Archive for the ‘Political Statements 2021’ Category

The Moral Dimension of Vaccine Mandates   3 comments

When I was a wee lad, my parents had to prove my status regarding certain vaccines before they could enroll me in public schools.

When I was applying to colleges and universities for my undergraduate and graduate degree programs, I had to do the same before I could enroll.  If I needed a booster, I got one.  If I had not received a given vaccine, I got one.

When I was a freshman at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Tifton, Georgia, I told the germane officials that I tested a false positive for tuberculosis.  I told the truth.  Said officials, not convinced, sent me to the Tift County Health Department for a chest x-ray.  They the college sent me to my county health department once a month for a few months.  A nurse drew a sample of my blood and gave me a bottle of pills.  I finally proved that I was not going to give anyone tuberculosis.

These were well-reasoned and proper policies.

I, as a Christian who takes the Bible seriously, cannot escape mutuality, a principle encoded into the Law of Moses, the messages of the Hebrew prophets, and the moral teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.  We are all, in the eyes of God, dependent upon, responsible for, and responsible to each other.  We belong to God and each other.  Whatever one does or does not do, affects others.

Without romanticizing the United States homefront during World War II, I note that sharing sacrifices and hardships was the consensus position.  That is not the consensus during this COVID-19 pandemic, sadly.  When I read stories about delusional and/or selfish people who refuse to get vaccinated, I read stories about public menaces.  When I read stories about unvaccinated COVID-19 patients in hospitals harassing doctors and nurses, I shake my head.  When I read stories about the families of such patients threatening the lives of medical professionals, I wonder what the hell is wrong with these people.  When I read stories of people with conditions other than COVID-19 who have died because they had to wait for room in overwhelmed hospitals, I wonder what will convince some people to get vaccinated.  The stubbornly unvaccinated and those who enable them have blood on their hands.

So, yes, I support vaccine mandates in the public and private sectors.  Yes, I favor making the unvaccinated pay higher insurance premiums.

The current economic problems are tied to the ongoing pandemic.  Do not blame any politicians, except those who enable the stubbornly unvaccinated.  Mainly, blame the stubbornly unvaccinated.

Strictly enforced vaccine mandates are morally defensible.  They are consistent with mutuality.  Nobody has the moral right to be a modern-day counterpart of Typhoid Mary.




My Third Dose   4 comments

Today I received my third dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination.

I thank God that this vaccine and other vaccines for COVID-19 exist and are available in many places.  I also know that parts of the world have no access to any such vaccine.

My civil libertarian ways have their limits.  Those limits stand somewhere before personal choice in whether to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in this pandemic.  Nobody has a moral right to choose to be a contemporary counterpart to Typhoid Mary.  Nobody should have the legal right to do so either.  When my choice endangers you, O reader–or your choice endangers me–the one making the unwise choice also makes an immoral choice.  I embrace mutuality, not individualism and personal choice taken to a dangerous extreme.   When I read about certain European governments fining unvaccinated adults severely for leaving their homes, I think that some governments have good sense during a pandemic.

I have no sympathy for those who refuse to behave responsibly, i.e, wear a mask properly, practice social distancing, and get vaccinated (if eligible and the vaccines are available) during this pandemic.  I have no sympathy for those who spread deadly disinformation that costs lives, prolongs this pandemic, and compound social and economic damage from it.  I support vaccine mandates–the stricter the enforcement, the better.  I also favor keeping those will insist on acting irresponsibly away from the rest of us, for the common good.  If certain people will not behave responsibly, this last step is reasonable and morally defensible.




How is That Offensive?   Leave a comment

I am taking a momentary break from revising some test items (for use in public school classrooms in Georgia, U.S.A.).  I write such test items for an arm of the State of Georgia.

I drafted a test item about the federal immigration law of 1924.  This law was notoriously racist, grounded in White supremacy, scientific racism, and eugenics.  In that test item, I used the term, “White Anglo-Saxon Protestants,” usually abbreviated “WASPs.”  One reviewer (whose word I must heed) advised removing it, given that some may find it offensive.

