American ISIS

Over the past several months, ISIS elements have either been in the headlines and news shows, particularly for their use of force, violence, and media savvy in getting across the point that nothing is sacred, except their own narrow beliefs, in their attempts to establish an Islamic religiously-based nation state. To this end, ISIS operatives have beheaded journalists, tortured and killed anyone who does not believe as they do, destroyed ancient cultural artifacts, sold whatever they could to raise funds for their holy crusade, and made it crystal-clear that women are not the equal of men and should be their slaves.

Much of the world, including the United States, has been appalled, disgusted, often horrified, and made the point that ISIS is not what a civilized nation should be, particularly because ISIS denies any freedom to anyone that is in the slightest against what they regard as Islamic Sharia law.

Yet…everyone tends to forget that we have an analogue to ISIS right here in the United States. And no, they’re not Muslim. They regard themselves as God-fearing, good religious Christians who often cite the U. S. Constitution – or at least their version of it – in much the same way that ISIS cites the Koran to support its horrific actions. If you haven’t guessed, yet, I’m speaking of the extreme right-wing, fanatical Republicans.

These people aren’t terribly interested in anyone’s freedom except their own, no matter how much they declare they are, except perhaps for the freedom to carry deadly weapons [another similarity to ISIS]. Their idea of freedom is exemplified most recently by Kim Davis, the county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples because the idea of gay marriage is against her faith. Let’s get this straight. No one is forcing Ms. Davis personally to marry someone of the same sex. The law and the Supreme Court have stated that any two single individuals, regardless of gender, have the right to get married. No one is forcing anyone into a single-sex marriage. But her freedoms are infringed because she can’t impose her views of marriage on others?

These right-wing groups also oppose environmental regulations in almost any form, claiming that such regulations are everything from excessive to unwarranted because the costs infringe on their rights to make money. In effect, they’re claiming that their right to make money trumps the right of the public to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and not to inflict huge ocean level rises and higher global temperatures and more massive storms upon our children and grandchildren.

Despite the fact that the minimum wage is well below a living wage, the right-wingers insist that they should be able to make a living by paying other people less than is adequate for those people to make a living… and then they complain that government should cut back on programs for the poorest Americans because taxes, especially on right-wing capitalists, are too high.

Likewise, in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court declared that, under certain reasonable conditions, women had the right to have abortions. The most violent members of the Republican right wing are insisting, literally, that a woman who will die if she brings a child to term has no right to save herself by having an abortion. This is anything but the defense of freedom; it is the use of religion to dominate someone else.

And let’s not get into the “life is sacred” or “right to life” simplistic mantras. Both are largely right-wing hypocritical propaganda. The same people who spew this crap are the very ones who oppose all the programs for the poorest and most disadvantaged. If there is such a thing as a right to life, then it should be manifested by support of all lives throughout their lives, not just until they’re born… and then left on their own. As for the sacredness of life, where did that come from? From religion, of course, and that means that using religion to restrict a woman’s freedom to control her own body — and to survive – is effectively using the law to arrogate one particular set of beliefs over every other… and that is, at least in spirit, the use of law to push a particular religion, and not all that different from using the law to create a nationally required church [which, by the way, is in fact forbidden by the Constitution]. Also, as for life being sacred, these are the same people who want, under the right to bear arms, the right to defend themselves by killing other people, waging war on other nations, and using and shooting every form of life that can be hunted, while supporting actions that have effectively resulted in the latest great extinction of planetary life-forms, suggesting that what life they regard as sacred is a tiny fraction of planetary life, and essentially white-skinned.

Admittedly, the Republican right wingers are making this assault on the personal freedoms of those who do not share their values largely through two essentially American tools – money and law – although in some cases, a few more fanatical right-wingers have actually used weapons to gun down doctors who performed abortions. Not only that, but each year the extremists push for more and more measures to restrict the freedoms of others, continually threatening to shut down government if they don’t get their way.

