Political Extremism

The dictionary defines extremism as “the condition or act of taking an extreme view” and “the taking of extreme action” (-Ologies & -Isms. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc.). It goes further to describe a person who acts in such a way as an extremist or “One who advocates or resorts to measures beyond the norm, especially in politics”(The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition).

We see extremists at work in a wide variety of ways in our world. Most of the time, extremism is associated with groups of people who hide behind a facade of religion to commit acts of atrocity against other people. Yet, there are those who are extremists who use other facades, such as political views or parties, as their means of acting in a manner that is beyond the norm.

One of the problems with extremism is that as it is covered more frequently in the news, it loses its shock and starts to become seen as the norm. We become desensitized to extremism unless or until it rears its ugly head in a violent manner. Even then, to some extent, we are desensitized to it unless it happens to us directly. Then, we become incensed and enraged and demand action to rid ourselves of extremist elements around us. By then, many times, it is too late for the extremism has crept into our mainstream lives and, in doing so, has caused others to see the extremism as a means for their own salvation.

Rather than focus on the obvious example of extremism, that being religion based, let us look to that which is based on politics. They share commonalities with one another even though their mode of operation and existence is different.

What breeds extremism? What causes seemingly normal people to want to follow extremist views? I believe this is a very complex issue and cannot claim to be an expert, but I think some of it has to do with power or at least the perception of power to be gained through extremism.

Some people who have nothing to lose are drawn to extremism and extremist views. They feel that their problems are caused by some entity or group of people who are different from them and, since they themselves feel powerless or so downtrodden that they cannot bring themselves up, they turn to promises made by the peddlers of extremism.

Take a look at the current political situation in the U.S. One particular candidate knows how to peddle extremism very well. So well, that he has managed to become the primary candidate for his political party. If a person looked simply at his ability to govern or ideas, there is nothing there. He leads through intimidation and inflammatory rhetoric alone. One news report mentioned his lack of debate skills during the primaries by saying that he “is active, if not overwhelmingly aggressive, in the first 30-45 minutes. When answering a question during that time, [he] tends to avoid any policy details and has, on occasion, shown a remarkable lack of knowledge on the issues” (Blake). The article continues and says that the candidate then, “tends to fade into the background. He answers the questions asked of him and hits back when someone attacks him. Beyond that, however, he tends to look somewhere between disinterested and sleepy. He does very little to inject himself into the conversation. He is, rather transparently, just waiting for the whole thing to be over” (Blake).

However, when he speaks at his events, he is very much the center of attention and speaks quite long. However, there is not much content in his speech aside from rhetoric that is meant to inflame his most devoted followers. He talks of building walls to prevent immigrants from Mexico, hints at both imprisoning or assassinating his opponents, and makes negative commentaries on refugees. These comments are not policy meant to give people an informed choice as to issues that matter to the entire country, but inflammatory remarks made to people who he knows are most likely led to extremism. While he may not directly tell his followers to discriminate or even consider murder, he does so indirectly and with innuendos that he and his supporters are quick to dismiss and remark that he was simply misunderstood.

It’s a bit like Mark Antony’s soliloquy in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” where he says that “Brutus is an honourable man”(Shakespeare). Antony knows Brutus is part of the murder, but in order to turn the crowd against Brutus, he first uses the phrase to flatter, then to condemn him. The candidate in question says things such as “…nothing you can do, folks…Although the Second Amendment people—maybe there is, I don’t know”(Corasaniti and Haberman). The candidate did not call for murder, but his words, along with chants often heard from crowds at his events to “Lock her up” or “Kill the bitch”, certainly give the impression that he does not disagree entirely with the suggestion. Add to this his hints at the possibility that the general election will be rigged as being the only reason he feels he could lose, and you have a potentially dangerous situation.

This political extremism is dangerous regardless of which party someone supports. It is dangerous for our country as it lends those who feel they are no longer heard or who fear no longer being in the majority an excuse to act in extremist ways.

That is not how a democracy exists.

It is dangerous because it creates a sense of anger-fueled anarchy simmering below the surface of our society. It only takes people who feel they have nothing to lose who have reached either such a low state of self-control or who are worked into a frenzy by this type of rhetoric for things to become violent.

That is not how a democracy exists.

It is dangerous because, if unchecked by people who are not beguiled by such extremist rhetoric, it undermines the very Constitution upon which our country is founded.

That is not how a democracy exists, but how a democracy perishes.

We cannot allow political extremism to hold sway over our country. We must peacefully and legally stop the extremism. We must get out the vote to stop that particular candidate and those who support him and his extremist agenda in order to save our country.

Extremism is not an American value. It is the value of dictators, tyrants, and those who do not value human rights and decency.

Works Cited

Blake, Aaron. “Why Donald Trump might not debate Hillary Clinton.” The Washington Post. N.p., 9 Aug. 2016. Web. 11 Aug. 2016. .
Corasaniti, Nick, and Maggie Haberman. “Donald Trump Suggests ‘Second Amendment People’ Could Act Against Hillary Clinton.” The New York Times. N.p., 9 Aug. 2016. Web. 11 Aug. 2016. .
Shakespeare, William. The Life and Death of Julius Caesar.

Borders and Boxes

Thousands of children from Central America are flooding the southern part of the United States on a daily basis at this time as they search for somewhere safe from the ravages of rampant crimes, particularly drug crimes, in their homelands. As is typical for some of those who live in the United States, the call for these children to be instantly deported is loud and sometimes violent.

Turning to another part of the globe, there are refugees fleeing from the unrest in Syria and other parts of the Middle East due to everything from government troops to the rising terrorist group ISIS. Refugees here are fleeing primarily to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, but a few are going to Germany and Sweden in their search for safety. In Europe, a few countries have closed their borders to the refugees, such as Bulgaria and Spain.

Add to this the recent rising of anti-immigrant conversations from the United Kingdom as they deal with a rising Middle Eastern population, and you have yet further division among the human race.

All of this has gotten me to ponder why we require borders in the first place. Secondly, and related to this, why is it that humans feel the need to place people in boxes that categorize and subdivide ourselves from one another rather than looking for those things that make us similar? All these borders and boxes serve no real purpose than to divide humanity even further. They do not serve to bring people together as should be the desire for the sake of the human race and the future of our planet.

John Lennon, the former Beatle, once sang the words, “Imagine there’s no countries/It isn’t hard to do/Nothing to kill or die for/And no religion too/Imagine all the people/Living life in peace”(Imagine). I often wonder why we humans cannot strive for this as vehemently as we strive to create more weapons to destroy one another or even more boxes to subdivide ourselves from one another. There is no one thing that causes we humans to do this, of that I am certain, unless the underlying reason is fear.

That may be it. Perhaps we divide and subdivide ourselves so much because we fear having to learn about our fellow human being. As the American poet Robert Frost once wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors”(Mending Wall). Yet, if that poem is read, even it goes against the idea of borders and boxes as it states, “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know/What I was walling in or walling out/And to whom I was like to give offence” (Mending Wall). A wall would make sense if there was a good reason for it. If there were, as the poet says, cows to roam and the wall used to keep them in check. Perhaps we humans have no reason for the wall other than to repeat as the neighbor does by simply saying, “Good fences make good neighbors”(Mending Wall). We do not know why it’s there, but that it’s always been there, so it must stay there.

Some argue that the borders we have are there due to the result of military action and the truce documents saying they are located between certain coordinates. If they are there only to mark the areas where one side may venture due to a disagreement, are they not like when two children or roommates share a room and one lays down a line saying that everything on one side is theirs alone and the items on another belong only to the other person? Sounds rather childish if this is the case, doesn’t it? Rather than talk out our disagreements, we fight until we feel there are enough people dead (or, heaven forbid, the other side is annihilated), then create an invisible line to ward off the other side (again, provided anyone is left on the other side). Seems like a great waste of human potential and the opportunity to work together to create harmony rather than discord.

Others argue that these borders and boxes are needed to delineate easier governance of the people. I guess I would argue that perhaps sharing governance of ourselves might be best. Why not set basic laws for all humankind to ensure all are treated with respect and dignity? Basic ones like not killing one another, sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, reaching out to help our fellow human being when they need it, and respecting each person’s faith journey or even right not to have a set faith, but just choosing to live and let live. Yes, it makes it easier to set laws specific for a given country or state or region because no one has to talk with anyone else other than those who are set to govern that particular place. The United States does not ask Canada for permission to create a law and the opposite does not happen either. Would it not be worth it to have people talk to come up with what is good for all humanity rather than set up borders and boxes?

I can almost hear the calls of people shouting that I’m a Communist and should be watched or put away. I can even hear those questioning my sanity. Yet, maybe this was what the Christian scriptures refer to when the comment is made by Paul when he stated, “There is no longer Jew nor Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus”(Galatians 3:28 NRSV). If one would prefer to hear what is attributed to Jesus, then look at the passage from John 14:2,
In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”(John 14:2 RSV). Given I am quoting Christian scripture; it places me not so much with Communism, but certainly within Socialism.

Who cares? It is just a box. A human formed opinion to label me in some convenient way. Does it matter? Not really, except for the person placing me in that box and others who may agree with him or her.

Divisions and subdivisions happening at a rapid rate,
Always building walls and gates.
Keeping someone out or in.
To me, it seems like such a sin
Against humanity.

Back to my opening images, though. For the thousands of children who survived the perilous journey to the United States in hope that the words on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor,/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore./Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,/I life my lamp beside the golden door”(New Colossus by Emma Lazarus), are still true; my question remains is it true? It was for our forebears, but will it be for you?

For those fleeing tyranny in hope of safety, will they find it?

