The Day the GOP Died

IMG_2862A long, long time ago, the Grand Old Party stood for family values, moral values, and apple pie. Now, with Trump as leader, it’s more like family torture, infidelity, and borscht.

Less long ago (Thursday, May 31, 2018), former House Speaker John Boehner quipped: “The Republican Party is kinda taking a nap somewhere.” Boehner was drinking a bloody Mary at the time, so maybe we shouldn’t blame him for not noticing that his former party’s nap has lasted nearly two years.

Given there’s no chance the GOP will get woke, it’s time to say, “Bye, bye American GOP.” See (or listen) at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAsV5-Hv-7U  

The GOP was mortally wounded on a Super Tuesday back in September, 2016. In seven states, the Party of Lincoln voted to nominate Donald Trump for President. Sure, “Lying Ted” won a couple states and a few #NeverTrump folks were hanging on, but the die was cast, probably in some Trump casino, where the GOP’s mortal soul was traded for unlimited gaming opportunities. No longer was the GOP about marriage, civility, and moral virtue. Instead, along with Trump, so-called Republicans were embracing race over rights, disrespecting gold star families, degrading and sexualizing women, and undermining family values. And there was that White Nationalism thing. His crown stolen, Lincoln would have been apoplectic.

Resuscitation attempts failed. The Access Hollywood recording created a ripple of discontent and the gnashing of a tooth or two. But hey, it was locker room talk, and everyone knew who had the votes and who had the money. Jeff Flake and “Liddle Bob Corker” gave us hope, but our hope quickly gave way to calling respectful Black football players sons of bitches and making parents cry and children scream. Opposing Trump was too costly. Not only would there be hate mail, hate email, hate instant messages, and hate signs posted on your lawn, there would also be death threats, lost fundraising revenue, and lost elections. Republicans like balanced budgets. Opposing Trump did not pencil. #NotWorthIt. DJT would refuse to yield.

Later, the GOP voted that a generation lost in debt was preferable to confronting their friendship with the devil. Obsequious coveting of the naked emperor became de rigueur. Satanity laughed at tweets about pig’s blood, shitholes, and witch hunts. Fox News had spoken.

Even later, or perhaps earlier, there was Russian meddling, references to Rocket Man, and about 50 departures from the White House staff or cabinet. Going along, the GOP normalized talk about sex, presidential lies, and fantasized audio recordings. There were payments to porn stars, pay to play with China and Indonesia, and open theft of our national morality, with Trump metaphorically riding away in a taxpayer paid for golden golf-cart. The evangelicals were copiously ignoring the growing cracks in their church bells.

Mostly the GOP lay in a Boehner-nap, awakening only briefly for intermittent nips of bloody Marys and rye. A few free market optimists imagined the GOP was saving its strength for one last-ditch effort to #DumpTrump. But, right about then, because the three politicians I admired most were already dead anyway, the rest of the GOP joined them. The Republican Party, upon whom we could formerly count for at least a façade of morality, had its thousand points of light torn away like a Puerto Rican roof. Final confirmation of the GOP’s death occurred in July with continuing news from the Mexico border that made us shiver. John McCain’s angel was in a body cast, because he was “Dying anyway.”

The GOP, having given away its moral authority to speechless speakers, vapid veeps, and the money man, is no longer grand, no longer old, and no longer alive. The Party of Lincoln is dead. Let’s drive our Harleys to the coast and pray that the Party of Trump is short-lived.

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John Sommers-Flanagan is a clinical psychologist, professor of counselor education at the University of Montana, and author of eight books. The views expressed here are solely the views of John Sommers-Flanagan, and not representative of the University of Montana or Don McLean.

Dear Mr. President

Forgive Him Jesus: He Really Doesn’t Know What He’s Doing

Dog Bunny

This Easter morning, Donald J. Trump fell to his knees.

“Dear Jesus,” he said. “I repent! Please forgive me my sins.”