And, frankly, like all too many moderate and good Muslims, who are loath to strongly and publicly criticize Islamic extremists, all too many of the more decent elements in the Republican party have also been loath to speak out, largely because, I suspect, they immediately tend to be attacked, ignored, or ostracized.

As a life-long Republican, who retains his registration in spite of seldom being able to find a Republican candidate I can support, and who served in positions from precinct committeeman, state delegate, Congressional Staff director, and the politically appointed director of the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs at the U.S. EPA during the Reagan Administration, I am absolutely disgusted and appalled that the most conservative elements of the Republican Party have more in common with ISIS than with the Constitution drafted and envisioned in their writings by the Founding Fathers… and that they fail to realize that fact.

21 thoughts on “American ISIS”

  1. Frank says:

    Wow. Quite a lot said, and quite a lot of ideas. I am also a long standing registered Republican (since 1980)who continues to be so registered and has a great deal of difficulty finding Republican candidates that I can vote for.

    I agree with so much of what you’ve said, but would take some exception:

    I don’t think you have to be a right wing extremist to be cautious of some of the environmental regulations that have been espoused. I understand that global warming exists (it’s a matter of measurement and can’t really be disputed), but I’m not convinced that some of the remedies are reasonable or even effective, and I believe there must be a balance of cost/benefit that should be looked at realistically and honestly.

    I also don’t think that anyone who is against a governmentally enforced “living wage” (minimum wage) is necessarily a villain. There are a myriad of things I’d like to see and think would be beneficial that I really don’t want the government to be involved in enforcing.

    I agree with most of the rest, and especially feel the frustration that more moderate Republicans, Conservatives, Muslims, Liberals, Christians, etc. don’t speak out against the excesses that those who claim those labels as their own seem to wallow in.

    It seems we are losing the skill of civilized debate, discourse and disagreement. I would be such a shame if any one side prevailed, and, what a boring world it would make.

    1. I don’t necessarily have a problem with people who oppose a high minimum wage, but I do have a problem with those who do and who then want to cut programs to benefit the working poor who can’t make ends meet.

      1. Frank says:

        Agreed, especially on the basis of “working poor.” When people demonstrate the ambition to help themselves I feel very good about trying to assist them in that effort. I view that as an “investment” in our country and economy, as opposed to an entitlement that may hurt those it is intended to help.

  2. Bob Vowell says:

    The frustrating thing to me, and I wish someone could give me a solution based in the real world, is finding a way that the scales can be balanced.

    I am afraid that the fanatical politicians have passed the tipping point and the only solution will be a violent movement in a few decades. It seems like a majority of national government has distanced itself and insulated itself from the governed. The various over-simplifications, distortions and lies are taken as truth and turned into policy and law. The people affected have no recourse because the system is setup to pay attention to those with power and money.

    It comes down to the the fanatical Republicans are supported by fanatical people. You can’t counter fanatics with reason and the country was set up in a way that allows them their voice. There needs to be a charismatic, Conservative Republican who is willing to compromise while making people feel good about the compromise to lead the fanatics.

    We are so screwed.

  3. R. Hamilton. says:

    Sorry, there is zero similarity between psychopathic murderers and people who simply don’t want behavior grossly offensive to them (or indeed behavior they regard as murder) enabled by government.

    Arguably the answer in most cases is not restricting anyone’s freedom, but getting government OUT of most matters. For example, government doesn’t really need to issue marriage licenses to ANYONE; it could instead simply record civil domestic partnership contracts, the most comprehensive of which could have all the legal features that marriage has had. Likewise, government shouldn’t fund Planned Parenthood or anything else controversial. Arguably, government CAN’T truly fund anything, because all of government’s funds are obtained from taxes and tariffs. Therefore, when government funds something, TAXPAYERS are actually funding it, regardless of where they stand on the matter. Those functions specifically enumerated (or necessary for them) in the Constitution are the legitimate functions of federal government. Social justice is not. Remedying poverty is not. Redefining words to satisfy the desires of a few percent of the population is not. Subsidizing an organization that provides both controversial services and noncontroversial healthcare services is not.

