The Great Courses

A Secular State of the Union Address

Seth
Feb 28, 2017 at 6:56 AM
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This is a transcript of a radio broadcast, available for listen here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thethinkingatheist/2017/02/28/seth-andrews-a-secular-state-of-the-union-address

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The State of the Union address is an annual speech given by the President of the United States to a joint session of Congress.  It’s designed to be a report about the present condition of the nation, and an opportunity for the President to outline his goals and proposed policies.

The speech has roots in Article II Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, which declares, “He shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

In advance of the President’s State of the Union address to be delivered this evening on international television, I want to offer up my own state of the union address…reversing the looking glass and presenting the speech not as a powerful president looking down from the podium, but as a common citizen…an everyday American looking around at the political chaos around him and sounding out his own humble perspectives as a free speaker in a still-free nation.

Is it presumptuous for an internet radio host to write his own address?  Perhaps.  But I hope the words you’re about to hear aren’t received as smug or self-satisfied, because they certainly aren’t founded in smugness or self-satisfaction.  They’re just one man’s thoughts about the state of his country, the challenges we face, and the light that might help us see our way through t@hem.

The speech runs just over 40 minutes, and in advance of our president’s words tonight- whatever they may be – I hope these words will resonate not just with Americans, but with lovers of freedom, integrity and humanity all around the world.

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 A Secular State of the Union

It was at the Republican National Convention in 2016 that, speaking to an enthusiastic, almost religiously zealous crowd in Cleveland, now-President Donald Trump engaged in warning after warning about the dire times in which we live.  About our enemies.  About the shattering of the American dream and the stealing of our nation’s greatness by a vast conspiracy carried out by foreign powers from without and a media propaganda machine from within.  About the dismantling of our way of life  About an America which is bleeding to death.  An America in great need of saving.

It was at this convention on July 21st, 2016 that Donald Trump squared his shoulders and declared, “I alone can fix it.”

This is a remarkable statement.  Out of 242 million American adults, from the bricklayers to the Nobel laureates, from an ocean of entrepreneurs and economists and scientists and laborers and executives and engineers and lawyers and leaders, beyond every other man and woman inside these borders, a self-appointed savior declared that he was the only solution.

In conventions and political speeches past, we’ve so often seen a version of scenario.  Those vying for elected office must first declare the patient dying before they can personally administer CPR.  The ship must be declared sinking before the rescuing hero swoops in.

Many would-be congressmen and congresswomen, counselors and mayors and governors and presidents have rallied the masses, pounded their drums, bellowed the sound bites in front of the cameras, declaring themselves hand-picked by none other than God himself.

An intriguing god this is.  Manifesting the cosmos.  Conjuring countless galaxies in a universe so vast as to be beyond human comprehension.  Fueling the suns.  Hurling the asteroids.  Collapsing the stars.  Managing the mechanisms for life and death on a cosmic scale.  But then reaching through the vastness of space and time to show favoritism to a guy in a suit, reading a teleprompter, wearing a button bearing a catchy slogan developed by professional marketing departments and tested on focus groups comprised of specific demographics based on the estimates of statisticians, in a race where the opposition also claims to be divinely appointed to do God’s good work.  Declaring that, if we’ll just trust them, our problems will be solved, our crisis will be averted, our dreams will be fulfilled, and our prayers will be answered.

“I alone can fix it.”

It’s easy to understand why people so often worship their saviors.  As religion has demonstrated time and again, saviors provide the easy answers that the real world does not.  Saviors assure a happy ending when the real world cannot.  Saviors balm the wounds of the hurting, assuage our wide-eyed trepidation, and make the world simple again.  Simple as when we were children, when our guardians protected us, spoon-fed us, made all of the big decisions, and kept us safe.

Oh, to be a child again…a carefree subordinate in someone else’s care, trusting another to make the hard choices: left or right, advance or retreat, hide or fight, conservative or liberal, Pentecostal or Catholic.  A parental provider and protector who keeps the scary outside world at bay. 

How often does our culture attempt to train us for subordination, especially in a nation where almost ¾ of the population aligns itself with some form of Christianity?  We are placed below a supreme authority and told, as Jesus declared in Matthew 18, to “become like little children.”

The Bible – so often invoked by American politicians – plays to the authoritarian narrative, treating us like infants, promoting obedience, declaring us unable to think for ourselves, charging us to not lean on our own understanding, and then conveniently offering to do the thinking for us. 

