred to as survivor’s guilt, but for Evans, in the case of Washington, it was part of a master plan.

What Were They Thinking?

The book employs a retelling — or a ‘getting inside the head’ — of past president’s action and in Evans’ defense his life has intertwined with a lot of high-ranking political figures so he would be privy to some of their thought processes. The book was published in 2004 so 9/11 and the president all conservatives love to hate — Bill Clinton — was still fresh on Evans’ mind.

So, as expected, throughout the book Evans political leanings often influence his spiritual insights. But, at times, his reasoning feel insane.

For example, Evans quotes an unnamed ‘brilliant and respected scholar whom I have known for decades,’ who gives yet another verification that God is protecting Israel. The scholar says,

“If you look at a satellite image of the city of Jerusalem, you will see the tetragrammaton YHWH. It is clearly visible in the photos.”

YHWH is the Hebrew word for Yahweh — the ‘unspoken name of God,’ Evans says.

Moving The Embassy

As spiritual advisor to 45* Evans was elated when the U.S. Embassy was recently moved to Jerusalem, saying at a December ceremony honoring Trump,

No president in history has ever built such an alliance for the State of Israel and the Jewish people, and no president has courageously stood up for the State of Israel on the global stage as you had Mr. President.

The embassy move is a mixed bag of blessings. If you believe in biblical prophecies, we’re one step closer to the end, and if you don’t believe, well a hard lesson is awaiting.

No Rating on Book. If one wishes to understand the ‘end times’ mindset, but does not want to read the 16-part Left Behind series, this succinct work should do the trick. The book I read is a signed edition –and since I bought it at Goodwill it was discarded by the original owner. I’m not sure what that says about the destination of his/her soul.


Afterthought

As Evans explains in the book, 65 million Americans profess to be Christian and he pontificates what would happen if the Rapture occurred today emptying the country of their souls. It was this argument that almost made me a believer since I could not see a downside.

“Realize, also, if that (the Rapture) happened today it would take our president. Who else would it take? How many members of the Senate? The House? How many judges? How many governors? How many mayors and city council members?”

Although I find the belief system superstitious, one part of the book I did find intriguing — and somewhat entertaining — was the list of Bible verses each U.S. president used when sworn in. Some, like Reagan understood the marketing power of a verse while others, like Lincoln, just let the Bible fall open. At least one president, Pierce, chose not to use a Bible at the inauguration.

Categories: American History, Books I have read, My America, Politics, Religion | Tags: , ,