The HyperTexts

The Glob Blog: Everything including the Kitchen Sink and sometimes the Garbage Disposal!

The purpose of this blog is to keep readers informed about The HyperTexts' continuing efforts to "talk sense" in an increasingly nonsensical world. Topics include racism, sexism, homophobia, bigotry, intolerance, fascism, Trumpism, politics, religion, arts, science, global warming and Trump's hairpiece, or whatever it is. —Michael R. Burch, Editor, The HyperTexts

by Michael R. Burch

Many years ago I observed that, by following the dark path of the Nazis, one day Israel would come to the same ghastly "final solution." The cold inhuman logic of genocide is that millions of people who keep reproducing are too expensive and too dangerous to keep alive.

From the perspective of the extremists, Hamas has given Israel an excuse to do what they have long desired: get rid of the Palestinians once and for all. Those who are not murdered should be absorbed by other nations. This is how the extremists think.

It's the same way Hitler thought about Jews and Gypsies and other "undesirables." But of course other nations were unwilling to absorb millions of destitute refugees, and thus Hitler was never able to expel the "undesirables" in sufficient numbers for his purposes.

According to Hitler's cold, inhuman logic, this left only one "solution" to his vexing "demographic problem." I'm afraid Israel sees itself in the same position today. The world must step in to prevent genocide, but will it have the courage, will it have the resolve, and will it have the means?

When the Jewish resistance committed acts of violence against their Nazi enslavers, torturers and murderers, they were considered heroes. When the Palestinian resistance commits acts of violence against Israel, they are called terrorists, savages, animals, etc. But the systematic terrorism of Israel against millions of children and their mothers goes largely unmentioned.

I do not support Hamas. I do not condone acts of violence against civilians. But I understand that Israel has committed far greater acts of violence against civilians, has destroyed far more homes, and has left millions of civilians destitute and rightless, the majority of them children.

Hamas is fighting fire with fire, with little chance of winning. The idea that a people should submit to tyranny is antithetical to the American Declaration of Independence. Do white Christians have the right to go to war for "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" but not darker-skinned Muslims?

If Israel did to American children what they do to Palestinian children, the United States would be raining down missiles on Tel Aviv. This is the terrible hypocrisy much of the world seems far too comfortable with: Palestinians should submit their children to what we would never accept for ours.

If the people being strafed in Gaza were Jews, all around the world Jews would call it another Holocaust, and they would be correct.

Hamas is fighting fire with fire, however we disagree with their methods, as I do. Millions of children and their mothers are caught in the middle. Our hearts must break for their plight, but what will we say, and what will we do?

by Michael R. Burch, an editor, publisher and translator of Holocaust and Nakba poetry

by Michael R. Burch

October 21, 2023
Trump’s attempted coup was easy enough to predict, since he lusts after dictatorial power like a stag in heat. Or, in his case, like a hyperactive shrew.
What happens when a wannabe dictator acquires a cult? The cult serves its master’s whims. Once Trump expressed his desire to remain president despite losing the 2020 election, his disciples began competing to see who could commit the most felonies in the process of obliging him.
And we’re not out of the woods just because the first attempted coup failed. Trump is planning something similar, but much more far-reaching, if he wins the 2024 presidential election. At the New York Times, Jonathan Swan, Charlie Savage, and Maggie Haberman have created a report with frank admissions from various Trump associates that he’s planning a political purge of the entire federal government, “in order to bend it to his will.”
Trump is intent on setting up a dictatorship. The report begins: “Donald J. Trump and his allies are planning a sweeping expansion of presidential power over the machinery of government if voters return him to the White House in 2025, reshaping the structure of the executive branch to concentrate far greater authority directly in his hands.”
And this is being done in the open: “Trump and his advisers are making no secret of their intentions — proclaiming them in rallies and on his campaign website, describing them in white papers and openly discussing them.”
Trump has long seen the president as having the “right” to do whatever he wants. In 2019, he told a cheering crowd of cultists, “I have an Article 2, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.”
But now Trump has a plan to take total control of the federal government, if he wins the 2024 election. Early in Trump’s presidency, his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, promised a “deconstruction of the administrative state.” Now there’s a plan to make it happen.
How do we know Trump longs to be an all-powerful dictator like his heroes Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, Rodrigo Duterte, Saddam Hussein, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Mohammed Bin Salman and Xi Jinping?
Because he told us so, repeatedly...
Trump “fell in love” with the murderous North Korean despot Jong-un:

“And then we fell in love, okay? No really. He wrote me beautiful letters, and they’re great letters. We fell in love.”
Trump said this about Jong-un during an interview with Steve Doocy of Fox News:
“He's the head of a country and he's the strong head. Don't let anyone think anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”
Trump has expressed admiration for Jong-un’s “great character” and has even expressed “love” for him in “love letters.” But as Human Rights Watch notes: “A 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry found that abuses in North Korea were without parallel in the contemporary world. They include extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions, and other sexual violence. North Korea operates secretive prison camps where perceived opponents of the government are sent to face torture and abuse, starvation rations, and forced labor. Fear of collective punishment is used to silence dissent. There is no independent media, functioning civil society, or religious freedom.”
Trump bragged on tape to Bob Woodward about “saving” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman from Congressional retaliation after the CIA concluded that he was behind the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Trump has talked about killing drug dealers like his hero Duterte, who has murdered thousands without bothering with trials:
According to Axios, Trump wants the death penalty for American drug dealers, with one senior White House official telling the outlet: “He often jokes about killing drug dealers... He'll say, ‘You know the Chinese and Filipinos don’t have a drug problem. They just kill them.’”
Trump has praised Duterte for his extrajudicial murders of drug dealers more than once. And those murders have been estimated at 7,000 or more.
Trump also praised Saddam Hussein's efficient killing of terrorists, also without trials.
Trump favors a China-like dictatorship for the US. This is what he said regarding Chinese president Xi Jinping during a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, according to CNN:
“He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great. And look, he was able to do that [abolish term limits]. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.”
Trump did, indeed, “give that a shot” with his attempted coup. And he’s gearing up for another shot.
In an interview with Reuters, Trump said of Jinping:

“He is a good man. He is a very good man and I got to know him very well.”
Trump also expressed deep admiration and liking for Egyptian dictator Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi:
“I will tell you, President al-Sisi has been somebody that's been very close to me from the first time I met him. I met during the campaign, and at that point there were two of us, and we both met. And hopefully you like me a lot more. But it was very long. It was supposed to be just a quick brief meeting, and we were with each other for a long period of time. We agreed on so many things. I just want to let everybody know, in case there was any doubt, that we are very much behind President al-Sisi. He's done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation.”
Tapes from Bob Woodward’s book Rage reveal Trump saying he gets along better with foreign autocrats the “meaner and tougher” they are. “The easy ones,” Trump said, referring to America’s allies, “I maybe don't like as much or don't get along with as much.”
Trump said he'd rather be a dictator than a “dumb person” while bragging about “acing” a cognitive test for dementia. May I state the obvious: that Trump’s doesn’t set the intelligence bar too him for himself, and probably not for the murderous dictators he hero-worships?
I have read several articles in which journalists have mentioned Trump’s “dictator envy.” It’s common knowledge, plain as the orange nose on his orange face. Historians agree. Philip Rucker, writing for the Washington Post, observed that historians say “no U.S. president has been as free in his admiration of dictators and absolute power as the 45th.”
“Trump has dictator envy,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University. “You start being more attracted to people like Kim and Putin because they look like they could be presidents for life. And if they have enemies, they don’t have to resort to Nixon keeping an enemies list. You just destroy your enemies’ lives with a phone call. That’s attractive to Trump.”
Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers has also mentioned Trump’s disturbing dictator “envy,” calling it “depraved.” In an interview on Closing Bell, Summers said, “What’s tragic is that we’ve got a president who reaches out, admires, envies, celebrates and seeks to foster closer relationships with dictators while at the same time dissing, disregarding ... and failing to build relationships with America’s traditional allies.”
“Trump has been remarkably consistent as long as he’s been on the public stage in exhibiting authoritarian instincts,” said Steven Levitsky, a Harvard University professor who recently co-authored the book How Democracies Die.
Hell, Trump even expressed admiration for Putin when he invaded Ukraine and began mass-murdering Ukrainian children and their mothers. Trump lavished praise on Putin, calling him a “genius” and “savvy.” Trump even called Putin’s excuse for invading Ukraine  “wonderful.” Of course Putin’s excuse (“Nazis”) was completely bogus.
Trump also called Hezbollah “smart” for attacking Israel from the north, after Hamas attacked from the south.
Trump has displayed other dictatorial tendencies:
(1) Trump is like his strongman heroes when it comes to wanting to control the press. In June 2018, Trump declared the media to be “our country’s biggest enemy” and he has repeatedly voiced his desire to punish journalists who criticize him. During a trip to Singapore, Trump noted how positive a female news anchor was toward Kim Jong-un on North Korea’s state-run television, and he whined that Fox News was not as lavish in its praise of him. Trump is galled not only by criticism, but by praise of him not being lavish enough.
(2) Trump condoned violence against protesters during his campaign rallies, and sometimes called for it. As president Trump advocated jailing his political opponents, including Hillary Clinton and former FBI director James Comey.
(3) Trump used his presidential clemency powers to help loyalists such as Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn.
(4) Eliot A. Cohen, a senior State Department official under George W. Bush, said Trump “has classic traits of the authoritarian leader. The one that’s always struck me most is this visceral instinct of people’s weaknesses and a corresponding desire to be seen as strong and respected and admired.”
(5) Trump has repeatedly praised murderous strongmen. For instance, he called Jong-un a “very talented man,” a “smart guy” and a “very good negotiator.” He even complimented Jong-un’s “great personality” and went so far as to say they exchanged “love letters.” This is a man who starves his own citizens, sends political opponents to labor camps and has assassinated family members. During an interview with Fox anchor Bret Baier, Trump called Xi Jinping “an incredible guy,” and celebrated his consolidation of power that resulted in him becoming China’s dictator-for-life. And I don’t believe Trump has ever said an unkind word about Putin, a warmonger, mass-murderer, and notorious poisoner of his political opponents.
(6) Trump has an almost complete disregard for American values. “There hasn’t been a president who’s really disavowed the values side so much,” said Thomas Wright, a senior fellow in the Project on International Order and Strategy at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
(7) Trump is a fascist in the way he worships strength and disdains justice. He subscribes to the theory that “might is right” according to Amy Zegart, the director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, who says Trump’s embrace of authoritarians “is a jagged and dangerous departure” from prior American foreign policy. For example, this is Trump praising China for its brutal attacks on peaceful protesters: “When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength.”
(8) Trump goes out of his way to kowtow to the strongmen he admires. Topping this list is Putin. Alexander Vindman, the former Director of European Affairs for the National Security Council, called Trump a “useful idiot” and an “unwitting agent” of Putin. “In the Army we call this ‘free chicken,’ something you don’t have to work for—it just comes to you,” Vindman told Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg. “This is what the Russians have in Trump: free chicken.” A good (or bad) example of Trump being an “unwitting agent” of Putin occurred at the 2018 Helsinki summit, where Trump infamously sided with Putin over US intelligence regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election. In defense of his preference for Putin, Trump tweeted that American intelligence officers were “slime” and “lowlifes” and “misfits.” Never, not once that I can remember, has Trump used such expletives in reference to his friends among the despots.
According to a Forbes article by Andrew Solender, “Trump may have his own dictatorial ambitions, having repeatedly mused at recent rallies about negotiating for a change to the Constitution so that he can run for a third term, which he said he feels ‘entitled’ to.”
And so Trump’s attempted coup was no surprise. He admires totalitarian strongmen to the point of hero worship. He prizes strength over justice. He wants to control what other people say about him, the antithesis of democracy. He wants government officials to be loyal to his person, rather than to their country, countrymen and Constitution. He loves displays of power, regardless of who gets hurt or how unjustly. He wanted to remain in power like his heroes.

