Inviting Pollyanna Back

Okay, I know this blog can be a downer.

I think a lot of the “what the hell is going on here” tone of too many of my posts is due to the fact that I’m a perpetually disappointed optimist. Had I approached life with lower expectations, I might have simply shrugged and moved on, but I have always believed that despite ups and downs, the human trajectory is ultimately a progressive one. Over the past several years, most of the available evidence has seemed to rebut that presumption, so you can see where I might get testy.

That said, the current “Pence mess” in Indiana, believe it or not, has made me cautiously optimistic.

Granted, our elected officials–and especially our utterly clueless Governor–have inflicted significant and totally unnecessary damage on my city and state. Granted, too, the fact that we elected these bozos testifies to widespread abandonment of political engagement by most thoughtful Hoosiers.

But the overwhelming anger and pushback over the passage and signing of the “Religious Freedom Act”–from citizens, from CEOs, from Universities, from mayors, from faith communities–is an incredibly positive occurrence.

Leave aside the contending analyses of what Indiana’s RFRA would or would not do. What is beyond dispute is that this measure was instigated by, and intended to placate, right-wing organizations smarting from their loss on the issue of marriage equality. Its anti-gay symbolism was intentional, and a negative response from LGBT folks and their allies should have been anticipated (although it clearly wasn’t).

The depth and breadth of that response, however, wasn’t foreseeable. Three thousand people turned out to a protest organized a mere two or three days before–many of them people I know who have never before participated in a demonstration. The business community, the civic community, religious communities, the media–rose up as one to say “This mean-spiritedness does not represent us. Hoosiers are better than this.” (And by the way, Governor, insisting that you oppose discrimination rings pretty hollow when you also oppose civil rights for LGBT folks.)

The NCAA and even Nascar have piled on.

Dare I let Pollyanna whisper in my ear once more? Might it be that a period of apathy and resignation, a period when nice people just bemoaned bigotry and “talked amongst themselves” on social media and within more inclusive communities, is coming to an end? Might we be seeing the last throes of the Christian Taliban–those who Molly Ivins memorably called “Shiite Baptists”?

Could we be entering into a “Network” age, when people are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore?

I plan to stay tuned…


  1. Sheila, I hope so, but there was an awful lot of bad reasoning happening in the Indiana legislature before Mike Pence got his hands on that bill.

  2. the Gospil of Prosparity believers complain that government is getting to involved in their business and that they must get involved in government to clean up America and put in back on the straight and narrow that they so believe in but seldom follow themselves and that will save their America.

  3. Another jaundiced Pollyanna here, Sheila, who contiues to lose faith in human nature at an increasing rate of speed. This country was founded on freedom of religion to protect many FROM enforced religion in their homelands. We in the United States now need to reinact those freedom FROM religious beliefs of others; how many recent laws and ordinances are based on pseudo Christianity? The 1st Amendment prohibits government from establishing religion (it is ignored of late) but there is no protect to keep religion out of government. The massive outcry from other states, state and city leaders, major businesses, sports organizations – pro and collegiate, celebraties, etc., are coming from those who have attorneys who have carefully read and researched these laws before knowledgable people went pubic to protest Pence and his refusal to admit his mistake by signing SB 101 into law. And don’t forget his adamant refusal to establish a law protecting LGBTs from discrimination in Indiana on national TV yesterday. Stephen King jumped into the fray with a typical on-target Stephen King comment; Pence’s RFRA law is a dog turd, you can cover a dog turd with icing but it is still a dog turd. I appreaciate him taking the time to get into this because he has currently had problems with his own governor of Maine.

    The front page of the Indianapolis Star yesterday was jaw-dropping for this right-leaning source of news here. The letter to the editor today from five living Mayors, four Republicans, speaking out against Pence’s bigotry should be a wake-up message to the Republican constituents of Pence, Daniels and their cronies. Will they learn from this Pence fiasco or will they continue to be Republican sheep following the Judas goat into the oblivion of discrimination and dragging the rest of us along with them?

  4. “But the overwhelming anger and pushback over the passage and signing of the “Religious Freedom Act”–from citizens, from CEOs, from Universities, from mayors, from faith communities–is an incredibly positive occurrence.”

    There is only anger from a very small amount of people. As no two states pass these laws simultaneously, the narrow interest that screams about these matters can direct their full attentions to each state that has this legislation up for approval.

    Nothing will change in Indiana because of this law or in any state that has passed it. All that will happen is that the protections merchants have forever enjoyed are eternally protected.

    I am very disappointed to see the outrageous reaction by the Democratic Party to this legislation. I really had hoped there was more to the party than g@y rights activism. I’m now wondering whether all the economic, social and anti-war issues the Democrats claim to advocate are just window dressing to get people to be forced to accept attacks on religion. I was hoping the Democrats were a more normal major party, but this issue has given me very serious grounds to reconsider those positions.

    I was hoping the Democrats were on the way to returning to the party of William Jennings Bryan.

    The reaction by a corporation is unsurprising and predictable, and worthless. It’s a relatively easy matter for a public relations firm to hold a company hostage and get a press release.

