(Author’s Note: Treat this as sarcasm at your own peril.)

          It is an honor to die for one’s gods, to have your devotion deemed worthy for sacrifice, to be recognized for your obedience to the holy creed. Gods seem to need to see true believers destroy themselves as bargaining chips for the continuation of their good will. Faithfulness unto death is a validation of the seriousness of the doctrine as well as the dedication of the followers.

          In Pre-Colombian Mesoamerica there was a ballgame. The goal was for a team to get a hard rubber ball through a hoop hanging sideways on the wall of the ball court. The court was a rectangular enclosure with grandstands on either side.

          The Aztecs in central Mexico called the game ollamaliztli. The Mayans in Yucatan and southward called it pitz. We don’t know what the Olmecs called the game though they probably invented it in their homeland near modern Vera Cruz. In fact, we get their name from the Nahuatl (Aztec) name for them: olmecatl, “rubber people.” And, those famous giant Olmec basaltic heads show the honorees wearing ballgame helmets.

          The game was played ceremoniously as part of religious observances. It was a staple of the broader culture, and even found its way to the U.S. Southwest, to the Hohokam people who lived near modern Phoenix.

          There is an enigma associated with the game, now called “pok-a-tok,” in a slurring of another Mayan term. The games sometimes had life and death consequences that put today’s puny sports rivalries to shame.

          The enigma concerns the outcome of the game. I have been reading contradictory  accounts about the game for more than 50 years.

          In his enlightening interviews with Bill Moyers three decades ago, the great mythographer Joseph Campbell cites this version:

          “I think the great model of sacrifice is the Mayan Indian ball game. You know they had a kind of basketball game, there’s a loop there up in the stadium wall, and the idea was to get this big heavy ball through that….And the captain of the winning team was sacrificed on the field by the captain of the losing team, his head was cut off. And going to your sacrifice as the winning stroke of your life is the essence of the early sacrificial idea.”

          Other versions say the losers were sacrificed. Someone or somebodies were sacrificed to prove their devotion.

          The first rule of any religion is obedience. There can be no questioning of the priest, prophet, central committee or anyone in charge. Unswerving loyalty is demanded of all followers, with ostracism the first, though not the worst, of consequences for dissenters, heretics, free thinkers.

          We are witnessing the same phenomenon in these modern times. Throughout the red-state South, people have swallowed the lies of their Republican officials and various rightwing media mouthpieces (who all should be red-faced with shame) and refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19, refuse to wear masks to help stem its spread, raise all Billy-hell to try to enforce their beliefs onto others – and now fill up hospital ICU wards on their way to funeral homes to prove their loyalty to the Cult of Trump. (In late September, 91 percent of COVID-19 patients in an ICU were unvaccinated.)

          And they don’t care how many “infidels” they take with them. Unvaccinated and unmasked, Trumpistas are not only unapologetic about spreading disease and death to others, some of them try to rip masks off the cautious, deliberately cough on them and threaten further violence in the name of ignorance and their coup-fomenting leader. They are killing people already.

          Republican governors do everything within/without their powers to increase their states’ death tolls – and blame the results on others. There is blood on their hands.

          We’ve seen the video of the young harridan chasing and screeching at two small masked children. What was this terrorist going to do to them if she caught them? What was her professed religion before she became a Trump Cultist?

          Don’t trust a liberal Democrat?

          Former eight-term Oklahoma Republican Congressman Mickey Edwards told KFOR back in June: “This has become a cult. It’s no longer a political party. It’s a cult. It’s the kind of a cult that when the leader of the cult does anything, no matter what it is, or how awful it is, they voted (to support him).”

          And, as new religions take hold, others wither.

          In mid-September. Sarah K. Burris reported for Raw Story: “A new analysis from the Pew Research center revealed that the word “evangelical” no longer means born-again. Instead, the data shows that it has become more about President Donald Trump and being a Republican.

          “NBC News reported that the term has become less about faith, religion or the church and instead become a political distinction.

          “’People who embrace the label use it to signal that they’re against immigration, science and abortion and to signal a belief that discussions of racism in America are antithetical to their idea of America,’ said NBC.”

          The first martyrs are the holiest, maybe saints, but those who keep the altar bloody

are revered as well for demonstrating their sacred word’s sustainability.

          It might be difficult for Herman Cain to reach beatification within a cult of white supremacists. But, Trump’s klanazis can appreciate a black man’s death – if not his dedication. And, whether they acknowledge it or not, they march in his funeral procession toward the same destination.

          True believers are leaving orphans (140,000) across America by embracing the Trump Cult, with its creeds of coronavirus lies, election lies and xenophobia. They are deadly and serious.

          The old Mayans would understand their devotion.

          (Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party: scdpok.us or facebook.com/SCDPOK/.)

True believers willing martyrs

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