The Fake War On Christianity–LGBT edition

The Fake War on Christianity

Conservative county clerks violating federal law as they refuse to issue marriage licenses for same sex couples because they way it goes against their religious beliefs to do so.

Bakeries refusing to bake cakes and florists refusing to provide flowers for same sex couples stating that to do so violates their free exercise of religion.

These have a common thread in that they all point to rhetoric that there is a war on Christianity being waged. There is no war on Christianity. What these people who refuse to do their jobs are really doing is using faith as a shield for their own ignorance and prejudices. Ironically, these same people likely see ISIS as being evil, yet they advocate a world very similar to that which ISIS wants except one hides behind Christianity and the other behind Islam.

The bastardization of a religion for use as a shield of prejudice has gone on for hundreds of years. In more recent history, it has been seen in groups such as the KKK and Nazis who claimed to be faithful Christians and used religion to justify their hate. Now, rather than just having these larger organizations, and others like them, at the forefront, there are individuals who do so. When confronted in their hate or ignorance or both, these individuals then run behind the guise of religion and say that they don’t hate anyone, but their faith calls upon them to condemn others.

Some, like a county clerk in Kentucky, go as far to say “’I think that this is a war on Christianity, I think same-sex marriage just simply brought it to the surface, but it is a war on Christianity’” (http://freakoutnation.com/2015/08/kentucky-clerk-its-my-job-to-tell-gays-theyre-going-to-hell/). He even went on to say he believes the Creator placed him on earth to tell others “’…there is a higher power that we need to answer to, and it’s not people who wear black robes, it’s the one who wears the white robe’”(http://freakoutnation.com/2015/08/kentucky-clerk-its-my-job-to-tell-gays-theyre-going-to-hell/).

Personally, I think the only white robed fellow this individual truly knows are those who are in the KKK.

Jesus said nothing about homosexuality in his lifetime. There is nothing in his speeches or conversations as far as we can know from scripture that says he had anything negative to say about homosexuality. He did, however, have a great deal to say about love and about hypocrisy.

One verse that comes to mind is when Jesus rebuked Peter and told him, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man”(Mark 8:33). Peter was focusing on how humankind thought rather on what God’s plan might be. I believe this is how it is when people, regardless of faith, insert their own prejudices into faith for their own ends. They focus on what they think rather than what God might want.

A couple of weeks ago, I preached a sermon on the two greatest commandments—Love God, and love your neighbor as you love yourself. These two simple directives from God, reiterated by Jesus, are how Christians should live their lives. There is no judging, no hate, and no prejudice at play. Simply love. God/Allah/Yahweh, does not want us to sit in judgment of one another. For those of us who are Christian, there is no directive to judge one another. Instead, we are to love one another regardless if that other person is gay or straight, male or female, heterosexual, bisexual, transsexual, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Atheist, or whatever label our imperfect human world wants to place on another person. We are to love one another.

Perhaps this county clerk, and others like him, need to go back to those two fundamental laws and focus on them instead of their own ignorance and hate.

Peace-Salaam-Shalom

How the Democrats/Greens lost this Election and What Can Be Done to Fix It

The results of the mid-term elections were dismal for America. They were dismal for the Democrats and Greens. Let’s face it, they simply sucked harder than an F-5 tornado in Oklahoma. So, what went wrong? How in the heck did the extreme right-winger whip our collective rears and take control of both houses of Congress as well as the governorships of states? They used their usual tactics of fear, voter intimidation, and their mouthpiece, the Faux News Network. (No, I’m not saying their proper name. It might even be best if we simply give it a term used by J.K. Rowling and call it “the network that shall not be named). As Democrats and Greens, we know their tactics by now and should have been able to stop them. So, why didn’t we and, even more importantly, what can we do to fix this mess that our country is now faced with having to deal with?

First, and this is something I’ve said for years, we talk a great game, but cannot run one. If you go to most cities whether they are large or small, you find a storefront that says Republican Headquarters. It’s a year-round business for the GOP/Tea Party to stay in the public eye and force feed their rhetoric to the masses. When it comes to the Democratic Party or the Green Party, or any other party for that matter, their presence is only just prior to an election, then they disappear until just before the next election. That’s not going to cut it nor is it going to win votes. If we want to stay relevant or even become more relevant, we need to be out there all the time. 365 days a year. If we do not go away, then people cannot ignore us. We have to actively campaign at all times and in all places. We cannot rely on our old support system in the unions as they are being squeezed out by the policies of the far right. They are becoming irrelevant to today’s younger voter.

