The Worship of America

Disclaimer: Controversial Opinions is a series in which I’m essentially thinking out loud. I don’t think every one of my opinions is right, and I’m open to changing my mind when shown a new perspective. If any of this starts feeling like a manifesto, I assure you my intention is just to get my thoughts out and off my chest. You’re welcome to agree or disagree, I’m doing this for myself as much as anything, but I do hope you get something out of reading this.

Even though I think religion itself, particularly Christianity, is to blame for the majority of the world’s problems throughout history, it seems to me that there is a religioun in America that often goes unnoticed: the worship of America itself. Nationalism has become an American religion. Growing up in America, I have always been very disturbed by the way Americans treat this particular country and especially it’s symbols.

As a child I was taught to stand at my desk every morning before school, place my hand over my heart, and recite a cult-like chant in which I pledge allegiance to, of all things, the American flag. Even as a child, I was struck by the Orwellian nature of this, though I didn’t know how to express it at the time. The flag is a symbol of America, but it is so revered that it is treated as a religious object, the same way certain icons are in temples and churches. If you didn’t know, there are a set of rules about what you should and should not do with a flag, which are often taught in places like the Boy Scouts. I don’t know all of them, but I have absorbed a few of them from cultural osmosis, and I do know you are never supposed to let it touch the ground and you are not supposed to wear a flag as clothing, or hang it upside down.

What’s even creepier than the fact that children are expected to essentially recite a prayer each morning to the religious icon of the American flag is the droning uninterested monotone with which an entire school does so. As I stood in class reciting the pledge of allegiance, hundreds of other students did it at the same time within my school, and within my state and country there were millions of children, all droning out the monotonous prayer at once, not really concerned with the meaning of the words. Most first graders don’t really know what the word “indivisible” means, but because we have this chant drilled into our heads from our youngest age, we are psychologically prepared to accept the words of the pledge as gospel truth when we are old enough to understand them. It doesn’t occur to use to question it because we were indoctrinated, just like we were with religion.

Indoctrination occurs everywhere. The most popular video games in America are almost entirely shooting games, specifically war games, and even more specifically a lot of those war games are set directly in the middle east, priming young people, mostly boys, to view killing middle eastern people as sport, not to regard them as human. Is it any wonder then, that non-white people and particularly middle eastern people are treated with such racism in America, or automatically assumed to be terrorists?

The national anthem is equally creepy to me. I know that every country has a national anthem, but the way you are instantly ostracized for refusing to stand for the anthem or refusing to say the pledge is terrifying. I tried on a couple of occasions as a child to abstain from saying the pledge of allegiance (think about that, for a moment, the weight of that: CHILDREN RECITE A PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE. That is third world dictator type shit), and I was reprimanded by teachers and given looks of confusion by other students.

There’s also an attitude in America that we are the best country in the world. And I mean that literally. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say “America is the greatest country in the world.” But WHY is it great? If you ask most people they’ll give you some platitude about “freedom,” as though we’re the only country in the world with a bill of human rights in our constitution. The vast majority of industrialized countries in the world have the same personal freedoms Americans do, but Americans don’t consider that. As a child, I was told by my mother that in China, no one is allowed to have their own personal property, and people have to stand in line in bathrooms to receive their share of toilet paper. I was told that America is essentially a utopia where people from all over the world come to to escape persecution and share in our freedoms.

That is, of course, bullshit. America ranks incredibly low on a lot of factors that we consider to be marks of a great place to live. We have terrible education scores, we are almost single-handedly destroying the planet, we contain an incredibly small amount of the world’s population and use a larger share of it’s resources than any other country.

The thing that has always confused me about America’s place in the world is HOW it’s allowed to get away with all the things it does. With contributing to climate change, with affecting the environment, with not allowing people to have the same personal freedoms (such as marriage equality or voting equality) that other countries enjoy.