“I alone can fix it.”

So many American Christians have married God and patriotism.  And so many have vilified others who support a broader, healthier, more Constitutional, more secular model of the American patriot.  The Pew Research Center released – just a few weeks ago – survey data revealing that about 1/3 of all Americans think that, to truly be an American, you must first be Christian.  Among white evangelical protestants, that number almost doubles.  

By default, then, any challenge or criticism of America can be interpreted as a challenge to God’s himself.

We see this shade of so-called patriotism whenever a free citizen remains seated in protest during a standing salute, and he or she is booed and hissed, reviled and despised, tarred and feathered.  After all, the flag which represents the freedom to sit or stand should always see us standing.  A true patriot always stands.

But what is patriotism?  What attribute or accomplishment has made our status as Americans so laudable?  The fact is this: Indigenous Americans happened to be born inside the borders drawn on a map.  And for many, that is their grand accomplishment.

On a planet of 7 billion human beings, many of us are gleefully back-slapping and high-fiving and declaring our superiority because of a geographical lottery ticket bought by our parents’ parents’ parents.  This patriotism is little more than tribalism.  We smugly congratulate ourselves for emerging from the womb of national privilege…for being lucky enough to not be delivered as a newborn under the theocratic oppression of Saudi Arabia, the poverty of Haiti, the frightening totalitarianism of North Korea, the bloodshed of Somalia, the war and suffering and illiteracy and hunger and despair faced by those not as fortunate as us.

It is a patriotism of a coddled culture that cannot answer the most basic questions about what makes such a great country great.  When pressed, many of its citizens so often cannot tell you the names of their major elected officials, the representatives and public servants that they as voters have been charged to endorse and elect and hold accountable.  They spout opinions about foreign nations they cannot locate on a map.  They’re happily ignorant of history, including and especially American history, and are content to speak boldly about Founding Fathers who are, to them, strangers. 

Beyond the children’s songs and museum paintings, they don’t know much about Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Paine, but they know they were great men.  They haven’t actually read the United States Constitution, but they know that it says important things.  Theirs are lives spent in the drive thrus of American culture, happily gobbling up life’s empty calories until they are full, lying on their couches, reading People magazine, gawking at their Independence Day fireworks displays with a beer and a hot dog, and waxing on about a freedom that – for so many – exists without any real perspective.  The complex world gives them a headache, so they fill the intellectual void with selfies and Snapchat, hobbies and games, toys and television, drawing all discussions along tribal lines.

Theirs is binary patriotism.  No matter the question, the answer is Either/Or.  A or B.  Black or White.  Yes or No.  Good or Evil.  Us or Them.  America, or the Rest of the World.  There are always only two boxes to check, and only one right answer. 

Even in regard to many of the world’s prosperous, peaceful, wonderful nations, many citizens of the United States still seem uninterested in sharing the conversation or the credit.  Germany is often ranked among the best places to live on earth, with a thriving economy and rich culture, strong businesses and a high quality of life.  High marks for the U.K, for Sweden, for Australia and Japan, for France and Denmark and so many other free nations that exist beyond American borders…borders which – for far too many – are considered the ends of the earth.

When you live in the “love it or leave it” America, the “best damn country on earth” America, the “I don’t care what the rest of the world says or does” America, you become first at anything and everything only because there is no one else acknowledged on the list.  We have become the daily winner of an intramural contest with only one team on the field, and we cheat ourselves with the lie of inherited superiority…like the son of a royal family who’s considered “better” not because of contribution and merit, but merely because he was lucky enough to be born inside the castle.

This dime store patriotism is decorated in cheap souvenirs and star-spangled antenna flags and t-shirt slogans: Every heart beats true, ‘neath the Red White and Blue.  He who loves not his country, can love nothing.  Proud to be an American.  Live free or die.  If you don’t stand behind our troops, you should go stand in front of them.  Don’t tread on me.  These colors don’t run!

These slogans often plant noble ideas in shallow ground under an unwieldy flag of blissfully blind jingoism.  They make for a great line in a country song or a billboard in the American heartland, but this Crayola portrait does not lend itself to detail or nuance.  It avoids the complex.  It does not understand criticism.  It cannot (or will not) process protest.  And it stands ready to cry “traitor” whenever a hand of challenge is raised.

