musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Posts tagged ‘Barack Obama’

Religious Loony Season

Here in Thailand we’re in the midst of our annual rainy season — a wet period that seems to last longer each year — but judging from the news around the world lately, we could also call this Religious Loony Season. Personally, I fear this destructive deluge as much as any floods or rain storms.

In the USA they are preparing to elect a president once again. This time around it’s the incumbent, Barack “I’ve got a Valid Birth Certificate” Obama versus Mitt “I Love my Car Elevator” Romney. Despite Obama’s disappointing performance during his first term (and a lot of that ineffectiveness can be chalked up to the vicious obstruction that’s been thrown at him by Republicans in congress), I think he’s by far the better choice for president. Based on everything Mitt Romney has said and done — not only during this campaign, but during his entire political and “business” career — he’s clearly an aloof and clueless character who has no clear or consistent policies. But hey, rich white guys love him, so he’s in the race.

 It would seem, even though the US economy continues to fart and sputter, Romney is so inept that Obama stands a very good chance of winning. But by no means is his re-election assured. Why? Because of the Religious Loony factor. The loony religious right wingers in the US are dubious of not only Obama’s performance in office, but also his birth origins and religious affiliation. A shockingly high percentage of these nutters fervently believe he is a Muslim and was born outside of the US. Obviously, facts confuse these people. But even church-going Black Americans who voted for Obama the first time around, are having second thoughts about the President. Why? Because Obama belatedly endorsed gay marriage. Oh, the horror! And yet, they aren’t comfortable with Romney, a card-carrying, one-wife Mormon, either. What will they do? It appears they are being urged by their Loony Religious Leaders not to even bother voting! Here’s what one online news story told us this week:  

Some black clergy see no good presidential choice between a Mormon candidate and one who supports gay marriage, so they are telling their flocks to stay home on Election Day. The pastors say their congregants are asking how a true Christian could back same-sex marriage, as President Barack Obama did in May. As for Republican Mitt Romney, the first Mormon nominee from a major party, congregants are questioning the theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its former ban on men of African descent in the priesthood.

“When President Obama made the public statement on gay marriage, I think it put a question in our minds as to what direction he’s taking the nation,” said the Rev. A.R. Bernard, founder of the predominantly African-American Christian Cultural Center in New York. Bernard, whose endorsement is much sought-after in New York and beyond, voted for Obama in 2008. He said he’s unsure how he’ll vote this year.

Bernard is among the traditional Christians who voted for Obama in 2008 and are now undecided because of the president’s support for gay marriage. But Bernard is also troubled by Romney’s faith. “To say you have a value for human life and exclude African-American human life, that’s problematic,” Bernard said, about the Mormon’s previous priesthood ban.

The Rev. Dwight McKissic, a prominent Southern Baptist and black preacher, describes himself as a political independent who didn’t support Obama in 2008 because of his position on social issues. McKissic said Obama’s support for same-gender marriage “betrayed the Bible and the black church.” On Election Day, McKissic said, “I plan to go fishing.”–election.html

While the Religious Loonies “pray for guidance” and “forgiveness” for their (many) sins, as well as engage in their beloved pastimes of hunting and fishing, Romney continues to put his foot his mouth with totally absurd comments, further proving that he has no clue as to what the average American wants or thinks. You may have heard about the “leaked” speech that Romney gave to some of his rich donator buddies earlier this year. Here a few choice excerpts:

Romney, on Obama and his supporters:

“There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that they are the victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, you name it, that that’s an entitlement and they will vote for this president no matter what… These are people who pay no income tax … I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

It’s interesting that he would talk about people who pay no income tax. I’m sure his fan club of rich white guys paid special attention to that quote, since most of them endeavor to pay as little tax as possible. To that crowd, “tax” is a four-letter word, and they wince in pain whenever the subject is mentioned. It doesn’t seem to matter which political or social issue is being discussed, the one dearest to their hearts is paying less taxes. Pathetic.

Meanwhile, here in the relatively calm environs of Southeast Asia, we have our share of religious loonies. But instead of deluded Christians we have befuddled Muslims. South of the border, in Malaysia, Muslim authorities are fretting over their children turning into raving homosexuals! Here’s what one wire service article had to say last week:

The Malaysian government has begun holding seminars aiming to help teachers and parents spot signs of homosexuality in children, underscoring a rise in religious conservatism in the country. The federal government said in March that it is working to curb the “problem” of homosexuality, especially among Muslims who make up over 60% of Malaysia’s population of 29 million people. According to a handout issued at a recent seminar, signs of homosexuality in boys may include preferences for tight, light-colored clothes and large handbags, local media reported. For girls, the details were less clear. Girls with lesbian tendencies have no affection for men and like to hang out and sleep in the company of women, the reports said.

Words fail me. Despite the clear absurdity of what these nuts are saying, the fact that so many people with power believe these things and are intent on passing laws is very worrying. And if the Muslims aren’t upset about “unnatural” gay activity, they are all worked over this ridiculous independent film about Mohammed that was leaked on YouTube last week. Instead of wisely ignoring such an amateur cinematic atrocity, some of the religion’s more fervent fanatics have taken grave offense at the film’s content and have resorted to violence in various spots around the world.

We’ve all seen or read about these horrific incidents in the past week.  But the protests have even spread to Bangkok, where yesterday a group of “500 angry Thai Muslims” gathered at the US Embassy to protest the film. It was also quite possibly the largest gathering of facial hair ever seen on the streets of the city. These bewildered loonies apparently had nothing better to do than block a public street and force the US embassy to shut down its services for half the day, all so that they could declare their “love for the prophet” and scream “Death to America” until they were hoarse and needed to walk over to 7-Eleven  and quench their thirst with Coke (oops …  more symbols of American imperialism!). At least there wasn’t any violence and the crowd dispersed after about two hours. I guess I better not tell them that I carry Salman Rushdie novels at my bookshop! Satanic Verses, baby, come and get it!