For those who are caught between the rockets of Israel and Hamas, will they ever know peace?

When will we, as human beings inhabiting the 3rd planet from the Sun, spend more time trying to erasing borders and knocking down boxes instead of trying to create or build more?

One can only hope it is soon.

References:
Galatians 3:28– http://biblia.com/books/nrsv/Ga3.28
Gospel According to St. John 14:2– http://www.biblestudytools.com/john/14-2-compare.html
“Imagine”– http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/johnlennon/imagine.html
“Mending Wall”– http://writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/frost-mending.html
“New Colossus”– http://www.libertystatepark.com/emma.htm

The Tea Party Platform and What’s Wrong with it

Tea Party Platform (And what’s wrong with it)

This is the Tea Party Platform per their website of http://www.teaparty.org

  1. Illegal aliens are here illegally
  2. Pro-domestic employment is indispensible
  3. A strong military is essential
  4. Special interests must be eliminated
  5. Gun ownership is sacred
  6. Government must be downsized
  7. The national budget must be balanced
  8. Deficit spending must end
  9. Bailout and stimulus plans are illegal
  10. Reducing personal income taxes is a must
  11. Reducing business income taxes is mandatory
  12. Political offices must be available to average citizens
  13. Intrusive government must be stopped
  14. English as our core language is required
  15. Traditional family values are encouraged (teaparty.org)

 

 

The above list of the essential and non-negotiable beliefs of the Tea Party was taken from their website, teaparty.org. It is an interesting list of what, on the surface, are the ideals of this movement that has taken America hostage at times in order to force them upon us. In some cases, they read like the platform of the Libertarian Party. At others, they read like the ranting of people who misunderstand the history of our country or even of how the US government works. I will attempt to point out how these ideals are either not being implemented or even truly wanted, cannot be implemented, or are just plain silly in the first place.

First, “Illegal aliens are here illegally.” A redundant sentence begins the list. That in itself should lead a person to see that this movement wishes to prey on the uneducated. My first thought was simply, no shit. If someone comes into a country illegally, obviously, he or she is an illegal alien. There is no debate in the verity of that sentence. However, another comment should be, so what? Our nation was founded by immigrants, from the Native Americans/First Nations who immigrated over the Bering land bridge to the waves of immigration from Europe and other parts of the world to the New World in hope of wealth and prosperity. I seriously doubt that the Native Americans/First Nations wanted the first White settlers to come here, especially after those settlers started to drive them out of their native lands and certainly, after they drove them onto reservations in the hope of slowly eradicating their entire race.

It also does not establish what they want to do about it. If people are coming here illegally, then why not establish a way for those who are otherwise law abiding people to become citizens legally? Many illegal immigrants come here to work because they cannot find jobs in their own country. Many illegal immigrants take jobs that most Americans do not want or are too lazy to perform, such as in the agricultural industry. Rather than simply exercise prejudice against them, why not give them an opportunity to become citizens or at least obtain legal status in the US? If they become citizens or legalized aliens, then they can contribute to our taxes. They can also have rights as workers and citizens. They can vote. They may be able to actually live their life without worrying about deportation and causing misery to their families, including those children they have who were born in the US and are, therefore, citizens of the US. We are a nation of immigrants, so why not welcome others as well?

Next, “Pro-domestic employment is indispensible.” No one can deny this is a great idea. We as a country should create jobs for those within the United States. However, wait, corporations are moving jobs from the United States in search of cheap labour in order to keep prices down or, more sinisterly, allow the corporate executives to pocket more income than most of their employees will see in a lifetime. If the Tea Party is serious about this one, then why have not they advocated taxing companies who move their work outside of the United States more in order to force them to move the jobs back to the United States? Oh, wait. That would be in violation of their 11th principle of “Reducing business income taxes is mandatory.” It cannot be both ways. If US corporations are moving their jobs to foreign countries without penalty as they search for cheaper labour, then what incentive do they have in keeping jobs here? The Tea Party says nothing about how to do this. In fact, most of the wealthy supporters of the Tea Party have no problem with US corporations moving jobs overseas because there are less stringent labour laws, pretty much no unions, and they can pay the workers there subsistent wages all the while as their corporate executives make scads of money that they can then hide in foreign bank accounts so they can avoid paying taxes that run our economy.

Their third point is “A strong military is essential.” To a point, this is true. Having a strong military works as a deterrent to keep those wanting to harm our country at bay. Yet, it did not stop the attacks of September 11, 2001. It does not stop domestic terrorism such as the incident involving Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City. A strong military cannot work without cooperation between nations. In some cases, it acts as an enticement to encourage those who wish to harm us to see if they can accomplish their evil plans in spite of our massive military complex. We need a strong and nimble military as our enemies are not the armies of countries, but smaller guerilla units who do not fight using conventional warfare tactics. Good intelligence between nations working together to keep an eye on the threats that destabilize countries is what is needed in conjunction with having a strong military. This point is not so much false as it is only part of what is needed.

Point number four, “Special interests must be eliminated.” This actually is the first thing mentioned that makes sense. Yet, it only makes sense if it is implemented across the board and not just for those who agree with other points of the Tea Party message. However, in reality, those wealthy Tea Party sponsors, especially the Koch Brothers, are a special interest. Have not seen Tea Party loyalists wanting their influence eliminated. Another problem with this is a little ruling from the United States Supreme Court that is supported by many in the Tea Party called Citizens United. This ruling allowed that corporations can be considered individuals and are therefore treated as individuals when it comes to financing campaigns of politicians. If the Tea Party is serious about this non-negotiable tenet of their platform, then they need to come out against Citizens United and jump on the bandwagon to repeal the ruling. They should also be heavily in favor of limiting campaign contributions to politicians by anyone as the more donated by any one person could be considered trying to establish a special interest group to influence that politician unduly against the needs of the community as a whole for which he or she is elected to represent.

The fifth point, “Gun ownership is sacred,” is troubling for a number of reasons. The use of the word sacred makes it seem as if guns are to be worshipped as a deity. After all, the word sacred as defined by Merriam-Webster means the following:

1 a: dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity <a tree sacred to the gods>

b: devoted exclusively to one service or use (as of a person or purpose) <a fund sacred to charity>

2 a: worthy of religious veneration: Holy

b: entitled to reverence and respect

3: of or relating to religion: not secular or profane <sacred music>

4: archaic: accursed

5 a: unassailable, inviolable

b: highly valued and important <a sacred responsibility>

Origin of SACRED

Middle English, from past participle of sacren to consecrate, from Anglo-French sacrer, from Latin sacrere, from sacr-, sacer sacred; akin to Latin sancire to make sacred, Hittite šaklāi– rite

By definition, then, the Tea Party believes that guns are to be worshipped. Somehow, I do not think our Founders wished for firearms to be considered a deity when they created the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. Viewing firearms as a deity is akin to prehistoric people seeing fire as a deity. Look, I have the power to kill you without touching you with metal projectiles from my fire stick. It is G-d. Seriously?!?

Guns are not sacred; they are a right given loosely to private owners in the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. As such, they should be regulated in order to keep the citizenry as whole protected from those individuals in society who would use them to terrorize or harm others. As this is not writing about the gun control, I will not delve further into the subject. However, guns are not sacred objects and this point is, to use a phrase from my students, messed up.

Sixth point of the Tea Party is that “Government must be downsized.” Okay. This is not such a bad idea overall. After all, most people are frustrated by the amount of paperwork needed for many things having to do with our government. Yet, when looking at how our government is set up as a representational government, trying to decrease the size of the government, yet still be able to function as a representational government is daunting. They fail to mention in what way, aside from Libertarian austerity, that they wish to downsize the government. This point needs more specifics. If it means deregulation and allowing industry to police themselves, then that is not such a good idea as it would be like investing in weasels to protect a henhouse. Regulations are needed to protect the interests of the citizenry of our country from pollution and other things that can harm us if left unfettered and to the corporation’s financial goals. See the issues with our food industry for one set of examples. See the factory pollution issues in West Virginia and other places as another.

The seventh point of the Tea Party platform is “The national budget must be balanced.” This is a great idea in theory. After all, it works in the household when balancing our checkbooks. Never spend more than you have and save a little for when it is needed. However, you cannot run a country like that. There are issues that arise, natural disasters, man-made disasters and the like that happen and money is needed to fix them. Add to this that we have neglected our infrastructure to the point where our roads and bridges are unsafe and in need of repair. In addition, this cannot occur if their additional ideals of “Reducing personal income taxes are a must” and “Reducing business income taxes is mandatory” and “A strong military is essential” are to be realistically met. Unless, of course, they are willing to tell the military, for instance, that they can only have a certain dollar amount of ammunition to use in a year and once it’s gone, then no more shooting. Or maybe simply telling the victims of natural disasters to simply deal with it and hope for the best in order to survive and rebuild. Our economy is much larger than a personal bank account. There are too many things to pay for even without a large government. Besides, are they also willing to force a reduction in pay on their elected officials who are getting a salary to do a job, plus funds from speaking engagements? Perhaps this is possible in the unlikely event that a law can be passed that requires elected officials to refund the government any income they receive that is over their legal salary for the office they hold. In addition, they can no longer receive free mail, office space, and they have to buy their insurance like everyone else rather than have a set plan paid for my taxpayers.

Next Tea Party platform point is that “Deficit spending must end.” Great idea, but see the previous point. This would work great if we were still on the gold standard. In theory, it makes sense, but in reality, it does not work. Our government throughout history often runs through deficit spending. The last time there was not a huge deficit was under the Clinton Administration. However, along came two wars that had no financial backing to them and what surplus there was is long gone. You cannot erase a deficit without tax dollars as that is where the government gets its income. Again, this point goes against the other two points of the Tea Party platform of “Reducing personal income taxes is a must” and “Reducing business income taxes is mandatory.” Tax revenues are needed to reduce the deficit and pay for even the most minor government spending.