I think about it like this: imagine a house full of people, and this house represents the world, and the people represent countries. If one person in the house is sitting in the corner starting a fire that’s going to spread and burn down the rest of the house, isn’t it the responsibility of all the other people to step in and stop the fire, or stop that person from lighting a fire? Sure, he could say “this is my corner of the house, I’m allowed to do what I like here,” but he shouldn’t have the ability to do something that can endanger the safety of everyone else in the house. So why is America allowed to run rampant and unchecked like a bull in a China shop? Why do all the other countries in the world not sit down and say “Look, America, we can’t let you destroy our planet. Destroy your own country if you want to, but once you’re affecting the rest of us, we have to put a stop to it.” How is America allowed to do what it does?

I know that there is more nuance to all of these things, I do. What I’m doing here is essentially thinking out loud, I’m shouting questions into the void and hoping someone will hear them and consider them. I’ve wanted to do a series about some of my controversial opinions for a while now, and I hope to continue doing these. I know it’s essentially just me ranting, but I like ranting, and I think ranting is useful. My opinions are not set in stone, they’re open to change when new information is presented to me, and I’m open to admitting I’m wrong, but I hope that someone will see the sense in some of what I’m saying.

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God Is An Abusive Boyfriend

god-by-perin-del-vaga

(After finishing the God Delusion by Richard Dawkins for the third time in the span of about a year, and having also read Hitchens’ God is Not Great a few times as well, I found that my many opinions about Christianity finally started to take some coherent form. I could write an entire book [and I hope to at some point] about my feelings on Christianity, as well as religion in general. In an effort to work toward that, I’ve started taking notes. The following is more less copied and pasted from my notepad so it isn’t entirely fleshed out or well-organized, but it is a good place to start. I wanted to point out that these are notes for myself so that it’s clear that this isn’t the final product, just the early stages of something I’m working on.)

Christianity is a system of cyclical emotional abuse that inculcates and indoctrinates new members (almost always as emotionally vulnerable and mentally impressionable children) to believe that they fundamentally disordered in such a way that they are evil and worthy of eternal torment from the moment they are born. Not only this, but they are taught to believe that they CANNOT be anything other than evil and worthy of the most horrific kind of torture and punishment, because the only way to be truly good, moral, and decent, is to allow Christ to take on your own sin (whether you’ve committed any sin or not), and Christianity takes care to institute such rigorous regulations that most normal, healthy, biologically necessary actions are considered sinful, and thought crime is preached by the central deity, so that absolutely any moment of anything other than complete lobotomized silence is viewed as sinful and in need of correction or forgiveness. To be naked is a sin, to experience physical arousal is a sin, to desire to be close and to express love is a sin, to even think about exercising a completely healthy biological function like masturbation is a sin, even unavoidable biological functions like menstruation are sinful and “unclean,” in short: everything that any normal human being might do is considered a sin, so that no matter how hard you try, you cannot escape God’s righteous indignation.

This tactic is sometimes employed by the military, during basic training, in which a drill Sargeant will emotionally abuse his pupils by setting such absurd regulations on behavior that it becomes literally impossible for the rules to be followed, and so the entire unit is punished when one pupil slips up. Drill Sargeant will also give conflicting orders and punish a cadet no matter their actions, regardless of if they obeyed or not, simply to torture them. The reason for this barbaric method of training is to purposely bring the unit together in their utter contempt of the drill Sargeant, and yet also to fear and obey him, regardless of his orders, because it is the only way to avoid punishment, even if avoiding it is futile. Soldiers are placed under such extreme mental and emotional stress in an attempt to completely break their spirit, and then rebuild their demolished psyche into that of a ruthless killing machine whose only goal and joy comes from following orders and serving the military.

This kind of barbaric treatment is contemptible, but when it’s done in the military, people recognize it for what it is. Even those who justify this cruelty say that it’s done for a purpose. No one pretends that this medieval method of training is done out of love and compassion. But when God does the same things, and worse, people will make any excuse to justify his contemptible behavior, and most sickeningly of all: that God abuses and tortures his creations because he LOVES us. God is the ultimate abusive boyfriend. Countless times throughout the Bible he presses into service those same excuses we know abusers use: “You brought this on yourself,” “Look what you made me do,” “I’m only doing this because I love you.” If any man were on trial for doing a fraction of the things god does to his children, he would most certainly be sentenced to prison or worse. Yet his actions are excused and justified by his victims, who trip over themselves to believe that 2+2=5 if God says it does.

