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Category: Politics

In Mississippi, It is Still the 1960s

monkey man mississippi

By Abby Zimet, used with permission from Common Dreams

As the dystopian movie Civil War sets records depicting the “colorful horrors of the American future” on its current trajectory, we saw the same mindless, time-honored rancor play out at “Ole Miss being Ole Miss,” where a pack of rabid, jeering, shit-for-brains frat bros with white-supremely punchable faces set upon a black female student protesting genocide in Gaza. On foul display: That “Southern Heritage we’re always Jim Crowing about,” and, without change, the next generation of GOP goons and bigots. 

Robert Reich recently posted a message of hope to his students, graduating at a “tremulous” time in a world beset by racism, genocide, climate change, culture wars, rising authoritarianism. Like many of us, Reich also entered adulthood at a bitter time, in 1968, amidst war, assassinations, cities burning. “I ask my students to hold on,” he writes. “To use their lives and careers to make America better. To try to heal the world.” It’s a tough ask in a fractious time, now grimly depicted in Alex Garland’s Civil War about a nihilistic America “at war with itself.” What one critic calls “a cautionary tale about America’s inevitable self-destruction,” it offers a harrowing look at “the horrors that lie ahead for a great country on the rocks – and what America has done to itself already,” with its “motiveless carnage,” tarnished ideals, president “who has raped the U.S. Constitution,” and beleaguered free press, including “an aging survivor of what’s left of the New York Times,” “trying to record what they witness in the line of fire (as) the rest of us die.” Its bleak message: “If things continue in the (current) political direction, no one will be safe from annihilation in the next decade.”

In real life, America’s political landscape takes it down a notch or so, but still leans dark. A GOP-controlled House big on “pointless gestures and posturing” just plumbed new McCarthyist depths by passing a bill that conflates anti-Zionism with antisemitism, “an insult (to) historical memory erasing decades of Jewish anti-Zionist politics”; its crypto-fascist “leader” Mike Johnson plans hearings on anti-genocide college protests to “look at the root causes funded by, I don’t know, George Soros or overseas entities.” A corrupt, far-right judicial system now includes in its plutocratic ranks not just Alito, Thomas et al but Trump fangirl Aileen ‘What Classified Documents?’ Cannon, who claims her newly exposed omission of fat-cat-funded vacations was “completely inadvertent.” Thanks to such chicanery – and despite efforts to protect election integrity and its stewards – a new survey shows over half of all election officials fear for their safety, from harassment to assault, and for their ability to do their jobs without political meddling. And the “petty little shit-stain” who so helped shred our democratic norms is still free (for now), and jabbering.

Of course, the “whining train-wreck” now seething through his sordid criminal trial – as Stormy Daniels say she was “ashamed” of their (ewww) sexual encounter – still pursues his rampage back to power. Last weekend, free from the legal strictures he gripes keep him from campaigning, he again fled to his tacky golf club to beg rich people for more money to keep him out of jail; with no low, he even scrounged for $9,000 in gag order fines. At a $40,000-a-plate bash, he groused about taking selfies with small donors who don’t deserve them, called Biden “the Gestapo” and Jack Smith “a fucking asshole,” deemed 40% of Americans moochers who “get welfare to vote and then they cheat,” and paraded his trashy VP hopefuls like a motel pageant of Miss Florida also-rans: Doug Burgum – “He’s a very rich man”; Kristi Noem, now urging Biden’s dog Commander be added to the kill list – “Somebody that I love”; Byron Donalds – “Somebody who’s created something very special, donors worth millions of dollars…I like diversity. Diversité, as you would say.” And sniveling lapdog Tim Scott, in limbo with no word from on high even as he faithfully declines six times to say he’ll accept the 2024 election results. 

Sigh. With such civic and moral mentors, thus do we get the savage, racist, redneck frat boys at Ole Miss who somehow never learned – so much for teach your children well – it is not acceptable, when witnessing a group of righteous fellow students acting in conscience to protest the slaughter of many thousands of innocents in Gaza, to single out a black woman and leer, jeer, boo, screech, give her multiple fingers, jump up and down making grotesque faces and grunting monkey noises, clutch their crotches, throw food and cups of water, chant “We Want Trump!” “Fuck Joe Biden!” and shriek, “Who’s your daddy?,” “Take a shower,” “Lizzo, Lizzo!”, “Fuck you fat-ass!” “Your nose is huge!” “Shave your legs!” “Fuck you fat bitch!” and “Lock her up!” The woman, identified as graduate student Jaylin Smith, kept filming as the idiot yahoos, safely surrounded by hundreds of barbarian peers, some in stars-and-stripes overalls, feverishly bounced around her. Reports said they outnumbered by about 10-to-1 the roughly 30, diverse students with UMiss for Palestine, who calmly carried Palestinian flags and signs: “Free Palestine,” “Stop the Genocide” and “U.S. Bombs Take Palestine Lives.”

Many of the yokels – one sage: “A thousand faces of ‘peaked in high school’…The end product of a failed state” – reportedly had no idea what the protest was about. Said one, “I don’t know what they’re doing here. I just want them gone.” See the ever-prescient William Faulkner: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” For many, the ugly spectacle summoned “the ghosts of UM’s past” at a school nicknamed for a plantation term, that long called its sports teams the Rebels and its mascot Colonel Reb, still has only 11% black students in a state nearly 40% black, and remains famous for the 1962 riots that followed the admission, a full eight years after Brown v. Board of Education banning segregation, of 29-year-old veteran James Meredith, the school’s first African-American student, whose arrival on the Oxford campus was accompanied by 1,400 US Marshalls and federal troops and who later said of the experience, “I considered myself engaged in a war from Day One.” In 1964, Nina Simone released her searing song, Mississippi Goddamn: “Hound dogs on my trail/school children sittin’ in jail/thinkin’ every day’s gonna be my last/I don’t belong here, I don’t belong there.”

