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 combat and ultimately defeat racism, tribalism, fascism, ignorance and intolerance in their various nefarious and currently multiplying forms. —Michael R. Burch, Editor, The HyperTexts

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, 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 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, 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. What 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 not okay”) 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 the White House, September 11, 2011, by Mike Burch

Dear Osama, er Obama, a little birdie just told me Iran isn't planning on actually using nuclear bombs, but only using their existence as a deterrent, to keep the United States from invading and establishing a "democracy" there. So it seems the Iranians are actually intent on saving American taxpayers several trillion dollars. Is that so bad, really? Perhaps when every nation on earth has nukes and we don't have to worry about invading or "democratizing" any of them, we'll finally be able to afford health care.

Yours apoplectically/apocalyptically,
Mike Burch

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, August 6, 2010, by Mike Burch

At last! We have finally found the perfect running mate for Sarah Palin . . . ta-da! . . . Basil Marceaux! This is, indeed, a match made in political heaven! But we may have a problem, Houston, before the interstellar couple achieves orbit. Marceaux says the Constitution gives Americans the right to bear weapons in order to defend themselves from the federal government, and that he intends to fine anyone who doesn’t carry a weapon. This seems to imply that no matter who gets elected, it will be open season on them, should they be unwise enough to swear on a stack of Bibles to uphold the Constitution that gives us the right to take them out. So as soon as the Palin-Marceaux administration is inaugurated, someone shout “Pull!” and I’ll gladly take the first potshot at the crackpots.

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, July 31, 2010, by Mike Burch

Observations inspired by  the title of Paul Krugman's article “Addicted to Bush” . . .

Americans often become addicted to harmful things: TV, junk food, booze, drugs, pornography, warmongering, etc. So why be surprised that Americans became addicted first to Bush, then to his sexier doppelgänger, Palin? After all, the more dangerous and less wholesome something is, the better we like it. Americans especially love nutritionless foods — white bread, white sugar, etc. — and unwinnable wars. Our government acts like Evel Knievel riding a supercharged Harley along a tightrope strung across the Grand Canyon, blindfolded, without a parachute. Look, Ma, no hands!

First our government preaches “democracy,” “equal rights” and “justice” to all the world. Then it colludes with the government of Israel to deny self-determination, equal rights and justice to millions of Palestinians for sixty years. Then when all hell breaks loose, in the form of 9-11, rather than admitting its mistakes and correcting them, our government — led by its icon of brilliance, morality and courage, Bush — proceeds to start blowing up Afghanistan. When “Wrongway” Rumsfeld realizes we’re running out of “good” targets in Afghanistan, our so-called “government” decides to attack “target rich” Iraq on trumped-up premises. Look, Ma, no brains, no morals, nothing but alpha male machismo!

At no time did anyone venture to ask if, perhaps, it would have been better not to cause innocent Muslim women and children to suffer and die prematurely, since causing the premature deaths of innocents is, in a word, murder. Why, pray tell, were Palestinian women and children being murdered with our money and weapons, and therefore the complicity of our government? That question has never been addressed publicly by any American president or senior diplomat, even though Reza Aslan recently observed that 90% of the people in the State Department agree with Muslims who say our government was an accessory to 9-11.

So obviously American politicians know facts from fiction, but so far none have been willing to stick so much as a toe in the great ocean called Truth. It’s far easier to become addicted to dangerous things, than to admit we’ve been doing destructive things and change, so one can only assume our government will continue to act like the Crips & Bloods, while the American public cheers wildly from the sidelines. Look, Ma, no . . . Ooops!

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 26, 2010, by Mike Burch

It should come as no surprise that Task Force 373, a clandestine special operations unit, has been accidentally killing Afghani women and children. After all, robotic drones piloted by CIA agents have been accidentally killing Pakistani women and children, and Pakistan is our ally. In the fog of war, it’s often hard to distinguish a friend from a foe, or a child.

Our senior generals have explained publicly why the war cannot be “won,” if only we had the ears to hear and the powers of reason to comprehend. They have explained that every civilian death strengthens the Taliban (obviously because young Afghani and Pakistani boys rush to enlist in the effort to drive out the women- and child-killing foreign invaders).

Of course Americans know that we are the “good guys” and the Taliban are the “bad guys.” Unfortunately, the young men we force into the Taliban’s arms know just the opposite. Such are the perils of killing other men’s women and children.   

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 21, 2010, by Mike Burch

The United States was founded on the principles that all human beings are created equal, and that all citizens of a just government have the right to speak freely and participate in the political processes which govern them. Americans recognize no monarchs or lords over them, nor should they. They have every right to voice their opinions freely and to expect that government officials will listen to them respectfully. We are not supposed to be serfs of a feudal tyrant.

So I find myself scratching my head over Gail Kerr’s article in which Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen was said to have nearly allowed Gaile Owen to die when he became “livid” that large numbers of other Tennesseans chose to speak in her defense. One of those people was Tennessean Chairman Emeritus John Seigenthaler.

If what The Tennessean reported is true, Bredesen needs to apologize to the citizens of Tennessee and either learn to listen to his constituents respectfully, or resign. According to Kerr, “numerous sources” said Bredesen grew “increasingly livid” over efforts to influence his decision. Some of those sources were “inside his office.” It sounds as if Bredesen almost allowed Owens to die in a fit of pique. If this is true, he has some real explaining to do. If not, it’s time for a retraction or at least a clarification.

Letter to The Tennessean, July 19, 2010, by Mike Burch

The new American monarchy

The hubris of American politicians has obviously reached megalomaniacal proportions. (Have they been reading their own press clippings?) Because their arrogance endangers our lives and they refuse to heed the advice of the Hebrew prophets and Jesus to humble themselves and repent, I believe we have no choice but to create a special new militia to protect ourselves from them. Therefore, I hereby nominate Sarah Palin to round up a band of rogue mavericks willing to subdue these dangerous would-be monarchs, starting with Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen.

According to The Tennessean, His Exalted Highness, Phil Bredesen, nearly allowed Gaile Owens to be executed because he was annoyed that large numbers of people were trying to save her life. Then he reached the same conclusion they had reached, meaning that according to him they were right all along. Is Bredesen the only Tennessean allowed to say that killing someone who doesn’t deserve death is wrong?

I am not normally a fan of Sarah Palin, but considering our nation’s dire circumstances I believe we have no choice but to ask her to de-throne our “leaders,” forthwith.

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

I agree with Holly Spann that it is highly unlikely that Phil Bredesen engaged in “wreaking retribution” on Gaile Owens. However, if what Gail Kerr said in her article is true, numerous sources (including sources inside Bredesen’s office) said that Owens almost died because our elected representative resents other Tennesseans voicing their minds on a very important subject. (Interestingly, in Spann’s letter the word “represents” was hyphenated, reading “rep-resents.” Einstein said coincidence is how God reveals himself.)

When I understood what the article clearly said, and its implications, I became very concerned, so I spoke to Kerr on the phone and she confirmed the trustworthiness of her sources. I also spoke to a friend of Bredesen’s who told me it was useless to try to speak to him because he refuses to apologize or debate any of his decisions. So he sounds like a man who values his own opinions, but not those of other people.

It seems possible that Bredesen wanted to be left alone to make the decision himself, and that he became angry when other people chose to speak and try to influence his decision (their constitutional right), then allowed his ego and frustration to cloud his better judgment. If this is the case, our governor needs a “reality check,” a good, stiff dose of humility, and he needs to learn to listen to and respect the opinions of his constituents.