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A Farewell To My Mother

I’ve wanted for a long time to write about my relationship with my mother. I’ve wanted to try and explain the many ways in which she’s harmed me over the course of my life. Today, she sent me a message, asking me to come back and work for her again, and asking for respect. This message was my response to her. It contains most of what I have to say.

How can I respect you? You told me I would burn in hell. You don’t care about people making fun of me for my sexuality. You don’t accept and love for who I am, even though I’m different than you. You bring judgement and anger toward me every day. You hurt me on a very deep level with your words and actions. How could I ever respect that? All you bring to my life is pain and misery.

I’ve tried for so long to try and see past the things about that hurt me. I’ve tried to still love you and treat you like my mother and show you honor. But when I do, you return that favor with anger, bitterness and hatred toward who and what I am. You’ve always claimed to love me, but your actions are not that of a loving person.
I have friends who are mothers, who would never in a million years tell their child they’re going to hell. Who would never for any reason tell their child to try and change who he is and be miserable for the rest of his life instead of embracing himself and being who he is meant to be.

You think only about what your perception of Christ is. But Christ is not about judgement, or hell fire, or anything but love. Love, even for people who don’t believe. Christ showed love to the non-believers, not judgement, not threats of hell fire. If Christ spoke to me he wouldn’t say “Jesse, if you don’t change who you are, you will burn in hell.” He would say “Love one another as I have loved you.”

You are so caught up in your tiny perception of Christianity, fueled by television evangelists and money-grubbing schemes, that you’ve lost the point of the whole thing: one commanded I give to you, love another as I have loved you. You don’t seem to understand what that means. A loving mother does not say to her son, “Don’t come crying to my when you’re hungry,” or “You’re not my problem,” “or “You’re nothing but a thorn in my side,” or “If people were calling me a fag, I wouldn’t be a fag,” or “You’re going to hell,” or “You’re possessed by a demon!” Those are not things that a rational person with a rational mind would say or think.

So, respect you? How can I? How I would love to respect you, to have a relationship with you, but just like my father, you’ve turned your back on me. You’ve told me that I’m not good enough because of who I am. I can’t keep coming to your house and not mentioning the fact that I’m gay or that I’m not Christian, knowing that it will cause you to on a tirade and yell at me about fire and brimstone, telling me stories about Sodom and Gomorrah that you yourself don’t really understand. There are people in the world who aren’t Christian, and they live happy, successful lives. You live in a vacuum of denial, because you’re miserable with your life. You married someone for their money and not for love, and now you’re trapped in a loveless marriage and you’re trying to replace those feelings with things, like all these rings and jewelry you have Lee buy for you. You preach to people about Christ’s forgiveness, but you show none to other people. You yell at your daughter to be compassionate, yet you show her no compassion when she cries her little heart out. You say you’re proud of me, that I’m your favorite, that I’m talented, but then you call me names, you tell me I’ll burn in hell, you judge me and criticize me, both of which I would remind you are sins.

And more than anything, you chose to give love and support to the man who abused me as a child. On his death bed, you brought him home, you took him into your own house where both me and my sister were, and sat around talking to him, asked me to play piano for him, had Brianna call him “paw paw,” and then you even set up his funeral service, made a memorial to him, and read a eulogy for him. This was the man who hurt and abused me in the most heinous possible way as a child, and you chose to show him compassion and forgiveness and love, rather than putting him in prison where he belongs. It’s possible that I could forgive you for calling me names. It’s possible that I could forgive you for telling me I’d burn in hell. But I say this without any anger toward you, this is simply the truth, you betrayed and destroyed me when you brought your father down here from Georgia, sheltered him, cared for him, called him “Daddy” and looked at him as though he were a sweet old man, when in fact he was a monster who terrorized you, me, your mother, and everyone he ever met.

If I had been in your shoes, mom, and I were you, and I found out Jerrie were on his death bed… people would have had to hold me back to keep me from going up there and pulling the plug on his ass. Instead you chose to treat him as though he deserved your kindness. You blame what he did to me on a “demon,” or “the devil possessing him,” or “he was an alcoholic,” or “his mind wasn’t right.” Those are excuses. He made a choice to take me out into those woods and rape me. If you’ve forgotten, he raped your four-year old son. And you chose to stand by him in his final hours, you chose to officiate his funeral, you chose to bring him into your house and introduce him to my little sister, which you had NO business doing.