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After video of the douchebag behavior toward a lone black woman by a horde of hooting good ole boys was met with outrage, UM Chancellor Glenn Boyce faintly acknowledged the school’s “challenging” history, noting, “Incidents like this can set us back.” Citing “offensive and inappropriate” statements and “actions that conveyed hostility and racist overtones,” Boyce said the school would “investigate” the conduct of at least one student and “determine whether more cases are warranted.” “Behaviors and comments that demean people because of their race or ethnicity…undermine the values that are fundamental to a civil and safe society,” he said in a statement. “People who say horrible things to people because of who they are will not find shelter or comfort on this campus.” Still, it remains to be seen if so-called adults who likewise say horrible things – like Mississippi’s Gov. Tate Reeves, who posted video with, “Warms my heart,” and Georgia Rep. and “racist POS” Mike Collins, who captioned the repulsive scene “Ole Miss taking care of business” – will also be held accountable. (His Congressional office number is 202-225-4101. Just sayin’.)

A ghastly piece of work who’s suggested murdering migrants by throwing them Pinochet-style from helicopters and introduced a bill to ban federal “zealots” from removing Greg Abbott’s deadly razor buoys from the Rio Grande, Collins later backtracked, slightly. He bombastically noted there “seems to be some potentially inappropriate behavior that none of us should seek to glorify” and suggested if someone “is found” to be a racist POS “they should be punished (and) will hopefully seek forgiveness” before doubling back down on “pro-Hamas, anti-American, Antifa anarchists” who “run roughshod” over nice rebels “there to learn and enjoy college.” Meanwhile, UM’s NAACP chapter swiftly condemned counter-protesters’ “reprehensible actions,” identified the monkey asshole as James “JP” Staples from Phi Delta Theta, and called for his expulsion along with that of Connor Moore and Rouse Davis Boyce from Kappa Alpha Order as the “primary perpetrators.” The next day, Phi Delta Theta removed Staples for behavior that was “offensive, outside the bounds of this discourse, and contradictory to our values.” The school has yet to take any further action.

But Toby Morton has. A writer for South Park and MadTV, Morton is also the “immature and irresponsible” creator of a series of Fascist Websites paying tribute, thanks to idiotically unregistered domain names, to the vile likes of Greg Abbott – “People die on his watch” – Elise Stefanik – “Let’s keep it white” – DeFascist 24 – “I’ve always strived to promote a safe and welcoming space for every white nationalist in Florida and beyond” – and Tennessee’s Cameron Sexton: “You racist? I got your back.” Now, he has a campaign website for J.P. Staples – “Racially driven experience in hate” – starting with a Hitler quote, “The first million was the hardest.” “I’ve been carrying this burden for far too long, and I can’t hold it in any longer,” it reads. “I hate so much it consumes me…I hate the way black people look at me, the way they talk, the way they exist…Here I am, confessing my deepest, darkest secret. I’m a scared little bitch. I fear those who are superior to me. I fear people will see who I truly am – a piece of shit. Thankfully, I represent many Americans and how we think.” And there are testimonials! Kristi Noem: “Does he have a dog?” MTG: “Welcome to the GOP.” 

Staples has scrubbed his social media accounts, forgetting the Internet is forever, but sleuths were quickly on it. From a Texas MAGA family whose father is a repeat DWI offender, “Monkey Boy” evidently “hates all races but his own.” His posts are both racist and anti-Semitic, raging at “cock-sucking Jews” who after a week removed from streaming a movie he wanted to watch and idly wondering “if Jews use the term ‘baby in the oven'” for someone pregnant. Observers mused on his future job prospects: Hero good ole boy a la Kyle Rittenhouse, or landscaping assistant, Trump advisor, guy “asking people if they want fries with their order for the rest of his life?” Many see him as “a sterling (result) of spectacularly bad parenting – mini-racists pop out.” “You’re looking at the next generation of racists,” said one, who included girlfriends “cheering (them) on – the Klan rode up to the meeting, but the wives sewed the capes and hoods.” They deem him “the true face of Mississippi,” of “the Republican Party and how they behave when nobody’s looking” – or even when we are – and of the ghosts of America’s racist past: Still and all, “They walk among us.”

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost Continues to Stand in the Way of the Reproductive Rights Amendment

dave yost

By Marilou Johanek, used with permission from Ohio Capital Journal

It was plain what Ohio voters approved last November with Issue 1. An overwhelming majority of Ohioans voted for a reset on abortion rights after relentless government assault on reproductive freedoms under the state’s patriarchal theocratic rule.

The consensus of 57% of the electorate was to enshrine the fundamental right to abortion in the Ohio Constitution.

Issue 1 also explicitly barred the state from directly or indirectly burdening, prohibiting, penalizing or interfering with access to abortion, and discriminating against abortion patients and providers.

It’s right there in the ballot language of the constitutional amendment voters said “yes” to last November. But now, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, who issued a legal analysis that largely stood against Issue 1 before it was approved by voters, argues Ohioans didn’t vote for what they did.

For months Yost has been doing his level best to legally obstruct implementation of the newly amended state constitution by maintaining the legitimacy of burdensome and discriminatory pre-Issue 1 abortion restrictions that clearly violate the letter of the law post-Issue 1.

He slow walks every single constitutional challenge to every single Republican statute still on the books that interferes with abortion access by erecting unnecessary government barriers between a woman and her right to an abortion.

Yost had the gall to contend that Ohio voters didn’t pass Issue 1 to block unnecessary government-mandated delays before patients are allowed to obtain abortions, or to eliminate government-mandated information (that is at least irrelevant and at worst distressing) prior to receiving care.

Yes. They. Did.

Yost cannot pick and choose, a la carte, which provision of the voter-mandated abortion rights amendment applies to unconstitutional restrictions that remain in the Ohio Revised Code.