    1. Your position is noted. The Constitution also states that among its purposes is to “promote the general welfare” and second to “provide for the general welfare.” It also states quite clearly that Congress has the power “to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.” You can argue all you like about what you think government should be about, but dealing with poverty does come under general welfare… and the Supreme Court, the arbiter of the Constitution, has also declared it so. In case you’ve forgotten, one of the purposes of the Constitution was in fact “social justice” — the idea of universal [if white male] suffrage and a nation under laws. What you’re saying is that only certain social justice is acceptable to you. Sorry, but the Constitution does represent social justice, and by its existence, allows more social justice under its terms.

      And, I would agree, psychopathic murderers motivated by religious zeal are different, and that includes psychopaths who murder doctors who perform abortions, but my point was that the motivations and goals of U.S. extremists are essentially the same as those of ISIS — to force one religio-social view on everyone, except our fanatics are doing it, usually, through law and financial pressure.

      1. R. Hamilton. says:

        That argument has been made…often. As I recall, “promote the general welfare” is in the preamble, which does not define specific powers, only general purposes. As such, there are many ways to do that which have nothing to do with providing benefits, entitlements, or services to anyone.

        No, I’m not necessarily arguing for an exceptionally restrictive concept of social justice. One law for everyone is fine (but no special accommodations for the historically discriminated-against, the poor, or anyone else). So government should refrain from licensing anything to anyone that requires redefining, for example, the meaning of a concept like “marriage”.

        Freedom of conscience is not negotiable. One doesn’t have to force views on anyone else…but if they demand service for their views, that’s exactly what they are doing.

        I don’t care what consenting adults do in privacy. I insist that they not demand anyone else’s acknowledgement, endorsement, or respect, except via civil contract law (having the same right as any private parties to contracts between them, and to have those not interfered with once established).

        I also demand that since government cannot get involved in metaphysics, it cannot say except by pragmatic means (such as earliest viability) when human life does, or DOES NOT, begin. Therefore, it MUST err on the side of protecting life, unless to do so would violate the woman’s right of self-defense.

        No troublesome-in-the-public-square religious motive is required for either of those views.

        I realize this sounds incredibly cold-hearted by modern standards. It’s not. The poor can be looked after privately (something I have been known to support generously), which would allow discretion to only support those willing to participate in their sustenance (government never can seem to manage discretion, and indeed has incentive to maximize program participation rather than make it largely unnecessary). Those with nontraditional personal preferences can practice them privately with the protection of a contract that is equivalent in function to a marriage license, without demanding acceptance as an equivalent institution for their relationship. Medically necessary abortions are entirely different from optional ones.

  4. Ryan Jackson says:

    Re: the Pro-life/Pro-Choice issue. Can’t remember where I saw it said first, but someone made a very simple point that if anyone is honest with themselves, ends the debate.

    As stands right now. If a relative of mine came down with some disease and a blood/organ or what have you transplant from me was the only way to save their life. It’s my choice if I want to give up that part of me for another. Even in the case of a blood transfusion which is nearly harmless and a bodily fluid that will quickly replenish itself.

    If I do not sign my Organ Donor card, my corpse cannot be used to save multiple other lives. Because it is ultimately my choice over my body.

    By saying a pregnant woman cannot exercise that same right you are, in fact, stating that a woman has less legal and ethical right to her own body than a corpse does…

    The simple reality is, you are asking one person to give of their body and sacrifice of themselves for another. And we hold the right of our control over our own bodies as something very major, hence it applying even to the dead.

    1. R. Hamilton. says:

      Nobody is being asked to sacrifice their life. They ARE being asked (by those of that view) to sacrifice 9 months of being as if it hadn’t happened. There are private charities that would gladly offset additional expenses and assist in adoption, to mitigate whatever harm caused them to desire an abortion, as an alternative.

