Just Keep Swimming. ..


It’s official:  America has elected the most unqualified, racist,  sexist demagogue in recent memory. 

White supremacy reigned last night, add the man with the KKK endorsement took the Presidency. 

So what do we do? 

Don’t panic (I’m working on that one myself). There are chances every day to build back the bridges Trump’s supporters are trying to burn,  to make this a country for all of us, not just straight white Protestant males and their wives.

In the words of Dory, “Just Keep swimming.”

I’m With Her

As Jeph Jacques said, “we have a choice between electing the first female president and a racist,  sexist sociopath.”

Whatever past animosity I had toward Secretary Clinton melted away in the face of Trump’s continual steam of outrages and abuses (torture, sexual assault, fraud,etc.)

And when that animosity faded, I was able to see that she is highly qualified and has the mindset and temperament to be president,  add well as the intellect. 

Vote Today! No Excuses!


Like I said yesterday, the Republican candidate is a terrifying, unqualified, cruel,  egomaniacal, racist misogynist who’s advocated torturing the families of suspected terrorists and has allegedly sexually assaulted multiple women and allegedly even a couple of young teen girls … And who has bagged about sexually assaulting women when he didn’t realize the microphone was on. 

He’s demonstrated an unprecedented disrespect and disregard for the rule of law and even for the constitution. 

If you’re not a Republican,  step up to defeat him for obvious reasons.

If you are a Republican,  step up to defeat him and force your party leaders to nominates someone sane and qualified in 2020.

Election Forecast: Russian Roulette

Five Thirty Eight,  Nate Silver’s political polling and statistics site, gives Hillary Clinton an 85% chance of winning the U.S. Presidential election, about a 5 in 6 chance.

That leaves Donald Trump with about 15%, or 1 in 6, chance.

The same odds as Russian Roulette. Lovely. 

And the same outcome, at least for some people. Remember,  you’re voting for a man who’s promised to commit war crimes, intentionally target civilians, assassinate, and even torture the families of suspected terrorists, without trial.

Remember the 1990’s? Maybe it’s time to bring back the old bracelets & slogan: “What Would Jesus Do?”

Wayne Grudem Is NOT a “Good Man Giving Bad Advice” 

[I wrote this in early August, but shelved it until I’d cooled off some. Sometimes being timely isn’t worth it] 

Conservative evangelical theologian Wayne Grudem wrote a terrible article called “why voting for Donald Trump is a morally good choice.”

In it, he whitewashed Trump’s misogyny and racism, including his refusal to denounce the KKK.

Grudem minimized the dangers of having such an egotistical, unstable bully at the command of the world’s most powerful military.

He raised the spectre of widespread persecution of Christians under a Clinton presidency,  with no real evidence that this would happen,  while ignoring the persecution of Muslims that Trump has promised.

Obviously, I disagree with Grudem. So do conservative theologians like the Southern Baptist Convention’s Al Mohler and Russel Moore, though perhaps for different reasons. 

In fact, there had been a lot of pushback against Grudem from the Christian Right, which is encouraging.

This article sums up the general approach these articles have taken, assuming that Grudem is a generally good and wise man who has been misled by fears of who Clinton might appoint to the Supreme Court.

I want to take a more critical approach. Wayne Grudem and Donald Trump are a near-perfect match.

Torture: Donald Trump has advocated not only torturing trout suspects (without trial) just as his Republican predecessor,  evangelical darling George W. Bush did, but even torturing their families if it helps get useful information.

Wayne Grudem called waterboarding and other Bush-  era “enhanced interrogation” techniques a “moral responsibility” of government. Not only did he give his sanction to torture, so long as it was the kind that didn’t leave permanent scars, but he actually said “not to have used them would have been morally wrong…” (Politics According to the Bible, p 432, quoted in Christianity Today).

Christian supremacy: Donald Trump has shown open hostity toward Muslims, even the Muslim parents of a soldier killed in action.

And while few people actually believe Trump’s conveniently timed religious awakening (an awakening that has not led him to change any of his positions, apologize to anyone he has wronged or insulted, or divest himself of his strip clubs and casinos), it’s pretty clear which religious group he’s currying favor with.

