Category Archives: Health Care

Depression, the Genie and Me

Robin Williams wasn’t my favorite actor.

I mean, if you asked me who my favorite actor is, I’d say Johnny Depp (yeah, yeah, whatever). If you asked me to name some actors I would always go to see a movie they’re in, I’d probably tell you Alfred Molina, Julia Stiles and John Goodman.

But when I heard about Williams’ suicide, I stopped to think of all the ways he influenced me. And he really did. I can’t remember a single movie I’ve watched with him in it that I didn’t enjoy. I grew up watching “Jumanji,” “Fern Gully,” “Aladdin” and its sequels. I constantly watched “Hook” and quoted lines from it, though I admittedly more often imitated Dustin Hoffman chewing the scenery as Captain James Hook. I remember getting in trouble for repeating a line from “Mrs. Doubtfire” as a child. (The line was, as Williams imitated Porky Pig, “Bedabba dabba dabba, p-p-p-piss off, Lou!”, not that I actually knew the words I was saying.) In high school, I was introduced to the beautiful film “What Dreams May Come,” an interpretation of Dante’s Inferno. In college, I discovered “Patch Adams,” “Night at the Museum” and “August Rush,” as well as two of my favorite films of all time, “Good Will Hunting” and “Dead Poets Society.” It’s movies like those, especially the Academy Award-winning performance Williams gave in “Good Will Hunting,” that remind me that comedians often have a great capacity for drama. Even my lesser loved comedians, like Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler, have stunned me with their dramatic performances. But Williams had the special gift of making me love him both as a comedian AND a dramatic actor.

Even beyond acting with a bodily presence, Williams influenced me most notably with his impressions. Were they always great, pitch perfect imitations of specific people, like his John Wayne performs Macbeth? Nah. Could I always tell if it was Williams? Yup. I was the only one in my family that could tell from voice alone that Williams was not the voice of Genie in “Return of Jafar.” Even so, Williams had a talent for impressions and voices. His gift was in the total and complete dedication to the bit, as well as being able to switch from one character to another faster than should be humanly possible. I’ve always enjoyed doing voices myself, and it was Williams and Mel Blanc, the voice of many beloved Warner Bros. cartoon characters, that helped guide me in that direction.

He wasn’t my favorite actor, but that might be because I had trouble thinking of him as an actor. I thought of him more as a friend to hang out with, the funny guy with all the voices that could make me laugh. But there’s no denying that he was definitely one of the people I would always enjoy watching on screen.

That’s probably one of the reasons Williams is the only celebrity whose death I’ve cried over. It’s weird, right? Crying over someone dying when you’ve never even met them? There have been people I HAVE known in real life to die I haven’t cried over. I suppose that could very well be a testament to how powerful Williams’ gift of connection and humor and emotion was.

But if I’m going to be honest, that’s not the only reason I cried. That might not even be the main reason I cried. No, if I’m honest with myself, I think it was because Williams was depressed and almost no one knew.

Depression is definitely one of those things people at large are largely ignorant about, myself included. Part of it has to do with the fact that we use the word as a synonym for being sad. That ASPCA commercial with the Sarah McLachlan song? So depressing. Got an F on a paper you worked all night on? Now you’re depressed. Except there’s a distinct difference between momentary sadness, no matter how deep those moments get, and systemic depression. Depression isn’t cured by a funny movie or a pint of ice cream or hanging out with friends. It isn’t something you can just “nut up” and “get over.” And the worst part about depression? Based on my personal experience and the stories I’ve heard from other depressed people, depression is seen as undesirable and shameful, so the person that has it tends to do their damnedest to hide it.

Have you ever noticed that there are a lot of creative types, and often comedic types, that are on drugs or are depressed? Many of whom end up dead? People like Philip Seymour Hoffman (drug addiction) and Chris Farley (drug addiction) and Heath Ledger (couldn’t pull out of his roles). But everyone knows drug and alcohol addiction are things to seek help over. They’re obviously bad things, right? They’re self-destructive behaviors that can ruin your life. But when it comes to depression, most people shrug off the entire idea. Even though I am willing to bet that a large chunk of addiction is born of depression and the desperate attempt to escape that soul-crushing feeling., the source of many a funny thing on the internet, has more than a few articles about depression and anxiety in funny people. Here’s one by David Wong, who talks about why people constantly cracking jokes are often depressed. And here’s another one by Mark Hill, about misconceptions of depression. Wong’s article has many, many links to many, many other writings by comedians about depression, but these are the two I’ve read. And they have some good points, many of which I agree with, based on personal experience.

Yeah, I’ve kinda sorta admitted that I might be depressed before. Yeah, I’ve talked about it before. But people don’t seem to be too receptive to the idea until they see depression’s effects laid out in front of them. Until the man that never stopped being hilarious and bringing joy to everyone killed himself because he felt life had crapped on him one too many times, finally with a Parkinson’s diagnosis, people by and large ignore the issue.

I suppose it’s not anyone’s fault. In America, mental health and awareness has taken a veritable nosedive with absolutely no changes no matter WHAT happens. We have mentally unstable people shooting and killing in double digit numbers and nothing changes with our mental health system because the conversation become bluster about guns and gun rights. We have veterans returning home with PTSD and mental health issues, becoming homeless and forgotten, and nothing changes with our mental health system because the conversation becomes bluster about war and the people still fighting. And we have an Oscar-winning actor, a beloved father and husband, an immensely successful comedian, an intensely well-liked celebrity (which seems rather hard to come by sometimes), a man known for his voice who chooses to die by strangling that voice until it no longer exists… and likely, nothing with change with our mental health system because we’d rather focus on other stuff, be it injustice in Ferguson painting some bigger, disturbing pictures of America or be it dumping ice water on our heads to raise money for ALS and/or whining about people dumping ice water on their heads. Because as uncomfortable as those things might be, depression may be even more uncomfortable.

