Category Archives: politics

America the Dutiful: U.S. History as I Learned It

History, as they say, is written by the victors.

STORYTELLING IS AN ART. MORE THAN a mere recitation of facts or events, it is the painting of picture that becomes etched in the mind of the reader. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s serious, and sometimes it’s life changing.

American Soldier

America the Brave

Rarely, however, is it true. In an empirical sense, anyway. Oh, sure, the individual facts that make up the story might each be true when taken by itself, just as the pixels on your screen are definitively red, blue, and green. Yet that is not what you see; you see 256 million distinct colors that are not really there.

So it is with a story that is woven together into a tapestry that little resembles its component threads. And such works of art, whether awe-inspiring or grotesque, have the power to move people, to inspire and motivate them; indeed, to shape who they are.

Nowhere is this more the case than with history; in particular, the history we are taught from textbooks. In the United States, as elsewhere, school curricula are designed to instill in children the system of beliefs to which their parents subscribe. Invariably there is an element of nationalism in the histories children are taught. What nation, or parent, does not want to be seen as a victor in the eyes of their children?

It is only when we grow older and learn to ask questions for ourselves that we begin to glimpse other points of view on the things we’ve taken for granted our whole lives. Under the scrutiny of that inquiry, our former beliefs can look pretty naive and simplistic.

What follows is a summary of U.S. history as it was taught to me in school.

1492: Everybody living thought the Earth was flat. Christopher Columbus, a smart Italian kid who knew better, got Spain to pay him to sail around the globe and prove them all wrong. Columbus, thinking he had landed in India—but actually discovered a new land that didn’t belong to anybody—called the people he met there Indians.

Thanksgiving Indians

Harvest Potluck

1620: A mean English king treated devout Christians badly merely for their belief in God, so they sailed from England to Columbus’s unowned land and claimed it as their new home. They invited the Indians over for a harvest pot-luck and treated everyone as equals.

1620–onward: The ungrateful Indians began attacking innocent families for no good reason other  than to rob them when they had tamed the land and become productive citizens. Cowboys were often called upon to rescue the innocents from the threat and became expert marksmen, who killed the nasty Indians.

1770’s: Americans, who believed in freedom and equality for everyone, were a productive and self-sufficient people who were increasingly abused and neglected by the mean English king, but he still collected taxes from them.

1776: When the price of tea rose to unacceptable levels, the hardworking people rebelled and refused to pay their taxes. The mean king sent regiments of Redcoats to subdue them; these soldiers were so stupid they always marched in formation, even when they were being shot at by the oppressed American snipers (aka Minutemen), and were eventually defeated because God always sides with the righteous.

1812: The War of 1812. Some brief but inconsequential skirmish with Brits who were still in denial 30 years after losing America. It was fought by proxy using Canadians, who are so harmless that most Americans didn’t even know there was a war on. The only damage was a fire at the White House, where Dolly Madison rescued historic paintings.

1914–1918: Europeans got in terrible fight over who owned which parts of the continent and America had to go sort it all out, losing hundreds of thousands of men, for which the Europeans owed us for life. It was mostly the Germans’ fault, but Serbia started it.

1942–1945: Europeans went at it again, but this time it was definitely the Germans’ fault. America told England and France to take care of it, but they were too inept, and America finally had to sacrifice “the Greatest Generation” to rescue them again. We remade Germany in our own image, a true, freedom-loving democracy, albeit one that couldn’t be trusted to have a military force. We let the Russians help and take some of the credit so they’d be our friends.

1945–1992: Europe was forever grateful to America, and owed us big time, but Russia didn’t want to be our friend. They wanted to take over the world, destroy the United States, and make Europe their slave. They were the Devil incarnate, and God required us to vanquish them. Because they stole our groundbreaking (literally) technology and built nuclear weapons, we could not bomb them. We had to outspend them on weapons to bring them to their knees.

1992: We won. God was on our side.

2001: In the absence of a monolithic Soviet power to use against us, Satan raised up a ragtag group of Muslims, who hated America simply because we had freedom. Because they could hide anywhere and strike at any time without warning, we needed to be prepared to invade any country where they lived and slaughter them “pre-emptively.”