Trump made his desires known and his cultists did what cultists do: they served their master.
The American founding fathers risked life and limb to gain independence from King George the Third. A cult of dumbed-down right-wingers were willing to enthrone King Gorge the Turd, and did their damnedest to make it happen. Those who are not in jail or facing jail terms continue the attempts.
Anyone could have predicted what Trump would eventually attempt back in 2016 when he announced his candidacy for president. I noted at the time that Trump sounded like a Mafia don. What happens, I asked, if a Mafia don ends up in the White House? A Mafia don would get rid of everyone not unconditionally loyal to the don himself, by replacing naysayers with yes men and yes women. And that’s exactly what Trump did, by getting rid of James Comey, Rex Tillerson, General John F. Kelly, and everyone else who stood up to him. By the time the coup was launched, there was no one left in the White House to stand up to Trump.
What Trump said and did was no surprise to anyone who grokked him for what he is: an Al Capone with less personal courage and less loyalty to his lieutenants.
However, the extent of the capitulation was a surprise. My former party, the GOP, has shown remarkable disdain for the Constitution, for the right of voters to elect their leaders, for American democracy, and for their country and countrymen. All that can be thrown away, like so much garbage, to serve the whims of a cowardly, lying, two-bit con man.
As Tweety Trump would say, “So sad!”
by Michael R. Burch

October 16, 2023

As you read this, please keep in mind that I am an editor and publisher of Holocaust and Nakba poetry, a longtime peace activist with a concentration of the plight of the Palestinians, and the author of the Burch-Elberry Peace Initiative, which attempts to establish a just, lasting peace in Israel/Palestine. If I had a magic wand to wave, I would wave it and create peace, but I don't. Thus, I am forced to deal with incredibly painful reality.

A very real danger is that, with the pressing need to defeat Trump in the 2024 election in order to preserve American democracy, Democrats will make "strange bedfellows" with Israel. Trump is the greatest danger the US has faced since WWII, and every lost vote is a step toward a Trump dictatorship, so this is a very real political calculation, however grotesque and unthinkable.

Americans are faced with two horrors. We have to understand the political reality, as much as it turns our stomachs. If Joe Biden can navigate his way through these perilous waters and still win the 2024 election, while avoiding a major war in Gaza, he should get the Nobel Peace Prize. If he capitulates, as Barack Obama eventually did when he received no support in Congress, we will be forced to recognize what Abraham Lincoln recognized when confronting the abomination of slavery: American presidents are not immune to public opinion.

A major problem for the US is that it seems unlikely Democrats can stand up to Israel's rampant racism and systematic ethnic cleansing, and yet win enough elections to stop Trump and the GOP from destroying American democracy. If anyone has a real-world solution, I would love to hear it. I admit that I am at a loss.

I made the point before the 2016 election that liberals refusing to vote for Hillary Clinton due to her track record in the Middle East would open the door for a Trump presidency. I was the Lone Ranger at the time, and I lost many close friends among the peace activists I knew, when I pointed out the consequences of their not being willing to accept the lesser of two evils, if they considered Clinton evil. All the predictions I made unfortunately came true. If one has cancer, radiation treatment is no cakewalk but may be the only way to remain alive. Today we are facing something similar with Trump and the GOP.

I wish I had a better solution, but winning the 2024 presidential election is of utmost importance and pretending otherwise is to risk any ability to do anything positive in the future, once Trump becomes the first American dictator and the rest of us become the equivalent of North Korean serfs.

I oppose the horror of what Israel is doing to the Palestinians, but it remains imperative to vote for the only person capable of defeating Trump in the 2024 election. To do otherwise would be to flush American democracy down the toilet and accept serfdom for ourselves and future generations. That is the very unfortunate political reality in which we find ourselves. I only wish my ultra-liberal friends had been realists during the 2016 election. They turned their votes into vapor by either not voting or voting for unelectable fringe candidates, and we ended up with a career conman as president and would-be dictator.

Principles are wonderful things and I'm glad to have them, but Albert Einstein, a lifelong pacifist, said that he would have joined the military to oppose Hitler, if he had been young enough. An acted-upon principle that turns your family and friends into rightless serfs may be a "bridge too far."

The bottom line? I am sick about what Israel is doing to Gaza. I will always oppose Israel's abuse of Palestinians. But I will vote for Joe Biden and electable Democrats in future elections because there is no other real-world option. Flushing democracy down the drain for nothing in return, on "principle," would be an incredibly foolish thing to do, and that was tried in 2016 with unfathomably terrible results.

I hope everyone will vote for electable Democrats in 2024, since the GOP has become the personal cult of Trump. As I have been known to say, "When one candidate is Hitler, it's a no-brainer to vote for the only person who can defeat him." And that is the position we find ourselves in, with the 2024 presidential election rapidly approaching.


Letter to The Tennessean, March 2, 2018, by Mike Burch

Graham Crackers

In Rhonda Lowry’s opinion piece (“Billy Graham blessed Operation Andrew”) she claims Graham spoke of “God’s love.” But it goes without saying that a God who condemns all living creatures to suffer and die is not loving. The animals didn’t “sin” or obtain “the knowledge of good and evil,” so why murder them all? Murdering all the unborn babies, toddlers and animals in Noah’s flood was no act of love, and the destruction didn’t accomplish anything, so it wasn’t wise either. Forcing human beings to guess which of the earth’s myriad religions is the “correct” one is not loving. Sending people to hell for guessing wrong is the height of evil. Is the praise for Billy Graham merited, really?

Letter to The Montreal Gazette, December 9, 2017, by Tom Merrill

The first of the promised series of stories from Charlie Fidelman about drug addiction in Montreal, which appeared in the Saturday Gazette, is excellent. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Fidelman understands that drug addiction should be treated as a medical and not a criminal issue. He espouses the neuroscientific view, based on brain studies, that addiction results from a born predisposition—from brains that are differently wired—and that addicts are at the mercy of their individual makeups just like everybody else.

It is clear to me that if the state took control of the entire recreational drug industry the possibility of drugs such as fentanyl, carfentanil and W-18 ever showing up in the mix would be eliminated. With one simple piece of legislation the crisis would be over. There would be quality control of "substances," and thus vastly fewer OD deaths. And there would be help and understanding for anyone looking for relief from an enslaving addiction.

Portugal decriminalized drugs more than 15 years ago and the post-decriminalization statistics—as provided by The Transform Drug Policy Foundation—are highly encouraging all across the board. Not only have there been vastly fewer drug deaths; disease transmission has been vastly reduced, and there has even been a small reduction in the size of the addict population. Not to mention a huge reduction in the case overload borne by courts and the penal system.

It is time for other countries to learn from Portugal's successful experiment. The War on Drugs is just one more idiotic, unwinnable and in fact counterproductive war.

There's a way to end the "opioid crisis" in case the powers that be are really interested in saving lives—one that's been shown to work.

Tom Merrill

Letter to The Tennessean, November 26, 2017, by Mike Burch

Republican “fact” truly is stranger than fiction. As a result, we appear to be living in an episode of “The Twilight Zone.” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders recently tweeted: “Guess who’s the new head football coach at the University of Tennesse [sic]. Yup. The guy who covered for Jerry Sandusky. #GregSchiano.” Does Trump’s spin-mistress make any sense? Her boss is a self-confessed sexual predator who bragged to Howard Stern about barging into teenage girls’ dressing rooms to ogle them in the nude, and to Billy Bush about non-consensually groping women’s genitals. She and her boss are supporting Roy Moore, who has been accused by nine women of propositioning and taking advantage of much younger women, including underage girls. How does one allegation that Schiano may have “known something” compare with what Sanders knows about her boss and Moore?

Letter to The Tennessean, November 3, 2017, by Mike Burch

Praise the Lord and pass the ammo!

Whew, I’m breathing a tremendous sigh of relief! I had been harboring the fear that our supermajority of conservative Christians would surely be damned to hell for the cardinal sin of hypocrisy. Imagine allowing guns to be carried into public parks and pizza parlors, endangering the lives of innocent children, but not into legislative halls where fat-cat politicians sit (or doze) protected! But now I see that my fears were groundless, because firearms will be allowed in government buildings after all. Glory! Hallelujah! It turns out the Tennessee Taliban are not shockingly hypocritical, just stone-cold crazy. I’m sure the Good Lord will be immensely pleased and will immediately shower us with innumerable blessings, because we all know how Jesus Christ loves Glocks and Rambo-like disciples! #ChristianRambos

Letter to The Tennessean, October 31, 2017, by Mike Burch

The new, highly-touted Republican budget is bogus! Everyone knows that global warming is a hoax, created by China! We all know how "smart" President Trump is―because he keeps telling us―and he sagely warned us not to buy Chinese propaganda. But now there's a provision in the Republican budget to allow oil drilling in Arctic regions that must still be covered by miles of ice! And why has the U.S. Navy created a Task Force Climate Change (TFCC) to prepare for something that clearly isn't happening? Is it "smart" to spend billions of dollars on a hoax? I hate to admit it, but I'm beginning to suspect that Trump isn't as "smart" as he claims! #bogus #budget #GetSmart

Letter to The Tennessean, November 3, 2017, by Mike Burch

As Gomer Pyle would say, “Surprise! Surprise!” Guess what happens when we elect Republicans? Politicians who claim to be Bible-believing Christians immediately start doing exactly the opposite of what Jesus Christ did when he lived on earth. Jesus provided free healthcare to all comers, but Republicans like Donald Trump and Paul Ryan are social Darwinists who have no compunctions about denying healthcare to millions of their less fortunate brothers and sisters. They insist on denying assistance to the poor, but Jesus told a rich young Republican of his day that before he was eligible to become a Christian, he had to help the needy. Jesus called the religion-spouting hypocrites of his day “a brood of vipers” and “whitewashed sepulchers full of dead men’s bones.” One wonders what colorful things Jesus will say about Donald Trump and his supporters, when on Judgment Day he separates the sheep from the goats!

Letter to The Tennessean, December 17, 2017, by Mike Burch

Omarosa Manigault Newman claims there’s a “lack of diversity” in the upper echelons of the Trump administration. I think we can easily confirm her accusation, since the Trump administration just instructed the CDC not to use the shocking word “diversity” in its forthcoming budget request (along with other alarming terms like “transgender,” “science-based” and “evidence-based”). But I have to question Newman when she says Trump is “racial” but not “racist.” Isn’t that like saying the Unabomber was “fanatical” but not a “fanatic”? Who keeps making racially charged statements, but a racist?  

Letter to The Tennessean, December 17, 2017, by Mike Burch

It’s hard to take Diane Black seriously. She says elected officials are “public servants” who “must be held to the highest of standards.” But what about the president she supports? Black just got a 4K contribution from Mike Pence for her “strong stand with our administration.” But that administration is headed by a man who has twice bragged about his sexual sins in public: first to Howard Stern, then to Billy Bush. And multiple women have come forward to confirm that Trump did indeed do exactly what he bragged about doing. Ironically, Black was harassed on an elevator and that was one of Trump’s favorite places to sexually harass women. Is she really fighting for “transparency” and to “hold perpetrators accountable,” or does she just “go with the flow” when it benefits her personally?  