Here’s my personal experiences. As a kid, I was bullied for all sorts of reasons. I was too smart. I was weird. I looked stupid. I had glasses. I had a dumb haircut. I wore a suit to picture day. This caused me to develop a temper. And I got into fights sometimes, too. Not often, and I never went home bruised and bloody, but that’s because what fights I did get in I either refused to do much other than run away or, in one case, won by dropping a kid on his head. I didn’t have friends, either. Not really. There weren’t really any kids my age in my neighborhood, and my parents weren’t too big on my hanging out with anyone. That could be blamed on their being used to my older sister’s anti-social nature, but who knows. My one early creative outlet, playing violin, was taken away because I “didn’t practice enough.” When I eventually discovered acting, I fell in love with it. I got to be SOMEONE ELSE. That amazing feeling of escapism brought me so much joy.

This sort of thing continued for quite a while. My temper was an issue all the way into high school, with my father and I twice coming to physical altercations during my junior year of high school, altercations that were ultimately just him with his hand around my throat. My mother would take his side and say I shouldn’t have goaded him. That loneliness was not a good feeling. By this point, I’d buried myself even further into acting. While at the Alabama School of Math and Science, I finally found groups of socially rejected people who were just as nerdy, intelligent and ridiculous as me. My grades slipped as I focused my time and attention on the social connections I had never been able to have before. Eventually, I failed out, losing those connections.

In college, the struggle continued, but I found small groups to accept me, groups like the Quizbowl Team. A nerdy bunch, to be sure. And there were people on that team that made my social ineptitude seem like I was the most desirable socialite on the market in comparison. Plus, I had tampered down my temper throughout my time at college, and I started to find a way to be acceptable: Talk. A lot. Make jokes. Be interesting. Grab their attention for just a moment. Maybe they’ll just groan and roll their eyes, maybe they’ll laugh, but at least they’ll know I’m there. And I found people that didn’t outright reject me for that.

But it isn’t perfect. I’m not terribly funny. I consider myself a member of the school of quantity: If you crack enough jokes, eventually a good one will slip through. And it’s only through the past year of my job as a trivia jockey that I’ve become even remotely comfortable working a crowd directly, as opposed to in theatre when you work the stage/scene/character and the entirety of the performance works the crowd. I have tried to get better, to be a more desirable person to be around, et cetera.

And yet, I find that I’m still too honest for some people. On Twitter and Facebook, I was fully willing to admit when I was feeling crappy/lonely/hurt. Because I’m still trying to remind myself about the difference between a friend and a friendly acquaintance. Twitter followers, blog readers, Facebook friends… they aren’t the same as real friends. But I haven’t really had too many “real friends” growing up. I have my one best friend that I can call on whenever, and I only met her during my fourth year of college in 2010. I had a regular group of buddies I’d go out with to play trivia and board games, but jobs and distance have broken us up. At this point in my life, even more so than in college (though it was true in college), I don’t really have a group of friends I can say I’m truly a part of. I don’t have people I feel I can call up and say, “Hey, let’s hang out.” Maybe that’s due to years of being told, by words or actions, that I wasn’t desirable to hang out with. Maybe that’s because I just don’t understand social cues and don’t realize I do have friends like that. I dunno. But friends like that? Those are not the same as people you share internet social media information with, apparently.

Take a semi-recent example. A girl messaged me on Facebook to tell me I’m cute. I respond because why the hell not, what do I have to lose? We talk for a few months. We hang out a few times. She’s into me, I’m into her. All seems pretty great. Then, without any warning given to me, without any conversation about problems, she tells me we should stop hanging out. When I finally ask why two years later, she says it’s because I’m too depressing and self-deprecating. She suggests I see a counselor.

I would love to say this is some sort of isolated incident… but I know from my life and the lives of others it’s not. Misery may love company, but company doesn’t love misery. People don’t want to deal with miserable, depressed people. And why would you? Happiness is a good feeling. Sad people make YOU sad, and that sucks, right?

So, if you want to know why you’re shocked and surprised that someone you know was depressed and killed themselves, that’s exactly why. Because depressed doesn’t mean stupid. Depressed people know you don’t like to be around depressed people. Hell, I host trivia for 2+ hours five nights a week. Do you think I would still be paid if I told all of them how down I was? People don’t want a 2-hour sadfest. So those that are depressed, lonely, miserable… they tend to hide it. I’ve made the mistake in years past of thinking friendly acquaintances would care about my feelings, but they don’t. Those feelings are a drag. They’re a downer. So I’ve been teaching myself to try to keep my chin up, to “fake it until I make it” so to speak… and to really not announce my depression every time it hits me. And despite what those on my social media networks may think, I’ve been getting a lot better at just hiding my feelings in crappy eating habits and losing the desire to ever leave bed.

Am I depressed? …maybe. I’m too afraid to see a counselor and find out I am, that I’m not in complete control of my mind. Personally, I like to think I’m just having a slump. A really long one. There are good moments in my life that bring me cheer… and moments, even recent ones, that nearly kill me. I had one such moment last month. I asked two friends to kill me (only slightly joking before I broke down in tears). I ended up telling my tale to a cop that pulled me over for speeding later that day when my hand was shaking so badly I couldn’t get my driver’s license out of my wallet. He asked if I had any guns in the car. I didn’t get a ticket. To date, only 7 people, including the cop and the other person involved, know what happened. Not just because I hate myself for what happened and am afraid of what people will think of me… but also because I don’t know who’s there for me.

And that’s one of the worst things about depression. It blinds you to the people there for you. The lonelier moments are more clear than the ones with people who care. If someone like Williams, who had success and love in his life, couldn’t find a way out, what hope would someone like me, someone told to get over it, have?

So I hope I’m not depressed. Not just because it’s a pretty awful mental health disorder, but also because that’s a level of hopelessness I don’t want to think about. I’m not looking for pity. I’m not looking for close, buddy-buddy friends. I wouldn’t know what to do with them at this point in my life anyway. I’ve got some good things going on that I’m trying to focus on. The moral of my story, the point I’m trying to make, isn’t a personal one. It’s to say that I think everyone can do better. Everyone can be more diligent looking for depression. Don’t reject the funny person the day he or she drops the act around you and tries to tell you about his/her crap. We need to learn to accept the people we like for their good AND their bad. Don’t call suicide a selfish act. That’s like calling drowning after years of trying to swim to the surface a selfish act. The selfishness is in the people that see depression and ignore it. The selfishness is in people that don’t want to be sad so they give sad people distance. Some days, people want to be left alone. But it’s so much better to know someone is there when you walk back into the crowd than to know you’ll be alone whether you jump back into the crowd or not.

