Martin EdenMartin Eden's Journal
Did that "town hall" effectively debunk all the lies spewed by Trump?
If not, then CNN platformed misinformation, not information. In doing so, the public good was harmed, not served.
I did not watch it, so my question is sincere. From what I've read, Trump put on a very predictable performance with too many lies and assertions to be effectively challenged and debuked in a format with one moderator and a Republican (or Republican-leaning) audience.
It sounds like the type of performance we've seen time and time again from this pathological liar, so I really have to question what useful purpose this served.
Context is important here. In normal times, broadcasting "town halls" for the leading candidate(s) in each party would be responsible journalism.
But Jan 6 was not normal. One of our two major political parties is promoting the Big Lie of a stolen election while downplaying the severity of an assault on our nation's Capitol and characterizing violent insurrectionists as true patriots. This is not normal.
Trump and his Party pose an existential threat to American democracy.
Do you disagree?
If not, then please consider the takeaway from CNN's "town hall" among all the voters who might consider giving Donald Trump another four years in the most powerful and prestigious elected office on this planet.
Did that broadcast effectively debunk the Big Lie and all the other lies, doing more to convince potential Trump voters that he's a lying criminal who must be thoroughly rejected by the American electorate?
Or did it do more to normalize this dangerous creature, aiding his quest to re-take the White House?
The former is informational, and responsible journalism.
The latter platformed misinformation, serving those who will transform the USA into a fascist state.
I don't see much evidence for it.
"Thoughts and prayers" was never anything more than a cynical, worthless bromide on their part. They have no real intention or plan to stop mass shootings but still have to pretend they care, so all they have are shallow slogans and ludicrous rationalizations.
That subject title is a snip from a letter (posted in its entirety below) to the editor written by a Vermont mother twenty-three years ago. This powerful message from a mom who had finally had enough is just as potent today as it was then, and just as (if not more) necessary.
This has been posted in DU several times over the years but some may not have seen it before, so here it is again:
Sharon Underwoods letter
By SHARON UNDERWOOD
As the mother of a gay son, I've seen firsthand how cruel and misguided people can be. Many letters have been sent to the Valley News concerning the homosexual menace in Vermont. I am the mother of a gay son and I've taken enough from you good people. I'm tired of your foolish rhetoric about the "homosexual agenda" and your allegations that accepting homosexuality is the same thing as advocating sex with children. You are cruel and ignorant. You have been robbing me of the joys of motherhood ever since my children were tiny.
My firstborn son started suffering at the hands of the moral little thugs from your moral, upright families from the time he was in the first grade. He was physically and verbally abused from first grade straight through high school because he was perceived to be gay. He never professed to be gay or had any association with anything gay, but he had the misfortune not to walk or have gestures like the other boys. He was called "fag" incessantly, starting when he was 6.
In high school, while your children were doing what kids that age should be doing, mine labored over a suicide note, drafting and redrafting it to be sure his family knew how much he loved them. My sobbing 17-year-old tore the heart out of me as he choked out that he just couldn't bear to continue living any longer, that he didn't want to be gay and that he couldn't face a life without dignity.
You have the audacity to talk about protecting families and children from the homosexual menace, while you yourselves tear apart families and drive children to despair. I don't know why my son is gay, but I do know that God didn't put him, and millions like him, on this Earth to give you someone to abuse. God gave you brains so that you could think, and it's about time you started doing that.
At the core of all your misguided beliefs is the belief that this could never happen to you, that there is some kind of subculture out there that people have chosen to join. The fact is that if it can happen to my family, it can happen to yours, and you won't get to choose. Whether it is genetic I don't know. I can only tell you that it is inborn.
If you want to tout your own morality, you'd best come up with something more substantive than your heterosexuality. You did nothing to earn it; it was given to you. If you disagree, I would be interested in hearing your story, because my own heterosexuality was a blessing I received with no effort whatsoever on my part. It is so woven into the very soul of me that nothing could ever change it. For those of you who reduce sexual orientation to a simple choice, a character issue, a bad habit or something that can be changed by a 10-step program, I'm puzzled. Are you saying that your own sexual orientation is nothing more than something you have chosen, that you could change it at will? If that's not the case, then why would you suggest that someone else can?
A popular theme in your letters is that Vermont has been infiltrated by outsiders. Both sides of my family have lived in Vermont for generations. I am heart and soul a Vermonter, so I'll thank you to stop saying that you are speaking for "true Vermonters."
You invoke the memory of the brave people who have fought on the battlefield for this great country, saying that they didn't give their lives so that the "homosexual agenda" could tear down the principles they died defending. My 83-year-old father fought in some of the most horrific battles of World War II, was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart. He shakes his head in sadness at the life his grandson has had to live. He says he fought alongside homosexuals in those battles, that they did their part and bothered no one. One of his best friends in the service was gay, and he never knew it until the end, and when he did find out, it mattered not at all. That wasn't the measure of the man.