Letter to The Tennessean, November 9, 2017, by Mike Burch

Colin McArthur called Saturday’s lead story about the proposed tax bill a “blatant hatchet job.” That’s an interesting choice of words because—if I follow McArthur’s logic—he’s saying that it’s okay for a hatchet man to hack off one of my fingers, as long as he hacks off two of yours! I’m sure we’d much rather keep ALL our fingers, thanks very much. One person being robbed of a state income tax deduction doesn't make it somehow okay to rob someone else of a smaller state sales tax deduction. And it seems obvious that the real beneficiaries will be the super-rich, because they only spend a tiny fraction of their enormous wealth on taxable purchases. Thus, it would be like the hatchet man handing over our missing fingers to the Donald Trumps of the world, so that they could unfairly have more fingers than the rest of us! #TaxHacks

Letter to The Tennessean, October 6, 2017, by Mike Burch

Trump is aptly named. Should a rich white man’s religious beliefs “trump” a working woman’s? Allowing a woman’s boss to decide whether she can obtain free contraceptives is not “religious liberty,” but religious tyranny! What if the roles were reversed and a Muslim boss wanted to force his religious beliefs on female employees? Then the right-wing advocates of “religious liberty” would scream bloody murder. The same people who want to allow Bibles and prayers to Jehovah in public schools would have nervous breakdowns if Korans and prayers to Allah were being allowed. Such blatant hypocrisy is hard to swallow, especially when the founder of Christianity saved all his sternest criticism for the religious hypocrites of his day. #TrumpWarOnWomen

Letter to The Tennessean, October 1, 2017, by Mike Burch

Republicans are very good at bitching about Obamacare, but not nearly so good at actually governing, since with seven years to prepare they couldn’t come up with anything better. Now, many Tennesseans will pay very extravagant prices, as premiums rise 21 to 42 percent, with the bulk of the increase being attributed to uncertainties caused by said bitches, er Republicans. Meanwhile, Mr. Art of the Deal spends most of his time playing golf, preening for cameras, and threatening to “totally destroy” a nation of 25 million souls. Why? Because Kim Jong Un makes threats identical to his own! Anyone who thinks President Obama was “worse” must be in deep denial. Or perhaps wading through horseshit imagining it to have been extracted from rose petals. Which works out to the same thing. #deep #denial

Letter to The Tennessean, Nov. 3, 2017, by Mike Burch

Are American conservatives “Christians” as they claim to be, or are they really social Darwinists in lamb’s clothing? The truth can clearly be seen in health care legislation. A picture of Trump giddily kissing the GOP tax postcard has just gone viral. Such ecstasy! But the GOP tax bill is yet another example of Republican social Darwinism at work, because it kills the tax deduction for medical expenses. Over and over, Trump and the GOP have tried to deprive poorer and middle-income Americans of healthcare assistance, while shifting the “savings” to big businesses and the richest, most advantaged Americans. How is that “Christian”? Wasn’t Jesus a provider of free healthcare to all comers? Didn’t he sternly rebuke the Republicans of his day—the Pharisees? #GOP #slop

Letter to The Montreal Gazette, June 17, 2017, by Tom Merrill

On Saturday June 17, two days ago, an old friend of mine and I had a wonderful time playing pingpong in Gamelin Park before succumbing to the rather intense heat and settling into a couple park chairs with lemonades to cool off and relax a bit before leaving.

When sufficiently refreshed we got up and exited the park on the south side. A quartet of male cops was standing on the pavement by one of the park's garden beds. My friend evidently found a member of the quartet amusing enough in his posture and stance to make a flippant remark about it as we were walking past them. This triggered a response, there was a brief verbal exchange between them―the cop's attitude menacing, my friend's devil-may-care―at the conclusion of which my friend and I continued walking in the direction of our intended destination.

A minute or two later I noticed we were being shadowed by the whole quartet, who indeed were only a few steps behind us. They stopped us near an entrance to Place Dupuis on St. Catherine St. I was ordered to "get out of here" and my friend was then escorted by the quartet, flanked by a pair on each side, to the corner of St. Hubert and St. Catherine, where they all turned right heading north.

Afraid for my friend, I followed them, keeping my distance to about 30 to 40 feet. A short ways beyond the St. Hubert Street entrance to the Governors Hotel the steadily proceeding formation turned into a shocking event: what in fact can only be described as a violent assault. My friend, who had simply been shuffling along between his captors, was suddenly, very suddenly, slammed, and slammed hard, by what looked like all four of them, into a concrete wall. He then was very roughly manhandled for a moment or two before his wrists were violently―quite violently―twisted behind his back and he was marched like a convict with arms pinned behind him to a nearby cop car and subsequently made to bend over its hood for about twenty minutes.

It ended with him being issued a ticket for $321 for something he had not done, to wit, using park furniture in a way for which it was not intended. The only park furniture he had used was a chair to sit in while sipping a lemonade. I used the one next to his. The chairs are for public use.

It also ended with a shoulder and wrist that are still sore today (2 days later). My friend is black. He also is tiny (5' 3" 120 lbs.) The four cops were bruisers. Based on the incident I witnessed―a combination of racial profiling, assault on a citizen, and concocting a false charge―it is quite clear that Mr. Pichet's commitment, as avowed in a recent letter to The Montreal Gazette, to restoring public confidence in The Montreal Police, is very much in order.

Tom Merrill

Open Letter, November 8, 2017

Please be aware that right-wing "culture warriors" are suppressing and attacking artists in Poland!

Letter to The Tennessean, November 6, 2017, by Mike Burch

Mike McDaniel condescendingly and demeaningly called “girls” who chose to kneel during the national anthem “children” (his quotation marks). In so doing, McDaniel made himself seem very immature, since they were actually highly-educated young women―Vanderbilt basketball players―who only knelt after careful consideration of the pros and cons. And here’s a puzzler for McDaniel: Was it wrong for German Jews not to salute the German flag, even though millions of German soldiers valiantly served the glorious fatherland it represented? Should American slaves have been forced to salute the Confederate flag? Or did they have every right to protest grievous errors perpetrated under those flags? #flag #drag

Letter to The Tennessean, November 9, 2017, by Mike Burch

Colin McArthur called Saturday’s lead story about the proposed tax bill a “blatant hatchet job.” That’s an interesting choice of words because—if I follow McArthur’s logic—he’s saying that it’s okay for a hatchet man to hack off one of my fingers, as long as he hacks off two of yours! I’m sure we’d much rather keep ALL our fingers, thanks very much. One person being robbed of a state income tax deduction doesn't make it somehow okay to rob someone else of a smaller state sales tax deduction. And it seems obvious that the real beneficiaries will be the super-rich, because they only spend a tiny fraction of their enormous wealth on taxable purchases. Thus, it would be like the hatchet man handing over our missing fingers to the Donald Trumps of the world, so that they could unfairly have more fingers than the rest of us!

Letter to The Tennessean, November 6, 2017, by Mike Burch

Many Trump supporters seem to have “fish memories.” How terrible that anyone should say anything negative about Trump! Have they so quickly forgotten what Trump said about President Obama? Trump was, of course, the earth’s most prominent “birther” and he later admitted that his claims were bogus. And have Trump supporters so soon forgotten how the conservative media castigated Obama at every turn? As for there being “no collusion” with Russia—well, Trump himself publicly pleaded with Russia to provide the emails that swung the election his way, even though there was nothing of consequence in Hillary’s emails. But what would Trump do if someone were to provide his emails and tax returns to the public? Of course the orange-hued hypocrite would have a hissy fit! #FissureKing

Letter to TIME, November 17, 2012, by Mike Burch

Thank God for exorcists! Praise the Good Lord! Now that the Roman Catholic church has wisely decided to train more exorcists, the Vatican can finally do something about that malicious little imp who keeps whispering deadly, deceitful lies to Pope Benedict XVI: "You're the Vicar of Christ, which makes you infallible! Now quick, go tell highly impressionable children that using condoms is a sin, so that they when they grow up they can contract horrible diseases, suffer terribly, and die! Tell poor people that using contraceptives is a sin, so they'll have more babies until the world implodes beneath their weight! Tell everyone who'll listen that euthanasia is a sin, so that suffering people can die agonizing deaths, even when all hope is gone!"

Yes, once the Pope has been successfully exorcized of such evil madness, we can all breathe a bit easier.

Letter to TIME, November 17, 2012, by Mike Burch

Israel claims the right of "defense" against terrorism, while practicing terrorism itself on a much larger, daily, systematic basis. Israel lacks is a national sense of justice. The U.S. went through a similar period of national brat-hood, when it denied justice to Native Americans and African Americans. The result was massacre after massacre and the Civil War, with more than a million casualties and much of the nation in flames. Large-scale racial injustices will always result in large-scale violence on both sides. Here on planet earth, peace requires justice and justice requires equality. So Israel has still not learned the first and most important thing about democracy, which is the need for equality and justice.

Letter to TIME, March 25, 2012, by Mike Burch

The GOP’s alpha male chauvinists read their Bibles very selectively. The Bible clearly teaches that Christians should always obey their rulers because they’re appointed by God (the “divine right of kings”) and must always pay their taxes (“render unto Caesar”). But of course Republicans praise the American founding fathers for refusing to pay their taxes, and for going to war with King George. But when it comes to their own imperialistic rule over women, everything changes, and verses that aren’t even in the Bible (“contraception is a sin”) are invoked. According to Richard the Zion-hearted, women should either give up sex entirely, or have as many babies as nature dictates (pun intended). How can we prevent these new King Georges from sending women back to the Dark Ages? Vote for Democrats until they recover their lost marbles.

Letter to TIME, March 8, 2012, by Mike Burch

Family values, oh really? While conservative Christians rally behind Rick Santorum because of his “values,” even a cursory examination of those “values” raises huge questions. It seems clear from his 2008 speech at Ave Maria College and other public statements that he considers Americans who use contraceptives to be deluded by and following the Devil. Thus, he wants to make contraception illegal as a way of stopping Satan in his tracks. He also speaks bellicosely of going to war with Iran, and of “spiritual warfare.” So it seems he would force women to have as many babies as nature dictates (please pardon the pun), then send their babies off to war in the Middle East when they reach fighting age. Granted, this is what the Roman Catholic church did during the Crusades, but are these the “family values” of most American women—to breed Holy Warriors for the glory of church and state?

Letter to TIME, March 20, 2010, by Mike Burch

Bobby Ghosh’s article about the Catholic Church ("Sins of the Fathers") raises a new theological conundrum: if someone confesses to an unrepentant pedophile, does it count?

Letter to The Tennessean, February 18, 2010, by Mike Burch

If Americans must elect celebrities, shouldn’t they at least pick well-informed, well-spoken ones? According to The Tennessean, Sarah Palin is "unconventional" and "unpredictable" with "striking good looks." Well, so is Paris Hilton.

Letter to The Tennessean, May 3, 2011, by Mike Burch

Israel's government has publicly admitted that it is practicing apartheid, even though Jimmy Carter was roundly denounced for using the term in the title of his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. The Afrikaans word "apartheid" means "separation." So does the Hebrew word "hafrada," which is being used by Israeli officials to discuss government policies. Why did Israel criticize South Africa for practicing "separation" when its own government officially practices "separation"? Israel calls the wall it built to annex land in the West Bank the Hafrada Wall, which means the same thing as "Apartheid Wall." Defensive walls are built along legal borders, but Israel's highly offensive wall snakes through Occupied Palestine, stealing land and water resources from Palestinians, while separating them from their farms, olive groves, schools, hospitals, places of worship, families and friends. Pregnant mothers, unborn babies and small children are dying in the shadows of those dividing, conquering, killing walls. According to international law, Israel should build its wall along its borders (established by the UN in 1967), and remove its "settlers" (who are actually robber barons) from the land they stole from an increasingly destitute people: millions of them completely innocent women and children.

Letter to The Tennessean, July 21, 2010, by Mike Burch

Sarah Palin is a poet. No, make that a Poet with a capital "P." She is a Poet of Rare Magnitude. At times she rivals Yoda, and we all know how wise he is. At other times, being our most spiritual of poets, she easily out-gurus Yogi Bear and Yogi Berra, "without even thinking." But usually she is just absolutely unique: a maverick rogue, in rouge.

Palin is not content to limit herself to ordinary language. No siree! Like all Great Poets she invents new, breathtaking words. Has there ever been a more spectacular coinage than "refudiate"? When asked to explain what would have been a verbal gaffe for anyone else, Palin displayed the luminosity of her intellect, while artfully belittling and shaming her naysayers, by saying: "Refudiate, misunderestimate, wee-wee'd up. English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin words, too. Got to celebrate it!" In the process she either created another new nonsense word, "misunderestimate," or borrowed it from another well-known charismatic moron, whose identity must be concealed, to protect the ignorant.

Like George W. Bush, Palin seems intent on taking Yoda-speak to new heights. She is also the inventor of a new type of Yoda-ism I have dubbed the "Palin-drone." A palindrome (with a lower case "p" and an "m") makes sense whether one reads the letters backwards or forwards. One of the cleverest palindromes of all time was a campaign slogan for Teddy Roosevelt: "A man, a plan, a canal: Panama." But a Palin-drone (with an upper case "P" and an "n") makes no sense, regardless of anything the reader does. For example: "Our opponent is someone who sees America as imperfect."