While we are there, might as well touch on these two tenets of the Tea Party. Their 10th and 11th ideals are “Reducing personal income taxes is a must” and “Reducing business income taxes is mandatory.” None of us like to pay taxes. We would all like to keep as much of our income as possible. After all, we work hard for our money. However, in order for us to live with good roads, schools, fire and police protection, a strong military, and even the basics that our government provides, then we have to pay taxes.

Unless, of course, the Tea Party wishes to have these things paid for by each person paying a toll or a bill sent to them for their share of these things as they use them. Yet, if for instance, in order to maintain the roads, people using those roads needed to pay tolls as they drive those roads, then government would need to expand in order to hire people to collect those tolls as well as collect the tolls from those who try to get away with not paying those tolls. There goes the shrinking of government they so much want. In addition, what if people cannot afford to pay the tolls? Are they then banned from using the roads? If so, how will they work? Oh, they can walk. However, in order to maintain the sidewalks, there is a toll because otherwise there is no revenue to pay for the maintenance of the sidewalks. The list can continue ad nauseum. While my examples seem absurd, this is the ultimate in the Randian/Libertarian/Tea Party world. Pay as you go and if you cannot pay, then tough shit on you.

Another fault in this is if you notice the wording of these two tenets. The words ‘must’ and ‘mandatory’ are what I’m focusing on here. Personal income taxation being reduced is only a must for the Tea Party, but when it comes to business income taxes, it’s mandatory. This is a tenet of the failed trickle down politics from the Reagan era. Businesses do not create jobs when they pay less in taxes. Instead, many of them simply keep the money and they keep it at the top of their hierarchy rather than the worker. Better than this would be to keep a more strict accounting of how tax dollars are spent and make taxation such that those who make more pay more as they are able to pay more and usually have more tax breaks than those who earn less. This would lead, in turn, to personal income taxes decreasing since the wealthy and corporations would pay more and the worker could keep more to use to invest as well as spend which would boost the economy.

The next Tea Party tenet is that “Bailout and stimulus plans are illegal.” First, the irony of this is huge. After all, I doubt the Tea Party backers would agree that the plans their poster child president Bush laid to bailout the banks and his attempt to stimulate the economy through giving everyone money in hopes they would go out and spend it was wrong. If so, why were they not yelling a screaming for him not to do this? Why didn’t the Koch Brothers tell their paid for politicians to block these efforts? Heck, why didn’t the economists and even the average person on the street demand where our government would get the money to do these things? The reasons are probably more numerous than can be imagined, but it all comes down to a human desire to get something for nothing. There is no way in heck that anyone with an ounce of sense could not realize that simply giving money away, especially money that was not there, is a good idea. Rather than bailing out the banks for their schemes and risky investing practices, then those responsible should have been held accountable and gone to jail for their actions. As far as the bailout of the Big 3 automobile manufacturers goes, it was needed in order to protect our nation’s economy. Yes, there were things done by the UAW and the management of the Big 3 that are reprehensible, such as UAW member’s children getting free college and such as benefits for their working. However, if the Big 3 were allowed to go bankrupt, then not only would the automakers and those working for them have suffered, but also that little subcontractor who makes widgets for the automakers, and so on. It would have had potentially damaging effects on people throughout the country.

What should have occurred is that, in order to receive a bailout, then those receiving it should have been held to stricter rules to not only repay the bailout, but also to make certain the situation causing it does not occur again.

I love the next one, that “Political offices must be available to average citizens.” I agree with this, yet realistically this is already the case. Anyone can run for political office if he or she wants as long as he or she meet the requirements for the office for which they seek. However, the cost to file a petition to run for office is sometimes beyond the financial means for them to do so. Add to this the cost of running a campaign. Yes, a recent person won against a more heavily funded candidate for office. However, how much did he spend? Estimates are that he spent about $200,000 to defeat the incumbent against the $5 million spent by the incumbent. However, this amount of money is not something the average citizen can afford to raise. Many claim rightfully that the reason for the defeat came from the money spent by special interests to make certain their candidate would win. (There’s that pesky special interest thing that the Tea Party claims should not occur, but yet uses to campaign with again).

If the average citizen wants to have a chance at being elected, then there needs to be real campaign reform. There should be a set amount that every candidate can spend on a campaign that comes from a non-partisan fund used for finance campaigns. In addition, no outside special interest should be allowed to run advertisements that support or attack any candidate for office. Free time should be made for all candidates by the media regardless of medium used. That would even the playing field to the candidate and their stance on issues rather than how much they can afford to spend or how much those who want them elected can spend to get them elected. Any Tea Party backers for this idea? I doubt it.

Their next tenet is not clearly defined. They say “Intrusive government must be stopped.” Yet, that tenet goes against their final two of “English as our core language is required” and “Traditional family values are encouraged” as well as that many Tea Party members are also anti-LGBTQ and other issues that are rather personal in nature. For instance, a recent Pew survey found “that 64 percent of Tea Parties want abortion to be illegal” and “69 percent of Republicans who identified with the Tea Party opposed same-sex marriage” (http://www.salon.com/2013/10/21/10_reasons_the_tea_party_is_wildly_unpopular_partner/). If they want the government to be less intrusive, then why would they want to back issues that are very intrusive into the lives of people? Less intrusive would be to allow people to live their lives, especially their personal lives, without government interference unless the things being done are detrimental to society as a whole. Would it not?

The next to last tenet is that “English as our core language is required.” While it is convenient that everyone in America should know English, why should it be required? And, if it is going to be required, then how should it be implemented that people be encouraged and even instructed in the English language so that they can comply? As far as that goes, requiring a language would necessitate that those already here be able to use it properly as well.  As a former English teacher, I can attest that even native speakers of English fail to do this and, thus would be in violation of this tenet should it become law. Additionally, what form of English should be required? Colloquial American English? Academic American English? Slang American English? Who determines the form of American English to be used? Will it be a set standard where certain regional uses of language be nullified in favor of a set standard of American English?

Do they not realize that even the use of English as the language of America was by chance? It was not the first choice of the Founders as many wanted to sever ties with England entirely. Among the languages first considered for America were the following: Hebrew, French, and Greek. We have become a nation where people came here speaking many languages and survived with this occurring. We are also one of the few nations of the world where the learning of other languages is not an academic requirement. American English is a language that has borrowed from many of these languages. In fact, it can be argued that American English would not exist without contributions made to our distinct form of English by other languages. I think that rather than require English, we need to encourage people to learn it and even find ways to help non-native speakers (and native speakers) learn it well.

The final tenet of the Tea Party is that “Traditional family values are encouraged.” The problem with this is that every family has differing values. Some value community service. Others value wealth. Some value athleticism, while others value academics. Who gets to define what “traditional family values” are? This phrase is vague at best and can even be sinister at its worse if a set of values is forced upon people. They should just be more honest about it as they wish to promote White, Anglo-Saxon, and Conservative Christian values. However, those are not the “traditional family values” of everyone who lives in the United States and they should not be since our country is a melting pot of many beliefs, values, and cultures that serve to enrich our nation.

The tenets of the Tea Party movement are a set of ideals put forth by those who are afraid of change and/or are simply undereducated. They are reminiscent of some of the ideals of the Confederates leading up to and during the Civil War. They are impossible to realistically implement and some are even just plain scary to think of being implemented in a rational and civilized society. Yes, my essay had only but touched the overall reasons why these ideas are either not being implemented or even truly wanted, cannot be implemented, or are just plain silly in the first place.

 

Where Some Religious Problems Began and Hope For Peace

I have always been interested in religion, between having been in a number of denominations, visiting a number of different faith paths as well as seminary, I have seen the varying aspects of the way humanity worships and finds a niche for our spiritual side. I keep returning to one event that may have been one for which there arose some issues between the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity). That event was the First Council of Nicaea. It was at this meeting where the Christian church truly set up a barrier to differentiate itself from Judaism and, in a way, Islam. The difference caused by a single word containing a single letter changed how Christianity viewed its namesake.

Prior to the First Council of Nicaea in the year 325, the Christian church had no agreement on the nature of Jesus. Some viewed Jesus as one with the Creator, while others saw Jesus as a separate entity from the Creator. The concept of one Deity is the foundation for both Judaism and Islam. One God, monotheistic in nature, serves as the Deity for these two faiths. Up until the First Council of Nicaea, this was even the foundation for the Christian faith to an extent. The nature of Jesus was not concrete. Was he God? Was he another God? Was he a subordinate God? Was he simply a prophet? Members of the early Church wrestled in their faith with these questions.

The purpose of the First Council of Nicaea was to put an end to the arguments over the nature of Jesus as Son of God in relation to God the Father. On one side were the Arians who claimed that the Son of God was created by God the Father and was, therefore, not actually God, but a separate being from God. The other side, usually referred to as the orthodox side, claimed that the Christ was indeed God and was not a distinct entity from God the Father. It all came down to one letter that changed a single word, the letter “I”.

The words in question are Greek. One is homoousios. This means roughly “same essence”. The other, also Greek, is homoiousios meaning “similar essence”. This one letter, which ironically we get the phrase “one iota of difference,” changed the world and relationship of Christianity as it relates to our cousins of the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism and Islam. By the Christian church deciding that Jesus the Christ was God, it set up Christianity’s distinct view of a Trinitarian Deity, or more simply put from my catechism, “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. How many Gods are there? One.” If you answered three, the nun slapped you on the wrist and made you go through the lesson one more time. From this council the first Christian creed was adopted, which is what we now call the Nicaean Creed. It helped to bring an end to the divisions in the early Christian church, to an extent as those not agreeing with it were banished, and established the orthodoxy of the Church.