  5. Dear Mrs. Kennedy,
    Thank you for another great email received this morning after watching and hearing today the George W. Bush clone so often suggesting “it’s not my fault” and repeating the “we don’t discriminate” mantra (often repeated to assure its injection into the brains of Hoosiers), trying to hoist his pants, and promising that a correction will gush forward from the Assembly by Friday, all the time arguing that a correction is not really necessary because we never “intended” to discriminate anyway.
    Anticipating more embarrassment………

  6. This fiasco reveals the small bubble that so many politicians live within. Listening only to certain interests who represent a rather narrow slice of the American populace.
    Most of us live and work in a much more diverse America that is connected digitally to the whole planet. I have the pleasure of chatting with people around the world on a wide variety of subjects via Facebook. I work for a company that attracts a diverse customer base that speak languages from as many 20 different countries and employees from an age-range of 19 to 75.
    I and my co-workers are not surprised by the outcry over RFRA. We live in the real and connected world. Rather than feel threatened by human diversity we find it interesting, challenging, growth-producing and revelatory of our shared humanity.
    The recent events also created a conversation in our lunchroom about the need to be engaged in politics and the necessity of VOTING. I think this fiasco has awakened young people who’ve not been politically engaged. They’re realizing that what politicians do DOES eventually affect them and that the current majority in the Indiana Statehouse do NOT reflect their life principles and value.
    So, like you, Sheila, my inner Pollyanna has re-awakened.

  7. I am so glad the world fell on our governors head. His press conference was a complete lie. He ABSOLUTELY knew that the only reason for that law was to hurt Gay People. That was its intent. He is full of it when he says otherwise. The Christian Bigots are his base. Look at the picture of that odd collection of humanity at the signing. Until that law is totally repealed, NOT EXPLAINED, I ask everyone to do what they can to spread the BOYCOTT INDIANA message.

  8. Patmcc; other than a Facebook post of a sign supporting RFRA on a Mr. Ice machine, who do we boycott? I do NOT want to spend my money anywhere they will refuse service or goods to my family members or friends; neither do I want to deprive those who are against the bill by not spending money in their business. Hopefully all of those who will serve everyone will post notices; hope the companies producing those signs will make a bundle:)

  9. One of the realities of modern media is that it’s designed to surround us with like thinkers. And we know that we all suffer from motivated reasoning so we assume that more and more of us are thinking alike and our thoughts have become a cultural movement.

    Conservatives are emerging from an era where they were convinced that America had become theirs and implementation of what they wish for would be unrestrained.

    To my way of thinking so many of the results of that movement have crashed and burned that it has stretched the capability of motivated reasoning to explain. Even the most motivated see that America’s crises aren’t what the the Great Oligarchy Plot tries to blame but are the effects of conservative actions.

    Pollyanna may be one explanation but I think closer to the truth is that both gentle and not so pressure relentlessly applied by forces like this blog are starting to be effective in confronting many with what is as compared to what they wish was.

    Does this bode well for 2016?

    Let’s not assume that but continue the effort. Or even redouble it. The message has to be overwhelming to guarantee it’s effective.

    We have wasted a quarter of a century of the limited time we have to mitigate the economic and social hardships of climate change just as one threat and we have to make up for lost time.

    The Obama administration’s public preparation for Paris this fall has the world optimistic that finally reality will prevail. That we’ll do rather than debate, be decisive rather than equivocate, avoid disaster rather than accept it.

    As in the world of sports “big mo”, momentum, may well have come our way but team Limbaugh is not going to go quietly into that good night. Liberals are known for being nice people but let’s avoid that becoming a weakness.

    Full steam ahead.

  10. The most interesting take here is the presumed paucity of democratic interests. It’s worth serious thought. I’d deny it as I believe otherwise but it does point to a general lack of coordinated structural messaging and a widespread but shallow opposition to religious bigotry that’s conflated with a lack of spirituality at all.

    This speaks to the church of course as well as to democrats. The center left church is far too content to allow the coarser fundamentalist strains do the screaming and as we know, squeaks get grease.

    If the political stirrings you feel are to have broader positive implications there is a deep need to organize and address issues at both the state and national levels that are obscured by what I call Obama derangement syndrome. It will not do to rely on the incompetence of Republican candidates or the Republican primary to push rightward so far as to be totally unpalatable to the general electorate. In spite of Governor Dence and the weeks news.

    It also will not do to rely on women to carry a first woman President to the Whitehouse. Both Hoosier and national candidates must be sharp and deep to overcome the reflexive rightwing right arm lever pullers. At least in flyover country.

    A foreign policy success – agreement over Iran and non-proliferation nuclear inspectors would be a great boon as it pits hawks as the war party over a fragile current sanity but it’s also easy to see America loves it’s wars. Finds them gratifying in a sick and twisted way but unifying so perhaps not so unusual. And it’s relatively easy to scare people with black protest or civil rights in general as the countries demographics become browner.