2014: We are all much safer now because our freedom-loving government monitors everything we say and do—phone calls, emails, web-searches, bank accounts, library books—to weed out evil Muslims and Americans who are friendly with them.

There is no challenge today that America can’t overcome, except perhaps the intransigence of the political party that is not my own. Go team!

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Mitt, Mormons, and “the Moment”

As you have read elsewhere on this blog, Mormons have a peculiar brand of patriotism when it comes to the United States of America. While they are not the only Christian sect to believe that God favors America above all other nations, they take that belief literally. God brought about the founding of the United States specifically for the purpose of founding His church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So says Mormon doctrine.

But it doesn’t end there. Mormons believe the future of their church and the future of the nation are inextricably intertwined in the Divine Plan; that one cannot succeed without the other. This belief is based largely on the so-called White Horse Prophecy attributed to Mormonism’s founding prophet, Joseph Smith, which says:

“…the time [will] come when the Constitution [will] hang as by a thread and at that time when it [is] thus in jeopardy, the elders of this Church [will] step forth and save it from destruction.”

(This prophecy is the basis for the political thriller By A Thread, in which a young Mormon missionary is convinced by this and other Mormon scriptures to embark upon a CIA mission that leads him into a conspiratorial underworld that does indeed threaten the Constitution.)

As the 2012 presidential election nears, Mormons who believe that the prophesied moment has come in the person of Mitt Romney, are urging each other to help fulfill the prophecy. The following is just one example of the messages, posts, and emails that are circulating among the LDS faithful:

We were contacted today and asked to participate in a fast on Sunday for Mitt Romney and asked to enlist others to do the same.  That’s what this email is about. It is specifically to pray for him to have the Spirit with him during all the debates, but especially this first one.

Some suggestions of what to pray for are that he may have clarity of mind, recall of information, strength of convictions and present himself as strong and confident.  You’ve no doubt heard it said that this is the most important election in many years.  We are not only electing a President, but defining the future of the United States of America by the choices that we make.  If we live righteously, the Lord will continue to bless this covenant land as He has promised.

If you feel that this is something that you would like to be a part of, wonderful.  If you feel comfortable enlisting others to join in, even better!  As the Primary children will tell us on Sunday, we need to “Choose the Right.”

Update: The Huffington Post has since picked up this story. Read it here.

Will the prayers of the faithful be the key to Mitt Romney’s success? If he wins, will it be the fulfillment of prophesy long awaited by Mormons? Will he indeed “save” the Constitution? How might he do that? And from what would he be saving it?

More importantly, what will faithful Latter-day Saints think if Romney loses? Will they believe that they are at fault because they didn’t pray fervently enough? Will God’s plan be frustrated? Or will they attribute Romney’s loss to the candidate himself?

More than likely they will just conclude that the Moment is not yet, that they were mistaken in their belief that Mitt was the prophesied savior of the Constitution. And they will settle in and wait for the next White Horse candidate.

PolyRomnogamy: Mitt’s many great-grandmothers

Mormons and politics in the news…

Senseless Confidential:

Polygamy provides one of several tongue-in-cheek themes for the humor in the comedic romp that is Senseless Confidential. But in real life it is a serious business, practiced in the United States predominantly by offshoots of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons), which no longer condones the practice and has no affiliation with the “apostate” churches the religion has spawned over the last 182 years.

Occasionally polygamy pops into the consciousness of the mainstream media, as with the case of polygamous leader Warren Jeffs, jailed a few years back for his role in the “taking” of underage girls to wife (a fact that is mentioned in the novel). But, more recently, polygamy has been in the spotlight because of the ascendance of Willard Mitt Romney as a contender for the U.S. presidency. It’s no secret that GOP Presidential nominee-to-be Mitt Romney comes from a line…

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Mitt Romney and Misunderstood Mormons

The future can’t be proven. But that doesn’t stop us from trying. The world is brimming with philosophies and religions that declare with absolute certainty what no one can possibly know. Religions in particular specialize in describing for us what we cannot see, as well as what the future holds for us once we leave this mortal existence. That in itself is a pretty strange concept. It should not surprise us then that religious speculation about the world beyond this one sometimes sounds like science fiction.