But that’s what he’s trying to do in courtroom arguments to keep burdensome and discriminatory state abortion restrictions in force indefinitely, including the 24-hour waiting period for abortion patients – a medically unwarranted government mandate not applicable to any other medical procedure – plus separate, in-person visits for patients to be schooled in required anti-choice material designed to discourage abortions.

Yost and his fellow Republican theocrats like to intimate that childlike Ohioans who voted for Issue 1 didn’t fully understand what they were doing. The naïve majority who cast their ballots in favor of the amendment simply failed to grasp what it meant to the common sense abortion regulations Republican men had imposed on Ohio women.

Court filings by Yost’s office suggest gullible citizens thought a vote for Issue 1 would just give women the same abortion rights they had under Roe v. Wade. Never mind what the language added to the Ohio Constitution (and read by Issue 1 voters) actually said.

Yost analyzed that text at length last year before the November election in a disingenuous critique ripped by a former Ohio AG and AG candidate as “a biased hit piece that is intended to confuse voters and weaken support for the amendment.”

Yost concluded that all state abortion laws, such as the 24-hour waiting period and state mandated “informed consent” provisions, would likely be erased if the amendment passed. They “would certainly be challenged under Issue 1” and subject to the “exclusive scrutiny test” of the court as to whether or not they “burden, penalize, prohibit, interfere with, or discriminate against” the right to abortion, reasoned Yost.

The problem is, countered his peers, “no such standard of review exists in law – Yost has created it out of whole cloth to support his arguments.”

Yost was, wrote Marc Dann and Jeff Crossman, “deliberately misleading” with “hyperbolic claims and scare tactics.”

He was also revealing his fealty to partisan extremism over the public interest of truth-telling.

Today, Yost crafts his own textual interpretation of the changes Ohioans mandated in state abortion law and audaciously assumes what voters were thinking when they enshrined the right “to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions” in their constitution. It is obvious he does not respect the will of the people or acknowledge their sovereignty in self-governance.

Yost, ever the media hound, wants to attract attention as a courtroom combatant for the hard right. To that end, he will fight constitutionally protected abortion rights in Ohio with protracted litigation and frivolous appeals to subvert implementation of the law with whatever legal tool he has to keep Ohio women subjugated as second-class citizens.

Yost is fixated on generating headlines and getting on TV. So he pursues partisan lawsuits with other Republican AGs to exploit MAGA wedge issues, especially concerning transgender equality, and files a slew of Trump-loving, regulatory-hating amicus briefs to the Supreme Court.

Ohio’s chief law enforcement officer waves off Trump’s 88 felony counts in four jurisdictions for charges ranging from “pervasive and destabilizing lies” about election fraud to illegally hoarding classified documents and falsifying business records in a hush money coverup to win the 2016 election. Yost appears guided by selective application of the law when it comes to the accused felon and presumptive presidential nominee of his party.

But Ohio’s AG is misguided if he thinks Ohioans are willing to concede that same selectivity when it comes to their hard-won constitutional right to reproductive freedom. They know what they voted for and so does Yost.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Bruce’s Ten Hot Takes for May 2, 2024

hot takes

President Joe Biden thinks giving Ukraine, Taiwan, and Israel billions of dollars in direct military aid is a “good day for peace.” His statement is irrational. U.S. military aid is directly responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths in the past year, and millions of deaths since the inception of our nation. Many of these deaths were children and civilians.

Colorado coach Deion “Prime Time” Sanders is a bully. His treatment of Colorado’s football players shows he has no regard or respect for them as men.

Social Security is not broken, contrary to what Congress tells us. Congress owes the Social Security Administration the 2.7 trillion dollars it “borrowed” from the fund. Repay this first before saying the fund is insolvent.

According to Evangelical megachurch pastor and grizzled culture war general John MacArthur, there’s no such thing as mental illness, especially PTSD. Someone should sue MacArthur for not only being an asshole, but practicing medicine without a license.

President Joe Biden supports “peaceful protest.” Evidently, “peaceful” means doing what you are told or we will send in the police to arrest you. Biden is clueless when it comes to war, peace, civil disobedience, and nonviolent resistance.

Atheists, agnostics, and nones overwhelmingly support Joe Biden. Why, then, does the president and the Democratic Party pretend we don’t exist?

Kristi Noem shot and killed her fourteen-month-old puppy. She also killed a goat that she deemed unworthy of continued life. Noem is a bad person, yet she is being considered for vice president on the Republican ticket. The Republican Party lacks a moral and ethical foundation. Trump is their God, and whatever he says is law.

Evangelicals think Taylor Swift’s latest album is Satanic and anti-Christian. Good job, Taylor! Anyone that pisses off Evangelicals is good by me.

Childhood immunization should be required before students enter school. No religious exemptions, and that includes students in private religious schools.

God did not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah due to homosexuality. It’s in the Bible. Look it up.

Bonus: Churches should be required to run annual state and federal background checks on all clerics. staff, and volunteers. Churches that refuse to do so should lose their liability insurance coverage.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Are Public Schools Left-Wing Indoctrination Centers?

critical race theory
Cartoon by Barry Deutsch

By Olivia Riggio, Used with Permission from FAIR — Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting

In the latest multi-thousand word feature depicting America’s “education culture war,” the Washington Post’s “They Quit Liberal Public Schools. Now They Teach Kids to Be Anti-‘Woke’” (4/15/24) fawningly profiled Kali and Joshua Fontanilla, the founders of the Exodus Institute, an online Christian K–12 school that aims to “debunk the ‘woke’ lies taught in most public schools.”

The piece was written by Post reporter Hannah Natanson, who regularly contributes longform features that platform anti-trans and anti–Critical Race Theory views through a palatable “hear me out” frame, while including little in the way of opposing arguments—or fact checks (FAIR.org, 5/11/23, 2/12/22, 8/2/21).

This profile of the Fontanillas—two former California teachers who left their jobs and moved to Florida in 2020, “disillusioned” by school shutdowns and colleagues’ embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement—shows the Post once again depicting efforts to address racial and gender bias as a bigger problem than racial and gender bias themselves.