    At some point there must be a clearing of the air over religion. Authoritarian fundamentalism appears so attractive to some however that even statewide Libertarians find themselves leaning that way, swayed by it’s deceptive nature — freedom to practice any groupthink currently popular– seems like it offers flexibility– based on religious liberty. It doesn’t of course but it’s shiny and feels bold. The idea–I can do as I please– on religious grounds is a loser when it’s so backwards that it seeks to undermine or even throw out long fought for unifying public accommodation law to achieve its aim. And if successful over time will betray it’s adherents in a trap of their own making.

    I’m less optimistic I suppose but would characterize it as wary rather than dour. I’ve feel we fail to gather when the weather is fit too often based on sunny optimism and ignore the obvious. That every season rolls around in it’s order and the momentary relief at pushback against a pitifully transparent power play is delightful but perhaps deceptive. I’m grateful for the momentary spring blooms, but have seen them year after year mature and age only to die and fall unharvested upon the untilled, poorly prepared ground generating far less yield than possible. I’d like to see progressives tend their crops a little more consistently.

  11. Certainly one change that needs grass roots building is the courage of the Democratic Party. Their timid tepid reaction so far to the chaos in conservatism has been to abandon Obama, their natural leader, which means they are suffering from the same bilge rot as the GOP, fear of the conservative hoards.

    Sheila’s exhortations to us really are to take heart and drive forward unafraid and unrestrained.

    Drive the hoards out and reclaim America as part of, not separate from, Obama’s successes.

  12. The irony of all of this is that if Indiana hadn’t passed a ban on same-sex marriage and if the Hobby Lobby decision hadn’t happened, then Indiana’s RFRA wouldn’t have been passed. These religious bigots brought all of this on themselves. At the end of the day, their cause will lose ground and they have no one to blame but themselves. I’d still like to hear from one of them what religious freedom was “restored” by this bill. The Indiana Legislature won’t pass any bill guaranteeing protections for GLBT citizens, so the only option is to repeal the bill. This won’t happen without something more than saber-rattling by business speaking out against the bill. Multiple companies need to announce concrete plans to move out of Indiana or cancel expansion plans and multiple big conventions have to actually cancel. This is the only way to really get the attention of the Republicans in the State House , because the only thing they like better than appealing to their base is $$$$.

  13. Gopper, you’re correct that Democrats generally oppose this law, but you are incorrect when you interpret that as an attack on religion, generally.

    There probably are fewer folks with religious affiliation in the Democratic Party, but that is primarily a result of the Dems’ more inclusionary vision of society. (That is also why they so rarely speak with one voice, which is another problem altogether. )

    However, the primary movers of this protest are not Democrats; they’re businesses, specifically large national and multinational companies that already have challenges in recruiting. Indiana does not have beaches or mountains, or any other feature likely to be attractive to young well-educated people. This misguided law will only make a difficult situation worse.

    The fact that they warned both the General Assembly and the Governor, and were ignored, is a solid indication that the issue was not religious freedom, per se, but the primacy of a level of religious zealotry which is incompatible with a government which serves ALL of its citizens.

  14. In short, this was a step too far, or maybe “the straw that broke the camel’s back” for a populace that sees its serious concerns about increasing levels of poverty and lack of jobs ignored while our state politicians waste their time and our money on things like this. Nero fiddling while Rome burns, to use one more hackneyed cliche’. 🙂

  15. I share the same optimism. If this past week doesn’t get more people engaged in the political process in Indiana, likely nothing will. Let’s hope that in its own weird way, this legislation does a world of good.

  16. “However, the primary movers of this protest are not Democrats; they’re businesses, specifically large national and multinational companies that already have challenges in recruiting.”

    Completely disagree. Corporations don’t care about the law, at all. Corporations are told by a very vocal advocacy organization that if they don’t issue a press release condemning the law, the corporation will be targeted by the advocacy group as a supporter of the law.

    The corporation takes the easy way out and signs onto the press release.

  17. Thank you, all, for your comments and Sheila, for your wise and cogent remarks. You all feed my soul and give me hope that this oligarchy will not become a theocracy. We must get rid of them both and somehow show Americans that they do have the solution in their hands in the voting booth.

  18. Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson seemed stalwart in supporting a like bill rolling full steam ahead through the recently Repubicanized General Assembly. Backlash by citizens, a lack of support by major corporations, his own son’s anti-bill petition signature and the Indiana example of what insues from support seems to have turned his mind toward some form of compromise. All here claim the same as there: no discrimination intended. Is this the beginning of a new Progressive Movement? One can always hope.

  19. I was happy to see this backlash as well. It’s about time that these people see who they really come across as; bigots. I think this is great. When those corporations stood up and spoke out, it was a relief that they saw this like the rest of us, unnecessary and discriminatory, which is unconstitutional.
    And former Gopper, listen man, if you want to find out what your political leanings are google, Political Compass. There’s an easy ‘test’ that asks questions and gives you the result that helps you understand where your beliefs are. There are many of the politicians listed that show their political leanings to give you a gauge of where you stand among them. I thought I was conservative but I am a liberal libertarian according to this ‘test’. It is very accurate. Give it a go, it only takes a few minutes.
    (Every time I try to add a link in my comment it goes to moderation so that’s why I asked you to just google it instead).

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