Wayne Grudem’s examples of religious liberty in his endorsement all centered around Christians being allowed to deny God’s and services to people the disagree with (mostly gay people) Or limiting medical coverage for their female employees, Hobby Lobby style.

Grudem’s book on politics us called Politics According to the Bible, a title that is certainly ambitious, if not hubristic. Much of what he advocates is standard Christian Right “get this country back to God” soft theocracy.

It is safe to say that Trump’s hostility toward religious minorities is of no real concern to Grudem.

Misogyny, or at least male dominance. Trump has proven his misogyny over and again on the trail. And that’s leaving aside a history of adultery, objectification, rpe allegations, abd sexualizing his daughters on talk radio.

Grudem is one of the leading proponents of complementarianism, a theory in which the men lead and the women submit and support thrm. Men are spiritual and worldly leaders, protectors, and providers. Women are caretakers. They raise the children, support their husbands’ ministries and activities, and follow.

This aligns him with Trump, who proudly claimed to have taken little role in raising his children, other than bringing home a lot of money, and whose three wives have all set their careers aside for him.

Sure,  Grudem is a moralistic man who’d never be involved with something as crass or sleazy as a strip club, who’d never say “grab ’em by the pussy“, but fundamentally, he and Trump are the same: authoritarians who believe in male dominance, force, torture, and the suppression of civil rights for unpopular minorities.

If you call that “good,” you know how to vote in November.

If not, you can be like Al Mohler and Russel Moore and vote third party, or you can be like Rachel Held Evans and Shannon Dingle and vote for Hillary Clinton.

But let’s not pretend that Wayne Grudem’s endorsement of Donald Trump was some weird, outlier mistake. The two are much more alike than they seem.

All Things Right and Good

You’re going to reach a point (We all do)

Where you must decide whether you will be right or good.

I know, Jesus never found Himself in such a spot

But he was God made flesh. You and I are not.

And when I reach that point, I want to say:

“I don’t know if this is right.

I don’t know how it fits in with systematic theology

With moral law, with moral codes

But I know how to be good.”

I’ve learned the hard way that right, like rights,

Can be abused, can be abusive:

  • Right and wrong (who decides?)
  • Legal and illegal (who makes the laws?)
  • Winning the argument
  • Contempt for the loser
  • Insiders and outsiders
  • orthodox and heretics
  • Moral panics
  • “They deserve it.”
  • “They would do the same to us.”

These are tools of domination. These are acts of violence

They’re labels and weapons the powerful use to maintain their supremacy

Be it white or male or hetero/cis.

It’s all the same. Power. Money. Control.

The rich men who wield it

The rough men who enforce it

The abuse and domination of women

And the blood of dark-skinned people

And anyone different in religion, sexuality, or creed

The enslavement of millions in for-profit prisons

And the torture of the few with neither trial nor hope

We can be right.

We can be in control.

We can hold the moral high ground

Or we can be good.

Or we can love as Jesus loved.

But we cannot serve both God and mammon.

A Missed Opporunity: Transformers Prime and the Smurfette Principle

 

[Note: I’m a little short of time to get this post up. It’s been a long week. So I’ve looked into my archives and found something I wrote but never published a few years back when I finished watching Transformers: Prime. The series was very well made, but like I said about Voltron, it’s neck deep in the myth of redemptive violence. It also suffers from a significant gender imbalance, both of which seem to be epidemic in our popular culture].

Quick glossary if you’re not familiar with Transformers. Autobots are good guys. Decepticons are bad guys. Optimus Prime is the good guy leader, a sort of father figure to the rest of the Autobots. That and the 1-minute clip I showed above is all you need to know.

 

It’s no secret that I like cartoons. One that I enjoyed recently was Transformers: Prime, a CGI-animated series aimed at older elementary children. It had ongoing plotlines and darker elements that made it a poor fit for little kids, but Transformers: Rescue Bots has covered that age range admirably.

Now, I really enjoyed Transformers: Prime, even though it kind of ran on the Smurfette Principle:

  • one female Autobot, Arcee, out of a team of 5-8 (depending on the season) total Autobots
  • one female human “companion,” Miko, out of three
  • one recurring female adult character, Jack’s mother
  • one female Decepticon, Airachnid, out of a much larger cast of villains

Watch this if you’re not familiar with the Smurfette Principle:

 

The female characters were at least interesting.