“The claim that public schools teach left-wing ‘indoctrination, not education’ had become a commonplace on the right, repeated by parents, politicians and pundits,” Natanson wrote:

But not, usually, by teachers. And that’s why the Fontanillas felt compelled to act: They came direct from the classroom. They had seen firsthand what was happening. Now, they wanted to expose the propaganda they felt had infiltrated public schools—and offer families an alternative.

The irony of the Fontanillas founding a far-right Christian school to fight “indoctrination” is lost on Natanson, as she, too, uncritically repeated these claims, as though the couple’s experience as teachers legitimized the far-right ideologies they peddle.

Natanson reported that Kali’s social media presence has attracted people to her school—despite her being “regularly suspended for ‘community violations.’” The article does not specify what those violations are, but on Instagram, Kali herself shared a screenshot of her account being flagged for disinformation, and another video talking about how a post she made about “newcomers” (i.e., migrants) received a “violation,” in calls to get her followers to follow her backup account.

The piece refers to her ideas—including referring to Black History Month as “Black idolatry month” and encouraging her followers to be doomsday preppers—as “out there.”

Kali is half Black and half white, and Joshua is of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent—a fact that is mentioned alongside the couple’s gripes with the idea of slavery reparations and the concept that America is systemically racist.

Kali brags that the more right-wing her ideas, the more families she attracts to her school. “But they also spurred thousands of critical messages from online observers who contended she was indoctrinating students into a skewed, conservative worldview,” Natanson wrote.

The “hate” that these videos “inspire,” Natanson wrote, is from commenters who oppose Kali’s messages:

Online commenters regularly sling racial slurs and derogatory names: “slave sellout roach.” “dumb fukn bitch.” “wish dot com Candice Owen.” “Auntie Tomella.

Never mind the hate and conspiracy theories Kali spews in her videos. A recent video on Kali’s Instagram begs followers to follow a backup account, because a video she made about migrants was taken down by Meta as a violation of community standards. She says she believes her account has been “shadowbanned”—or muted by the platform.

Even the posts that remain unflagged by Instagram are full of bigotry and disinformation, including a cartoon of carnival performers being let go from a sideshow because they’re “not freaks anymore,” a compilation video of trans women in women’s restrooms with text that reads “get these creeps out of our bathrooms,” and a photo of a trans flag that demands, “Defund the grooming cult.”

An ad Kali posted for an emergency medical kit claimed that the FDA had “lost its war” on Ivermectin, an antiparasitic drug that the right has latched onto as a panacea for Covid-19. In reality, the lawsuit the FDA settled with the drug company involved an acknowledgement that the drug has long been used to treat humans, not just livestock—but for parasites, not viruses (Newsweek, 3/22/24). The National Institutes of Health (12/20/23) report that double-blind testing reveals ivermectin is ineffective against Covid.

Kali, who regularly mocks trans women and left-wing activists, apparently couldn’t take the heat. The backlash got so bad, Natanson writes, that

coupled with her chihuahua’s death and an injury that prevented her daily workouts, it proved too much for Kali. She went into a depressive spiral and had to take a break from social media. She barely managed to film her lessons.

In the Fontanillas’ lessons, the existence of white Quakers who fought against slavery is proof that racism is not institutionalized in the US. It’s also evidence of an “overemphasis” on reparations, even though, as Natanson mentioned toward the very end of the piece, many Quakers did take part in the trans-Atlantic slave trade and later chose to pay reparations.

In addition to Covid shutdowns, other evidence of left-wing “indoctrination” offered by the Fontanillas included a quiz that asked students to recognize their privilege, the use of a Critical Race Theory framework in an ethnic studies class, announcements for gay/straight alliance club meetings (with no announcements made for Joshua’s chess club meetings), and the work of “too many” “left-leaning” authors—like Studs Terkel, Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman—in the English curriculum.

Natanson includes a positive testimonial from a mother whose son Kali tutored before her political shift rightward, who remembers how “Kali let him run around the block whenever he got antsy,” and a screenshot of a review from a current student, who says they “love love LOVE” Kali’s teaching, because it exposes “the stupid things on the internet in a logical way.” Natanson also quotes an employee of the company that handles the logistics for Southlands Christian Schools, the entity from which the Fontanillas’ school gets its accreditation, who says, “Josh and Kali are good people, they have a good message, there is definitely a market for what they’re doing.”

The only opposition to the Fontanillas’ arguments in the nearly 3,000-word piece, beyond incoherent social media comments, come in the form of official statements and school board meeting soundbites.

Natanson includes a statement from the school district the Fontanillas formerly worked, saying that the ethnic studies class Kali resigned over was intended to get students to “analyze whether or not race may be viewed as a contributor to one’s experiences.” Another statement from the district denied Joshua’s claims that his school privileged certain clubs over others, and upheld that its English curriculum followed California standards.

The only direct quotes from students opposing the Fontanillas are two short comments from students at a school board meeting who said they enjoyed the ethnic studies class. It does not appear Natanson directly interviewed either student: One statement was taken directly from the school board meeting video, and the other from a local news article. The lack of any original, critical quotes in the piece raises the question: Did Natanson talk to anyone who disagreed with the Fontanillas during her reporting on the article?

The article included a dramatic vignette of the couple bowing their heads after seeing a public art exhibit with pieces depicting a book in chains and a student wearing earrings that read “ASK ME ABOUT MY PRONOUNS”—”just one more reason, Kali told herself, to pray,” Natanson wrote.

While thus passing along uncritically the Fontanillas’ take on what’s wrong with the world today, the article made no mention of more substantial threats bigotry poses to children and society at large.

LGBTQ youth experience bullying at significantly greater rates than their straight and cisgender peers (Reisner et al., 2015; Webb et al., 2021), and bullying is a strong risk factor for youth suicide (Koyanagi, et al., 2019). LGBTQ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide compared to their straight and cisgender peers (Johns et al., 2019; Johns et al., 2020). However, bullying of LGBTQ youth occurs less often at LGBTQ-affirming schools (Trevor Project, 2021).