This is the same as saying we are our own worst enemy, which in the case of a Palin-led dumb-ocracy would undoubtedly be the case.

Letter to The Tennessean, February 9, 2010, by Mike Burch

As with her polemics on chastity, Sarah Palin’s words have come back to haunt her like avenging angels (or perhaps more like angry, anti-hypocrisy poltergeists). Should a cutesy-pie bimbo cheerleader with crib notes scrawled on her palms criticize the class nerd for more intelligently using a teleprompter?

Letter to The Tennessean, January 18, 2010, by Mike Burch

The solution to Haiti’s main problem (devil worship) is obvious. We should send Pat Robertson there, like an avenging angel. Robertson can pray for even more terrible earthquakes to pummel the remaining children of Haiti until the adults finally repent and "believe." How many children will have to suffer and die, and how many adults will have to burn in hell for all eternity, until sufficient numbers of Haitians have converted to Christianity? God only knows. Once Haitians have exchanged their inferior gods for the superior Christian god (the one who maims, kills and tortures people for not "believing" in him, even though he deigns to introduce himself personally), all Haiti’s other problems will be miraculously solved, just as ours have been! Er, scratch that last thought. I just checked and it seems that, despite the fact that over 90% of Americans believe furiously in the correct God, none of our problems have been solved. Perhaps having the "only true religion" isn’t quite the panacea I had assumed.

Letter to The Washington Times, July 31, 2010, by Mike Burch

I was disturbed by the hysterical opprobrium I discovered on the front page of Friday’s Commentary section. According to Tom Tancredo, President Obama is a “dedicated Marxist” and the first American president ever to assume more powers than those granted him by the Constitution. (Oh, really?) According to Jeffery Kuhner, Barack Obama is a gangster, traitor, Balkanizer, socialistic dictator, babykiller, the anti-Christ and—one must assume—Beelzebub in human clothing. (I’m reminded of Goebbels spewing vile filth. Methinks the laddie protests too much.)

Since I live in Tennessee and seldom read The Washington Times, I hadn’t realized it had become such a (what’s the polite word?) debacle. Can just any Chicken Little run around screaming, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” and expect to see his name heading the marquee? Does a once-respected newspaper now specialize in printing hissy fits and nanny-nanny-boo-boo namecalling? (Ooopsy-daisy! My bad! I made the mistake of assuming that The Washington Times had, at one time, been a respectable newspaper. But I did a quick bit of research and discovered that the Times was founded by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon for the express purpose of propagating far-right "Christian" propaganda. Mr. Moon now claims that his deceased son exists on a higher spiritual plane than Jesus Christ. Sheesh!)

While I am not a practicing Christian, I feel quite certain the Good Lord must have brought this abysmal situation to my attention for a reason. I rather doubt The Washington Times will grant me equal time (since I’m not an hysterical lunatic), so I will be concise: President Barack Obama really is “the smartest man in the room.” He can outdo Republican morons (er, “politicians”) like Sarah Palin, even in the straightjackets his detractors force him to don, seemingly in the hope the United States will implode before he can save it. But he will succeed, so get over it.

You can now resume your tantrums.

Letter to The Tennessean, July 15, 2010, by Mike Burch

The NAACP didn’t call the tea party movement a racist movement. The NAACP cautioned the tea party movement to be cognizant of “racist elements” within. That’s like me cautioning a friend to be aware that he sometimes does rash things when he drinks. “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” It seems the NAACP just gave friendly advice to people who would do well to consider it.

The chief spokesperson for the tea party movement, Sarah Palin, has said that we should bomb Iran and must “support” Israel at all costs, even though Israel practices systematic racism and injustice against Palestinians on a daily basis. If anyone wants evidence of racism in the tea party movement, just consider how her rabid warmongering sounds to nearly two billion Muslims.

Letter to The Tennessean, July 20, 2010, by Mike Burch

Many Americans seem to believe there is a monolithic religion called “Islam” which causes Muslims to hate Americans, to despise our “values” and to want to kill us for irrational reasons. But Syria’s government just banned the wearing of the niqab. Other predominately Muslim nations like Turkey have attempted to prevent or discourage the wearing of veils and headscarves by Muslim women. So obviously there isn’t a monolithic Islam, after all.

Not so very long ago, Christian Puritans dressed only in black and white, abhorred musical instruments, and put red-hot pokers through the cheeks and tongues of peaceable Quakers. The first American “freedom of religion” colonies — Providence, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania — were created largely to allow other Christians to escape the repressiveness of the Puritans.

We don’t damn all Christians for the excesses of the Puritans. So there is no reason to damn all Muslims for the actions of extremists. And we need to keep in mind that Christianity has ameliorated since the days when “heretics” and “witches” were burned at the stake. Does it make sense to assume that only Christians are capable of positive change, or is that symptomatic of bigotry and intolerance?

Letter to The Tennessean, June 13, 2010, by Mike Burch

Thank heaven for John McCain! While I didn’t vote for McCain, primarily because I didn’t agree with him on the wisdom of keeping American troops in Iraq for decades and because I didn’t think Sarah Palin was qualified to be second-in-line for the presidency, I do admire McCain for his obvious patriotism. He clearly wants what is best for our country, and doesn’t stoop to lying about Democrats in order to help get Republicans elected, even himself. Unfortunately, many conservatives feel free to slander President Obama publicly. As a result, a recent Harris poll indicates that 40% of Americans believe he’s socialist, 32% think he’s a Muslim, and 24% of Republicans say he’s the “Antichrist.”

John McCain has repeatedly rejected such slanderous insinuations, pointing out that Obama is a good American, a good father, and a good Christian man. Personally, it wouldn’t bother me if Barack Obama was a Muslim, as long as he was also a patriotic American, like John McCain. What bothers me is that so many “Bible-believing” conservatives feel free to spread vile lies and ludicrous gossip, rather than following McCain’s far better example.

Letter to The Tennessean, April 21, 2010, by Mike Burch

There’s a world of difference between Sarah Palin’s “tea parties” and the original one. The American patriots who threw the Boston Tea Party opposed taxation without representation, and scuttled tea belonging to the British monarchy and its hirelings. But these new “tea parties” involve Americans dumping their own goods, at considerable expense to themselves. Whatever happened to the basic premise of democracy, which is that everyone should have a vote, with the will of the majority becoming the law of the land? What happens when fifty states have fifty armed militias, each opposing every edict of the federal government with violent force? Then the terrorists will have a field day. It’s time to recognize the “tea party” movement for what it is: the collective temper tantrum of disgruntled “conservatives” unwilling to accept majority rule, led by a ludicrous Robin Hood without an arrow in her quiver.

Letter to The Tennessean, March 2, 2010, by Mike Burch

I believe Leonard Pitts hit the nail on the head with his perceptive article “Tea Party members can’t accept change.” The real problem isn’t overt racism (although latent racism is undoubtedly a factor), but fear and trembling on the part of people who resist change like the very Devil. Conservatives by nature and definition want to conserve: to keep things the same. They’d rather cling to failed policies and settle for second-rate thinkers like George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, than accept that the world changes and human evolution continues. Conservative pundits prey on their fears because doing so makes them fabulously rich and famous. So the rich, famous Chicken Littles cry “The sky is falling!” and everyone else mills around in fear and despair. It’s not a pretty picture.

Letter to The Tennessean, August 1, 2010, by Mike Burch

The fiercest attack of the Christian faith

Faith-launched attacks are nothing new. I once edited the autobiography of a Hiroshima survivor, Takashi Tanemori, who came to America seeking vengeance only to succumb to radiation poisoning. Fortunately, a Christian nurse helped him in his time of need. Impressed by her good example, Takashi became a Christian, then enrolled in a conservative Bible seminary. There, he experienced one act of racism after another. On the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Takashi saw Protestant pastors-to-be celebrating the death of a Catholic president.

Takashi eventually left the ministry, in disgust.

I still shudder to think of what happens to gay children in Christian churches, as their pastors and parents condemn them to an “eternal hell” that was never mentioned by the Hebrew prophets. But it’s not just homosexuals who suffer, because the churches I attended as a boy clearly taught that sexual desire is “evil” unless it’s sanctioned by marriage. Boys are logical creatures, so we all knew we were condemned to “hell,” with no way to escape it, since we wouldn’t be able to marry until our twenties or thirties. The worst thing by far was that our irrational mothers agreed with our irrational pastors.

The most fearsome attack of the Christian faith is launched against young, sensitive, highly impressionable children, by their parents and pastors.

Letter to The Tennessean, July 27, 2010, by Mike Burch

The Great Flood (of Irrational Fear)

I continue to suffer from the “shock and awe” of reading the vile bilge I discovered on the front page of Friday’s Commentary section of The Washington Times. Tom Tancredo accused President Obama of being a “dedicated Marxist.” Jeffery Kuhner in effect called Barack Obama a gangster, traitor, Balkanizer, socialistic dictator, etc.

Are these “facts”?

If not, are the editors of The Washington Times doing their jobs? After all, their guidelines for submissions clearly state: “Fact check before you submit.”

I’m an editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry. When I give writers my editorial guidelines, I not only expect them to abide by those guidelines, I take the time to carefully read their submissions. I only publish writing that meets the standards expressed in my guidelines. If I see things that don’t meet my guidelines, I either decline to publish the work, or I work with the writers to eliminate any problems that would preclude publication.

In other words, I edit, because that’s my job. I have never made a penny for any of the editing I’ve done (I own a computer software company that pays my bills). I edit because I’m passionate about good writing. But I am also diligent.

I live in Nashville, Tennessee. I and my neighbors recently experienced the Great Nashville Flood, which was a very real event. We met the flood with courage, resolve and determination not to let the flood overwhelm and master us.

It seems to me that The Washington Times may be either succumbing or pandering to a Great Flood of Irrational Fear. Or perhaps the editors of The Washington Times have merely leaned too far in the direction of freedom of speech. There are discernable differences between facts, opinions, outright lies and character assassination. Wise, intelligent, diligent editors should be able to separate the wheat from the chaff.

I hope the editors of The Washington Times will be both passionate and diligent, in the future.

Letter to The Tennessean, July 18, 2010, by Mike Burch

Mona Charen and William Haupt the Third should take “chill pills.” The NAACP didn’t call the tea party movement “racist” but merely pointed out that it contains “racist elements,” which it obviously does. Organizers of tea party events have themselves openly admitted seeing white supremacists crawling out of the woodwork. When a group’s calling card is maverick radicalism, it’s bound to attract radicals the way flames attract moths. No one is calling the movement itself the devil, but quite obviously the tea partiers need to beware of certain nefarious imps in their midst.

Letter to The Tennessean, July 16, 2010, by Mike Burch

The death toll of American soldiers in Afghanistan is the highest it’s ever been and senior generals are telling us to expect even higher casualties. The Taliban is clearly targeting our NATO allies, knowing they’re close to calling it quits and leaving Americans to fight and die by themselves. What will happen seems obvious: first our allies will abandon the sinking ship, then eventually we will too, just as we did in Vietnam. But how many American soldiers must die, be maimed, or end up psychologically devastated, before our government finally admits what everyone already knows?

Is there any “honor” in sending our troops to suffer and die, when the “cause” is not only hopeless, but no one even knows what it is? Our goals in Afghanistan are clearly contradictory. We want to “win” the war and preserve American “honor” but we don’t want to cause civilian deaths because that’s not honorable, so we force our soldiers to fight with one hand tied behind their backs, which means they can’t defeat the Taliban. And we’re not really fighting the terrorists who attacked us; for the most part we’re fighting fiercely patriotic Afghanis who want to defend their homeland from foreign invaders.

When a Senator like Bob Corker says even he can’t understand our “incredibly vague” strategy, we should all question why our soldiers are risking life, limb and sanity in Afghanistan.

