Friday, July 14, 2017

The Intersection of Religion and Politics

Illustration by Par Holman. Copyright © 2017 Par Holman

I read that a few days ago some evangelical types did a laying-on-of-hands for Donald Trump, praying for him. Trying to jump start his spiritual battery, I suppose. Trump is not exactly what I would call a religious type, but in this case he probably figured what-the-hell. What did he have to lose? Presidents, no matter if religious, find that catering to the faithful among the citizens is good politics.

In that way we mix religion with State.

On a more personal note, the adage of keeping out of trouble by avoiding the topics of religion and politics in conversation is true. It has caused a major rift in my wife’s family, some of whom are speaking, some not. My wife’s brothers are, like me, anti-Trump and unreligious. My wife’s sister and her husband, as well as some of their children, are evangelicals and pro-Trump. Like most families you find both kinds at the family reunions, except in this case there are no family reunions. The only mixing we have done with that side of the family was at a wedding several months ago, and we decided to handle it with smiles. We were comfortable, the other side of the family was not.

The pro-Trump brother-in-law wrote one of my anti-Trump brothers-in-law, publishing it on Facebook for the world to see, and criticized him for acting like he thought people who voted for Trump were ignorant and stupid.

Okay. I am guilty of those feelings, too. How else can I be, when the parade of idiocy passes in front of my eyes every day as Trump comes up with one outrage after another? Why would I think anyone who would vote for Trump was ignoring common sense and decades of stories about the man and his childish behavior?

The morning after the 2016 election one of the members of the family’s pro-Trump faction posted on Facebook, “When Trump won, God won.” That person is not on my Facebook page, so I heard about it second hand. Despite knowing their evangelical gusto and spread-the-gospel zeal, I could not see how they equated Trump with God. I believe that Trump could be the poster child for what not to do to lead a religious lifestyle. But then, maybe I should not be surprised. I live in Utah, where the state is not only solid Republican, but the lawmakers are almost all Latter-day Saints. Despite their core religious beliefs, they come in all types, and some of them make Trump’s chicanery seem childish. Not for nothing does Utah have the reputation for being tops in having the faithful suckered by con men.

As churches, evangelicals are spread out over Utah, but they are a minority in the larger Christian community.

Back to Trump. The guy has a reputation for being crooked in so many areas that he reminds me of the types that Jesus supposedly ran out of the temple. Why is it that some of the poorest people in this country are putting their faith in Trump, whose business acumen is mainly how to borrow money, declare bankruptcy, hire out his name for shoddy products (Trump Steaks, Trump University), and stiff contractors when they have completed their work? As mentioned before, Trump has more lawsuits against him than any other real estate mogul. He is not a religious icon, he is just this side of criminal, and maybe if we knew more about him we might see him to be more criminal than saint.

One of the things the Facebook letter said to my brother-in-law was that “liberals” are a sad and unhappy bunch. Well, maybe some are. I am only sad because Trump is president, and for some reason the Democrats could not get it together enough to beat the Republicans, losing the House, Senate and presidency. Other than that I am not unhappy, because karma, or judgment from god notwithstanding, things do tend to even out. Had Trump not run for president he could have enjoyed without much scrutiny his life of opulence and pleasure on the backs of little people. But now that he is in the white hot spotlight, everyone is focused in on him and his family of ne’er do wells. I go back at least 30 years in reading stories about Trump. He gloried in his reputation as a philanderer.  He took pleasure in his reputation as a business shark. I guess what the guy who wrote the Facebook letter to my brother-in-law missed out on is that Trump will never be presidential. There is nothing that will restrain him from being his own worst enemy.

Remember the Spider-Man credo? “With great power comes great responsibility.” Great power also comes with the eyes of the world fixed on the powerful. Everything that person does is under constant scrutiny.

So what to do about those religious people, like those in my wife’s family, who are still imbuing him with attributes he does not have, i.e., conscience, fair play,..a soul (even if I do not believe such a thing exists)? Nothing I can say to them will shake their faith or make them think less of him. It actually has the opposite effect. Because liberals like me, my family and my brothers-in-law don’t like their idol it gives them further fuel for their paranoid conspiracy theories, that the “left” along with the “fake news” is out to get him in some sort of witch hunt.

 I guess the best thing to do is sit back and watch as all of the shady acts of Trump’s life come back to get him in the end. Might be sooner, might be later, but as my religious neighbors might say, good Lord willin', it will get him.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

L. Frank Baum, father of the Wizard of Oz

Lyman Frank Baum created a whole world in his Oz series for children. Published originally in 1900, the original Oz book has gone through countless printings, and the 1939 movie based on it is considered one of the greatest movies ever made. This article, by Daniel Mannix, which appeared in the December 1964 issue of American Heritage, is a tribute to both the man and his creation.

Copyright © 1964 American Heritage

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The hungry, haunted house

Haunted house stories in fiction can be very entertaining, even if you don’t believe in ghosts and wandering spirits or demons.

I don’t know if Robert Bloch believed in the supernatural. But he was a writer who wrote all kinds of fictional weird tales, including stories of hauntings. He made his living writing stories like “The Hungry House.” I am presenting the scans from its original appearance in the magazine, Imagination, April, 1951. So, whether you believe in ghosts or!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Hollywood Rule: Between facts and legend, show the legend

I watched The Revenant again recently. This time I felt the need to look up what is known of the mountain man, Hugh Glass, an attack by a grizzly bear, and the truth of his quest for revenge on men who left him to die. During my second viewing I thought the story seemed too good to be true, more Hollywood than fact.

Such is actually the case. Or what little is known of it. Glass’s encounter with the bear happened in the wilderness in 1823, which was a long way from any newspapers or traditional ways of telling the story. The historical accounts I was able to find don’t mention the son of Glass, killed by the slimy Fitzgerald (played by Tom Hardy), as shown in the movie version.

This cartoonist’s version of the Glass story, taken from an old pulp magazine (sorry, I don’t know which one), has Glass going after the men who left him to die, but then forgiving them. In the movie he exacts a gory and violent revenge, which makes a lot better cinema, but impugns Glass’s real-life character.

Click on it to make it big.

This article, "A Difficult Man to Kill" from True West magazine, tells what is known of the facts of the story.