A recent study found that about 53% of Black students experience moderate to severe symptoms of depression, and 20% said they were exposed to racial trauma often or very often in their lives (Aakoma Project, 2022).

Individuals of Black and Hispanic heritage have a higher risk of Covid infection and hospitalization from than their white counterparts (NIH, 2023). Peterson-KFF’s Health System Tracker (4/24/23) found that during the pandemic, communities of color faced higher premature death rates.

The migrants at the US border that Kali demonizes in her videos are seeking asylum from gang violence, the targeting of women and girls, and oppressive regimes propped up by US policy. Undocumented immigrants are less than half as likely as US citizens to be arrested for violent crimes (PNAS, 12/7/20). They are also being turned away at higher rates under Biden than they were under Trump (FAIR.org, 3/29/24).

The idea that left-wing “propaganda” is “infiltrating” public schools is upside-down. If there’s a particular ideology that is being systematically censored in this country, to the point where it deserves special consideration by the Washington Post, it is not the Fontanillas’.

Since 2021, 44 states have introduced bills or taken other steps to ban Critical Race Theory in schools. Eighteen states have already imposed these bans or restrictions (Education Week, 3/20/24). The right is pushing for voucher schemes that transfer tax revenues from public to private schools, including to politicized projects like Exodus Institute (Progressive, 8/11/21; EPI, 4/20/23).

In the first half of this school year alone, there were more than 4,000 instances of books being banned. According to PEN America (4/16/24), people are using sexual obscenity laws to justify banning books that discuss sexual violence and LGBTQ (particularly trans) identities, disproportionately affecting the work of women and nonbinary writers. Bans are also targeted toward literature that focuses on race and racism, Critical Race Theory and “woke ideology.”

It is dangerous and backwards for the Washington Post to play along with this couples’ delusion that they are free speech martyrs—even as their “anti-woke” agenda is being signed into censorious law across the country.

The piece ended back in the virtual classroom with the Quakers, as Natanson takes on a tone of admiration. Kali poses the question to her students, “What does it mean to live out your values?”

“Kali smiled as she told her students to write down their answers,” Natanson narrated. “She knew her own.”

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Are Pro-Palestinan College Protesters Anti-Semetic?

college protests texas

By Howard Winant, Used with Permission from Common Dreams

Like the Black movement and the anti-Vietnam War movement, the movement for a free Palestine is global, not just a U.S. domestic movement. Central to the movement is opposition to the war on the civilian population of Gaza, rightly labeled genocidal. This combines with ongoing opposition to the slower-moving but still brutal Israeli offensive against Palestinians in the West Bank.

Yes, the destruction of Gaza was in reaction to the unprecedented and unjustifiable October 7, 2023 attack by Hamas (rightly labeled terrorist) on Israeli civilians. But there is no equivalence between these two criminal acts, at least not in quantitative terms. To equate them is to engage in ideological posturing, not credible political analysis. Indeed the parallel between the terms “genocide” and “terrorism” is a lot more intelligible.

I have been told by family members I have in Israel that “all Palestinians are terrorists” (full disclosure: I am Jewish and the child of survivors of the Shoah), but I don’t think they really believe that; they are expressing their rage rather than thinking deeply. I’m sure some Palestinians would say that Zionism equals genocide, but I don’t think they really believe that either. They are expressing their rage rather than thinking deeply.

The student-led movement for a free Palestine is not antisemitic. Thousands of Jewish students have joined it. Hundreds of rabbis and cantors too, as well as leaders of Jewish organizations and prominent Jews across U.S. society and beyond. Despite fervent attempts to stigmatize anti-Zionism as anti-Jewish, despite strident efforts on Israel’s part to merge its national identity with Judaism itself, or indeed with Jewish culture and ethnicity, despite the wildly inappropriate calls from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the U.S. to crack down on student protest, Israel does not represent all Jewish people or types of Jewishness. So the movement for a free Palestine is not a movement to destroy Israel and expel Jews. Everybody knows that the Israeli Jewish population is not going anywhere, any more than the Palestinians are. The phrase “from the river to the sea” is frequently used both by both Palestinians and Israelis. The movement for a free Palestine and the Israeli peace movement (small but important) should demand that that language be rearticulated so that it applies to both peoples.

Efforts to repress the student movement for a free Palestine will never succeed. It is too big and too broad. It is part of a worldwide struggle for justice. It is a working-class and poor people’s movement. It is an anti-racist movement and a feminist movement. It is an anti-colonialist movement, connected to the long struggle against European empires and the U.S. empire. It closely resembles the movements against South African apartheid and the Black Lives Matter movement, among many others.

It is not an accident that attacks on the movement have concentrated on repressing student voices. As they have so many times before, students have shown that they are our leaders in struggles for freedom, equality, and democracy. As has been true so many times before, opposition to the movement is concentrated among the wealthy and the right wing. It is wealthy donors who play the most significant role in opposing freedom for Palestinians, pressuring universities to prohibit pro-Palestinian speech and seeking to curtail nonviolent student protests. It is right-wing politicians who have become the new “snowflakes,” madly canceling students and faculty for the “antisemitism” of criticizing Israel. Not just the students, but the university itself is their frequent target.

Notably, universities were already under sustained attack before October 7, indeed long before that awful day. Universities are one of the most central institutions in society. They have not yet effectively been brought under the control of the wealthy, of anti-democratic governments and political parties, of racist and sexist power structures, and of repressive religiously based groups. This is because universities are institutions where knowledge and culture are produced, where democratic debate happens, where the wisdom of the past is preserved and studied, and where youth are able to develop their ideas and skills. Even though attacking universities is attacking their own children and destroying the futures of their own country, U.S. holders of wealth and power are willing to carry out those attacks, because they feel threatened by their own children’s views of the world. They fear the future they themselves are creating: one of permanent warfare, global heating and ecocide, and planetary apartheid. They hate being reminded, especially by their own kids, of their hypocrisy and violence.