You religious folk just can't bear the thought that as my son emerges from the hell that was his childhood he might like to find a lifelong companion and have a measure of happiness. It offends your sensibilities that he should request the right to visit that companion in the hospital, to make medical decisions for him or to benefit from tax laws governing inheritance.
How dare he? you say. These outrageous requests would threaten the very existence of your family, would undermine the sanctity of marriage. You use religion to abdicate your responsibility to be thinking human beings. There are vast numbers of religious people who find your attitudes repugnant. God is not for the privileged majority, and God knows my son has committed no sin.
The deep-thinking author of a letter to the April 12 Valley News who lectures about homosexual sin and tells us about "those of us who have been blessed with the benefits of a religious upbringing" asks: "Whatever happened to the idea of striving to be better human beings than we are?"
Indeed, sir, what ever happened to that?
I would take that a step further to declare (in my own personal opinion) there is no advantage to insulting the die hard MAGA folks among us. I'm not saying to validate their opinions, or even to turn the other cheek. I'm saying there is no advantage, socially or politically, to making an angry person even angrier -- to hardening their resolve in opposing everything we stand for.
Let us not cast poison into the river.
We may never change their minds, but I believe a simple approach accruing to everyone's advantage in dealing with other human beings is contained within a two word guide for personal behavior: Be Kind.
We probably have not walked a mile, or even a few steps, in their shoes. One of the greatest moral heroes in American literature, Atticus Finch, understood this well.
I also believe in a fairly simple and effective strategy in any potentially contentious discussion: find common ground.
Whether the vast majority of American citizens can see it or not, our common interests far outweigh any perceived zero sum game. Nearly all of us want security for ourselves and our family; good education and opportunities; fair pay for a fair day's work; freedom to pursue our dreams; medical care that does not ruin us financially.
The American Dream can only be achieved if we recognize our shared goals and have civil discussions in the realm of ideas with agreed upon facts. That last item could be the most difficult. The river is filled with the toxin of lies.
But lies are not the only poison. In the long run Mother Earth has a way of cleansing itself and purifying the waters, but that run will take much longer if each of us do not choose to refrain from casting toxins into the river from which we all drink.
It's a very informative little museum which of course includes the horrors Vonnegut encountered while a POW interred at Slaughter House 5 in Dresden at the time of the allied fire bombing that killed tens of thousands of civilians.
There was a quote about the rise of the Nazi Party that applied to the German people, which Vonnegut believed expressed truth about human character in such matters. I can't remember the author's name, but it goes like this:
Ten percent of people are always cruel: ten percent are always merciful; and the other 80% can be persuaded either way.
Your passage about convictions and opinions brought that to mind, and I concur that character plays a large role in whether a person can be persuaded towards cruelty or mercy. Or fascism vs democracy.
This is not to say character is immutable, or the future is unchangeable. Our reality is not that of Billy Pilgrim and the Tralfamadorians who can merely observe the tapestry of time and passively comment "So it goes."
People do learn, grow, and change. A key percent in the middle can be persuaded in the realm of opinions, and that is our central task. Kurt Vonnegut was a humanist, and the message I derive from his body of work is to be kind.
In our highly polarized nation it is easy and in some respects satisfying to view those on the other side as our enemies, and treat them as such. Schadenfreude abounds, but that is not how we persuade others to change their opinions. Perhaps more than ten percent never will.
Joe Biden decided to seek the presidency at an advanced age because he saw (as we all do) that the Soul of America is at stake. On character, the contrast between him and his predecessor could not be more stark.
We should all hearken the words of perhaps our greatest preseident regarding the better angels of our nature. Then after four years of brutal civil war he called for healing the nation's wounds with malice towards none.
Six years earlier he noted that a house divided against itself cannot stand, which I believe is a truth that applies today.
Will America and its dream survive to become a more perfect union?
Another truth expressed here is that democracy is a never ending struggle. It requires we act on our convictions, and as we engage in this struggle let us not forget our better angels.
Throughout history religion has been used as a means of control by those who seek worldly wealth and power. How much injustice, cruelty, and death has been dealt in the name of God?
My parents were not religious, and they never tried to influence me one way or another. From a young age I reasoned that all these competing religions purporting to be the one true path to God and salvation can't be right, so I decided none of them were.
My big existential question has always been Why and How is there Anything? If Everything can be traced to all the matter and energy released from the Big Bang, that still doesn't answer my question. I freely admit I lack the perception and intelligence to honestly answer that question with anything approching certainty.
Of course, the easy and comforting answer is God. Ever since human beings were able to contemplate their own mortality, fear of death drove the need to believe in an afterlife -- so Man created God, in his own image, of course. The certainty of that belief still prevails.
In a unverse with billions of galaxies, the conceit of mankind has been that it's all for and about us. With all our science and "genius" we have barely scratched the surface. We keep pushing the envelope of observing and testing physical reality, but how much closer are we to The Answer?
And is the How and Why as important as What we should do with the Life that we have?
To answer that question we need to turn inwards, and also to each other.
