Recent local blog posts

Laser Artistry’s Newest Employee Helps Clients Look and Feel Better

Thurston Talk - Wed, 04/06/2016 - 6:00am

ThurstonTalk

When you look better, you feel better about yourself. That’s the core ethic of the work Kerry McGill does as the newest employee at Laser Artistry & Medi Spa in Tumwater. As an aesthetician, McGill helps people achieve their goals through treatments with laser and aesthetic injections, and the results can be life-changing. “It’s a

Jennifer Marin – Griffin School Band Teacher Nurtures Students of Another Kind—Four-Legged Ones.

Thurston Talk - Wed, 04/06/2016 - 6:00am

ThurstonTalk

When Jennifer Marin arrived at Pacific Lutheran University in 1995, she was interested in two different career paths: music education and veterinary science. As college majors, they couldn’t have been farther apart, but Marin found a way to keep the best of both worlds—even if it involves managing wiggling bodies, off-key singing, restless feet, and

Mass Action Against Fossil Fuels - Planning Meeting

OlyBlog Home Page - Tue, 04/05/2016 - 8:09pm
Event:  Wed, 04/13/2016 - 7:00pm - 9:00pm

From today's inbox:

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The Unrepresented Part 2 - Adults Unregistered to Vote in Thurston County

OlyBlog Home Page - Tue, 04/05/2016 - 11:31am

Link to the next story map: http://arcg.is/1M8dGo0

This is part two of a three-part series of “story maps” that examine discrepancies between total adult populations versus registered voters in Thurston County (I am calling this the discrepancy for short). In part one (see http://arcg.is/1LzsiXy), we identified which precincts in the county have a higher percentage of unregistered versus registered adults. We found that some cities had a greater discrepancy (i.e., a higher percent of unregistered adults) than others, with Yelm the highest at 44 percent, followed by Lacey at 33 percent.  We found several "hot spots" where there were clusters of greater discrepancies, particularly a large one in Lacey. 

In this story map we pick the Lacey hot spot and look for a model to explain the factors that contribute to the discrepancy.  We will also look at some of the factors that were not included in the model and why they also might be predictive.  

In the next part, I hope to have comments from Katie Nelson, chair of the Democratic party and Garry Holland, chair of the Republican party.

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Roloff, Kabel Lead A Young Olympia Bears Fastpitch Team

Thurston Talk - Tue, 04/05/2016 - 6:00am

ThurstonTalk

Sometimes in sports being healthy is more important than being good. Just ask Matt Loes, the Olympia High School fastpitch coach. With four of his starters missing games because of a sickness or injury, the Bears were winless after their first five games. But Loes, who a year ago led a senior laden Bears team

Elle’s Floral Shares 8 Tips for Successful Wedding Flowers

Thurston Talk - Tue, 04/05/2016 - 6:00am

ThurstonTalk

Be Prepared. It’s the motto of the Boy Scouts, but it might just as easily be the best advice for every bride-to-be, heading into her wedding. With a million details to plan, some brides tend to put off flowers until the last moment or fail to understand how much goes into decorations, says Michelle LaPraim,

When Is It Better to Buy than Rent?

Thurston Talk - Mon, 04/04/2016 - 12:18pm

ThurstonTalk

Submitted by Chris Johns for On Q Financial Twenty or thirty years ago, if you asked the question, “Is investing in real estate a good idea?”, the answer was most likely a “Yes”. With the great depression long faded from memory, it wasn’t until the crash in 2008 that people began to question whether a

City of Lacey Marks 25 Years as a Tree City USA

Thurston Talk - Mon, 04/04/2016 - 11:47am

ThurstonTalk

Submitted by The City of Lacey The City of Lacey — one of the first cities in Washington to receive the National Arbor Day Foundation’s “Tree City USA” award — will soon mark its twenty-fifth consecutive year of earning the national recognition. The city plans to officially proclaim April as Arbor Month, and is encouraging

Razor Clam Tides for April 2016

Thurston Talk - Mon, 04/04/2016 - 11:25am

ThurstonTalk

Submitted by The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Washington recreational razor clam harvest opener for the first portion of April will proceed. Below are the opening dates, time of the evening low tides and the beaches that are included: April 3, Sunday, 4:13 p.m.; 0.5 feet; Long Beach April 4, Monday, 5:04 p.m.; 0.1