I find racism offensive.  The term “White Anglo-Saxon Protestants” accurately describes many people.  The immigration law of 1924 favored them, in fact.

By the way, I grew up a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.  I am of mostly Western European ancestry–primarily from the British Isles.  I can trace the presence of the European side of my family in the Americas to German immigrants, English people, and Huguenots, during colonial times.  My family tree also contains a healthy dose of Cherokee DNA, but I look Caucasian.  I grew up a Southern Baptist then a United Methodist.  I am a member of The Episcopal Church, and I have strong Roman Catholic tendencies.  Whether I remain a Protestant depends on whom one asks.  I no longer think of myself as a Protestant.  I am too Protestant to be a Roman Catholic, and too Roman Catholic to be a Protestant.  Take those details for whatever they are worth, O reader.

I have written critically of thin-skinned people on this weblog. They have deserved every harsh word.

Life must be miserable for thin-skinned people, regardless of where they fall on the political-ideological spectrum.  Perhaps they would have an easier time if they tried removing the pole before sitting down.




Posted September 30, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Political Statements 2021

Cultural Rot as an Internal Threat to Representative Government   Leave a comment

Steve Paikin is one of the great journalists.  He, one of the hosts of The Agenda, from Toronto, Ontario, hosts this depressing interview.  Professor Tom Nichols correctly diagnoses the predicament in which much of the developed world finds itself politically.




Posted September 29, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Political Statements 2021

The Irresponsibility of the Georgia Board of Regents   Leave a comment

The Georgia Board of Regents, which controls the University System of Georgia, mandates neither masks nor COVID-19 vaccinations during this pandemic.

This is irresponsible.  I read news stories about K-12 teachers and students in the state dying of COVID-19.  I also live within walking distance of the main campus of The University of Georgia.  I drive through campus and see crowds of students walking.  I see relatively few of them wearing masks.

By the way, I work, albeit remotely, for The University of Georgia, so I may be biting the hand that feeds me by writing and publishing this post.  So be it.  “I gotta be me,” as the saying goes.  I insist on taking a stand.

The Fall Semester began last week.  Already, to my knowledge, four faculty members at three institutions of the University System of Georgia have resigned abruptly.  They have (a) had the financial ability to quit their jobs, and (b) have valued their health.  Perhaps the most famous case was that of an 88-year-old part-time psychology.  He had come out of retirement to share his talents with the university community.  Dr. Bernstein had a justifiable rule:  No masks, no class.  One young woman refused to wear a mask properly.  When Dr. Bernstein realized she would not wear the mask properly in class, he abruptly resumed his retirement.  He cut that class session short and left.  He was correct.  The combination of age and an underlying health condition made Dr. Bernstein more susceptible than some to COVID-19.

Mark my words:  If the Board of Regents does not alter its policy soon, it will have to contend with more professors choosing their lives over their courses.  I pity those faculty members for whom the choice is between financial ruin and potentially contracting COVID-19.

I also wish Dr. Bernstein a longer and healthy life.

Furthermore, I remember when I was applying for admission to institutions of the University System of Georgia.  I recall having to document that I had received certain vaccinations.  I also remember having to get certain vaccinations.

That made sense.

The University System of Georgia should add COVID-19 to the list of diseases against which to be vaccinated.  It should also mandate wearing masks in classrooms.  It should do so immediately.




That’s Controversial!   Leave a comment

What Isn’t Controversial?

Today I conducted a Google search on The Starlost (1973-1974), one of the infamously bad science fiction series.  Ed Wood movies were bad, but they had the virtue of being so bad they were accidentally comedic.  The series, available for free at YouTube and, had bad sets, special effects, hair, wardrobes, writing, acting, and directing.  The series, which established an intriguing premise in the first episode, abandoned that premise almost immediately.  Also, scripts also kept referring to a

Class-G solar star.

The series, put out of its misery after sixteen episodes, was a train wreck.

Today I found an online article (dated April 11, 2021) proclaiming The Starlost

the most controversial sci-fi show of all time.

The author (whose name I found easily but choose not to use in this post) committed what advertising people call puffery.  He, for example, used “most” and “of all time.”  He exaggerated reality and, in so doing, made a statement impossible to confirm.  His headline was ridiculous.  The Starlost may have been controversial, but mainly it was inept.

