Texas: Not ready for a progressive woman Governor

During the election coverage and Republican acceptance speeches there was a real element of attributing the takeover of Congress to President Obama even though he wasn’t on the ballot. There are already congressmen who pledge to prosecute him for abusing executive orders even though he issued less of these than George W. Bush. As a black president, he is a very easy scapegoat for Republicans to bash. In fact, a third of Louisiana Republicans, blame him for the government response to Katrina, even though G.W. Bush was president at the time. Why don’t they blame Bush? He is given no credit for gains in employment and the economy, scapegoated for things he didn’t do. America doesn’t appear to be ready for a black president.

For the same reasons, I don’t believe that Texas is ready for a progressive woman to be Governor. Her opponent Greg Abbott ran a campaign of publicly shaming her for attending Harvard and allowing her then husband to be the primary caregiver of her children after he filed for divorce.

No one would ever have thought to criticize a man’s private career and family decisions on their way to success  in this way. There is a well established history of men’s political careers surviving adultery allegations and worse.  Newt Gingrich’s wife put him through college, and he left her for his mistress when she had cancer.  He had no significant political fallout from this. The shaming of Davis for her private career decisions that men commonly make worked well here in Texas. Despite Davis being well known for heroically filibustering draconian abortion over-regulation, Abbott got the majority of the women’s vote.

Had Davis gotten more progressive turnout and won; she would have then been faced with an obstructionist legislature. Much like Obama’s problems with Republicans in Congress refusing to work with him. It is remarkably easier to punch down on minorities from established positions in the dominant white male hierarchy. Unfortunately, it wins points and plays on deeply rooted biases like with Republicans wanting to believe that Obama was responsible for Katrina.

She quoted Teddy Roosevelt, ""It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again because there is no effort without error or shortcoming"

She quoted Teddy Roosevelt, “”It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again because there is no effort without error or shortcoming”

Aron and I were there for Davis’s concession speech, and I couldn’t stop the tears streaming down my cheeks as she urged us to support Abbott. After everything he did to her in the campaign, and everything he has already done and will do to hurt Texas. Even though I knew going in that most likely she would lose, there is a knot in my stomach that I don’t want to digest. Four more years of regressive policies punching down on women and minorities with heavy handed immigration and abortion laws. And a majority of the people here in Texas will say Amen! to that.

Is Texas doomed to another theocratic governor?

“Texas has been red since dinosaurs roamed the state 6,000 years ago. At least that is what the Texas history books say.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has been filming from Austin, TX. this week.  After, a clip of the stupid ass things that our elected officials do and say, Stewart made the humorous observation that Texas would vote for a drunk guy in a bar hitting on a lesbian.

Texas is saying goodbye to Rick Perry, whose “austerity” measures included cutting 5 billion dollars from the state’s education budget. The cuts resulted in 25,000 teachers and also tax payers losing their jobs. Meanwhile, Perry and the GOP including Governor hopeful Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor hopeful Dan Patrick, funneled 200 million dollars taxpayer money into the Texas Enterprise Fund.

The fund is being audited, and is widely being called a slush fund. Four companies were given 42 million dollars without even submitting an application. Abbott is our current attorney general, and he issued rulings that suppressed this information from the public. He also received 1.4 million dollars in quid pro quo campaign contributions from these companies.

Stewart was joking about what a lot of Texans will elect here, but it is funny because it isn’t that far off the mark.  Abbott is leading so far in the early voting polls in double digits.  Wendy Davis is the best thing for Texas right now. She filibustered twice to try to stop draconian educations cuts and abortion over-regulation. But even people like some of the very teachers, who lost their jobs, won’t take a minute to think about it. There are teachers right now in this state, who will still vote red regardless, sitting in overcrowded classrooms trying to teach a tenth of the America’s often poorest students.

It’s not an exaggeration, or Abbott wouldn’t be leading after messing this state over for his own gain. A Davis campaigner came to our door, and told us that people are telling them, “I vote life.” When the GOP is not lining their pockets with tax payer money here, they are spending millions of dollars for extra sessions to pass draconian abortion restrictions that have reduced the state’s abortion clinics from 43 to 8. They have already demonstrated how little they care about educating the children that are already born.

In reality why should they? An uniformed populace keeps electing them, because they think stopping poor women from choosing when or if they will be a parent is what their God wants. Realistically, many Christian women with the means will continue to get abortions.

The beauty of it for the GOP here is that it is self serving because rich Christian values voters are their greatest campaign contributors. They don’t have to fix the real problems this state has, like repeat teen pregnancy, unprepared college students, the shrinking middle class, the loss of living wage revenue generating jobs, storage of hazardous materials, the burgeoning prison population, etc. The solution has always been to refer people to God rather than actually do something about the problems here.

