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Well we are “South” Dakota…

Confederate Flag

A new flag at a house on my way home! My guess is it’s been a month since I’ve been by, so this is something that’s popped up since the election. THIS is the kind of behavior that I guess is now normalized, thanks to our election of an openly bigoted pig of a man as President.

I work at a facility that’s outside of Sioux Falls in the middle of nowhere, which gives me the somewhat unique opportunity to drive gravel roads to and from work if I so wish.  I have several different roads I can take, but today took a gravel road I haven’t taken for probably a month.  I found a new feature on the road!  Joe White Trash Redneck decided to add a second flag to his flag pole…a Confederate Flag.

We ARE “South” Dakota I guess, and unlike those liberal heathens up in North Dakota, there are clearly many of South Dakotans that still harbor old-time convictions.  Who am I kidding…there are white trash rednecks like this all over the country, and lily-white South Dakota is no exception.  The difference is that unlike the South, here we wrap our bigotry and racism in good ol’ fashioned Midwestern “niceness”.

I’ve lived in Nebraska or South Dakota nearly all my life, save for a couple of years spent in Washington D.C. just after college.  I know what people are like, and I’ve always known the “nice Midwesterner” label was a farce.  People are people, and I certainly didn’t notice any difference in “niceness” in D.C. vs. here.  People certainly drive like assholes EVERYWHERE, whether you’re on the jam-packed freeways around D.C. or on the roads around Sioux Falls!  Any pride South Dakotans or other Midwesterners may take in their civility melts away quickly when you peek just under the surface.  Conservative values that dominate here are remarkably similar to conservative values in the deep South, where people may wrap themselves in a cloak of piety and religious belief, but that cloak is simply a cover for some very deep-rooted bigotry and racism.

Is it good or bad that the Trump election normalizes this kind of behavior?  What does it say that a house I’ve passed countless times in the past 23 years never had a Confederate flag flying, yet within a month of Trump being elected, it proudly flies next to the American flag?

Insecure white (trash/redneck/losers) have certainly gotten payback after 8 years of a (gasp!) black president, and with the choice of Trump, people are seemingly becoming much less shy about showing their true colors.

Try walking in someone else’s shoes…

Perspective. If you’re a voter in lily-white land who thinks this is a “normal” election and it’s just another guy who won, just for a second look at things from the viewpoint of my co-workers at a VERY diverse workplace, my friends, my acquaintances:

– My Somali-born, Muslim, immigrant friend with 2 of the most beautiful young children you ever saw. Now has to explain to them why the President of the United States labels Muslims as terrorists, and just yesterday in Minnesota told a crowd about the threat of Somali immigrants.

– My female friend who first harassed, then sexually assaulted by a co-worker, now having to face an America where that’s “OK”, where the President himself openly discusses assault and is accused by many, many women of assault.

– My Latino friend, being told by his president that his kind are “rapists”, primarily criminals, hordes invading from the south that are taking jobs from good white folk

– Or a COMPLETELY hypothetical story of a father in South Dakota, with the most perfect young son in the world, a son with Type-1 diabetes. Think of it from that perspective, knowing Trump said the first thing he’ll do in office is eliminate Obamacare, eliminate abilities to carry insurance across jobs, eliminate guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions, eliminate the capability to carry your child on your insurance until they turn 26. Put yourself in that father’s shoes, and fucking tell yourself that this is “OK”, that your son faces a world where his very HEALTH is less important than politics, where HATE won an election and cost him his health care.

Try walking in those shoes for a bit before laughing off this election as just the same old “politics”.

Speaking of an anti-fact culture…

When I first started blogging, on a blog where I’ve now removed all content, much of the focus was on politics. It got to be too much.  It’s absolutely disgusting what happens on blogs online, with the insults, intimidation, and pure HATRED that becomes apparent.  Because of that, I stopped talking about politics, and rebooted my blog to focus on science, birds, and photography.

I’m going to break with my “no politics” pledge for one post, and one post only.   This is just too much to ignore, especially given my last post about Americans and their turn against science…against FACT.  That same attitude is pervasive in this election. It all started back in the 1990s.  You had a zealous Congressional contingent at the same time that right-wing talk radio started spewing hate.  Started spewing conspiracies.  Started spewing lies.  Suddenly the sole purpose of the “opposition” Congress was to investigate and oppose, rather than legislate.

We’ve had 20 years of the same mentality.  The next election now is the ONLY thing that matters, and every political decision is made solely on that basis.  Legislative accomplishment?  Virtually absent, save for the few, short periods when one party controlled both the White House and Congress.

This mentality, based on hate, based on conspiracy, has COMPLETELY warped what is important in an election.  Those conspiracy theories? A completely IGNORANT American public now treats them as fact, rather than pure, politically motivated pipe dreams. The Clintons murdered Vince Foster!  Obama is a Muslim, born in Kenya!! Hillary was personally responsible for Benghazi (and evidently every other negative thing that’s ever occurred on the planet).  Never mind that none of these have any evidence!  Never mind that millions in taxpayer dollars have been wasted on pointless investigations, witch-hunts that have turned up exactly…nothing.

Yet an ignorant American public still believes THESE are the issues that matter the most.  They still believe these are REAL events, REAL controversies, rather than politically manufactured bullshit.  Just as my previous post on the anti-science movement in the U.S., politics has become a fact-free zone.

