Posted in Political

It’s On Us

I hear the word intolerance bandied about a lot in our public conversations of late, mostly in reference to the conservative segment of our society.  This, along with racism, has become the clarion cry on the left, being brought to bear whenever the views and actions of the present ruling class is called into question.  It seems that the more liberal segment of society has become quite comfortable with the veiled name-calling and demonization of the opposing view as the chosen weapon in their assault on the traditions and beliefs that have guided this country through more than two hundred years of our history as we rose from humble beginnings to become the guiding and stabilizing force in a world rife in selfish and cruel leaders.  How some of our citizens can embrace the very ideas that shook us on that fateful September day when a handful of Muslim extremists began in earnest that conquest of the western world.  A conquest that had, until then, been mostly confined to a small but volatile desert area in which a stew of turmoil and tribal strife has held sway for thousands of years, exacerbated by the occupation of lands by the nineteenth and early twentieth century European empire building of the fading superpowers such as England, France, and Spain.  Yes, the U.S. made some egregious errors as we tried to sort out the mess left by the empire-builders, but is Iran a better place under the present regime?  Is Syria?  Libya?  The choices were basically a rock and a hard spot.  Everyone seems to have gotten it wrong.  It is much easier to subjugate a people if you can redirect their anger to a perceived enemy, and we were a handy and large target.

                While it can be argued that these extremists do not represent the whole of Islam it must be said that in not condemning the violence and hatred being spewed in the name of Islam, the Muslim world must accept some of the responsibility for the continuing vitriol and terror that seems to spread like a virus on a computer; stealthily and under the cover of seemingly legitimate auspices.  We, as a whole, can fight this in a reactive manner only.  The solution must come from The Muslim community.  If Allah is the God of peace that his adherents claim, then it is an obligation for them to root out the evil that is disguising itself as righteous and hiding amongst them.  Actions speak louder than words.  If Muslims become defensive and turn a blind eye to this misuse of their faith it only serves to exacerbate the problem, further dividing our nation and the world.  Have we forgotten that while the leaders of the Arab and Islamic nations sent us their condolences after the 9/11 attacks we could see images of their citizens celebrating and encouraging the downfall of the “evil satan, America.  All Peoples are harmed when one group is unjustly attacked and innocent people are sacrificed.  Violence begets only violence.  It is important that we do not impute blame upon the victims while granting victim status to the murderers.  If we sink to the level in our collective conscience of justifying the murder of innocents, whatever the past provocations may be, then I sincerely fear for our country.  I have seen isolated calls by Muslims to their brothers in faith to reject the violence and speak out against the terror, but for the most part I see an attitude of “It’s not my problem.”  They rail against the perception that it is an Islam problem, but then turn the other way as evil men hijack their religion for evil.

I am a Christian, and we cannot think that we are blameless in the rancor and separation that threatens to tear us apart along artificial lines drawn in the sand by people with something to gain by the exploitation of the magnification our differences.  We too are guilty of turning a blind eye to those who would hijack our faith to promote decidedly un-Christian behavior.  A person can call themselves anything they want in this country.  That is a part of what makes us a nation of destination to so many.  It is up to the many varied communities that make up our country to police their own.  A Christian does not hate anyone.  Christ’s single display of anger was directed not toward those who believed or acted in a manner at odds with His teachings, but toward those who would hijack the true worship of God for their own personal gain.  All people, regardless of differences of race, religion, or national origin are children of the one God.  He loves us all equally, not only those who believe in Him or follow His laws. 

“But whosoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”  Matthew 18:6

These were Christ’s words, and as we are all children of God, this describes the love that God has for all his people.  That is the love that we are to emulate in dealing with each other.  What is not clear about treating others as you would have them treat you?  What is so hard?

The thing is, if we do not police ourselves, then someone else is going to come and take that task upon themselves.  And, as happened on the terrible day in September, the wrong people took it upon themselves to enforce their own, twisted interpretation of justice.  God calls us to hold each other accountable.  Failing that , we are at the mercy of charlatans and pretenders. 

