Thursday, April 8, 2021

Chauvin Trial Revives Societal Wounds

The ongoing trial of police officer Derek Chauvin has laid bare the raw, throbbing seam between the left and right wings in this country.  The conservatives see Chauvin as a dedicated policeman, who, threatened by a mob, acted responsibly to subdue a suspect who was under the influence of drugs and unfortunately died.  Progressives see an overzealous policeman who violated department policy and unnecessarily restrained a minority suspect and deliberately killed him. The two views are irreconcilable.

A jury will decide Chauvin’s fate.  However, regardless of the verdict, progressives will win.  They have always won since this country was founded.

Progressives wrote the Declaration of Independence and led the battle to throw off English rule.  Conservatives, then called Tories, opposed them.  Gen. George Washington’s troops did not freeze at Valley Forge just because of the weather.  They were denied supplies by Tories in Philadelphia who wined and dined English officers instead.  Eventually, Tories either reluctantly became Americans or fled to Canada.

Progressives wrote the Constitution, eventually adding the Bill of Rights, which are the most radical statement of human rights ever committed to paper.  They include the one amendment beloved by conservatives: the right to bear arms.

 Since then, progressives ended slavery, child labor and monopolies.  They set working hours, demanded and obtained safety regulations, created Social Security and a host of other laws designed to improving working and living conditions.  Many of these ideas were initiated by the Socialist Party and then adopted by progressives, initially in the Republican Party and promoted by such political leaders as Theodore Roosevelt.

 They were continually opposed to conservatives, who objected to almost any advance as being un-American and contrary to natural order.  Conservatives opposed radio, insisting the sets gave off rays that would hurt listeners.  They objected to movies, imposing censorship.  They objected to television, reviving old complaints about radio.  They tried to impose morality through Prohibition, voted against giving women the right to vote, imposed quota systems to limit immigration and maintained laws to block racial equality  Conservatives opposed the League of Nations, helping precipitate World War II.  They fought American entry into the war.  Had they succeeded in blocking our participation, half the world today would be under Nazi control.  

 It should be no surprise that the conservative icon Donald Trump was the first American president endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, American Nazi Party and the Taliban.

 Today, conservatives are busily trying to restrict voting rights.

 Again, eventually, they will lose.  Americans, like all people, opt for increased rights and opportunities.  The most common motif in movies, our most-invasive and pervasive medium, reflects that.  Constantly, heroes fight against the rich and powerful.  The list is endless.  To name just a few: Roadhouse, Pale Rider, Bond movies after communism faded and so many more.  The American Dream contains at its heart the ideal vision of living in a home, unbothered by civil authorities with freedom to live unfettered by restrictive rules and regulations.

That seems ideal, but the end of liberalism is anarchy, which is why conservatives are so focused on law and order.  On the other hand, the final stop on the conservative spectrum is oligarchy, where the few rich and powerful control everything.  It’s no wonder Putin, Kim and other dictators serves as the models for conservatives. And why the FBI has identified white supremacists militia as the big threats to American security.   Progressives didn’t attack the Capitol; conservatives did.  Progressive tend to shun armament; conservatives embrace them.

In the end, we will continue to move along the progressive road.  All societies do and have done so historically.  Eventually, the overriding Catholic Church fell beneath the wheels of the Enlightenment; Communist Russia collapsed; China has liberalized its policies; and Saudi Arabia is easing up its constraint on women. 

It's inevitable.

The battles between left and right wings won’t cease anytime soon.  Sometimes, they will collide such as is happening in Minnesota with the Chauvin trial.  Sometimes, they were cross swords over the ballot box.  Regardless, if history is a guide, eventually the center will continue to slide toward the left, dragging the right with it like an anchor.



Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture.  He holds an ABD in American Studies from Case Western Reserve (OH) University and an M.A. in journalism from Kent State (OH) University.   A resident of Ormond Beach, Fla., he also speaks at various religious organizations throughout the state.  You can reach him at or through his website He is the author of the several novels Revelation! (Southern Owl Press) and The Great Seer Nostradamus Tells All (Bold Venture Press) as well as a variety of nonfiction books, including Messiah: A History of One of the World’s Most Enduring Ideas (Bold Venture) ;  and Comparative Religion for Dummies (Wiley Press).  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.












Sunday, December 20, 2020

Walking in a Pandemic

Recently, just after sundown, my wife and I drove to Rockefeller Park where we used to walk our dogs before COVID-19.  For several years, Kathy and I were guides at the Casements during the day.  From about 6 to 8 p.m. virtually every night for years, we would walk typically through Rockefeller and the attached Fortunato Park, enjoying the boats and occasional dolphins and manatees in the Halifax River. 

We developed friendships with many of the dog owners who joined us and loved the many trees, wide swaths of grass, benches and playground.

 Kathy wanted to see the lights.  Annually, the Casements gets all decorated for Christmas and hosts a fundraising gala that lasts two weeks.  I always volunteered to help with the little two-car train which carried children around the park during the gale.  Over the years, the Casements has added a giant Christmas tree and other decorations for the festive occasion. 

This evening, the tree was brilliant in its usual white lights while the area contained many different displays and ornaments.  As usual, the Casements was festooned with rows of colored lights.

Yet, it was all so different.

Only a few people were there, unlike the hundreds who came to the opening ceremony every year for the music, lights and food.  We saw only one person with two dogs.  I didn’t recognize him and then realized I couldn’t remember the names of many of the dogs.  I could picture the animals, just not their names, although I could remember the owners.  Of course, many dogs have died in the last year, just as our two did.  I learned that through emails and calls, but had no way to share hugs.  We warily avoided everyone.  No more walking in groups and chatting.  We noticed park improvements made in the nine months, but had to take a circuitous route to evade contact.

We talked to one woman about the stars.   She was looking for the “star of Bethlehem,” the conjuncture of Jupiter and Saturn which supposedly forms a cross.  We chatted at more than social distance,.  The woman was as leery as we were.

On the ride home, we both recognized how much had changed since we went into isolation in March.  We no longer hear from park friends.  I call and write because that’s my nature.  Most have moved on.  They are pleasant enough if I reach them, but don’t call back or reach out.  Now, we shy away from contact.  We couldn’t even get close enough to pet a dog.

We enjoyed walking around both parks.  It brought back such fond memories.  Our stroll also reminded us how much we have lost in just a few months.  I doubt we will ever be able to rebuild that community.


Saturday, November 7, 2020

The Case Against Donald Trump

More than 70 million Americans voted for Donald J. Trump in the recent presidential election.  They obviously chose him over eventual winner Joseph Biden Jr.  As an independent voter and historian, I felt a critique of Trump’s four years in office might be enlightening to those disappointed by his loss.

I divided the evaluation it different sections.  A president has a tremendously difficult job involving multiple situations occurring simultaneously.  As a result, there is no order to this list.


Before entering office, Trump severely criticized previous president Obama for allowing even a couple of people to die from SARS and Ebola.  At this writing, Trump’s death toll from COVID-19 is more than 225,000.

One of his first acts in office was to disband and reassign members of the pandemic task force created under Obama for what everyone knew would be another virus.  As a result, this country was unprepared to act quickly when the disease did arrive.

Trump’s response was to deny, to call it a hoax, to blame Democrats and then, he admitted to reporter Bob Woodward, to play down the seriousness.  In the end, the administration opted to do nothing.  Instead, Trump continued his rallies, decried wearing masks and supported dubious or dangerous cures, such as injecting bleach.

He politicized the Centers for Disease Control, tried to prevent the collection of data, claiming absurdly that if no infections were announced, then none were occurring.