Providence St. Peter Chemical Dependency Center Open During Construction in South Lacey

Thurston Talk - Mon, 04/04/2016 - 11:16am

ThurstonTalk

Submitted by Providence Health & Services, Southwest Washington While construction of the Providence Multi-Service Clinic, in partnership with Pacific Medical Centers (PacMed), recently began in South Lacey, current services are still being provided. Since 1991, Providence St. Peter Chemical Dependency Center has provided outpatient treatment for adults and adolescents at the 4800 College St. SE

Adopt-A-Pet Dog of the Week

Thurston Talk - Mon, 04/04/2016 - 11:11am

ThurstonTalk

Submitted by Adopt-A-Pet of Shelton  Sugar is a beautiful six year old Coon Hound/Dane Mix.  Her grey brindle coat looks like it was painted on by hand! Because Sugar has a lot of energy, she would do best in an active adult household.  Sugar is smart, sweet, and loves hikes, yard play, fetch, car rides,

Tapestry Garden Unveiled at Westport Winery Garden Resort

Thurston Talk - Mon, 04/04/2016 - 11:02am

ThurstonTalk

Submitted by Westport Winery Garden Resort Westport Winery Garden Resort has just completed its 2016 Garden of the Year with the unveiling of the new Tapestry Garden. According to winery co-owner Kim Roberts, “In our effort to become the Butchart Gardens of Washington we design and open a new garden in the resort every year.”

Thriving at Home: What Being ‘The Best’ Means to Us

Thurston Talk - Mon, 04/04/2016 - 10:29am

ThurstonTalk

Submitted by Sarah Lane for FirstLight HomeCare – South Sound When my husband, Greg, and I told our friends and family we had decided to open FirstLight HomeCare – South Sound, they kept asking us the same question – “What’s your plan?” We heard it over and over again. And since neither of us had

Make Your Move to the Village at Mill Pond Before Time Runs Out

Thurston Talk - Mon, 04/04/2016 - 9:37am

ThurstonTalk

The website Livability.com ranks Olympia in the top 20 of nation-wide small to mid-sized cities. The editor’s cite our growing population, lower than average median home price, high quality schools, and thriving arts scene as just a few of their determining criteria. With growth, a region also benefits from increased housing values. Between 2004 and

Alyssa Bryan Leads North Thurston Girls Golf

Thurston Talk - Mon, 04/04/2016 - 6:00am

ThurstonTalk

After four years, Alyssa Bryan had grown tired of playing golf. It was time to take a brief hiatus. “It was fun, but it was something, at the time, I just didn’t think I wanted to do anymore,” said a smiling Bryan. “When you’re 11, you really don’t know what you want.” The break was

River Ridge High School Students Join in Upcoming Jazz Ambassadors Concert

Thurston Talk - Mon, 04/04/2016 - 6:00am

ThurstonTalk

When the United States Army’s Jazz Ambassadors come to town on April 10, three local teenagers will have the honor of joining them in concert. Payton White, Cato Cannizzo, and Trenton Oiland are all active members of the River Ridge High School jazz and marching bands. They are thrilled to be playing at this free

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival 2016

Janine's Little Hollywood - Sun, 04/03/2016 - 10:16pm

Above: Red Tulip with Dew Star, Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
By Janine Gateswww.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com
You’ll never look at tulips the same way again after you go to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. In fact, I’m sure I’ll be dreaming of tulips for nights to come. 

The self-paced driving tour goes on all month long, but as the brochure says, bloom dates are according to Mother Nature! 

So many happy faces and families in one place made this field trip one to remember...until next year!
Inside tip for everyone, especially photographers: arrive early in the fields to catch the morning dew and you’ll also avoid traffic and crowds. 
Go to www.TulipFestival.org for all the information you need. 
Above: Which is your favorite color? You'll have hundreds of acres to choose from!

