Saturday, November 6, 2010

Conservative Misconceptions

There seems to be a lot of misconceptions over the differences between Conservative and Republican. They are not the same thing.  Republicans can be Conservative or not.  Democrats can be Conservative or not.  Conservatives can be pro choice or not. Conservatives can be for gun control, or not.  Conservatives can be for or against gay marriage.  These are social issues and much debate can and will be had about them. So then, what IS “Conservative?”

Conservative means wanting smaller less intrusive government:  keep more of the money YOU earn; maximum freedom over your personal behavior. 

Conservative means you take personal responsibility for your life so that you can pursue happiness as you see it. Just harm no one in your path. Therefore a person does not need to be legislated into wearing a motorcycle helmet or seatbelt. Conservative means that the government is removed from the role as parental figure  Conservatives believe that individuals are capable of assessing risks and making decisions based on what they know, all the while taking responsibility for the outcomes of those decisions. Government leaves you alone to be a free thinker and to freely live!

Conservative means you understand that private sector businesses runs things more efficiently because they are accountable to shareholders and agencies run by the government are wasteful and inefficient because they are accountable to no one. After all, they can just steal more of your earnings to pay up for their shortcomings. Therefore, charity (read "entitlements) should be privately run and based on true need. We can take care of the less fortunate without government intervention.  It means less government (agencies, regulatory bodies), tax-payer funded jobs because if everyone worked for the government then no one is left steal/suck money from to pay for itself.  This would devalue the dollar further because the entire economy would be fabricated

Continuing along that path, conservative means allowing the entrepreneurial spirit to thrive, making it easier to start and maintain a business.  It means keeping rules and regulations realistic and minimal. Free enterprise is a key to success. It means there is an understanding that private business enterprises are necessary to fund the government and grow the economy and prosperity of both individuals and the country. Businesses are free to operate at maximum efficiency to produce maximum return on investment dollars.  Profits turn into more jobs and more prosperity for all involved.  It is a self perpetuating win-win scenario.  The desire to run efficiently and turn a profit is the fuel that fires innovation.  Finding new creative, sometimes more highly technological ways to do things is the outcome.

Conservative means welcoming peoples from all over the world to come here and live and seek the American Dream.  It means maintaining and securing our borders. It means upholding standards and making persons accountable for the nature by which they got here.  So if someone is here illegally, they must go back to whatever country they came from and start over to do it the right way.  It is unfortunate that other countries are so undesirable that their citizenry feel the need to escape.  America is here, come to us legally. It is not immoral for us to ask immigrants to follow the rules. In fact it is morally necessary in order to protect our current citizens and the very fabric of the country.  When immigrants come, they must realize that they are leaving their former country behind and need to assimilate, learn the language accept our culture.  If this is not so, then America, as the last bastion of freedom on the globe will cease to exist and the there will be nowhere to run!

The Tea (taxed enough already) Party movement is a Conservative one, not a Republican one.  It is an organization that flushes out true Conservative candidates from all parties and holds them up into the light so that we can vote for them.  That’s it. 

America is NOT a democracy.  Democracies do not work. They fail miserably.  We are representative republic and it is the only system that exists or has ever existed which allows for true freedom.  I will fight to get the Republic back to where individuals can live freely once again. I would die for the sake of this great Republic, this grand experiment in freedom.  I will not take it for granted. [Disambiguation from original post. America is not a direct democracy where "majority rule" is in play.  We are a representative democracy where the power still lies with the people, but where there are safeguards in place to protect minorities from prospective tyrannies of the majority.]

For the record:
  • I am pro choice.  It is not the government’s, religion’s or anyone else’s business what a woman decides about whether or not to carry a pregnancy.  It is the most intimately personal decision a woman can make.  Let’s leave her alone with her thoughts, partner, conscience, God if she has one, and doctor to choose what is best for herself.

  • I am pro 2nd Amendment.  I believe in the right to keep and bear arms.  Gun control does not and will never work.  It keeps the guns in the hands of the criminals who don’t care about such laws and takes them away of citizens who abide by laws.  The bad guys will ALWAYS have guns.  Think about this: If there were 10 gun-related crimes in each state on any given day, that is 500 criminals breaking the law with a gun in hand.  On that same day, there were over 400,000,000 guns held by law abiding American citizens that did no harm. So what’s the problem?