Prayers and Pathetic Politicians

I woke up one morning last week and realized that Yingluck Shinawatra was now the Prime Minister of Thailand. Pinch me. Slap me. A bad dream becomes reality. Is this another episode of that absurd soap opera known as Thai politics, or a harbinger of worse things to come?


You know, it would be a marvelous thing to celebrate the fact that Thailand now has its first ever female prime minister, a sign perhaps that Thailand is growing up and that government is no longer just another good old boys club. But the fact that Yinkgluck’s party was elected by Thai voters is no sign of anything, other than sheer nepotism and the return of a dubious cadre of well-connected politicians.


Yingluck is unashamedly a proxy for her older brother, the controversial ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. She was even referred to as “my clone” by Thaksin himself during the campaign. I’ve heard it said that it’s a shame that Yingluck won’t be allowed make decisions on her own without consulting big brother. But maybe that’s for the best. Yingluck is a political novice who has never held elected office of any kind. She has held staplers and fashion magazines. As an “executive” in the Shinawatra family’s telecommunications and property development businesses, it’s not clear what she exactly did. But hey, whatever it was, it’s apparently enough to make her a valid head of state in the eyes of the voting public.


As frustrating and silly as things can get here in Thailand, I keep thanking my lucky guavas that I’m not living back in the USA, where citizens are trying to salvage their sanity — and bank accounts — amidst the latest crippling waves of political and economic turbulence. Barack Obama seems keen on proving that he can be just as awful a president as George W. Bush was. That may sound like an absurd statement, seeing as how Bush was one of the very worst US presidents ever, but the reality is that Obama is doing a pretty awful job of his own so far. Granted, he has been hamstrung by obstructive Right-Wing Republicans and misguided Tea Party loonies, but his inability to prioritize job creation, his well-intentioned but horribly-executed health care plan, and making too many concessions to the Republicans in the recent debt ceiling fiasco, all make for a fairly miserable report card. What happened to Obama’s vision, his hoped-for leadership, and his ability to inspire? At this point, the silver-tongued fellow in the oval office can’t inspire anyone more than his wealthy core of campaign donors. (Read this week’s excellent opinion piece by Drew Westen in the New York Times for more on the “missing Obama.”)


Meanwhile, the US economy continues to sputter, millions remain unemployed, and yet the profits of big corporations are soaring and the wealthy elite are paying a paltry percentage of taxes. There is an ugly, ever-widening gap between the haves and the have-nots in the US, and a lot of citizens are very angry. Will people really be shocked when London-like riots erupt in American cities in the near future?


Obama would be looking very much like a one-term prez at this point except for the incredibly lame lineup of Republicans who have announced their candidacy for the 2012 race. One of those potential candidates is Rick Perry, the current governor of Texas. This guy is so off-the-wall that he makes Sarah Palin look normal. But he’s a born-again Christian, so that explains the weirdo angle. Yes, another one of those crackpots who dismisses the threat of climate change and thinks that prayer is the answer to solving any problem. A column this week by Timothy Egan in the New York Times provided an excellent look at Prayin’ Perry. Here is one excerpt:

“ … Perry’s tendency to use prayer as public policy demonstrates, in the midst of a truly painful, wide-ranging and potentially catastrophic crisis in the nation’s second most-populous state, how he would govern if he became president.

Perry: “I think it’s time for us to just hand it over to God, and say, ‘God: You’re going to have to fix this,’” he said in a speech in May, explaining how some of the nation’s most serious problems could be solved.

That was a warm-up of sorts for his prayer-fest, 30,000 evangelicals in Houston’s Reliant Stadium on Saturday. From this gathering came a very specific prayer for economic recovery. On the following Monday, the first day God could do anything about it, Wall Street suffered its worst one-day collapse since the 2008 crisis. The Dow sunk by 635 points … given how Perry has said he would govern by outsourcing to the supernatural, it’s worth asking if God is ignoring him.”


Sure, it’s easy to make fun of kooky politicians like Perry, but he’s already served three terms as governor, so most of his constituents must be happy with the job he’s doing (which includes executing more prisoners than any other state in the country). And the sad truth is that unabashed Christian politicians, the so-called Evangelicals, like Perry are the norm not the exception in the USA. In fact, if you are not a bible-toting, Jesus-loving, happily married, family values kind of guy — or gal — you have zero chance of being elected to the highest office in the United States of Amnesia.


Having faith in a higher power is one thing, but when those religious beliefs lead to bullying people and making illogical decisions based on “faith”, then it becomes a problem. An emotional crutch for one person becomes a danger to others. It should be obvious to any sane individual that religion should be kept out of politics. So why is it that so many people support religious zealots like Perry? Maybe it’s just the sobering fact most of the voting public are religious zealots themselves and have no qualms about their leaders being similarly delusional. They certainly don’t seem fazed when their elected leaders resort to voodoo-like superstitions like praying, expecting to receive divine guidance for answers. Personally, I would prefer my elected leaders to think about matters intelligently, using facts and logic to come up with solutions. They’re going to pray about it? That should frighten people. In God We Trust? There’s your problem right there.


You hear all this talk about respect for other religions and tolerance for those with different beliefs, but I think it’s better to turn that notion around: there should be zero tolerance for religion in politics, and zero tolerance for religious groups who attempt to impose their hackneyed beliefs on others. As the wise philosopher George Clinton once said: “Free your mind … and your ass will follow.”

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