Top all that off with immigration issues exacerbated by a humanitarian crisis caused by the drug war that has been raging in Mexico that has already claimed thousands of lives. Civilians are being beheaded, tortured, raped, and terrorized by drug cartels and members of their own government. Will there be a war on terror there? No. The victims there are frankly not white enough. The United States is the largest consumer of drugs from Mexico. Here on the Texas border our response has been to be Mexico’s largest gun suppliers.

 According to the US Government Accountability Office, 87% of firearms seized by Mexico over the previous five years were traced to the US. Texas was the single largest source. The US attorney general, Eric Holder, told Congress last month that of 94,000 weapons captured from drug traffickers by the Mexican authorities, over 64,000 originated in the US.

So not only do we help make a humanitarian crises, by being the largest consumer of illegal drugs, we also supply the guns to Mexico and we still think Iraq is our greatest foreign policy problem. On the borders of Texas, California, and Arizona; people have fought to keep immigrant children from getting asylum from the problem we are complicit in creating in Mexico and Central America.

Another recipient of our education  system here, or another Republican constituent.

Another recipient of our education system here, or another Republican constituent.

The problems here in Texas, and the problems we are causing our neighbors are not getting better touting Republican values and pandering to Christians on the taxpayer’s dime in lieu of actual solutions like a sane decriminalized drug policy. Yet we stand here in Texas ready to elect a successor to Perry, who has already shown that he will make things worse. Both GOP candidates are avid creationists.

There is a small hope for the Texas and the rest of the nation. Texas is rapidly browning. It is an irreversible trend that started in 2005 when Texas became one of five majority minority states. Unfortunately, minority voters are disadvantaged in this state by gerrymandering, and SCOTUS overturning the Voting Rights Act which gave the justice department oversight in how districts are drawn. So we do have Texas carved up like a Christmas turkey with as much advantages as can be given to creating Republican districts.

Imagine this for a brief shining moment. All of Texas’s electoral votes going to a blue presidential candidate. The GOP would have to actually stop their pandering and fear mongering and actually do something to maintain their standing, or never have a Republican president ever again. A side note for the secular community, diversity is critical to ensuring a secular government. We don’t want to trade one theocracy for another by not making inroads into minority communities.

But how about the hope for Wendy Davis for governor on November 4th? It is probably no coincidence that hope was included by the Greeks in Pandora’s box.  It can be the cruelest emotion.  For reasons l already outlined and Stewart joked about, many Texans vote with their gut rather than their brains. The GOP cultivates that here with their insistence on Christian values that are often immoral like forced pregnancy.

However, most religious minorities still vote blue, and they are catching up. The problem with this is they have a more difficult time voting both because of restrictive Republican backed voting laws, and financial reasons like not having a car or not being to get off work to vote. There has been increased minority early voting. This shows that despite obstacles that if there is something to vote for they will turn out.

Davis can still win, but it will require turnout from dissatisfied GOP and Independent women and teachers. The greatest factor will be how apathetic the progressive voters are here.  Aron and I often encounter resistance to voting even by secularists here. The response sometimes range from…

  • I don’t vote. The lesser of 2 evils is often invoked.

This shows they haven’t put much thought into who is running this cycle even after many years of Rick Perry. The best thing to remind people here, who don’t go beyond disgust at politics,  is that if you vote the most reasonable candidate that the votes for unreasonable candidates like Abbott will dry up. This has happened in the past when staunch segregationists jumped party lines when they saw the writing on the wall. Better yet, it would make more progressive parties like the Green Party viable, because voters would migrate to the Democratic Party. This would open up more room for a more Progressive party than the Democrats.

  • Texas should secede! That is the smug liberal or inhumane libertarian hipsters in the larger communities response. It is also the response of people who haven’t done the glaringly obvious math.

Even if they could set aside the millions of human beings that are under the thumb of regressive policies here. They would be okay with having a jingoistic country on their border that would then have almost half of America’s oil reserves. A better dystopian idea would be to set aside a state like maybe Kansas (just joking Kansas) with fewer natural resources, and ship every morally undeveloped, empathy impaired, and therefore stunted human being there. We would ship all the progressives out. Then the citizens of that country could do as they please. They could run freely with scissors till their hearts content, not give a damn about anyone, poke each other’s eyes out, pray to god to make them richer and destroy their enemies… Imagine the possibilities, but we don’t have to unfortunately because we have Texas politics. More or less.

