Speech/Letter To A School Board about Abstinence-Only Education

I come to you this evening as a former teacher, parent, and concerned community member to speak against the present sex education curriculum that emphasizes abstinence only. To put it simply, it does not work. While there is nothing wrong with abstinence, it needs to be seen as a tool for preventing the spread of STDs and unwanted pregnancies and not as the only tool we give to our children. You wouldn’t try to build a house with only a screwdriver, so why would you teach a student that the only way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and STDs is only through abstinence? It makes no sense.
I am a former teacher of both English and health in the states of Florida and South Carolina. I taught at both the middle school and high school levels. In both of those states, abstinence only education is the norm. I personally taught students, 7th and 8th graders in particular, who already had one or two children of their own by the time they reached my classroom. At the high school level, I witnessed the same pattern. Part of this was due to the educational system failing them by only offering abstinence as a way of avoiding getting pregnant. While abstinence is the only way to absolutely guarantee not getting pregnant, it is not the only way. When I saw groups such as the one that comes into our schools come into schools where I taught, it was cringeworthy to say the least.
For one, they painted the girls as the cause for abstinence failure while leaving the boys off the hook. Much like the recent gum demonstration by the group within our schools, female students were painted as promiscuous seductresses who lead boys into having sex as they had sex with one boy, but saw no reason why they should not have sex with another. The males are somehow always seen as the victims. This is not only misogyny, but also mixes in fundamentalist Old Testament blame for the fall of man due to women. Last I checked, it takes both genders to have sex that can possibly result in pregnancy.
Second, as mammals and primates, we humans are naturally curious about our bodies and those of others around us. Teenagers have been experimenting with their sexuality most likely since the dawn of the human race. Many times, it starts as self-exploration, but it can evolve into exploring it with someone else. When and if that occurs, we owe it to our children to give them the tools aside from abstinence to practice safe sex. This means to tell them about contraceptive methods and, if possible, make them easily available for them to obtain. If we do not, they will not know about them or, if they do happen to learn about them, will be too scared to obtain them. In doing so, they will place themselves at risk for an unplanned pregnancy and possibly STDs.
Third, one of the most ludicrous things that the program presently being used suggests is the idea of “reclaimed virginity”. Hate to break it to you, but that is not possible. Once an individual has sexual intercourse, he or she is no longer a virgin. He or she cannot become a virgin again. Maybe celibate, but not a virgin. A girl’s hymen does not miraculously regrown nor does the semen somehow re-enter the boy. An amusing anecdote to this is a conversation I overheard two of my 7th graders having one day. It was shortly after the group there had performed their “education” for the students. One girl told her friend that she was no longer a virgin. The other asked who she had sex with. The first girl responded that she hadn’t had sex, but simply used a tampon, so she was no longer a virgin. They looked up and saw that I was standing behind them. Having built a rapport with my students, I asked them to remain after class. I called in a female teacher from an adjoining room and we explained to them that virginity could only be lost through having sexual intercourse. While I haven’t heard the claim made by the local group, it is made by some. That type of misinformation, aside from being misinformation, can also cause harm to a student psychologically and possibly even socially. Can you imagine if it had gone around a school of 1500 that someone was no longer a virgin when that was not the case?
Fourth, that brings me to the whole shaming that the abstinence only education produces. Making students sign a pledge to remain abstinent and even going as far as encouraging purity rings sets many students up for failure and ridicule from their peers. Well, at least the female students. Male students still get away with breaking them under the whole “boys will be boys” excuse malarkey. Girls face the brunt of the shaming when it comes to this area between self-talk if she should engage in sex to the social gossip that goes on within our schools. The teenage years are painful enough without adding shame to them. An article in Psychology Today from September 2017 brings up the practice of “slut shaming” that is prevalent in these abstinence only programs. One example they gave was one that I personally witnessed as a teacher where the group presenting had each student write whether or not she or he were a virgin. No names were given. The presenter made a similar comment made in the article by saying that “all the students who were not virgins likely had STDs and wouldn’t finish high school”. Seriously?!? The students I mentioned at the beginning of my talk all graduated or earned their GEDs, by the way.
Fifth, these abstinence only programs ignore that there may be some students who are sexually active already and, thus, in doing so, do not give them access to contraceptive methods or ways to prevent STDs. That was also backed up by the article from Psychology Today.
Many students cannot rely on their parent(s)/guardian(s) to educate them about sex or contraception. It is up to the schools to do this. Abstinence only education fails to do this and, by failing to do this, it fails our children. We cannot have groups like the one being used to teach our children. It would be much better to have the local health department send someone to do this or even reach out to the Education, Biology or Medical programs in local universities like Syracuse, LeMoyne, or SUNY Upstate to send in professionals to teach our youth. Theology and religious based programs do not belong in the public schools. If parents want them, then the parents should either have their children in private religious schools or arrange for their faith leaders to teach them and exempt them from science-based sex education. That is what this all boils down to after all. Yes, abstinence is the only sure fire way to prevent pregnancy and reduce the chances of students developing and STD or STI. However, it is not the only way and our students deserve all the tools they may need rather than just a screwdriver.
Thank you.

