Billy Graham Was Often Wrong

 Like most preachers, Billy Graham was frequently incorrect. 

Like most preachers, Billy Graham was frequently incorrect. 

Evangelist Billy Graham has died. He was widely loved and respected, but wrong about many things:

"You're born. You suffer. You die. Fortunately, there's a loophole."  

There is no loophole – unless God exists and He’s an accountant. And even if God exists, theologians are in widespread agreement that the odds of Him being an accountant are exceptionally slim.

“A real Christian is the one who can give his pet parrot to the town gossip.”

The Bible mentions antelopes, geckos, maggots, mole rats, serpents, turtle doves and vipers. Sorry, no parrots.

“I think Pat Roberston is a terrific fellow.” 

Pat Roberston proclaimed that feminism encourages women “to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." A “terrific person” wouldn’t say that – at least in public.

"Communism is a religion that is inspired, directed and motivated by the Devil himself who has declared war against Almighty God."

Communism is not a religion and the devil is not a communist: he's a libertarian. 

"Only the supernatural love of God through changed lives can solve problems that we face in the world."

Nope. In 2015, Stephen Hawking famously published a solution to “black hole information paradox.” He’s an avowed atheist.

Only those who want everything done for them are bored.”

Obviously, Reverend Graham never sat through Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice.

“Our society strives to avoid any possibility of offending anyone – except God.”

It is a well-known fact that nothing offends God more than a preacher who claims to know what offends God.

“Without the resurrection, the cross is meaningless.”

That is not only untrue, but breathtakingly shallow. A cross is an archetypal symbol of deep significance. Nailing someone to it turns it into a crucifix, which for many is a major turn-off. 

“Everybody has a little Watergate in him."

These days everyone has a little Deflate-gate in them.

“Knowing we will be with Christ forever far outweighs our burdens today! Keep your eyes on eternity!”

That’s terrible advice! Keep your eyes directly on the path in front of you and watch out for precipitous dips. Eternity, whatever that is, will take care of itself without you having to manage it. Who has time for that anyway?  

In The Aftermath of Another School Shooting, Teenagers Are The Moral Voice of America

 Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stonemason Douglas High School, 

Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stonemason Douglas High School, 

So, maybe it will come down to the teenagers. Perhaps they are the only ones who have a fighting chance to break the NRA’s stranglehold on our society, just as it was only the teenagers of my generation who had a fighting chance to bring the Vietnam War to an end.

“War is not healthy for children and other living things,” went one of the popular slogans of my youth. My hippie friends may have been naïve, unemployed, and in desperate need of a shower, but they were not wrong about that, just as today’s teenagers are not wrong about the sickness at the core of America, our rampant gun culture enabled by one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in history.  

The Vietnam War was ugly beyond our imagination to conceive, immoral at its core, and utterly senseless. It was also something that adults didn’t care enough about to try to stop. It was up to us.

By the way, I use the word “us” loosely. I was seven when JFK was assassinated, nine when President Johnson received nearly unanimous consent from Congress to escalate the war, and 13 when Woodstock took place. But I was old enough to be aware of the looming threat that my government posed to my life.

I was in the final year (1972) of the draft lottery. By then, thanks to the anti-war movement, fewer of us were being ordered to serve. Still, I received a draft card, a symbol that my government might try to compel me to fly to Southeast Asia and risk my life for nothing.

Now, after yet another gruesome school shooting, we are finally hearing from the friends of the victims, the teenagers whose lives are at risk on the way to math class. Adults have failed at protecting them, so they are taking matters into their own hands.

The unspeakable grief of the survivors has turned to outrage and they are placing the blame exactly where it belongs, on the politicians who are owned by the NRA and speak sanctimoniously about our God-given right to own AR-15s.

Trump, a man with no moral core and incapable of empathy, is unelectable without the support of gun fetishists. When accepting the endorsement of the NRA, he called it “a fantastic honor,” before promising his adoring crowd, “We’re getting rid of gun free zones.” The president who proclaimed that he would put an end to “American carnage” has, in fact, enabled it. And he is hardly the only one.