Letter to The Tennessean, July 22, 2010, by Mike Burch

I am writing this missive from Stalag 17 (once known as “Nashville,” in the days when Tennesseans were free men and women). I must be very, very quiet, as Herr Commandant Phil Bredesen has been on the warpath lately. Here in Stalag 17, Herr Bredesen holds the power of life and death. Why just the other day, he almost sent a woman to her doom! According to workers inside his office, Herr Bredesen became enraged when other people raised their voices and he almost allowed Gaile Owens, a mother with children, to be executed

Who are we to speak? We thought we were free people living in a free country, but we were obviously wrong. Herr Bredesen made it clear that only he has the right to speak on such important matters. The rest of us are insignificant insects, and if we raise our voices, he may squash some poor inmate like a bug. I never thought Tennesseans would be reduced to serfs, but we allowed politicians to assume more and more power, until they became our overlords . . .

Of course my “missive” is satirical. The United States was founded on the principles that all human beings are created equal, and that all citizens have the right to speak freely and participate in the political processes which govern them. Americans recognize no monarchs or lords over them, nor should they. They have every right to voice their opinions and expect government officials to listen to them respectfully. They are not supposed to be the serfs of a feudal tyrant.

So I found myself scratching my head over the article in which Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen was said to have nearly allowed Gaile Owen to die because other Tennesseans refused to watch her die in silence. One of those people was Tennessean Chairman Emeritus John Seigenthaler.

If what the Tennessean reported is true, Bredesen needs to apologize and either learn to listen to his constituents respectfully, or resign. According to the article “numerous sources” said Bredesen grew “increasingly livid” over efforts to influence his decision. Some of those sources were “inside his office.” It sounds as if Bredesen almost allowed Owens to die in a fit of pique. If this is true, he has some explaining to do. If not, it’s time for a retraction or at least a clarification.

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, before he saved the religious fanatics).

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 He is. 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

Susan Lynn’s wonderfully glib article ("Founding principles explain liberals’ failure") begs the question: is she Sarah Palin’s long-lost twin? Lynn’s odd, badly-argued conclusion is that to remain "free," we must avoid being liberals. This makes her yet another fear-inspiring demagogue. Why should we fear following in the footsteps of great liberals like JFK and Franklin Roosevelt (who wisely advised us not to succumb to fear)?

Lynn gives no evidence to support her case. Like her identical twin, Sarah Palin, she simply dreams up something to "believe," then utterly fails to provide any rational basis for anyone to take her seriously. All real progress in the realm of human rights has been the result of liberal reform. Jesus Christ was a liberal: he said the rich should give to the poor, down to their second-to-last coats. The early Christians were liberals, nay communists, sharing everything evenly. The abolitionists who helped end the abomination of slavery were liberals, as were Gandhi, Dr. King, the Kennedys, Nelson Mandela and the leaders of the women’s rights movement. Where would we be without them? Lynn should study history and consider facts, rather than "pulling a Palin."

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 TIME, November 15, 2009, by Mike Burch

RE: Terrorist or Terrified?

The Fort Hood massacre is a national tragedy. What will no doubt get short shrift is the highly inconvenient question: did Nidal Hasan alone lose his mind, or has the U.S. flipped its national lid? Hasan saw the toll two wars were taking on the soldiers he counseled, and he obviously believed it was wrong for Americans to kill Muslims on their native soil. Was he entirely wrong in his beliefs? Of course murder is wrong, but I can understand why Hasan’s mind might have snapped. Personally, I would have fled to Canada and lived not to fight another day.

Letter to TIME, November 11, 2009, by Mike Burch

RE: Fort Hood and the rush to judgment

Barack Obama advised Americans against a "rush to judgment" over the Fort Hood massacre, then chose to speak for Almighty God when he said, "we know that the killer will be met with justice in this world and the next." The implication is clear: God forgives Christians who kill Muslims overseas, but condemns Nidal Hasan for the murders he committed.

Of course murder is wrong and Hasan was clearly, terribly wrong to murder American soldiers. But does God favor American soldiers who invade Afghanistan and Iraq? How many of the women and children who have been mutilated and killed by Americans had anything to do with a terrorist attack that occurred over eight years ago? How many of the homes that have been destroyed ever housed Osama bin Laden?

It seems Hasan was distraught because he counseled American soldiers who returned home traumatized by their experiences, and because he had a hard time reconciling his beliefs with the actions of his nation and its military. Why would Barack Obama’s "just and loving God" pardon American soldiers in an act of grace, but condemn Hasan for losing his mind because he didn’t want to be involved in killing Muslim women and children?

Since the days of Moses, Joshua and King David, "men of God" have justified their acts of war and even ethnic cleansing and genocide by claiming God is for them, and against their enemies. It seems Barack Obama has chosen to continue the grand old tradition.

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

Many Americans want to live in a black-and-white world where every Muslim is a "radical Islamic terrorist" and every American is a democratic idealist. But innocent Muslim women and children are suffering in Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq because our government hypocritically trumpets the glories of equal human rights to every corner of the globe, while colluding with the government of Israel to make damn sure Muslim rights don’t infringe on the special "interests" of Christians and Jews, even when those interests include continually stealing land and water from farm families living on the margins of existence.

Fort Hood is indeed a national tragedy. But what about the national question it raises? There was once a war in which American soldiers fought and killed each other: the Civil War. The Civil War was largely the result of a fundamental national question: Was it wrong for white Americans to infringe on the rights of black Americans? Today we face a similar fundamental question: Is it wrong for Americans to infringe on the human rights of Muslims, by invading and destroying their nations in desperate gambits to "save" them? But of course most Americans already know the black-and-white answer: all Muslims are "terrorists," while anything we do is justified, simply because we’re "the good guys."

While I am shocked and horrified by the Fort Hood massacre, I can see the dismal gray shadings of the national question we now face together.

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 New York Times, August 17, 2009, by Mike Burch

How can we resolve the current impasse between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations? If Netanyahu will not do what the nations of the world now universally require, we should encourage Israeli voters to replace him "the democratic way."

Surprisingly, we don’t need the cooperation of Israeli or American politicians to get Israel to "play fair." Qatar or Chad can get the ball rolling quite nicely: all we need is for some member nation to propose a new UN resolution calling for Israel to unconditionally grant all human beings under its aegis equal rights and access to fair courts. The courts should be subject to peer review by judges appointed by the UN and must be able to set legal precedents. Of course "fair" must be defined, but suffice it to say that racially biased laws and courts are not fair, but medieval abominations.

If Israel complies the peace process can finally begin moving forward, with fair courts settling disputes over land and water "organically" over time, if politicians cannot agree to eternal borders more quickly. Meanwhile, the human rights of Palestinians will be protected, as Jewish settlers and Israeli soldiers learn the valuable lesson that in a true democracy, spitting on and cursing minority schoolchildren earns a quick ticket to the hoosegow. As the KKK once learned to its consternation and chagrin, fair courts defuse racism by making it too expensive to practice.

Can the US veto this new resolution, as it vetoed so many previous UN resolutions which might have ended the impasse? No. How can the US veto a resolution based on the American Creed of equal rights and due process of law? President Obama once taught constitutional law and promised to uphold the Constitution in his book The Audacity of Hope. Of course our Constitution enshrines equal rights and due process of law. Can Obama veto the basis of his beliefs? Can we, the people?

If Israel fails to comply, is all for naught? No, because the UN can then use economic sanctions to encourage Israelis to elect new leaders. Israel needs imports and exports for its voters to prosper. Sanctions which failed against less advanced nations will be more effective with Israel. But perhaps all Israel needs is a nudge in the right direction; how will we know until we try? If sanctions prove necessary, dissatisfaction with the resulting economic decline will eventually result in an administration more amenable to peace, as Israelis "vote their pocketbooks" (a worldwide democratic phenomenon).

Once Israel begins to establish justice, whether voluntarily or otherwise, things will soon begin to improve for Israelis and Palestinians. No, the process will not be perfect, but history shows that racial violence can be defused by fair courts, with surprising results. Think, for instance, of what happened in South Africa: one day Nelson Mandela was a "terrorist," but soon thereafter he won a Nobel Peace Prize. What changed? South Africa finally began to establish justice. Think of what happened in the US: one day Martin Luther King Jr. was being jailed as a "rabble rouser," but soon thereafter he was a saint. What changed? The US finally began to establish justice. History has a way of turning insurrectionists into heroes: George Washington, John Brown, Sitting Bull. Someday soon we will no doubt realize that the Palestinians were also fighting for freedom and equal rights.