The problem arises as many people do not know this history of the Christian church, in addition to forgetting that the Christian faith, as well as Judaism and Islam, all hearken back to Abraham as the patriarch for these three faith paths. We are cousins. The issues we have with one another are due to the human desire or foible to be completely correct on an issue, in this case, religion. Yes, the media shows people from every side who are hell-bent on eradicating the infidel regardless of the faith of the infidel. There are misguided Christians, misguided Muslims, and misguided Jews who would rather advocate the differences and attempt to eradicate the other two than to open dialogue between us. We need to recognize that and accept it for being the bastardization of their faith to the point of using it as a weapon. It is up to those of us in all three of the Abrahamic faith paths who are open-minded and intelligent to work together to open the lines of communication and instruct others, and ourselves, into knowing that we have more in common than we have different.

The biggest similarity is that we all believe in One True God. Whether we see One God as just one distinct Deity or a Trinitarian version does not really matter in the long run. All three Abrahamic faiths believe in charity. All three Abrahamic faiths believe in love for one another. All three Abrahamic faiths believe in striving for peace. We cannot allow the fringes of our faiths to lead us down the path of continual hatred and war. We must strive for peace and acceptance of our shared lineage and shared values.

It’s Not A Weapon

I recently read an opinion article where a minister was decrying the death of ‘religious etiquette’ where he complained about wedding dresses being too risqué and people carrying water bottles to church and those things he sees are the death of respect for church. I read another article decrying how people being tired or afraid of being judged by their appearances as to why people are not attending church anymore. I have also read hundreds of articles and opinions how our country is going to Hell because of same-sex marriages, birth control, abortions, lack of organized prayer in schools, gun control, and a myriad of other things. Some churches have gone as far as giving guns to people to entice them to attend church. This got me to thinking that one of the problems that the Christian faith, in particular the Christian faith in the United States, is that religion is being used as a weapon against other people rather than as a bridge. Somehow, I do not believe either our Creator or Jesus advocated faith being used as a weapon. That seems utterly absurd when you stop and consider it, doesn’t it?

The Christian faith, including the Bible, is not a weapon. Stop using it as such! Jesus taught that his disciples were to go out and make disciples of the faith. He did not say to do that under duress, torture, or hatred, yet Christians have done this for centuries. Rather than obeying the two greatest commandments to love God with all your being and to love your neighbor as yourself, Christians have been trying to promulgate the faith by yelling, screaming, torturing, and even killing others who refuse to comply with their faith or their particular form of faith. This is not Christianity! This is abuse. This is cruelty. This is inhumane. This is downright un-Christian like behavior!

There are people hurting in our world from the wounds caused by those who are supposedly ‘good’ Christians. Need a few examples? If you need examples, then you are already part of the problem. However, out of kindness, I will give you a few.

The LGBT community. People who are born Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transsexual have been persecuted for centuries. The excuse is that what they are doing is sinful according to the Bible. When one tries to argue using one of the two greatest commandments, they get the “you cannot pick and choose what you’re going to follow and not going to follow from the Bible” crap. Yet, these same people likely have no issues with tattoos, perfumes, jewelry, material wealth, eating seafood, eating pork, working on the Sabbath, etc. Talk about picking and choosing which scripture to follow and which not to follow, these people are doing it themselves. If a person identifies themselves as part of the LGBT community, it’s because the Creator made them that way. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 14:13-14,

Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean (NRSV).

Simply put, don’t stand in another person’s way saying he or she is somehow bad or sinful as that is not our place as humans. If we say something, such as a person’s sexual preference, is disagreeable for us, then that is our personal viewpoint for ourselves. If a person does not like the idea of someone else being born LGBT, then that’s their issue, no one else’s. It is not up to the straight person to judge the LGBT person or for the LGBT person to judge the straight person. Our Creator made humankind in His/Her image; therefore, all humankind is clean and part of the Creator.

Now, before anyone jumps to other conclusions about allowing for horrible things such as murder, rape, or child abuse, let me be clear, those things are wrong. The same passage goes on to say that if a person does something that causes someone else to be injured, then they are “no longer walking in love” (Romans 14:15 NRSV). Once again, the point is love. Love. Love. Love. The point of the Christian faith is love and love is not a weapon.

It does not take a history major to understand how many times well-meaning, but misguided Christians persecuted non-Christians and Christians who espoused dissimilar beliefs for not being Christian or not being their own particular form of Christian. The Puritans came to what we call the United States to escape religious persecution. However, they persecuted the Catholic Christians and the Quakers when they arrived in the colonies. Go back further and there are the Crusades to rid the Holy Land of those who follow the teachings of Islam, the cousin of the Jewish and Christian faiths. Add to that the countless times the Jewish people were persecuted throughout time by Christians. Add to that the treatment of the Native Americans as they would not assimilate to the Christian faith, even though their faith in some ways is far more Christ-like than the way most Christians practice.

There are many paths leading to the Great Spirit of the Universe. People follow whichever path to which they are led. Just because that person practices their faith differently does not make them wrong. I was raised in a home where religion existed on a rather casual level. My mother sometimes attended church at a United Methodist Church or a Church of Christ-Disciples. My father attended at Church of God. Certainly different ends of the Christian perspective. I went to these three, but also attended for a while in my youth, an Apostolic Church and was baptized and confirmed as a Roman Catholic. In my adulthood, I have attended Lutheran (ELCA, Wisconsin and Missouri Synod versions), Presbyterian, Episcopal, Jewish, Southern Baptist, Church of Christ-Independent, Buddhist, and now United Church of Canada. I hope to be able to at least attend a service in a Mosque as well, but have no idea how to go about asking if I may.

What I have learned is that people are all seeking something in life, a meaning of life greater than what they experience in their day to day lives. For some, a belief in a Higher Power fulfills that need. I think it is a human need to know we are not alone in times when we feel so very alone. It can be comforting to feel the presence of our Creator even if the presence is simply another person sitting with you that cares about you as a person.

Religion is not meant to build walls up between humanity, but rather help to build bridges of understanding and cooperation. Religion is not a weapon to be used to harm others, we have far too many weapons that do that already. Isn’t it time to care less about a person’s exterior or if they bring a drink or snack to church or who they love and more about one another and how we can work together to live this crazy thing called life?

Real Christianity—Respecting Other Faiths and Love

Real Christianity—Respecting Other Faiths and Love

Let me start off by saying that I, in no way, shape or form, believe myself to be a prophet or to be anywhere close to the perfection of God. I am far from it. I make mistakes; I sin. I get angry, discouraged, and sad, frightened, and feel lonely at times. I am human, for better or worse. Yet, there is something that has been occurring a great deal that is weighing heavy on my heart. It is personal and yet not personally against me as an individual. It is the attack on my faith.

Regardless of the person’s political persuasion, the Christian faith is and has been for a great deal of time under attack. The extremes of the political landscape demonize the Christian faith as either obsolete or narrow-minded.

It is neither.

At its core, Christianity is a faith based upon love and understanding, not hate and intolerance. Christianity is simple, yet complex and it is the complex nature of the faith that leads to its misrepresentation by those seeking to use it for his or her own gain whether it is financial or fame. These are ironic, as the person for whom Christianity basis its beliefs wanted neither. Jesus Christ did not want fame or wealth. He wanted people to get along and believe in God. It is my hope to try, in my humblest way, to show the true nature of Christianity rather than gloss it over with personal theology. With the Creator’s help, I will do just that. All I ask from you, dear reader, is an open mind and an open heart. Thank you.

Other Faiths

I shall begin this journey with what Christ said regarding other faiths. In his time on earth, Jesus was likely to encounter a very wide variety of religious beliefs especially if the definition of what a religion is taken in the literal sense. According to the online version of the Merriam-Webster dictionary, religion is defined as the following (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/religion):

1 a: the state of a religious <a nun in her 20th year of religion>

b (1): the service and worship of God or the supernatural

  (2): commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance

2: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

3 archaic: scrupulous conformity

4: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

Examples of RELIGION

  • Many people turn to religion for comfort in a time of crisis.
  • There are many religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism.
  • Shinto is a religion that is unique to Japan.
  • Hockey is a religion in Canada.
  • Politics are a religion to him.
  • Where I live, high school football is religion.
  • Food is religion in this house.

When looked at from the dictionary definition, there are many religions even now; therefore, it should be no surprise that Jesus encountered numerous ones during his time on earth, such as, Judaism, which essentially had four different options:

Zealot-the revolutionary side that wanted an armed revolt to drive the Romans out; Sadducees-the “wealthy lay-nobles, priests and aristocrats, [who] sought to protect their wealth and power through compromise with Rome”; Pharisees-who “were in many ways the idealists of Jewish society [and] sought to live a life of spiritual purity by a meticulous following of the torah (Jewish law)”; and the Essenes-“who solved the problem of Jewish identity in a Roman-occupied Israel by withdrawing to a monastic-like setting” (http://dlibrary.acu.edu.au/staffhome/gehall/xtology2.htm).

Add to this, those who worshipped the Emperor, Islam, and various other religions based upon superstitious beliefs, omens, and portents and you have the earthly world of Jesus at that time. Jesus is seen by Christians as being, at least in his earthly form, Jewish. His teachings with regard to other religions are, at times, rather vague.