Marco Rubio has received over three million dollars in payoffs from the NRA, but not to worry, he is “praying for all the victims.”  Is it too much to say that there is blood on his hands? I don’t think so. Rubio was a midwife of our sick gun culture, as was John McCain and Joni Ernst and Ted Cruz, and the list goes on and on. Yes, there is blood on their hands, just as there is blood on the hands of Supreme Court Justices Scalia, Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito, who decided that the Second Amendment, which is as arcane as the Third Amendment, guarantees the individual right of gun ownership. Their reckless judicial activism has led us to where we are now. And where is that exactly?

A candidate for congress in Kansas is giving away an AR-15 as a campaign stunt. Third-graders in Missouri are selling raffle tickets for an AR-15 as a fundraiser for their baseball team, and their coach thinks the surrounding controversy “has been blown out of proportion.”

The sobering truth that some liberals fail to recognize is that there is no magic bullet (no pun intended) solution to this problem. Even if sensible gun control legislation were enacted today, over five million Americans already own an AR-15.

So, in the face of these long odds, steps forward Emma Gonzalez, a senior and survivor of the atrocity at Marjory Stoneman High School. Recently, while addressing a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale, she said, “We certainty do not understand why it should be harder to make plans with friends on weekends than to buy an automatic or semi-automatic weapon.”

A few days later, when asked by Carol Costello on CNN, “So, what do you say to the NRA?” she replied, “Disband. Dismantle. And don’t make an organization under a different name. And don’t you dare come back here.” She was wearing a t-shirt that said, “The Beatles” and I could not help but think that something of the best of what my generation stood for lives vibrantly in her. 

AR-15s are not healthy for children and other living things. 

Bill Maher And Sarah Silverman Avoid Talking About Louis C.K.

 The two comics are known for their outspoken commentary, which made their decision to spare Louis C.K. all the more disappointing. 

The two comics are known for their outspoken commentary, which made their decision to spare Louis C.K. all the more disappointing. 

As a comedian and comedy writer, I have long had a policy of not publicly criticizing other comedians and comedy writers, especially those who are far more successful than me. That said, the time has come for me to make an exception.

On last night’s airing of HBO’s Real Time, Bill Maher and Sarah Silverman, two revered comedy mavericks whose work I have long admired, had nothing to say about Louis C.K.

It is important to note that Maher and Silverman are not set-up or punchline comics. They are political satirists, widely revered for their uncensored outspokenness on important social issues. This makes their silence all the more disturbing and indefensible.

At the top of the show, Maher said, “Welcome to another edition of ‘Who Pulled Out Their Dick This Week,’” a promising start. But then he focused his satiric wit solely on Judge Roy Moore and his despicable Republican defenders. Fair game, for sure.

However, the question must be asked: Where were Maher’s cutting remarks about C.K.? Answer: There weren’t any. Instead, he felt compelled to proclaim the moral superiority of liberals over conservatives: “We arrest our alleged rapists; they elect them.” The audience applauded. Perhaps, I missed the news of Harvey Weinstein’s or Kevin Spacey’s arrest.

Look, I’m a liberal and I’m a comedian. I’m on Bill’s side. But he blew it. At the risk of blowing my own horn, I will point out that MAD Magazine, where I have been an editor for many years, did not shy away from the issue.

After Bill’s opening monologue, Sarah Silverman came out and made a bad situation worse. She spoke at length about her new Hulu show. She talked about how Trump has tapped into our fears and “is in bed with the oligarchs.” But apparently, she had no thoughts about powerful comedians abusing women for their sexual gratification in her industry.

What is going on here? If the accused comedian was Dennis Miller, it is difficult to believe that Maher and Silverman would have totally avoided the story.

When speaking with former Democratic Party Chairperson, Donna Brazille, Maher said, “I have so much in common with you. We want our side to win, so we criticize it when necessary.”

Unfortunately, not this time.

 

Now Is Not the Time to Talk About What We Are Not Talking About

 Despite scenes like this, now is not the time to talk about gun control. Thank you for your cooperation.

Despite scenes like this, now is not the time to talk about gun control. Thank you for your cooperation.