At the end of January, when President Trump signed the executive order barring the citizens of several Muslim-majority countries and suspended the admission of all refugees for months, thousands protested in the streets with signs and speeches, the embodiment of our own Constitution’s First Amendment and the right of free people “peacefully to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” 

They were grieved at what they felt was a betrayal of America’s laws and values.  For this, the protesters were called unamerican, even as they represented what a free speech culture ought to be.  As we’ve seen in so many examples of American protest throughout history, we are free to speak, for and against, individually and collectively, to argue in defense of our positions, our values, ourselves, and our fellow human beings.

Sadly, some Americans are glad to lend a helping hand, but only upon proof of citizenship, and their cries of “America First” reflect the insular nature of their minds.  Domestic and Foreign.  Insider and Outsider.   The political podium plays to our shallowest prejudices, our darkest attitudes, our deepest fears.  It feeds on an electorate that distrusts the facts, the evidence, the lessons of our own history, the foreigner, the immigrant, the outsider.  It relies on “alternative facts.”  It celebrates the ill-qualified nominated for positions of power.  It distrusts science and reason, but trusts emotion and verve.  It constantly cries conspiracy.  It blames the naysayer and attacks the whistleblower.  It plays to the lowest common denominator.  It is a pep rally built upon the lie that things are worse today than they’ve ever been, and that in our hour of great need, God has again appointed us a savior.

“I alone can fix it.”

What are these glory days we’re supposed to get back to?  The golden era in America’s recent history, where our workplaces, schools, restaurants, and water fountains bore signs designating “whites only” or “colored only?”  When women were treated as mere accessories to compliment the men?  Before vaccines could protect us from polio, measles, tuberculosis, the flu?  When the stock market was at 2,000 instead of 22,000? 

Until just a few short decades ago, we had smoking sections on our airplanes.  We didn’t have labor laws.  We didn’t have anti-LGBT discrimination laws.  We didn’t have hate crime laws.  We sent whole generations off to fight world wars.  Meteorologists didn’t have radar to warn us and help protect us from tornados and hurricanes, blizzards and floods. We didn’t have modern birth control and clean water technology.  We hadn’t yet unlocked the genome.  We didn’t have bionic artificial limbs, or the artificial heart, or robots that assisted us with complex surgery.  We didn’t wear seatbelts.  We didn’t have airbags.  There was no GPS, or hybrid engine technology, or self-driving cars.  We didn’t have smartphones more powerful than the computers that NASA used to put a man on the moon.  We didn’t have access to the planet’s wealth of information at the almost-instant touch of a button.

What is this Norman Rockwell painting that the powerful keep telling us we need to return to?  The airbrushed past of repression?  Scientific repression?  Sexual repression?  Racial repression?  Economic repression?  Where is this utopia of the past where we were nobler, more moral, more equal, more educated, and more enlightened?

It exists in the scary stories told by the saviors…those who insist on amplifying and distorting the legitimate and serious challenges of today so that they can sell us their false memories of yesterday.

Sure, we see the worst of humanity, broadcast by the moment and on display in full, living, crimson color.  We are confronted with horrible deeds done by the most horrible of people.  The beheadings.  The firing squads.  The suicide bombers.  The school shootings.  The chemical weapons.  The rape.  The torture.  The mass graves.  The unthinkable played out on our Twitter newsfeeds in real time…constantly flashing the message that the world is on fire.

But in this way, the world has always been.  The difference is that, today, although our species is less violent, through technology, a few rogues can create more mayhem than whole nations of their ancestors, and the atrocities they carry out are almost instantly viral, spread by the bullhorn of a connected world which has a camera on every phone, a phone in every pocket, a satellite over every nation, recording and ready for instant playback.

Every barbarity by every wretch is now a social media post.  Every horror has a website.  Every injustice screams at the loudest possible volume to the widest possible audience.  And in an entertainment culture, a fix-it-for-me culture, a fearful-about-tomorrow-for-our-children culture, it has become all too easy for the self-appointed saviors to convince us that the whole world has become the Hell to our Handbasket, frightening us into surrendering the best parts of ourselves. 

It’s cliché to invoke Kafka and Orwell, but amid the pounding tribal drums about foreigners and barriers, and conspiracies and plots, and us and them, and God and destiny, and in a time when a slogan like “America First” doesn’t sound like a laudable rallying cry for the home team, but instead smacks of cultural chauvinism, we can now see how the Orwellian world happens.  We can see the state of our union…and the potential to dismantle the most noble portions of it amid the chants and cheers of “America first.”