One verse in particular comes to my mind on the inclusivity of Jesus for all humankind. It is from the Gospel of John, Chapter 14, verses 2 and 3: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also” (NRSV).

In the “Father’s house there are many dwelling places,” that particular line itself has always fascinated me. What are those dwelling places? Are they simply rooms within Heaven? Are they different paths that lead to God that humans take to get to their Creator? Some translations call them “resting-places,” “dwellings,” “abodes,” “rooms,” and even “a traveler’s resting place.” As humans, we call the cemetery a resting place sometimes. Perhaps, once our souls leave our mortal bodies, they go to Heaven and dwell in one of these places regardless of names and regardless of what path we took to get there. While the chapter from the Gospel of John continues with Jesus saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (14:6 NRSV); perhaps it is meant that it is through Jesus’ death and resurrection that the door into Heaven is opened for all humankind. After all, one of the main principles of Christianity is that no human could ever reconcile their sinful nature on their own. It took God allowing Himself to come to humanity in the flesh and take on those sinful natures associated with humanity in the flesh as one of us in order to save us from ourselves. If Christians believe that Jesus was indeed both God and human, then this sacrifice was for all humanity rather than a select few.

This, to me, is even more evident in the often-quoted verse of John 3:16 where it is said that God loved the world so much that He sent Jesus to die so that no one would suffer for eternity. The verse that follows this states that “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17 NRSV) and going on to say, “…this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God” (John 3:19-21 NRSV).  While verse 18 states, “Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18 NRSV), I believe that verses 19-21 explain this as being the difference between those who choose to follow God’s teachings through Christ versus those who say they do, but act differently in the reality of the situation. Those who do not follow the two greatest commandments are those who refuse to come into the light, as those two commandments are the light of God through Christ. The two commandments in question are, of course, those mentioned by Christ as being to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” and to “love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31 NRSV).

The Christian Bible states, before these verses, “the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Mark 12:29 NRSV). Notice, there is no mention of the Lord’s specific name. Part of this may be due to the mention of God’s name was and is considered inappropriate to the Jewish people. Hence, the reason why most people of Jewish faith will write either G-d or YHWH rather than the name of our Lord straight out.

Some will argue here that I must be incorrect because other faiths follow other Gods. Those who follow Islam follow Mohammed. They fail to see that Mohammed is a prophet, not God. This is a bit like those who are Jewish who see Christians as being similar in that we follow the teachings of Jesus whom we see as the Messiah, but they see as a prophet. In no way do I plan to continue with the intricacies of the main theology of these religions, or the variations on those, so I hope that you will see there are more similarities than not. I will, however, provide a very basic overview of how these three religions are interconnected.

The Jewish people trace the origins of their faith through Abraham, the father of Judaism. Yet, those who are Islamic can also trace their origins though this great patriarch since he had another son named Ishmael. While the official Jewish birthright went to Isaac, both the Jewish and Muslim faiths owe their existence to the same man. Out of this, Christians trace their origins back to Abraham through Jesus’ stepfather Joseph who is a descendant of Abraham. These three great religions should get along, as they are inter-related. However, human actions have caused them to stray from being family. Among those are the sins of the Crusades, Jihads, and Pogroms that have been perpetuated by humans who sometimes followed specific doctrines of these belief systems.

There are many variations of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. I am not qualified to get into all the variations of these religions. Suffice it to say; though, since all contain the aspect of human freewill and with it, human stupidity, then there have been many times when what some believed was the will of the Creator has been used as an excuse to justify the persecution and death of others. What they fail to see is that this clearly is not what the Creator wants the created to do. For some of that, we will continue in the next chapter.

Love

Depending which translation of the Christian Bible being used, there are between 131 to 319 references to the word “love”. There are about 93 references to “love” in the shorter Koran, also depending on translation. Love plays an important role in the majority of the world’s religions. That love, found in the forms of agape, filial, and passionate love, is an important aspect of faith. Those who adhere to almost every form of religion perform acts of charity.

It is a requirement in Islam to do charitable works. It is the third of the Five Pillars of Islam, the sacred requirements of that faith. The first two are the profession of faith and prayer. According to an article from a website entitled, “The Religion of Islam,” there are two types of charity required of those who follow Islam: zakat and sadaqah. Zakat is “an obligation for those who have received their wealth from God to respond to those members of community in need” (islamreligion.com/articles/46/). In contrast, sadaqah is “voluntary almsgiving, which is intended for the needy. The Quran emphasizes feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, helping those who are in need, and the more one helps, the more God helps the person, and the more one gives, the more God gives the person. One feels he is taking care of others and God is taking care of him” (islamreligion.com/articles/46/).

All of this should sound familiar to Christians as it sounds a great deal like what Christ taught when he taught,

…for when I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. Then the righteous will answer him, Lord, when was it that saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you as a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you? And the king will answer them, Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. Then he will say to those at his left hand, You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me. Then they also will answer, Lord when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you? Then he will answer them, Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me” (Matthew 25:35-45 NRSV).

The sad thing is that there are those who profess to be Christian who do things in contrary to Christian love. One thing is neglecting the poor, the needy, the children, the old, and the infirm. When a political party calls out any of these people as being somehow worth less because of their situation, that is not love. When laws are passed that take assistance away from those who need it, that is not love. When laws favor only the wealthy, that is not love for everyone as one would love themselves. There are people suffering in our world, if we truly are a Christian nation, then we need to act as such. We need to provide assistance to those who need it whether it is financial, health-related, or emotional. We need to make certain the homeless have homes, the hungry have food, the naked have clothing, and the sick have healthcare. If a Christian says otherwise, he or she needs to re-read their Bible.

Love goes beyond charitable acts, though. It transcends boundaries, many of which are put in place by people. The boundaries of race, creed, gender, gender identity, gender preference, national origin, politics, and the countless other boundaries that we humans put up against those who are not like us are not love. However, they can be broken down by love.

This brings to mind one of my father’s favorite verses from the Bible. He liked I Corinthians 13 as a whole, but he especially liked the last two verses of that chapter that say:

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we shall see face to face. Now I only know in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love (I Corinthians 13:12-13 NRSV).

At first, this verse puzzled me greatly, especially these two verses together. Yet, I think I get what is trying to be said here by Paul. In our lives here on earth, we think we see what the Creator means for us, but we only see it through the blinders of being imperfect humans. This causes us to put up boundaries between one another for a myriad of human reasons. We only really know part of what God plans for us, but we fail to grasp the fullness of God because we are only humans. We are imperfect. However, when the time comes for us to meet our Creator, then we will see it all so clearly. We will see that life boils down to three essential elements by which we are to live: faith, hope, and love with the greatest one being love. A love that transcends our imperfections of being human and setting up barriers between fellow human beings and ourselves. A love that knows no boundaries. Some humans have seen this world and tried to lead us more toward it during their lifetime. People like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and others who strove to bring about peace and justice for all people.

The love that Jesus is asking Christians to have is one that accepts others for who he or she is as a person, as another human being, who is on this journey through life with us. It does not ask us to change him or her to our way of thinking; just love them for who he or she is as a person. Jesus spent time with everyone from every lifestyle, Jew and Gentile, tax collector, just ordinary person on the street. Jesus simply asked people to follow where He lead them.

We are, by that same token, called to love one another as Christ loved us. The world we live in throws enough at us without our constantly causing more stress for one another. It is pitiful how, for instance, people only seem to help one another during holidays or time of disaster. We are called to love one another as Christ loved us. That means all the time, without prejudice, and without seeking material gain for ourselves. We are not called to love only those like us or who agree with us, but everyone. As Paul writes in Galatians:

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28 NRSV).

Jesus came and saved us all, every human being, through His death and resurrection. Paul continues to write in Galatians and says, “…God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children”(Galatians 4:4-5 NRSV). Those under the law are much more than just those who were Jewish, everyone regardless of whether they followed the law was affected by the law in some way and were, as such, under the law. It is like the laws of our country. Everyone who is in our country is expected to abide by the law. No one is exempt from the law. No one was exempt from the law Jesus speaks about either. If a Gentile wanted to do business with a Jew, he or she needed to know when, where, and how they were permitted to do so. Hence, they were under the law even though they did not follow the law for themselves. When Jesus tells us to love one another, he means everyone.

One particular boundary humans place on love that is especially talked about is whom someone may marry. There are a large number who say that same-sex marriage is wrong. Some even try to point out Christ as being against it. However, Jesus says nothing about same-sex marriage. Nothing. Zilch. Zero. Nada.

While it is found within the Old Testament as being against the law of the Israelites, we must remember that the laws were written by both God and humankind. The Israelites needed to set themselves apart from those living around them where same-sex marriage was a common practice. In addition, the much smaller Israelite community needed to grow in population, which biologically cannot happen if people choose to live in a same-sex relationship. It was a matter of necessity for people to procreate in order for the community to survive.

I would argue that the problems people have with same-sex marriage are based on ignorance far more than scriptural directive. It is not what they are used to seeing as the media does not portray homosexual couples like they do heterosexual ones. Would I like to see two homosexuals displaying their affection in a public manner? No, but I also do not think heterosexual couples should do so either. Holding hands or a quick kiss is not a problem. Putting their arm around their loved one is not the problem. Making out is a problem regardless of a person’s sexual preferences. I do not care to watch any couple making out in public. It is a personal thing that should be kept that way. Want to make out? Get a room. Plain and simple.

Again, I do not have all the answers. Some who read this may now think I am insane. Others will think I’m on the right track. Still others may send me nasty emails or comments. If I offended you, then I apologize. If I inspired you, then thank you, now go out and inspire others to serve our Creator regardless of what path you follow so long as you do no harm to others.