In the aftermath of another horrific mass shooting, I have finally been convinced: Now is not the time to talk about gun control.

Likewise, now is not the time to talk about terrorism in New York, arrests in Saudi Arabia, Larry David’s holocaust joke, or yesterday’s NFL’s upsets. Just as many Democrats favor a three-day waiting period to purchase a gun, I favor a three-day waiting period to talk about anything in the news. Since there are mass shootings every day, this has many benefits. For example, not only do we never have to talk about gun control, we never have to talk about not talking about gun control. What a relief! (I hate that conversation.)

The problem with talking about something after it just happened is that in our eagerness to talk about the just-happened-thing, we discuss it. If there’s one thing that we can all agree on, it’s that we don’t need any more discussion, especially in the aftermath of something that has happened.

Do you discuss a meal after you’ve eaten it? Of course not. You give yourself time to thoroughly digest and eliminate it. And even then, you wait for the stench of defecation to clear before starting a possibly contentious debate about your subpar avocado toast appetizer. It is like that with mass shootings and gun control, except that the stench never clears. Consequently, we adapt to the toxically foul odor so effectively, we become completely unaware of it until our next bout of collective diarrhea. And even then, who wants to talk about or hear about diarrhea? I don’t know about you, but when a diarrhea commercial comes on, I immediately turn it off and don’t talk about it.

My point is that we can’t allow ourselves to go off half-cocked talking about things that just happened, not without politicizing them and thereby making things worse than if we hadn’t talked about them. Honestly, I fear that I am making things worse, much worse, by talking about not talking about them. So, in the interests of fostering a meaningful national dialogue, I would like to shift the conversation to not talking about not talking about not talking about things. You’re welcome.

Experts agree, the main issue is mental health. If only we were mentally healthy, that would make a world of difference, believe me. I would say more about this, but sorry, now is not the time to talk about mental health.

The question we must ask ourselves is: What is this the time to talk about? To properly answer this pressing question, I would have to check the news from three days ago in order to identify the stories reported that are not relevant today. Those irrelevant stories are without question ripe for exhaustive analysis and spirited debate. But sadly, in our rush to judgment, we prefer to focus on relevant things that just happened.

In closing, I would like to say nothing at all.

After The Las Vegas Shooting, America Remains Addicted To Triggers And In Denial

 DAVID BECKER VIA GETTY IMAGES 

DAVID BECKER VIA GETTY IMAGES 

According to MassShootingTracker.com — and that a website with that name actually exists says everything about America’s sickening gun culture — there have been 337 mass shootings in our country this year before today’s headline grabbing massacre of at least 50 dead with over 100 injured in Las Vegas.

Oh, if only there weren’t more good people with guns in attendance who could have shot back at the madman firing from the 32nd floor. Surely, the only conceivable way to stop something like this from ever happening again is to make sure that everyone is armed.

What, too soon?

Forgive me, I know, I shouldn’t be talking about gun control now. It is disrespectful to the victims and their families. I should remain silent as the usual news cycle plays out, or at least wait until we know more about what happened. But actually what we don’t know yet tells us a lot.

Since the incident has not been labeled “terrorism,” which is exactly what it is, we know there is no evidence as yet that the perpetrator is Muslim. Since race has not been mentioned, we know that the perpetrator is white. Since so many people were shot, we know the perpetrator had an arsenal at his disposal and that it would surprise no one if all of his weapons were legal.

The thing with mass shootings this year is that they have not been especially newsworthy. Just not enough people killed. Admittedly, the year got off to a promising start with four murdered in South Carolina on New Year’s Day, followed by five more in Oregon and five more in Florida over the next week. But with many mass shootings, the victims merely suffer traumatic injures rather than death, and that is so much less sensational. So what if 10 were injured by gunshots, including eight teenagers, in Tennessee? They lived, so what’s news about that?

In June, six were murdered by a former co-worker in Orlando, and while that got some media attention (work place shooting always make for compelling stories and possibly mini-series), with the dead still in the single digits, we couldn’t realistically expect more than 48-hours of coverage.

