Almost 20 years ago, Kansas City pharmacist, Robert Courtney, made national news when he was arrested for selling cancer chemotherapy drugs that he had watered down in order to make more profit.
Once apprehended, he confessed to having sold the diluted and thereby virtually ineffective medication to more than 4000 patients, allowing him to fraudulently make several million dollars.
I remember hearing about Courtney in the news and finding it difficult to believe. How could he? I had worked as a pharmacist’s assistant when I was in high school and college. I remember how careful we were to make absolutely certain that prescriptions were filled properly. And on many occasions, when poor parents with a very sick child, couldn’t afford to pay for the medications their child needed, our pharmacist would reach into his own wallet to pay for the anti-biotics.
I couldn’t imagine a pharmacist intentionally watering down lifesaving drugs, literally killing thousands of cancer patients, so that he could pocket extra money. But, folks, he did. He did it for years, evidently, without remorse, without qualms.
I want to believe that most people are basically good. I want to believe that most people are basically honest. In fact, I do believe it. I am convinced that if you are walking down the street and you drop a wallet full of cash on the sidewalk, that most people would pick it up and chase you down to give it back to you.
However, it is important for us to also acknowledge that everyone isn’t honest, everyone isn’t good, and that some people are so self-centered that they believe that whatever they do for themselves, if it is good for them, it doesn’t matter how many people that it is bad for.
This month, as public schools are opening for in-person classes, Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, and Texas governor, Greg Abbott, have forbidden schools from making mask wearing mandatory. At this point in the Covid-19 pandemic, there is no one who does not know that wearing a mask when you are inside a building around a lot of other people, dramatically cuts down the transmission rate of viral infection.
The governors of Texas and Florida are killing school children and the families of school children with this policy in a horrifying race to see which one of them can most apparently become the successor to the Trump legacy.
Everyone knows that school children will infect one another and that those children, before they show any symptoms, will go home to infect parents and grandparents, siblings, and neighbors.
There is no way around the fact that thousands of people in Texas and Florida will die from Covid infections because of these anti-mask mandate policies of DeSantis and Abbott. So why would they do it?
The governors of Texas and Florida are killing school children and the families of school children with this policy in a horrifying race to see which one of them can most apparently become the successor to the Trump legacy, allowing them to claim the political donations and votes of the lunatic fringe in the next presidential election.
That governors Abbott and DeSantis would knowingly and intentionally kill thousands of people in their states in order to get political donations and votes seems almost too harsh, too cruel, too sociopathic to be believed. They couldn’t possibly be that evil. I know. It is hard to believe.
Which is why I began by reminding you of our Missouri pharmacist, Robert Courtney. Some people are malignant narcissists. Some people will place their personal fortune above even the lives of those they are supposed to serve.
What is different about the pharmacist and the governors is that the pharmacist went to prison and one of these governors may have found a pathway to the White House.
We don’t want to think about politicians being so hungry for power that they would do to this country what Robert Courtney did to his cancer patients, but, and here folks, I am begging you to seriously think about what I am saying, American democracy is not a permanent fixture in the world.
It could go away, and it could be replaced by fascism very quickly if we are not all committed to defending American democracy and remaining vigilant in our defense. And, believe me, I get it when people say that they are just exhausted with politics, bad news, hysterical rhetoric from both the left and the right. We just want government to work, to do what it is supposed to do and leave us alone.
The Trump administration certainly didn’t make America Great Again but his insane and corrupt administration did two things well: they made Saturday Night Live worth watching again, and they drove up ratings numbers of virtually all forms of news, TV, radio, print media, podcasts, and on-line magazines.
Heck, even our downloads steadily increased during every month of the Trump administration as more and more people joined me every week to get mad with me at all of the horrifying things the Clementine Caligula did every day.