The administration’s response, contrasted with all-out efforts in such countries as Germany, Korea, New Zealand and others reflects a callous policy that continues to doom thousands.  Worse, as doctors are learning, the disease can return and has residual effects on organs that could plague survivors for decades.


The Trump Administration has added $3 trillion to the deficit, an ungodly sum that’s unprecedented in human history.  Some of that is the result of the virus.  However, the stimulus to help American families was inadequate and brief.  Unemployment in numbers is approaching Depression levels with no turnabout in sight.

Fortunately, America business people have used technology to save their businesses and jobs in the process.  That has been done without Administration assistance.

Long-term increases in the deficit cannot be avoided now, with the subsequent pressure on the economy to meet its loan obligations.  The Administration aggravated the situation by pushing a tax “reform” law through Congress that handed cuts to major corporations and wealthy individuals while doing little to nothing for the vast bulk of Americans.

In keeping with that approach, Trump taxes indicate he paid $750 to the U.S. Treasury despite earning millions while paying hundreds of thousands in taxes to foreign countries.  The actual taxes Trump paid cannot be determined because, despite repeated promises to do so, he has refused to release his tax form, defying a federal judge at the moment who has ordered them to New York authorities for an investigation there.


Trump has cozied up to dictators in North Korea and Russia, ignoring or denigrating reports from our intelligence community.  Some intelligence officers have openly asked if Trump is a Russian asset.

He has made policy decisions that support Russian goals, such as  abandoning  our long-term allies the Kurds in Syria.

He also moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv, where other countries maintain their consulates, to Jerusalem.  Israel wanted that.  Palestinians did not.  The move did little to help any peace talks, but could be a positive in the long run.  To make matters worse, he assigned his son-in-law Jared Kushner, a businessman with no political experience, to handle any negotiations with understandably no success.

At the same time, Trump was impeached for attempting to blackmail another ally, the Ukraine, into creating false evidence against Biden’s son.  In doing so, he ignored reports showing Biden had been investigated and that nothing inappropriate had been identified.   He also reportedly opportuned other countries to support his re-election bid, in violation of Federal law prohibiting such action.

He was openly laughed at by other world leaders at an international conference after showing himself singularly inept at international politics.  He attempted but failed to get Russia admitted into the G-7, after Russia was expelled in 2014 for annexing the Crimea.


Trump’s initiatives in this area have been deliberately awful, including support of an unneeded oil pipeline over sacred Indian land, which led to the inevitable spill; the abrogation via presidential order of multiple laws to keep air and water clean; the decision to open pristine national parks to commercial development; and the naming of lobbyists to run the Federal agencies they once lobbied.

According to a ProPublica and Columbia Journalism Investigations analysis, Trump hired 281 lobbyists, four times the number hired in the Obama years.  Obama created a pledge that restricted what areas former lobbyists could work, reducing conflicts of interest.  Trump eliminated an important aspect of the pledge

As Fortune Magazine noted in 2017, “the Cabinet choices are another sign that Trump's populist pledge to ‘drain the swamp’ is a catchy campaign slogan but not a serious attempt to change the way Washington works. Instead of staring down ‘the unholy alliance of lobbyists and donors and special interests.’ as Trump recently declared, the influence industry has flourished during his administration.” (Richard Lardner and the Associated Press, Sept. 17, 2019

As a result, one-time lobbyists have been directing the Defense, Labor and Interior departments, Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Post Office and office of the U.S. Trade Representative.  

Some of the selections are particularly egregious.  Betsy DeVos, the secretary of Education, is an avowed opponent of public education.  According to the National Education Association, DeVos “promotes the privatization of public schools through vouchers, continually calls for deep cuts to federal funding, rolls back protections for vulnerable children, and completely disregards their safety and the safety of educators during a global pandemic.” (

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy owns a company that is in competition with the Post Office and set out to dismantle the its ability to deliver the mail.  Federal judges have had to step in to get equipment restored and demand all efforts be made to deliver the mail properly.