Peace be with you.

 

What’s Happening to Our Country?

Events unfolding and having already unfolded in the United States cause me, and I am certain others as well, great concern as to where our country is heading. The horrible racist rants against the recently crowned Miss America. The racist rants against anyone who is not white and sings our national anthem. The recent shootings at the Navy base in Washington, D.C. The proliferation of weapons, particularly guns and automatic rifle.  The lack of funding for social programs such as aid for children and education. The attack on education and classroom curriculum, especially in the area of science. The actions of one political party to hold our country hostage through blocking all efforts to create a budget as well as not allowing for universal healthcare. The attacks on women concerning healthcare that is particular for them. All of these things and more are causes of concern about where our country is heading.

What happened to the United States as a melting pot for all of us to become one? E Pluribus Unum.

Excuses are being made that the rampant racism is due to whites being tired of having to take a backseat to other races. I believe it is due more to some whites, particularly the narrow-minded and socially isolated ones, finally realizing that they are no longer comprise the majority of the people in the United States. This scares some of them, as they have never needed to learn about other cultures. One of the pillars of prejudice is ignorance. It is easier for some people to hate rather than branch out of their comfort zones to embrace cultures different from theirs. Sometimes they go as far to accuse people who do not look like them as being foreigners and even terrorists, even though those people were born in the United States and have been nothing but good citizens.

A case in point is the recently crowned Miss America, Miss Nina Davuluri of New York. She is an American whose parents immigrated, prior to her birth, from India. She is an intelligent and beautiful woman. However, at the announcement of her as Miss America, there were hundreds of racist comments calling her things like “Miss Terrorist”, “Miss 7-11”, “a foreigner”, “Miss Arab”, etcetera. These comments come because she is not Caucasian and she now represents our country for the year to come at pageants, especially the Miss Universe pageant.

Since when did a person’s skin color dictate their nationality? The last I heard anything like this was the idea of the master Aryan race promoted by the Nazis. Is our country coming to this? We have been bombarded for the past five plus years by the political “birthers” who accuse our president of not being an American due to his skin color and that his biological father was from Kenya, yet our president was born in the State of Hawaii and that has been proved countless times including through the release of his birth certificate by that state. Yet, there are those who perpetuate his not being a “real” American.

A funny term, “real” American. What is a real American? For all sake of argument, the closest anyone comes to being a real American are the Native Americans who we have relegated to being second-class citizens through broken treaties and forced moves to reservations. Americans are a mixed bag of different races, cultures, religions, lifestyles, and such. We come from all parts of the world. Our ancestors came from all parts of the world. Over time, the cultures and races started to mix. Therefore, there is no litmus test for who is and who is not a true American, except for being those who were born here and those who immigrated to the United States and have worked for citizenship.

We should be past actions that raise up the ghosts of the era prior to the Civil Rights actions of the 1960s and 1970s. If a closer look is taken, though, it can be seen we have a long way yet to go before we get to where we should be when it comes to how we relate to one another.

The terrible shootings that occurred at the Navy base in Washington, D.C. serve as another cause for concern on two levels. The first is the proliferation of handguns and automatic weapons backed by the politically powerful National Rifle Association and their paid politicians who attempt to wrap themselves up in the second amendment of the Constitution as their reason for that proliferation. The second amendment calls for a “well-regulated militia”, not a well-armed, untrained bunch of gun nuts who own any type of firearm ever made. There is no need for private citizens to own automatic or semi-automatic weapons. If the argument is that they hunt with them, then those people seriously need to consider hunting lessons. If you cannot hit a deer with a regular shotgun, then you are a really bad shot and a hazard to society.

Along these same lines, what is wrong with having background checks and registration of individuals who purchase firearms? The argument backed by the NRA claims the registration of firearms is a way for the government to know who has what type and how many weapons and will use that to confiscate those weapons from law-abiding gun owners. That argument is egregious at best.

First, the United States Armed Forces are better armed than any gun owner can be. If the government wanted to take your guns, then they could do so quite easily regardless of whether you have registered them or not.

Second, if the gun owners are law abiding, then they should want someone aside from themselves to have a record of what they own in the event of someone stealing their weapon and using it to commit a crime. If the law-abiding gun owner notices his or her weapon is missing, they can report it to protect themselves from being accused of the crime. If they sell it, then they can switch registration to the buyer much like is done when a car is purchased and the registration is switched. It is a way to protect the gun owner rather than a potential way to punish them.

Background checks for all weapons purchases are to protect people, not to harm them. The argument is made that it is an invasion of privacy to check the criminal and mental health background of a person who purchases a weapon. How much sense does that really make? If a person is a criminal or is mentally unstable, then why should they be able legally to purchase any weapon? It would make it a great deal safer if certain people never owned firearms. Might they still be able to obtain them illegally? Yes, but those weapons either likely would be stolen (and have been reported as such through registration) or brought into our country illegally.

The second point the shooting brings up is the lack of care for veterans who suffered emotional and psychological damage while serving our country in the Armed Services. We are willing to send troops to fight, but not to fund the care they need when they return, unless their wounds are physical in nature. That is ludicrous! I covered this a little while ago in another blog post, but it bears mentioning once again. We need to provide psychological assistance for our veterans as well as physical assistance for them. There are thousands of people who are returning to our country who witnessed atrocities that have left them scarred for life psychologically and they need care for those scars. Without that care, some may become a danger to society through no fault of their own. It is shameful that we can allocate money to send our young men and women to war, but we cannot afford to assist them when they come home shattered in more than a physical manner.

Not funding social programs harms our country deeply and creates future problems that arise, but are ignored in the present. Recently, legislation that traditionally allocates funds for food stamps held cuts to that program, including to the SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Food Program) program. This affects primarily those who have children, are elderly, or are disabled. The number of Americans affected by this could be well over 300,000. It is simply wrong to deny the ability to eat to the old, the infirm, and to children. It is a heartless and callous act taken by those who have against those who have nothing. The excuse is that the program needs fixed, as there are people who take advantage of the system. There are corporations and wealthy who take advantage of the tax system, but the politicians who receive money from them do not seem to care about that very much and would rather attack the elderly, the disabled, and children.

Along this same vein is funding education. While most education funding comes from individual states, the federal government supplements that funding though tax dollars as well. However, the funding to education has decreased significantly over the years at both the federal and state levels. There are schools that have outdated textbooks and buildings that are falling apart. The solution that some politicians are advocating is to privatize our schools and run them like businesses. That is a recipe for disaster. Unlike public education that is free and obtainable for all children, private schools are run like a business. Are there protections for students who do not test well or for whom the standard format of school does not work? Doubtful. The United States needs a strong and free public educational system that treats all students equally and affords everyone with a chance to succeed rather than a select few. As citizens, whether we have children in the schools or not, we need to demand that our schools be funded and should be happy to pay our taxes to make it so.

Within education, there is an attack against sound scientific education being waged by those who believe that our schools should teach a curriculum that is based upon the Christian bible, especially when it comes to science. The advocates for this claim that Creationism needs to be taught alongside Evolution. Creationism has no part in a public school as it is based on faith rather than on the logic of science. If parents want their children to learn the story of creation as told by the Christian scriptures, then they should attend a church and have their children enrolled in a Sunday school class to learn it, not in a public classroom where there are children from different backgrounds and religious preferences. That simply falls under the separation of Church and State guaranteed by the Constitution.

Our country has been held hostage for the past few years by a faction within one of the political parties that wants to cut government funding to its bare bones. They want extremely low taxes and fewer regulations in order to save taxpayer money. Sounds great on the surface, but it is not practical in reality. No one wants to pay more taxes. No one likes to pay taxes. Neither of these are arguable statements. However, if we want safe roads and bridges, good schools, to be protected from enemies without and within, fire and police protection, and a myriad of other items provided by our government, then we need to pay taxes for them. Basic high school government and economics dictates this as needed by a government like ours.

The reality of this faction is that they want to create a utopia for the wealthy on the backs of everyone else. They want the wealthiest to pay less and make the argument that this will create jobs. It has not yet, nor will it ever do so. By having the wealthy pay less, all that is being done is making them wealthier while those who are not wealthy get poorer as a result. Yes, I know this is a rather simplistic view and economics are far more complicated, but this is the agenda in a nutshell that is being shoved down the throats of the American public by this radical political faction. We need to stand up to this faction and the elected officials who are being paid off by the select few and demand that the wealthy pay more in taxes. We need to demand a budget be passed that is fair to all while also reducing the deficit in manageable increments that do not cause harm to the most vulnerable in our society.

Another one of the major reasons why this particular political faction wants to cripple the government has to do with the Affordable Care Act sometimes called Obamacare. They make comments that it will cause insurance premiums to cost more and that people will be denied basic medical services. Most of the information I have read, even from independent sources, state that it will actually save money and more people will have access to care. While it may be true that certain procedures may be delayed in being performed, all should have equal access and be cared for even better than is now available. Those against universal healthcare primarily are so due to it leveling the playing field for all Americans and that those who earn more will fund the care of those who earn less. I find it ironic that many of those against universal healthcare claim to be Christians as well since Jesus healed all people and taught that humans were to love and care for one another. For them to be against universal healthcare that would benefit so many people seems rather hypocritical.