“I’ve been selfish. I’ve fornicated with porn stars, been unfaithful to my wives, lashed out in judgment, and hurt many people. To preserve my ego, I’ve put myself first. I’ve told lies, huge lies, some of the best lies ever, all just so I can look good and have things my way. I’ve mocked the disabled, marginalized the sick, made life more difficult for disenfranchised immigrants, golfed more than I should (and sometimes lied about my score), served the rich and powerful over the poor and needy, and called countries with Black people ‘shit holes’ and then said I didn’t. Sometimes I’ve even humiliated people who get in my way, repeatedly calling them clever, but untruthful names, pointing out their weaknesses, and accusing them of fake news and low ratings. My behavior toward women has been so shocking that I’d rather only talk about it in locker rooms. But now that I’ve built up my self-esteem on the backs of others, I finally feel good enough about myself to come clean. I was too focused on winning. I forgot all about that thing in the Bible about the last being first, and that other thing in the Bible about the camel and the eye of a needle. In truth, and this is hard for me to say, but I’ve lived a life quite opposite of a true Christian. I’ve had it backward. Instead of doing unto others as I would have them do unto me, I’ve been doing unto others, as I feared or perceived them doing unto me.

For all this, and much more, I seek your forgiveness.”

Suddenly, Jesus appeared before Donald Trump saying,

“I’m not inclined to make personal appearances, but your case is special, so I’m making an exception. I want you to know, my son, my Donald, I forgive you. I forgive you your many, many, and very large sins. I have faith that from here on, you will live your life as an exemplary Christian.

Donald looked up in amazement.

Jesus was transfigured.

Wait.” Jesus said, smiling. “What day is today?”

Donald looked puzzled. “What do you mean my Lord? Surely you must remember, today is Easter! Of all holidays, this must be your favorite. I mean, you, rising from the dead. That was big. Never been seen before, or after. Biggest thing ever.”

“Yes, my Donald. You are correct. Today is my favorite holiday. And so let me offer you the appropriate greeting.”

Immediately, shimmering and giggling, Jesus said,

“April Fools!”

Then he, Elijah, and Mary Magdalen all had a very good laugh at the Donald.

Finally, after calming himself down, Jesus spoke again,

“Hey Donald. Seriously now. The joke is over. I’m not saying I’m NOT forgiving you. That was just me joking. Haha. Got you pretty good, huh? But here’s the deal. You need to know that good old Catholic doctrine, you know, the one about faith AND works; it applies here, especially to guys like you. After all the sinning you’ve just confessed to me, big and huge sinning, as you might say, it seems obvious, you’ve got work to do. Besides, when you first started your confession this morning, I was pretty sure you were doing an April Fool’s joke ON ME. And because you’ve grown so good at lying, I’m still not perfectly convinced you weren’t just dissembling. So hang in there my son: be honest, help the disenfranchised, treat women with respect, get some funding for the EPA and education, love the little children, make progress on gun safety, and give away all your money to the poor. Then, forgiveness for you will be just around the corner.”

A Modest Firearms Safety Proposal that Everyone will Hate (and why that’s a good thing)

Grove Creek Road

The fact that U.S. citizens can own an assault weapon and thousands of rounds of ammunition without having a license to own said assault weapon and ammunition is a special form of societal insanity that requires an intervention. This is a modest proposal for a national intervention.

The 2nd amendment guarantees U.S. citizens the right to keep and bear arms. Let’s forgo all debate about the meaning of a “well-regulated militia” and assume this right exists in full force. I say this because efforts to argue against this right inevitably result in old, polarizing, bumper-sticker rhetoric that serves no useful purpose.

This is a proposal for firearms safety, not gun control. It’s based on the following principles:

  1. In an ideal world there would be no guns, bombs, or other instruments of violence; we would all coexist cooperatively and peacefully.
  2. There is no ideal world. We must face the reality that guns and other weapons exist and that efforts to wish them away or confiscate them are equally fantastical.
  3. We live in world far different from the time when the 2nd amendment was passed. Gone are the days of muskets and gunpowder. Now we have automatic weapons and clips that allow gun owners to fire more shots in a minute than could be fired in an hour in the 1700s. Even if we affirm the 2nd amendment, surely it must be applied differently than originally construed.
  4. Supporters of the 2nd amendment need to accept reality; the world of firearms is more complex and dangerous than ever before.
  5. Gun control advocates need to embrace the right to bear arms. Arguing against that right only incites vehement resistance.