Capital Mall Goes Green with Trail Project

Janine's Little Hollywood - Sat, 04/02/2016 - 9:09pm

Above: Kevin Johnston, general manager for Capital Mall in Olympia, Washington. Johnston and his executive team brainstormed a concept to create an eco-friendly, one mile trail with public amenities on mall property, along with other safety improvements. They entered the idea into a contest for national mall managers, and won $350,000 from corporate executives for their innovative idea.
Mall Makeover Could Increase City's Bottom Line
By Janine Gateswww.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com
If you don’t go to the mall on Olympia’s westside, maybe now you will.
That’s the hope of Capital Mall general manager Kevin Johnston, who is creatively embarking on a one mile, multi-purpose trail project that will encircle the 65 acre mall property.
Johnston and his executive team recently brainstormed the idea and entered it into a “Shark Tank” type contest for national mall managers. With a catchy presentation and a homemade video about the project using a drone that flies over the proposed path of the trail, they beat out several other proposals, and won over the judges. 
Their innovative thinking earned them $350,000 from corporate executives toward construction of the project.
“....We thought, ‘Let's do something Olympia-ish.’ We jogged into the presentation and wore T-shirts that said Capital Trail on them,” Johnston laughed.
The project will improve and increase public access to and from the mall property by providing much needed walking paths from the surrounding city sidewalks. Six motion-activated, signaled crosswalks will be installed at each major traffic entrance and in busy areas.
Even as Johnston gave Little Hollywood a tour of the property in near 70 degree sunny weather on Thursday, pedestrians were seen bushwhacking through the green belt from city sidewalks to access the mall property, walking around traffic to enter the main building.

The trail is proposed to be made pervious, with recycled, rubberized mulch, and will include benches made with recycled wood and metal, pet sanitation stations, picnic tables and stretching/pull-up areas. It will connect to existing sidewalks and new walkways that will be constructed to create a continuous loop.
People will be welcome to relax and rest, or eat lunch in currently underutilized grassy areas by Fujiyama Japanese Steakhouse and Bar in the southwest corner of the property and 24 Hour Fitness in the northeast area of the property. The path will be in range of free Wi-Fi service from the mall. 
“It can be used for walking, jogging, exercising, and pets are welcome. It will be eco-friendly at every turn, constructed using recycled material wherever possible and include solar power lighting,” said Johnston, bursting with enthusiasm.
The trail will also be accessible in the evening. Asked about security, Johnston said the entire trail will be lit with lights low to the path, and mall security personnel drive around multiple times throughout the property, day and night.
In an outlying area called the Promenade, a ramp will be built to connect businesses such as TJ Maxx, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Ann Taylor Loft, Chico’s, and the locally owned Artist’s Gallery, to the main mall.
Johnston says no trees will be cut down for the project. A wetland near 24 Hour Fitness will be protected.
Capital Mall management already hosts about 120 or so morning walkers per day who walk or stroll through the mall before shops open. Members of the popular ritual, seniors and others looking for a safe place to walk, have long asked for an outdoor trail.
The economic benefits of the trail for the mall and the city could be significant.
“We project that we can bring at least, or more than, 100 extra people per day to the property by creating better access and providing a place for people to spend time exercising, jogging, and walking. If we convert 30 percent of them to customers, we can add an additional one million in sales per year. This will translate through to an increased tax revenue for the city,” said Johnston. He estimates that the amount to the city could be about $125,000 per year.
Johnston says he is looking forward to meeting with City of Olympia public works and parks, arts and recreation staff in April to see how access to city sidewalks can tie in with Yauger Park and the McLane trail system.
He has met with Renee Sunde, the city’s economic development director, who has already briefed councilmembers about the project at a meeting of the Community Economic Revitalization Committee. Sunde is excited about the project and sees it as a win for everyone.