  • Arcee was by-the-book and extremely competent, but haunted by the loss of two previous partners.
  • Miko was fearless, reckless, and brave in a way that seemed to fit her youth and personality.
  • Jack’s mother was a smart, competent nurse who was trying to raise a teenage son alone, and doing a good job of it.
  • Airachnid was diabolical, and smarter than most of the other Decepticons.

The truth is, the male characters were often less interesting than the female ones. And that leads me to the missed opportunity, arguably the most boring Autobot of all: Ultra Magnus.

 

It’s not really a spoiler to say that at some point in the series, Optimus Prime is missing and/or injured and/or captured and/or just not available to lead them, and the Autobots are scrambling to regroup and find a way to be effective without their great leader. That pretty much happens in every Transformers series. It’s a tradition.

 

And during this time, a space ship lands, opens its hatch, and out steps Ultra Magnus. Arcee is immediately relieved (and actually shows some happiness, which is rare for her). She knows Ultra Magnus is a powerful soldier and Optimus Prime’s old second-in-command. He can provide the muscle and the leadership the Autobots need to regroup.

 

The only problem? He’s Lawful Stupid. He’s so by-the-books he makes Arcee look like a 1960’s hippie. He doesn’t value the “indigenous organisms” (humans), and he has trouble getting along with the former Wreckers (Autobot special forces: Bulkhead and Wheeljack, who really are indispensable at this point, and Miko, who’s become an honorary Wrecker). Over the next few episodes, he has to learn to bend a little, and the Wreckers (especially Wheeljack) have to learn to listen and work with the whole group.

 

It’s kind of a cliched and lukewarm side-plot that doesn’t really make a major splash in the storyline. Worse, it’s something we’ve all seen a dozen times before. That side plot felt like a rerun, and so did Ultra Magnus.

 

So what’s the missed opportunity? What small change could they have made that would have cascaded into something a little more complex and a little more new?

 

Instead of Ultra Magnus stepping off that spaceship, it should have been Elita One. And they should have used the same exo-armored, broad-shouldered look they used for Ultra Magnus. Just give her a more feminine face and more rounded (but similarly massive) torso, and have a woman do her voice.

 

You instantly add several more wrinkles to the old story of strict authority vs “gets stuff done rogue” that we haven’t seen so much before.

 

It would implicitly raise the question: “is Wheeljack really just against all authority, or does he have a problem taking orders from a woman?” Maybe you don’t even have anybody breathe a word about that on screen, but it still hangs in the air and gives the viewer another angle to think about. Now, given the way Wheeljack chafed against Optimus’ orders, I think the answer to that question would be “he’s got a problem with authority, male, female, or other,” but at least the question would be available to consider.

 

If Elita One is drawn more like Ultra Magnus, then it give an unspoken nod to people who don’t fit in traditional gender roles or lines. Arcee is clearly very feminine. She’s the smallest Autobot by far, and she has curves that look very much like a human woman’s. Ultra Magnus was one of the biggest Autobots (excluding giants like Omega Supreme or Metroplex), and he was clearly built for power. Making Elita One his size and built (but with enough feminine curves to visually convey “female”) would show more body diversity than most shows that have a main cast of ten women.

 

Arcee could look up to Elita One as a career icon, the first woman to hold a position of high command in the Autobot army, the person who inspired her to join the military in the first place. That could make the conflict a little more personal, and the stakes a little higher than just “Lawful Stupid vs. Chaotic Effective.” Now Wheeljack isn’t just bucking the chain of command, he’s personally insulting Arcee’s idol. That could also lead to some drama when Arcee realizes that Elita One isn’t perfect, and turns against her for a little while, until Arcee realizes that she’s idolized Elita One, instead of accepting her for who she is.

 

There you go: one simple change, one little twist, but it transforms (no pun intended) a cliched, lukewarm subplot into something unexpected and rarely explored. Nothing in the main plot has to change a bit, but the subplots and subtext become (ahem) more than meets the eye.