      Moreover, unless people are ENTIRELY indoctrinated to believe that it’s just a blob of tissue (and on a strictly chemical/hormonal basis, even then), there will ALSO be psychological trauma following abortion quite often. There is sometimes NO WAY to make something as if it hadn’t happened.

      1. Ryan Jackson says:

        None of which alters or affects what I said at all. With the exception of this singular issue the stance of the Law has ALWAYS been that a person has sovereignty over their own body. That this is supposed to somehow be an exception is ridiculous to put it simply.

        You speak of offsetting issues or how easy it is. Yep. It’s also 99.99% harmless and completely simple and non affecting of my life to donate blood, but it is still MY call and no one can force me otherwise. When I am dead my organs do no good to me whatsoever but they still cannot be used to save other lives without my consent. A pregnant woman deserves the same level of ownership over her own body.

        1. R. Hamilton. says:

          Even at the expense of another life, or at least a potential life? _That’s_ the problem. Failure to donate may not _prevent_ someone dying, but it doesn’t actively cause it.

          Until science makes traditional reproduction irrelevant, women ARE NOT ENTIRELY EQUAL to men (and vice versa), no matter how desirable it may be (in most respects) to advance that legal fiction.

          The law should be able to minimally acknowledge and deal specially with the difference, while making no more of it than reality requires.

  5. D Archerd says:

    Although I’m a liberal on most social issues, I think that time and history are not on the side of the Pro Choice faction regarding abortion.

    There are two fundamental philosophical questions underlying the abortion question. 1) Is all human life sacrosanct, including potential human life, or are the allowable exceptions? 2) When does human life begin?

    The Roman Catholic church is fairly consistent around the first question, which means that they are consistently against not only abortion but any form of birth control, as well as capital punishment. I may not agree with their position, but I can at least respect it for its philosophical consistency. I confess that I’m not sure of what the Roman Catholic faith regards allowable exceptions; self-defense and “legitimate war” (whatever that means) may be regretted but not condemned. I don’t know their position on abortion when the life of the mother is at stake.

    But whatever one’s position, it should be consistent and defensible philosophically. I take issue with those who oppose abortion under any circumstances yet approve of the death penalty. Yes, I realize that many of those will say that they’re defending the innocent in the case of abortion and condemning the guilty in the case of the death penalty, but that argument looks increasingly shaky in light of continued executions of those who are mentally retarded, mentally ill, have been in prison awaiting execution so long that they are no longer an obvious threat to anyone, and especially in light of the number of condemned prisoner who have been subsequently exonerated by DNA evidence. I can respect the Roman Catholic position about the sanctity of all life, but to be against abortion and pro death penalty looks increasingly hypocritical (especially when one considers that an appalling number of death row prisoners appear to be there simply because they had the bad judgment to be born poor and with the wrong skin color). So the key question around the sanctity of life question revolves around what exceptions are to be made.

    Which leads directly into the second question around where life begins. There is not a scientific basis for concluding that life begins at a particular point, because from a scientific standpoint, like is a continuum of gradually increasing probability. An unfertilized ovum or a sperm cell are arguably “life” because they have the potential to reproduce (the Roman Catholic position); conversely, a fetus 10 weeks into development is arguably “not life” because it is unviable and thus simply a part of a woman’s body (the position of the Pro Choice folks). The point is that that selecting conception as the point where human life begins is an arbitrary one, and it is a philosophical decision, not necessarily a scientific one.

    But even if one claims that human life is a continuum of increasing probability and not an arbitrary point like conception, there comes a point in embryonic development where viability outside the womb is so likely that the rights of the unborn fetus outweigh the rights of the woman over her own body. This is the key test which has informed the U.S. Supreme Court in their decisions around abortion, and why “late-term abortions” are so problematic.

    So this is why I maintain that history will not be on the side of the Pro Choice faction. As improvements in medical procedures continue, that critical “point of viability” will shift earlier and earlier into the pregnancy period, until at some point conception will be the point at which life begins in practice as well as in theory.