The movement for freedom in Palestine shows us what a different future looks like. The movement demands university divestment from the Israeli warfare state and from Israeli apartheid. It calls out the oligarchs who threaten their own type of divestment, threatening to withdraw their funding from Penn, or Harvard, or the University of California, my own professional home. Let them go! Let them support Bob Jones University or Bari Weiss’ ridiculous University of Austin. Let them subsidize notorious political hacks like Christopher Rufo and political poseurs like Rep. Elise Stefanik (D-N.Y.). By and large rich donors’ funding is based on a hunger for prestige, not on any commitment to education. They seek tax write-offs. They subsidize their businesses through their donations. They hardly care about poor or working-class students, and even less about the humanities, arts, and social sciences, which are the fields where most undergraduate students major, and where the future of civilizational knowledge resides. Higher education is a public trust; it cannot be entrusted to the rich. As elsewhere in the world, it should be financed by the public, not greedy and blind billionaires.

The movement for freedom in Palestine is a new kind of movement, because it is not siloed. Students supporting freedom in Palestine have learned from Palestinians. Many have noted the connections between the Black Lives Matter movement and Palestinian freedom struggles. For example, in 2014 after the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Palestinians who had long experience with the repressive police tactics of the Israelis taught Black protesters how to resist militarized police repression. (Meanwhile the Anti-Defamation League ferried U.S. cops to Israel to learn torture techniques practiced upon Palestinians.)

Movements resisting U.S. ecocide, like the Oceti Sakowin water protectors in the Standing Rock reservation, as well as anti-pipeline protesters and other climate justice activists, have learned from the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank defending their land against settlers who cut down their olive groves and destroy their water wells. U.S. feminists have learned from Palestinian women, like the then 17-year-old Ahed Tamimi, who in 2018 slapped an Israeli soldier as he tried to enter her family’s house in the occupied West Bank town of Nabi Saleh. U.S. LGBTQ activists have repudiated Israeli “pinkwashing” to express their support for Palestinians. U.S. doctors and nurses are supporting their Palestinian counterparts, reacting in horror as Israel has destroyed every hospital and health facility in Gaza. U.S. educators are supporting Palestinian scholars and teachers as Israel has blown up every university in Gaza, and has razed schools in the West Bank. People in the U.S. who take their religion seriously, rather than using it to score political points, recognize that Israeli policies imposing mass starvation would make Jesus weep. And Rabbi Hillel, and the Prophet Mohammed, and Mohandas K. Gandhi too. What would Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. say about Israeli policy in Gaza?

The movement for the freedom of Palestine, led by students, has emerged at long last as the leading political current in the worldwide struggle for freedom in general. Just as the student-led Black freedom movement led the global freedom struggle in the years after World War II, joined by anti-colonial movements and the student-led anti-Vietnam War movement, the movement for the freedom of Palestine has taken its place in the struggle’s leadership today. Or course the movement has its flaws: There are unsavory allies like Hamas and Iran whose politics hardly coincide with those of the student movement; Jewish students get harassed on campus just as Muslims do; not only Islamophobia but antisemitism lives on in the U.S., notably on the Christian right where the Quran is defiled and Rev. Hagee praises Hitler as an avatar of the Rapture.

But we have to look at the big picture: Anti-Zionism is not antisemitism. Israel/Palestine can become a safe home for both Jews and Arabs. The student movement for the freedom of Palestine teaches us that the people of the world demand social justice everywhere, including in the Middle East. Mass murder solves nothing.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Dear Democrats, Does Support Require Loyalty?

democratic party

The Republican Party is pretty much a monoculture, with little, if any diversity, among its members. Thanks to the influence of fascist, criminally-indicted former president Donald Trump, MAGA (Make America Great Again) policies dominate and control the Republican Party. I suspect there are more than a few Republican politicians who personally despise Trump and the MAGA wing of the Party, but they know that without Trump’s and MAGA’s support, they can’t win. These spineless Republicans know that just one social media post from Trump can sink their election/reelection chances. So they say nothing when Trump espouses policies that are not only hateful, racist, and anti-democratic, they pretend the man is not a narcissist and pathological liar. (All politicians lie, but Trump lies multiple times every day, eight days a week.)

There was a time when the Democratic Party was considered a big-tent political group, but some within the Party are now demanding loyalty to President Joe Biden and any and every policy deemed “Democratic.” Granted, the Democrats don’t have people such as Marjorie “Moscow” Taylor-Green, Matt “Child Molester” Gaetz, Tom Cotton, Ted “Cancun” Cruz, Paul “Nazi” Gosar, Lauren “Hand Job” Boebert, and Josh “The Cowardly Lion” Hawley demanding fealty under pains of political execution, there are those within the Democratic Party who marginalize and denigrate those who dare hold positions contrary to those of the Biden Administration. Democrats such as John Fetterman, Jon Tester, Joe Manchin, Bernie Sanders, and The Squad (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Presley, Rashida Tlaib, Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush, Greg Casar, Summer Lee, and Delia Ramirez) face increasing pressure from mainstream and centrist Democrats to toe the party line. For example, I oppose John Fetterman’s pro-Israel view, but I reject the notion that Fetterman is not a “real” Democrat.

Joe Biden needs the various factions within the Democratic Party to vote for him if he hopes to win the 2024 presidential election. Disparaging and marginalizing pro-Palestinian, anti-war, socialist, or pro-environment Democrats is a sure way to drive these voters to the open arms of the campaigns of Robert Kennedy, Jr., Cornel West, and Jill Stein (or could lead to protest votes for Marianne Williamson). Young voters, in particular, are more likely to be anti-war, pro-environment, and have socialist tendencies. Pretending these people don’t exist will only ensure that Biden goes down to defeat in November. Young voters may not have much real-world experience, but they know hypocrisy when they see it. They “hear” the pathetic challenges from Biden and his feckless cabinet to Israel’s genocidal slaughter of over 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza, while, at the same time, seeing the President and Democrats in Congress give Israel $18 billion to continue its immoral war. These young folks make, as they should, a direct connection between U.S.-funded and supplied bombs, bullets, drones, and missiles and daily reports of bloodshed, violence, and death in Gaza. They see the mutilated bodies of Palestinian children and know that the United States is directly responsible for their deaths.

