Speaker Johnson Wants to Cancel Separation of Church and State and Elon Musk's Most Antisemitic Tweet Yet
Sen. Mullin Challenges Teamster to a Fistfight, Who Fought the Last "Notable" Duel in America, The Beatles Sing
What I’m Discussing Today:
Kareem’s Daily Quote: This snarky quote reminds us all of our internal struggle to be gracious.
Speaker Mike Johnson Denies Separation of Church and State: Christian nationalism coming to a Congress near you.
Elon Musk Gets His Antisemitism On: Since taking over X (formerly Twitter), he’s managed to crash its value as well as his own reputation.
Senator and Teamster Threaten to Fistfight During a Hearing: A U.S. Senator and a Teamster President walk into a congressional hearing—sounds like the beginning of a joke. Turns out, it is.
Kareem’s History Bites: The Last American Duel: In 1859, a U.S. Senator and a Supreme Court Justice figured guns were the best way to resolve their dispute.
Kareem’s Video Break: Best surprise birthday party ever. You’ll never forget it.
The Beatles Sings: The Beatles’ “last” song has been released. It’s both a technological wonder—and a heartfelt ballad.
Kareem’s Daily Quote
It’s not enough that I succeed, all my friends must fail.
Somerset Maugham, 1959 (author of Of Human Bondage)
Today’s quote differs from my past selections in that those have been hopeful affirmations, often encouraging ethical behavior or inspiring positive insights. I’m a little like Rob Schneider’s reappearing character in Adam Sandler movies when he pops up and says, “You can do it!”
I especially like this quote because it is an uncomfortable but accurate commentary on human nature that forces each of us to acknowledge that we contain conflicting thoughts and emotions and that all of life is a struggle to choose again and again and again the ones that we want to define us.
This particular quote has variations credited to many people throughout history, from Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan (“It is not sufficient that I succeed – all others must fail.”) to authors Iris Murdoch, and Gore Vidal. Film director Francis Ford Coppola quoted a version from 17th-century writer and nobleman François de La Rochefoucauld (though Coppola misspelled his name):
The problem here is that unique Hollywood principle: “I want my film to be good and his to be lousy,” which is based on the old adage of La Rochefoucault (sic), “It is not enough that I succeed; my best friend must also fail.”
I’ve been thinking about this lately because of the recent avalanche of articles declaring Marvel Studios on the ropes after a few pummelings at the box office and critical drubbings of some of their TV series. Variety, The Los Angeles Times, and others reported with a kind of giddy Schadenfreude (a German term for deriving pleasure from another’s misfortune, while pretending sympathy). My point isn’t whether or not Marvel’s plunge is true or, if it is, it’s deserved. I’m only concerned with how much joy we get from tearing down the same people that we lifted to those Olympian heights. Why does others’ fall from grace make people feel better about themselves?
For me, this quote is cautionary. Even at my advanced age, I am still susceptible to the occasional bout of envy. I watch a young basketball player make an amazing play and I feel a twinge of jealousy. I wish I could do that again. Would I feel a slight tingle of joy if he then fell and twisted his ankle? Maybe. However, my age allows me to put those feelings in perspective and they quickly vanish. After all, even if he falls, I still won’t be able to do that move. That’s when I remember that quote, which makes me feel silly and foolish, and I laugh at my own vanity.
People have to accept that we can hold two or more conflicting feelings that bubble up from the swampy sinkhole of our morally ambiguous unconscious. We can feel lust and respect at the same time. Gluttony and temperance. The devil and the angel on opposite shoulders chiding us to do their bidding. It’s not the dark thoughts that matter, but what we do despite them. The fact that we’ve wrestled with different emotions pulling us in different directions, and still chose supporting our friends rather than undermining them makes that choice all the more valuable.
People often use the excuse “I’m only human” when they make a selfish or damaging choice, implying humans are weak by nature. However, I prefer to look at “being only human” as our strength because we care about making the right choice, we strive to rise above our factory-equipped desires. To help someone succeed despite envy is the pinnacle of being human.