    But until then, those on the “Pro Life” side need to recognize that forcing women to carry a pregnancy to term in any and all cases regardless of the circumstances can cause real suffering on the part of those women and that they must be prepared to provide some form of care and support in acknowledgement of that suffering. And those on the “Pro Choice” side need to acknowledge that abortion ALWAYS means taking a life and therefore must be able to clearly lay out when exceptions are allowable and why.

    1. R. Hamilton. says:

      Actually, there is one argument in favor of picking conception. That’s when it’s (at least) a _specific_ potential human being, separated only by time and development from being indisputably an actual human being, with the same chromosomes as that fertilized egg.

      It gets very little publicity, but there ARE private charities willing to assist in the added costs of carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term, and in subsequent adoption. There have even been purely libertarian (and non-religious) arguments that one of the very FEW times public assistance should be granted to individuals, might be that sort of assistance, in cases of rape or incest.

      1. RRRea says:

        You keep saying there are private charities, but that’s simply not the case. Not enough that would be in any way able to absorb the number of unwanted children you are requiring to come to term. (Honestly, by your definition of personhood where every fertilized ova is a person, there would need to be serious and extreme invasive support for the substantial percentage of fertilized ova that do not make it past the first trimester…. enforcing mandatory measures to insure that they implant in the wall of uterus, monitoring and treating any circumstances where the blastula fails to develop, etc. etc. etc. etc.) It’s a facile argument that gets trotted out again and again, but it is effectively meaningless. Since your proposed solution cannot actually solve the problem the way you have constructed the situation, don’t promote it as logical. It’s magical thinking.

        The same goes for private charitable support for the poor. Once again, there is simply not the wherewithal materially or ethically in our society to provide for the poor on a non-state level. It simply won’t work. More magical thinking. Equally, the reason any sort of government from the tribe level upwards exists is for redistribution of resources and has, as far as can be ascertained, ALWAYS included some provisions for some segments of society that cannot provide essentials for themselves. Unless you are entirely self-sufficient, you are being supported by numerous services and networks in which you are unequal recipient as much as you are a provider. Most people conveniently forget what they get from being a part of a society and focus only on what they provide. That’s the nature of entitlement. Cheifdoms, tribes, states are all forms of distributed liability essential for humans who wish to function in groups larger than independent bands.

        FYI, the fact something is in the Preamble, does not make it not part of the Constitution. As you point out, it states the general underlying principles on which the whole document is based. That is similar (and higher than) legislative intent. And anyone who has worked in government can tell you how important legislative intent can be. The Preamble isn’t something to dismiss in evaluating Constitutional arguments, it can be determinitive. Therefore, your argument lacks validity on it’s face. Such a guiding general principles are essential in a society, whether conveniently written down and are ALWAYS based on moral and ethical underpinnings. Trying to separate out some kind of false rational basis and discarding the rest (which almost certainly appears to be on the “cost” side of personal cost-benefit analysis) as irrational or not-present is willful ignorance.

        As to your arguments about not extending the benefits of marriage, I can see you are not aware that marriage is NOT merely a contractual artifact under the law? Any more than a Will is? Etc. Etc. It is an entity in it’s own right with contract-like properties, but there are benefits and rights that accompany the institution (not contract) of marriage that filter through numerous areas of law (Property, Criminal Law, Tax Law, etc.) Many of these consist of factors that CANNOT be contracted for or away. Marriage an institution that has existed under the aegis of the state as most states with a defined legal system think ALL of the matters appurtenant to marriage are something in which the state has an interest. You will need a substantial (probably devastating) change in both Common and Statutory Law to obliterate the institution of marriage and then replace it holistically with some kind of system of consortship. Unless you are suggesting that marriage should stay as is for those who have it, but those who don’t should try to cobble something “marriage-like” from contract law? In which case, “marriage-like” is still not marriage. And that damn Preamble rears its ugly head again…

        1. R. Hamilton. says:

          You’re quite right – private charities will NEVER meet all needs.

