Smoking and January 6, 2021

Leo Tolstoy wrote the definitive judgment on Christianity in his book The Kingdom of God is Within You. You should read it. If you can remain conscious, and mindfully absorb the arguments Tolstoy makes about non-violence, it will forever change your view of humanity. Mahatma Gandhi read it and freed India from the British empire. Martin Luther King, Jr. used it as a mirror to show how hateful and violent white Christian America really is.

America was born with the twin infections of greed and slavery, but its founders embraced intellectualism and science. The new infection of anti-intellectualism—a fundamentalist refusal to acknowledge the world as something other than a fairytale—was the spirit of January 6, 2021.

At heart, I am an atheist. The god of the Bible is too small for our Universe. Even a child can see it. We live in a time when we can measure atoms, see billions of galaxies, and trillions of stars, but when dogma, power, and profit are threatened by facts, facts become the enemy of God.

“Science is wrong” has been the mantra of conservative politics since before I was born. Smoking does not cause cancer. Second-hand smoke is fine. Leaded gasoline, paint, and toys do not poison our children. Fluorocarbons don’t harm the ozone layer. Global warming is a hoax. Coronavirus will go away in the summer.

As a child, I was miserable whenever I went to a restaurant or public event. The air was filled with noxious cigarette smoke. I contend much of my introversion is from the fact that I associate crowds with burning eyes, a sore throat, and stinky clothes.  

Conservative politicians denied the facts and defended the tobacco industry—the industry responsible for slavery. Smoking was free speech, they argued. Forcing someone to put out their cigarette before they entered a building was a slippery slope to communism. Communist were the bad guys in the 1970s and 1980s. Socialist are the favored enemy today. Putin after all is a communist.

People blowing smoke in a non-smokers face was common when I was a child. Office buildings had to replace their ceiling tiles every year or two or risk them looking like an uncleaned toilet. To compensate, they attached air filters to ceiling-fan blades, and smokers were “asked” to use ashtrays with little vacuums and filters built into them. They just blew the ashes around.

Wiping your finger across an office desk or a restaurant table in the late 1970s resulted in yellow fingertips. The obvious didn’t deter the right-wing from staunchly defending the right to smoke on anyone and everyone nearby.

The first smoking ban was instituted in 1575 by a Mexican ecclesiastical council that forbid the use of tobacco in any church in Mexico and the Spanish colonies. In 1624, Pope Urban VII promised to excommunicate anyone who used tobacco in or near a church.

American profit earned on the backs of tobacco slaves changed things. It wasn’t until the 1990s that millions of Americans declared they had enough. Today, Americans can eat and work in clean air.

For anyone that lived through those times, people refusing to wear a mask—especially for someone else’s well-being—was not a surprise. They used to blow smoke in our faces, fill retail spaces with noxious clouds, and couldn’t understand why the rest of us were so upset at them.

When America phased out leaded gasoline, the smokers in my small community removed the catalytic converters from their new cars so they could still use leaded gasoline. At the time it was cheaper by a few pennies a gallon.

Lead exposure as a child—from the air—through exhaust fumes, or from contact through things like lead toys and paint is responsible for cognitive decline. When you see a boomer unable to make a reasonable argument for why he hates a liberal, it might be all that lead he took in as a child causing his inability to be rational. 

When we banned the use of fluorocarbons in items as common as hair spray, the ozone layer started to recover. Australians are still leaders in skin cancer, but with those wonderful beaches, can you blame them?

Speaking of Australia, the small nation was nearly extinguished by fire in 2019. The iconic koala will probably only survive zoo’s because most of its habitat was destroyed in some of the largest blazes ever recorded. The wild cockatoo and kangaroo are also at risk. In California, one wildfire destroyed eleven thousand homes. China can’t breathe from the smog of its coal-fired race to the middle-class.

Coronavirus killed more people over the summer of 2020 than it did in the spring. And even more in the fall. And now even more in the winter of 2021.

Not all Christians are science deniers. Pope Francis embraces science. In fact, the first bull of his papacy, that’s what Catholics call an edict, was to recognize climate change and how it amplifies economic inequality.

The American right-wing talking heads nearly exploded and declared him a socialist.

In the spring of 2020, while most of Italy was still open for tourism, Pope Francis ordered churches closed, and stopped funerals entirely. For me, one of the most powerful moments of the year was the sight of Pope Francis praying for our planet in a vacant Vatican square. If you want an example of the Christian doctrine Tolstoy wrote about in The Kingdom of God is Within You, look to Pope Francis.

Most of my life, I have hoped that the hysterical voice of evangelical fundamentalism was just background noise. But it keeps coming back in stronger and crazier incarnations. I have always hoped that most religious and conservative Americans want to reach out, make friends with those of differing opinions, and help the less fortunate. Several years ago, after Francis became Pope, I even saw a survey that said sixty percent of Catholics wanted the church to focus on their obligation to the poor over culture war issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

2016 taught us a valuable lesson, however. Behaving like a Christian doesn’t get votes. The religion that succeeds, that becomes President and holds both houses of Congress is one of divisiveness, not inclusion. Raising money means getting out the base. Getting out the base means using Christian dogma for partisan agendas. Divide the electorate between us and them, between the saved and the sinner, the believers, and the infidels. Even if the infidels are fighting the fires, feeding the hungry, and warning you of future harm.

In America today, evangelical Christianity is nothing, but a handful of wedge issues tightly bound in the fist of a right-wing power grab.