But I am tired of talking about Trump and treason and tyranny. I am tired of listening to and reading news all of the time. I have not read a fiction novel for the pleasure of reading for years. I’m tired of leaning forward in the saddle all of time. I want to go scuba diving; I want to go to flea markets and look for classic rock and roll albums. I want to go out to a comedy club and laugh with strangers who I do not know who they voted for in the last two presidential elections.
Everyone is talking about wanting to return to a pre-pandemic normal. That sounds sweet but folks, I want to go back a little further, I want to go back to a pre-Trump normal when I believed that we had two major political parties with different views on lots of things, but both loved America, defended the constitution, and truly believed in Democracy.
I am relieved that Joe Biden doesn’t have a twitter account, that he is not an ego-deficit attention hound who has to be in front of a camera all of the time and that he more or less goes about the business of being a conservative Democrat who pretends to have progressive sympathies. He is not the progressive president I have longed for, but he is at least someone that I can fairly comfortably ignore most of the time, and, evidently, I really needed a break and I know that most of you did too.
But I will confess, I am still worried that we may be laying down our swords prematurely. I am worried that seven months after the January 6th insurrection in Washington, that not very much has happened to make sure that the failed insurrection is not followed by a successful insurrection.
I couldn’t believe that on the evening of January 6, there was this rush to return to normal. Debris was cleared from the Capital building and the senate returned to session to approve the results of the November presidential election.
Again, I couldn’t believe my eyes when Texas senator, Ted Cruz, and Missouri senator, Josh Hawley, returned to the floor of the senate to cast votes against approving the election results, continuing to promote conspiracy theories about the election, promoting Trump’s “big lie,” which provoked the insurrection in the first place.
Why were they not behind bars that night? And why, even more, have they been allowed to remain free, and even still members of the senate? Is treasonous insurrection no longer a crime in America?
What we all saw with our own eyes on January 6th was the former president whipping up a crowd of thousands, sending them to the Capital with orders to disrupt the constitutional process of certifying the presidential election.
His speech was laced with not-so-veiled threats aimed at his own vice-president and other leaders of the Congress and the Senate.
We watched Capital police being brutally beaten. We saw rioters breaking out windows and knocking down security barricades and doors. We saw treasonous villains occupying congressional offices, carrying off stolen souvenirs, and spreading their own feces over priceless pieces of historical art.
A few people died in the clash, but it could have easily been much more lethal had not security guards acted quickly to get the vice president and the speakers of the house and senate to safety.
This is what we saw on the news. What we do not yet know is how many members of Congress and the Senate helped to give guided tours of the Capital building the day before the rally, helping the riot organizers to plan their assault, showing them where to find Nancy Pelosi and people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, and Ilhan Omar, all of whom would very likely be dead now if the rioters had found them.
This insurrection, though planned and provoked by none other than the 45th president of the United States, the leader of the Republican Party, the night of January 6th, Senators Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, remembered their oath of office and they loudly condemned the insurrection and laid the blame where it belonged, at the feet of Donald Trump. But that fit of conscience and patriotism didn’t last long. Within days, they were back in the Trump orbit.
The kind of Republican leaders who went to Richard Nixon and told him it was time for him to resign do not exist in the Republican Party of today. Did you ever think you would hear a classic liberal like me bemoaning the fact that there just are no more Barry Goldwaters around?
But here is the question I am imploring you to consider today: Would the Republican Party support a fascist takeover of American democracy if it would allow them to remain in power? Every fiber of our hearts and minds wants to scream in response, “no,” “of course not!” “Never!”
However, all of the evidence, from voter suppression laws in many states, to supporters of the big lie who still insist that Trump won the 2020 election “by a land slide,” to elected officials who are trying to stop any formal investigation of the events of January 6th, we see a preference for fascism over democracy in the flesh.
I know that we don’t want it to be true. We want to think that it is over-heated rhetoric that will go out of fashion, and everything will just remain the same, but, dear friends, I am afraid that is a luxurious self-deception that we cannot afford.