I’d like to suggest a notion of patriotism in another light, with other – better – ideas and ideals.  And it starts by rooting ourselves in the rational, and speaking honestly about who America’s Founding Fathers were, and what they intended.  We must start by addressing the claims that “This Candidate” is “God’s Candidate.”  And we must extricate the reality of the United States - its founders, mission and Constitution - from the clutches of Christian privilege.

God isn’t mentioned in our Constitution.  God wasn’t originally on our money.  Or in the Pledge of Allegiance.  Our founders came here escaping -God & Country overreach, and clearly separating church and state, they established a United States that would protect the right to individually believe and practice and pray and worship, and protect the right to NOT believe and practice and pray and worship. The First Amendment declares, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  The right to a personal religion is respected and protected.  A national religion is prevented. 

Our founders were flawed characters.  Many were indeed religious men and/or spoke in religious language.  They led complicated and far-from-perfect lives.  But those declaring our Founding Fathers in lock-step with a pet theocracy should hear the words of Thomas Paine in The Age of Reason: “I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.  All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”

Strange words from someone who founded a Christian Nation.

Thomas Jefferson said in a 1787 letter to his own nephew, Peter Carr, “Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.”

Strange words from someone who founded a Christian Nation.

John Adams signed the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, a document which declared, The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

Strange words from someone who founded a Christian Nation.

Of course, a political candidacy is forever in search of endorsements, and what better endorsement than from God himself.  As such, throughout our history, those in power, and those seeking power, have attempted to buttress their own authority by claiming that The One True God (whoever that is) personally ordained them, whispers in their ears, shapes their thoughts, and guides their hands.  They dance their religious jig upon the church/state wall as our founders fidget in their graves.

I wonder what Benjamin Franklin might have said had he witnessed another Franklin, famous Christian evangelist Franklin Graham, at the 2017 presidential inauguration.  Graham saw the rain falling upon the new president’s invocation and declared the raindrops a sign and blessing from Yahweh himself. 

Was this a divine mist upon the face of Donald Trump?  Or was this simply the brain-melting reality that it sometimes rains in Washington DC.

Had it been sunny, perhaps Graham would have declared that sunshine the radiant smile of God.  Had it been breezy, it might have been interpreted as a divine wind.  Had the winds stilled, perhaps Franklin could have called it the reverence of God’s creation, as even the clouds stood at attention.

The faithful might possibly have believed this.  After all…their savior was at the podium speaking…so fearlessly, so strongly, with such conviction.  God’s champion.  Yet Donald Trump stands as a rather strange messiah, and an odd franchise player for the Christian Nation crowd.

The best verses of scripture warn against pride, against cruelty, against bearing false witness, against vengeance, against lust, against greed.  Can you think of a single person who more represents the antithesis of these?

And as Trump continually parts ways with the text of the Bible, does he part ways as quickly with the very Constitution that an American president swears an oath to defend?  If the answer is yes, would we not then – as true lovers of country -  raise a hand of protest so that we might protect the integrity of the system?

In this regard, is it not the skeptic who acts in the true spirit of patriotism?  This doubter who raises an eyebrow at the unsubstantiated claims of powerful people and attempts to root perspectives back in solid ground?  The rationalist who doesn’t bow and defer to every pastor-endorsed politician brandishing a Bible?  The citizen who recognizes bad ideas, bad policy, bad speech, and even bad people, and boldly criticizes them…even when those bad ideas and people are draped in the American flag? The man, -woman, or young person who genuinely understands and appreciates what it means to exist inside in a system that, in its pure form, celebrates and protects personal freedoms, promotes human rights, prevents the despot and dictator, demands accountability, gives its citizens the power to support or protest, and is forever trying to nourish the best parts of itself?  The one who stays true to the Constitution of the United States of America?

That person might be able to teach the bumper-sticker patriot a thing or two about what “love of country” truly means.

I love the United States of America.  Not because I inherited a mantle.  Not because I don’t tremendously admire so many other great nations in the world.  Not because I think the USA is better.  But because I have come to love America’s best face, its potential, its founding principles, most of its people, and the freedom and opportunity it has afforded me in my life.