Along those same lines, we have to muster the vote. It’s not enough to have voter registration campaigns, we have to get those who registered to vote out to vote. Although I have not checked the recent numbers, I believe I heard that voter turnout was somewhere around 35-40 percent. That sucks. People do not feel it matters if they vote nor who they vote for as they feel that decisions are made by a shadow government or by corporations anyhow. We have to show them that it matters. We have to bring up what the opposition is doing and has done to undermine real American values. We don’t do that enough. Perhaps we have to physically take people to their polling location to get them out to vote. Why in the heck aren’t we doing that across the United States? We have to make certain that those who we helped to register to vote, but cannot make it to the polls, get absentee ballots and get them mailed in to cast their votes. What we fail to realize, and why we do I have no idea, is that the conservative seniors vote. They have nothing else to do, but watch the network-that-shall-not-be-named and vote, at least when their not driving around on their golf carts or taking tole painting classes. If we don’t get out the vote for every election, then we face horrible things like this last election brought upon our country.

Next, and this part might be somewhat crude, we have to become better at attacking our opposition than we have been in the past. The far right pummels the airwaves through television, radio talk shows, and the internet with their vile rhetoric. They make up stories to scare the American public into voting for them. They do this by using words such as communism, socialism, and liberal, which many people have no freaking idea what they really mean in the first place because they are not included on a standardized test. They play to the ammosexuals by saying that we will take their guns away. They play to the fundamentalists by saying that prayer and God will be taken out of our schools. (Yeah, right. If that’s the case, then two problems exist. First, is that assumes that students will not silently pray on their own. Next, is assumes that God is not omnipotent if a polticial party can cause God to not exist). Ironically, they play to the poor by fooling them into believing that trickle down economics actually works. It doesn’t. The wealthy could care less about the poor or the middle class, just so long as they do their bidding and accept their meager paycheck while paying for crap that the company now makes overseas using sweatshops and slave labor. Where is this so-called liberal media? Why isn’t there a network that is always on the attack against ultraconservative ideas and rhetoric?

Third, the Democrats (and Greens) need to define themselves more clearly against their opposition. I would hazard to guess that if you asked most voters to tell you what either of these parties stand for, then you would get a plethora of sometimes conflicting answers. The time for namby-pamby centrism is over folks. Screw the idea of compromise! The GOP sure as hell did that once they got control of the House and they sure as hell are planning to do this since they have all of Congress now in their greedy, corporate-funded hands. We need to bring out voices like Elizabeth Warren and Warren Sanders. We need to cultivate people to run for office who are able to speak well, back up their speech, and fight harder to win rather than just to make a good showing. We need candidates who will sometimes stop being so damned polite and call a liar a liar and back it up with facts and the other person’s record. Corner their asses and make them defend themselves. We need to stop kowtowing and backing down from a fight as we so often do. Yes, we want to all love in harmony with our neighbor, but sometimes dammit, we need to be more warrior like and less like doormat.

Fourth, as we have learned in this last election as well as most elections held since the 80s, we need the funds to win. As much as we might like to say that anyone can run for office and win, it’s a money game. Many good people who want to run for office simply do not have the money to afford to run for office. This includes the time they need to take off from work to campaign, the airtime they need to run advertisements, the money to pay staff, create flyers, etc. It costs a great deal to combat those who gain their funds through backroom deals with corporate executives and the ultraconservative wealthy. Rather than simply throwing our hands up and saying that the corporations and wealthy will always win, we need to build our campaign financial warchests through taking small, non-corporate donations. Heck, even having bake sales would help. Doughnuts for Democrats or Granitas for Greens, whatever it takes to get the money to compete against these corporate funded conservatives. Look at the Occupy movements as an example of how to raise awareness, get funding, and get out the vote.

Finally, we need to show that our candidates will listen to the people rather than corporations when it comes to running our country. We have people out of work. We have people homeless. We have people who are hurting in so many ways. We need to listen and act to help them in real, concrete ways rather than just talk about it or form a committee to look into it. America needs action rather than inaction. America needs real compassion for one another on so many levels. We see this occur in small ways already, such as soup kitchens and food pantries run by churches and civic organizations. We see it in neighbors reaching out to each other in times of crisis. We need politicians who do this daily rather than just during campaign seasons. We need people who are not career politicians nor lawyers running our country. We need teachers, bricklayers, cab drivers, garbage collectors, anyone who feels it is their civic duty to represent everyone that the office they wish to full will represent to be able to run for an win office. We need to then hold them accountable to do just that and not be afraid to call them out if they do not and demand why they did not. We need to ask our questions and get real answers rather than settling for political rhetoric and feel good statements.

We can take America back, I hope. We can still salavage what may be left of our country after this past election. We cannot trust those recently elected to the majority to do this as they will continue to be beholden to their corporate string holders.