My father, crazy though he might be, at least had the decency to hate that man. You chose to love him. And you made your choice. You picked him over me. And when I told you this, years ago, you said “What does it matter? You don’t love me anyway!”

Think back. All of those tiny little hurtful things you’ve said over the years have remained in my mind. I remember when you came up behind me on the couch in our blue house and pulled my hair, I remember when you pushed me in my chest and knocked me down on my bed, I remember when you screamed and screamed, when you called me a freak, when you told me I was a thorn in your side, when you told me I was possessed by the devil. And I even watched those videos on your phone you said you didn’t want me to see until you were dead, where you go on and on about how I need to change who I am, how I’m allowing the spirit of the devil inside of me.

You’re just an empty person, mom. You’ve lost everything. You lost your first son, you lost your first husband to madness, your second husband to death, and you lost your mother. You got into a marriage you didn’t really care about and you try to fill this big void in your heart with material things, and with religion. You spend all your energy researching the bible, but you don’t even understand what the bible is about. It isn’t about “speaking in tongues,” or the judgement, or the end of the world, or even salvation. The message of the entire Bible is summarized in Christ’s words at the last supper: “Love one another, as I have loved you.” Love will never be a sin. You have been led to believe it, but it isn’t so.

But that’s all your problems, and I can’t handle them for you. Nothing I’ve said here has been out of anger or rage. I’m not mad right now. I’m not seething with anger or throwing things, I’m very calm, and I’m speaking to you from my heart. I am sorry for you. I wish that life had been better to you. I wish you hadn’t lost so many things you hold dear. I wish you didn’t suffer so much. I wish you didn’t feel so alone. I wish you didn’t have so much to worry about. I wish your health weren’t failing you. You may think I’m cold and heartless, but I’m a very open, loving, and caring person. But you have spent years upon years hardening my heart toward you, and no amount of small apologies will ever fix that. Only your actions can show that you love me, and your actions have been actions of hate. Mothers don’t kick their sons out of their homes. Mothers don’t threaten to call the cops on their sons. Hell, mother’s don’t actually DO it either. Mothers don’t tell their children they’ll burn in hell. Mothers don’t tell their children they’re possessed. You know a lot about how to be Cissy the person, but you’ve never known how to be Cissy the mother. You gave Brian up, and your reasons may have been justifiable, but when you had me, you were given another chance to be a mother. You claim you protected me, but it’s taken me a long time to come to a conclusion.

You knew what your father was like. You grew up around him. You’d heard the stories from your mother. You knew he couldn’t be trusted, yet you let me go out and be alone with him anyway. The truth is, I never blamed you for being molested or raped, whatever you want to call it, but now that I look back on it, now that I know that you knew at the time what a monster he was because of what he’d done to you and your family, because he even told your mother he’d had sex with you girls, you should have known better than to send me out into the woods with him. And when it did happen, you should have pursued him and made sure his ass got put in jail for the rest of his life, not just left it up in the air. You didn’t want to “put me through” being on trial? Why? I had to talk about it to a million therapists anyway, why not have me talk about it to a judge so that man could get justice?

You were weak, and selfish. You have always, essentially, been selfish. You’ve done for us, yes, but at your core you’ve been a selfish person, because you’re scared. I don’t know what of. Oh, you can tell me that I”m “Greg Williford” all over again, but I’m not diagnosing you with disorders you don’t have or making up a past for you that you didn’t have. I’ve seen you, all this time, I’ve seen your actions. You say you’re kind and giving, but you can be remarkably cruel, particularly to your own children. You say you want to get away from your family’s drama, but you relish in hearing all of their gossip. You say you want to lead a Christian life, but you do nothing but give money to TV preachers and go to Joyce Meyer seminars. That’s not what being a Christian is about. And even worse, you’re hurting my sister with the way you treat me. It breaks her heart to hear you tell me I’ll go to hell, or tell me I’m a fag. It breaks her heart to see you treat me the way you do, but you don’t care about that. You just have to be right.