Letter to The Tennessean, July 15, 2010, by Mike Burch

While Ron Paul and Barney Frank may seem like strange bedfellows, their plan to slash military spending by $1 trillion over the next ten years makes perfect sense. After all, if our government goes bankrupt, there will be nothing to “protect.” On the other hand, if we spend enough money to protect ourselves from invasions, but not enough to invade nations like Afghanistan and Iraq, we may find to our surprise that we live in a safer world. One of the main reasons for 9-11 was our government’s bullying of Muslim nations, in the search for “cheaper” and “more secure” sources of oil. But all our government did was drive the price of oil sky-high with its military adventurism, then the drastically higher price of oil led to more “adventurous” drilling for oil in the Gulf, which of course led to the BP oil spill.

Letter to The Tennessean, July 31, 2010, by Mike Burch

Rev. Locke, repent!

As I read Kenneth Locke’s article encouraging Christians to welcome Muslims with open arms, I was struck, full force, by the terrible problems he’s creating for Jesus Christ. After all, Locke is asking Christians to be more tolerant than God!

This will not do!

How can Christians be more tolerant than God? Surely this will upset the moral equilibrium of the universe!

Christians of yore who burned heretics at the stake understood the schizophrenic nature of Jesus, who was full of compassion one minute (such as when he rescued the adulteress from religious fanatics who were about to stone her to death), then a demon the next (such as in the Revelation of John of Patmos, who said Jesus would murder the children of an adulteress, presumably for the “sin” of being related to her).

Of course if men were to murder children because their mothers had sex, we’d lock them up and throw away the key. But God has given Jesus free rein to murder people who don’t “believe” in him, then send them to an “eternal hell.” And according to most Christians, Muslims are at the top of his “hit list.”

So Rev. Locke, please don’t show Jesus up, by being more loving, compassionate and tolerant than God Himself! If the Bible is “infallible” and Christianity is the only true religion, isn’t it obvious that Christians should also practice intolerance?

Or did Christian theologians make a mistake, somewhere?

Letter to The Tennessean, July 31, 2010, by Mike Burch

I’m still scratching my head over Kenneth Locke’s article about Christians accepting Muslim imams with open arms. It seems to me that Locke probably is wonderfully accommodating of Muslim imams, at the expense of the children sitting in his own pews. But on the chance that I may be wrong about Locke, please allow me to invent a fictitious pastor, called Cluck, for purposes of illustration.

My fine-feathered friend Cluck has an existential dilemma. He knows the Bible is far from “infallible” and no longer believes that anyone goes to “hell” because “hell” was a very late, very clumsy addition to the Bible. After all, the God of the Hebrew Bible and his prophets never breathed a word about “hell” to Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Moses, David, et al. So Cluck can embrace Muslims, knowing there’s no reason to believe people go to “hell” for not believing in Jesus.

But Cluck is not nearly as kind to the children sitting in his pews, because he has bills to pay and he needs their parents’ money. So Cluck condemns them all to a “hell” he no longer believes in himself, because that’s what Christian pastors do. If the children are especially bright and sensitive, as I was when Christian Clucks condemned me to “hell” in the name of God, they will suffer the most exquisite torture, but what do Clucks care?

It’s a strange religion that compels pastors to have more compassion for the adults of other faiths, than for the children of their faith. And what do Clucks tell their own children, I wonder? It seems to me that a Christian Cluck must either lie to his own children, and so convince them they’re in danger of a nonexistent “hell,” or admit that he’s a fraud, which is difficult for fathers to do.

If Christian Clucks were wise they would never have children, but the Clucks who squawked about “hell” to me were hardly oracles of divine wisdom.

Letter to The Tennessean, July 21, 2010, by Mike Burch

Last night I had a wonderfully encouraging dream, which I’d like to share it with others who may be in need of a “lift.”

I sometimes have dreams that come true. I hope this is one of them. As an example of my “ability,” in 2004 I had a dream in which the Tennessee Titans scored 48 points. This was during a season when the Titans struggled mightily on offense. The next Titans game was at Green Bay, where no road team had ever scored 48 points at Lambeau Field. But sure enough, the Titans scored exactly 48 points! They hadn’t scored 48 points combined in the previous three games, and they wouldn’t score 48 points combined in the next three games. So my dream coming true was highly unlikely.

In any case, last night I dreamed that I was watching a competition between various American presidents. They were on an obstacle course, and many of them failed to navigate it successfully. But finally Barack Obama took his turn and performed like a virtuoso. Boy, was he moving fast, wowing the audience! I was very, very impressed.

I certainly hope my dream comes true and that President Obama proves to be one of our greatest presidents. Perhaps the “smartest man in the room” may have figured out small things that can make a big difference, such as expressing American support for Israel while holding firm on the point that building settlements in Occupied Palestine is a major impediment to regional peace, and thus to world peace. Hopefully such small changes may pay big dividends in the near future.

Letter to the Montreal Gazette, circa 2009, by T. Merrill

Regarding two recent articles in the Gazette on euthanasia, an editorial in the Sunday edition, and an opinion piece by Henry Aubin published the day before, both hostile to the notion and advising against, and both characterizing euthanasia unflatteringly, the former calling it "planned killing," the latter calling it "legalized killing":

I personally think, as do some friends of mine, that euthanasia should be made available to anyone, for any reason, at any time it is desired, so long as the person opting for it may be assumed to possess a clear understanding of the choice he or she is making and of its irreversible consequences, and can reasonably be assumed to be genuinely committed to that choice. (In the case of children, adolescents, and the immature in general, some method would need to be established for distinguishing passing moods from a more deep-seated, immovable desire to be permanently relieved of the burden of living. I certainly am not advocating that every yeller of "I wish I was dead" should be automatically granted his or her wish).

This means that everyone serious, lucid and cognizant of the price, should have the right to leave life as easily as possible whenever he or she pleases―and not just because of a terminal illness, or because the person is enduring obvious intractable pain. Life is not an elective condition. No one has chosen it. It is imposed on everyone by birth, no one having been consulted beforehand, or asked if he or she would care to enter the state of existence. Everyone is here without his or her consent, and in all fairness, everyone should be accorded, finally, the right to say no to a totally involuntary lot, and access to the easiest and most civilized means of release from it available. Life is precarious, treacherous in the end, and often an affliction and ordeal, and everyone is stuck with the hand he or she is dealt. And too often, the hand picked up is a very bad one indeed.

Religion is not a factor for many. Many do not believe in life after death, and therefore do not regard questions of heaven or hell, or of sin, as relevant to their choices. I certainly do not regard them as relevant to mine. What Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists or Jews might think about the moral character of a choice such as suicide, assisted or not, makes not a whit of difference to me. What does matter to me, is my being allowed the option of escaping, with minimal difficulty and certainly with minimal torture, a place or condition that, for one reason or another, I no longer wish to inhabit or experience. To deny people this right is tantamount to holding them captive against their will. Because life's conditions are imposed, and because one has no obligation to accept them, unconditional euthanasia for all serious petitioners should be wholeheartedly embraced, and concerns about "abuses" should be ignored, as should evaluations of people's motivations for such a choice. Why should anyone else be the one to decide what can validate your desire to vacate the premises? Must one be screaming in pain to qualify for release?

T. Merrill

Letter to the Vatican, circa 2009, by Mike Burch

Dear Vatican,

Please tell fucking Ratzinger/Benedict to let people die without suffering, if they prefer to.

Your friend immortal enemy,
Mike Burch

P.S.—In addition to informing him that euthanasia is not a "sin," can you please have fucking Ratzinger/Benedict stop harping on "be fruitful and multiply," so that fewer of us will be faced with committing Hari Kari in the near future? Here’s a bit of doggerel I penned to help him reflect, repent and gain wisdom:

"Be fruitful and multiply!"
Great advice for a fruitfly,
but for women and men,
Simple Simon, say "When!"

Letter to The Tennessean, January 27, 2010, by Mike Burch

One thing that would make any city a better place to live would be a park or "green zone" where homeless people could go if they were unable or unwilling to live inside four walls. Why not have a park with showers and benches where homeless people are welcome, and most of the rules of "polite society" don’t apply? If every city relaxed its "rules of order" within such an area, the homeless would have a place to go where they would be welcome and not forced to conform to rules of society that seem not to work for many of them. Caregivers who are especially empathetic could be hired to administer the area, and the police could leave everyone alone as long as they abstained from physical violence.

Letter to The Tennessean, April 2010, by Mike Burch

I’m very thankful that The Tennessean published Darrell Scott’s piece about his daughter Rachel’s challenge. I think the words of the essay she wrote shortly before her tragic death at Columbine bear repeating: “I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go.” Her second sentence is a poem, and a good one to live by. It is, after all, the message of Jesus and the Hebrew prophets, to practice chesed (mercy, compassion, lovingkindness). It’s always good to do a good deed, but it’s even better to do a good deed in a spirit of tenderness, kindness and compassion. Our schools should not only end the bullying that leads to tragedies like the one at Columbine, but they should also teach classes on compassion from the earliest grades up. Teachers can communicate no more profound knowledge than the benefits of compassion to individuals and human societies. I hope every child (and every adult) will accept Rachel’s Challenge, and help create a chain reaction of kindness.

Letter to The Tennessean, April, 2010, by Mike Burch

Reports by the New York Times and other major publications suggest that the Catholic Church has been shielding pedophiles for decades. Some priests molested hundreds of children, so there are probably thousands of lawsuits yet to be filed against Catholic dioceses. Individual plaintiffs have been awarded settlements in the millions of dollars, so the cumulative cost is immense and continually growing. Will churchgoers continue to tithe, as they see their money disappearing down a bottomless abyss? Now a lawsuit has been filed directly against the Holy See, Pope Benedict XVI and other high-ranking Vatican officials. Will the Catholic Church go bankrupt? One wonders what the papal tiara and scepter might fetch on eBay.

Letter to The Tennessean, January 18, 2010, by Mike Burch

RE: Theological debacle

I sympathize with the Haitian woman who flung her Bible into the fire. She seems more honest than Christian missionaries whose "all-powerful" God controls the elements but can’t control his temper sufficiently to avoid killing innocent children. If men abused and killed children, we’d throw the cretins in jail, then throw away the key. But how many children are suffering and dying in Haiti, today? If God is responsible, doesn’t that make him a child abuser and a child killer? Will Christian missionaries "comfort" suffering Haitians on the verge of death by telling them, "If you don’t believe in the vengeful God who killed your children, he’ll condemn you to hell for all eternity"?

How can such a religion be a comfort to anyone? How can anyone "love" such an unjust "god"? How is such a "god" an improvement on Papa Legba?

It seems the Haitians who subscribe to both Voodoo and Christianity are caught between a rock and a hard place.

Letter to The Tennessean, January 15, 2010, by Mike Burch

RE: Theological debacle

Pat Robertson, the self-proclaimed "prophet," accuses Haitians of being responsible for their most recent, terrible calamity. But innocent animals and babies lie suffering and dying: how can this be "justice"?

When Katrina struck New Orleans, Christians "prophets" instantly declared it the wrath of God against homosexuals, while ignoring the corpses of Christians who had choked to death, suffocating on sewage-ridden stormwater. One of the saintliest men I ever knew died from the aftereffects of swimming through Katrina’s rancid filth to save others. Is there any evidence that heterosexual Christians have any special favor with God, or that changing religious or sexual practices will spare human beings from natural disasters?


None of the victims—Christian or otherwise—deserved such fates. Pat Robertson’s incoherent babble is merely the visible tip of a terrible iceberg created by Christian theologians, when they decided the "grace" of an all-powerful God was reserved for Christians, despite all the stark, manifold evidence to the contrary.

Christian theologians have no explanation for the suffering of innocents. Nature is amoral: to human beings this makes nature seem cruel and unjust. When a religion teaches that an all-powerful God sits in heaven pulling every string, suddenly the suffering of innocents is attributed to God, and God becomes unjust. So Pat Robertson should be careful about accusing other people of "Devil worship." If his God indiscriminately slaughters innocents, what does that make him?

Letter to The Tennessean, January 6, 2010, by Mike Burch

Should fifth-graders be given Bibles by the Cult of Hell, aka Gideons International?