Are Mormon beliefs strange? Though their religious doctrines originated with the Bible, as did those of other Christian churches, Mormons are often accused of being stranger than most. But is that a fair assessment? Sure, they believe God the Father has a body of flesh and bones, and that he resides on a distant planet named Kolob. But compare that to, say, Catholic doctrine: that God is three persons in one, and that he fills the Universe, without form. The latter might be more familiar to most Americans, but which one is actually stranger?

Are Mormons Christians? Are they a cult? Are they neither, or both? As Willard Mitt Romney plods toward clinching the GOP nomination for President of the United States, these questions—and the deeper discussions that hinge on them—are being asked more and more frequently about Latter-day Saints. Just recently I listened to a liberal talk radio show where neither the callers nor the host seemed to have many facts at their disposal (though there was plenty of urban legend) about Mormons. Let’s consider a few of the topics they explored.

Is Mitt Romney a Christian? The answer is an unequivocal “yes.” The official name of his church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Are Mormons Fundamentalist Christians? No. So most fundamentalist Christians maintain that Mormons are therefore not Christian at all. But Christians come in many flavors. Mormons, like most Christians, believe that Jesus of Nazareth is divine, the son of God the Father, and that eternal salvation is possible through his sacrifice for those who repent and are baptized as he was, by immersion in water. That’s pretty Christian.

Is Mormonism a cult? Yes and no, depending on your definition. There’s a fine line between indoctrination and brainwashing. When anyone raises a child with the belief that there is only one true way, one true organization, and that straying from either leads to eternal punishment and estrangement from those you love, that’s pretty darn close to brainwashing. But Mormons don’t really differ from devout Catholics in this from a doctrinal standpoint (although Catholics are much more lax in practice than Mormons). And Orthodox Jews can be said to be equally rigorous in hewing to strict doctrinal and social behaviors, the violation of which would result in ostracization from the religious body. Heck, some Christian  Fundamentalist sects will expel you for dancing. Footloose, anybody? (And the original was filmed in Utah Valley!) So Mormons aren’t so different from other religious bodies in requiring compliance to rigid social standards.

Does Mitt Romney wear “magic” underwear and participate in secret rituals behind closed doors? Yes, presumably. As does any Mormon “in good standing.” But temple garments with tiny commemorative symbols are employed only as reminders of “sacred” covenants one has made, and Mormonism is not alone in such practices. Jews wear clothing that they believe God has commanded them to wear: yarmulkes and prayer shawls. And Masons, though not a religion, participate in temple ceremonies very similar to those of Mormons, which are likewise restricted to members. So what if people put on funny clothes when they perform rituals? Priests and pastors have been doing this for millennia.

Does Mitt Romney pledge allegiance to the president of his church? Kind of. All good Mormons are required to regularly reaffirm their belief that the current president is a “prophet, seer, and revelator,” as was the church’s 1830 founder, Joseph Smith, and that they will “sustain” him in word and deed. And while the church has no doctrine of infallibility regarding this individual (as do Catholics regarding the pope), there is a de facto belief throughout the LDS church that the prophet can never lead church members astray. What “astray” means is open to debate. What Romney believes is anybody’s guess, but he doesn’t “take orders” from the prophet any more than Catholics take orders from the pope. In fact, it seems much more likely that Rick Santorum would do the pope’s bidding, than Romney would that of his own church’s prophet.

Where things really get interesting however, is in the matter of the Mormon Church’s belief in its own divine role in America’s history and future. I treat this topic in previous posts regarding belief in a prophecy by Joseph Smith that “the time will come when the Constitution and the Government will hang by a thread and will be ready to fall…but this people, the Latter-Day Saints, will step forth and save it.” This prophecy, coupled with the church’s teaching that the U.S. Constitution was inspired by God for the divine purpose of establishing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a free land, forms the basis of my political thriller “By A Thread: A tale of truth, trust, and betrayal.”

I purposely blurred the lines between reality and fiction for best effect, prompting one reviewer to remark, “As Beaudet adds layer on layer to the story, it’s like a punch in the gut. I kept thinking, this could really happen.” Many other readers have had a s similar reaction.