Well I’m sorry, but I can’t be your punching bag anymore. As a child, you leaned on me. As a little kid, when there were troubles in your marriage, you came and talked to me, a child, about them, and held me and cried. You did it my whole life. I was too young for you to do that. Because of you, I’m afraid of the world. All the hatred, bitterness, rage and anger in the world that you’ve warned me about, I’ve seen it all in you. I’m too sensitive to be gay? No, I’m perfect, just the way I am, and that’s what a real mother would say. I have friends who are old enough to be my mother who tell me every day that I’m great, that I can accomplish anything, that I’m a wonderful person just the way I am. It hurts me that for some reason you can’t do the same.

Do I need your help? Yeah, I really do. I’ve got a mountain of debt at my bank, my tags are going to expire next month, I have a car payment and rent due, and I still haven’t found another job. Do I need money? Do I need a job with you? Hell yeah. But what cost would I have to pay? Even if you told me you genuinely loved and accepted me for who I am I wouldn’t believe it. In the short time I’ve been away from you, cutting you out of my life, I’ve felt strong, confident, and hopeful, for the first time in my whole life. Your anger, your rage, your sadness and your misery drag down those around you, and it’s turning your daughter away from you. She’s beginning to see what kind of person you are, and I don’t think she likes it. I can’t speak for her, but all I ask is that you try and treat her better than you did me. Stop calling her names. Stop putting her down. Stop telling her she isn’t enough. Build that child up. Tell her that she’s beautiful, that she’s capable of anything, that she’s great, just how she is! That’s what a mother does.

I guess there’s nothing else to say. In the end, I’m sorry for you. I’m sorry that your life has been so hard. But it’s your burden to bear, not mine, not Brianna’s, not Brian’s, not Lee’s, not Greg’s. It’s yours. And YOU must live with it, not me. I have to move forward with my life. And one day, when I’m a success, I’m sad that I won’t be able to look back and see you as someone who pushed me forward, who helped me to become great, I’ll see you a stumbling block set in my path to test me, and that’s a real shame. I’m sorry for you, but I can’t bear your burdens or your sorrows anymore. Keep your prayers, you don’t know how to pray. Keep your money, you dont’ know how to love. Keep your love, because it’s dysfunctional and it isn’t truly love, it’s need, need for another person, and I can’t be your crutch forever. I hope you find some fulfillment in your life. I hope you do well. But I have to go on without you. You have proven to me that you’ll never truly love me. I go forward in life thinking of you not as a loving mother, but as an unfortunate setback in my life. I wish I could love you, I wish I could forgive you, but I can’t. And I’m sorry for that.

May you find some peace within yourself someday, and may you realize the deep harm and sadness you’ve inflicted upon me. Goodbye.

Jesse’s Unpopular Opinions: “Spanking” Your Kids

When you lay your hands a child, you are a child abuser. This includes your own child, and your own child’s ass. A closed fist in the face and an open palm on the bare ass are both abuse. I honestly cannot see why people make a distinction between the two. If a stranger came up to you, pulled your underwear down, and hit you repeatedly on the ass, you would feel that you were just assaulted (and probably molested). So… why is it okay to do it to a child? Your OWN child, no less? I just can’t make sense of it. I remember being spanked as a kid, and all I can really recall of it was the incredible fear and the incredible pain. Some people say “Well it works, and my parents did it to me and I turned out fine,” and what have you, but has anyone considered that we live in a culture of extreme violence, in which people abuse and kill one another on a daily basis? Where did they learn that violence? Television? Video games? Or maybe it was their own parents, who are supposed to love and protect them, whipping their pants off, exposing them and beating them on their ass.

Why do people draw a distinction between “spanking” and “beating”? Your kid is emotionally wounded and scarred by either. And if you grew up getting spanked like I did and you think it didn’t harm you at all, consider your own insecurities, your own fears, and evaluate if you think being beaten as a child because you did normal childish things has anything to do with it. I can’t believe that we live in a world now where a person can go out in public and grab a stranger’s child and beat them on their butt with their belt, and that’s considered a crime that they can be punished for, but they do it at home to their own “beloved” child and even boast about it to other people, and it’s considered “good parenting.”