Voice of Reason
Local radio personality Tom Barberi spoke at our October general membership meeting. His remarks covered a wide range of topics including politics, his own recently forced unemployment, corporate America, etc. He started his remarks by complimenting our organization and our ideals, especially the notion that human beings ought to solve human problems. Here are a few quotes:
I do not want to talk about religion but if you’re a Christian, I’ve got some bad news for you. He’s not coming back. I look out every morning and I see no signs.
I am a big sports fan, that’s the reason I went to college. Were it not for the opportunity to play sports, avoid the draft, and chase girls, I never would have gone to college.
I was fortunate enough to be such a lousy athlete that I got enough injuries to keep me out of the draft. I didn’t do it the George Bush way; I didn’t have that kind of influence. I certainly did not do it the John Kerry way which was to have the courage to go over there and actually do something that at the time people felt needed to be done. As we all found out, though, it didn’t need to be done, and as we’re finding out now, what’s being done in Iraq doesn’t need to be done, obviously the way it needs to be done…does that make sense at all? I feel like I sound like Donald Rumsfeld.
So what we have here are two individuals, one of whom is going to become the leader of the free world…again…or maybe for the first time and neither one of them are the absolute best choices. This is because our system has devolved to the point where real people, humanists if you will, where the best never get involved…but we do not hire the best people because we cannot interview them. Being elected to public office is the only job in the country where you have to have no qualifications, background, or experience to get. If you want to be a doctor or a lawyer, you have to have a license. If you want to cut hair, you have to have a license. If you want to be a Governor, nada. President, nothing. When we elect an individual, as soon as that person wins the election, we imbue that individual with wisdom, knowledge, and experience that they never have had, never will have, and cannot possibly possess. But because we give them the title, we subconsciously think that this person knows something about something that they don’t know anything about. We should question these people constantly.
We need term limits, we’ve got Orrin Hatch, Senator for life. We have a return rate to Congress of something like 98%. They are like ticks, once they get in, you can’t get them out, they have to die. As a matter of fact Strom Thurmond was dead for 12 years before they finally drug him out. It is a sad state, and it is our own fault. How does Orrin Hatch who has served in the Senate at a salary of $135,000 a year amass tens of millions of dollars of wealth? How do you do that? And it is certainly not on his music! We get the kind of government we deserve.
Corporate America has taken over newspapers, radio, and TV. There is such competition to be the first with the most sensational, its all about ratings. And if you watch Fox News, it should really be on the Comedy channel. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of the GOP.
The Electoral College is an archaic antique that should have been put to bed decades ago. Colorado’s proposition to divide the electoral votes is a step in the right direction. Think back to 2000 when the vote for the presidency was five to four and cast by the Supreme Court. Here we are ostensibly exporting democracy to Iraq where one guy, who is a man wearing a dress made George Bush the president.
This “us vs. them” goes back to ruling by fear. This is how it has been done throughout the ages. Whoever the king or the emperor is, or the Pope, or the President, or the Prophet or whatever. You keep people afraid and you keep them thinking they have to tow the mark and you end up with a herd mentality. All of your friends are going this way, so I’ll go along with them. You have this flock of birds going one direction or another. None of them really knows where they are going. We need more freethinkers who will examine the issues and make informed decisions.
Religion and Politics do not mix. Our Founding Fathers were smart enough to create a separation of church and state. Religion has nothing to do with politics. If religion were that important it would be in the Constitution…it is NOT! And by the way, the Constitution was not divinely inspired, it was inspired by a lot of beer at Fraunces Tavern.
We are the richest country on earth, and there is no reason why this country cannot find a way to take care of the health needs of our citizens. It is unconscionable that we can vaccinate and take care of people around the worlds, and yet we have people in our own country who go to bed hungry and no health care.
It is my lifelong ambition is to legalize adulthood; and it is a glacial process. It is simply what you humanists preach: it is adults using reasoning to make reasonable decisions, to solve problems for themselves. I don’t need the State to tell me what book to read, what movie to watch, what TV show to patronize, what I should eat or drink. The government in Utah treats us like children, we are not bright enough to make our own decisions.
