Originally posted on April 18, 2010 on my now-shuttered blog, Blue Lyon. It still holds up.
In The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (Ballantine Books, 1996), Carl Sagan stressed over and over again the need for science literacy, critical thinking and skepticism. We need not understand the finer points of each scientific discipline, but we need to understand the scientific method and how to apply it in our daily lives, as well as in our national and international policy-making.
Sagan also argued that ignorance of what-came-before can set us up to commit the same errors in the here-and-now. Understanding the past is key to living in the present and planning for the future. To not know our history and our human propensity for unskeptical thinking is to doom us to continually make the same mistakes, to never move forward, or worse, finish ourselves off as a species.
In Chapter 24, Science and Witchcraft, Sagan revisits the witch hunts of the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries that consumed Europe and America. The parallels in the following passage to today’s political environment are striking: Guantanamo, indefinite detention, military commissions-vs-civilian courts, National Day of Prayer, torture, the run up to the Iraq war, the prosecution of whistle-blowers, even the 2008 Democratic primaries. Sagan appears prescient. He wasn’t. He was just aware of history.
If we do not know what we’re capable of, we cannot appreciate measures taken to protect us from ourselves. I discussed the European witch mania in the alien abduction context; I hope the reader will forgive me for returning to it in its political context. It is an aperture to human self-knowledge. If we focus on what was considered acceptable evidence and a fair trial by the religious and secular authorities in the fifteenth-to-seventeenth century witch hunts, many of the novel and peculiar features of the eighteenth-century U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights become clear: including trial by jury, prohibitions against self-incrimination and against cruel and unusual punishment, freedom of speech and the press, due process, the balance of powers and the separation of church and state.
Friedrich von Spee (pronounced “Shpay”) was a Jesuit priest who had the misfortune to hear the confessions of those accused of witchcraft in the German City of Würzburg (see Chapter 7). In 1631, he published Cautio Criminalis (Precautions for Prosecutors), which exposed the essence of the Church/State terrorism against the innocent. Before he was punished he died of the plague – as a parish priest serving the afflicted. Here is an except from his whistle-blowing book: Continue reading
First off, I am avoiding all cable news at this point. I just can’t deal with another ‘journalist’ or ‘experts panel’ telling me what all this means and trying to pretend that this is normal and it’s all going to be okay. It’s not now or ever going to be okay. I woke up with an even greater sense of dread this morning than yesterday, especially after reading about how the backlash against immigrants and Muslims (and even an adopted Korean child!) has begun. Whether or not Trump is able to pull it together and behave as a human being is doubtful, but almost irrelevant at this point.
He has awakened a sickening, bigoted, hateful force that is going to be felt in our communities for a long time.
The duplicitous NRA wants guns in OUR workplaces, in our groceries, in our churches, in our night clubs, yet they ban carrying loaded rifles into THEIR offices. To assure their demands are heeded, they send out their chief lobbyist to threaten our politicians such that if they were to support ANY form of gun control legislation, the NRA would make them pay a price—their seat in Congress. Thus, more terrified of the NRA than their nescient constituents, Senate GOP members would rather sell guns to terrorists than protect the lives of your loved ones.
To end the Democratic filibuster of Senate business last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised “a vote” on gun legislation this week. But, he made sure that any just votes would require a 60 vote super-majority for passage. Accordingly, all FOUR gun management amendments failed cloture, leaving the terror loophole and the gun show loophole firmly in place and the ability of terrorists on the watch…
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Snippet: “Those of you who are Bernie or Bust, like I was, please, I beg of you, consider my personal experience. Google me. Find me on Facebook and Twitter. See for yourselves that I was Bernie or Bust, that I’m not some Wall Street attorney rolling in money. I am a disabled woman, struggling to make ends meet and to pay my medical bills. But I now recognize that Clinton is the only candidate willing to make the effort to effect the change we need.”
Last fall, a fellow disability activist and close friend of mine introduced me to Bernie Sanders. From the moment I first heard his platform, I was hooked. After living abroad several years in a country with socialized medicine and heavily subsidized education, I was thrilled an American politician was proposing these policies here. Due to my own disabilities, the cost of healthcare has become exorbitant and becoming chronically ill forced me to leave my career in public service litigation to collect meager social security benefits. So, Bernie’s message resonated strongly with my own personal experience of being in the 99%.
I was so moved by his message that I began volunteering for the campaign, be it through phonebanking, texting or simply bringing his message to everyone I knew. I believed so strongly in the change he could effect that I even donated more money than I could otherwise afford to…
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We’re off in a bit to the Nevada State Democratic Convention. I am decked out in Hillary bling and my buttons and flyers are ready to go.
I’m looking forward to a great time with great Democrats from all over the state!
Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren’t a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was. ~ Cheryl Strayed, Brave Enough