The result?   You’ve got a true pig of a human being in Trump, a racist, a misogynist, an ignorant, lying, self-serving blowhard who has one quality that has gotten him where he’s at…he’s been smart enough to tap into the ignorance and hatred of those who have been spoon-fed bullshit for 20 years.  Incredibly vulgar tapes where Trump sounds like a 19-year frat boy, rather than the potential President of the United States?  No worries to these folks!  In the world of hate in which they live, fact-free conspiracy theories are more important that the character and ability of “their” candidate to actually lead.

The fact that a man like Trump was actually nominated as a candidate of a major party, the fact that he’s a month away from potentially winning the presidency, DESPITE proving himself to truly be one of the most DEPLORABLE men on the planet, is just a natural outcome from 20-years of hate, 20-years of conspiracy-theory, 20-years of ignorance.

I’m flabbergasted. The fact that half of America evidently thinks this kind of man is fit to be President makes me frankly ashamed of my fellow Americans.  We’ve devolved into a country where hatred, bigotry, and misogyny are evidently accepted, and it makes me sick.

Like I said…a one-time political post.  Back to birds, science, and photography.

Practicing what you preach, America…

Birding, fun.  Photography, fun.  Walking outside while doing both…fun.

War…not fun.  ISIS…not fun.  Paris attacks…not fun.  When I “rebranded” my blog a while back, deleting old material and focusing only on birds, science, and photography, it was partially for my own sanity.  Blogging about politics and the ridiculousness of humanity isn’t fun. But the last few days have been depressing, seeing the reaction of Americans to the Paris bombings.  Can’t help but break rank here and go off topic…

Several weeks ago, the world was shocked by a photo of a 3-year old Syrian boy, a refugee, who washed up dead along the Turkish coast.  It put a face on the humanitarian crisis in Syria, and for a moment, provided world-wide sympathy for what the Syrian people are going through.

That’s gone.  A terrorist attack in Paris, conflicting reports about the origin of the attackers, and now Syrian refugees are being characterized as being nearly as bad, nearly as EVIL, as ISIS themselves.  In the last few days, 23 Governors have decreed they will ban any Syrian refugees from entering their state (even though it’s quite clear they don’t have that power).  The Republican presidential candidates have fallen all over themselves trying to out-do each other in promoting hatred and bigotry towards Syrian refugees, with Bush and Christie even both suggesting that refugees pass a “religion test”, with Muslims denied entry to the U.S. and Christians admitted.  Nothing screams “AMERICA!!!” to me more than making political hay out of a tragedy, and Republicans are certainly doing their damnedest to squeeze every last bit of political capital out of the Paris attacks.

What I find even more disheartening is the general reaction of Americans in general.  It’s absolutely disgusting to go online right now, either to social media or in reading comments on mainstream news stories.  The bigotry, the outright HATE that’s being spewed by so many every-day Americans is shocking, even to a cynic like myself.

In World War II, we let our fear and bigotry control our actions, and we placed thousands of Japanese Americans in interment camps, as black a mark as there is in U.S. history. Evidently we haven’t learned our lesson.  When we look back at what’s happening right now, we will look back with disgust, we will look back with SHAME.  Or at least we should.

The worst component to me is the complete and utter disregard for “Christian” beliefs.  What I’m seeing on Facebook…”Friends” (now former friends) posting meme images such as “One nation under GOD…NOT Allah!!”.  The states whose governors wish to ban Syrian refugees are almost exclusively “red” states, with conservative politicians and conservative constituencies.  EVERY STATE IN THE SOUTHEASTERN U.S. has had their governor proclaim they wish to ban Syrian refugees.  In other words…the entire so-called “Bible Belt” of America is turning its back on its OWN religion, making a mockery of Christianity, and choosing instead to be led by their own fear and bigotry.

I’m an atheist, not because of any disdain for religious belief in general, but because as a scientist…I need proof!  I need evidence!  However, I have no problem with people practicing whatever religion they desire, so long as it doesn’t directly cause harm to others, and so long as it isn’t force-fed down the throats of “other” religions.  Islam is NOT a violent religion…it’s perverted by a very small minority, to obvious evil and violent ends.

I’m sorry, American “Christians”, right now you are guilty of the same kind of perversion of your religion.  When people self-identifying as “Christian” deny assistance to a group of people undergoing the most unimaginable horrors…it’s a perversion of your religion.  When self-identified “Christians” direct hateful language towards Muslims and Syrians…it’s a perversion of your religion.  It’s absolutely shocking…absolutely DISGUSTING…to see what people are publicly saying in social media and elsewhere right now, and that includes some people I personally know and had thought highly of.

Nothing brings out the true character of a human being than fear.  And the Paris attacks have certainly brought out that fear (and thus, the hideous nature of far too many human beings).

It’s not just religion that’s been perverted by both Muslims and Christians though, it’s the foundation of the United States itself that is being perverted.  We were founded in the name of freedom, freedom to believe what you want, freedom to practice whatever religion you want, without fear, without consequence.  We are a nation of immigrants, as much of a “melting pot” as any nation on the planet.  Suddenly, conservatives who have long pointed to the Constitution, who have long pointed to the ideals of our Founding Fathers…are trashing it all, all in the name of their own cowardice, fear, and bigotry.  Suddenly we are NOT a nation of immigrants.  Suddenly we are NOT a nation of tolerance.  Suddenly we are a fearful nation, a nation of COWARDS, a nation where anyone who doesn’t share your skin color or religion is suspect.

The Paris attacks themselves were obviously shocking, an act of pure evil.  Our reaction to those attacks has been every BIT as perverted and evil.

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