People need to vote. There are other states where the tea party has done a better job of organizing than progressives. That is the one thing they have going for them they don’t sit on their asses hoping for a more god soaked government. They are slowly and maniacally making that a reality all over the country. Progressives take note and provided you don’t have a condition that disenfranchises you like a disability, vote Nov 4th. Even if I wake up to another Tea Party Governor, (Ye non-existent gods noooo!!!!!!) at least I can say I am not part of the problem.

Showing Solidarity with Black Nonbelievers when you aren’t Black

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character.  In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned.   My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram. Read the comment policy before posting.

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character. In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned. My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram. Read the comment policy before posting.

Last weekend, Aron and I went to a presentation about the history of Black Freethought by Alix Jules hosted by Houston Oasis.  Right now the Houston Atheists boast the largest group of freethinkers in Texas with a population of 2,078.

Salute!

We happen to know Alix from being members of DFW’s Fellowship of Freethought the largest group of freethinkers in Dallas at 1,127.  If you have never heard of him, he is in charge of DFWCOR Diversity Council.

This billboard placed in a historically black section of Dallas earned Alix much scorn. It started a dialogue about how atheists don't really do good things like the neighborhood churches. In response to a pastor's challenge Alix and friends picked greens for the needy.

This billboard placed in a historically black section of Dallas earned Alix much scorn. It started a dialogue about how atheists don’t really do good things like the neighborhood churches. In response to a pastor’s challenge Alix and friends picked greens for the needy.

We happened to be in Houston because Aron was giving a speech for the Humanists of Houston, another sizable group of Texas freethinkers, about the supposed coexistence of dinosaurs with people. Yes. People still do seriously believe that.

If you’re from Texas, you know that many freethinking Texans are actively interested in seeking the community of other nonbelievers because we can feel isolated and lonely. Two words…Rick Perry, if he’d been elected president -you’d all be feeling our pain right now. However terrible the pain freethinkers feel here, it can’t be directly compared to being a black freethinker.

As many of us already know, African-Americans are the most religious ethnic group.

While the U.S. is generally considered a highly religious nation, African-Americans are markedly more religious on a variety of measures than the U.S. population as a whole, including level of affiliation with a religion, attendance at religious services, frequency of prayer and religion’s importance in life. Compared with other racial and ethnic groups, African-Americans are among the most likely to report a formal religious affiliation, with fully 87% of African-Americans describing themselves as belonging to one religious group or another, according to the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted in 2007 by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Although black nonbelievers exist somewhere in the 12 percent of the African American population that is religiously unaffiliated, they earn the distinction of being triple mavericks from the American status quo as they are not white, religious, and disproportionately economically disadvantaged. Few people really set out to alienate themselves from society, but black nonbelievers are often double alienated. As Alix says

I remember the feeling of abandonment when grappling with the realization that it was my belief (or lack of it) that caused the rift in my relationships. I recall receiving a text: “write back when you’ve found Jesus.” There’s no more belittling feeling than being told that your lifelong congregation had been asked to pray for your safe passage and deliverance from Satan, yet watch the church say nothing to condemn priestly pedophilia.

 I noticed during the Q&A that non-blacks can have difficulty identifying with what black nonbelievers go through. More importantly, they struggle with how to help support blacks coming out of religion. The first question for Alix was why blacks are Christians because of slavery in the Bible.  Alix had a good answer that they identify with the bondage of the Israelites.  I want to add that black slaves like the poet Phillis Wheatley took an unintended lesson to heart from their white slave owner’s religious indoctribation.

But how presumptuous shall we hope to find

Divine acceptance with the Almighty mind

While yet o deed ungenerous they disgrace

And hold in bondage Afric: blameless race

Let virtue reign and then accord our prayers

Be victory ours and generous freedom theirs.

How could they be worthy of salvation, but unworthy of their own freedom? Unfortunately. Wheatley fell prey to the rationalization that salvation was the purpose of slavery that still exists today.  It is exactly the same type of rationalization that plagues women believers of any race.  How can women be believers with the overt misogyny in the Bible? Anyone can cherry pick among the hateful verses in the Bible to try to find a higher purpose.

Another questioner asked how one could help when for example their attempt at volunteering to register black voters was met with seeming coldness from the local black community, In some ways a better question is how can I as a non-black show solidarity or support with black nonbelievers?  The greatest voices of  African Americans have been black voices like Martin Luther King.  Alix was a bit dismayed that even today many prominent black voices are reverends.  And too, he pointed out that he originated from Haiti, a colony with a rich, cultural history of Black Freethinkers before Christian regimes governed there.