The Congressional baseball shooting in June was big news because of who was targeted, but again, with so many survivors and the feel-good story of Steve Scalise’s recovery, it now barely qualifies as horrible.

But now we finally have our first horrifically massive shooting of the year, one with sufficient shock value to demand our attention. It is already being called “the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history,” so we are going to be hearing about this one for at least 72 hours before it disappears from the news. At least we can count on the president to respond with great empathy and sensitivity — no, wait.

Here’s the thing: I would like to turn away from this story this morning. Everything about it disturbs and repulses me. But I am sitting here at my desk reflecting on it because it is the only way I know how to express my sorrow for those whose lives were senselessly destroyed for the crime of attending a country music festival. It is also the only way I know how to grieve for my country, a country that has long lost its way as far as the sensible regulation of firearms. Our culture is sick with violence and our gun problem is more symptom than cause, though in reality it is both.

We are addicted to triggers and refuse treatment. And we all know what happens when an addict refuses treatment.

For our culture to get well, we need to enroll in a national 12-step program for guns. We must become deeply aware and take responsibility for the ongoing violence that our culture tacitly permits. Of course, that by itself is not the answer, because there is no singular answer. But until we admit that our guns laws, or rather lack thereof, are a key part of the problem, then we are enablers of the violence we claim to abhor.

 

 

 

The Importance of Reflecting On Your 'Inner Trump'

 Where does he live in you? 

Where does he live in you? 

I was never part of the” Trump’s not my president” crowd, because it was painfully obvious to me from the start that they were in denial. Their denial was understandable, even predictable. After all, the natural reaction of psychologically sound people is to distance themselves as much as possible from Trump, to regard him as he regards Muslims: as the other.

The problem with this line of thinking is that Trump most certainly is one of us. That is precisely what is so distrubing about him. “We have met the enemy and he is us,” as cartoonist Walt Kelly famously said through Pogo. In that sense, Trump is a symptom more than a cause. Donald Trump, the despicable ignoramus real estate developer from New York City who became President, is as American as apple pie.

As Trump tries to reverse everything that President Obama did, short of sending his children back to Michelle’s womb, most Americans look on horrified, or don’t look at all. A conservative friend of mine has taken refuge in sports, a strategy which seemed promising until Trump disinvited Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors to the White House. Now Trump and the reaction to Trump is headline news on the sports page.

Trump, a virulent force, makes every social problem and international conflict worse. The wounds of slavery run deep; Trump rips whatever scabs have formed open. For decades, North Korea has been a rogue regime that poses a threat; Trump’s crass rhetoric further inflames international tensions and makes war more likely. The consequences of climate change have long been of growing concern to scientists and nations around the world; Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris accords makes it much less likely that the problem will be adequately addressed.

Trump, a man of infinite privilege, lives in a swamp of resentment that breeds disease. To see this fact and to be shaken by it is a healthy response. Political resistance to Trump’s agenda is essential. But there is an even more essential task, albeit a highly distasteful one. The task is this:

See Trump as a mirror and reflect on your inner Trump.

Trump is an instinctive, bombastic, sociopathic, vulgar, lying, shallow, racist, misogynistic, self-absorbed, self-assured know-nothing. I, on the other hand, am well-reasoned, open-minded, truthful, tolerant, inclusive, ethical, cooperative and highly intelligent. Trump is evil and I am good. Trump is hateful and I am loving. Trump’s ugliness affirms my beauty. No wonder criticizing Trump and calling out his never-ending transgressions feels so good. It reminds me that I am not at all like Trump.

Trump and his supporters engage in an extremely dangerous kind of psychological projection. To them, all of America’s ills are caused by others: foreigners, gays, Blacks, Hispanics, Jews, atheists and liberals. They themselves are inculpable.

Still, the question must be asked: To what degree are those of us who despise Trump guilty of the same unconscious projection as he and his supporters? A failure to ask this question in earnest and take a personal inventory of our inner Trump is itself Trumpian. Where does our fear, resentment and prejudice live in us and how do we relate to it? Are we even aware of it, or is it all Trump’s fault?