Of particular concern in the realm of healthcare is how much a certain faction is bent on limiting the access women have to healthcare. There are Planned Parenthood and other clinics that are geared toward women’s health issues that are closing down for lack of funding all due to this particular factions attitude toward abortion and access to birth control. Seems odd that this faction also wants a smaller government, but they want to regulate a very personal part of a woman’s life. It should not be surprising that the majority of these people calling for limits in birth control and contraceptives are males, as most males want the ability to procreate until the cows come home. If they had to endure the pregnancy and delivery, then they might think otherwise. (In addition, I say this as a male, by the way). If they truly care about women, not to mention potential children, then they should wholeheartedly back these clinics and access to care for women in particular. As far as the issue of abortion, it is the woman’s decision. The government has no right to regulate moral choices for people’s personal lives so long as they do not harm other beings that are able to live outside the womb.

All these things being said, it is a difficult time to be an American who has a conscience and who engages in thought deeper than what is expected by certain news outlets. We need, as a country, to join with one another and reach out across racial, ethnic, gender, and religious barriers and embrace our diversity in a grand fashion to drown out the racist rants of the few. We need, as a country, to demand strong gun laws to include mandatory background checks and possibly even psychological testing before weapons are allowed to be bought and sold. We need, as a country, to adequately fund education and social programs that assist all Americans and not count the cost as a negative, but as a positive as we can rest assured that we are caring for our neighbors and creating a healthier and happier citizenry. We need, as a country, to demand that our elected officials represent us and not special interests. We need, as a county, to demand that our elected officials pass a budget that helps all people and decreases the deficit in a systematic and responsible manner that does no harm to those who are in need of assistance to survive. We need, as a country, to demand that all people be given access to affordable healthcare regardless of their station in life. We need, as a country, to demand that government stop trying to regulate what goes on in a person’s bedroom or with their bodies.

I love my country, but shake my head in disbelief at the actions going on in it. Maybe I should seriously consider running for public office. Hmmm…

On this date…

As I now join in with the sentiment bandwagon on this the 11th of September 2013, I am lost in rather non-flag waving thoughts. Before I get to those, I will recount where I was on this date in 2001.

I was teaching 8th grade English at Denn John Middle School in Kissimmee, Florida. It was my first teaching assignment in Florida and, to be honest, it was a tough school in which to teach when it comes to the baggage the student body had—low socioeconomic level, absentee and abusive parents, etc. The majority of the students were on free or reduced lunch. Some even had children of their own. Rough place to teach. However, I loved my students. Sure, there were the routine class clowns and gang wannabes, but overall, these kids knew that if they wanted out of their current situation they needed to work for it. I digress.

I cannot recall if it was during my planning or when I was finishing lunch as I usually kept in my classroom avoiding the lunchroom gossip and peer gripe sessions. What I do recall well was that when word came out about the events unfolding in NY, PA, and DC/VA, we were advised NOT to speak about the events with our students and to act as if nothing unusual occurred. Stay the course, to put it another way. However, there were a couple of problems with keeping the status quo and obeying that order from administration.

The first problem was that the kids already either heard a little about it or saw teachers weeping and heard them talking in hushed tones about what was happening. Students are not idiots, they can sense when something is not right. Unfortunately, my administrators either feared mass panic or who knows what else if we talked about it.

The second problem was that many of the students at this school had relatives either in New York City in particular and/or were from there themselves. While the majority of the students were Hispanic, from primarily the Caribbean, they either passed through New York on their way back south to Florida or had relatives who had stayed in New York. As such, it did not surprise me when students entered my classroom clamoring with questions and fraught with emotions. Some were eerily silent. There was no way they could focus on class. They knew what happened from either having overheard it or through text messages they received from family.

The maelstrom of panic was already thick in the air; therefore, I did what any self-respecting real educator would do.

We talked about it.

As we talked, announcements came either by the intercom system or through runners to the classrooms stating parents were arriving to pick up their students. As classes changed, we kept talking through it as necessary. Some students asked to come back to my room so they could feel safe and discuss what they were feeling rather than try to focus on classroom work and pretend all was the same it had been when they arrived at school that morning.
Many students expressed fears that our area would be attacked since it was a heavy tourist area and thus a prime target. I assured them as best I could that we were safe and would remain so and that our government would protect us. I heard stories about their lives and their families. Even those not from the areas attacked felt worried as they had loved ones in the Armed Forces and were concerned that they would have to go to war somewhere or that war was being waged in our own country. Again, as we talked through it, I noticed students starting to calm down more and more rather than panic.

The administration gave me a stern verbal reprimand when school was over for the day. The amusing part was that in the days that followed, many students and parents thanked me for listening to them or their students and not discounting their feelings or trying to make them focus on academics when clearly they could not.

That day changed America. It changed the lives of my students. It changed be a bit as well. I defied my administration for the sake of my students. While they considered me less than professional for doing so, I was probably more professional at that point and beyond than I was before when it came to teaching.

I made the choice to allow the students to see me as a human being rather than a cold professional who could not be flexible or caring enough to listen to them, to their fears. Was my behavior somewhat insubordinate? Yes, it was. I defied a direct order from my principal. Do I regret doing it? Hell, no!

Too many teachers do not allow themselves to be themselves around their students. They see the job and the professionalism of that job, but lose track of the humanity that is an overreaching important component of being a teacher. When a teacher lacks empathy and chooses only to focus on the academics, then they lose having a relationship with their students that makes those students want to succeed, even want to please the teacher because they know the teacher is fully invested in them as people first and students next. Teachers need to be humans first, then teachers. It is not being unprofessional unless the teacher abuses the trust that builds with having a good rapport with his or her students.

Now, for the part where I may seem less that patriotic about this day. Xenophobes, please feel free to stop reading at this point.

Okay. Now, for those of you still with me, I will proceed.

This is not a national holiday.

There is no Patriot Day authorized by Congress.

It is a day of Remembrance. Cowards bent on destroying us as a nation attacked our country.

Notice, I did not call their religion or nationality into this discussion. These people were terrorists. Plain and simple. They just so happened to be from the Middle East and just so happened to be followers of Islam. Too many people mention their religion or cultural background first and make it seem like people from their religion or cultural background are all terrorists bent on the destruction of the United States or the West in general. There are even a few wingnuts out there who threaten to burn the Koran or who terrorize people from the Middle East (or who look like they are from the Middle East), especially on this day.

This is completely unacceptable. More than that, it fails to recognize that we have also been the perpetrators of what should be seen as terrorist acts in the past in order to get what we wanted for our country.

What? The United States engaged in terrorism?!? No! Never!

Tell that to the Native Americans who lived here before our forbears arrived on the North American continent. Our government, in order to expand our territories and gain wealth that was on Native American lands, engaged in acts of terrorism against the Native Americans. There are incidents of giving smallpox infected blankets to Native Americans, the infamous Trail of Tears, and the forced assimilation of Native Americans including the taking of Native American children from their parents and placing them in boarding schools to teach away their culture. How about the involuntary sterilizations of Native American women that took place between the 1930s and 1970s? How about the continued suffering of Native Americans on reservations that have deplorable living conditions? These atrocities continue to this day, albeit on a smaller scale than deliberate murder of innocent people.

How can we as a country dare to flex our supposed grand morals at a country such as Syria with regard to its government’s use of chemical weapons to exterminate innocent people while ignoring our own past? How can we, as a supposed Christian nation, have people here who say that only other religions and/or cultures are brutal toward others and ours is not? The answer is simple. Ignorance coupled with an unwavering belief that we are somehow better than everyone else. We are not. We are humans too. Just like I mentioned earlier, we need to look on the world as human beings first, then as Americans or else we are doomed to do the same atrocities yet claim they are justified because it is for our good.

Along with this is that too many fail to realize that, like so many other things that happen to our country or the world, we helped to cause the animosity that brought about the tragedy. When the Russians attempted to defeat the Afghan mujahedeen, we supplied the mujahedeen with weapons and training to defeat them. We gave monetary aid to the Afghan people in exchange for their helping us to keep Communism from spreading. When the Russians left, so did we, to an extent. Even one of the major players in the aid to Afghanistan, Charlie Wilson, warned that we needed to help rebuild the country. Instead, we continued to fund the mujahedeen until they defeated the government that the Soviets left in place. The problem was that the mujahedeen were often worse than the Soviet-backed government that was in place. The mujahedeen that were allied with the more extreme Pashtun from Pakistan soon formed what became known as the Taliban who promised to bring order to Afghanistan. The United States, as the mujahedeen and warlords within Afghanistan continued to battle with one another, decided to stop aid. The Taliban then imposed strict Islamic law and the rest led to Bin Laden to take exile there and set up al-Qaeda.

Through our interference with regional matters and wanting to stop the spread of Communism, we helped to bring about the very enemy that attacked us.

Now, as we stand on the cusp of a possible conflict with Syria, we must ask ourselves if it is worth it. Yes, the international community must find a way to respond to the Syrian government’s slaughter of innocent people. However, before we proceed, we need to look at our internal and external history to prevent even further and possibly more destructive acts of terrorism against us or anyone in the world for that matter.

Finally, on this day that we stop to remember the heinous act that occurred on our soil, we need to step out of our comfort zone and take a look at all the acts of terrorism that occur on a daily basis in the world. Daily, there are innocent people across the world suffering from acts of terrorism-both domestic and foreign-we need to remember them as well. From the child who fears being discovered going to school for she is not allowed to do so under her country’s law, to the children who are forced in marriage across the world or into the world of human trafficking. We need to remember Columbine. We need to remember those killed in Oklahoma City by a domestic terrorist. We need to remember those killed at Fort Hood. We need to remember the people in the theater in Colorado. We need to remember the children at Sandy Hook Elementary. These are terrorist acts as well.