If we want anything to get better, we have to start taking steps on a personal level.

Robin Williams, you influenced me more than you will ever know, and the world will miss you. I hope maybe something good can come of all this sadness.

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The Bill O’Reilly/Jon Stewart Debate

So, today was another debate (quasi-political, quasi-comedic) that I managed to miss. I very nearly missed it because I had forgotten about it. It was on the internet, viewable with a donation of $4.95 to charity, at But I saw people talking about it on Twitter, so I remembered and went to watch it. Which means that the actual reason I missed it is because the servers were apparently all down nearly the entire time. I didn’t even bother trying to watch it after all the Twitter complaints and my one attempt that led to a “This page ain’t loading” page.

Fortunately, I did manage to find some live updates for this “Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium.” For those unaware of what that is, it was a debate, moderated by CNN anchor ED Hill, between liberal host of “The Daily Show” Jon Stewart and conservative host of “The O’Reilly Factor” Bill O’Reilly. Huffington Post fortunately had a live update of the debate going, though it’s obviously not even close to actually watching the thing. Hopefully, the internet will eventually pull through and either post a free version, or a taped version you can still pay the $4.95 to watch.

Anyway, there were a few things I wanted to say about the debate. If my readings of the updates are right, Stewart probably “won” the debate because it seems like O’Reilly was randomly not taking things seriously at strange points and by doing strange things. Granted, it was supposed to be humorous as well, but… Apparently he started talking in an odd Southern-esque accent at one point? No idea why.

But, being that I’m a liberal, you’d probably figure I’d side with the diminutive Jewish funny guy anyway. Fine. Still, there were some rather interesting points raised throughout the debate. For example:

On defunding PBS and NPR, as Mitt Romney wants to do, what’s the point? O’Reilly… didn’t really seem to have anything but complaints. “Why should I be paying for this stuff? It’s gross! I don’t like it!” Not that he said any of that, but it comes off as that type of tone. Stewart’s reply, asking for a refund of the $800 billion used to fund the Iraq War, points out a pretty good secondary argument over this question of defunding these programs. First is the argument that defunding these programs is like trying to kiss better a lopped off limb. Ultimately, it’s a rather worthless gesture. But secondly is, if you want to defund things because you disagree with them, then the government is going to have to take back the money for a whole mess of things.

On entitlements, Stewart has actually brought up this point before on his show in one of his more serious, poignant and pointed moments. As Stewart said in the debate, “Why is it that if you take advantage of a corporate tax break you’re a smart businessman, but if you take advantage of something so you don’t go hungry, you’re a moocher?” There has been, as I’ve talked about before, a strange and unfortunate trend to paint those that need government help to stay on their feet, however permanent or temporary, as somehow less deserving of American life than people that survive without any help from the government, outside of tax breaks and roads and education and so on. Specifically, people that ever take welfare or use food stamps are deemed as lesser beings. It’s stupid and demeans all their potential eventual success.

But my favorite little nugget of the night, besides O’Reilly admitting America shouldn’t have gone to Iraq, is something Stewart said that I’d never really thought of. He suggested, via a single-payer system as it’s the only way he thinks it would work, that health care should be removed from work.

That’s a point I’d never really thought about. And, frankly, it should. People that dislike Obamacare gripe all the time about how it eliminates choice and destroys a person’s ability to choose their own health care. Well, even if that were true, unless you’ve got a good amount of money set aside for health care and, y’know, don’t have a big family, you don’t have much of a choice. You get the health care your job offers, or you don’t get anything. And if you don’t have a job or don’t have a job that offers you health care (like me, as I’m not hired on for enough hours to apply for health care through my job), then you’re just screwed. You don’t get health care. Unless you’re independently wealthy. It would be much nicer if health care were more readily available to the unemployed and the part-time workers that are strewn throughout the country.

Based on what I read, this debate was likely far more entertaining and exciting than the first presidential debate, sadly. But I’ve said my piece on that a couple times now. Hopefully, I’ll manage to catch the next presidential debate… and, looking for the schedule, I’ve discovered that the next debate will be the vice presidential debate on foreign and domestic policy on Oct. 11, starting at 9 p.m. Eastern Time. Then will be a town meeting style debate on foreign and domestic policy on Oct. 16, starting at 9 p.m. Eastern Time, which in theory will be where Barack Obama can shine. And the final debate, in the style of the first debate, will be on foreign policy on Oct. 22, starting at 9 p.m. Eastern Time. That one could be anyone’s game.

Anyway, here’s hoping I can actually watch these debates as they happen next time.

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A Tax Or Not A Tax? That Isn’t The Question

Okay. So, after about… what, two weeks now? I’m finally weighing in on this health care thing. In case you haven’t heard about it, there was this thing that happened… The Supreme Court declared Constitutional the health care plan that President Barack Obama basically created and supported heavily in his first year or so in office. This has caused, of course, a lot of ire, particularly from conservatives who swore the law was anything but Constitutional. And since conservative darling and George W. Bush Supreme Court appointee Chief Justice John Roberts was the deciding vote and wrote the majority opinion for the ruling, he’s been taking a lot of flack, too.

Especially difficult is the problem Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney faces. The health care plan, dubbed “Obamacare” colloquially, has in it an individual mandate, essentially requiring anyone who can afford health care and refuses to take it to pay a fee. It was this mandate that Obama actually scoffed at during his 2008 campaign, but found himself forced to include in the bill just to have it passed. And, on the note of Romney, it was this mandate, the mandate that all the Republicans hated and decried and desperately wanted struck down, that he invented.

So, there’s some trouble for Romney there. Beating up on something he basically came up with. Oh, well. Won’t be a first for him to do.

Anyway, the Supreme Court saved the health care’s Constitutionality by declaring the mandate legal under Congressional power of collecting taxes. Of course, some have interpreted this as meaning the mandate is a tax as opposed to a penalty or fine, like Obama defined it and defended.