And, in my opinion, belief in God and religion is more of a roadblock than an avenue to the kind of enlightened evolution humanity so desperately needs on this beautiful planet for which we have been such terrible shepherds.
Of couurse the Orange Abomination needs to be relegated to the trash heap of history, but freepers and other assorted deplorables have not had their hearts changed by some Christmas miracle awakening.
No, they're just finally realizing Cheeto Jesus has become The Loser Guy. They will instead turn to DeSantis or whichever MAGA Messiah rises to become the standard bearer in the march towards the Christofascist America that is their heart's desire.
Dumping Trump will increase the likelihood of GQP success in the 2024 elections.
The greatest possible service Mango Mussolini can render our country is to stick around long enough to destroy the Rethug Party from within, increasing its toxicity with internecine warfare between establishment R's and loyal supporters of the Frankenstein monster they created.
That cultivation can come from within, or from deliberate manipulation by outside sources.
Individuals suffering psychological pain and fear are capable of becoming serial killers or mass murderers as their mental pathologies grow from early trauma and a lack of the sustaining human relationships we all need. Where love is absent, a person can cultivate hatred and turn it loose on others through horrific acts of violence.
John Lennon was onto something with "All you need is Love." We also need food, clothing, shelter, education, healthcare, etc., but it takes a special kind of inner strength and mental discipline (such as Rubin had) to keep your shit together in the absence of direct and sustained contact with human kindness and love.
It is a tragedy and a failure when children and people of all ages are abused or denied the nurturing all human beings need.
It is evil and destructive to society when ambitious politicians deliberately cultivate hatred pursuant to their own wealth, fame, and power. They know how to manipulate the insecurity, ignorance, and prejudice in their target audience by turning kernels of truth into crops of lies then placing the blame on "others" who are not like them. Add to that the unfettered access to high powered firearms designed for rapid killing.
Thusly we can at least partially understand the horrific plague of mass shootings in our country. Human psychology and motivation haven't really changed, but today's mass media and the internet have increasingly isoloated us from each other while multiplying the tools used by those who divide us against each other.
What is the solution? I don't subscribe to religion, but if we all made an effort on a daily basis to truly embrace what Jesus tried to impart to us we would have a chance to replace the cultivated hate with something better.
In order to get the love and kindness we all need, we have to freely give it.
That metaphorical tower is crumbling at its foundations, and its lone resident is beginning to realize it is in the process of crashing down.
Cheeto Jesus will not dwell quietly in the broken rubble of his giant yet fragile ego. He will rage, rage against the dying of the megalomaniacal image he constructed of himself.
In his malignancy and hatred he will lash out in nihilistic vengeance and take down with him, to the extent that he can, everyone and everything he blames for his own flaws and failures -- which he can never blame on himself.
But he largely will fail in his efforts at destruction, because the tower he built was being held up by the one thing he is rapidly losing -- real power.
He may for a while instigate a war within the Republican Party using the leverage of his brainwashed voting base, but the politicians who formerly kissed his orange ass will drop him like a rotting potato when fealty to The LOSER Guy no longer serves their interests.
Because that fealty was always transactional, by political creatures whose only principle is their own quest for power.
The pundits and politicians were calling them "cowards" but it takes a lot of courage to go into a foreign country, hijack a jetliner, and crash it into a building.
Pointing this out does not condone the terrorist act of murdering thousands of innocent men, women, and children. Nor does it lend any legitimacy to the warped poisonous ideology that misled these men into sacrificing their lives for a cause in which they obviously passionately believed.
The intelligent way to counter that poisonous ideology is not with simple minded mischaraterizations but with a deep dive into the history and current circumstances which drive human beings to commit such atrocities.
To understand them is not to justify their actions. On the contrary, the key to defeating an enemy is to understand his motivations and the context which gave rise to the poisonous ideoligy which has such profound influence not just on an organized terrorist group but on a significant swath of the population.
In our effort to better understand the situation which brought mass murder to our shores, we must not avert our eyes from our own actions overseas. An intelligent foreign policy that serves our best interests and national security requires regular reassessment of our past mistakes, current associations, and future geostrategic considerations -- while keeping in mind our highest ideals and how the United States of America can strive towards being that shining city on the hill that inspires others around the world to follow our lead.
I joined DU in 2002 while GW Bush and the PNAC neocons were manipulating the American people through a systematic campaign of misinformation into supporting an invasion of Iraq which was part of their written agenda before the 9/11 attacks.
We have seen the consequences of their misguided attempt to remake that troubled region by military force. The long occupation of Afhanistan and the brutal war in Iraq demonstrated the limits of American power, badly tarnished our image in the eyes of the world, cost us dearly in blood and treasure while inflicting untold suffering and death on the people who live there, and metastasized the cancerous ideology that gave rise to ISIS.
In our names the administration of GW Bush committed war crimes in a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. He, his vice president, and others belong in prison instead of leading lives of wealth and privilege.
I find it ironic that the daughter of Dick Cheney is now making a stand now to save our own democracy, but that is another matter and I've rambled on long enough this morning.
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