I am a member of the local Democratic Party’s executive committee. I was elected to this position in March. I made it clear to Party leaders that while I am a proud Democrat, I have policy positions that run contrary to that of the Defiance County and State Democratic Party. I made sure they understood that I was an atheist; a humanist; a pacifist; and a socialist. They knew or should have known, anyway, that I am an outspoken writer who uses this blog and letters to the editor of the local newspaper to advance my cause. I will gladly support the Democratic Party at every level, but I will not silence my voice just to give the Party the appearance of MAGA-like unity. I grew up in a home with a mother who spoke her mind on political issues; and who was unafraid to voice her opinion in public forums. I continue to follow in her footsteps — thirty plus years after her suicide — albeit from the other side of the political aisle.

The Democratic Party has my support, but it does not have my loyalty. I refuse to say the Pledge of Allegiance because it is a loyalty pledge. I am grateful to be an American. I can’t imagine living in any other place than in the good ole USA. That said, I reject demands of political conformity and fealty. Nations and governments come and go. My objective is to work towards making the United States a better place to live. Most of all, I want my six children and sixteen grandchildren to have promising, prosperous, happy futures. When Democratic (or Republican) policies meet my desires and expectations, they can count on my support. When they don’t, the Democratic Party can expect to hear from me. Demands for Party loyalty will be rejected. If the Party’s tent is not big enough for someone like me, that’s their loss, not mine. I will do all I can to promote and advance Democratic policies and candidates, but what I will not do is abandon my political beliefs just so the Party can present to the public a facade of unity. Political debate and diversity are important for the health of the Democratic Party. The moment I’m told to be quiet or tone down my opinions or rhetoric is when I (and scores of other like-minded people) exit the tent.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Questions: Bruce, Why Are You an Advocate of The LGBTQ Community?

questions

A reader asked on social media:

Why are you an advocate of the LGBTQ community?

I am an advocate of the LGBTQ community because I believe all Americans should have equal justice and protection under the law. That’s it. I expect and demand that LGBTQ people have the same rights as I do. And when they don’t, I advocate for change.

I don’t have to understand or agree with LGBTQ people (or Evangelical Christians) to insist that they have the same civil rights as I — a heterosexual man — have.

This is not a complicated issue for me. Granted, it helps that one of my sons is part of the LGBTQ community, but I was a supporter and defender long before he came out.

Please see:

Bruce, What was Your View on Homosexuality When You Were a Pastor?

What Evangelical Christianity Taught Me About Homosexuality

My Journey From Homophobia to a Supporter of LGBTQ People

Bruce, Were You Transphobic as an Evangelical Pastor?

Bruce, What was Your View on Homosexuality When You Were a Pastor?

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Bruce’s Ten Hot Takes for April 10, 2024

hot takes

Almost 200 aid workers have been killed in Gaza since October 7, 2023. This is unconscionable.

If Donald Trump was not on the 2024 ballot, Joe Biden would not get my vote. His immoral inaction over Israel’s war against the Palestinian people is a bridge too far for me.

Biden plans to give Israel $18 billion more in weapons of mass destruction. Bernie Sanders is right, Israel should not receive a nickel more in U.S. aid as long as they are waging indiscriminate war against defenseless Palestinians and withholding/hindering humanitarian aid.

Studies show increased DNA tests reveal incest more prevalent than thought. Is anyone really surprised by this? I suspect the same can be said for an increase in people finding out that their biological father is not the man who says he is.

Hillary Clinton tells voters who are upset over Biden-Trump rematch to “get over yourself.” Sorry, Hillary I’m still pissed over your feckless 2016 presidential campaign. Taking pot shots at Democrats who want better candidates and principled policies is driving people away from the Party. You’ve been warned.

Major League Baseball ⚾️ has started. Hope springs eternal. Will this be the year my Cincinnati Reds make a deep playoff run? Please God . . . 🤣

Arizona Republicans said they wanted a total ban on abortion, and the Supreme Court gave them one. Now they are distancing themselves from the very thing they wanted. Why? They fear being voted out of office by angry women who are tired of men controlling their reproductive rights.

Don’t believe one word Trump says about abortion. He will literally say anything to get elected. I guarantee you, once elected he will give forced birthers exactly what they want.

Our kitten, Petey, the Ferret, is six months old. We are currently living through the cat equivalent of the terrible twos. Last night, Polly put leftover garlic bread in a bag and left it on the kitchen counter. Come morning, garlic bread was spread all over the kitchen/living room floor. The bag? Petey took it upstairs. Never a dull moment.

Wonder and awe for this atheist was seeing and experiencing the total eclipse on Monday. God is nothing compared to this.

Bonus: Polly started her new job last week at Sauder Manufacturing in Stryker, Ohio. She is working first shift in their sewing department. This was an inter-company move, so she kept all her benefits, albeit with a $160 a week play cut since she is no longer a manager. We survive, to live another day.

Ohio Republicans Spending Almost $1 Billion a Year to Fund Private Christian Schools

By Marilou Johanek, Ohio Capital Journal, Used with Permission

ohio school vouchers

If your local school district had a levy on the ballot last month, chances are it lost. Most did. That means losing districts may cut courses, counseling services, staff, busing, building. It means increasing budget deficits. It also means increasing class sizes, pay-to-participate fees, and public school students making do with less.