The world cannot afford for Palestinians to live in political limbo any longer. Sixty years is far too long for millions of people to be denied their self-evident human rights. Virtually all the land taken from the Palestinians since 1948 is lying fallow, because most Jews prefer to live in urban areas. Cows are grazing on uncultivated land while Palestinian farmers and their families go hungry. There is plenty of land inside Israel for Jewish settlers to farm, if they really want to farm, rather than conquer an increasingly homeless, destitute people.

Fortunately there a method to end this madness: all we need is one Qatari ambassador willing to propose a new UN resolution based on the American Creed, or one Omani . . .

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 27, 2010, by Mike Burch

Dewayne Wickham might want to re-read what Osama bin Laden actually said, and pause to reflect, before expressing his adulatory appreciation for U.S. drones, which are killing far more Muslim women and children than "terrorists." What bin Laden has said consistently is that the United States is being attacked because Palestinians are suffering and dying, due to American and Israeli injustices. Perhaps bin Laden has a point. Why are Americans and Israelis causing so many innocent Palestinian women and children to suffer and die? Would 9-11 have happened, or any of the subsequent attacks, if we hadn’t funded and supported Israel’s ongoing, systematic persecution and repression of the Palestinians? Women and children are being abused and killed. Doesn’t that make our government an aider and abettor of child abuse and murder?

I don’t like bin Laden’s tactics. But that doesn’t change the fact that we were committing atrocities against the Palestinians long before any act of Islamic terrorism was aimed at us. We stepped over a terrible line, and now everyone is paying a terrible price. Wickham should save his "happy thoughts" for Disney movies.

Letter to The Tennessean, January 26, 2010, by Mike Burch

If students are picking up "math anxiety" from their teachers, what sort of "hell anxiety" must young, highly impressionable children be picking up from their pastors and Sunday School teachers?

I quit attending my church because I felt like a victim of shell-shock, as an adult, when my minister taught that God would cause or allow human beings to suffer for all eternity, even though Jesus Christ saved the thief on the cross with a nod of his head. Why wouldn't Jesus just nod his head at everyone, if it's that easy for him to save them?

Just imagine the "bad vibes" children receive from Christian ministers who claim an intolerant, unjust God will save believers by grace, but condemn nonbelievers to an "eternal hell" that was never mentioned in the entire Old Testament, the book of Acts (the self-recorded history of the early Christian church), or the earliest Christian texts (the epistles of Paul). The great preachers of early Christianity—Peter, Stephen, Philip and Paul—never said a word about an "eternal hell," nor did any of the Hebrew prophets. Why then are lesser lights instilling the fear of hell in young, highly impressionable children?

Isn’t it time to free our children from "hell anxiety"?

Letter to The Tennessean, January 25, 2010, by Mike Burch

The juxtapositioning of Osama bin Laden’s and Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments on page 3A of Monday’s Tennessean was fascinating, perhaps revelatory. Bin Laden said Americans are being attacked for our support of Israel, which has left millions of Palestinians bereft of human rights and living on the margins of existence. Nobel Peace Prize laureates Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu have agreed with bin Laden that what Israel and the U.S. are doing to the Palestinians is horrifically unjust (of course they do not agree with bin Laden’s tactics).

Simultaneously, Netanyahu declared Israel’s right to take even more land from increasingly destitute Palestinians, by planting a tree "in a symbolic act of ownership."

What would Americans do, if our mothers, sisters, wives and children were being stripped of their human rights and dignity, while being robbed blind? Obviously, we would respond with the tactics of bin Laden, launching one devastating attack after another, until our enemies stopped unjustly harming our loved ones.

Americans need to see and understand that our women and children have been endangered because of what Israel and the U.S. are doing to Palestinian women and children. If we want peace, we need to stop contributing to the suffering and deaths of Palestinians. We say we believe in equal rights for all human beings. Why don’t we stop harming innocent women and children, and finally stand for what we say we believe in?

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.

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

The Supreme Court ruling which allows corporations to spend huge amounts of money to influence political campaigns must be overturned: not by our courts, but our voters. Obviously huge corporations have more money to spend than individuals, and their goals seldom favor "the little guy." Therefore in future political campaigns voters must resort to guerilla tactics, as American freedom fighters once did against the Hessian mercenaries of the British monarchy. If we simply choose not to vote for cronies who pander to big corporations, the big corporations will waste all their loot in a losing cause. It’s our votes that matter, and they can’t be bought. Now is the time for "we the people" to vote for politicians who refuse to pander to the corporate giants. The little guy can reassert his authority the "old fashioned way," by giving bureaucratic bimbos and bozos the boot.

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

Should the U.S. isolate itself? Militarily, yes, as much as possible, because Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq have proven our government’s inability to bring about positive social change through war. I believe we should adopt a "Reagan Doctrine" of responding to acts of terrorism with appropriate force, as Reagan did with Libya. Diplomatically, no, we should not be isolationists, but we need a profound change in our policies abroad. We must stop being hypocrites who preach the glories of democracy to the rest of the world, while propping up any two-bit dictator or brutal regime that pledges allegiance to our government. We must remember our creed of equal rights for all human beings, and stop acting as if Americans have more equal rights than Muslims. Only when we treat the citizens of other nations as equals, rather than vassals, will we have any hope of global peace with all our neighbors.

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 11, 2010, by Mike Burch

Cal Thomas made an interesting point when he observed that wealthy New Jersey residents are leaving for states with lower taxes, to the tune of $70 billion over the past five years. When England raised its taxes to outrageous levels, the Beatles found tax havens elsewhere. Ditto for Sweden and Bjorn Borg.

Understanding the phenomenon gives us the solution to extravagant government spending (and waste). Let’s abolish every tax except the federal income tax. This will save billions every year on the infrastructure required to collect property taxes, sales taxes, etc. Instead, let’s add state and local components to the federal income tax. This way, every state and locality will have to compete for taxpayer "business." If New Jersey’s rates can be compared to Tennessee’s, and Tennessee provides essential services for less money, soon many smart, successful people will flock to Tennessee. And vice versa.

This simple plan makes state and local governments accountable for what they spend, and forces them to compete on a level playing field. And it allows taxpayers to know exactly what they spend in taxes, and to easily compare their tax burdens. Best of all, when all state and localities are forced to compete for our "business," our taxes will go down.

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

Is the Bible viable? Should it 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

Why, dear God, Why?

Orthodox Christians claim two contrary things. They say Jesus is with the victims clinging to life in the rubble. But they also say Jesus is the all-powerful God who caused the roof to collapse.

Does Jesus have Münchausen syndrome, a terrible psychological disorder in which the abuser longs to be seen as the "savior" of the child being abused? Or did Christian theology change a good, compassionate man, Jesus, into someone with a pathological illness, when it made him an all-powerful God intent on world domination?

A good, sane person doesn’t inflict harm on children, in order to "save" them, or for personal glory. If Jesus is good and sane, why would he desire praise, worship and blind obedience?

Whether Jesus continues to exist in another dimension is a matter of faith. Many people who have had near-death experiences claim to have seen their loved ones alive, well and happy in another dimension. Non-Christians also have such experiences.

Why not believe Jesus is a loving, compassionate being who doesn’t maim or murder innocent children, or condemn human beings to an "eternal hell" for not "believing" he is capable of such atrocities?

Why not believe Jesus is good, and accept that terrible things happen in this dimension, which are beyond anyone’s control? Why not accept the obvious truth here, and hope for the best in a life to come?

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.