Terrorism, as defined by Merriam-Webster as “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion”. It further elaborates through the Concise Encyclopedia by stating it is:

Systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective. It has been used throughout history by political organizations of both the left and the right, by nationalist and ethnic groups, and by revolutionaries. Although usually thought of as a means of destabilizing or overthrowing existing political institutions, terror also has been employed by governments against their own people to suppress dissent; examples include the reigns of certain Roman emperors, the French Revolution, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union under Stalin, and Argentina during the “dirty war” of the 1970s.

Rather than just focus on the act of terrorism that occurred to us on this date in 2001; we need to see the other acts of terrorism that occur each day—domestic and foreign—and work to end acts of terrorism and bring about a more peaceful world.

America: Straying from the Faith of the Founders when it comes to caring for others

There is an argument often heard from the ultra religious and echoed by their politicians that America is a Christian nation. While it was not founded as to be a specifically and exclusively Christian nation (an argument I will save for a later posting), I wish to address how this claim is not being followed using the Christian bible so that those who claim to be Christians and claim America as a Christian nation so adamantly, while ignoring the most basic of Christian tenets, will hopefully understand how they stray from the faith they claim to follow.

Most of us know that the Puritans who came here on the Mayflower wanted the New World to be as John Winthrop called it, “A City upon a Hill.” He said that if
“we deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause him to withdraw his present help for us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world, we shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God and all professors of God’s sake; we shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to become curses upon us until we be consumed out of the good land where we are going”.

We, as a country, have lost sight of this and are becoming like Cain after murdering his brother Abel. The wealthy of our country especially are like Cain when asked about how they are helping those less fortunate than themselves. They are like to respond in the same manner by saying, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). They are turning their backs on those who work for them as we see corporate presidents and CEOs earning millions while their workers earn hundreds of times less with many of them resorting to have to collect welfare or food stamps just to feed themselves and their families. They are supporting sweatshops where hundreds to thousands of children and women in poor countries slave in deplorable conditions to make goods that are sold for huge profits and those making the goods see nowhere near a decent wage even for the places where they live. There are people who do not have health insurance who watch their loved ones die or who themselves die for lack of money to pay for care; while certain politicians, many of whom claim to be on the side of Christian values, fight to repeal a law that would provide all people with healthcare that could save lives. Ironically, those politicians and their wealthy donors, especially those who claim to be on a higher moral plane, act like the scribes that Jesus cautions his disciples to be wary of when he said,

“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers”(Mark 12:38-40).

These people do just that. They expect to be revered, respected, and have the right to the very best while others suffer to pay bills and just to survive. They cry out that it is not fair to tax the wealthy who can afford to pay more in taxes. They also cry out that the poor are just lazy and should be able to help themselves rather than receive help from them. They make a show out of their charitable giving to those poor, but talk disparagingly about them when not in the spotlight. Look and see how generous that I am, is their mantra while their hearts are coveting more wealth that could keep the poor from their station in life.

Am I advocating that wealth is bad? Not in the least, but the greed of so many who have wealth and their desire to keep the poor down in their lives, is evil. It is not money that is evil, but the love of money that is evil according to the same scriptures that many of those keeping the poor down claim to ascribe. They say they believe in charity, but in their hearts, they do not.

They love money more than their neighbor. In doing so, they also love money more than God. If Christians are admonished to “love their neighbor” like they love themselves (Mark 12:33), then these self-righteous people either hate themselves or are being hypocritical in their faith. In addition, they—the wealthy politicians and their wealthy donors—cry about paying more in taxes while forgetting that Christians are to “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17). If money is printed by the State, then it is right and even Christian duty to pay the State their proportionately fair share of taxes.

America cannot be a Christian nation as long as these wrongs continue to occur. Until the wealthy and their political lapdogs realize that with wealth also entails responsibility to care for those who are less fortunate, as they are admonished to do in the Christian scriptures, then the claim of being a Christian nation is a farce. It is a sinful, travesty of a farce at that. As John Winthrop ends his famous sermon, he states,

“Beloved there is now sett before us life, and good, deathe and evill in that wee are Commaunded this day to love the Lord our God, and to love one another to walke in his wayes and to keepe his Commaundements and his Ordinance, and his lawes, and the Articles of our Covenant with him that wee may live and be multiplyed, and that the Lord our God may blesse us in the land whether wee goe to possesse it: But if our heartes shall turne away soe that wee will not obey, but shall be seduced and worshipp other Gods our pleasures, and proffitts, and serve them, it is propounded unto us this day, wee shall surely perishe out of the good Land whether wee passe over this vast Sea to possesse it;”

As a nation, we have been seduced to the worship of other Gods (power and wealth being the foremost) and the worship of profits over people, we are dooming ourselves to perish from our greed and self-love.

Is there hope? Is there hope that we can yet attain the status of being a light unto the nations? Yes, there is always hope. So long as there are those who fight the injustices in our country, there is hope. So long as there are those who stand up and speak for those who are afraid to speak or cannot speak out, there is hope. So long as there are those who defend the helpless and befriend the friendless, there is hope. So long as there are those who represent the will of the people rather than the will of corporate interests and greed, there is hope.

Where does that hope start for you? Are you willing to be a catalyst for that hope? Are you willing to be the spark that ignites the fires of a peaceful revolution for the betterment of all people? Are you willing to be the light that cuts through the darkness of despair or will you just continue to curse the darkness and, in your lack of action, be an accomplice for the darkness? You must answer these questions in the affirmative if the hope is to stay alive.

Real Americans

I recently had a person respond to a comment I made on a Facebook post deriding me for my concept of what an American is and is not. I commented that America is not what it once was and that it has gotten to be a place vastly different from where I was born and raised. This becomes even more apparent to me since I am temporarily living outside of the States due to family employment. I am gaining a much different perspective on the US while living in Canada and being able to visit my native land on occasion. What I am seeing, in addition to what I hear from my neighbors and acquaintances, saddens me sometimes when I think of the potential that exists in the United States to do so much more with the wealth that is there than what is currently occurring. What has happened to my country? To our country? Why are we acting the way we are? What exactly is a real American?

As I see this becoming more of a series of posts rather than one concise posting, I will just touch on the one concept that bothers me. That concept is what a ‘real’ American is. When I was growing up, an American was someone who was either born in the United States or immigrated to the United States and worked his or her way to citizenship. It could also be a child born overseas to US parents or even to one US parent. Sounds simple enough. I even think it is still the legal definition of what an American is. So, what happened?

The scene is becoming increasingly common. Someone asks another person the question, “What are you?” I heard this often from students I taught and even neighbors where I once lived in Florida. They asked me this. They asked others this. They did this in a quest to place a person in a box. Ironically, the people asking the question were usually white and they asked this question to someone who was not White, more than those who are white. Interesting. The concept of what a “real” American has devolved in some way to mean a person who is not Caucasian. Given the skin tone of most Native Americans is not Caucasian that makes the question both rather idiotic as well as rather insidious.

The idiocy stems from the fact that the United States is a mixture of people and cultures far beyond those from Northern Europe. The Southwestern Untied States has people from Mexico, Central and South America. They were there before the first Europeans arrived. The rest of the United States was once vastly inhabited by Native Americans who, as I mentioned before, are predominantly non-Caucasian. After Europeans arrived, many others started immigrating to the United States and settled here. Some Asians were brought over to work on the West Coast and help build the once vast railroad network. African-Americans were brought over both as slaves and some came as free persons. If something happened somewhere in the world, people came to the United States to change their lives for the better. The United States earned and enjoyed being called the Melting Pot of the world. Our country is a land of diversity. That diversity once made us great. We fought a Civil War and went through the Civil Rights movement to make all races seen as equal. It set us apart from many countries in the world where the make-up of the people is the same. Somehow, the love of our diversity has morphed into division.

Part of this idiocy has been manufactured in the form of certain media outlets attacking the skin color of our current president. He presents a quandary for what was once the majority of the American population. President Obama is neither entirely Black nor is he entirely White. He is of mixed race. That mixture seems to have scared some people who are just too xenophobic to realize that being of mixed race is okay. Perhaps these same people once advocated laws that banned intermarriage between people of different races. They saw that taboo fall with the advent of Civil Rights and dealt with it. However, when the leader of their country became someone with those qualities, they could not handle it. Therefore, we have seen a rise in those who question his citizenship and even hate him for being someone they cannot place in a box.

These same people have taken this even further and started to question their neighbors being citizens or not based on skin color or religious beliefs. Somehow, this has also changed into questioning someone’s citizenship or loyalty to his or her country. Recently, we heard of a young man who is of Mexican descent who was ridiculed when he sang the National Anthem at a basketball game. Even though he was born in the United States and is therefore a citizen, people were accusing him of being an illegal immigrant to the United States simply because of his cultural background. What difference should it make when it comes to his being an American? We are a nation of immigrants. Look at the names in the telephone directory. They are all not European names. They are names from the world pantheon of names. With those names are cultures, religions, and lifestyles that all blend to make the United States unique and wonderful. It is a shame to disparage anyone based on his or her cultural background.

Here, in Canada, the question is not asked as “What are you?”, but rather “What is your cultural background?” Yes, that may simply sound like a politically correct way to ask the same thing, but it goes beyond that. It acknowledges that the person is a human being first, and then presents a curiosity about what that person believes, practices, or lives. It is less combative, in part, due to the length of the sentence, but also due to the nature of the words used. Perhaps we, as citizens of the United States, should take this and apply it to our country. No, Canada is not perfect. No country is perfect, but imagine if we started viewing each other as people first, then whatever culture, religion, gender, gender preference, or whatever box that is needed to make us feel better. We would be better able to define a ‘real’ American as someone who loves our country because she or he was born here or immigrated here for a better life.