          The magic thinking is believing that government can either, except by reducing EVERYONE to a level of mediocrity in services received that may be equitable, but is the next thing to murder of those who could otherwise procure better for themselves.

          Government is almost always the problem. One of the prices of liberty is death by lack of total firearms confiscation. Another is that we CANNOT afford to have government try to save everyone. Victims and the poor will always suffer, there’s no time machine to undo what happened to them and prevent it. . Trying to go beyond private compassion will destroy us all.

        2. R. Hamilton. says:

          The preamble does NOT obligate treating deviants (statistically, even if one forgoes using that word in a moral sense) with special requirements the same as everyone else.

          It does not actually obligate anything, merely introduces what follows.

          Someone really needs to assemble a list of what words like “regulate”, “welfare”, etc meant when the Constitution was written, vs what they mean now. I suspect there’s a massive difference…and from my perspective, the change has not been for the better.

  6. Newton Ewell says:


    First, let me apologize: We’ve talked briefly, but never in as much depth as I’d like. Primarily, it’s out of respect – at any given convention you’ve had a lot going on. But it’s also been because I’ve never quite known whom I could truly be myself around here in Utah. I apologize for not giving you as much of a chance as I should.

    Secondly, your words are right on the mark. To quote Chris Rock, “there’s patriotism, and there’s HATEtriotism.” Thank you for pointing out both the difference, and those who sadly personify it. Thank you for seeing the awful parallels between the fundamentalist zealots from every religion.

    I have reached the conclusion that it is not any single religion, or political party that is the enemy. It’s fundamentalism, the level of zealotry required to say, “if you don’t agree with me, I will kill you.” It’s a global disease, the first symptom of which appears to be the belief that anything is justifiable to further one’s goals. Now I have my own beliefs about what’s happening and why, but I’d prefer to discuss that with you personally at a later date (hopefully very soon).

    You have my utmost respect and friendship. Thanks for writing this essay.


    Newton Ewell

    1. Sam says:

      I don’t neccessarily think fundamentalism is about killing.

      Here in Australia homosexuality was against the law only a few decades ago and could attract a jail sentence.

      A few months ago I heard a christian spokesperson who has a not insignificant support base the Reverend Fred Nile say that he thought homosexual acts should not have been decriminalised on a panel TV show.

      There are people in society today who still think homosexuality is both wrong and something that should be punished. Does the level of the punishment whether it’s killing, a beating or imprisonment make them more or less fundamentalist?

      The same applies to other things such as adultery and sex outside of marriage. Particularly for women. Whether the punishment is a flogging, 6 months in prison or a $1000 fine for these “crimes” when does it become fundamentalism to believe these punishments are justified?

      1. I’d say that, in general, advocating punishments for acts that are between consenting adults and offer no physical harm to those adults or to anyone else are a hallmark of a fundamentalist attitude; advocating and inflicting great punishments for such acts would define extreme fundamentalism, at least to me. That doesn’t mean I necessarily condone all such acts, by the way.

      2. R. Hamilton. says:

        Ostracizing (although Osterizing is tempting – cue the frog-in-a-blender jokes) is an appropriate punishment (IMO) for much behavior that violates community standards. Note that there are and will continue to be places where far from being ostracized, the different are advocated for and promoted. As long as such places exist, places that would prefer to keep differences metaphorically LOCKED in a closet should also be able to exist (IMO).

        Freedom of association also includes the freedom to individually AND collectively turn our backs on those we don’t wish to associate with; just as freedom of speech does NOT actually require anyone to listen. Yes, that could be bigoted, racist, gender-ist, and all manner of other horrors. Too bad, let’s go back to letting those horrors run their course in many cases, rather than demanding that tolerance is the premier virtue at all times. Why? You don’t change people by imposing yourself via government (another reason to minimize government redistribution); you change them by a couple of generations of behaving more honestly, discreetly, politely, kindly, etc than they do. Even if it doesn’t entirely work, you AT LEAST change yourself for the better…which is all you can really expect, anyway.

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