This online story prompted me to revisit a topic that disturbs me, hence the existence of this post.

“Controversial” is a word that means little or nothing in an age of “alternative facts” and of entitled “snowflakes” from a variety of perspectives, left and right, who thrive on their outrage.  To describe anything as controversial is merely to acknowledge its existence in an age of verbal sniping.  To call anything controversial is on par with describing water as being wet.

Somewhere, some water “truther” is arguing that water is not wet.  Mark my words, O reader.

You, O reader, ought not to mistake me for a spiritual giant and a person gifted with rare insights; I do not.  I do know some lessons and possess some wisdom, however.  Life can prove educational, if one pays attention.  From my fountain of wisdom, such as it is, I offer this insight:  Life is too short to go through it in a state of perpetual outrage.  Yes, injustice should prompt outrage.  If, for example, human trafficking does not trigger your moral compass, O reader, I do not want to know you.  Balance is crucial.  Focusing on and manufacturing controversies that need not exist is one result of hypersensitivity.  Hypersensitivity is a reaction against insensitivity.  I propose settling in the middle and practicing balanced sensitivity–minus the -in and the -hyper.

Life is short.  Coping with death ought to teach one what really matters.  We human beings ought to extend grace to ourselves and each other.  I care more about a person’s character in the present day and the immediate past than long ago.  One’s character long ago is relevant if it is also one’s character in the present day and the immediate past.  Yet people change, for good and for ill.  The version of Kenneth Taylor writing this post differs greatly from many previous iterations of him.  I evaluate myself on the basis of who I am and was recently, not who I was x years ago.  Also, everybody has proverbial skeletons and creepy-crawlies in the equally proverbial closet.  If we are bent of character assassination, based on who someone used to be, we have no moral right to complain when others treat us as we have treated others.  Mutual forbearance and forgiveness would reduce much needless controversy.

The Starlost remains inept, nearly half a century later.  I do not consider it worthy of the word “controversial.”  The series is that bad.




Allegedly Pro-Life Politicians During a Pandemic   Leave a comment

I count myself among the “cautiously pro-choice.”  I understand that medical conditions can complicate the decision whether or not to have an abortion.  Life is not all black-and-white.  Many shades of gray exist, too.  Sometimes there are no good answers; somebody will die.  I affirm that, in these circumstances, the people closest to the situation are generally the individuals who should make the difficult decisions.  As much as I respect the inherent dignity of every human being, I also grasp that life is messy.  Therefore, I harbor certain sympathies in the pro-life direction, but settle on the pro-choice side.  I have a strong bias toward the pragmatic.

Sometimes, however, the decisions are easy–or should be.  During a pandemic, for example, governors who forbid mask mandates that can save lives act in a morally irresponsible manner.  Many or most of these governors boast of their pro-life credentials regarding abortion.  Yet they are pro-death regarding saving lives, especially the lives of those too young to get vaccinated against COVID-19, during a surge of the Delta Variant.

The hypocrisy galls me.  Concern for life should extend from womb to tomb.




Posted August 20, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Coronavirus/COVID-19, Political Statements 2021

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Exiting Quagmires   2 comments


I hold myself to high standards.  For example, I strive to avoid engaging in rhetorical sniping.  I also seek to avoid falling into a double standard.  When, for example, someone with whom I usually agree fouls up, I admit it.  If someone with whom I rarely agree fouls up, I admit that, too.  I do not feel obligated to commit every thought I have to a weblog, but I am intellectually honest.  I try to be fair.

I also strive to honor the slogan of the great Pierre Elliott Trudeau:

Reason before passion.

Anyone who knows much about the late Canadian Prime Minister understands that he had plenty of reason in politics and passion in his private life.  That is another topic, though.

I pray for more reason and less passion in politics.  The world would be better off if people were more rational.

Speaking of reason:

I do not believe for a New York minute that, if Donald Trump had presided over the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the result would have been much different.  The timing would have been slightly earlier, but the terrible news unfolding would have been about the same.  I would not have excoriated him for it either.