Just as I pointed out a Missouri pharmacist who killed thousands of cancer patients for profit, let me point out to you that this is not the first time that the threat of fascism has come to America.
Almost a century ago, as the USA struggled to come out of the Great Depression, everyone was not a fan of Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” In fact, many feared that he was holding the door open for communism.
In reaction, many wealthy Americans turned to fascism as a more attractive alternative. In the 1930’s, so many wealthy Americans feared that the poor would strike out against them in civil war that they had machine gun nests built on the roofs of their homes. In those days, both Hitler and Mussolini were guest writers in many popular American newspapers. In fact, in 1932, Republican senator, David A. Reed, of Pennsylvania, announced on the floor of the senate: “If this country ever needed a Mussolini, it needs one now.”
In 1933, a group of wealthy business and media leaders hatched a plot to use disenfranchised WW I veterans to form an army and overthrow the government of Franklin Roosevelt and install a fascist dictator who would protect the rich and keep the poor in servitude, even to the extent of forming work camps in which the poor would be forced to do labor in support of domestic corporations.
You probably didn’t hear about this in history class, but I encourage you to look it up. It was known as the “Business Plot,” and it included people as well known as media tycoon, William Randolph Hurst, and DuPont, and even Prescott Bush, seen here pictured with Adolph Hitler with whom he worked and who he admired prior to becoming the father of president George H. W. Bush, and grandfather to George W. Bush.
Most historians believe that the Business Plot might have succeeded had they not made the critical error of trying to recruit retired Major General Smedley Butler to lead their army of veterans. Butler saw through their plans but played along until he had gathered enough evidence to go to Congress and testify against the insurrectionists.
Although the William Randolph Hurst family of newspapers tried their best to belittle General Butler and to deny the plot against the Roosevelt government, Congress was simultaneously aware that he had the goods on those who had planned and funded this insurrection, while they dragged their feet in the investigation to avoid having to indict leaders like Hurst, Bush, DuPont, and the Sterling family that controlled the Singer Sewing Machine fortune, and the directors of J. P. Morgan.
As usual, none of the big names were indicted but many of the small players were put on trial. And that, men and women, is what I fear may become of our January 6 insurrection. There has been a lot of opposition from Republicans to even investigating the insurrection, understandable since, if there is a full and comprehensive investigation, very many of them will certainly spend the rest of their lives in prison but the usual pattern is that the big fish go free and the little fish get fried.
Last month, four of the brutalized Capitol Hill police officers did sit for questioning in a congressional hearing. The most memorable of them, at least for me, was the testimony of Officer Harry Dunn. He asked the members of Congress not to give up until they get to the bottom of it. To get who caused it.
Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn did not pull any punches when he pointed directly at the former president, comparing Trump to a man who hires an assassin. Dunn said, “If a hitman is hired and he kills somebody, the hitman goes to jail. But not only does the hitman go to jail, but the person who hired them does. There was an attack carried out on January 6th, and a hitman sent them. I want you to get to the bottom of that.”
And that, men and women, is my point. Like you, I am tired of thinking about Trump and his whole corrupt regime, and I am very sad to say that the Republican party, at least in my mind, is no long the loyal opposition on the other side of a democratic debate. I believe that they have become an anti-American party bent on the destruction of democracy in favor of fascism. And if we want people of color to be able to vote, for gays, lesbians, bi and trans folk to live in peace. If we want universal healthcare and a living wage for everyone, then, I believe, we have to make democracy strong again.
I believe that the Republican party as it now exists needs to fade out of existence and be replaced by a patriotic party that can be pro-business, fiscally conservative, pro-defense, and even kinda crazy about free-market values . . . but they can’t be fascists.
But most importantly, the world needs to see the strongest democracy on the globe actually prove that we believe in equal justice for all.
I believe, to save America, Donald Trump must be charged with insurrection, tried, and if found guilty, imprisoned along with several family members and minions. I am not happy to say this, I just believe that I am right.
Dr. Roger Ray
The Emerging Church