To see how they can all partner together, Johnston is also looking forward to meeting with the West Olympia Business Association in a few weeks and local service clubs like Rotary and Kiwanis. 
To raise more money for the project, sponsorship opportunities will be available for extra public amenities such as benches and trail markers.
“There’s a lot of potential to expand this idea,” said Johnston, who says he expects to speak to a council subcommittee in late April. He hopes to begin breaking ground soon, while the weather is favorable.
Above: Overall Capital Mall site improvements are being planned. This intersection on Capital Mall property is one area that will be improved with a new pedestrian walkway made of stamped concrete, colored concrete, or a combination of concrete and tile or pavers.
Capital Mall Facts and Future
Indoor malls were in their prime in the 1960s and 1970s. Built in 1966, South Sound Mall in Lacey, the area now anchored by Sears, Target and Kohl’s near Pacific Avenue and Sleater Kinney Road, was the Northwest's first indoor mall.
Times have changed, and malls across the country struggle to survive. Online retail options and other factors have dramatically changed consumer shopping habits, leaving brick and mortar stores to creatively adapt, or fail. 
Built in 1978, Capital Mall is centered on Olympia’s westside, bordered by Cooper Point Road, Black Lake Boulevard, and Capital Mall Drive, near the interchange of U.S. Highway 101 and I-5.  
At just over 789,000 square feet, it’s currently comprised of 112 stores and just over 3,500 parking spaces.
The mall currently has 4,000-5,000 visitors on an average day, and is poised for more growth as it caters to an affluent shopper. With an expanding economy and workforce in Thurston County, the mall is well-positioned to capture its share of the growth.
The property has seen some renovations and expansions, particularly in 2002-03 with the addition of the 14 screen Century Theatre multiplex, and the additional parcels added in 2003 called the Promenade.
The mall was quietly bought by Starwood Capital Group from Westfield in November 2014. Starwood Capital Group, a subsidiary of Starwood Hotel and Resorts, focuses on community centers.
Johnston, who has lived in west Olympia since 2002, was hired by Westfield about six months before the sale to Starwood. The company did not rebrand itself as a Starwood property, instead preferring to keep a lower profile, and emphasize a local flavor.
Miss Moffett's Mystical Cupcakes, a local business famous for their appearance on the television show “Cupcake Wars,” is happy to be at the mall, and just signed a long term lease, said Johnston.
“Our mission is to identify with the local community. We didn’t want to rebrand as a Starwood property. The Westfield corporate brand was a turn on or a turn off, depending on what side of the argument you’re on, but we found an overwhelmingly positive response when we took the big ‘W’ signs down. We wanted to go back to what the mall used to be in the day when it was just called Capital Mall,” explained Johnston.
Anchored by JC Penney, Macy’s, Best Buy, REI, Total Wine & More, Old Navy, and Century Theatre, the space is 94 percent occupied, ranking second highest in occupancy for the Starwood chain of 29 community centers.
The mall is currently receiving a B minus grade by the International Council of Shopping Centers, a group that grades retail malls. The grade is based on the amount of sales per square foot.
While the mall’s sales are proprietary, Johnston says he needs to increase sales about $10 - $20 per square foot to improve the mall’s grade. The trail idea was one way to improve its grade, and Johnston is open to more ideas. 
To improve the mall’s bottom line, Johnston is looking forward to the opening of Dick’s Sporting Goods, currently under construction. Future projects include adding an exterior restaurant and the possible relocation and revitalization of the existing food court. He has plans to install LED lighting in the parking lots, which will save the mall about $50,000 in energy bills.
“This team thinks a lot about community. It’s good for Capital Mall to be recognized as part of the community rather than a corporate brand, you know what I’m saying? So it benefits us because we live in the community and it also benefits us, obviously, because it’s going to help the popularity and profitability of Capital Mall. It’s a win-win….” said Johnston.
Above: Standing on an underutilized greenbelt around the perimeter of the mall’s 65 acre property near Forever 21, REI, and Red Robin, Capital Mall general manager Kevin Johnston motions toward Yauger Park on Cooper Point Road. Johnson envisions a possible trail connection from the mall property to the park and a larger network of trails. 