The global outlook is always bleak. As Leonard Cohen sang, “Everybody knows that the war is over, everybody knows that the good guys lost.” I do not mean to suggest that the fight for social and economic justice should not continue. It should; it must. That said, if you want to make the world a better place, make a time and a space to turn inward and consider how what you despise in others lives in yourself.

As long as we regard the biggest problems we face as “out there,” Trumpism rules. 

 

My Response To The Latest 'Charlie Hebdo' Cover As The Senior Editor Of 'MAD Magazine'

Charlie_Hebdo_c0-1-640-374_s885x516.jpg

As an editor at “MAD Magazine” for over 30 years, I have long understood that there is no vibrant satire without free speech. I also understand that the best satire does not pummel its targets with a feather and has a fearless quality about it. So, satirists can’t spend too much time worrying — what, us worry? — about how their work will be evaluated by supporters of the target of their satire.

I recently gave a copy of the latest MAD book, “MAD About Trump,” to a Republican neighbor. After reading it, he said, “It’s so offensive to him (Trump), it really crosses a line.”

“We’re just doing our job,” I replied. ”And let’s face it, no matter how hard we try, we can’t possibly be as vulgar as Trump.” I got a chuckle out of him with that, which made me feel good.

Still, our exchange inspired me to ask myself: What and where exactly is this “line” my neighbor says that “MAD” crossed? Answer: It is the point, from his perspective, at which our material stopped being funny and turned purely offensive. We all have such a line and where and how you draw it determines your sense of humor. Please note: It’s not just individuals who have “lines” — societies and cultures do as well. For example, if you think Kathy Griffin was treated unfairly in America for holding up a severed head of the president (for which she has recently retracted her apology), imagine the response if she lived in Saudi Arabia and had held up a severed head of the King.

“Star Trek’s” Captain Picard famously said, “The line must be drawn here!” He was talking about the Borg, but no matter. As a satirist, I say, “Draw the line and I will cross it without apology.” After all, without lines to cross, I’d be out of work.

That said, we satirists have lines too, and lines vary among satirists just as they do among members of our audience. This brings me to the latest cover of the satirical newspaper, “Charlie Hebdo,” which depicts swastika flags and hands raised above floodwaters in Nazi salutes with the copy, “God exists! He drowned all the neo-Nazis of Texas.”

This is precisely the kind of satire that we do not engage in at “MAD,” not because we’re cowed, but because for us it falls squarely into the category of “victim humor,” something we do our best to avoid. I suppose that it could be argued that every joke has a “victim,” but as a satirist I make a distinction between “victim” and “target.”

While virtually anyone or anything can be the target of satire, what is the point of making fun of innocents who die in a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, or for that matter the sick and infirm, or those living in abject poverty?

 

The editors of “Charlie Hebdo” would probably say that they were making a broad point about what they view as the prevalence of white nationalism in Texas. However, connecting white nationalism to random deaths caused by a hurricane is not only nonsensical, it makes light of the suffering of those who died. Newsflash: The editors of “Charlie Hebdo” don’t care. This is their brand, it’s what they do. We are just paying more attention now, because they are offending Texans instead of Muslims.

In the aftermath of the terrorist shootings at the “Charlie Hebdo” offices, “MAD” expressed solidarity and support. It didn’t matter that none of us are especially big fans of “Charlie Hebdo”’s brand of satire. The idea that satirists could be murdered in cold blood for publishing cartoons was chilling. We felt a responsibility to speak out.

“MAD” published a cartoon showing Alfred E. Neuman and the Black and White Spy from “Spy vs. Spy” raising a giant pen with a “Charlie Hebdo” flag attached. A few days later, our Editor-In-Chief, John Ficarra, offered an intentionally sobering commentary on “CBS Sunday Morning.”

On Monday, we were back at work looking for ripe targets for satire. “Charlie Hebdo” itself was not a ripe target for satire to us then, any more than the unfortunate victims of Hurricane Harvey are now.

At the end of the day, making satire is a moral exercise. Satirists reveal themselves as much by the form and tone of their satire, as they do by the targets they choose. Even more than satiric target practice, the editors at “Charlie Hebdo” need practice in choosing satiric targets.