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

RE: State of dis-Union

President Obama’s main State of the Union priority should be ending our mad dash toward World War III and a near-certain nuclear Armageddon. What do our other policies matter, if we destroy the world?

The US has adopted a policy of "might is right." Now we will prop up any petty dictator, no matter how reprehensible—the Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussein—and support any racist, brutal regime—such as the current government of Israel—as long as our interests reign. We will sacrifice every ideal, for the sake of the almighty dollar, oil and global power.

This has to end. We need to remember our creed, our national ideal, that ALL human beings are created equal, not just Americans. We need to do as we instruct our children, and respect the rights and property of others. In short, President Obama needs to get back to the basics.

Letter to The Tennessean, January 19, 2010, by Mike Burch

Mehmet Ali Agca is a bit late to the religious tea party. Having just been released from prison for attempting to assassinate Pope John Paul II, he vows to write a "new and perfect Gospel" proclaiming the imminent destruction of the world. Unfortunately for him, John of Patmos stirred and divined those apocalyptic tea leaves long ago. According to John’s "divine" Revelation, God will not only destroy the world in a bizarre attempt to "save" it, but once he’s finished human beings will be tortured with fire and brimstone in heaven, at the foot of his throne, "in the presence of the Lamb and Holy Angels." So much for hell being "separation from God" as our current crop of Christian theologians say.

But perhaps there’s hope for our latest prophet of the Apocalypse, since John’s Revelation is far from "perfect." In his rush to have God destroy his (John’s) enemies and save his own vengeance-ridden hide, John said the earth is flat with "corners," that the stars can "fall" to earth as if they’re tiny twinkling lights in the sky, and on page after page betrayed both his ignorance and madness.

Yes, Agca is certifiably insane. But so was John "the Divine." Anyone who’s read Revelation with an ounce of compassion and reason knows his God was far from "good." After 2,000 years isn’t it time to accept that it’s madness to believe evil is good, on the word of lunatics?

Excerpts from an email written by Sarah Haynes, a young Australian Peace Activist

Dear Mum: email from an Israeli prison cell on August 5, 2009

“We politely make it impossible for them to live here.”—An Israeli tour guide
“Demolishing someone's home is not 'polite,' cretin! ”—THT
Sarah Haynes, a volunteer with Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, recently wrote this group email to her friends and family in Australia. Her missive has not been edited except for the THT "advisory" directly above and minor corrections of spelling and punctuation.

Not all tours end in arrest—but mine did.

I am volunteering with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). This is an Israeli human rights group with a focus on house demolitions both in solidarity with the Palestinians who suffer the devastation of losing their home, but also to debunk the Israeli myths about [these] actions [being] based on security: Destroying peoples homes can have no security justification—instead it is a tool in what the convener of the group, Jeff Halper, describes as the “matrix of control”.

For a detailed account of the strategy of settlement, this article by ICAHD is pretty exhaustive.

As I mentioned in an earlier email there is a hotly contested area in East Jerusalem called Sheihk Jarrah—it has even made it onto Obama’s radar, with specific mention. There is a group of fanatical setters who want to create a new settlement complex in this neighbourhood, which means first expelling all the Palestinian residents, taking over their homes, then eventually razing the area for this new settlement.

Every time settlers move into a neighbourhood [it] means the Army also moves in to protect them, [after which] Palestinians are restricted from moving into the area, and the flavour of the neighbourhood of course changes. This is already a heartbreaking situation for Palestinians whose national aspirations both depend on East Jerusalem as capital for any future economically viable state, but also whose very cultural desire is tied up in this city.

The other point is that every home taken away from Palestinians is one less home available for Palestinians—not just in that neighbourhood, but in toto. They do not have the option to buy somewhere else in Jerusalem or Israel so they become homeless, or [have to] squish in with over-crowded relatives. In some cases, as per the policy design, they will give up their Jerusalem residency and privileges and job opportunities, and instead move to the West Bank. As my Israeli tour guide said yesterday, “We politely make it impossible for them to live here”.

So. As the tour was almost finished, we got a message that settlers were in the process of occupying a home in this neighbourhood, which we were just about to pass. We jumped off and proceeded to the house (with a little difficulty as the neighbourhood, unlike the new settlements, is still somewhat like a refugee camp and does not really have addresses).

The home in question is claimed to have been bought by American bingo centre millionaire Irwin Moskowitz, who is integral to the fanatical settler movement (see this article by Israeli peace group Gush Shalom). The sale is disputed by the locals who have a court case pending. This means the settlers should not take any action until the court has made a ruling on the “sale”, but they have tried to move in on several occasions since the legally protected woman living there died recently.

This time they had turned up with the police and when we got there they were already taking to the house with sledge hammers, and putting up a tin fence (not actually demolishing, apparently just renovating). Neighbours watched helplessly. The police are notorious for helping the settlers, and often pretend not to know about court orders until they are presented with a new emergency injunction when a demolition has already started—then they declare the house structurally unsafe and the demolition continues on this new logic!

This was the first time I had observed a demolition, and it really made me so sad. I could feel my heart in my chest, and the tightness of my throat. I wanted to cry with the Palestinians watching the process from the sidelines.

… six of us from ICAHD and ISM (International Solidarity Movement) sat down at the front of the alley way and linked arms to block the path of a small earth mover. After about 20 minutes the police told us to move, [but] we didn’t move, so they bodily removed us one at a time. They were very efficient. Five of us were put in a police van and taken to the station (four internationals, one Israeli).

So far, pretty normal Israeli police response to non-violent action here. We expected to be held for a couple of hours and then released on condition not to return to the area for a few weeks. A lawyer paid by the [Jewish organization] Rabbis for Human Rights arrived and began negotiating for our release.

Three more ISM activists arrived. They had been arrested two hours after us, for taking photos. They had walked into the area without being stopped, took some photos, the settlers told them not to, they asked why, the police told them not to, they asked why, the police told [them] to leave, they started to leave, [then] they were arrested.

Meanwhile we were separated and interrogated. Some people got good cop, some got bad cop. Israeli girl of course got a major grilling, [was] told she had ruined her life with an arrest, [was] asked why she is a self-hating Jew etc. etc. She had to go through a similar spiel with pretty much every single cop, guard, driver, gaol officer, and paper-work processor we encountered, and then again after [each] shift change. Some just ranted at her, several actually seemed to listen to her perspective.

I got bored cop. I confirmed my name and nationality (he had my passport, it was moot), and then for each question I answered “I have no response for that question”—ranging from “what’s your mobile number here?” to “did you come to Israel to disrupt the police?”. He told me I was held on suspicion of disrupting the peace and hindering police (I think—his English wasn’t great). Then he asked with a sigh if I would sign a document about our interview, I said I wouldn’t, as it was in Hebrew and I didn’t understand it.

After interrogations we were eventually put in a holding area with the police lockers, and were allowed to talk to each other. Our lawyer asked if we would agree to release on [the] condition that we not enter the area for month; we said we would if ICAHD supported it, which they did … then nothing. Apparently the chief decided during these negotiations that we were being held overnight and our lawyer left.

Several people had their phone confiscated at the beginning, but I still had mine and had credit; it was our link outside.

Then a new, mean cop came into our holding area and yelled at me for playing Solitaire. The Israeli girl translated this as “NO! you don’t play cards here, this is not a fun fair. Would you play cards in the police station in Australia?”… Well, firstly the police would not have already held me for five hours, and if they had, and I had cards, well yes—I would play with them!

When we received a phone call he really spat the dummy and yelled at the other cops “What kind of a police station are you running here? You let them keep their phones all this time?” So that was that … my phone gone, I was now in communication silence. Sorry to panic my boyfriend with my sudden dropping off the radar there!