January 6, 2021 wasn’t a surprise for anyone that has watched an episode of The 700 Club. The pussy grabbing Donald Trump is everything Pat Robertson has preached against his entire life. Pat blames hurricanes and earthquakes on the type of sins Trump brags about. Given a natural disaster, Pat was the first to blame the people of the nation or state for their reprobate life. The disaster was God’s hand working to bring his people home. But since Trump promised and gave Pat a conservative majority on the supreme court, he sold his soul to the lion. Being an evangelical in America has nothing to do with faith. It’s a matter of how you vote, regardless of how you behave.

The science and gospel denial we saw in 2016 and 2020 did not spring up from nowhere. The infection started by proclaiming teachers as bad citizens who are takers that teach evolution and deny creationism. Education is a liberal conspiracy that is taking children away from God.

Science denial is good politics, and if your soul, or even your nation, burns in the light of it. Well, that’s a price the conservative right-wing is willing to pay. Remember the drumbeat of Hillary’s emails? She suffered two or three congressional investigations, even sat for like 14 hours answering every question in a senate inquiry. No wrongdoing was ever found. But rather than accept the result, the conservatives in both houses of congress demanded another investigation. Does that sound familiar?

Well, it should. Because Bill Clinton was put under the same microscope for a real-estate deal, he completed before becoming President. The type of deal Trump would brag about. When no wrongdoing was found, they kept investigating by questioning his answers. They finally caught him in a lie about a blow job, and eager to pay the Democrats back for Nixon’s impeachment and resignation, they impeached Clinton for that lie.

For the entire eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency, Trump claimed that Obama was not American and was illegitimate. The media amplified his hateful rhetoric by repeating his Tweets every hour of the day. Good luck finding a Republican politician to dismiss the lies. Rather, they said things like “well, if it’s true, it should be investigated.” Sound familiar?

Trump begged Putin for Clinton’s emails, for some evidence of a crime. Four years later he tried to strong-arm the Ukrainian government in to manufacturing an investigation of Joe Biden.

January 6, 2021 changes things. Coronavirus tore the mask off conservatives and science deniers alike. No matter how they spun the issue, they couldn’t escape its hard truth. But despair is a hungry beast and faced with the largest popular vote election loss ever, facts had to pay.

The right-wing Q-Anon insurrectionist that invaded the people’s house on January 6, 2021, didn’t suddenly appear this year. They were nurtured by conservative politicians that needed the mob to stop hating government long enough to vote. Whenever you hear a pundit say, “The Republican party is a big tent,” this is what they mean. They mean the Republican party welcomes the white nationalist, the Ku Klux Klansmen, the flat-earther, and even the anarchist. Reagan called them the silent majority and masked his true agenda with evangelical support. The bible belt, after all, used to be known as the largest producer of tobacco on the planet.

This group is not a majority, and they are rarely silent, but in our backward system of choosing a President, they are enough. The Republicans were happy with this arrangement. If a wanna-be slave owner got out of line, they just sided with their “friends across the aisle,” to remove him. And it’s been successful. In my lifetime there have been five Republican Presidents and three Democratic Presidents. Of the five Republican Presidents, two have been impeached by Congress, and two lost the popular vote, only to win the electoral college.

Both of those losses have been disasters. Bush lost by a half-million votes, proudly proclaimed he had a mandate to lead, and failed to defend our nation from the worst terrorist attack until this year. Conservative pundits said no one could have predicted the 911 attacks. But a congressional inquiry found that the Bush administration had been warned months earlier with a memo titled “Bin Laden determined to attack in the United States.”

Bush rode a tide of white nationalism to a win in 2004 and lied again about weapons of mass-destruction in Iraq. Thousands of innocent Americans and Iraqis have paid with their lives. But not George Bush or the neo-con tribe that empowered him.

Embolden and threatened by Barack Obama’s wins in the Democratic primaries neo-cons like Bill Kristol and Steve Schmidt (Yes, that Steve Schmidt) sought a bigger dog whistle for the evangelical, gun worshiping, white nationalist, and gave John McCain Sarah Palin. The seed for January 6, 2021, was planted on August 29, 2008. Through the entire Obama Presidency, these same neo-cons did nothing to silence the drumbeat of misinformation coming from Trump or their base.

Trump has never won a popular vote count when he had an opponent. His victories in the Republican primaries were with a sliver of the total vote count. He lost the 2016 election by almost three million votes, and the 2020 election by more than 7 million votes. And yet here we are, 156 years after the Yankees won the Civil War, with a Confederate flag paraded through the halls of Congress.

January 6, 2021 was no accident. The conservative right-wing dog whistle summoned a dog that bit the Republican party in the ass. That dog is not Trump, it’s the “base,”, and now, more than ever, they are hoping their friends on the other side of the aisle will bail them out. Well, don’t let them. Tell Congress there must be a vote on impeachment.

The Republican insurrectionist party had a chance to stop January 6, 2021 on February 5, 2020. When they voted to acquit of Donald J. Trump of trying to rig the election. They blew smoke in America’s face rather than stand bravely behind their oaths and defend the Constitution.

Whether Donald Trump resigns, is forced out by the 25th Amendment, or leaves on January 20, make the house and senate vote again. Tell Congress to impeach Trump and force another trial in the Senate. Don’t let Mitch McConnell and his trained puppies piss on the Constitution again. Make them Vote.

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Troy Williams

Troy Williams is a technology and science fiction nerd. The Fundamentals, was his first work of science fiction and there are many more stories in The Fundamental’s Universe. At his day job, he is a web and application developer experienced at coding and managing projects as small as an individual’s website to large enterprise integrations.

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