If every group could take responsibility for themselves we could live with a lot less intrusion in our personal lives.  Accepting responsibility is always more effective than assigning blame.  If the immigrant community would take responsibility we could solve the illegal immigration problem and sensible reform would be a simple matter.  If the gay community ensured that it’s members would respect the thoughts and traditions of the people around them we could solve a lot of the hate and misinformation that clouds the debate.  Likewise the heterosexual community needs to join against the promotion of hatred and misinformation that also blocks a system in which we can respect all people as individuals worthy of respect and support.  If each race could see and address the problems in their own communities and deal with them in a caring way without empowering the behaviors that cause the problems in the first place.  If each faith could promote understanding and peaceful outreach rather than defending or ignoring uncharacteristic violence and rancor we could join to solve the real problems of the world, hunger, disease, and the evil men and women who would subjugate and corrupt our brothers and sisters throughout the world.  If we would quit tearing apart the institutions and traditions that brought us together to accomplish a purpose and instead build on and improve on those strong foundations we could bring our nation once again to the proud and admired status that we once  held as defenders of the weak and sanctuary for the oppressed. 

I recently wrote in this blog of our unwillingness to dig beyond the evidence that supports our own beliefs and customs.  I believe that this mind-set is at least partially responsible not only for the bitter political battles in this country and around the world but also for the serious divisions that I have discussed.  There is an old saying attributed to Native American wisdom which says  “Don’t criticize someone until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.”  Now, more than ever before, we need to embrace that wisdom brought to us by the first Americans.  Would that we had applied that to the people that gave it to us we would be living in a much richer and more natural culture than we live in now. 

Hopefully we can come to a place once again where some things are not to be tolerated because they are just plain wrong.  Then we could go back to loving each other as well as ourselves.  Not just the ones that we agree with, but everyone.

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Posted in Political

Make Sure It’s The Truth

I have occasionally written on the topic of the incivility in our public discourse.  It seems to me that the intolerance for other views and the demonization of those who disagree with one’s own view has escalated exponentially since the sixties when the heroes and mentors of so many of those now in positions of power were forming their own world views.  That said, the incivility has, in my view, virtually exploded within the past decade and a half. 

In my lifetime I have watched the evil of racism diminish as citizens of the United States push to eradicate the disease from every aspect of our lives, but in the past two years we have heard claims of racism escalate to epidemic proportions, fanned by the very people who heralded a new colorblind era in which you are judged only by your actions and accomplishments and not on your race or ethnicity.  Instead we have a society where to question the intentions or actions of anyone of color or their allies is now met with a blind charge of racism.  We must take care that baseless claims do not turn into self-fulfilling prophecies.  Even as the purveyors of these claims spread hate and distrust among  us they tell us that we cannot take a few examples of terror as an indictment of all Islam while they seize upon the worst elements of the Tea Party and of the Christians, people who claim affiliation but have no actual connection to or understanding of the groups that they would represent.  We have even seen examples of progressive ideologues infiltrating the Tea Party activities and spreading the kind of hateful messages that they rail against.  We should judge no group by the actions of a few individuals, but instead expose the charlatans for what they really are. 

 As I see it, it isn’t a question of the president’s color or national origins, it is about right and wrong.  No matter what your color, you were elected to do a job for all citizens, and if you selfishly ignore the will of the people you represent, all Americans, not just those who voted for you or donated to your campaign, you are doing us all a great disservice.  There is nothing racial about the opposition.  It is moral.  Do the right thing, and people will support you.  Do your own thing, and they can’t wait to wave goodbye. 

Even without the question of race, religion, and fairness, there are many intellectual chasms permeating our public lives and thus our public conversation: whether or not the stimulus is working, should we stay in Afghanistan or pull out immediately, the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of the military, gay marriage, bailouts, the amazing, ever-changing, increasingly aggravating Obama-care saga, and a party who possesses enough clout to push through all their expensive fantasies but still blame the neutered minority party for the dysfunctional dirty dealings that are systemic within both parties of late.  If there were one republican in the senate and two in the house they still  would be blamed for the inability of that body to enact even the simplest bit of prudent legislation without inundating it with enough unrelated peripheral pork-barrel detritus to derail any common sense that might be written into the legislation in the first place.  Democrats have held congress for the past four years, the last two with a supermajority that all but nullifies the effect of the opposition.  They have held the White House for nearly two years.  I still hear that it is either President Bush’s fault, or that nothing is getting done because of those bad ol” republicans.  Time to end the blame game and start enacting legislation that will benefit all American’s, not just party supporters.  Time to stop the partisan bickering and realize that both sides have valid and sensible goals.  If we cannot stay strong together, we cannot stay strong.