So, the question that everyone’s been arguing about and getting upset over is: Is it a tax, or is it not?

Frankly? I don’t think that matters at all.

Personally, you can probably guess my viewpoint, but I don’t think the mandate is a tax. Taxes are levied upon everyone equally, either at a state or federal level, or if certain purchases are made. This fine is only applied to people that fit a specific criteria. The Supreme Court defended its Constitutionality simply by saying Congress has the Constitutional ability to collect taxes. Congress can pass laws collecting money, essentially.

But back to how it doesn’t really matter in my opinion.

Let’s pretend it is a tax. Let’s say that’s true. So what?

Taxes are what pay for our police forces, our roads, our public radio, our public television, our school system, our federal budget for our defenses, and on and on. Taxes pay for a whole mess of stuff that we use. And if you individually don’t use it, you almost certainly have a friend or family member that does use it. Businesses use them. America runs on the things our taxes pay for.

This health care law? This will help people. It will help protect them.

What this law will specifically do has been hidden under the fog of rhetoric and bull crap. Here’s a little write-up that does a pretty good job of explaining what the law will do, exactly, and it includes citations. And here’s another website that lets you take a quiz on how well you know the law. I’ll give you a hint: There are no “end-of-life” panels. Lovingly known as “death panels.” Those aren’t real things.

Anyway, this health care plan has many segments that will help many thousands of Americans. Some you might know. Maybe even you. So, sure. Maybe it is a tax. You can think that if you want, whether it’s true or not. But in the end, taxes can do good. Any money taken for this law will be for good use. Personally, I’m willing to pay extra money in order to have myself and my family able to have protection from illnesses.

The question is, why should we be so upset about this?

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It’s A Grand Delusion – The GOP And Immigration

Welcome to the grand delusion. Today, the United States Supreme Court struck down, 6-3, nearly the entirety of the Arizona immigration bill, the first of a long line of increasingly draconian bills meant to get illegal immigrants out of the states the laws were created in. Only one portion of the bill was unanimously given leave to remain, the right for state police to check papers during stops for other legal situations.

Republicans everywhere had a lot riding on these bills. This was, for many of them, their big stance. It’s their Obamacare, so to speak, the major legislation they took great pains to craft specifically to fit their political ideology and achieve certain goals. Heck, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio even said that, no matter what the federal government ruled, he was still going to enforce the state’s law. Which, technically speaking is, I believe, illegal once a federal branch has overruled it. Now that both the Executive and Judicial branches have dealt blows to the law, it’s to be expected that the GOP, particularly in Arizona (and where the bill is famously even worse, my state of Alabama), will be rather upset.

So upset, in fact, that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer declared the ruling a victory for her administration.

I mean, I have to assume that she’s in such a state of shock that she’s fallen into delusional fits. But, no, even Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has decided that this ruling is a good thing.

And why is that? Because, apparently, SCOTUS upheld what Brewer calls the “heart of the bill.” Apparently, all the rest of the stuff in the bill, the many many (potentially hundreds of) provisions were just unnecessary fluff. All that matters is that state police can, in fact, ask for proof of the citizenship of a person already being investigated in some other legal matter. They can then tell ICE, the people that would actually do the deportation. That’s it.

So, um… good for them, I guess?

Yes, the upheld part isn’t exactly swell. It seems like a power too easily abused. All they have to do is find someone they’re suspicious of being illegal and draw up some minor charge, like jaywalking or littering, before harassing them incessantly. It’s great that the worst parts of the law were struck down, but it would have been nice for this to at least have been given an addendum or some such.

Still, for the GOP to declare this a victory is, I think, rather delusional. They’re too needy for wins if they’re trying to grab this one. Combined with President Barack Obama’s executive decision about immigration, this segment of the law is rather weak.

Of course, the Democrats may be dancing to the same sort of tune depending on how Obamacare fares in the court’s decision.

America spells competition. Join us in our blind ambition.

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The Conflict Of Christianity And Modern Medicine

Christianity has been involved in a lot of politics as of late, what with contraception and same-sex marriage, and it hasn’t been coming out in the very best light each time.

…this time is no different.

In Brazil, a doctor was excommunicated from the Catholic Church for performing an abortion on a 9-year-old rape victim. According to The Independent, “Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, the conservative regional archbishop for Pernambuco where the girl was rushed to hospital, has said that the man would not be thrown out of the Church, because although he had allegedly committed ‘a heinous crime’, the Church took the view that ‘the abortion, the elimination of an innocent life, was more serious’.”

I would suggest that the rape of a 9-year-old child is the elimination of the innocence of that child, but maybe that’s just me. A lot of people that have heard the story have gotten upset about it, as some people rightly point out that morality in modern medicine is not such a black and white issue. Do you ask a 9-year-old rape victim to carry a child to term? Do you ask a mother to sacrifice her life for the possibility of her fetus having life? Do you allow scientists to seek out life saving medicine at the expense of stem cells? Stem cells that would be otherwise discarded? But does that then open up the possibility of people using stem cells that are less likely to be discarded? Do you let your religious stances against contraception ban the use of medicines that doubles as birth control and hormone control, medicine that can heal things like ovarian cysts?

Life in general has expanded far too much for religions based on texts several thousand years old to be able to clearly answer all the questions it brings, and medicine has gone further than most. We can now question what defines life and death. We can now define different states of mental wellness, comas versus vegetative states, et cetera.

I’m not saying that religion needs be based on our modern landscape. I’m not saying that religion needs be abandoned. I am saying, however, that Christianity in particular needs to avoid such stalwart, stubborn stances.

Consider Catholicism in particular. One thing they hardline on is contraception. To the Catholic Church, all sex must be in marriage and with intent to procreate. Use of condoms or doing something like anal is out of the question. Yet we now can determine if someone is infertile or not. So the Church has had to relent on this harsh stand by allowing infertile couples to be wed and have sex, saying that as long as they intend to have a child, it’s okay. They can cite Abraham and Sarah, or any other barren couples that God gave the miracle of childbirth.