A mother’s plea for justice

Works in Progress - Sat, 04/02/2016 - 5:26pm

Police accountability for last year’s West Olympia shooting
By Crystal Chaplin
Andre and Bryson
It was a nice day in May 2015.  It was dry outside and both André and Bryson decided they were going to the local skate park on Cooper Point Road. It wasn’t far from where we lived; they left late that afternoon.

That night, or should I say early that morning on May 21, my daughter came home saying someone had just been shot down on Cooper Point Road not far from our home. She was frantic asking if her brothers were home. “They hadn’t come home yet,” I said to her. We stayed up the rest of the night waiting for them to come home, but they didn’t.

Later that morning there was a knock on the door. It was detectives/police saying that both my sons, André and Bryson, were both shot in the chest by a police officer and were in critical condition. I froze; I can remember dropping to the floor. My heart felt like it was just ripped out of my chest.

I cried and I felt sick to my stomach.  I said, “God please don’t take them from me. Please.” What went through my mind then was why a police officer would shoot them? What the hell is going on?

We were told which hospital they were taken to. When we arrived at the hospital I was not allowed to go in to see my sons. An officer was there in the lobby outside the ICU wanting to ask my daughter more questions. After informing my family on what happened they advised me to stop talking to the police or media until we have legal representation. I immediately said, “no more questions. I want to see my sons right now.” They finally let me in after a few minutes.

Walking into that room seeing my youngest son unconscious and having all these machines around him—wires all over him and on a respirator to help him breath—was something I wasn’t prepared for. It was frightening and very overwhelming and then seeing a police officer sitting there all calm made me so upset. I wondered why he was there with his little pad writing things down. I still didn’t know exactly what had happened or if my son would make it. Doctors then said to me that he was stable but still critical.

I asked where was my other son. At first they didn’t seem to know where he was but finally we were told where he was, he was about 30-45 minutes away from St Peter’s. Before leaving to get on the freeway for the drive to Tacoma General Hospital, we made sure Bryson was stable.

I felt numb and so worried because now I’m going to see André and I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to see, I was scared and I just prayed “Please, God, please let him be still with us, please.” Finally making it to André’s room I was so happy to see him awake and I could see the pain and worry in his eyes. He asked how his brother, Bryson, was. I told him and he began to cry. My heart was breaking.

He said, “Go back to Bryson, Mom, I’m okay.” He was so worried for his brother. He said, “Mom, Bryson needs you.”

I kissed him, told him I loved him very much and said, “I will be back soon baby.”

“Love you, Mom,” he said.

Arriving back at St. Peters Hospital Bryson was still unconscious and being readied to be airlifted to Seattle Harborview Hospital. I stayed overnight with Bryson not leaving his side, talking to him saying to him I love you and saying, “Bry-Bry, open your eyes. Baby, fight. Baby, you’re strong. I’m here; Mommy’s not going anywhere.”

I believe it was the next day when he opened his eyes. Family had flown in from Rhode Island, Florida and California to be with us because this was just unbelievable. Nothing like this happens in our family. We would drive back and forth between hospitals until André was released a couple days later. My brother, my oldest son, my son’s father, my daughter and I would take turns staying with Bryson in the hospital because we didn’t want him to be alone; someone had to be with him at all times. The drive back and forth from Seattle was so stressful and overwhelming.

I was so afraid for André and Bryson. I still am ‘til this day.

Bryson is now paralyzed. He has a bullet in his back from the White police officer who opened fire on him and his brother. When I learned that he couldn’t walk and saw the x-ray that showed the bullet in his spine, I was angry that the police lied. They told me both he and his brother were shot in the chest.

Liars!

And while in the hospital, after Bryson was airlifted to Seattle, I got a call from the Olympia police chief asking me how I was doing and saying he was sorry for what happened. He spoke some more, but I wasn’t really paying too much attention to what he was saying because I really didn’t want to hear what he had to say. I remember him saying to call him when I could because he would like to talk with me.

“Hmm, for what,” I asked in my mind.

After about a month Bryson was released from the hospital. We tried to make it as comfortable as possible for him because he had to use a wheelchair. This has changed their lives, my life and our entire family’s lives. The media and ignorant people making nasty comments, saying my sons must be thugs or gang members, it’s just ignorance.

My sons are just sweet caring guys with big hearts.

After a couple months go by, the investigation is still going on. Then in August the investigation is completed with both my sons, André and Bryson, being charged with assault on this White police officer. He tried to kill them both and I truly believe the officer not only shot Bryson multiple times but he also wanted to kill André.

So there was no witness to his brutal and reckless act on two young Black men. This killer cop said my sons tried to attack him with a skateboard.

“Bull,” I say.

They are also being charged for assault on the store clerk who has claimed they had attempted to steal beer from the store.

This so-called police officer saw two suspects fitting the description from what this store clerk had given them, and from that my youngest son was hit with bullets multiple times and my other son was shot at three times and hit once.

All my life I have never heard of a police officer going after anybody that had attempted to steal beer or even a store clerk or owner who called 911. Usually it’s the store manager saying to a person or persons never to come back in their store. Wouldn’t you think that would be more logical? But instead two young black men, my sons, get gunned down with bullets flying everywhere.

When I heard the charges I was livid and saying “Is this for real; are they really serious? This can’t be happening.”

First court date was nerve racking. The media was outside and inside the courtroom. It felt like we were all going to a hanging. Then there was silence because I don’t think the media and people in the community didn’t really believe my son Bryson was paralyzed and in a wheelchair, but they see now.