I believe that one of the largest contributors to our polarization is that unwillingness to dig beneath the surface in our research.  We read publications and listen to broadcasts skewed to our preconceived notions, preempting the open-minded exploration that leads to truth.  We surround ourselves with people and sources that agree with us and thus enforce not only the truths that we have to offer, but also the misinformation and misconceptions that serve to further polarize us and in the process warp the message to more of a battle cry that an intelligent discourse which seeks to unite.  We have become a nation of spoiled brats fighting over our toys, only in this case the “toys” that we selfishly hoard are the foundations of our democratic republic, our open and inquisitive minds. 

There was a time when the United States of America stood up to the bullies and despots of the world.  There was a time when the world could depend on our great country as an example of what they could be.  We stood as innovators and defenders of the those unable to defend themselves.  We stood tall and proud amongst the countries of the world.  Our whole country joined in the sacrifices of war because we were proud of those young men and women who were willing to go to war to not only defend our freedom but also to spread that precious freedom to  people subjugated by those who would take everything for themselves. 

Today, our young men and women are still volunteering to defend the things that our country once stood for.  How sad that they must see their sacrifice devalued and trivialized by the anti-American attitude that has permeated our society.  They fight because they love our country and because they still believe that our strength is in our defense of what is right and what is fair, but see their many victories hidden and their failures, though few, trumpeted over and over in an apparent attempt to reduce us to the level of our enemies. 

Have you ever found success by pulling yourself down to the level of the lowest common denominator?  I haven’t, but our administration seems to think that the way to get along in the world is to weaken ourselves to a point where the despots and tyrants of the world no longer fear us and thus will become our allies.  I suspect that when they no longer fear our might, we will be a step away from being them.  I also suspect that their animosity toward us is more based in petty envy rather than the righteous indignation that the more “progressive” thinkers among us see as the driving force behind the terror attacks and lack of cooperation.  It is beginning to look like the inmates are not only in charge of the asylum, but are now running the world.

An illustration of our unwillingness to dig past the superficial confirmation of our own presently held conceptions appeared recently in Portland, Oregon  recently.  A seven year old girl was selling lemonade at a neighborhood gathering and had to shut down and leave or face a $500 fine for operating without a $125 dollar permit.  Obviously a case of an overzealous public official misunderstanding the scope of the regulation.  The story made not only the local media but also gained some national exposure.  I soon read an article excoriating the intrusion of government into our daily lives.  In the article he drew upon this incident to prove his point of a large, unresponsive official presence intruding into every aspect of our lives. 

While I agree with his view of an out of control bureaucratic presence, I take issue with the research that went into the article.  He dug  just deep enough to confirm  his own preconcieved opinion.  Had he looked further he would have found that, far from being an example of our out-of-control government, he had a feel good story of common sense and compassion overcoming the blind, letter of the law mind-set.  The policy was corrected  by that official’s superiors and the little girl earned enough money at her lemonade stand (about $1800) to take her and her mother to Disneyland for a vacation, and lemonade stands will remain a welcome summer example of the industrious nature of our youth.  Hardly an example of run-away government.

Teach me, but please make certain that you have the whole story before  try to convince me.  Such shoddy journalistic integrity is simply rampant in our media.  The public picks up on these inaccuracies and soon they become a part of our public consciousness, further dividing us in unnatural and destructive ways.  Once something makes it to print, there will be a large segment of our society taking these lies and half-truths as fact.  

I believe that we will continue to become more divided as a country if we will not commit to due diligence to get at the truth, not just the truth as we see it.  Check both sides of an issue before you decide.  How painful can that be?  Certainly less painful than tearing our country apart over issues only partially understand.