In the final analysis, I believe the court found us guilty of something along the lines of obstructing the peace and we are not to go within 500m of Sheikh Jarrah for three weeks—if we are caught there we will be deported and Rabbis for Human Rights will pay NIS 5000 (AUD$2000 – more than they can afford). The prosecutor wanted us to be banned from the whole of Jerusalem and be forbidden from entering Israel for “some time” but our lawyer was very good at presenting case law from right-wing demonstrations where the perpetrators who threw rocks at Palestinians were only banned from the precise location (not a whole neighbourhood) and only for 15 days.

She also made the prosecutor look a fool, as he could not supply any examples of us being violent, and he could not demonstrate that police were obstructed, as the work was completed on the day as planned.

The judge berated the police for holding us overnight which is good for precedent.

The earthmover did go in and do its business, but the media attention meant that the court injunction was rushed and the settlers must now stop (or at least the police will stop protecting them). Last night settlers tried to evict another family in the neighbourhood. There were internationals there, a group was mobilised to attend (not me) and media arrived. The police, with their recent admonition and the pressure of a US delegation apparently visiting the area yesterday, told the settlers to leave. A stay of execution, and a small victory.

Back to me! Why were we held for so long (24 hours till the court case, and then another three until we were released, then another hour until we got our stuff back)?

Either the police chief was in a bad mood. Or they were trying to scare internationals from taking action, for fear of spending a night in gaol. In which case they failed because gaol is only marginally skankier than my hostel and is mostly just boring. In any case the judge has pretty much put paid to that precedent for a while.

I called my parents who sounded … annoyed. I had promised I wouldn’t go seeking trouble and here I am getting tear-gassed on Friday, and arrested on Sunday. But in neither case did I feel that I was in an unusual or dangerous situation. This is the normal functioning of the Occupation. Apologies for those who were worried about me, but really I am fine, and being safe.
Letter to the Editors of the Montreal Gazette, August 15, 2009, by Mike Burch

In his opinion piece “Gays take a queer stance on Israel” Gil Troy admonished gays, “Calling yourself Queers Against Israeli Apartheid defies logic, perverts history, and distorts priorities. It reflects such hatred against Israel that maligning Zionism overrides all other causes, including gay liberation; it eclipses all identities including one's sexual identity.”

Who can take such apocalyptic nonsense seriously? Nelson Mandela, a black heterosexual victim of South African apartheid, is able to sympathize with Palestinian victims of Israeli apartheid without losing his sexual identity, so why the incomprehensible double standard for gays? They know perfectly well what they’ve experienced and can thus empathize intelligently with Palestinians without risking their immortal souls (or whatever Troy is trying to suggest).

But perhaps Troy is telling us something very important by protesting too much; can it be that he can’t afford for anyone to closely examine the apartheid system he defends so vociferously? Why is it a “hate crime” or a “self hate crime” to stand for the human rights of Palestinians? In Israel, Jews who empathize with Palestinians are called “self haters.” Now Troy has attempted the same nefarious trick on gays, while making himself sound like the second coming of Chicken Little.

No, the sky will not fall if we question Israel, or stand in solidarity with Palestinians. What we have just seen is the Achilles Heel of all anti-Palestinian propaganda. Because Palestinians have been denied human rights and justice for sixty years, in violation of international law and the basic precepts of civilization, the focus must always be diverted from human rights and justice. The simplest way to accomplish this bit of misdirection is to slur the character and motives of anyone who criticizes Israel. Troy is, in effect, playing a shell game with human rights. We all know everyone should have the same basic human rights, including of course the Palestinians, but if Troy can somehow convince us that we must “hate” the Jews (or ourselves) if we so much as question Israel, hopefully (for him) our eyes will lose sight of the goal and become confused.

Troy’s hysteria is warranted, in a way, because today people all around the world are seeing the plight of the Palestinians and asking simple questions: How can such things happen to millions of innocent women, children and grandparents who are clearly not “terrorists”? Why are the people least likely to be “terrorists” suffering the most? Why are little girls and boys being herded inside walled corrals, like animals, to be spat on and cursed by soldiers toting machine guns? Why are humanitarians, including Jews of good conscience, traveling to Palestine and using their bodies as human shields to protect Palestinian farmers and their families from the Jewish “settlers” who keep stealing their land, and from the Israeli soldiers who protect the robber barons rather than their victims?

Jimmy Carter, a white heterosexual, has written a book opposing Israeli apartheid. He recently visited Gaza and said the Palestinians there are being treated more like animals than human beings, pointing out that small children who have lived through hell on earth have been denied crayons and coloring books, ostensibly as “security risks.” Has his sexual identity somehow been “eclipsed,” whatever that means? Desmond Tutu, a heterosexual Nobel Peace Prize winner like Carter and Mandela, has also taken a strong public stand against Israeli apartheid. Carter is a Baptist deacon, Tutu an Anglican archbishop, Mandela a Methodist. Have their religious identities also been “eclipsed,” because they oppose people of one race herding people of another race inside “security fences” twice as high as the Berlin Wall, then slamming the gates shut on innocents?

Carter, Mandela and Tutu don’t “hate” Israel, or themselves. I’m sure they have nothing against the dream of Zionism as expressed by the Hebrew prophets: a dream of chesed [mercy, compassion, lovingkindness] and social justice. I understand the dream of Zionism myself, because I’d like to bring my family together, so that we can all live close to each other. But in order for me to make my dream come true without it becoming a nightmare for my neighbors, I have to buy the land I need at prices they agree to, while obeying all prevailing zoning laws. I can’t steal the land and arbitrarily change the laws to suit myself, as Israelis have done for the last sixty years and continue to do to this day. This is why the Obama administration recently said “no” to “natural growth” of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank (i.e., because there is no such thing as “natural growth” when it involves one family stealing another family’s land while subverting justice).

More and more, people around the world oppose not the dream of Zionism but the current implementation of Zionism. We don’t oppose Israeli apartheid because we “hate” Israel, Zionism or the Jewish people. I’m an editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry, not an anti-Semite. (And indeed most Palestinians are Semites.) People like me oppose Israeli apartheid because we care about the Palestinians and want them to have the same human rights we enjoy ourselves, and because we realize that world peace remains impossible as long as Palestinians remain victims of apartheid. We also realize that the fates of our children and grandchildren are closely linked to the fates of Palestinian children in this ever-shrinking world. So we stand for the rights of Palestinians out of human compassion and enlightened self-interest.

If we want to avoid future events like 9-11 and wars like those raging in Afghanistan and Iraq, we must end the plight of the Palestinians by establishing peace through justice, because the only other option is violence. We Americans learned the hard way that people who are denied justice will always resist strenuously and rightfully so. Now how about giving all non-heterosexuals completely equal rights as well, with no “fudging”?

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.

Questions for General Petraeus, circa 2009-2010, by Mike Burch

My name is Mike Burch. I’m an editor and publisher of Holocaust Poetry. Here are my questions:

Atrocities like American slavery, the Trail of Tears, the Holocaust, South African apartheid and the Palestinian Nakba obviously occur because nations fail to establish fair laws and just courts that protect the rights of all human beings under their aegis, equally. Wouldn’t the U.S. do better to encourage nations like Iraq and Israel to establish fair laws and just courts, than to pour hundreds of billions of dollars in financial aid and advanced weapons into one, while spending trillions of dollars to invade the other? What do you think of a "Reagan Doctrine" that the U.S. should use the power of our economy and only minimal, appropriate uses of military force, to encourage non-democratic regimes to reform from within?

Robert McNamara recently admitted that the basic premise of Vietnam War was fallacious. Obviously, all Asia did not fall to communism just because the South Vietnamese government fell. Isn’t it true that the basic premise of the so-called "war against terrorism" is also fallacious, since Al-Qaida has only a few hundred active militants, and no navy, air force or any ability to invade or overthrow any Western nation, much less the United States? Isn’t it true that our navy is larger than the next 13 largest navies in the world combined, and that our navy and air force could easy repel any attack against the United States? How can terrorist organizations with only a few hundred foot soldiers "conquer the world"?