 

John Lennon's 'Imagine' Threatens The Conservative Mindset Far Away And Near

Imagining universal love and world peace can be a pretty scary thing. Just ask a conservative.

Nearly a half century after it was written, John Lennon’s “Imagine” continues to spark upset and outrage among right wingers who don’t understand its message or are afraid of even attempting what the song pleads with us to do.

The latest example of this comes from Pakistan, where according to the Hindustan Times, a performance of “Imagine” by students at the Karachi Grammar School was cancelled after complaints that the song encouraged atheism.

The controversy was started by commentator Ansar Abbasi, well-known in Pakistan for his nationalist and orthodox religious views. He tweeted, “A private school in Karachi is holding a concert and will sing John Lennon’s lyrics — no heaven, no hell, no religion too.”

Soon, Orya Maqbool Jan, a television talk show host and former civil bureaucrat in the Paksitan Administrative Service, chimed in. The students’ parents were “slaves to Western thought,” he said. Also: “The song questions our belief in God and encourages an atheist mindset.”

Atheist mindset? That would have certainly come as news to Lennon, who in one of his final interviews said, “People got the idea that I was anti-Christ or anti-religion. I’m not at all. I’m a most religious fellow. I’m religious in the sense of admitting there is more to it (life) than meets the eye. I’m certainly not an atheist.”

Previously, Lennon had stated, ”I believe in God but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us.” And so, in his most famous song, Lennon never suggests that we “Imagine there’s no God,” though he did tell an interviewer, “Of course, you’re welcome to do that, too.”

Specifically regarding “Imagine,” Lennon said, “If you can imagine a world at peace, with no denominations of religion — not without religion but without this ‘my-God-is-bigger-than-your-God thing’ — then it can be true.” Lennon also noted that “God is a concept by which we measure our pain. ” He was on to something with that, too.

Nevertheless, conservatives in Pakistan and elsewhere aren’t buying it. Ever since he opined that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, Lennon’s spiritual and religious insights have been mostly rejected by conservatives, many of whom still bristle at “Imagine” and reflexively dismiss the song. Their problem, which they simply can’t acknowledge, is their own inability or flat-out refusal to take on the task with which Lennon has challenged them — and all of us.

To deliberately and consciously imagine a world with no heaven, hell or country requires us to surrender — at least for a few moments — our religious beliefs and national identity. That can be a scary thing to do in a liberal democracy. In a repressive theocracy, it is without question among the most subversive and forbidden things one can do because of its potential to nourish independent thought and threaten allegiance to the status quo.

“Imagine” then is precisely the kind of dangerous blasphemy that can lead one to the utterly perverse belief that “Your brother is everyone you meet,” as Lennon foolishly declared in “Instant Karma,” or as he blurted in “Mind Games,” “love is a flower, you got to let it grow,” a sentiment which if embraced by the masses would forever destroy the lucrative fertilizer industry.

Please note: It is not just just social conservatives in Pakistan who have problems with “Imagine.” The song has encountered plenty of right wing blowback in America. An article in The American Conservative, published around the 30th anniversary of Lennon’s death in 2010, was called “Stop Imagining.” While the author took no issue whatsoever with the song, he chastised Lennon fans for clinging to an image of their hero as the embodiment of liberalism, even after he had moderated some of this views and distanced himself from left-wing political radicalism. Yes, it is indeed true that Lennon did both of those things. That’s called maturity. But neither Lennon nor Yoko Ono, who was given a co-songwriting credit earlier this year, ever distanced themselves from the message of or the philosophy behind “Imagine.” Consequently, American conservatives, missing the point entirely, have never stopped ripping the lyrics.

 

A 2015 article in The National Review laments that “to believers of older religion its (”Imagine’s”) open recommendation of an atheist faith cannot but sound lamentable and threatening.” The writer concludes that “few songs are more divisive” and in a follow up piece notes that the song’s “dream of no countries ... would turn out to be a nightmare.” Yes, just as Jesus’s advice that we turn the other cheek, if we all took it literally, would turn out to be a nightmare by allowing evil to forever triumph over good.