Yet, personally, I feel it unfair to limit God’s power to the point of saying God couldn’t grant a homosexual couple a child if they desperately desired one. But the point is that medicine has thrown a wrinkle into the dogmatic stances, and it will continue to do so. This harsh stance against it will simply lead to angry, upset congregations and contradictory stances failing to answer to one another.

The needs of the many outweigh the sins of the one, after all.

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Wisdom Teeth And Politics Are Scary

Well, I’m back in Huntsville for the next day and some change… I had a consultation about removing my wisdom teeth today. Yup. Age 23, and I get all four teeth removed in one go. Awesome. Look forward to my posts around Easter being highly unintelligible.

At any rate, some of the stuff said at the consultation was a little frightening. I don’t know how the process usually goes for people, but they took a panoramic x-ray of my mouth. In said x-ray, apparently they found a cyst in my sinus cavity. Which the doctor said it perfectly alright, they’re often benign, he just thought I should know. And now, that area under my eye just decides to hurt when I think about it. I hate phantom pain. I also hate not knowing if it’s phantom or not. Stupid paranoia.

But that wasn’t the only scary bit. No, he went into the process about how removing the lower teeth could cause (in super rare cases a.k.a. screw ups) permanent nerve damage to my lower lip and chin area. That’s not a pleasant thought. And even worse, removal of my upper teeth could create a hole that leads into my sinus cavities. Which could cause infection. Really, it all sounds immensely frightening, and I had BETTER be 100% unconscious for all of this. Seriously, it sounds awful.

And then there’s politics. Ignoring Rick Santorum saying Puerto Rico needs to make English their number one language if they want to be a state, and misrepresenting the Constitution and federal law while doing so, and saying he wants to end pornography in America, which will likely lose him votes, I want to focus on my own state’s politics for now. I’ll surely get back to Dicky Rick at a later time.

Now, in my state of Alabama, we voted for Santorum. Go us. But that’snot the best part. We also voted for our GOP representative to the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court an old friend. Mr. 10 Commandments in the courtroom himself, Roy Moore. This, as you may be able to guess, is simply thrilling to people in Alabama.

Especially me. I am SO thrilled that a man with a lack of working knowledge of the law is probably going to be our state’s next Chief Justice. I’m also thrilled that judges walk party lines. That seems smart.

But you know what makes all this better? The Democrat’s candidate for the same position. A Mr. Harry Lyon. Back in 2006, he ran for governor. Want to know what he said about illegal immigration?

Well, in an article written by the Tuscaloosa News, “‘My idea is to bring attention to the problem and let the Legislature [and courts] decide,’ Lyon said. ‘I’d give them 90 days to make arrangements to make them leave and if after that, you’d have to go to public execution.

‘I admit it does have some shock value,’ he said.”

Just lovely. I mean, wow. Compassion, right? Not to mention, clearly a level-headed man.

On the way up to Huntsville, I saw a billboard that said “Healthcare”. Instead of a C, it had a sickle and hammer. Underneath, it said, “Never vote for any Democrat ever.”

What in God’s name are we coming to?

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Bumper Sticker Campaign “Promises”

As the GOP nomination process drags on and on, likely to continue well into the summer at this rate, I’ve been noticing a weird trend amongst some of the candidates. They’re settling down with their messages, their styles… and their gaffes. And not only are they settling down, but they’re turning it into predictable, bite-sized little bits of meaningless nothing that can’t figure out how to say anything about what they actually believe.

Constantly, these candidates (minus Ron Paul, for the most part, since he’s pretty much back to where he was before the primaries started up: largely ignored) are having to go visit daytime television shows or cable news shows to explain their views about things they really should have been able to say the first time. And even in those segments, they’re unable to actually solidly say what they think.

Now, the three non-Paul candidates share a few sentiments.

“We will bomb Iran if they get the nuke.”

“We will repeal Obamacare.”

“We will lower gas prices.”

But those little phrases are utterly meaningless.

For Iran: Really? You think bombing a country that obtains nuclear weapons is a good idea? You think that’ll persuade them to not use them if the nukes survive? And, last I checked, isn’t Iran near some other nuclear powers that may not appreciate fighting so close to their home? Besides, does no one think diplomacy is an option for anything anymore? Personally, I think it’s a good thing when the Ayatollah says nicer things about the current American president than he has about pretty much anything remotely American.

For Obamacare: Okay. You’re going to repeal it. And that’s it? Go back to the broken way things were before? Did you know that Americans pay more than twice what people in Chile, Argentina, India, Canada, France, Germany, Spain or Switzerland pay for just a visit to the hospital? The average cost per hospital day in America is $3,949. That’s only $711 less than the people of seven countries excluding Canada pay combined. In other words, we pay a bit too much for health care sometimes. Further, do you realize that with all the unemployment and the part-time employment that’s been going around, there are likely several thousand people that would lose their health insurance if “Obamacare” were repealed? Myself included. (Though I’ve only got dental and vision right now, I’d still lose it.) Because Obamacare gives those just-outta-college-not-able-to-land-a-full-time-job-that-offers-benefits kids under 26 a chance to piggyback off their parents and, y’know… get necessary things done. Do you have an alternative that you’re willing to share?

For gas prices: Well, I’m going to let Fox News defend Barack Obama on this one. The president can’t really do all that much about gas prices, especially not immediately. S0 stop saying stuff you know is crap.

Really, this is the summary I get from the four remaining candidates:

Ron Paul – The candidate that will shrink the federal government to near non-existence, isolate America from the rest of the world (particularly militarily) and not budge on any issues. Take that as you will.

Newt Gingrich – The candidate that fights the elite media with an arrogance unseen since pretty much ever and really offers no feasible plans, instead just spouting off angry “screw you” speeches.

Rick Santorum – The crusader who will fight to bring America back to his idea of a moral state, in which anyone that has performed abortions will be arrested, college will be given no government help, gays will lose what few rights they’ve managed to eke out in the last several years and women will find themselves pretty much screwed in several ways.

Mitt Romney – The candidate that believes he believes the things he said are things worth saying, a man who can’t make up his mind about politics and can’t stop talking about what a rich man he is.

So, in short, we have a candidate who wants America to essentially be 50 isolated mini-countries, a candidate who wants to… I guess shut down the media and live on the moon?, a candidate who wants a theocracy except not really he promises, and a candidate who wants to run America like a business, because business is the only thing we’re pretty sure he definitely stands for.