Does our military policy in the Middle East make any sense? Our navy is larger than the next 13 largest navies in the world combined, so no terrorist organization can possibly invade, much less "conquer" the United States. If the only real threat terrorist organizations pose to the United States is a nuclear attack, since we have thousands of highly accurate nuclear weapons, why not bring our troops home and inform nations harboring terrorist regimes that if we’re attacked, we’ll retaliate in kind, ensuring their destruction? The first nuclear attack by terrorists would be the last. Why not bring our troops home and rely on Mutually Assured Destruction, since the only real threat to Western civilization is a nuclear war in which we have an overwhelming advantage?

Isn’t it true that were are waging two fruitless wars needlessly? The men who attacked us on 9-11 did so primarily for two reasons: because they empathized with the plight of the Palestinian people, and because they despise U.S. interference in the Middle East (primarily to secure cheap oil). But the price of oil has only soared, and the Palestinians are human beings who are entitled to equal human rights and the protection of fair laws and fair courts. What "strategic goals" are we accomplishing? Why not bring our troops home and simply pay the going price for oil, while requiring Israel to treat the Palestinians like human beings?

German soldiers who invaded Poland and Czechoslovakia were, of course, highly patriotic and only following orders. They marched to stirring national anthems with tears welling in their eyes, willing to die for the honor of the homeland they loved so passionately. But their government was, of course, not acting honorably. Should they have followed orders, or should they have used their brains? Should the generals who led them like sheep to the slaughter, perhaps, have spoken the truth in public, even if they risked losing a pretty insignia or two?

I am a patriotic American. I am also a father who loves his son. Before I would trust my son’s life to any general, I would want to know whether that general truly and absolutely believes the defense of his country requires my son’s life. I don’t for a minute believe that a handful of two-bit terrorists are capable of invading and conquering the United States. Do you? Why, then, should a father like me entrust the life of his son to a general like you? (I realize this question seems harsh and probably unfair. But human lives are precious. The lives of American boys should not be squandered so that rich Israeli Jews can abuse destitute Palestinians and continually steal their land. The lives of American boys should not be squandered so rich American companies can have "secure" supplies of "inexpensive" oil, especially when the price of oil has only soared due to our government’s unbelievable folly. Before I send my son to risk his life and die in some godforsaken backwater like Vietnam or Afghanistan, I should know that my government is acting wisely, in the best interests of Americans. But I know this is not the case. I have to believe that you know it too. The Vietnam war was waged on false premises. Now the "war against terrorism" is being waged on false premises. Once again American boys are dying needlessly under the command of generals like you. They have the courage to risk their lives, before they have even had the chance to live. Can you, who have had the chance to live a full life, risk answering this question in pubic? Do you have even a fraction of their courage? Probably not. You will probably keep sending American boys to die in wars you don’t believe in yourself. If you do believe in these wars, you must be mad, like Hitler’s generals. So I believe my question, however harsh, is fair.)

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 The Tennessean, January 20, 2010, by Mike Burch

According to Monday’s Tennessean, Christopher McBride of Nashville Christian School said that Christians "know" the theory of evolution is "false." While I defend McBride’s freedom of speech, as a Christian who has studied the Bible for many years, I strongly disagree with him.

The evidence that evolution has occurred on both "micro" and "macro" levels is irrefutable. The evidence of fossils and DNA cannot be denied.

Scientists have extracted DNA from the bones of Neanderthals, and their DNA is 99.5% identical to human DNA. And yet the DNA of modern human beings shows no evidence that our human ancestors ever bred with Neanderthals. The Occam’s Razor solution is simple: modern humans and Neanderthals evolved from a common ancestor, then after their evolutionary paths forked, they either found each other repulsive and chose not to mate, or they were unable to produce offspring together. In either case, the existence of another branch of human evolution is irrefutable. Neanderthals co-existed with human beings for an extended period of time. They were far more intelligent than other animals. They mastered fire. They showed the ability to "plan ahead" by creating hand axes and other tools. Their brains were as big as ours. They were much closer to human beings than they were to chimpanzees and other primates. But they were not modern human beings, or even "kissing cousins."

What McBride may have meant to say is that the theory of evolution cannot fully explain the origins of the universe and life, which would be true. But Darwin’s theory does not claim to explain how life originated. It explains how life evolves. And life on earth obviously does evolve. We now know that human beings are evolving faster now than in the past. Scientists recently reported that the human male Y chromosome continues to evolve at a rapid pace.

And human beings are quite obviously much taller than they were just a few hundred years ago . . .

The great warriors of the Roman empire stood a hair over five foot tall. They were midgets compared to us.

Anyone who visits a medieval castle with an armory can easily see that the knights of yore were tiny compared to modern humans. Richard the Lionheart was considered a "giant" in his day, but he was only six foot tall.

I’m six-foot-two. When I stayed at a house in England that was around 350 years old, I had to bend over when entering the house because the doors were only six feet high. When I took a bath, my feet extended a foot beyond the bathtub. I would have been considered a giant just a few hundred years ago.

In my own life, I have noticed how much taller girls are, than when I was a boy.

During the millions of years of his evolution, man has constantly grown taller. Anyone who examines the fossil evidence can see this. And this evolution continues today. And this makes perfect sense, because evolution has designed animals to grow in size when sufficient food is available. During the times when food was most plentiful on earth, dinosaurs and mammals like mastodons and giant sloths grew to humongous sizes. But each time an ice age or other natural disaster occurred and food became scarce, the animals shrank in size.

If food becomes scarce in Africa tomorrow, mice will have a better chance of surviving than elephants. This is just the simple "common sense" of evolution, which always favors the life forms best adapted to their living conditions. When food is plentiful, "big wins." When food is scarce, being small has its advantages.

Brain scientists now know that our brains are continuing to evolve. To deny the clear evidence of evolution is silly. Until around 10,000 years ago human beings had made very little technological process. Our ancestors had used the same hand axes and rudimentary tools for hundreds of thousands of years. Then something extraordinary happened. Something in the human genome "clicked" and we suddenly became much more intelligent as a species. There was obviously a mutation.

I own a computer software company. Over the last 30 years I have written thousands of computer programs, which are pure logic. No human being born more than 10,000 years ago could begin to do what I have done with my brain. I don’t say this to brag, merely to make a point. There is a tremendous difference between the intellectual capabilities of a Neanderthal or Cro-Magnon and a modern scientist or computer programmer.

Does McBride believe it would have taken a race of Einsteins hundreds of thousands of years to do more than bang and scrape flint into hand axes? Obviously, something amazing happened in human evolution around 10,000 years ago. The evidence is irrefutable. Before, we were savages. Soon thereafter, we invented civilization, agriculture, writing, algebra, geometry, calculus, physics, philosophy, etc.

The Bible is one result of this great leap in human evolution. But unfortunately a lot of it was produced by barbarians, and this is simple to prove.

Like many Christians, McBride probably bases what he "knows" on the Bible. But the Bible is not a reliable witness for either science or morality Those of us who have actually read and studied the Bible honestly, with clear minds, know that the Bible is far from "infallible." Much of it was written by violent nomadic barbarians who justified killing women and children by saying, like the Son of Sam, "God told me to do it." Jesus Christ was as different from Moses, Joshua and King David as night is from day. The failure of so many Christians to read the Bible and be honest about what it actually says, keeps them from being able to teach students things that make sense.

Just look at the conclusions that have been drawn by Christians in the past, because they relied on the Bible:

Christians once "knew" the earth was flat. But Columbus proved them wrong.

Christians once "knew" the earth was the center of the universe. But NASA proved them wrong.

Christians once "knew" whites were superior to blacks because blacks were the "children of Ham" who had been designated by God to serve as slaves. But of course they were wrong.