The most grave and immediate threat to humanity is not climate change: it’s tribalism. “Imagine” offers an antidote. It is not, as critics maintain, the expression of naive or far-fetched optimism. “Imagine” actually suggests a level-headed and pragmatic course of action. First and foremost, it is a directive, a call to peaceful arms. Lennon gently implores us to take responsibility for our future by projecting it positively.

Our work is to make a sincere and consistent effort to see beyond the forms and indentifications that keep us divided and in perpetual conflict. To imagine peace is merely the first step. The next step is to cultivate peace as a practice, thereby narrowing the gap between the world we imagine and the world we actually live in. The religiously devout and atheists alike can engage in this activity. No belief in God or country, not that there’s anything wrong with that, is required. Just let belief and patriotism go for a short time and pay attention to what happens. Repeat.

One cannot help but wonder: If students in Pakistan can be forbidden from singing “Imagine,” could the same thing happen in America? It has already happened in Britain, so of course it could. Which brings to mind another Lennon quote: “Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.”

 

A White Humorist Reflects On The Impact And Importance Of Dick Gregory

I awoke to the news on Sunday morning that Dick Gregory, an American comedy maverick and one of my comedy heroes, had died at 84.

There are probably not many white humorists working today who would cite Dick Gregory as a major influence, but I am one of them. I was only vaguely familiar with his material when I attended a lecture he gave around 1975 at Adelphi University, where I was an undergraduate. Adelphi is located in Garden City, NY, which at the time was one of the wealthiest and whitest place you can imagine. The university did have a sizeable on-campus black population, though it was primarily a commuter school and overwhelmingly white.

So, Dick Gregory had come to talk to a white audience about their country, which is how he saw America. He spoke of racism, war, social protest and the increasing power of corporations, mixing in sharp satiric commentary that cut deep and revealed disturbing truths. He had already been doing that for a long time.

More than a decade earlier, Gregory had broken the comedy color barrier on The Jack Parr Tonight Show by becoming the first black comic to sit on the couch and talk with Jack Parr. Merely taking a seat on a couch may not sound so important, but remember, it wasn’t until Rosa Parks sat on a bus in 1955 that the right of blacks to sit among whites had even been established.

Many years later, reflecting on his appearance with Parr, Gregory said, “Never before had white America let a black person stand flat-footed and talk to white folks. You could dance and you could stop in between the dance and tell how tired your feet is. Or Sammy (Davis) could stop in between and tell a joke. But you could not walk out and talk to white America.” Notably, when Gregory was first invited to appear on the show by Parr’s producer, he declined. It wasn’t until Parr himself called and assured Gregory that he could sit down that he accepted the invitation.

The first comedian I ever loved was Bill Cosby. When as a 12 year-old, I heard the opening monologue, “Tonsils,” from his then new album, Wonderfulness, it made me want to be a stand-up. Like Cosby, I had suffered the horror and indignation of having my tonsils removed and being lied to by grown-ups before the operation. Somehow, this black man from Philadelphia was telling the story of a white kid from Brooklyn and in doing so, he showed me how humor could reframe and perhaps even heal trauma. Cosby was my first comedy mentor.

But it was from Dick Gregory, along with George Carlin, Richard Pryor and the Smothers Brothers, that I learned the importance of calling out hypocrisy and injustice, and standing in one’s truth as a humorist. They were all fearless, and none more so than Gregory, who confronted racism head-on without apology and with great wit and insight.

He called his autobiography, written during the civil rights movement, "nigger." His reason: "Remember, whenever you hear the word they are advertising my book."

His take on baseball: "It's a great sport for my people. It's the only time a Negro can shake a stick at a white man and not cause a riot."

On income tax: "I wouldn't mind paying it, if I knew it was going to a friendly country."

On the difference between the North and South: “For a black man, there's no difference. In the South, they don't mind how close I get, as long as I don't get too big. In the North, they don't mind how big I get, as long as I don't get too close.”

In 1968, when segregationist George Wallace ran for president, Gregory decided to run against him and received close to 50,000 write-in votes. Wallace, a racist, received nearly 10 million votes and carried five southern states.