Works Cited

Mintz, Laurie. “Abstinence-Only Sex Ed: Harmful? Unethical?”. Psychology Today. September 5, 2017. .

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?

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…

Open Letter to the Southern Baptist Convention about their stance on the Boy Scouts of America

Dear Southern Baptist Convention Members and Leaders:

I am certain you have heard a great number of people commenting on your recent non-binding resolution to sever ties with the Boy Scouts of America because they are now choosing to allow openly homosexual boys to join its ranks. I am responding in kind as well; however, I will try to not rant at you, but rather be more Christian in nature and try to appeal to your theological nature.

I will start simple. Certainly, you agree with Jesus’ words when he stated that the two greatest commandments were to “…love the Lord you God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength, The second is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31 NRSV). You even state within your resolution that you continue to hate the sin, but love the sinner as evident in your resolution when you state, “we declare our love in Christ for all young people regardless of their perceived sexual orientation, praying that God will bring all youth into a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (SBC Resolution 6, 2013).

The issue here with your response though seems to be your use of the word “perceived” when it comes to their sexual orientation. That would infer that homosexuality is a choice. Many studies have shown that homosexuality occurs in the natural world. Since humans are part of that natural world as we are the highest form of primate, should it not follow that it could also be a natural occurrence in the human race for some people to be born homosexual? If it helps, Jesus does say something to this effect as found in the Gospel of Matthew when he states:

For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can. (Matthew 19:12 NRSV)

Could it not be that those who were “eunuchs who have been so from birth” are what Jesus knew to be the homosexuals of his time? The Jewish culture that Jesus would have been familiar with did not see eunuchs as simply being those born without testicles, but those men who exhibited characteristics that were more in line with females of the time, much like what is seen sometimes among modern homosexual men. Therefore, it could be seen that Jesus believed that even homosexual men were valuable to God and not an abomination.

I would like to offer another perspective as well. The Apostle Paul has some issues with the Galatians due to the law versus faith. It seems Peter did not want to associate with the Galatian Gentiles because they were not circumcised. This angered Paul, who himself was if you recall a very orthodox Jew prior to his conversion. Paul states in his letter to the Galatians,

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. 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. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:23-29 NRSV).

Just looking at these verses sets the tone as to what God’s kingdom should look like, doesn’t it? People lived under the law until Christ came and saved all who believe in Him. Christianity was meant to bridge the space between men and women, races, and even gender preferences. “No longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 NRSV), what a wonderful world for Christ we would have then, right?

I do not expect that you will change your position on the Boy Scouts of America or even on homosexuality, but it would be nice if you would just pay closer attention to the Christ in whom you profess to believe. He ate with sinners. In fact, he hung out with them and even made some his disciples and apostles. He did not come for the elite or for those who held themselves tight to the law as seen through eyes that refused to change. Even Paul had to be blinded by Christ in order to see His kingdom more clearly. I, along with many others, will keep praying for your denomination to have a road to Damascus moment as well. Peace be with you.

A Country on the Verge

The United States is becoming more and more of a country on the verge of revolution on a number of fronts. The attacks on women’s rights. The resurgence of blatant and covert racism. The increasingly noticeable divide between the wealthy, the working class, and the poor. The increase in lack of tolerance between people for a myriad of other reasons. At the forefront of this schism in our country is a small group of powerful people who are causing it. They call themselves patriots and even use the political designation of Tea Party because they believe they are defending freedom while talking away freedoms. What they are doing is turning our country into one where there are only those who are wealthy and privileged and those who are not. There is still hope for the US, though. It comes through having to combat their tactics and educate those who are falling for their sharp rhetoric of concealed lies. The media they use is slick and showy. They prey on the emotions of people without allowing logic to prevail. It is up to all concerned, intelligent citizens to fight back with words that are emotionally charged, but logically based.
First thing is to realize that they hate logic. A recent voting situation in Wisconsin points this out well. The head of one of their houses of state legislature demanded a vote on the requirement of ultrasounds on women wanting abortions without allowing for debate. His very action of denying debate itself should cause Americans who believe in a representative government to cringe with fear. Without intelligent debate, ideology can be forced through and made policy. Too many voters have elected people who said what they wanted to hear rather than actually participated in debating the pros and cons with the issues at hand. Too many voters have succumbed to allowing those who donate large sums of money to politicians dictate what those politicians make into law. It has to stop and it has to stop now! Our country cannot afford to be railroaded into ideology instead of good policy that benefits everyone in the country as whole.
Next, is to be heard. The one thing that these ideological politicians and donors do not want is a vocal and persistent opposition. There needs to be more people to speak up and, if need be, out shout the ideology of those causing the demise of our country and make people wake up and listen with the ear of wisdom to what is being said and the ramifications of policy before it is made into law. Silence is the same as acquiescence. If good people do not speak up, then freedoms will be replaced by the wants of special interests. When the media sound boxes for the Tea Party start trying to shut the voices of reason down, then the voices of reason must resist and be heard. Truth must be brought out over their half-truths and lies. If it takes people standing on corners with signs, then so be it. If it takes people going door to door, talking, and handing out flyers, then so be it. It is not going to be cheap, but it needs to be done.
In addition, it needs funding. Unfortunately, those who support free thinking and logical approaches to life are not always the wealthiest. There has to be a way to get the word out in a less expensive, but more efficient manner. People could donate time or talents to get the real truth out. It has been proven that grassroots efforts work, but they take people who are willing and able to coordinate others and get the word out. It takes people who can speak well as well as those who can write well. It takes those who can approach a stranger, even one who might be negative to new ideas, and meet them where they are and make them think more about issues even if it does not change their mind about them.
Next, the need for education is paramount. Ignorance is the fuel for the rhetoric of those affiliated with the Tea Party. If the public remains uneducated or undereducated, then they can control them easier. This is probably why so many of them support high stakes standardized testing over actually educating the children of America. People have relearn how to think for themselves again rather than blindly following their leaders. Our country was greater when we had thinkers and those thinkers actually acted for the benefit of others, rather than their own profit margins. We need to remind those who follow blindly that doing so leads to the detriment of our country rather than its prosperity.
Finally, we need to bring back a sense of community in our country again. Sure, we band together for the most part when disaster strikes, but we need to rebuild a sense that we are all in this together when it comes to our daily lives. We need to relearn to cooperate with our neighbors and work with them to help all of us live better lives. We need to practice charity for all rather than a select few. We need to define ourselves as Americans rather than anything else. Real Americans help one another. If we did not, then we would not have survived all the wars, disasters, and attacks we have faced as a country.
This needs to be our new revolution. A revolution to take America back from all the special interests and make it a country that shines again like a beacon for the world as a partner with the world to make it a better place for all human beings. We need to stand up for one another against the political ideology of a few who would like nothing better than to split us farther apart and into complacency, labels, and stereotypes.