The proposal begins with an affirmation that everyone has the right to bear arms, but the number of firearms is limited to a reasonable number. Even though Costco sells gun safes that hold 48 long guns, I propose limiting firearm ownership. At age 18 years every eligible U.S. citizen would be provided a permit or license to own up to five firearms. These firearms must be registered. They MAY NOT include assault weapons. Children under 18 do not have the right to bear arms and therefore cannot be gun owners. Some U.S. citizens may be ineligible to bear arms because of criminal activity or a mental disorder.

Individuals who view themselves as gun aficionados or collectors will undoubtedly object to this plan. They want more than five guns and they want automatic weapons. The solution is simple: Individuals who want more firearms need to acquire a specialty license. Think of it like a commercial driving license. The specialty license would require professional training and psychological screening. Professional trainers would need to acquire a trainer’s license. The NRA, federal, state, and local government, and other appropriate stakeholders could have input on training, licensing, and psychological screening criteria. This is one way we can work together to responsibly move away from repeated tragedies and toward greater public safety.

This system would also include specific standards for losing the right to bear arms. In addition to certain criminal activities and mental disorders, not keeping one’s guns locked and safe, and other violations of these standards would result in a temporary or permanent loss of the right to bear arms.

In the end, the NRA and those who support unlimited firearms freedom will undoubtedly view this proposal as infringing on their inherent natural God given rights to own firearms. Gun control advocates will view this proposal as equally unacceptable and question why anyone ever needs to own five firearms or assault weapons. I hope both sides can see the logic in adopting a plan that both sides find unacceptable.

Let’s end with a thought experiment.

If you have children in your life, pretend they’re watching as we engage in this debate. If you hold religious beliefs, pretend God is watching too. How shall we proceed? Shall we continue to insist that all solutions be consistent with our own personal philosophies? Or shall we approach one another in the spirit of compromise and trust and hope for a better and safer future for our children. There may be ambiguity in the 2nd Amendment, but there’s no ambiguity about our need to move forward together. We must sit together and compromise. The fact that there’s no perfect solution shouldn’t be an excuse for us to do nothing because the longer we do nothing, the more likely we are to sentence our children to a more violent future and our God to perpetual disappointment in humanity.

Additional details on my six-point plan for firearms safety are forthcoming soon.

Thanks for reading and thanks for thinking about how to enhance the safety of our children and our communities.

My Open Letter to the NRA

IMG_0928Dear NRA.

About five years ago, 20 children and 6 six adults were killed by a Bushmaster XM 15-E2S and Glock 20SF.

More recently, 2 of America’s most deadly mass shootings occurred in the past 90 days. There were 58 killed in Las Vegas (10/1/17). Twenty-six more were executed in a church in Sunderland, Texas (11/5/17).

These shootings are so completely and mind-numbingly sad that hardly anyone knows what to say or do. I know your thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families and their communities. That’s nice, but your thoughts and prayers are ineffective as deterrents to future firearm deaths. In this case, it’s not the thought that counts; action is what counts.

So I’m wondering, can we work together to Make America Rational (#MAR)?

Let’s start with data. There’s nothing like data as a foundation for rational thinking.

On those three days—Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, and Sunderland—110 innocent people were gunned down for doing nothing but going to school, attending a concert, and being at a church service. Losing these lives is a massive tragedy. However, as you likely know, tracking lives lost from mass shootings is only the tip of the iceberg. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates there are, on average, over 90 gun-related deaths EVERY DAY in America. That’s like Sandy Hook plus Las Vegas, every day of every week.

Why am I bothering with this open letter to you, the NRA? Everyone knows that open letters are pathetic acts of desperation. Likely, you won’t read this and if you do, you’ll tape it to a target and shoot holes in it. Forgive my cynicism. Cynicism is just a byproduct of desperation and powerlessness.