But fiction aside, it is interesting to contemplate the effect that belief in this prophecy will have on not only Mitt Romney’s perspective on his possible presidency, but on the Mormons who believe he represents, in part at least, the fulfillment of it. Mormons aren’t as crazy or different as Fundamentalist Christians and Rick Santorum would have us believe, but the Mormons’ rigid tenacity to the belief that they are chosen by God to perform a “marvelous work and a wonder” in the last days will make them worth watching as this election year proceeds.

—Marty Beaudet, author of the political thriller By A Thread and the psychological thriller Losing Addison, is a one-time practitioner of both Catholicism and Mormonism, and is at present a disinterested party when it comes to matters of religion.

By A Thread Anagrams!

Of the 29 named characters in By A Thread, 18 have names that are anagrams of names of real people. See if you can figure out which names are anagrams and unscramble them! I’ll give you a free password to read my novella Losing Addison just for trying! (Enter your answers in the comments field below.)

Here are the names of all 29 characters and their roles in By A Thread (in order of appearance). Remember, only 18 of them are anagrams. All answers are the names of persons in the public sphere and may be found by Googling. (Wikipedia is also very helpful.) HINT: All but one of the names are of U.S. citizens.

1. John B. Sepeida — Vice President of the United States
2. Kevin “Red” Davis — Mormon missionary (protagonist)
3. Craig Pearson — Mormon missionary
4. Jassim al-Shammari — Kuwaiti terror suspect
5. Sami Jabarrah — Syrian detainee
6. (Captain) Josh E. “Jeep” Mayes — Muslim chaplain
7. Rolf Clarine — CIA operative
8. Vince Paskey — NSA technician
9. Raisa al-Hadiyeh — DIA interpreter
10. Marc Staehli — CIA Vienna station chief
11. Anne Lipscoy — Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
12. Antonio Palatjen — U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security
13. Helen Amamure — White House Chief of Staff
14. (General) Jon Majessel — National Security Advisor
15. Tomas Bergert — U.S. Secretary of Defense
16. (Admiral) Lemuel Chalmin — Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
17. Pete Lontana — Director, CIA
18. John Sorenson — President, Austria Vienna Mission of the Mormon Church
19. Bob Devore — AP reporter
20. Gherity Monteith — U.S. Secretary of the Treasury
21. Burt Oberera — White House Legal Counsel
22. Charlton Yillin — U.S. Secretary of State
23. Frau Schermann — Landlady at CIA safe house
24. Walther — waiter/friend of Jassim
25. Jasper LeCamp — U.S. Director of National Intelligence (acting)
26. Fawzi al-Badry — Jassim’s cousin
27. Leo Richerd — U.S. Attorney General
28. Annika “Mutti” Müller — landlady to LDS missionaries
29. Olin Castanian (aka Stanian Lacoin, an anagram, but not the answer!) — U.S. Supreme Court justice

Good luck! 🙂

By A Thread: Excellent read! 4 stars

“Excellent read! As a rule I don’t choose political thrillers and admit that I probably wouldn’t have read this one if the author had not been a twitter friend. However, I’m glad I did read it even though it scares me to think that something like this story could happen. The book is very fast paced and holds your interest from the very first page, I highly recommend.”

Kaye Starley, via Goodreads
1 April 2011

 

 

Film Explores Love Between LDS Missionaries

In the novel By A Thread, the main character is a Mormon missionary who wrestles with a forbidden love affair while carrying out a top-secret assignment. The new movie, “The Falls,” also explores a taboo relationship.
(See original post here.)

Jon Garcia has just announced the release of “The Falls.” Set in Portland, Oregon, this independent film explores the relationship between two LDS missionaries who fall in love.

“RJ travels to a small town in Oregon with Elder Merrill to serve their mission and teach the words of Joseph Smith,” Garcia wrote. “Living together and sharing the challenge of leaving home, the two men help each other discover their strengths. They share a passion for their faith and learn to express their feelings, risking the only community they have for a forbidden intimacy.”

See the trailer at www.indiegogo.com/TheFalls and follow the project on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/The-Falls/176357012389741 .