I’m not ungrateful for the fact that I, as one who criticizes religion and often criticizes government on a popular internet radio show, don’t live in fear that I’ll be rounded up in the middle of the night and executed as an enemy of the state…something experienced by so many in North Korea, Syria, elsewhere.  In the U.S, I enjoy the elbow room to be an apostate within a stone’s throw of the religions I criticize.  I see, all around me, the freedom to speak on one side or the opposite side of an issue.  The freedom to found a faith or ridicule one. The freedom to write our blogs and broadcast our editorials and sound our alarms and promote our causes while standing on our convictions.  The freedom to assemble on our nation’s capital and speak our piece, to parade in the streets, to produce satire, and even lampoon those in power. 

At this moment, I’m delivering an alternative to my President’s State of the Union address.  Try that in the truly oppressed nations of the world.

I get it.  I understand how much of the goodness in my own life has been made possible in and by the country I’m often chastising.  I respect and appreciate those who have sacrificed so much to make my freedom possible.  I genuinely admire and appreciate those who serve in our armed forces and in the best examples of public office.

But I’m scared…genuinely scared…for the future. 

I’m scared because I see again the savior narrative at play in a nation I love, as tens of millions went to the ballot box last November to crown their king.  Some said they wanted someone smart and powerful to fix it, and that’s what Trump sold them.  Some wanted their kids protected from the bullets and bombs of ISIS, even if it meant Constitutional compromise, and that’s what Trump promised them.  Some wanted their prejudices against others validated, and that’s what Trump gave them.  Some are impressed by yachts and limousines, flash and bling, excess and opulence, palaces and possessions, the idea that wealth must mean superiority, and that’s what Trump represents to them. 

Some simply heard the invocation of God, and that was all that mattered to them.

Still others cast a reluctant vote for what they deemed the lesser of evils.  They hated both choices.  All choices.  They felt they had no choice at all.  Perhaps they reduced their reasoning to a single issue, squared their jaw and bit their tongue.  And now, amid the calamity that is the Donald Trump presidency, they shake their heads at the silver spoon, the forked tongue, the petty tantrums, the bigotry, the ego, the insecurity, the circus, and the clown. 

And they, like me and so many of you, fear for the state of our union.  They realize that the greatest empires have shouted the name of God before crumbing one brick at a time, one encroachment at a time, one surrender of values at a time, one corruption at a time, one trampling of human rights at a time.

How can we understand America if we ignore its secular framework?  How can we view our critical position on the world stage if we stare only at our own faces?  How can we empathize with the suffering of our fellow human beings – within and without –  if we dehumanize them through distance and disregard?  And how much of our own narrow-mindedness is rooted in the untenable, unproven, unsubstantiated, and often uncivilized beliefs and convictions of the past?

One of the authors of our own Constitution, James Madison, perhaps said it best when he declared in a 1774 letter to William Bradford that “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind, and unfits it for every noble enterprise.”  And he was right.  At the outset, we must shake off our chains and realize that, yes, in times throughout our past, religion often provided a framework for good deeds, but the framework itself was flawed, uninformed, ignorant, rooted in bad information, unnecessary. 

The goodness demonstrated by religious people and religious institutions isn’t, in fact, religious.  Remove the steeples and chants and magical stories, remove the distracting claims about gods and monsters, skip the pastors and prophets and popes and evangelist politicians, and then commit yourself to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, administer medicine to the sick, build shelters, build communities, build nations, build the better future.

It doesn’t take long to realize that we’re not doing God’s Good Work, but we instead are doing our own.  Our destiny doesn’t lie in a Son or the stars, but in our very own hands.  It also doesn’t take long to see through the transparent godspeak of the truth sellers and peddler parasites eager to build their legacies upon our backs.  And if someone claims the endorsement of an all-powerful wizard, a divine appointment, declaring that “I alone can fix it,” we – as rationalists –can refuse to take his word for it, see the burden of proof unmet, and move on to better options.

Imagine the state of our union if we cherished knowledge more than we cherished belief.  If we populated our highest positions with those who had real education, real experience, and a real passion for science, the evidence, and knowledge.

Would we now see an America with a non-educator as Education Secretary?  We would not. 

Would we nominate a Housing and Urban Development Secretary with no qualifications for Housing and Urban Development?  We would not.

Would a legal opponent of the Environmental Protection Agency, a man who has repeatedly sued the EPA, who has strong ties to the fossil fuel industry, and who disregards the overwhelming scientific findings about climate change…would he ever be considered as head of an agency dedicated to environmental protection?  He would not.

Would we abide or entertain a presidential pledge to “destroy” the Johnson Amendment, which prevents churches from climbing over the church/state wall to endorse political candidates from a position of tax-exempt privilege?  We would not.