As a fifth-grader, I tested at the reading level of a college sophomore. My delighted parents handed me the Bible, suggesting that I read it from beginning to end. But for the bright, sensitive boy I was at the time, reading page after page of the horrendous atrocities attributed to God and "men of God" like Moses, Joshua and King David was a soul-shattering experience. Moses commanded the slaughter of innocent women and children (Numbers 31) and that rape victims be stoned to death or sold to their rapists (Deuteronomy 22). David killed every woman when he "smote the land" and ordered the slaughter of the lame and blind when Jerusalem was taken from the Jebusites. In his horrific Revelation, John of Patmos said human beings would be tortured with fire and brimstone" in heaven, in the presence of the Lamb and Holy Angels." So much for hell being "separation from God."

Parents should understand what happens when children are subjected to such palpable evil while being told it’s "the word of God." Do the adults at Gideons International have the right to inflict emotional and spiritual abuse on small children? Not in my book.

Letter to The Tennessean, January 6, 2010, by Mike Burch

RE: Chicken Little and the Clucks

Conservative pundits continue to imitate Chicken Little—wailing "The sky is falling!"—while insisting that Americans must sacrifice our way of life and our highest ideals in the mad dash to avoid an imminent Armageddon.

Cal Thomas clucks fearfully that our choice is between "freedom" and "slavery," insinuating that Al-Qaida will soon have Americans in chains. But of course his fears are irrational. Our navy is more powerful than the next 13 largest navies in the world combined. Al-Qaida could no more take over the U.S. than I could defeat the entire Tennessee Titans football team singlehandedly in a scrimmage. While a motley flotilla of pirate tubs might manage to board an occasional ship and hold it for ransom, no nation on earth has the ability to send troops through our defenses and "enslave" us. Furthermore, as a Chinese leader once pointed out, Americans own so many weapons that defeating our armed forces would be only the beginning of an invader’s woes.

Robert McNamara recently admitted the main premise of the Vietnamese war was bogus. The greater world was never in imminent peril, just because the government of South Vietnam might have changed hands. The "domino theory" was a symptom of incipient paranoia. Now once again we have legions of pundits crying that the sky is falling, when it obviously isn’t. Shame on them, and shame on us for believing them. The real danger is that the U.S. will make the wrong decisions, abuse its power, and end up causing multitudes of unnecessary deaths, just as we did in Vietnam.

Letter to The Tennessean, January 6, 2010, by Mike Burch

RE: The fog of war

The five detained men who claim not to be terrorists because they intended to fight against coalition forces in Pakistan have a point. It’s all too easy to label every opponent of the United States a "terrorist," as if to disagree strongly with the United States is automatically "evil." Some Muslims call the United States "the Great Satan." Many Christians slap convenient labels on Muslims. Demonizing one’s enemies is a longstanding human tradition.

But the pictures generated by war are always murky. The CIA has been using unmanned robotic drones to target "enemy commanders" in Pakistan. But not only "enemy commanders" are being killed. Innocent women and children have been killed in attacks launched at funerals and other domestic congregations. What would Americans say if our women and children were being killed as they grieved for their lost loved ones at funerals? As we demonize our enemies and justify our own atrocities, we sink deeper and deeper into the fog of war. Killing women and children is just as wrong when we do it, as when our enemies do it. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that Pakistan is ostensibly our ally, not our enemy. What would we say if our citizens were being killed in attacks sanctioned by the Mexican government? Of course Americans would be lining up, volunteering to retaliate.

Letter to The Tennessean, January 3, 2010, by Mike Burch

On December 29, 1890, an estimated 3,000 Sioux Indians were massacred at Wounded Knee. The prevailing fiction was that white settlers had a "manifest destiny" to own (i.e., steal) Indian land. If Native Americans had to walk a Trail of Tears, that was self-evidently "the will of God." So much for equal rights, truth, justice and the American way: they all flew out the window whenever settlers spied "free" land. But it came at a terrible price: the blood of innocents.

Today Israel just reasserted its "manifest destiny" to colonize Palestinian land. But there is a crucial difference: the Palestinians have 1.8 billion Muslim brothers and sisters who deny Jews any "God-given" right to take land that means life to millions of innocent women and children.

This time American troops are vastly outnumbered and we have no taste for more wars on Muslim soil. Wouldn’t we do far better to learn from history: who can afford the blood of innocents? And what will the ultimate cost be, to our own innocents, if Israeli settlers keep claiming "free" land, at our expense?

This land is not "free," but incredibly expensive to Palestinians, Americans and the world. Should world peace be held hostage for the sake of 700 Israeli settlers, when much of the land taken from the Palestinians in 1948 lies fallow to this day, inside Israel? Israel has more land than it can use; why then this inexplicable appetite for Palestinian land?

Letter to The Tennessean, November 10, 2009, by Mike Burch

RE: Three Holocausts: One Fell Purpose

In 1936 Hitler created the SS-Totenkopfverbände (the SS Death’s Head Division) to guard Nazi concentration camps. A hundred years earlier, in 1836, Fort Armistead soldiers became the jailers of Native Americans. In both cases the goal was the same: Nazis demanded "Lebensraum" (living space) from "inferior" races, while white Americans demanded Indian land as their "manifest destiny." The people who stood in the way—even women and children—were soon trampled underfoot in horrifically bloody land grabs. Now Americans mourn the fates of Indians who walked the Trail of Tears, and of Jews who endured the horrors of the Holocaust, but they continue to fund and support the latest Holocaust: the Nakba ("Catastrophe") of the Palestinians. Yes, we should honor and mourn the fallen, but far more importantly, we should save and comfort the living. Until we learn this simple lesson, we will continue to see the corpses of women and children mount to the skies, as the 1.5 million inhabitants of Gaza now "live" (if we can call it that) on the margins of existence. I’m a Holocaust poetry editor with Cherokee ancestors, and it shames and galls me that my government continues to inflict such unbelievable horrors on innocent women and children, to this day. Why bother to mourn the dead, if we are going to perpetrate similar horrors on the living?

Letter to The Tennessean, September 11, 2009, by Mike Burch

September 11 is a day to mourn and honor our fallen dead. But when this day of solemn remembrance is over, Americans must consider what we can do together to prevent such attacks in the future.

Pundits like Cal Thomas and politicians like Jim Cooper blithely and dangerously ignore the all-too-obvious reasons for the 9-11 attacks: our government’s support of Israel’s brutal, racist Injustice Machine, and our incessant interference in the internal affairs of Muslim nations, primarily due to American "interests" in their oil fields. Do we allow them "interests" in our wheat fields? Now the price of oil has soared, and we would obviously be far better off today if we had simply paid the going price for oil and saved the lives and money we’ve wasted so heedlessly and so needlessly.

Unless Americans educate themselves and understand that Muslims have completely legitimate fears and grievances which simply must be addressed, another event like 9-11 seems inevitable. The next one may lead to World War III and a nuclear holocaust. Palestinian children are being spat on and cursed by Jewish "settlers" and the Israeli soldiers who protect the robber barons rather than their innocent victims. When elderly Palestinians die, Jewish "settlers" who scan obituary columns daily for fresh victims show up with bulldozers and mallets to destroy their homes and claim them as "unoccupied," before their families can mourn their passing. If such things were happening to our loved ones, we too would be raining down missiles on Israel, only far more accurately and unremittingly.

Letter to The Tennessean, April 29, 2009, by Mike Burch

Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. It has been suggested on the pages of The Tennessean that torture is a matter of little or no concern. Please pardon the mixed metaphors, but can overly picky Americans be making mountains of molehills?

I submit that we all know torture is wrong, because we don’t want our loved ones to be tortured. Humane shelters prove Americans really do care about cruelty, even to animals. And as sure as the sun rises and sets, we know it’s wrong for American soldiers to be tortured.

Suppose an attack had been launched by terrorists based in London, and Britain refused to let us blow them to kingdom come, because innocent Londoners might die. Suppose we went to war with Britain, while Princess Diana was alive and visiting Nashville. Would we strip her naked, make her crawl around on all fours, and waterboard her hundreds of times, on the chance that she might know something about the terrorists? Of course not.

The debate has little to do with torture, which we all know is wrong, and much to do with the great American creed. Do we really believe all human beings are equal, or are some of us somehow "more equal"? What would Jesus say about Americans singing, "God Bless America," then only torturing dark-skinned people from Middle Eastern countries?

Letter to The Tennessean, April 29, 2009, by Mike Burch (excerpted in TIME magazine)

Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. The Bush administration struggled mightily with the question of how far interrogators can go before their tactics constitute "torture." In a recent Esquire interview a Bush advisor, John Yoo, publically confessed the tremendous struggle he underwent before finally "seeing the light." Yoo’s "eureka" was that inhumane treatment, however reprehensible, is not "torture" if it doesn’t result in organ failure, permanent damage, or death.

According to Yoo’s yahoo logic, yanking out a boy’s teeth constitutes "torture," since permanent damage results, but yanking out his fingernails doesn’t, since fingernails grow back. To paraphrase a basketball catchphrase: "No permanent harm, no foul!"

In such mighty strugglings over semantics, something essential is lost: how do we want our soldiers—our own children!— to be treated? Do we want their teeth yanked out, or their fingernails? Of course not.

All interrogators should have one simple, golden rule: "Don’t do anything to anyone that you wouldn’t want done to yourself, or your loved ones."

At the end of World War II, Germans on the eastern front fled west in order to surrender to Americans rather than Russians, believing they would be treated humanely. Instead of torturing them, we offered them the Marshall Plan, a shining moment in American history. I, for one, hate to see the goodwill of those good and valiant men squandered in dark, evil torture chambers.

Letter to The Tennessean, January 31, 2010, by Mike Burch

All the boys I knew became sex addicts when we reached puberty, so I find "experts" debating whether such an addiction exists rather amusing.

Unfortunately, many of us went through severe emotional trauma when we reached puberty, thanks to our mothers and pastors, although of course we didn’t understand what was happening to us at the time. Our "Christian" society remains deeply rooted in Puritanism and the strange idea that after God gave human beings sexual desire, he became enraged when men merely looked at women (since Jesus said thinking about sex is the same as committing adultery, and the Bible says all adulterers go to the lake of fire). Is thinking about sex a crime worthy of eternal damnation? According to the Bible, yes.

Christian theologians can't think their way out of wet paper bags. They say homosexuals can't go to heaven unless they "repent." But of course no boy truly "repents" of his sexual fantasies, and the Holy Spirit doesn't "cure" sexual desire, because human sexual desire is not a disease. So in their lust to condemn homosexuals to an eternal hell, Christian pastors and mothers unwittingly condemn their own children to hell.

Should Christian mothers torture their children in this life, by teaching them God will torture them in the next? Is this fair to innocent children? Having been a boy judged "evil" by an irrational, compassionless religion, I find it horribly unfair for mothers to have human children, then condemn them for not having been born sexless angels. Perhaps one day they’ll stop torturing us and we’ll behave better.

Letter to The Tennessean, January 31, 2010, by Mike Burch

Bob Smietana’s article on the Church of Christ was fascinating. But it calls to question whether our famously "free" and "independent" press is either free or independent. The Tennessean runs one article after another about the goings-on at local Christian churches. But has The Tennessean ever reported the emotional and spiritual abuse suffered by thousands of Nashville-area children on a weekly basis, when they’re told human beings will be damned to an "eternal hell" for (take your pick): wearing shorts, being gay, having sex outside marriage, or just fantasizing about sex before marriage (since Jesus said lust is the same as adultery, and the Bible says all adulterers go to the lake of fire)?

According to our wonderful churches and wise pastors, if a young girl questions Christian dogma and chooses not to believe that "Jesus saves," she will be condemned to "hell" for having the audacity to think for himself!

Is this not brainwashing of innocent, highly impressionable young children?

What sort of newspaper prints one article after another about child abusers, and never says a word on behalf of the children being abused?

Is this the best a "free, independent" press can do for our children?

Letter to The Tennessean, January 30, 2010, by Mike Burch

Bubba’s Dilemma . . .

Americans incapable of self-examination or reflection will continue to misunderstand Osama bin Laden when he says Americans will suffer as long as Palestinian women and children continue to suffer. Therefore our government will continue to pour money and advanced weapons into Israel, while vetoing U.N. resolutions that might check Israel’s reign of terror. Thus Israel will continue to abuse, degrade and kill Palestinian women and children with impunity.