I feel we are trapped here in Olympia and all I can see, when I go places or into that court room, is racist people. I have so much anxiety when I see a police car or an officer and every time we drive down that road. I picture my sons running through the woods trying not to get hit by bullets as this White cop fires into the darkness, into the dark woods.

Every day since Bryson and André came home from the hospital I see the pain in their eyes and I see the physical pain Bryson goes through. Every day I wish I could take it all away; I feel helpless.

Where is the justice? So many men, women and children have been killed by police officers all over the United States. When is this going to stop? When is change going to come? I thank God every day for my sons being alive and I pray every day for the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers who have lost a loved one because of police brutality.

Looking back through history it seems like it’s happening all over again and everyone is just blind to what’s really going on. The police take care of their own “White privilege.” That’s how I see it and I’m sure other people see it, too.

As I write these words, with tears in my eyes, my chest is so heavy and it aches like I’m living that day again when I was told my boys were shot. I live this every day. A mother should never have to hear those words or even be told that their child has died. My heart goes out to the families that have lost a loved one to this madness. My family will never be the same again; my sons will never be the same again. I want justice for my sons, Bryson and André. The police officer should be held accountable for using excessive force, for attempted murder, and never be able to work in law enforcement or carry a firearm again.

I truly think that all police officers who have killed should be stripped of their badges and guns never to get them back again, ever!

Many people have asked me how I’m doing or how I’m feeling. Looking at my sons I cry inside every day. They didn’t deserve what happened to them. I cry in private because I don’t want them to see my tears, I was protective of them before and now I am overly protective. I trust no one around my family, especially my boys. Before all this happened, we were trusting people.

Our lives have changed forever since that White officer tried his hardest to kill my sons, but God had other plans for my boys. He sent down his Army of Angels to protect them as they ran through those woods in the darkness for their lives; I am so grateful for the Angels. My experience as a mother with two black young men, my sons that survived and lived through this traumatic incident, I can truly say I am blessed to have them still with me. If it wasn’t for the work of God and his Angels I would be mourning both my sons. I can only imagine what they went through that horrible night on May 21, 2015. That day will forever be etched in our brains and hearts.
Justice for André and Bryson.

Crystal Chaplin is a single mother of 43 sons and a daughterand  grandmother of 11. She grew up in New England in a Rhode Island town  called Woonsocket and her family moved to Olympia in 2012. Crystal is a dedicated mother and gives her all for her children and grandchildren. “They are my life.”        

 

The post A mother’s plea for justice appeared first on Works in Progress.

God as Republican

Works in Progress - Sat, 04/02/2016 - 5:24pm

Theocratic thinking on the 2016 presidential campaign trail
By Enrique Quintero

Connected with the divine

Claiming to have God on your side can be philosophically problematic, mainly because without logical evidence, you are invoking an imaginary force with extra powers and unexplained superior morality as an ally and justifier of your actions, without risking much social scrutiny.  As a politician running for office in a nation that, according to the 2010 results of the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, has over three-hundred-fifty-thousand religious congregations, with an estimated total of over one- hundred-and-fifty-million adherents, asserting that God is on your side may constitute more an act of political calculation than an act of faith.  This type of political scheming is not new in human history; rather, it’s probably as old as human political opportunism.

In search for political power, rulers from ancient civilizations as well as contemporary political leaders have, on innumerable occasions, created a connection with God merely by claiming that such a connection exists.  Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz belong to this category of evangelical politicians, or so they both tell us. To the surprise of many, it turns out that God in the United States happens to be Republican.

Early crucifixion: The Marco Rubio case

The principle of the separation between church and state constitutes one of the guiding principles of western political democracy. This separation between faith and politics is also required by the First Amendment to the American Constitution, which allows all citizens the freedom to practice any religion of their choice, but also stops government from favoring any particular religion. The violation of this principle constitutes the main mistake of theocratic politicians.