Would we elect a Commander in Chief, our franchise player in the global arena, who for decades has displayed such a blatant, even gleeful disregard for the values that we as humanists hold dear?  Values like honesty, the promotion of human rights, sexual equality, integrity in our businesses as well as our personal lives, even-tempered maturity, empathy for the suffering, the promotion of science over pseudoscience, and strong leadership which includes a strong desire to serve?  Would we surrender ourselves to the shallow promises of a savior?  We would not.

Knowledge is power.  And so, it’s in the interests of many to keep America ignorant.  Distracted.  Disconnected.  Spoiled with the toys and amusements of the First World, slowly selling itself into subjection. 

=In his 1995 book, “The Demon-Haunted World,” Carl Sagan summed up America’s scientific and cultural crisis almost perfectly:

“Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time—when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.”

And of course, Sagan was right.  Ours is often a culture which continues to make the celebrities influential, the anti-science charlatans rich, and the anti-Constitution authoritarians powerful.  If we don’t take responsibility and start thinking for ourselves, we remain a slave…to the saviors. 

I am encouraged, though, because through the thick haze of American cultural laziness, I do see a great many people standing up to protest the constant assaults on science, reason, the Constitution, and the nation they love…demanding a representative, accountable, secular government, responsible words and actions from our leaders, an embrace of the evidence, and a respect for the law.

This is patriotism.  Patriotism through protest.

I protest my own nation’s willful ignorance about itself…and about the rest of the world.

I protest the misguided notion that our unofficial national symbol should be a giant wall.

I protest the idea that the suffering of the immigrant and the foreigner is less important than the suffering of the natural-born citizen of privilege.

I protest the idea that any one religion deserves favoritism in America, or that the church/state barrier can be arbitrarily dismantled in the name of religious majority rule.

I protest the constant trespassing of superstition into the halls of government, as an oath-swearing president should have his hand on the Constitution, not on a Bible. 

I protest the prayers of evangelists on taxpayer-funded platforms, verses from holy books on displays in courthouses and on capitol building grounds, and a disregard for our federal and state laws by those who claim that their personal deity created better laws.

I protest the rewriting of American history to make Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Adams, etc.  -= into religious apologists instead of the staunch and skeptical critics of religion that so many of our founders were.

I protest against those who declare the critics of bad ideas as traitorous, immoral, unamerican, inhuman. 

I protest the war on science.

Finally, because I respect the office of the presidency, I protest – with every fiber of my being – the man who now, somehow, holds the office itself.  He the minority-elected representation of almost everything I would reject in a friend, a family member, an associate, a boss, a stranger on the street…in a councilman or mayor or governor, and certainly in a president. 

I know that Donald Trump doesn’t represent a secular America.  I know he doesn’t represent the definition of humanism.  The record low job ratings indicate that he doesn’t reflect most citizens.  And I would certainly hope that, with his arrogance and bigotry, his pathological deceit, impulsive tongue and unconsidered words, his love of vengeance, his dismissal of the suffering of others, his demonstrations of privilege and shallow celebrity, and his dismissal of the system of law, Donald Trump doesn’t represent the best teachings of the Jesus worshiped by 21st century American Christians.

The era of Trump is an era of America tragedy.

And in the face of this national calamity, the right action, the critical and necessary action, the patriotic action…is protest.  Lawful, respectful, responsible, strong, passionate protest.

As we can see from the example of so many activists who are speaking out, the solution to ignorance is education.  The solution to passivism is participation.  The solution to bad speech is better speech.  The solution to bad ideas is better ideas.  The solution to bad people is better people…working together in a cultural embrace of science and reason to build, not just a better nation, but a better world. 

The onus is upon us, to grow out of our infancy, to accept facts, to embrace knowledge over belief, to grow beyond our superstitions and prejudices, to view our challenges and opportunities through the lens of the rational, to embrace skepticism against the claims of the saviors, and to take responsibility for our elected offices, our country, our planet, ourselves, and our fellow human beings.

Carl Sagan also once said that “there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.” And again, Sagan was right.  There is no Anointed One.  No Great Deliverer.  No Hallowed Hero.  No evidence for gods, or gods among men.

If we are to survive and thrive, as individuals, as a nation, and as a species, we must stand up, speak out, understand more, engage more, reach higher, and demand better. 

We must again…evolve.

We alone can fix it.  

-Seth Andrews

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