How Conservatives Won the Heart of America
Richard Layton’s Discussion Group Report
“The poorest county in America isn’t in Appalachia or the Deep South. It is on the Great Plains, a region of struggling ranchers and dying farm towns, and in the election of 2000 the Republican candidate for president, George W. Bush carried it by a majority of votes.
“That puzzled me when I first read about it, as it puzzles many of the people I know. For us it is the Democrats that are the party of workers, of the poor, of the weak and the victimized. Understanding this, we think, is basic; it is part of the ABCs of adulthood. When I told a friend of mine about that impoverished High Plains country so enamored of President Bush, she was perplexed. ‘How can anyone who has ever worked for someone else vote Republican?’ she asked…”
“Her question is apt; it is in many ways the preeminent question of our times. People getting their fundamental interests wrong is what American political life is all about. This species of derangement is the bedrock of our civic order; it is the foundation on which all else rests,” says Thomas Frank in his recently published book, What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. Frank sees the conservative takeover of American politics as contrary to the economic interests of middle class and lower income people.
If you earn over $300,000 a year, he goes on, you owe a great deal to this derangement. It is thanks to their self-denying votes that you are no longer burdened by the estate tax, or troublesome labor unions, meddling bank regulators, and what your affluent forebears used to call “confiscatory” tax levels. Thanks to them you are able to buy two Rolexes this year instead of one and get that Segway with the special gold trim.
Yet millions of average Americans see nothing deranged about this at all. Frank tells of his friend’s father, who was a teacher in the local public schools, a loyal member of the teacher’s union, and a more dedicated liberal than most. But he eventually converted. These days he votes for the farthest right Republicans he can find on the ballot. The issue that brought him over was abortion. He was persuaded in the early nineties that the sanctity of the fetus outweighed all his other concerns, and then he accepted the whole pantheon of conservative devil-figures: the elite media; the American civil Liberties Union, contemptuous of our values; the la-di-da feminists; the idea that Christians are vilely persecuted–right here in the U.S.A. His new hero, Bill O’Reilly, blasts the teacher’s union as a group that “does not love America.” Or maybe he got sick of hearing rich kids bad-mouth the country back in 1968. Or maybe it was Richard Nixon when he talked about the “silent majority,” whose hard work was rewarded with constant insults from network news, the Hollywood movies, and the know-it-all college professors, who had no interest in anything you had to say. Or maybe it was the liberal judges who got you mad as hell. Or maybe Ronald Reagan pulled you into the conservative swirl by talking about that sunshiny, Glenn Miller America you remembered before America went to Hell.
And Frank’s friend’s dad’s superaverage Midwestern town has followed the same trajectory he has, even as Republican economic policy laid waste to the city’s industries, unions and neighborhoods. The townsfolk responded by lashing out on cultural issues, eventually winding up with a hard-right congressman, a born-again Christian campaigning largely on an anti-abortion platform.
“Today,” says Frank, “the city looks like a miniature Detroit. And with every bit of bad economic news it seems to get more bitter, more cynical, and more conservative still.”
This derangement is an expression of the Great Backlash, a style of conservatism that first came snarling onto the national stage in response to the partying and protests of the late sixties. The backlash mobilizes voters with explosive issues–summoning public outrage over everything from busing to un-Christian art–which it then marries to pro-business economic policies. Cultural anger is marshaled to achieve economic ends. The backlash has made possible the recent international free-market consensus with all of its privatization, deregulation, and deunionization that are its components. It ensures that Republicans will continue to be returned to office even when their free-market miracles fail and their libertarian schemes don’t deliver. The backlash imagines itself as the foe of the elite, as the voice of the unfairly persecuted and as a righteous protest of the people. The movement’s basic premise is that values matter most, and on these grounds rallies citizens who once would have been reliable partisans of the New Deal to the standard of conservatism. But once conservatives are in office, the only old-fashioned situation they care to revive is an economic regimen of low wages and lax regulation. They talk Christ but walk corporate. They have smashed the welfare state, reduced the tax burden on corporations and the wealthy and generally facilitated the country’s return to a nineteenth century pattern of wealth distribution. This is a working-class movement that has done incalculable, historic harm to working-class people.