Happy Mother’s Day to the Fairer Sex

With Mother’s Day in only two days, I thought it fitting to focus an article on women in general. Lately, they have come under attack on so many issues. There are those in government who wish to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body. There are those who blame women for being raped for the clothes they choose to wear. There are those who even still believe women are the weaker sex and are inferior to men. As a man, I have to say that there is much more to a woman than what most people, including other women, see. They are stronger than one might think regardless of their body type. However, let me get into the issues I have already addressed.
First, the governmental regulation of what women can and cannot do with their bodies. The government has no right to do this; that is unless they wish to regulate what men do with theirs as well. There are those in government who want to tell a woman whether she can or cannot have an abortion. There are also those, many of them the same people, who want to limit a woman’s access to affordable, safe contraception. It is her body, her life, her wanting to be self-empowered and responsible, so the government should leave her alone! Imagine if the government tried to tell men they could not have vasectomies or purchase condoms. Imagine if men were forced by the government to procreate all in the name of patriotism. There would be protests and riots in the streets.
Next, the excuse that a woman’s clothing caused her to be raped. While there are women who wear less than others, that is not an excuse for them to become the victims of a rape. Yes, heterosexual men are turned on by the sight of a woman’s body, but that does not give them the right to rape women. Rapists use that as an excuse. A woman wears clothing for the same reason as a man does; they like how they look in it. They chose their clothing to fit their mood, the occasion, and to accentuate their body type. Men do the same thing. A man who chooses to wear a torso-hugging shirt or no shirt at all is doing the same thing as a woman who wears a tight-fitting or lower cut neckline shirt—they are showing off that part of the body they are proud of. Men wearing tight jeans hope to accentuate their rears the same as women do when they wear the same or a similarly cut skirt or dress. It is no different except in the perception imposed upon them by cultural beliefs or customs. When it comes to rape, that is a crime of power perpetrated by a man or a woman who feels they have no power and that if they make an intimate and personal attack on someone, then they will gain power. Rape is a cowardly act regardless of who commits it. A woman does not wear clothing hoping to be raped. Men simply need to control themselves and, if they cannot, then they need to seek psychological help to overcome their problem.
Finally, I will briefly address the idea of women as the weaker sex. How can that be true? They bear children. They carry 8-10 pounds of additional weight for 9 months only to pass that out an extremely small orifice. How is that week? That is pretty damned strong to me. In addition, many women work outside the home in addition to also trying to be as traditional as they can be as mothers. That is stressful, especially if there is no support from their spouses or significant others. The idea of their being the weaker sex is ludicrous. They are physically speaking the softer sex, but not the weaker sex. However, women are supposed to look different from men; it is part of what makes them attractive. So, rather than being the weaker sex, let us all view women as the fairer sex. I will hold off what makes women attractive for another article.
Let me just end this by wishing all mothers out there a Happy Mother’s Day! If you do not have children as yet, then I wish you a Happy Potential Mother’s Day. Even if you choose not to give birth or even adopt a child, that does not mean someone may not benefit from your maternal instincts and from you being a strong woman. So, Happy Mother’s Day to you as well.