It should be self evident that Blacks are perfectly capable of speaking and leading themselves.  As an Eurasian, I would find who already has a strong voice in the community and support their efforts.  When, I was a child I went to a predominately black school.  I could sing along with the “Black National Anthem” and learn black history because it is the history of fellow human beings. So, we can join our fellow human beings in Solidarity this weekend and support them as freethinkers because their feelings of stigmatization from leaving religion are not of an unrelated category to our own. “Out of the many one” is definitely a better motto than “In God we trust”.

Aron and I will show our solidarity this weekend at an event where Alix Jules will be speaking at to kick off the newly formed Black Nonbelievers of Dallas. This is a post by Mandisa Thomas that might help you hook up with a local event.

If only more schools could display more nativity scenes and menorahs…

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character.  In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned.   My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram.

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character. In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned. My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram.

State Rep. Dwayne Bohac, R-Houston filed a bill in the Texas legislature that is expected to receive bipartisan support to help religious-minded teachers and schools use holiday greetings like “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukkah” and to “display Christmas trees, Nativity scenes, menorahs and other cultural icons of winter celebrations”.

 

Not a menorah to be found in the Texas Legislature fancy that.

Not a menorah to be found on the Texas House floor. Fancy that!

So technically a Wiccan teacher, could erect a Yule tree (Christmas tree), a straw Yule goat, and eat a Yule Boar (Christmas ham) in honor of the Solstice and the pagan god Odin.  Ironically if there were such a teacher, that person would most likely not do any of those things knowing that it would offend the religious majority of their parents.

My teacher said we made this to placate the harvest god Freyr.

My teacher said we made this to placate the harvest god Freyr.

This ham tastes remarkably pagan.

This ham tastes remarkably pagan.

Sort of the way, Bohac was offended when his son came home telling him that the teacher has erected a holiday tree with holiday ornaments.

“After inquiring with school officials as to why the term ‘Holiday Tree’ was being used, it became apparent that the school was fearful of litigation,” Bohac said. “It was that moment that inspired me to file legislation that would provide students, parents, teachers and administrators a safe harbor for openly celebrating a Federal holiday.”

One has to wonder how offended he would have been if his son’s teacher was a pagan, and they honored Odin during Yule.  Aside from nativity scenes there isn’t one popular Christmas ritual that doesn’t have a pagan origin.

Putting a symbol of fertility on an evergreen tree.  It's pagan!

Putting a symbol of fertility on an evergreen tree. It’s pagan!

Deck the halls with the pagan symbol of the Holly King.  So very pagan!

Deck the halls with the pagan symbol of the Holly King. So very pagan!

I’m sure some of the pagans were a bit miffed too about having their Thor’s Oak replaced by the tradition of a Christmas tree. It’s also curious how Christians erect Christmas trees, given that Jeremiah 10:1-10 expressly forbids this particular pagan practice.  A Christian legend was concocted which attributed the demise of the pagan tree to St. Boniface, an eighth century missionary to Germany.  After just one chop of his holy axe, a mighty wind blew down Thor’s tree. The credulous pagans were impressed and amazed and thereafter they celebrated Christmas, or so the story goes.

Watch where you swing that axe! Now look what you did!

Watch where you swing that axe! Now look what you did! There ought to be a law.

If only they could have filed legislation to protect their cherished religious beliefs from succumbing to the popularity of a new belief. They didn’t really have a say back then because religion was dictated by the state.  Which in a roundabout way is exactly what Bohac is doing with his bill.

Yes he leaves it up to teachers and schools to choose which religious tradition to follow.  Realistically in a majority Christian country, I’m betting on more mangers than menorahs.  The few brave souls celebrating different traditions can either try to buck the majority or just give up and say “Merry Christmas!”

So again Jesus’s birth will be celebrated boldly in Texas public schools funded by taxpayers of different faiths or no faith. The people with the dominant religious belief will determine what holiday is celebrated. The Christian ruling class will be able to promote their religious beliefs and drown out different religious beliefs.  The Jewish students in my classroom, who talked about their traditions when we were reading A Christmas Carol from a secular perspective, will be de facto second class citizens.

Except in a neighborhood where a minority religion like Islam is the most popular.  Imagine the Christian outrage then. Imagine it when they no longer have the numbers to be the ruling class.  Their best hope in that scenario is that the next religious ruling class  keeps their religious beliefs out of government.

 

*Update.  I posted a link to the post to Rep. Dwayne Bohac’s Facebook page.  Let’s see if he will address the criticism of what he calls “The Merry Christmas Bill”.  Maybe he could at least put Happy Hanukkah in parenthesis next to the name of his bill right?  Just to show this isn’t about promoting Christianity over all other religious traditions of his constituents.

If you like go on over there and give your opinion. My opinion: civil and articulate opinions will accomplish the most.