Frog launch at NASA's LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) mission to the Moon.
Within the last week, our tea-soaked Ravalli County Commissioners simultaneously threw 400 low-income local women and men under their church bus by refusing $50,000 Title X grant that has funded our Family Planning Clinic for the past 42 years, got served papers for illegally forking over million-dollar county-subsidized favors to their Legacy Ranch developer benefactors, and gifted yet another $50,000-a-year plum government job (with health benefits!) to yet another of their "anti-government" cronies on the Republican Central Committee[i].
In these times when universal healthcare is being successfully characterized as communism with fangs to whole swaths of working people whom you’d think would know better, what can one say to them? That they’re dupes to rich folks knocking them upside the head with multi-billion dollar propaganda blitzes so the aforementioned Rich Ones can more perfectly wring the aforementioned Poor Ones dry? However true and oft repeated, this doesn’t seem to be the right tack, at least here in Ravalli County. Fear is an unreasoning emotion by definition, and is a powerful deficiency in working peoples' psyche. This fact has been exploited by religious hucksters for the greater glory of themselves and their cronies for at least the last 3,000 years since, which is roughly when the Greeks invented Honkyism. I’m serious.
So…Religion? Well, historically-speaking, the Greek Gods, or at least the middlemen who spoke for them, used Fear to play one group of Us The People off of another group of the same for the mere purpose of their high entertainment, much like our modern versions of cloud-bearded pschycos, the Koch Brothers and Rupert Murdochs of today. It’s all a chess game to them, where they’re the Invisible Hand and we’re the pawns. Neither the Greek gods nor their modern equivalents need the extra power or riches. They just need a good joke, and we’re it, and that, dear reader, is at the rotten core of what abuse of power has always been about. Hitler had “God is With Us” stamped on every German soldier’s belt buckle. For chrissakes. Remember?
So what does one say? These wingos just threw 400 low-income women (and men) and their families under their church bus[ii] while handing over many times $50,000 in tax money to their rich political cronies? How self-righteous is that? Can we talk to them about the fundamental separation of Church and State hardwired in plain English[iii] into our Constitution? No. Can we hope to get them to understand the cruel unfairness of refusing $50,000 in federal grant money for low-income women while simultaneously gifting their “anti-government” crony with a $50,000 government job (with health benefits, by God!)? No. Can we pray? Well…
For lack of a better idea, how about imagery? These churchy people LOVE imagery. How about a picture a frog launched into oblivion by a NASA spaceship headed to the moon. If you haven’t picked it out already, study the picture above taken by a tax-funded remote NASA camera[iv], and find the frog. The poor thing was apparently hanging out on or near the launchpad where cooling water from previous launches had made a moist environment, and to all the world this accidental shot is a vivid—and explicit—image of a frog being nailed to the cross to pay for the sins of others. The sin of the rocket ship in this case, but that’s us in that rocket ship. Headed to the moon instead of taking care of our frogs and other amphibians, who are on the front line of extinction as a result of our obsessions to understand everything about everything except how to take care of ourselves and our planet. We’re going where this frog is going. It’ll just take us a little longer, because we have thicker skin.
So here’s what you and I might as well say to one of these self-righteous tea-sippers who would put the entertainment of sky gods and rich bastards playing chess above the rock-bottom healthcare needs of over 400 people who don’t have enough money to go to a doctor: I pity you if, when you die, you get to your Pearly Gates and you find out the place is run by the frogs you spent your whole oblivious life launching into the heavens, where they now reside to sit in judgement of you!
Kind of silly, but given the stakes, we have to try. The image of St. Peter as a frog has as good a chance of connecting with them as anything else we’ve come up with so far. At best, it might put the Fear of God in them. At worst, they might think it's a good joke[v].
[i] Valery Stamey, Ravalli Co. Republican Central Committee (RCC) precinct captain for Victor was just appointed by the Ravalli County Commissioner—all politically-beholden to the RCC-- to the vacated elected position of County Treasurer. Last year, Scott Boulanger, RCC precinct captain for Darby was appointed by the RCC commissioners to the vacated State Senate position. Terry Nelson, chair of the RCC, was appointed in spite of blatant conflict-interest issues, to the $50,000+/year county position of Planning Office Manager, a position specially created by the commissioners for him. All three of these “anti-government” stalwarts were gifted tax-funded salaries and healthcare benefits. These are the most blatant abuses, but the list goes on.
[ii] If you do the math, these 400 people represent approximately 1% of Ravalli County’s population. If you factor in their families and those close to them directly and negatively affected by the commissioners’ bigoted decision, you have 5% of the Bitterroot population cruelly dismissed. If you factor in the majority of the people in this valley who support the right of those low-income folks to access our family planning clinic, you have the American version of the Taliban running our community into the ground for the sake of their small minds.
[iii] Also thanks to your tax dollars at work in our inestimable Montana State Legislature, the official language of the State of Montana!
[iv] Wallops/Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on the Virginia coast across Chesapeake Bay from Washington D.C.
[v] It’s no joke at all, to the frogs or to us.