PopeLollapolooza 2015 in Philadelphia

Our reporter at Logan CircleI’m among the hundreds of thousands on Philadelphia’s JFK Parkway near Logan Circle, watching on a jumbotron as pope Francis, at Philly’s Independence Hall—standing at the very same lecturn as Abe Lincoln used to make the Gettysburg Address—addresses the millions of Americans watching in person and at home on TV.

To paraphrase his speech, I think Francis just said to Donald Trump and all the idiots who follow him: SUCK IT! The theme is immigration and religious freedom, and Francis is very succinctly rebuking the current Trumpesque sentiment of vile immigrant bashing. It’s a nice speech. You have to know Spanish to follow in real time as the English subtitles are minutes behind Francis, which has the non-Hispanic folk scratching their heads while all the Spanish speakers in the crowd, tens, hell, maybe hundreds of thousands of of them, are wildly clapping and screaming joyfully. Sarah Palin is probably pissed he was’t speaking American. I’ve clapped loudly at several of his main points.

My take on this pope:

The man has tremendous charisma and a quiet, beautiful manner that made many around me turn to tears as he spoke. A hispanic woman near me shouted in Spanish, “He’s so CUTE!” He seems genuine and not much of a political actor, moreover he wisely avoided making any radical statements that would set off the American right wing. I came to this not knowing anything about Francis and left thinking he’s a great man who says some beautiful things, inspiring things, though I am not a member of his religion nor do I particularly agree with much of its doctrine. But his words were powerful and moving. If, of course, you understand Spanish, and I do understand enough to have gotten the gist of what he said.

Francis is a pinko socialist like me on many social issues, not against capitalism as much as for a more regulated form that lessens the wide gap between rich and poor. His call for noblesse oblige, in other words the well-to-do among us reaching out to the poor and helping them, was inspiring. Then he called out specifically to Hispanics: Do not be afraid to assert your language and culture! THAT was inspiring, and all the Hispanics around me were crying out his name, or “Si, Papa!” There was a massive flood of Latino tears in Philly today.

I think he’s a good man leading a church that may not agree with his left-leaning ideals; there are too many who don’t agree with Francis in the halls of the Vatican and certainly the more right-leaning Catholic USA. While he won’t change the conservative orthodoxy and doctrine of the church he leads (you know, like the fact women are still second-class members of a church ruled by old, celibate men), I do think he’s making lots of people think, including skeptical me, the pinko socialist side of me, that is; on religion I remain steadfastly atheist, the very core of my intellectual belief system and something that will not budge, ever.

Francis does stand for peace, freedom, saving the environment, and equality, with the exception of the equality of women within his own male-dominated church. Most of my life, with usual bevy of priests, bishops, cardinals, and previous popes, I’ve largely ignored their fairly repugnant social views, and have been horrified by their treatment of women, plus I completely tuned out their religious dogma; after all, I quit being a Catholic long ago because, simply, I didn’t believe any of it, especially the part about there being a god.

This pope at least has me listening to his more enlightened social views with which I heartily agree. Now if he can show the same enlightened thinking with how his church treats women. THAT would be monumental.

The pope in Philly

The pope in Philly insanity begins in a week on September 25 and 26, 2015. Here’s a map of the security perimeter that Philly is erecting to “protect” the pope. Included in this perimeter are my home and neighborhood, where all traffic will be cut off and people have to pass through security checkpoints to enter the perimeter.

pope

I will be a prisoner in my own home next weekend when the pope arrives in Philly. All traffic in my neighborhood will be blocked, security will be tighter than in most prisons, and a gigantic jumbotron will be posted on Broad Street near my building so all the pope worshipers can watch his journey through Philly’s streets. We’re expecting 2-3 million people will be lining our streets, about as many as who celebrated the Phillies 2008 World Series victory.

Personally I am indifferent to the whole silliness; as an atheist and ardent believer in Democracy (notice the capital ‘D’), I have little use for unelected (by the people) theocratic leaders, especially this relic from our (European-Americans) barbaric, feudal past when we were harshly and unjustly ruled by kings, princes, bishops, lords, and other vile, unelected scum. I refuse to capitalize his title and could care less about him or his church, one to which I was forced to belong as a child and adamantly refused to believe in its religious dogma or god since I was intellectually conscious as a child. Sorry, folks, I’m just not wired for religious belief and I hold zero reverence for religious leaders.

I find all this a huge waste of resources and taxpayer money. All this pageantry and grandeur for a foreign potentate in a city, Philadelphia, that is the birthplace of democracy, where we demanded, and fought for with our blood, our freedom from these asshole kings, princes, and bishops from Europe’s Ancien Régime; the irony is not lost on me. The USA was created on the idea that all men and women are equal and we bow to no one in servitude as subjects, that no religion or church will ever hold power in our governance as free citizens. I choose freedom and enlightenment.

Scenes of Our Kafkaesque Dystopian Culture

James Blake is a fabulously wealthy (net worth: $8 million) former star tennis player who attended Harvard and has been known far and wide as one of the finest, most decent gentleman to play the game. Yet, a few days ago, to a NYPD officer he was just another “perp” who was guilty before he’d done anything, just another “scumbag” on this overly-aggressive cop’s radar in a case of “mistaken identity.” So the cop used excessive violence to “take down” another “scumbag.” Except one thing: James Blake is nothing of the sort, had done nothing wrong, and furthermore offered zero resistance.
 
We must ask ourselves a simple question: Is that what we citizens of this country are today, guilty until proven innocent to our police and at any moment can be subjected to violently excessive force? The cop was going after suspects for credit card fraud, hardly a crime of violence where such violent force is required to apprehend the perp. Furthermore, this cop, in plain clothes and not in uniform, bum-rushed and violently tackled Blake, who had done nothing wrong and offered zero resistance.
 
Take race out of this for a second, and this still rankles me as a citizen to see our police treat citizens with such disrespectful contempt. There was no need to tackle Blake had he been guilty! The fact he was an innocent victim makes this incident even more of an outrage.
 
Had this been done to some regular guy and not a well-known celebrity like Mr. Blake, we’d never know about it. He would just be another innocent citizen of this country violently treated by an overly-aggressive cop overstepping his mandate to “protect and serve.” The NYPD must fire this police officer to send a message to its rank and file: you need to treat your fellow citizens like fellow citizens. You are not judge and jury. Moreover, simple common sense says that this kind of force isn’t necessary for a crime like credit card fraud to apprehend a suspect you are pursuing, especially if they don’t seem to be the least bit resistant, as was the case with Mr. Blake in this video.

Update: “But of course” department. According to the New York Times, the officer who manhandled James Blake has a history of excessive force complaints. You think?

Blake, ever the gentleman that he has been his whole public life as a star athlete, has, since this happened, publicly handled himself with an amazing amount of grace and class.