Wake the freak up Democrats and Greens! Take a day to lick your wounds, then fight like hell to save our country!

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.

 

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.

Classy Kid vs. Racist Jerks

Recently, at an NBA game between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs, a young man-made headlines for singing the national anthem. He did not forget the words. In fact, he sang them very well for a young man of his age in front of thousands of people. What he made headlines for was the reactions of some of the racists that fill our country and bring it down to levels of unintelligence not seen since the first man walked the earth.
People saying he had no right to sing the national anthem because he was not American enough subjected the young man, born in San Antonio, but of Mexican heritage, to racial slurs. Yes, you read that correctly, a number of racists that tweeted and commented about his performance did not consider him American enough about his singing the national anthem simply because of his racial background. Since when did being American equate with being White?
This rings of ideas reminiscent of the era before Civil Rights were gained in our country. White does not equal American. No race equals being American. We are Americans based on where we were born, if our parents were American, or if we were naturalized as citizens of the United States. The fact that there were people attacking this young man should not surprise us, especially since we have seen our president attacked and his being American questioned by “birthers” of the politically stupid that have come out of the woodwork in our country.
Our country is becoming less and less dominated by people who consider themselves White/Caucasian. The problem is that there are many Whites who fear this rather than embrace it as our becoming the melting pot for which our country is famous. Is this fear because there are those who are White who have acted in a racist manner toward those who are not and they fear retribution? Probably. Is it because there are too many Whites who simply do not know enough about other cultures and thus choose to fear them because it is easier than to learn about them and accept them? I think this is far truer than not.
This is not to say there are not racists of other colors than White. However, for those who are White, have you ever thought that is how they see you as well? Prejudice is the child of ignorance and fear. It knows no race, culture, or creed. If people are not willing to learn and take the chance to get to know others of differing cultural or ethnic backgrounds, then our nation is doomed to be run by racists such as those who spewed venomous words toward this young man. It should not be a case of a classy kid vs. racist jerks. Our country needs more people to realize that the only thing that truly sets us apart is our ignorance of one another. That can be bridged when one person steps forward with a smile and kind words. If enough people do that, then the hateful words and views of the few will be drowned out by the laughter and joy of friends of all races and cultures.

Equality for All

Before I begin this post, I want to set the record straight and explain that I am a straight male. I find the feminine figure in all its many shapes and sizes quite alluring. I state this as I have often been labelled as something else when I speak out on the issue I am about to address today. With that said, I will proceed.

There is a serious Civil Rights struggle going on in our country, that in some ways, mirrors the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. This time, however, it is not a matter of the color of a person’s skin that is the issue. Rather, it is their sexual orientation. There is a need to point out the covert and sometimes overt discrimination taking place in our country toward our homosexual brothers and sisters. They are being denied the right to marry. They are being denied the right to visit their partner if they are hospitalized. They are being denied access to the same services in some companies as their heterosexual counterparts can receive. These are examples of discrimination that needs to be stopped.

I recently read a news article about a couple in Washington State who wanted their favorite florist to provide flowers for their wedding. The proprietor, whom the couple had known for a while, politely told them she would not provide flowers for them due to her faith not condoning homosexuality. The article continues by trying to paint a positive picture of the proprietor as having hired gay employees and having gay customers in an attempt by her and her lawyers to show she is not a discriminatory person. The term they used in the article for her reasoning not to provide flowers was that she was a conscientious objector. Conscientious objector?!? This is not her being called to fight in a war. She runs a business that is open to the public. As such, she needs to provide service to whomever has the monetary means for them. It sounds a little like the time when Blacks in our country would have to wait in separate areas or go to the back door of a restaurant to be served.

This is not an isolated incident. National headlines have shown major corporations, restaurants, and civic groups taking an anti-homosexual stance either in open practice or in the causes to which they contribute. They are temporarily boycotted, picketed, or subject to a ‘kiss-in’; however, the media’s thrill for the story dies down and the status quo kicks in again.

Those who advocate for Gay Rights need to think about taking some pages out of the Civil Rights Movement’s playbook. They need to organize marches, sit-ins, speeches, letter writing campaigns to politicians, media advertising, and other non-violent methods to get the public’s attention to the violations of civil rights that they face on a daily basis. One way to do this would be to combat one of the oldest stereotypes about homosexuals, particularly males. That is the myth that gay men are pedophiles. They are not. A pedophile is a social deviant who preys on children. A homosexual is simply someone who is attracted to their own sex (and age range). They do not want to rape children or even each other. The majority of homosexuals, male and female alike, simply want to fins someone special to spend their lives with like so many heterosexuals do freely.