Rubio’s use of faith for political advantage is not new to his political career; his passion for ‘country and God’ is only eclipsed by his religious contortionism: first born as Catholic, later converted to Mormonism while living in Nevada for three years, then, after returning to Florida, he was confirmed and married in the Catholic church, but also attended a Baptist church for years, and currently splits his time among these last two.  He has also been quite diligent about inserting his religious beliefs into the campaign. After Time Magazine’s cover presented him as ‘the Republican savior’ he stated:  “Let me be clear about one thing: there is only one savior and it is not me. It’s Jesus Christ who came down to Earth and died for our sins”.  The implicit Christian arrogance of the statement is clear and offensive for those of different religious faith.  Also it is completely contrarian to the principles of the First Amendment, not to mention the questionable logic of finding commendable that someone—Jesus in this case—would die (sent by his Father nonetheless) for undetermined sins committed by previous and future generations and people of all ages, including innocent children.

During his speech announcing his dropping out of the presidential campaign as result of his early electoral crucifixion in the Florida primary, Rubio once again managed to insert God’s will in political events by saying: “ it is not God’s plan that I be president in 2016 or maybe ever”.  The introduction of religion into the realm of politics not only brings anti-democratic exclusionary practices into society, but also brings up unsolvable contradictions and faulty thinking.  Is the social construction named God really busy planning who will win the American elections? Do human actions have nothing to do with political results?  Is all social life really planned in advance by a creature that historically seems to have used very little time for planning how to eliminate social injustices or economic inequalities, unless these of course, are part of his plan? Most telling, through history, who have been the main beneficiaries of this particular God’s social planning?

Cruz and karaoke evangelism

Ted Cruz is perhaps the candidate with the more vociferous evangelic message in the electoral trail. It was not coincidental that the launching of his presidential campaign was announced at Liberty University in Virginia, an academic institution founded by evangelist Jerry Falwell that, according to the Guardian  (March 23,2015), advertises itself as a “training ground for the Champions of Christ “ and the “Largest Christian College in the World”.  Cruz peppered his announcement speech with constant repetitions in his notorious karaoke sermon-like style: “our rights do not come from man; they come from God almighty”.  In the same event Cruz also openly courted the Christian right by saying: “Today, roughly half of born-again Christians aren’t voting. They are staying home […] Imagine instead millions of people of faith going out to the polls and voting our values”.

For Cruz, ‘voting our values’ means clearly the unification of conservative Christian faith with governance and public policies, as exemplified by his message to Pastors in America titled “Stand with God and Be on the Right Side of History”.  Again, as we saw with his colleague Rubio, with Cruz, we witness the clear intention of Christian conservatism to eliminate the separation of church and state, effectively erasing the First Amendment charge to separate politics and faith of religion and culture, and the poorly concealed desire to impose the values of  Christian conservative evangelism upon the rest of civil society.

But while political evangelism has been busy conducting its theocratic proselytism hoping to agglutinate most of the American population around its values, their campaign shows mediocre results and a wretched misreading of contemporary American culture, which in spite all of its structural and social inequalities is a pluralistic religious society with a population that does not want to automatically echo right wing conservative Christian values. Indeed, not all the three hundred and fifty thousand congregations mentioned above are evangelical, monotheistic and conservative. Among them we find not only non-conservative, non evangelical Christian centered congregations, but also congregations based on the Muslim faith, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and other American Native and Afro-Caribbean congregations just to mention a few.

Equally important, in terms of the pluralism that characterizes the U.S., is the doubling of atheists in America in the last several years, according to the Pew Research Center, and they tend to distance themselves from the Republican Party. In a 2014 report, the same center states that 22.8 percent of the U.S. population is religiously unaffiliated, atheists made up 3.1 percent of the population, and agnostics make up 4 percent of the U.S. population. The 2014 General Social Survey reported that 21 percent of American had no religion with 3 percent being atheist and 5 percent being agnostic.

Again, if we claim, as Cruz does, to have God on our side or that standing on God’s side means being on the right side of history, the statement becomes antidemocratic, exclusionary, and contradictory. Which God is he talking about? Just the Christian God? How come this God carries more value than other Gods? Who determines what the right side of history is? How can we measure the political performance of this God and his self-assigned divine candidates without looking at the social conditions where humans live? What is the evidence of Ted Cruz’s connection with this entity call God? Or is he bringing into existence this connection simply by saying that such a connection exists?

Let’s distance ourselves from the anti-democratic karaoke machine of theocratic evangelism and get ourselves closer to reason and social justice.

Enrique Quintero was a political activist in Latin America during the 70’s, then taught ESL and Second Language Acquisition in the Anchorage School District, and Spanish at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He currently lives and writes in Olympia.

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