Every time Christians have accepted the Bible carte blanche, without thinking critically, they have been misled into Crusades, Inquisitions, slavery, witch hunts and treating women like chattels. The terrible errors of the past spring from this strange idea that nomadic barbarians who slaughtered women and children (and all too often their own women and children) were "men of God."

There’s an old saying: "The proof is in the pudding." Well, then the Bible is proof that Moses, Joshua, Caleb and King David were not "men of God" because they massacred defenseless women and children. It is disturbing and shocking that conservative Christians call evil good, anytime a cretin says "God made me do it." How can we trust such gullible people with the education of children? Shouldn’t we expect them to be able to read, reason, and think critically? When will they learn to "rightly divide" the Bible?

Christians once "knew" the Genesis account of creation was "true," but today modern science has proven the Genesis account to be incorrect. We now know (because there are distant stars whose light is reaching the earth after millions of years in transit) that the universe is vastly older that the 6,000 years recorded in the Bible. If the universe was only a few thousand years old, we would be unable to see any star more than 6,000 light years away. This is simple physics.

We also have the evidence of geologic formations like the Grand Canyon, which was obviously formed over many millions of years. No one with a functional brain can possibly believe the timeline established by the Bible. How can conservative Christians account for the fact that cities like Jericho and Catal Hoyuk predate the time of Adam by thousands of years, and that the tools and skeletons left by our less civilized ancestors predate any possible Adam/Eve scenario by hundreds of thousands of years?

Obviously the early stages of Bible history are not accurate. The writers of the Bible had no idea how long humans had been on the planet before the first cities were built. And then they missed the construction of the first cities by several thousand years.

And why are there no descriptions of ice ages in the Bible, since human beings obviously lived through ice ages? Why are there no descriptions of giant asteroids wiping out nearly all life on earth? The answer is simple: these things predate the writing of the Bible, and the men who told the stories that became the Bible did not get the accounts from God, but made them up. At some point the accounts do become more or less historical, but not in the very early going. Therefore, there is no reason to believe that all the Bible is a direct revelation of an all-wise God. An all-wise God would have gotten the sequence of creation events right . . .

The Genesis account gets the order of creation wrong. We now know the correct order: the oldest (most distant stars) first, then the newer stars like our sun, then the planets (because the heavier elements that comprise planets are formed in the hearts of stars), then the moon (which could not orbit the earth until the earth had sufficient mass to hold it in orbit), then the seas, then sea life, and finally land life. The Genesis account maintains that plants were created before the sun and stars. This patently ridiculous, since photosynthesis obviously requires sunlight.

The Bible also says that hares chew the cud, that there are insects with four legs, and other such nonsense. Such errors continue into the New Testament. For instance, Jesus was reputed to have said the mustard seed is the smallest of seeds, but this is not true. Orchids have smaller seeds, and orchids grow in Israel. The men who wrote the Bible were not scientists, and Jesus was not a botanist. To claim the Bible contains profound wisdom about science is silly. The Bible is full of wild errors, blatant contradictions and unfulfilled prophecies which can never be fulfilled. Anyone who has studied the Bible honestly knows this, and accepts it.

For instance, the Bible contains two prophecies about Nebuchadnezzar that did not come true, and can never come true. There was a prophecy that he would sack and loot Tyre. The prophet who predicted this later admitted his own error, then said Nebuchadnezzar would sack and loot Egypt instead, and leave it an uninhabited wasteland for forty years. But that never happened either. Other false prophecies in the Bible include the one about Levites always offering sacrifices in the temple. The temple was destroyed twice, so this prophecy was false. Another prophecy said a son of David would always sit on the throne of Israel. But that prophecy was proven false long before the time of Jesus. The Levites often claimed to speak for God, but they were wrong time and time again. Anyone who has read the Bible and studied the prophecies and history knows the truth. But conservative Christians lie to their own children—telling them every word of the Bible is "infallible"—thus perpetuating the deceptions of the men who claimed to speak for God, while murdering defenseless women and children. Is this how Christians honor God, by siding with the lowest of the low? Why don’t they just admit the truth?

There are far more serious errors in the Bible than mere errors of science and history.

Not very long ago, Christians "knew" slavery, ethnic cleansing and genocide were "the will of God" because Moses commanded such things. Of course they were wrong, although conservative Christians still refuse to admit the horrendous "morality" contained in many palpably evil verses in the Bible.

Has McBride read Numbers 31, in which Moses commanded his warriors to slaughter captured women and male infants, while keeping only virgin girls alive, as sex slaves? Is this the "wisdom of God"?

Has McBride read Deuteronomy 22, in which Moses commanded that girls who had been raped should be murdered or sold to their rapists for cash? Is this the "wisdom of God"?

Can anyone believe Jesus commanded such things? Of course not. Jesus was the antithesis of Moses and King David. But conservative Christians—in their desperation to "believe" every word of the Bible—have to shut down their brains. But then how can they be good teachers of students?

The theory of evolution and DNA science explain the existence of Neanderthals. The Bible doesn’t (even though Neanderthals lived in Israel) because according to the Bible Adam and Eve were created ex nilo, in a perfect state, only a few thousand years ago. Of course this is a fairytale, which no thinking Christian can possibly believe. Only conservative Christians, with their heads buried in the sand like ostriches, believe the "garden of Eden" account, which only turns God into a moron, a churl and a murderer. Should Christians believe in a God who is not good?

As Mark Twain, American’s foremost critic of Biblical literalism pointed out, the Genesis account makes no sense. How could Adam and Eve have made the right decision, if they weren’t given the discernment to know good from evil until it was too late? Whoever came up with the Genesis account was bereft of logic. He made God the first murderer, because according to him, God gave Adam and Eve animal skins to wear, which means the first murders were committed by God. The animals hadn’t committed a sin, so why should they suffer and die? The depiction of God in the Genesis account makes him unjust, because the animals shouldn’t have suffered and died for the mistake of Adam and Eve, which was really the mistake of God, since he alone had any knowledge of good and evil. Why didn’t he just place the fruit a bit higher, where innocent, childlike Adam and Eve couldn’t reach it, since they didn’t know good from bad? But of course fairytales don’t have to make sense.

When I was a fifth-grader and began reading the Bible cover to cover, ten chapters per day, I knew the garden of Eden story was a con job. That adult Christians can believe it is beyond me. That they teach students to ignore the clear evidence of science and believe God is an evil moron is, in my mind, unconscionable.

If God condemned everyone we love to suffer and die, why should we praise him? Do we praise women and child killers? If God set Adam and Eve up to fall, by denying them the knowledge of good and evil they needed to make the right decision until it was too late, why should we praise and honor God? If God condemned my mother to suffer and die, how can I "love" God? Obviously, if there is a God who is good, God cannot be a con artist or a mass murderer. Therefore, the good God cannot be the God of the Genesis account. This leaves various possibilities.

The most likely possibility is that the ancient Hebrews made up a myth to explain how man came to live on planet earth, and in doing so made one mistake after another. There are good reasons to believe this is what happened.

First, there is not one account of creation in the Bible, but two very different accounts. In Genesis chapter 1, the animals are created first, then Adam is created. But in Genesis chapter 2, Adam is created first, then God forms all the animals and birds "from the ground" and has Adam name them as they are created. In Genesis 1, man and woman are created simultaneously, both in the image of God. But in Genesis 2, after Adam has named all the animals and hasn’t found a suitable companion, God puts him to sleep and creates Eve from one of his ribs.

Second, Adam and Eve go unmentioned in the Old Testament. Where are the Hebrew psalms and lamentations over "original sin" that should have joined the other psalms and lamentations? The Hebrew Bible never mentions the "sin" of Adam and Eve again. Adam and "original sin" appear thousands of years later, in the New Testament. How can we account for this? Fortunately there is a simple answer . . .