Compounding the decisions, Trump politicized the Supreme Court by nominating and relying on the Republic majority to approve Brent Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barret.  Testimony in Congress showed how unqualified both are.  Barrett has less than three years of experience as a judge and belongs to a rigid religious group that believes a woman should be subservient to a man, not the ideal view for a woman on a court dominated by men.

In addition, defying local and state authorities, Trump sent in Federal troops to attack protestors upset by the deaths of Blacks at the hands of police.  At the same time, he has refused to condemn white supremacists and won the endorsement of the KKK and the American Nazi Party.  Not surprisingly, racists and anti-Semitic attacks have climbed dramatically.

“The American Jewish community experienced the highest level of antisemitic incidents last year since tracking began in 1979, with more than 2,100 acts of assault, vandalism and harassment reported across the United States, according to new data from ADL (the Anti-Defamation League).” (

At the same time, The Guardian found, “About four in 10 Black and Asian adults reported increased racial tension since the pandemic began … “  Blacks reported being attacked just for wearing a mask. (

White House insiders have reported that Trump has been doing everything possible to erase anything Obama did purely from racism.

Trump has boasted that he doesn’t accept a salary.  However, he has cost taxpayers more than $124 million by frequently going golfing and forcing Secret Service and other government officials to stay in his resorts.  Of course, prior to taking office, he said he would be too busy to golf.

According to published reports, his own family has reaped millions through private businesses that gained through their connection to the presidency.  According to a 2019 story in GQ, Trump promised to have no deals consummated during his term in office.  Since then, his sons “have sold off more than $100 million worth of Trump Organization real estate. That figure includes a $33 million sale of the company’s stake in a federally subsidized housing complex—a transaction Secretary of House & Urban Development Ben Carson had to approve—and a $3.2 million sale of land in the Dominican Republic last year, which Forbes called “the clearest violation of their father’s pledge to do no new foreign deals while in office.”

“In February 2017, the Trump Organization sold a $15.8 million Trump Park Avenue penthouse—a home formerly occupied by Jared and Ivanka—to Angela Chen, who runs a consulting firm with ties to Chinese government officials and (allegedly) Chinese military intelligence. Forbes analyzed the sale and found that this price was 13 percent more than that paid for a comparable unit a year earlier, and that it sold at a time when the building’s other units, on average, were selling for 25 percent less.” (

He has mocked military heroes, such as the late Sen. John McCain, who endured years in a North Vietnamese prison.  He scorned dead soldiers, calling them “fools.”  It should be referenced that no one in his family has ever served in the military.  Trump paid a doctor to report he had bone spurs and received five deferments.

As a final note, Trump has spewed more than 20,000 verified lies and is averaging 25-35 lies a day.  Twitter estimates that one-third of his statements are lies.

His lack of veracity reminds me of what happened on a cruise ship.  The captain announced that on Dec. 24 would be landing on board to remove an ill passenger and asked us to leave the front of the ship clear.  People went anyway thinking the captain was covering the arrival of Santa.  He was not. As he said over the loudspeaker the next day, “If I lied about that, why would you believe anything else I said?”



As an independent voter, I really don’t care if a Republican or Democrat is elected.  I simply want that president to be the best possible for the benefit of this country.  I may disagree or agree with various policies but always assume the president is acting on this country’s best interest.  Until Trump.

No one can foresee whether or not Biden will be a good president.  There have been particularly poor presidents before, including Zachary Taylor, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan and George W. Bush.  Regardless, Biden can never be the worst.  That position has been turned into a concrete monument to Donald J. Trump.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture.  He holds an ABD in American Studies from Case Western Reserve University.   He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at He is the author of novels like The Great Seer Nostradamus Tells All         and Adventures in Bonding (Bold Venture Press) as well as a variety of nonfiction books, including Joy to the World: The Stories Behind Christmas Carols (Bold Venture) and Comparative Religion for Dummies (Wiley Press).  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.