Maybe you’re all just saving it for Obama. But, seriously? Can you start offering actual plans and telling people what they are instead of running on the ticket of, “At least I’m not THAT guy!”

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Is There A Hypocrisy In The Rush To Hate Limbaugh?

I don’t know if you’re one of the many people that read my previous article talking about the wonderful Rush Limbaugh and his drive to win the Most Woman-Repellant Man of the Year for what’s likely the twentieth of fiftieth year year in a row. If you haven’t heard of the controversy, then I’m surprised the rock you live under can access this website. But, in brief, Limbaugh decided to call Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student who was barred from testifying in an all-male congressional hearing about birth control (but managed to later testify in a different hearing), both a slut and a prostitute. Since then, there has been a massive outcry against Limbaugh’s words. And he apologized and totally meant it, you guys. Especially once his advertisers started dropping like flies.

But some have pointed out that the severity to which people are reacting to Limbaugh is perhaps severe and hypocritical. Laura Ingraham has been perhaps one of the more vocal protesters of the hypocrisy, decrying Barbara Walters’ reaction on “The View” to Ed Schultz calling Ingraham a slut, as well as the lack of media outcry and backlash against Schultz. Kirsten Powers wrote a column for “The Daily Beast” and has been seen on Fox News talking about how the liberal men who pull the same sort of shenanigans seem to get away with it. She references Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, Bill Maher, Matt Taibbi and Schultz to make her point. And Megyn Kelly of Fox News apparently shared her own experiences with Maher and an uncaring feminism figure, Gloria Steinem.

So. Is there, in fact, a hypocrisy going on? Why is it that people are hitting Limbaugh so hard when the others seemed to squeeze by unnoticed? Most of this post will focus on the two cases I know best, Schultz and Maher, but I hope my points will be made clear. Because there are, perhaps, some differences between Limbaugh and the rest.

1) Limbaugh did not say one word. He said many. Whereas people like Schultz made the poor judgment of calling someone a slut on one occasion, Limbaugh called Fluke a whole host of things. And not once. Not even on only a single show. The man went on for three days. In those three days, he called Fluke a sex addict, a prostitute, a slut, sexually active in middle school, insinuated that Fluke’s friends were also all sluts, essentially called Georgetown a college full of promiscuous women and demanded that Fluke video tape her sexual activities and post them online for Limbaugh and other men to watch.

I’m sorry, but that last one is simply disgusting. This goes beyond insulting to revolting. Sure, someone may call you a slut, or a c—, and while that may be even unforgivably insulting, Limbaugh crossed that line merrily and took a dump on it when he did. If you go on a three day rant repeating yourself over and over again, you’ve got to apologize for more than just the usage of two specific words. But most don’t know that he went on a rant, because explaining what he DID do in a news article attempting to summarize the incident would take up at least a couple of pages in the newspaper. So, the media had to pick out the best, shortest examples. And those were “slut” and “prostitute.” But that isn’t by far all Limbaugh said.

2) Limbaugh is not even remotely repentant. Limbaugh apologized to Fluke, sure. On March 3. AFTER his 3 day rant, and AFTER his advertisers began their exodus. Isn’t there some saying about you don’t feel bad you did it, you just feel bad you got caught? Limbaugh shows all the classic signs of someone that doesn’t actually care what he said. I mean, if he did, you’d think he’d tread careful water about the things he said about women, right? But here we are, a week later, and Limbaugh is talking about “over-educated (not smart, mind you), young, single, white women getting things they don’t deserve.” So soon after being hit hard with talking trash about a woman, he decides to do it again. Albeit in slightly less inflammatory terms.

To put this in perspective, Schultz made an apology for his words to talk show host Ingraham. For a single, 12-second profanity, Schultz went to his bosses and asked to be removed from the air without pay, made a nine minute apology and swore to never use the language he used in the incident again. Nearly a year later, Schultz has kept that promise. He personally called Ingraham to apologize. His apology was immediate. His repentance was more than most would have done. Meanwhile, Limbaugh waited until money was being lost before writing an apology on his website and waiting for the media to find it and proliferate it. That is not the sign of a penitent man.

3) Limbaugh was factually incorrect. I’m not going to talk about the “slut” and “prostitute” claims here. Those were insulting descriptors that were bombastic in nature and not what I’m going to discuss. No, I want to talk about all the other bits Limbaugh said. He couldn’t even get Fluke’s name right half the time. He insinuated that birth control pills had to be used at the same rate condoms are supposed to be, once per go. He claimed the pills cost only $1000 a year when in actuality Fluke testified that they cost $3000 a year. And he tried to pin things on liberals who make insulting and shocking slanderous claims about people by saying you’d never hear one of them apologize. Well, as the above section hopefully showed, yes. Liberals can and have apologized before.

The reason I bring this up is because it underlines how bombastic Limbaugh is. Many liberal commentators that have been slammed for their moments of stupidity and loose tongues have been doing these things in moments of passion when reporting on some issue or another. Limbaugh, as he went on for three days and had a script in his hands, didn’t do this in a moment of passion. This was “researched.” I put it in quotations because it was clearly done only in the vaguest of fashions. Limbaugh clearly holds a massive disdain for proliferating facts amongst his audience. His entire purpose is to stretch the truth and make noise. Whereas all the examples of liberals doing similar things I’ve found have liberals making mistakes, Limbaugh’s was planned out specifically to rile people up.

4) This isn’t Limbaugh’s first time. Unfortunately (or perhaps not), I can’t get any readily available links to Limbaugh’s past statements of this fashion since the current boondoggle is taking up most of the internet. However, it doesn’t really take me having links to be able to confidently say that this is not Limbaugh’s first time saying something horrible. The man has made a career off of being rather repugnant and saying stupid, hateful things. In one of the examples I can remember, Limbaugh decided it was okay to call First Lady Michelle Obama “uppity” simply because of her attempts to help children be healthier. He completely ignored the respect due her and decided to attack her over something entirely meaningless.

