One person who responded to this said, "Come on. Stop with the alarmist talk, it doesn't help anything or anyone. My life depends neither on whether I vote nor who I vote for."
My response is that privilege will do that to you. But you'd have to be blind not to see that not all Americans are so fortunate, and making this claim implies that you don't give a rat's ass what happens to them. What I said was neither hyperbole nor a ham-handed attempt to stir people up; it was simply a fact, if not for everyone, for a great number of people who are finding their rights curtailed and in some cases their identities legislated out of existence.
Let me give you just one example -- Representative Matt Shea, of Washington State, who is on the ballot for re-election on Tuesday. Shea is a religious nut job who just published a four-page "manifesto" outlining what should be our approach to fighting wars on God's behalf. The part that stands out is this:
Rules of WarYes -- there is a man running for Congress, as an incumbent, who believes that I (as a male supporter of same-sex marriage, and someone who doesn't obey biblical law) should be killed.
- Avoid bloodshed if possible.
- Make an offer of peace before declaring war.
- Not a negotiation or compromise of righteousness.
- Must surrender on terms of justice and righteousness:
- Stop all abortions;
- No same-sex marriage;
- No idolatry or occultism;
- No communism;
- Must obey Biblical Law.
- If they yield, must pay share of work or taxes.
- If they do not yield -- kill all males.
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, of Spokane County, has turned over the "manifesto" to the FBI. As well he should. It is a direct, specific threat against a (large) group of American citizens based on one thing and one thing only -- religion. If someone can explain to me the difference between this and ISIS's continual cry of "kill all the infidels," I'd appreciate it.
Gustave Doré, Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople (1877) [Image is in the Public Domain]
Which I'm calling bullshit on. If you read the document, he is clearly not outlining, in some kind of academic way, the rules of holy warfare in Bronze-Age Israel. He goes into some detail about the command structure of God's Army, using terms like "corporal," "sergeant," "captain," and so on.
Now, I'm no biblical scholar, so correct me if I'm wrong, but my sense is that these are not terms that were used by Joshua's soldiers at the Siege of Jericho.
Oh, and he says that to be part of God's Army, guys need to be circumcised.
Is it just me, or are these ultra-religious nutcakes really fascinated by guys' naughty bits? I swear, people like Shea care more about what I do with my dick than I do.
The scariest part of this is that this is not some lone loony crying out in the wilderness; this guy is in a credible position of being re-elected. Not surprising considering our leadership; Vice President Mike Pence is himself an evangelical hard-liner, to the point that after the shootings at the Pittsburgh synagogue last week, he couldn't even bring himself to get an actual Jewish rabbi to offer words of comfort. The guy who did the speaking -- Loren Jacobs -- is a member of the "messianic Jews," sometimes called "Jews for Jesus," who believe that Jews in general are destined for hell, and will only be saved if they accept Jesus. (The other upside, I guess, is that they get to keep their cultural Judaism, which is why people like Jacobs don't speak of this as an actual conversion.)
So yes, voting for one of these people is saying that you don't care if people in demonized groups live in peace or get murdered. At least own up to it and stop trying to soft-pedal the truth.
In my fifty-odd years of being aware of politics, next week's election is far and away the one that is the most crucial. It feels like we're at a crossroads between turning our nation around, reclaiming the tolerance and acceptance that have always been part of our national heart, or accelerating the slide into fascism. So let me amend my statement in the previous paragraph; not only is voting for people like Shea accepting Trump's brutal, ultra-Christian, white nationalist view of what the U.S.A. should be, not voting is the same thing. Because it's fucking well certain that the people who are on Shea's side -- and Trump's -- are not going to sit this one out.
So next Tuesday, vote. Shed your complacency. Find others who aren't sure if they want to make the effort, and give them a gentle nudge. Offer to drive people to the polls. If we can't do this, I fear that we are in for a very, very dark time ahead.
This week's Skeptophilia book recommendation is a wonderful read -- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Henrietta Lacks was the wife of a poor farmer who was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1951, and underwent an operation to remove the tumor. The operation was unsuccessful, and Lacks died later that year.
Her tumor cells are still alive.
The doctor who removed the tumor realized their potential for cancer research, and patented them, calling them HeLa cells. It is no exaggeration to say they've been used in every medical research lab in the world. The book not only puts a face on the woman whose cells were taken and used without her permission, but considers difficult questions about patient privacy and rights -- and it makes for a fascinating, sometimes disturbing, read.
[If you purchase the book from Amazon using the image/link below, part of the proceeds goes to supporting Skeptophilia!]