“Values,” points out Frank, “may ‘matter most’ to voters, but they always take a back seat to the needs of money once the elections are won… Abortion is never halted, affirmative action is never halted. The culture industry is never forced to clean up its act…” The grandstanding leaders of the true believers never deliver, the fury of the believers mounts, and nevertheless they turn out every two years to return their right-wing heroes to office for a second, third and twentieth tries. “With a little more effort, the backlash may well repeal the entire 20th century.”
“On closer inspection the country seems like a panorama of delusion and madness…of sturdy blue-collar patriots reciting the Pledge while they strangle their own life chances; of small farmers proudly voting themselves off the land; of devoted family men carefully seeing to it that their children will never be able to afford college or proper health care; of working-class guys in Midwestern cities cheering as they deliver up a landslide for a candidate whose policies will end their way of life, will transform their region into a ‘rust belt;’ will strike people like them blows from which they will never recover.”
For more than 300 years the liberal tradition has sought to free people from the tyranny of religious doctrines. Today’s evangelical right detests that tradition and seeks nothing short of a state-sponsored religion. If we don’t focus the public’s attention on the larger ongoing assault on religious liberty, the evangelical right will whittle away these freedoms.
The issues of abortion, civil unions, creationism, school prayers, and sex education are all about imposing religious views on the body politic. However important religion is to our spiritual lives, there is no room for liberty in a theocracy.
Building A Positive Image
What do we call ourselves? Atheist, Agnostic, Nontheist, Freethinker? What do we want other people to call us? This question has inspired endless discussion, sometimes civil and sometimes downright cantankerous.
The sad fact is, our well-meaning friends have painted themselves-and us-into a negative, exclusionary corner. We are left out when the language of ‘inclusiveness’ uses phrases like “people of all faiths and none,” that only heightens the contrast between us.
We will never break out of the corner if we, too, use language that implies opposition and exclusion. Humanists are convinced that reason, logic, critical thinking and common sense are the tools to problem solving. I suggest that we write and speak about “people of all faiths and convictions,” and urge our friends to do the same. “Conviction” has a positive ring! And it is inclusive. It acknowledges that we share something in common with people of all faiths: our common humanity.
“People of all faiths and convictions” is the basis for positive, inclusive language that humanists and our friends can use to build recognition, freedom, and equality.
Dr. Francis Crick
June 18, 1916 – June 28, 2004
(Washington, D.C., July 29, 2004) Dr. Francis Crick, the preeminent scientist and prominent Humanist, died July 28, 2004, of colon cancer. Dr. Crick’s extraordinary insight and intelligence contributed to a cornerstone scientific achievement. In 1953, Dr. Crick and James Dewey Watson discovered the double-helix structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. The two subsequently received the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1962. Dr. Crick also studied physics earlier in his career and later switched to studying neuroscience. He was widely quoted regarding his nontheistic examinations of the border between living and nonliving.
Dr. Crick’s reputation as an atheist and a humanist created controversy, but he steadfastly defended his views and has even acknowledged that his rejection of a religious world view helped form his reasons for exploring scientific investigation into questions about life. At the Golden Jubilee of the Atheist Centre in India in 1990 Dr. Crick stated, “I have no doubt, as will emerge later, that this loss of faith in Christian religion and my growing attachment to science have played a dominant part in my scientific career not so much on a day-to-day basis but in the choice of what I have considered interesting and important. I realized early on that it is detailed scientific knowledge which makes certain religious beliefs untenable.” In his 1994 book, The Scientific Search for the Soul, he advocated scientific study of the human soul as he looked into questions about human consciousness.
Dr. Crick publicly supported humanism as a notable signatory of the American Humanist Association’s Humanism and Its Aspirations, the third Humanist Manifesto, and he also signed the document’s predecessor, Humanist Manifesto II. He additionally lent his support to the humanist holiday Darwin Day. In 1986 he accepted the AHA’s Humanist Distinguished Service award.
Fred Edwords, editor of the Humanist magazine said today, “Francis Crick was an admirable Humanist in his unwavering commitment to scientific naturalism and his creativity, curiosity, intelligence, kindness, modesty, and fascination with the questions of life.” He was 88 years old at the time of his death and is survived by his wife, Odile Speed; two daughters, Gabrielle Crick and Jacqueline Nichols; a son, Michael Crick; and four grandchildren.
Obituary published by the American Humanist Association
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