And I’m certain that, if you went into the annals of the internet, you’d find Limbaugh doing this same thing over and over again. Some may wonder what makes this case so special, then. Well, I’d have to say it’s probably the fact that a) Fluke isn’t a public figure, b) Limbaugh went on for three whole days and c) Limbaugh was disgusting and repulsive even for him, which most were unaware was possible. Were this his first mistake, there’s a chance the fallout wouldn’t be so immensely huge. But people are so used to him being unapologetic in his hatred that when he surpasses himself, it becomes the final straw on the camel’s back.

5) Limbaugh is conservative. At this point, someone might say, “Wait a second, aren’t you just admitting now that there IS a hypocrisy?” Actually, yes and no. Allow me to first cover the no. When I bring up the fact that Limbaugh is considered a heavily (and heavy) representative voice of the conservative slant of the nation, I do so to point out why someone in that position might be held to a different standard. The conservatives of the nation, by and large, are associated with social conservatism and the Republican Party. That party, that conservatism, they represent something. They claim to represent a standard of morality. A standard of family values, of tradition. And that’s where the difference lies.

See, liberals, by and large, don’t claim to be “moralistic.” There are many liberals who do not believe in an objective morality. Liberals more often fight for things they feel are “right.” It isn’t a question of morals for them. It’s a question of right and wrong. The difference is fine, but key. For example, it may be immoral to abort a fetus, but it would be wrong to ban abortions. The morality and the right and wrong are not equated. But the Republican Party, the conservatives, they equate the two all the time. Homosexuality is immoral, therefore homosexual marriage is wrong. Abortions are immoral, therefore they’re wrong. Et cetera. They’ve set themselves up on a moral high ground, one that many of them have no business being on. And one of those people is, in fact, Limbaugh. And that’s one reason conservatives are more rapidly and more easily strung up for their failures: Because, by their own definitions, they should be.

Now, on to the “yes” part. Despite the hypocrisy inherent in Limbaugh’s aligned political ideologies and bombastic, slanderous statements, there is still a bit of hypocrisy coming from somewhere with regards to liberal commentators. Maher, being one of the few people willing to stand up for Limbaugh (something that he may possibly regret later), once called Sarah Palin a c—. I think you know the word I’m referencing there. And Olbermann has been seen as a bit of a misogynist himself, partly due to his comments on then-Senator Hillary Clinton during the 2008 campaign, comments for which he later apologized (See, Limbaugh?). I mean, I could point out conservative commentators that tended to get away pain free, like the now deceased Andrew Breitbart, but there are some cases that need a little more scrutiny on both sides. Personally, I think Maher got away with his comments because no one really cares about him. To me, he’s still the guy that made that movie about religion, sometimes says smart insightful things, and then says stupid, unnecessary, pointless, rude and mean things. Heck, it took me forever to even know how to say his name correctly (It’s Mar, not May-er), and according to Mediaite’s Power Grid, Maher comes in at #46 among TV Anchors/Hosts. To compare, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert come in at #6 and #7 respectively. For goodness sake, he’s on HBO. How many people watch that for political commentary? (Answer: A lot more once that movie about Palin comes out.)

Still, unfamiliarity is not a really good excuse to not call him on his crap. There’s no need to accept excuses from anyone on these issues. Now, these issues will show up, and often. That’s the nature of our ever more partisan nation and our ever-growing fast reaction grapevine through social media. You make a Tweet you’re going to regret and, trust me… No matter how fast you delete it, you will regret it if you’re a national figure. And we the people need to start holding these figureheads more and more accountable. Perhaps it starts with Limbaugh. If others continue to think they can do the same, unrepentant stuff when the dust settles and Limbaugh is limping away from the fight, then we take the fight to them until we get it through their heads that there is some behavior that will not be tolerated. Change can be had. Let’s start making it.

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Birth Control And Sluts: A Man’s Take

As you have undoubtedly heard, recently, Rush Limbaugh, the “comedian”/”entertainer” radio talk show host of the right wing very often known for his extremely bombastic and offensive viewpoints, decided it was appropriate to go on air and talk about Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who was barred from testifying at the Congressional birth control hearing because she was deemed “unqualified” by Republican Rep. Darrell Issa.

Now, while it does make sense to discuss the highly contentious issue of the contraception mandate, as well as the highly contentious issue of barring the only woman from a discussion about feminine health care products, what doesn’t make sense and what isn’t appropriate is what Limbaugh decided to say on the subject. Specifically targeting Fluke, Limbaugh called her a slut and said, “So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you Feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex. We want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”

A class act, that man.

Perhaps if Limbaugh had ever actually branded himself as a comedian, or his show as a comedy, there wouldn’t be such a huge to-do… but I doubt it. This gross mischaracterization has actually compelled President Barack Obama to call Fluke and encourage her, several big named GOP figureheads to disown the comments (as Limbaugh is a major representative voice in the conservative political world, despite having no real say), Limbaugh to eventually apologize and, by last count I saw, seven advertisers to pull their ads from his show.

So, some major fallout.

Still, apology or no, the basic sentiment was there. And Limbaugh isn’t the only person to have similar sentiments. In fact, there was even an attempt to pass something called the Blunt Amendment, which would have allowed health care stakeholders to “retain the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions, without fear of being penalized or discriminated against.”

So, exactly what is the problem here? Well, the contraception mandate basically required the birth control pill to be available in health care plans offered by all employers, including religious ones. This was dialed back to exclude churches, but include church-backed institutions, like schools and hospitals. Since most religious people see the birth control pill as either a) contraception (which the Catholic Church in specific disallows in every form) or b) a license for consequence free, immoral sexual activities (which pretty much all the other Christian churches say they disallow), it was not immensely popular amongst them.

First, let me clear the stupidity of the Blunt Amendment out of the way. Sure, Jon Stewart had a decent bit slamming how stupid the idea was, but I think I’ll take a simpler, less comic route.

Employed by Jehovah’s Witnesses? Say goodbye to anything that requires a blood transfusion, like many life-saving surgeries do. Personal moral beliefs should not trump the moral beliefs and choices of others.