Gregory continued to speak-out and in 1989 told CBS’s Ed Bradley, "I chose to be an agitator. The next time you put your underwear in the washing machine, take the agitator out, and all you're going to end up with are some dirty, wet drawers."

The most essential comedians, of course, are the agitator-comedians, those who speak truth to power and challenge their audiences along the way.

By that standard, none were ever better than Dick Gregory.

 

It’s The Jews Fault – Still And Again

They marched through the streets of Charlottesville with burning torches and shouting, “Jews will not replace us,” and, “Blood and soil.” I had never heard the latter, so I did some research.

History, which is even more suspect now to many than climate science, tells us that “blood and soil” was an important philosophy for Nazi Germany. Hitler wanted Germans to identify with their “glorious past,” to embrace an ideology focusing on ethnicity based on bloodline, rural living, and farming in particular.

There was actually a debate in the Nazi Party about this. Some wanted to bolster support from urban centers, but the “blood and soil” faction wanted to focus on the rural population with the goal of convincing them that they were the true backbone of the fatherland. The decline of their communities was blamed on the city folk and, more specifically, the Jews. Jews then were responsible for the decline of German culture and had to be eradicated.

The question must be asked: What do the Jews have to do with a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, or the renaming of Lee Park to Emancipation Park? Also: What did the Jews have to do with the Civil War – or no, pardon me, The War of Yankee Aggression? Who exactly are these Jews anyway?

Ironically, our billionaire businessman president from “Jewtown” is not one of them. That is because Trump channels the hatred, grievances and rage of countless anti-Semites. He is a master at this because he understands that the Jews are the problem and, more importantly, that the Jews are not solely Jews. Blacks, Muslims, gays, immigrants and women are Jews. The handicapped are Jews. The fake news media is run by Jews. Hollywood is run by Jews. Liberals are Jews. Comedians are Jews. The fucking Jews! They’re ruining everything. They’re killing us and only Trump can fix it. And yet, somehow Trump loves the Jews. He’s a tremendous supporter of Israel. Just ask Netanyahu.

During the campaign, after refusing to denounce the endorsement of David Duke, Trump emphatically insisted to CNN’s Jake Tapper, “I know nothing about David Duke.” His denial brings to mind that bumbling Nazi, Sergeant Schultz, from the old Hogan’s Heroes sitcom. Schultz’s memorable catchphrase was, “I know NOTH-ING!” But Schultz always knew something, if not everything. He mostly didn’t care what Hogan and the other prisoners in his guard did, so long as his terrifyingly evil boss, Colonel Klink, didn’t find out. Schultz, like Trump, had a lot to hide, could be easily played and was thin-skinned. Also like Trump, his primary objective was to keep his job, even while failing at it miserably. Schultz had the same penchant for lying and denying reality as Trump, though lacking Trump’s power and ugliness, he wasn’t anywhere near as good a Nazi. The biggest difference between them is that Schultz was funny.

But to get back to David Duke: Two days before Trump said, “I just don’t know anything about him,” or white supremacists, he actually disavowed Duke while talking with MSNBC’s John Heilmann. Over a decade earlier, on the Today Show, Trump referred to Duke as “a big racist.” But suddenly, when talking to Jake Tapper, “He knows NOTH-ING!” He doesn’t know about Duke’s felony arrest for inciting a riot, his denial of the holocaust, or his moonlighting as the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Ignorance isn’t bliss: it’s a dog whistle for Jew-haters.

In Charlottesville, Duke was asked, “What does today represent to you?” His response: “This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take this country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.”

That phrase, “take this country back” remains a right-wing battle cry at a time when Republicans control every branch of the federal government and governorships in 34 states. What it actually means is “take this country back to the era of white male heterosexual Christian supremacy.”

This is troubling stuff and what’s most troubling of all is that Trump still has an approval rating of nearly 80% among Republicans. Perhaps he actually could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and not lose voters — except, of course, the Jews.

 

 German Jews leaving Germany in the 1930s. (German Federal Archives. Photo courtesy Ethan Bensinger.) 

German Jews leaving Germany in the 1930s. (German Federal Archives. Photo courtesy Ethan Bensinger.)