Third, we know when and where the Israelites "borrowed" their creation account. When the Israelites went into captivity in Babylon they did not yet have a creation account. During their sojourn in Babylon, they "picked up" the Babylonian creation myth, the Enuma Elish or En ma Eliš. This Babylonian account predates the Hebrew Bible and matches the Bible in the order things were created (although of course the order was wrong, because the ancients had no idea what really happened). In the Babylonian account, there were two Gods, male and female. This would account for the Bible saying man and women were created in the image of God, "male and female" and also for the verse that says, "Let us [plural] create man in our [plural] own image." But the Israelites eventually banished their female goddess and rewrote the account so that creation was attributed to one sovereign male God. They removed the female goddess, Chaos (Tiamat) and had the world begin in murky chaos without her. In both accounts, light and "day" and night" precede the creation of the sun. In both accounts there is a day of rest at the end of the seven days of creation. The accounts are too similar for this to be accidental.

The Israelites didn’t just pick up the creation account from ancient Babylon. They also picked up the idea of powerful adversary of God, called Sheytân in Persian (the language of Babylon), al-Shaitan (the Adversary) in Arabic, and Satan (the Accuser) in Hebrew. Anyone who has actually read and studied the Bible knows that Satan is never mentioned in chronologies covering thousands of years in the early Bible. How could there be a powerful demon who rules the earth, and yet God and the prophets failed to even mention him until the time of David, in the book of Chronicles?

The Genesis account doesn’t mention Satan, only a talking snake, and as I explained it’s obvious that the Genesis account was not part of the original Hebrew Bible, but was added much later. Satan does not appear in the Bible for thousands of years because in the Old Testament God was all-powerful and was responsible for both good and evil. Satan was only needed when Israelites came to believe that God could not be responsible for evil. By this time, they were aware of an evil demon named "Satan" that their neighbors had made up. So Satan was a late addition to the Old Testament, but even then he had no power except to deceive. He did not become powerful in his own right until the New Testament, when he offered all the nations of the earth to Jesus. This was, of course, merely a theological proposition, because if God is all-powerful and controls every event in human history, no one else can "offer" God anything. In the Old Testament God was all-powerful. Now Christians flip-flop back and forth, claiming God is all-powerful when something good happens, but that his hands are tied by Satan and man’s free will whenever anything bad happens. Since lots of bad things happen on earth, this makes Satan seem very powerful. But any sane human being knows Satan doesn’t make us do things we don’t want to do. We do what we decide to do ourselves, if we are sane. Satan has always been a literary device, ever since he was added to the Bible at a very late date.

The first occurrence of the name Satan in the Bible is revealing. Just go to any online search tool such as and search for the name Satan. The name doesn’t turn up until the census of David in Chronicles. But as with the creation account, there are two accounts of the census. In one account, God moved David’s heart to take a census, after which God became enraged and killed thousands of Israelites, which makes no sense whatsoever, if God is good. So the writer of Chronicles changed his version of things so that it was Satan who provoked David to take the census. He probably did this because there is another verse in the Bible that says David only disobeyed God in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. If David only disobeyed God once, then David could not have disobeyed God in the matter of the census, which would have made God responsible for all the deaths. So the writer of Chronicles blamed the census on Satan, and this is the first appearance of the name Satan in our English Bibles.

But the writer of Chronicles was wrong. King David was not a "righteous" man, or a "man after God’s own heart" who only sinned once. This was pure propaganda dreamed up by the Levite scribes who controlled what ended up in the pages of the Bible. The truth is very different. King David was an idolater: he had a man-sized idol (a Teraphim) in his own house. His wife Michal used it to trick Saul’s envoys into believing the idol was David, "asleep" in bed, as he escaped into the night to avoid assassination. But only idolaters have man-sized idols in their houses!

David was a genocidal maniac who killed every woman when he "smote the land." He ordered the slaughter of the lame and the blind when Jerusalem was taken from the Jebusites, because he "hated" the handicapped. Jesus had compassion on the handicapped, so how could David have been a man after God’s own heart? And King David never "repented" because his dying command was for his friend Joab to be assassinated, ostensibly for having "shed innocent blood." But it was David who had offered Joab the command of his armies for slaughtering the handicapped! David remained a lying, backstabbing hypocrite to his last breath. He was the Jewish Hitler. And yet conservative Christians speak of David in glowing terms, as they do of other serial murderers of women and children like Moses and Joshua (whom they call a "type" of Jesus). How can they teach children, if they are unable to read and understand their own Bibles, and be honest about them?

How did the Bible end up calling women and child killers "men of God"? Again, the answer is simple. The Levite priests did not judge men like Moses, Joshua and David by how good they were, but by how successful they were in war. When men were successful in war—even when they killed women, children and the handicapped—they were called "righteous." If they killed the priests of other cults, they were even more "righteous." This pattern can be seen time and time again throughout the Old Testament. The "righteous" kings were bloodthirsty tyrants who slaughtered the priests of other religions (and eventually, the priests of different cults within Judaism). Then, in order to avoid working themselves, the Levites said "God" slavered like a hungry beast for the blood and flesh of animals. In those days meat was the most valuable commodity the common folk had to offer. So the Levites demanded that the choicest of all the animals be brought as offerings to "God," which meant they got rich and fat without working. It was, in effect, a con job.

They made religion a big, bloody, horrendous business. By the time of Jesus, so many poor animals were being ritually, slaughtered, the Kidron valley below the Jerusalem temple ran red with rivers of their blood. According to the gospel of Mark (the oldest and most authentic gospel), when Jesus drove the poor animals, the people selling them, and the moneychangers from the temple, the priests who were in danger of losing their cushy jobs decided to kill him.

Obviously a good God could not want animals to butchered unnecessarily, or for Jesus to suffer and die. It was religion gone mad that killed Jesus. Then, after he died, it was religion that accused him of having caused all the suffering and death that ever happened on the planet. Jesus did not agree that God wanted sacrifices. He quoted Hosea 6:6, saying, "If you understood the meaning of these words—I desire chesed (mercy, compassion, lovingkindness), not sacrifice—you would not have condemned the innocent." Who were the innocent, but the hundreds of thousands of innocent animals who died to make the Levites rich? Six Hebrew prophets had said God did not desire sacrifices—Hosea, Amos, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Micah and the Psalmist (allegedly David but probably a later writer) – and Jeremiah blatantly contradicted the entire sacrificial system, saying God did not ordain animal sacrifices when the Israelites came out of Egypt.

How can all the Bible be "infallible" when the Levites said God demanded animal sacrifices, and six prophets called them liars?

Once again, it is simple to see and understand what happened. The evidence exists in the pages of the Bible:

(1) Moses did not command animal sacrifices.
(2) During the reign of Josiah, the Levites saw a way to gain power and get rich quick.
(3) They wrote a new book, Deuteronomy, and pretended it had been "lost."
(4) The new book of Deuteronomy, authorized them to murder competing priests, which they did, in a rampage of mayhem.
(5) The new book forced the common folk to give the Levites free meat and share everything they had with them.

Chapter 22 of Deuteronomy commands that girls who had been raped should either be murdered or sold to their rapists. Why? Because the Levites looked at women as having value only if they were virgins who could be sold in marriage for dowries. If a girl lost her hymen, she was of no value, so she should either be killed or sold to her rapist. Is this the "wisdom" of God or the evil lunacy of men? Any rich man could rape any girl he wanted, then offer her either death or the opportunity to be raped "legally" every day of her life. If this doesn’t make a Christian man want to vomit, what good is his religion? If this makes a Christian man sick to his stomach, how can he believe all the Bible is "infallible"?

When will Christians like Christopher McBride read their Bibles, admit the errors and palpable evil they contain, and stop telling innocent children they "know" things which are untrue? Science is not the problem. A religion that calls evil "good" and lies the "truth" is the problem. Why not be honest about the Bible? And shouldn’t teachers be honest with students? Moses didn’t have a clue how the earth was formed, and he thought men should have free reign to rape, enslave and kill women and children. On what planet is that the "wisdom" of God?

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