If there’s a fire and your first instinct is to run, you’re not a coward. But if you overcome that instinct to help someone else, you’re a hero. Yes, we may have petty and shameful thoughts, but we overcome them to be the person we want to be. Wanting friends to fail is human, helping friends succeed is divine.
SUMMARY: The speaker of the House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, has delivered his verdict on the separation of church and state: it is a “misnomer”.
The second-in-line to the presidency informed Americans on Tuesday that their time-honored conception of one of the founding principles of the country was a “misunderstanding”. Speaking to CNBC’s Squawk Box, he tried to turn the conventional wisdom about the founders’ intentions on its head and claimed what they really wanted was to stop government interfering with religion, not the other way around.
“The separation of church and state is a misnomer,” the speaker said in an interview with the TV channel from the US Capitol. “People misunderstand it. Of course, it comes from a phrase that was in a letter that Jefferson wrote. It’s not in the constitution.”
…Johnson’s contentious remarks fall in line with years of effort on his part to bring Christianity into the center of American politics. The New York Times has dubbed him the first Christian nationalist to hold the powerful position of speaker.
MY TAKE: Sometimes I feel like I’m in a science-fiction movie in which the hero tries to warn the people of impending doom. Like Charlton Heston in Soylent Green: “Soylent Green is people!” Or Kevin McCarthy in 1956’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers: “Look, you fools, you're in danger! Can't you see?! They're after you! They're after all of us! Our wives, our children, everyone! THEY'RE HERE, ALREADY! YOU'RE NEXT!”
Johnson—third in line for the presidency—doesn’t believe in this part of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” This is not convoluted or ambiguous and it clearly reflects the intent of the Framers of the Constitution as shown in their writings, particularly Thomas Jefferson’s.
But Johnson, who needs his son’s help monitoring his porn viewing (“Mike Johnson Admits He and His Son Monitor Each Other’s Porn Intake in Resurfaced Video”), has chosen to ignore history in order to create, as he stated in a 2016 interview, a “biblical” republic.
I repeat: A BIBLICAL REPUBLIC!
This seems like a desperate attempt to sandbag against eroding numbers in the Christian faith in the U.S. In the 1990s, about 90% of U.S. adults identified as Christian, but today it’s only about 64%. Religiously Unaffiliated rose from 5% in 1972 to 29% in 2020. Johnson intends to use the same shifty and unconstitutional tactics that the GOP uses to grab power. When the people choose something else, they impose their will upon those people. Since democracy is not a core value to them, we will become a Christian state whether we want to or not. Whatever it takes.
Johnson told Fox News that anyone who wanted to know what he thought about any issue should, “go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it – that’s my worldview.” Gosh, that’s so pious, so damn righteous. They say God is in the details and the details are what make his statement not only foolish but ultimately meaningless. The Bible is filled with contradictory teachings and admonishments. Jesus tells us he’s overriding the Old Testament’s “eye for an eye” in favor of turning the other cheek. Does that mean Johnson is negating all teachings in the Old Testament, too?
He might just as well have said, anyone who wanted to know what he thought about any issue should, “go to the library and read books – that’s my worldview.”
Johnson represents Louisiana. In U.S. News & World Report rankings of Best States, Louisiana ranks last. It also ranks last in Crime & Corrections and Economy. Natural Environment and Infrastructure (49th), Opportunity (48th), Education (46th), and so on. Given Johnson’s focus on leading a new Crusade through America rather than improving his own state, we can see what kind of leadership he offers. Yet, somehow, he’s in one of the most powerful positions in our country.
What is the goal of Johnson and his cohorts? For everyone to be Christian, conservative, Republican, follow patriarchy, read approved materials, and avoid porn. The time for being glib or bemused about this attempted takeover of our country and our culture is past. Diligence in removing these unAmerican politicians is our only option to reclaim the country our Founders had in mind.
I’m afraid Kevin McCarthy was right: “Look, you fools, you're in danger! Can't you see?! They're after you! They're after all of us! Our wives, our children, everyone! THEY'RE HERE, ALREADY! YOU'RE NEXT!”