Now, with that out of the way… The whole “slut” deal…

There’s this weird, stupid idea amongst people not framing this mandate as an affront on religious liberty that making birth control pills easily available to women (you know, so they’re not paying some $3000 a year for them) will encourage illicit, wanton sex. Some, like Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly, have demanded equal compensation for men.

So, here’s some of the problems.

First, the birth control pill is a hormone control pill. One that many women and young girls need throughout their life to balance their hormones properly. Do I know the specifics? No. But have I hung around enough women to know that they often need the pills for something other than sex? Yes.

Second, even if they do use it for sex… who cares? Why is the government attempting to limit the sexual activities of its citizens? Abstinence only education is bad enough, but at least it can pretend to defend itself by saying that it’s targeting children and trying to keep them from having sex. This stuff targets adults, who can do whatever the heck they want to whoever the heck they want that is also a consenting adult. The insinuation that women who want to have sex and avoid pregnancies are sluts is insulting to women and, frankly, men that have a couple of neurons to rub together and create thought with.

Which leads me to three. Third, what purpose is there to add the “male equivalent” of the birth control pill? That can mean one of two things… one, allow vasectomies to be covered. I do believe many health insurance plans actually do cover those, so that’s not the problem. But if the focus isn’t birth control, and hormone balance isn’t something men have to worry about en mass (as far as I know), then the second interpretation is that sex thing. So, what, men want condoms available on their health insurance? Something that can be purchased without medical signatures for insanely cheap? Can be given away for free all over the place? Has, really, exactly one purpose?

Men taking this stance have been swelling with a gross sense of entitlement. This idea that, “Hey… if women are getting health insurance for something that allows them to potentially have sex without pregnancy (but ignores all that STD stuff), we should totally be allowed to get the same deal that lets us bang whoever we want consequence free!” is totally ridiculous. There is absolutely no analogue. Purpose, cost, availability, all of these things are vastly different for birth control pills and male contraceptive devices like condoms. It’d be like saying, “Hey… if women are getting health insurance for something that allows them to get groped (breast exams), we should totally get a similar deal” to defend health insurance covering hand jobs at the local shady street corner.

So, men that say crap like that? Take it from a man (since a lot of you seem to think only men can have any real say in this issue) when I say get over yourselves and deal with it.

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Why My Christianity Won’t Let Me Vote Republican

If you can’t tell by the title, this is going to be one of those posts where people would get all sorts of up in arms if anyone actually read this/cared about what a random guy on the internet had to say.

…though, in fairness, that seems to be all anyone on the internet cares about, judging by YouTube comment flame wars.

But, on to the controversy!

What is the GOP’s current incarnation known for? What stances do they take when it comes to politics, social and economic both? (Note, this refers to the leaders of the party and the loudest voices when it comes to setting and saying policy. I know not all are like this.)

On immigration, they take the stance of kicking all illegal immigrants out of the country. Look at Arizona and, more recently and more harshly, Alabama. Instead of trying to help integrate immigrants into American culture and citizenship, they are derided and scorned, blamed for the lack of jobs and all other things. And Alabama, like Arizona discovered, will soon notice that the results of the law aren’t necessarily good ones. (As I recall, Arizona started trying to get the immigrants back thanks to a severe drop in work productivity.)

Yet, what does the Bible say about the immigrant? In the book of Leviticus, God commanded the Israelites to treat foreigners as though they were native-born.

“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” – Leviticus 19:33-34, NIV

And what did Jesus Christ teach? Something about loving your neighbor, as I recall. I’m not going to suggest that Christ meant for Christians to abet criminal activity. But I am going to suggest that Christ would more likely support legislation welcoming the immigrants to our country with open, loving arms, treating them the way they were not able to be treated in their home lands. You know, the whole reason they left in the first place.

But it’s not just immigration I have a beef with. The Republican party is largely against anything ever resembling any form of socialism, as well. Funds to the poor? Don’t want those. Heck, many Republicans don’t even like how there are many people in the nation that don’t pay taxes. Ignore the fact that many of them don’t have jobs or are feeding families of 5 on minimum wage jobs that are barely enough for a single person to live on in many states. How about health care for everyone? Oh, keep that away. People should pay for all their health care. If they can’t afford it, too bad. And any suggestion that the right thing for the super-rich to do is to help the poor and less fortunate? That’s simply class warfare.

Have you ever read the book of Acts? In the book of Acts, the first church was created by Simon Peter, the Rock on which Christ set the foundation for Christianity. Let’s look at a description of the first church, shall we?

“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.” – Acts 4:32-35, NIV

They sold their possessions and shared them amongst those who had need. No one claimed any ownership. Well, that sounds like your very basic commune. A very basic bit of socialism right there. And that is what the Christian church was founded on: Taking care of the needy, sharing amongst one another your possessions and excesses. I’ve talked about some of this stuff before, but it needed to be reiterated here.

Now, some will point to Romans 13:1-2, where it says in the NIV, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” They will say, “Our government leaders have dictated these laws, so we must obey them, for it’s what God wants.”

In America, the voters are the ones that enact the laws. The voters pick the representatives and governors and lawmakers. The voters can cry out and demand change. The only overarching authority in the United States is the U.S. Constitution. So, yes, we should obey the Constitution. But we should lie back and let things like the anti-immigrant laws and the tax cuts for the rich go by as if that’s what God would want us to do.

Speaking of the Constitution being the law of the land we actually should follow, why is it that so many in the Republican party want to ignore the First Amendment? There seems to be a growing desire to eliminate any non-Christian religion from our country from the “moral majority,” with a particular focus on Islam. People want to ban mosques and other places of worship for other religions from being built. But for those Christians that are of that opinion, I point to that verse from Romans 13 and say to you that the U.S. Constitution, not any random lawmaker, says to let them stay.

As a Christian, I look to help the poor, heal the sick and infirm, and love all of the people around me. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m personally not doing so great at all that, perhaps. But at the very least, I can refuse to vote for a party that consistently legislates against the very things the Bible teaches over and over and over again, in every translation and in very plain speaking. An article on exactly how unChristian and divisive the GOP party leadership is right now could last for a long time. But I think I’ve shown enough here for now.

I’m a Christian. And, because of that, I will not vote Republican. Not without some serious change.

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