Imagine what a billion dollar windfall from the state legislature would mean to school districts struggling to balance their budgets with less? Now imagine that billion dollar bonanza from the General Assembly going instead to private, mostly religious schools. Spoiler alert: the private school money train is real and your tax dollars are driving it. What’s wrong with that picture? 

Ohio taxpayers didn’t get a vote on paying for the private school decisions of mainly white, often affluent parents who can afford the parochial schools and pricey college prep institutions their kids already attend. But, thanks chiefly to Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, the premier advocate of state-funded Catholic education, unknowing voters were roped into subsidizing the non-public school selections of thousands of Ohio families — including many who make north of $250,000 a year. 

Never mind that your school district can hardly keep up with inflation and rising operating costs to maintain or renovate 60-year-old buildings, let alone construct new ones. School administrators have to come to you, hat-in-hand, to beg repeatedly for funding the state won’t provide. But the gerrymandered GOP supermajority in the Statehouse doesn’t care about the fiscal distress at your district or how the latest levy defeat will adversely impact students. 

ohio school vouchers

Ohio Republicans care about diverting a ton of taxpayer money (desperately needed by cash-strapped, levy-dependent districts) to benefit private school families, regardless of income or need, who choose to send their darlings to diocesan grade schools and religious high schools. That is certainly their right. Plenty of parents decide private school is the preferred option for their progeny. Good for them.

But that individual choice is a private value, a private good being wrongly underwritten by hundreds of millions of limited public funds not going to advance the common good of a public school system that accepts all and serves nearly 90% of Ohio students. Those finite funds for education in the state budget are flying out the door to serve the few — just over 8% of students in the state go to private schools — who freely chose a tuition-based education over the free public instruction we collectively support with our taxes.

But GOP lawmakers, who made funding private education a priority years ago, have been starving public schools of adequate and equitable state aid for a long time. With Huffman at the helm, Republicans unleashed a flood of tax revenue to boost the fortunes of private schools and swell enrollment at parish grade schools and religious high schools. GOP legislators continued inflating their massive giveaway of taxpayer dollars to private schools while remedies to fix the unconstitutional funding formula for public schools languished for decades.

State handouts to private education exploded from over $69 million in 2008 to over $360 million in fiscal year 2019, a 416% jump! But that’s nothing compared to the 2023-2024 school year when state-funded tuition coupons (aka vouchers) to private school parents went through the roof. Again, thanks to Huffman’s singular zealotry to privatize public education out of business, expanded state vouchers — paid from the same line item in the budget that funds public schools — are on track to hit $1 billion by June. 

Your tax dollars at work, but not for you or your public schools or the vast majority of students in Ohio.  

This unprecedented government largesse to church-related private schools in the state is on an alarming trajectory that has no cap or public accountability. It’s a boatload of easy money from the state with zero strings attached. How great is that for families with the means to send their kids to private schools but can now do it on the taxpayer’s dime??  

Of course, Catholic dioceses in Ohio and elite private high schools are aggressively encouraging their families to exploit the state’s voucher gimmes to the fullest. The government spigot for private education is wide open and there’s lots more where that came from if Huffman has his way. He quickly scrapped the passé requirement that state-paid tuition checks only go to low-income recipients burdened with failing area schools. 

With passage of universal vouchers last year for anyone attending private schools, Huffman dropped the pretense previously used to justify public financing of religious teaching and dissolved pre-conditions to qualify for free state bucks to bankroll private choices. The 2024-2025 school year could well surpass the anticipated $1 billion mark this year as more private school families take advantage of the voucher gravy train that doesn’t stop at public schools. 

Huffman wants to go further. Publicly-funded construction of private schools. Other Republicans expect taxpayers to foot the bill for private, non-chartered schools whose deeply held religious beliefs put them beyond the state’s educational grid. Where does it end? Ask any public school district eying harsh cutbacks after last month’s levy defeat.

Better yet, ask levy-fatigued taxpayers in Ohio, who never agreed to subsidize private education at the expense of their local schools, for their vote on the matter.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Quote of the Day: Why Mainstream Media Has Little Credibility with the American People

trump the liar

By Chauncey DeVega, a senior politics writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at Chaunceydevega.com.

One of the great errors of the American mainstream news media in the Age of Trump is an assumption that democracy is a settled matter in this country and that Republicans and Democrats are both equally invested in normal politics and consensus where the differences are just “partisan” and not existential. In the Age of Trump (and the years and decades that brought us here), that is manifestly not true. Public opinion polls and other research show that today’s Republican Party and larger “conservative” movement no longer support pluralistic multiracial democracy. Any members of the news media who conclude “everyone already knows” about Donald Trump’s violence so “why keep reminding them, it is old news,” is committing a number of gross errors in logic and inference. 

Most Americans do not follow the news and current events closely. Moreover, political scientists and other experts have repeatedly shown that the mass public is ignorant and not highly sophisticated in terms of their political decision-making and knowledge. Even worse, public opinion polls now show that a larger percentage of Americans are possessed by collective amnesia and are actually yearning for a return to the horrible years when Donald Trump was in the White House. 

This refusal to adapt and change for the better in service to real pro-democracy journalism and its dictate to pursue the real truth and not just what is comfortable and the “consensus”, is one of the many reasons why the mainstream news media has lost credibility with huge swaths of the American public. 

Channeling Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, Donald Trump and many of his MAGA followers have already targeted the American mainstream news media and its reporters and journalists as “enemies of the people.” To that end, Trump and his enforcers are threatening and planning (as publicly documented in Project 2025, Agenda 47, and elsewhere) how they are going to put “disloyal” and “non-complaint” (in their words “unpatriotic”) reporters, journalists, and other truth-tellers in the back of those pickup trucks right next to President Biden and their other enemies. Those threats are not metaphorical. They are literal. 

When the autocrat, fascist, or some other enemy of democracy tells you what they are going to do you should always believe them. They are not kidding. Unfortunately, too many members of the American news media refuse to do so — and it will only be their undoing. They were repeatedly warned. Denial will not save them.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Bruce Gerencser