I try to be consistent in my approach.

As I have written at this weblog, I reject all political cults of personality and no mere mortal is beyond reproach.  Sniping and emoting aside, President Biden deserves criticism for the mechanics of the U.S. withdrawal.  Yet he also deserves much credit for telling the blunt truth:  the United States military does not exist to engage in nation-building.

I have a long-standing opinion regarding attempts to “fix” foreign nations:  it is a foolish endeavor.  I came to this opinion in the middle 1990s, when I was an undergraduate at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia.  President Clinton had recently reinstalled the exiled Haitian President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.  I became interested in the U.S. occupation of Haiti (1915-1934), its causes, and its aftermath.  So, I researched and wrote a paper for a course.  I noted that Haiti was stable while the U.S. military occupied the country, and that Haiti fell apart after the U.S. withdrawal.

Regardless of the country and the timeframe, a simple principle holds:  The people of a country are ultimately responsible for that country.  Foreigners can help that country, but they can never fix it.

I draw an applicable lesson from another failed bipartisan U.S. experiment, South Vietnam:  A corrupt government that does not command popular loyalty may have a large, well-armed army, but that army is no match for a force that commands popular loyalty.  Of the two choices, the corrupt government may be less odious to Westerners.  That corrupt government may be less odious, objectively.  But that corrupt government will ultimately fall to its terrible opponents.

I, being trained in historical methodology, ponder current events in Afghanistan through the lens of centuries of events.  Afghanistan has earned its nickname, the “graveyard of empires.”  The historical short term of U.S. foreign policy toward Afghanistan reaches back more than forty years.  I realize that this is not how most Americans think about the unfolding crisis in Afghanistan.  I recall Gore Vidal‘s wonderful term,

United States of Amnesia.

Somebody needs to have a historical memory, though.

President Biden finally pulled the bandage off, so to speak.  Somebody had to do it.  One of his three immediate predecessors should have done it.  One may legitimately–without sniping or engaging in partisan hackery–criticize how he did it.  But somebody had to pull the bandage off.  Somebody had to exit the quagmire.  This was a thankless and unpleasant task.

Sometimes the choices are all thankless and unpleasant.




The Present, the Past, the Future, Truth, and Reconciliation   Leave a comment

Yesterday was July 1–Canada Day.

Today is July 2, the actual anniversary of the declaration of the independence of thirteen rebellious colonies from the British Empire in 1776.  The Second Continental Congress approved the final draft of the Declaration of Independence two days later.  On July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote enthusiastically to his wife Abigail that July 2 would become a great holiday.

During the last year or so, Canada has been confronting proverbial demons from its past that affect its present and future.  Canada has been wrestling with its shameful record of cultural and physical genocide of the First Nations, at residential schools, in particular.  The reputation of the already-troublesome (and corrupt) Sir John A. Macdonald (1815-1891), one of the founders of Canada, the first Prime Minister of Canada, and one of the founders of the system of residential schools–has come under critical scrutiny, to state reality mildly.  Some portion of Canadian society, especially on the Right, has not taken this well.

Down here, in the United States of America, we, as a population, have been experiencing similar turmoil in relation to institutionalized racism, police brutality, and other negative marks on our past and present.  Some portion of our populace, especially on the Right, has not taken this well, hence hostility to Critical Race Theory (CRT), for example.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s Canada Day Address from yesterday struck a chord with me:

Today, we celebrate our country and everyone who calls it home. We also reflect on everything we have accomplished, and look forward to what more we have to do.

The pandemic has changed our daily lives, taught us hard lessons, and kept us apart. But through this challenge and crisis, Canadians were there for each other. We all – young and old – made personal sacrifices to help keep our communities safe and healthy. We put signs in our windows and banged pots and pans for our front-line health care workers. We ordered takeout and shopped at our local small businesses. And once vaccines became available, we got our shots as soon as possible, so our communities could return to normal.

Hope, hard work, kindness, resilience, and respect. These are the values that Canadians have shown in the face of the pandemic, and today we should celebrate those values and what we’ve overcome. But while we acknowledge our successes, we must also recognize that, for some, Canada Day is not yet a day of celebration.