Most Americans know your position. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” As true as that statement is, it’s equally true that, “People use guns to kill people, and to kill themselves, and do so more effectively and efficiently than by any other means.”

Is any of what I’ve said arguable? Do you dispute the data? If not, then let’s engage in a rational discussion.

If you concede to these facts, I’ll give you the right to bear arms. Although it’s not as clear in the second amendment as you claim, let’s agree on the constitutionality that you (and I) have a right to bear arms.

This brings us a big sticking point. Even if we agree that (a) there’s a gun-related death problem in the U.S. and (b) we have a right to bear arms, our next step is to talk strategy and solutions, and this is where we likely disagree.

In the past, you’ve trotted out the same old and tired strategy. To address Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, and Sunderland, you suggested that we need more guns in schools, in Vegas, and in church. My apologies for more cynicism here, but if you say (again) that we just need more guns to stop gun-related deaths, then I know you’re not willing to look at rational solutions. Think about Vegas. Would a well-armed group of concert attendees have helped that situation? We can’t know, but most rational people recognize that more guns in Vegas wouldn’t reduce gun-related deaths in Vegas. Why? Let me count the ways: Alcohol, gambling, suicide, and not even knowing where the bullets are coming from. More guns do not equal fewer gun-related deaths. If you go down that road, you’re clearly not rational about this and don’t care to be rational about this. If you go down that road, either someone has purchased your soul or you’re just out of your fucking mind.

I’m sorry for that last statement. I really am. It comes from sadness, frustration, and anger. In fact, as you read this, you’re probably thinking I’m out of my fucking mind. That’s the way polarization works. But I’m still hoping we can come together to think rationally together and engage in constructive problem-solving.  I’m hoping you can find compassion in your heart for the victims of senseless gun-related deaths. Let’s agree on another point: We should have compassion for gun victims and their families. I’m sure we can agree on that.

What if I offer even another concession? How about I say this: “Let’s not do gun control?” Are you with me on that? I think you are. So let’s move on.

Instead of gun control, let’s do gun safety. But please don’t you start with any of that imaginary slippery slope bullshit. Please don’t act as if banning bump stocks will inevitably lead to the confiscation of all guns. If you want to oppose and rebut gun safety with facts, that’s fine. What I’m hoping is that we can work together to get serious about gun safety.

One more piece of bullshit I don’t want to hear from you, or anyone. Don’t go blaming gun-related deaths on the so-called mentally ill. Paul Ryan did that after Sunderland and, I swear, he’s either ignorant or playing politics when he brings that up. People with mental disorder diagnoses are NOT more inclined to commit acts of gun violence toward others. The truth is that they’re more likely to be violent toward themselves, but that’s a different issue. Next thing you know, Paul Ryan will be blaming gun violence on children or some other marginalized group with minimal resources to fight back. If you want to go with victim-blaming as a substitute for learning about and addressing the problem of gun deaths, well, that’s a damn good definition of cowardice, so please don’t go there.

Instead of going with the slippery-slope theory and instead of blaming people with mental health problems, I’ve got an amazing offer for you to contemplate. This is my hook. I’ve developed a five-point secret plan for preserving gun rights, while improving gun safety in America. I want to share it with you and work toward our mutual interests.

But here’s the catch. My plan is secret. I want you to commit to TALKING ABOUT OUR MUTUAL INTERESTS before sharing it. For now, I’m just writing this pathetic open letter and asking for a reply. Will you please work with me (and others) to make America safer?

One thing I can tell you about my plan. It will take courage and compromise . . . so don’t bother writing back if you’re hung up on being cowards who can’t compromise. If that’s who you are, and you can’t join in on making America rational (and safer), then just keep holding onto your firearms until someone has to pry them out of your cold, dead hands.

Sorry again for the sarcasm and cynicism. Feel free to poke me back. What I’m asking is  for you to let go of your guns for a minute and grab onto this olive branch; that would be fabulous, because we’ve got important work to do together.

Sincerely yours,

John Sommers