Our gay brothers and sisters should be free to live their lives and receive the same rights that heterosexuals have. They need to be free to live without being stigmatized, ostracized, or demonized. It is time for equality for all people.

Civil Rights Crisis being ignored

There is a civil rights crisis in America that remains unspoken. It has nothing to do with Blacks, Hispanics, or Asians. It concerns the indigenous people of America. The very people who settled here long before the first European landed on the shores of our land. The Native American people remain the most impoverished in our country and rarely do we ever hear about them. Rarely do we find campaigns waged on their behalf finding their way into mainstream media. It is almost as if they do not exist, except for old movies where they are depicted as savages or drunks. It is shameful that we allow these noble and great people to live in squalor that matches or rivals that of third world countries. They were here first. It was our ancestors who drove them from their lands, made treaties that we broke, and continue to keep them locked in a vicious cycle of poverty. They need and deserve to be heard. They need and deserve to be given the skills necessary to achieve a higher standard of living.
According to Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, 25.3 percent of Native Americans live in poverty and 29.9 percent do not have health insurance. They further state that most tribes do not have casinos or even much tourism due to their remote locations. They give a stark example of how bad it is through a reference to the Blackfoot Reservation located in Montana. Here the unemployment rate is a staggering 69 percent. That is unacceptable for a people who once lived prosperously across our country.
Aside from the location of many of the reservations that the United States Government forced upon the Native Americans being remote from urban areas where employment might be found, the problem of low high school graduation rates hinders a better life for Native Americans. According to an article from Diverse-Issues in Higher Education from 2010, “fewer than 50 percent of Native American and Alaska Native students from the Pacific and Northwest regions of the U.S. graduate from high school.” Graduation rates for Native Americans as a whole “average 46.6 percent” across our country while the graduation rate for other ethnicities in the U.S. range from a high of 77.9 percent for Asians to 50.8 percent for Hispanics (Diverse). Among the reasons given for the high dropout rate for Native Americans, according to the article, are “lack of student engagement, perceived lack of empathy among teachers, passive teaching methods, and lack of parent involvement.” These are problems that can be solved in the educational realm provided the funding exists and teachers are well trained for the needs of Native American students. This is not unlike the widespread efforts that continue to assist students who are speakers of other languages that exist in our schools. The article points out a list of strategies needed to “reduce dropout rates. These strategies include avoiding policies that demean, embarrass, harass, or alienate native students; providing opportunities for students’ involvement in their language and culture; and better preparation for educators who work with American Indians.”
Again, this is much like what educators in areas having large Hispanic or other immigrant populations already must learn and practice in order to reach their non-native students. In those situations, we have dual language classrooms in some areas and mandatory workshops on strategies needed to teach English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). In Florida where I taught, for example, all teachers need at least 60 hours of ESOL training and those teaching English/Language Arts need 300 hours in ESOL training or an ESOL endorsement on their teaching licenses. We also had many schools where the diversity of their students was celebrated through cultural activities highlighting all cultures.
Native American students should be encouraged to learn and share their native culture within their schools. There should be lessons where their cultural diversity should be integrated within the curriculum along with the diversity of the other cultures within their schools. For those Native Americans who are educated on schools located within reservations, they need teachers who are well trained in the culture of the tribe or tribes that are located within the reservation. Those teachers can then embrace that culture and utilize it to enhance the curriculum that will enhance student learning and understanding. Along with this, there needs to be more technology within Native American schools so that the students are able to master the skills necessary for them to bring jobs that are more prosperous to their communities. Native American parents need to be encouraged to get involved in their student’s education through volunteer opportunities. Native American schools need to encourage adults who lack job skills to gain them through classes geared toward their needs. The cycle of poverty that appears rampant on many reservations can be curtailed with education that is delivered in harmony with their cultural beliefs.
Along these lines, more needs to be done to address the severe poverty that grips many who live on the more remote reservations. While tribal laws can sometimes be complicated, surely there must be some way that tribal leaders and those outside the reservations can work together to come to some way to assist those living on reservations in gaining a better infrastructure both physically and technologically. In an ever-increasing global economy, being remote from urban areas should be a bridge that is easily crossed through better technology and technological skills.
Why are we as a country choosing to ignore the situation faced by many Native Americans? Part of their situation is due to our past practices in attempting to exterminate them from what were their lands in the first place; this includes forcing them onto reservation lands that were either far from their native lands or into portions of them that are distant from infrastructure that could assist them in bettering their situation. Therefore, it should fall in part onto us to help them change their circumstances for the better.
As with all of my posts to this blog, I know I do not have the all the answers to the problem. However, I do want to give some food for thought that will hopefully bring about a change for the better.