The horrific findings of the remains of hundreds of children at the sites of former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan have rightfully pressed us to reflect on our country’s historical failures, and the injustices that still exist for Indigenous peoples and many others in Canada. We as Canadians must be honest with ourselves about our past. And we must recognize that here in Canada there are still people who don’t feel safe walking the streets of their communities, who still don’t have the same opportunities as others, and who still face discrimination or systemic racism in their daily lives.

While we can’t change the past, we must be resolute in confronting these truths in order to chart a new and better path forward. Together, we have a long way to go to make things right with Indigenous peoples. But if we all pledge to do the work – and if we lead with those core values of hard work, kindness, resilience, and respect – we can achieve reconciliation and build a better Canada for everyone.

What makes Canada special is not the belief that this is the best country in the world, but the knowledge that we could be. And whether it’s finishing the fight against COVID-19, tackling the climate crisis, or walking the path of reconciliation, I know there is no challenge too great, if we face it together. Because the progress we’ve made as a country didn’t happen by accident, and it won’t continue without effort.

This Canada Day, let’s recommit to learning from and listening to each other so we can break down the barriers that divide us, rectify the injustices of our past, and build a more fair and equitable society for everyone. Together, we will roll up our sleeves and do the hard work that is necessary to build a better Canada.

From my family to yours, happy Canada Day.

I am from the Deep South, the heart of the former Confederate States of America.  The lie of the Lost Cause thrives, sometimes under official protection of state governments.  Quoting pro-slavery documents, such as the inaugural address of Jefferson Davis, the Cornerstone Speech of Alexander Hamilton Stephens, and the secession declarations of states does not change the minds of many people, committed to the lie of the Lost Cause.  My family tree includes at least on Confederate Army veteran from Virginia and at least one Confederate state senator from Georgia.

The state senator from Fort Gaines, Georgia, was also a deacon in the Fort Gaines Baptist Church, and a slaveholder.  During the Civil War, the State of Georgia conscripted slave labor to build up and maintain fortifications.  The state also promised to pay the slaveholders for the slaves’ work.  (Nobody paid the slaves, of course.)  The state senator was one of the affected slaveholders.  A letter he wrote to Governor Joseph Brown has survived.  In this correspondence, the state senator complained that the state was delinquent in paying him for his slaves’ labor.  I read the text of the letter in a book about the Civil War in southwest Georgia and southeast Alabama.

I sympathize with the slaves, not the state senator.

Most opposition to facing the past honestly stems from discomfort with the implications of doing so.  If many of our ancestors were total bastards, what does that make us?  We like to think ourselves as good people.  We also like to think our ancestors as good people.  Many of them were good people.  Many of them were also vile racists, imperialists, slaveholders, and other types of sinners.  If any nation or society is to move forward, toward a more just nation or society, it must acknowledge its past–positive and negative–honestly.  It must stand on the ground of objective reality and admit to the better angels and the demons of the past and present.  Only then can the nation or society move forward into a better, more just future.

Happy belated Canada Day!  Happy birthday, U.S.A.!  May we admit that recognition of the truth must precede reconciliation and progress toward justice.  May we recognize the truth, reconcile, and progress toward justice.  That will work toward the common good.  That will be patriotic and moral.




Academic Freedom, Part II   8 comments

And Social Justice, Too

Eric Blair, who wrote as George Orwell, was a prophet.  Some recent news stories have proven that the anti-intellectual and totalitarian tendencies of which he wrote in 1984 (1948) thrive in the United States of America.

Sadly, these tendencies have thrived here since before the founding of the U.S.A.  Anti-intellectualism has long been a feature of certain varieties of Evangelicalism and all forms of fundamentalism.  Richard Hofstadter, a great historian, wrote Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1966).  Religious historian Mark A. Noll, himself an Evangelical Presbyterian, wrote a scathing critique, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (1994).  As for totalitarianism, some portion of the population has always preferred to obey orders from a dictator, whatever that person’s title is.

Two issues concern me, for the purposes of this post.