Perhaps we Tennessee rednecks might "get" bin Laden’s point if we rephrased things like this: "Bubba, think of the biggest, baddest man you know—the one you’d never want to tangle with in a million years. Now, what would happen if you beat and humiliated his mother, wife, sisters and children on a daily basis?"

"Duh, he’d kick my stupid butt!"

Exactly, Bubba. Now you get the picture.

Men like bin Laden will never accept the bizarre idea that Jews and Americans should be allowed to abuse Palestinians because God "loves" Jews and Christians and it is their "Manifest Destiny" to tell other people where and how to live (or die). Muslims know full well what "Manifest Destiny" did to Native Americans who walked the Trail of Tears, to Australian aborigines, and to black Africans.

Osama bin Laden "gets" it, Bubba. You’re the one with ADD.

It’s time to "get a clue," Bubba. If you care about your women and children, tell your stupid government to stop harming theirs.

Letter to The Tennessean, January 31, 2010, by Mike Burch

All orthodox Christian churches such as the Church of Christ and the Southern Baptists face the same problem, and it’s a lot bigger than whether people go to hell for wearing shorts. The really big problem is hell itself. The early Christians thought "all the world" was a fringe of communities surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. But the world was a lot bigger than they realized. The Americas wouldn’t be discovered for another 1,500 years. If belief in Jesus was required for salvation, what happened to millions of Native Americans who had never heard of Jesus? If they didn’t go to hell for not believing in Jesus because they hadn’t heard of him, the worst thing anyone could have done was mention Jesus to them, since his name flung open the gates of hell. If they went to hell and Jesus hadn’t bothered to speak to them personally despite his superpowers (which presumably include the ability to communicate), then Jesus is neither "just" nor "good."

When "hell" was clumsily cobbled into the later-written books of the Bible (the Old Testament and the earliest-written Christian texts, the epistles of Paul, never mention a place called "hell"), Christian theologians turned Jesus into a unjust tyrant who petulantly condemns billions of souls to eternal suffering for not "believing" in him. Churches that preach this infernal gospel will continue to shrink because people with hearts and brains want to believe something better. The result will be small, clannish Christian churches with ghetto mentalities, all trying furiously to believe the correct dogma in order to be "saved" from a "loving" God, which of course makes no sense, and never has.

Excerpts from a continuing dispute, circa August 2009

"I desire mercy, not sacrifice."—Yahweh aka Jehovah
"Who the fuck cares what fucking mass murders desire?"—Mike Burch

Anyone who quibbles with my calling Yahweh/Jehovah a mass murderer should read Numbers 31, in which his prize pupil Moses commanded the slaughter of captured women and male babies, with only virgin girls being kept alive (obviously as sex slaves). Or please peruse Deuteronomy 22, where Moses commanded that girls who had been raped must be stoned to death or sold to their rapists (whereafter they could be raped "legally" the rest of their lives). Christians call King David the "man after God's own heart," but according to the Bible, David killed every woman when he "smote the land" and he ordered the slaughter of the lame and blind when Jerusalem was taken from the Jebusites. He never "repented," but remained a hypocritical backstabbing murderer to the bitter end, because with his dying breath David commanded the assassination of Joab, ostensibly because Joab had "shed innocent blood." But it was David who had awarded Joab the captaincy of his armies for butchering the handicapped! Like mass murdering, backstabbing heavenly father, like sons. Et tu, Yahweh?

Letter to The Tennessean, February 11, 2010, by Mike Burch

After Binyam Mohammed was tortured, having been subjected to "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by United States authorities," with the complicity of the British MI5, the charges against him were dropped and he was released. Let me repeat: the charges against him were dropped and he was released.

The problem with torturing people is that torture is a primitive, barbaric, error-prone effort to extract information the torturer only suspects his victim of knowing. If the torturer knew anything beyond a shadow of a doubt, he wouldn’t have to torture his victim.

How would we feel if someone suspected our loved ones of "knowing something," then tortured them to obtain a "confession"?

Letter to The Tennessean, February 10, 2010, by Mike Burch

Religion continues to play an important role in American politics, as evidenced by the appearance of Sarah Palin at a Nashville "tea party." Palin is, of course, the darling of the Religious Right. Like many evangelical Christians, she "knows" that non-heterosexuals who don’t "repent" will go to an "eternal hell," along with the saints of other religions like Gandhi and the Dalai Lama. But not long ago, Christians "knew" that the earth was flat, that the sun revolved around the earth, and that slavery was "the will of God." After all, they found these "truths" in the Bible.

Now 230,000 Haitians lie dead. If Jesus Christ is an all-wise, all-powerful God able to control the elements, this means he deliberately murdered them. How then is human life sacred, according to God?

Obviously, Palin and friends don’t know the mind of God. Their certitude on matters of homosexuality, chastity, abortion, etc., is laughable. If God is all-powerful, he certainly doesn’t consider human life "sacred." The Bible doesn’t say human life is sacred, but that God can murder whomever he pleases. Obviously, it’s human beings who value human life.

The Religious Right seems incapable of admitting what they obviously don’t know. This is why many of us see Palin – the poster child for the Religious Right – as a danger to the United States. Her ignorance and credulity are frightening.

Letter to The Tennessean, February 2, 2010, by Mike Burch

Americans are understandably upset about their money being squandered and their wishes ignored. But we only get one vote, so we have to make it count. If we want positive change, we should tell ALL politicians that to earn our votes they must do three things:

(1) First, bring our troops home, now. The premise of the Vietnam war was fallacious. Obviously, the nations of the world didn’t topple like dominoes when South Vietnam fell. Well, the rest of the world won’t collapse if Iraq or Afghanistan fall. No Muslim nation has the remotest ability to invade a Western superpower. So we can bolster our defenses and keep our troops at home, where they belong.

(2) We must immediately stop funding and supporting the ongoing Holocaust of the Palestinians. When we provide hundreds of billions of dollars in financial aid and advanced weapons to a racist, brutal Israeli regime that abuses and humiliates innocent women and children on a daily basis, of course the men who love them are going to attack us. We would do the same thing if the roles were reversed.

(3) We must stop meddling in the Middle East. The price of oil has not gone down, but has skyrocketed up. Our government can barely manage its own affairs. We can save money and lives by simply paying the going price for oil on the free market.

If we want peace and prosperity, we must make our votes count.

Letter to The Tennessean, January 28, 2010, by Mike Burch

Should the Bible be taught in public schools, or handed out to innocent schoolchildren who will be haunted for life if they read it and understand what it actually says?

How would Christians feel if Nazis were allowed to "teach" Mein Kampf to their children? Obviously there’s a serious problem when "true believers" are allowed to indoctrinate young children into horrifically erroneous beliefs. The Bible teaches that racism, sexism, religious intolerance, slavery, homophobia, discriminating against the handicapped, ethnic cleansing and genocide are the "will of God" whenever any two-bit, woman-killing barbarian like Moses or David says so. But anyone can say "God told me to do it." That’s what serial killers like the Son of Sam say.

The Bible is a profoundly flawed book full of palpably evil verses. But most Christian teachers won’t admit this to students because it’s what they "believe." How can they contradict "God" when "God" says evil is good?

Germans "knew" Hitler was "right" when he preached racism, intolerance and world domination. The God of the Bible preaches exactly the same things: racism (Jews are favored), religious intolerance (Christians are favored) and world domination (Jesus Christ will return to slaughter billions of non-Christians and send them to "hell," then kiss away tears from the eyes of obedient Christians only).

The Tennessee Board of Education should note that even Gideons International doesn’t hand out the Old Testament to young children. But actually the New Testament is even worse, since it introduces the bizarre idea that non-Christians go to an "eternal hell." Revelation concludes with human beings being tortured with fire and brimstone "in the presence of the Lamb and Holy Angels." Do we want highly impressionable young children to believe heaven is another Guantanamo Bay, run by a more powerful Hitler called "God"?

Letter to The Tennessean, January 24, 2010, by Mike Burch

Why, dear God, Why?

Pat Robertson must be right. Obviously, if Jesus Christ is all-powerful and hundreds of thousands of Haitians now lie decomposing in mass graves—many of them babies and small children—they must have done something to incur his wrath. But then every Christian eventually suffers and dies. So Robertson has not taken his religion to its logical conclusion because eventually Jesus, who could have wriggled his nose and made Robertson eternally young and healthy, will send Robertson to his grave.

Unless Christian theology took a wrong turn, somewhere.

The early Christians claimed Jesus was the Messiah simply because of the resurrection. Anyone who reads the book of Acts—the self-recorded history of the early Christian church—can see this. The Hebrew prophets had predicted the resurrection, and according to Peter, Stephen and Paul, Jesus had fulfilled. those prophecies. But the prophets had never claimed the Messiah would be an all-powerful God with the ability to control the elements.

How can Jesus call for compassion, then turn around and slaughter multitudes of innocents? That would make him a hypocrite, but of course Jesus always reserved his sternest criticism for hypocrites. By turning Jesus—a compassionate man—into an all-powerful God who condemns human beings to an "eternal hell" never mentioned by the God of the Bible, the Hebrew prophets, or the in the earliest Christian texts (the epistles of Paul), Christian theology took a wrong turn many centuries ago, and descended into irrational babblings like Robertson’s.

Letter to The Tennessean, January 23, 2010, by Mike Burch

Should the US prop up governments like Yemen’s simply because they align with our interests? The Vietnam War was waged on the fallacious premise that all Asia would fall to communism if South Vietnam fell. Obviously, this didn’t happen. Today terrorist organizations have no navies, air forces or any ability to invade or overthrow any Western nation, much less the US. Yes, terrorism is a global problem. But much of the problem results from the US allying with corrupt or inept governments, then over-reacting wildly and irrationally when small numbers of terrorists commit desperate acts. If we align with despotic regimes, Muslims who want reform see us as part of the problem. The real danger is the US alienating more than a billion Muslims, the majority of whom want better governments (which serve their interests, not ours). They no more want inept puppet rulers than we do.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is an open letter written by Bleu Copas, former Army Sergeant and Arab Linguist.

Infalli-BULL is an open letter by Mike Burch, which points out that to this day the God of the Bible has never announced the creation or purpose of a place called "hell." How can the Pope be "infallible" if he condemns people to an "eternal hell" that was never mentioned to Adam, Eve, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Moses, or a long line of Hebrew prophets? Obviously hell did not exist at any time during the Old Testament days, but how could an all-wise God forget to mention the creation and purpose of hell to anyone in the New Testament as well?

Dear Mike Burch . . .

I just read your Heresy Hearsay page and suddenly realized what a horrible religion Christianity is. Thanks so much for opening my eyes! (I had been out for an extended lunch and didn’t realize how dismal things had become down there.) It's a shame "grace" is being bottled and sold like cheap perfume. The idea that I would save Christians by "grace" and send Gandhi and Einstein to an "eternal hell" would be laughable if so many people didn't make it the basis of their "religion." Do they really believe I'm such an unjust Ogre?


P.S. Do you know Ratzinger/Benedict's phone number? It seems to be unlisted in heaven's directory. But then none of the Protestant evangelists are listed here either. They all seem to be worshipping the Other Guy.

Letter to the Montreal Gazette, August 13, 2009, by Mike Burch

Is Thomas L. Friedman overly optimistic ("Surprise, surprise: Life in the West Bank is getting better")? There are far more than "41" military checkpoints in the West Bank. According to a UN report, there were 528 checkpoints and other obstacles such as roadblocks in the West Bank in 2006, and the overall number was increasing by up to 40% per year. According to Israel’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs—Occupied Palestinian Territories, there are over 600 military checkpoints and other obstacles in the West Bank. During the OCHA reporting period that ended in April 2008, while 103 such obstacles were removed, 144 more were added. If Israel closed some of the 41 checkpoints Friedman mentioned, that hardly constitutes closing a large percentage of all the checkpoints and obstacles in the West Bank. Therefore Friedman’s presentation of the facts seems misleading, at best.

Palestinian mothers in labor and their unborn babies are dying in ambulances because they can’t reach nearby hospitals. Whether the impediment is an Israeli soldier armed with a machine gun, a wall twice as high as the Berlin Wall, or a block of concrete erected in the middle of a road, the results can unfortunately be the same: the suffering and deaths of innocents. At least a soldier might possibly be reasoned with. But how can a mother in labor argue with a gigantic wall or a block of concrete?

Yes, any breath of peace in the West Bank is welcome. But no, we cannot afford to become overly excited about prospects brightening for a few Palestinian businessmen when the lives of so many innocents are at stake. Jimmy Carter recently visited Gaza, an enclave of 1.5 million human souls who have been cut off from the rest of the world by the Israeli military. During his visit Carter said the Palestinians there are being treated more like animals than human beings, pointing out that small children who have suffered through hell on earth have been denied crayons and coloring books as "security risks."

As long as men like Friedman say the end of the Israeli occupation of Palestine is "not going to happen," perhaps on the presumption that the economic and "security" interests of Israel trump the human rights of Palestinians, we will live in a very dangerous world where events like 9-11 are likely to trigger wars like the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Hitler and his goons arbitrarily decided that the economic and "security" interests of Germany trumped the human rights of Jews, Gypsies, Slavs and everyone of the "wrong" race and creed. I am an American editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry who has worked closely with Jewish Holocaust survivors to strenuously oppose such thinking. I hope Americans and Canadians will consider the "big picture." The big picture has always been human rights. Would Americans and Canadians stand for our mothers and children being denied access to hospitals when their lives were at stake? Would we allow our children to be spat on and cursed on their way to school, by soldiers with raised machine guns? Why do we allow Palestinians to be treated so despicably, and expect them to be content with less than basic human rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? An American slave might have welcomed a cup of water and respite from the lash after a day of back-breaking labor, but his "happiness" would have been relative to his suffering and degradation. Has Friedman adopted the perspective of a "benevolent" overseer? Should we?

Letter to Buzzflash, January 19, 2010, by Mike Burch

Here in the United States, Christian churches and missionaries obviously want to help suffering, dying Haitians. In Nashville, where I live, there will be a performance of Handel’s Messiah by white-robed choirs and country superstars, with the proceeds benefitting Haiti disaster relief. Now on the surface this all seems well and good. But if Jesus Christ knew exactly what he was doing when he deliberately maimed and massacred multitudes of Haitians, should Christians be interfering with his vengeance?

Conversely, if Christians don’t believe that what happened to the Haitians constitutes "justice," how can they sing the praises of an all-powerful God?

If Jesus is all-wise, all-powerful and controls every aspect of the universe, as Christians claim, then clearly the poor Haitian children now having their crushed limbs sawn off without anesthetics are getting what they deserved. But who can believe Jesus would be so cruel to children?

If such things are patently unjust and should never happen to innocent children, why continue the pretense that Jesus is in control of the elements, since such control would make him a child killer and serial murderer?

Ironically, Pat Robertson is right. If God is all-powerful and just, he must have had a good reason to slaughter so many Haitians. But then why did he viciously attack so many innocent animals, babies and children? Why didn’t he send a plague specifically targeting only the adults who merited punishment? It only took me a few seconds to come up with a better plan of attack; how can men be wiser and more just than God Almighty?

Now Christian missionaries will undoubtedly rush to spread the "good news" that suffering Haitians are in danger of an "eternal hell" if they don’t "believe" in the all-powerful, unjust God who just poured out his wrath on their beleaguered island. Do the suffering children of Haiti deserve to be terrorized yet again, after all they’ve endured? Why not deliver aid without the voodoo religion?

What a terrible price to attach to "Christian" benevolence! Has there ever been a more irrational, graceless religion?

I implore Christians missionaries not take their gospel of hell to Haiti and terrorize small, shell-shocked Haitian children with the idea that if they don’t believe "Jesus saves" their souls will be in danger of an "eternal hell." My parents and churches terrified me with this terrible gospel of hell when I was a small boy. I only found relief as an adult, when I decided that calling evil "good" because God perpetrates it is ridiculous.

Letter to the David Newman, September 3, 2009, by Mike Burch

Dear David Newman,

I am an American editor and publisher of Holocaust Poetry.

I read your article about the response to Dr. Neve Gordon's opinion piece recently published by the Los Angeles Times. I had also read Dr. Gordon's article, which had been mailed to me by one of my colleagues. I suppose this shows what a rapidly shrinking world we live in.

I think your article, which seems balanced, is actually "on tilt" (as we used to say when pinball machines were in vogue). You seem to advocate a “balanced” debate, but in my opinion this makes no sense. There was once quite a "debate" in the United States over the issue of slavery. Today the "debate" seems nonsensical. Why? Because the free world has decided that all human beings must have equal rights. Should Americans have participated in a "balanced" debate over the status of slaves for 100 years prior to the Civil War? NO. After the Civil War was over, should Americans have engaged in another 100-year-long "balanced" discussion of the merits of equal rights, fair laws and fair courts, versus those of Jim Crow laws and public lynchings? NO. The debate was always entirely one-sided and nonsensical. The slaves had no say in the laws that enslaved them. They would have been fools and cowards to submit to the racist laws that kept them enslaved. The same thing was true for the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising: they had no say in the “debate” or in the making of the “laws” that made them victims of the Nazi Injustice Machine.

We do not need to continually “debate” the relative merits of racist versus non-racist laws, courts and systems of government. The debate is OVER. The free world has already rendered its verdict: racism is an abomination. Israel has been using smoke, mirrors, cries for sympathy and tsunamis of propaganda to delude Americans for sixty years, but now the jig is up. Americans are slowly waking up – one individual at a time – to the truth, and the truth is shocking and despicable. Now is not the time for a balanced debate. Now is the time for Israel to pull the plug on its Injustice Machine, or suffer the consequences.

Dr. Gordon’s solution has a good chance of working, because economic sanctions will persuade Israelis to “vote their pocketbooks” (a modern democratic phenomenon) and replace their current racist government with one led by leaders more amenable to peace through justice. But acting as if the Palestinians are somehow an equal part of a perplexing problem is not helpful. Should the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising have obeyed the racist “laws” of their Nazi overlords? Of course not. If they were heroes and freedom fighters, then so are the Palestinians, for the same simple reason: it is not a “crime” to break an illegal law.

It is, however, a crime to create racist, and therefore illegal laws. Who wrote the laws of Israel? Who established its courts? Israeli Jews must look in the mirror and confront the racists they find there, then speedily reform their government. It the majority are not racists, why then is the “democratic” government so blatantly racist? Why do so many Israelis speak of “democracy” and “healing the world,” when their laws and courts scream “Racism!” and “Injustice!”

What can Palestinians do, but resist forcefully? Patrick Henry said “Give me liberty or give me death.” He didn’t mean he planned on committing suicide. He meant he was willing to kill Englishmen, or be killed, in the pursuit of his rights, and the rights of his children. But what would happen if my child was born in Israel today, not being Jewish? The thought fills me with terror. Why? You might understand the terror if you considered having a Jewish child in Nazi Germany. I work with some of those children: the ones who survived. Many others didn't, as you well know. All you have to do to understand why the United States will be forced to “divorce” Israel, unless Israel reforms, is to consider what it would be like for your children and grandchildren to be born inside the walled ghetto of Gaza, if they were unlucky enough not to be born Jewish.

Do you understand now why I don’t have any interest in a “balanced” debate? I want the state of Israel to end its reign of terror, and reform, or cease to exist, the way the Nazi state ceased to exist, so that a just, non-racist government can replace it.

You say "two wrongs don't make a right," but that is an old wives' tale. Sometimes it takes a horrific wrong to correct an even more horrific wrong. Would the Holocaust survivors I work with say it was "wrong" for the Allies to kill Germans in order to end the insanity and injustices of Hitler and the Nazis? NO. Even George McGovern, whom I had the chance to meet and chat with recently, said that World War II was justified. So did Einstein, who had been an avowed pacifist before he saw what Hitler and his goons were capable of. The American Civil War is another instance of a terrible wrong being required to right an even more terrible wrong.

Now seeing what the racist state of Israel is capable of is convincing Americans that we have been funding and supporting a new Holocaust. We are beginning to realize that we’ve been led into two wars that could have been avoided if only Israel hadn’t demanded our sympathy, money and arms so that Israeli Jews could steal land and water from Palestinians who are increasingly homeless and destitute. “Israel” has become an anathema to us, and the only way that will change is for Israel to abandon racism and give up its lust for stolen land. Why the ever-mounting horrors, when Israel doesn’t have the Jewish population to cultivate most of the land it stole in 1948? Why such brutality and larceny in the West Bank, when so much of the land stolen in 1948 lies fallow to this day, inside Israel?

Do you really expect me to believe there is a somewhat even “dispute” between two parties who can’t quite see eye to eye, when Israel has hundreds of thousands of settlers busily stealing land from Palestinian farmers on a daily basis, while Israeli soldiers armed with machine guns curse and spit on Palestinian children on their way to school? Do you understand the fury I feel, when Jewish professors complain whenever their rights are infringed on, while Palestinian children can't walk to school without being degraded and abused? Do you understand how Americans feel when our sympathy for Jewish adults is demanded, but the rights of Palestinian children have been placed on “eternal hold”?

How do you think the American public will feel, as it slowly but surely awakens to the truth? Do you think Americans will want a “balanced debate” or do you think we will do what had to be done when Southern slaveowners refused to free their slaves, and when Nazis and Saddam Hussein chose to exceed their borders and seize “living space” from innocent women and children?

I am an editor and publisher of Holocaust Poetry, not a racist. I abhor racism. Therefore, I abhor the government of Israel and its brutal, racist Injustice Machine.

Soon it may be necessary for a new, terrible wrong to correct this abomination. Like the American slaves, like the Native Americans, like the Jews who suffered and died during the Holocaust, and like the blacks who suffered at the hands of white South Africans, the Palestinians had no hand in writing the laws or establishing the courts that deprive them of their self-evident rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. According to the American Declaration of Independence, they have every right to rise up and kill the people who deprive them of their equal human rights. Of course I am a man of peace and do not want anyone to die. But history tells me that people will die in ever-increasing numbers until the abomination ends, and that the free world will side with the oppressed, not the oppressors.

Dr. Gordon is right. Perhaps the only thing that will save Israel from itself is a “shock to the system” that brings about the needed reforms of its government. Many Israeli Jews seem to be incapable of understanding that the fury felt by Muslims toward Israel will be increasingly felt by Americans. Not because we are racists, but because we oppose racism. Yes, I care about the rights of Jewish professors. But I care even more about the rights of Palestinian kindergartners to be able to walk to school unmolested. What sort of evil, brutal, racist regime allows soldiers to curse and spit on them?

I abhor the thought of children being cursed and spat on by adults, with their actions being condoned or encouraged by an Injustice Machine masquerading as a “democracy.” Democracies extend human rights and justice to all human beings, not just to the Chosen Few. Therefore I abhor the state of Israel in it current racist incarnation, and I will do everything in my power to see it reform, and abandon racism. It would be better for Israel to reform itself, than for the world to impose its will on Israel. It would be better for Israel to reform itself, than to go through a Civil War, with men like Dr. Gordon on one side and men like Benyamin Netanyahu on the other. But in the end men like Dr. Gordon will prevail, or the world will be forced to act. So why delay the inevitable for even another day? Let the debate end, and let Israel replace its racist regime voluntarily, or let economic sanctions lead to nonviolent reform as soon as possible. If you take the time to engage in a balanced debate, you allow the racist regime to continue to cause the suffering of innocents. Babies, toddlers and children are self-evidently innocent and cannot be punished collectively for the “crime” of being born to the “wrong” race. Adult Palestinians cannot be considered criminals until they have equal rights and access to fair laws and fair courts. As long as the government of Israel puts their self-evident rights on eternal hold, Israel is the criminal, and sooner or later will have to be brought to justice. The time to debate is over; the time to act has come. Israel must establish fair laws and fair courts first, unconditionally and without excuses, or the Palestinians have every right to resist forcefully, and all the free world will stand firmly on their side, including the United States of America.

Mike Burch

The HyperTexts