One is Critical Race Theory (CRT).  CRT hits the proverbial nail on the equally proverbial head.  Institutionalized racism is a part of the past and the present of the United States of America.  I can point to examples, starting with the colonial period, for I am a student of American history.  CRT holds water, so to speak.  I wish that it did not, but wishing that reality is different does not make it so.  CRT has become a target for the racist part of the Right Wing in the U.S.A.  Teaching CRT in public institutions of learning is now illegal in some states, including Tennessee.  Tennessee is a state with a shameful record of violating academic freedom.  One may recall that Scopes “Monkey Trial” (1925) was in Tennessee, which, at the time, outlawed the teaching of Evolution in public schools.

I am not suprised that CRT is a hot potato in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).  This is a denomination founded in support of slavery in 1845.  This is a denomination once known as the religious wing of the Ku Klux Klan.  This is a denomination historically associated with White Southerners, most of whom, most of the time, have been unapologetic racists.  I wonder how many of the anti-CRT Southern Baptist leaders and followers have read and taken to heart and mind the message of Hebrew prophets, who denounced systemic injustice.

To outlaw the teaching of a legitimate and germane academic or scientific theory is to violate academic freedom.  As I have written, remaining on topic is a reasonable expectation and sound pedagogy.  One should, for example, teach biology in a biology course.  Likewise, CRT applies in history and various social sciences.  So be it.

To state CRT in Augustinian terms, racism is the original sin of the United States of America.  That sin remains in the present tense and influences social, economic, and political institutions.

To state CRT in Niebuhrian terms, racism defines the social, political, and economic climate and institutions which define our collective lives.  Racism infects almost everything.  And, whenever, we, individually or collectively, try to redress the sin of racism and its consequences, we may wind up accidentally furthering racism, despite ourselves.

The other issue is the new law regarding alleged indoctrination in public colleges and universities in Florida.

Recently, in the context of signing this bill into law, Governor Ron DeSantis spoke in favor of critical thinking and against liberal “indoctrination.”  He signed into law a bill mandating an annual survey of the political opinions of faculty and students at public colleges and universities in that state.  The explicit threat was that, if the proportion of opinions was too critical of DeSantis and his conservative camp, the state may reduce funding.  Regardless of the minutae about whether answering the survey is mandatory or optional, the bill has crossed the line into Orwellian territory.  The law inspires self-censorship and quashes freedom of academic expression.

DeSantis and his supporters mistake objectivity to mean agreeing with them, and “biased” to mean disagreeing with them.  This attitude that, “I am right, anyone who agrees with me is objective, and anyone who disagrees with me must be biased,” is old.  I recall hearing it frequently from conservative callers into open-lines segment on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal years ago, before I cut the cord.  In reality, we are all biased.  Those who agree with me are biased in the same way I am.  An honest researcher or academic acknowledges his or her biases and tries to be as honest and accurate as possible, as far as the evidence goes.

On the bright side, my home state of Georgia is no longer the most embarrassing state in the Union.  Florida and Tennessee have knocked us down the list.  That is cold comfort, though.  It is like repeating a Southern saying:

Thank God for Mississippi.

We’re not first in the high school dropout rate or last in the prevention of rickets!  Woo hoo!

I pray for the day that more of our state governments resume making good policy and cease to embarrass us and trample the noblest American traditions.

I come from a particular perspective.  I recall growing up as one of the marginalized, bookish people in the rural, conservative, and anti-intellectual communities in which I grew up.  I recall growing in United Methodist parsonages full of books.  Yet I also recall my father, who should have been my natural partner in intellectual and theological exploration, shutting me down.  That still disappoints me about him.

I stand left of the center in 2021.  This is an average score; I am very liberal on some counts, quite conservative on others, and moderate on others.  Some people may be surprised to learn what some of my political and theological opinions are.  So be it.  But I refuse to censor myself in the matter of which of these I express in an academic or ecclesiastical setting.  I am who I am.  I may change my mind again about certain issues; I reserve the right to do so.  Then I will be who I will be.  And I will not censor myself then either.

Consistently, though, I stand for academic freedom. within the context of remaining on topic and remaining based in available evidence.  This is non-negotiable.