  • I am for marriage equality for all. Please refer to my previous entry for a more comprehensive look at my stance on this matter.

  • I am against helmet and adult seatbelt laws and all similar laws that attempt to protect me from myself. I can assess my own risks, make my own decisions and deal with the consequences of same.

  • I am for profiling.  If we have information about what terrorists look like, we should use it.

  • I am against being treated like a criminal when I have committed no crime. Being searched to enter an amusement park or concert is an invasion of my privacy.  Being searched, having my body scanned and/or patted down is an invasion of my privacy and is humiliating and demoralizing. Being video taped at a store, parking lot or traffic stop is wrong and invasive.  I stand with Benjamin Franklin on this one, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania (1759)

  • I am an atheist.  There is absolutely no proof of the existence of any G-d.  When there is, then I will revisit this issue.  Until then, I will support to the death the right for all individuals to believe as they so choose. (I will also go to church when I wish because I DO believe in the goodness of people and in the power of love.  I still love the community that is my church.  I simply no longer hold the same beliefs.)

Being Conservative is neither immoral nor amoral. My political and social beliefs and ideals align most closely with the Libertarian Party. The more I learn about history and the historical, social and economic impact of more Liberal, Socialist and Communist policies, the more firmly I stand in my own convictions.  I am a proud, enlightened, knowledgeable, moral Conservative.  

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fire in the Hole!

The only thing in the news today was fire:  wildfires in Boulder, Colorado, explosive fires in San Bruno, CA and the proposed Koran-kindled fire of a wacko Floridian pastor. All three are tragic, but only one will be explored here. There are so many thoughts in my head over this issue that I preemptively ask forgiveness if this post is short on cohesion.

Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center, a 50 member nondenominational charismatic Christian church in Gainesville, Florida should never have made the news.  The man is obviously irrational and unintelligent.  (Read his church's rulebook for becoming an "Apostolic Fife Fold Minister." The concepts are nebulous, grammar and spelling are atrocious, and parts are absolutely unintelligible.)  What should have been nothing more than a blip on the local Gainesville radar screen has become the center of a book-burning furor that has stretched around the world.  Why? Because the left-wing media wanted to point to someone who they erroneously thought represented the overzealous Right, the TEA party movement,  or any other Obama decenter they wish to disavow. If it was not completely orchestrated by the media, then AP and Reuters would have never picked it up.  It doesn't makes sense that they did.  They took an inconsequential nut-job and made him into a behemoth.  Or, as the Russian ladies at my doctor's office say, "They make elephants from flies."

The media is responsible for this getting blown out of proportion and for making it known worldwide. They are therefore responsible for the outcries from the middle east. They are responsible for the flag burnings, the "Death to America" signs and chants.  Shame on them!  Their little plan didn't turn out so well. It rather bit them in the ass.  However, the sickest twist in the whole media blitz is that now that they have stoked the publicity fire so much that members of Congress and  the Cabinet, General Patreas and even Obama himself have publicly commented, they say that if the book burning takes place, they will not show it.  Suddenly they want to take the high road?  Please! It wasn't news in the first place!

Islam believes that the Koran is sacred.  I get that.  The ORIGINAL writings of Mohammad should absolutely be sacred to them.  However, they project the equivalent holiness to every copy.  Really?  That is just as wacko as Mr. Jones, but just from a different direction.  Bestowing holy, mystical, magical powers onto paper and ink is silly.  Where is the sanity?  Can we be realistic here?  That's the problem.  For radical Islam, realism is nonexistent.  (Do not allow this paragraph lead you to believe that I am a hater of Muslims.  I work for a predominantly Muslim company and I like, respect and enjoy my coworkers. I learn from them and very much respect their religious discipline.)

Now, about the book burning itself.  
First: Book burning is the singular most paradoxical action of liberty one can take in these United States. At once it is the symbol of the squelching of freedom and the ultimate expression of  that same freedom. The practice (Brief History of Book Burning} is an ancient one.  The priests at the Council of Nicea burned whatever documentation they had that did not "make the cut" into what we know now as the Bible, thereby stomping out free religious thought, debate and ultimately practice.  The Nazi's burned books of Jewish origin, those that were anti-Nazi and those they deemed degenerate. They wanted to keep such books away from the masses which they thought were better off only with spoon-fed propaganda.  Even Harry Potter books were ceremoniously burned by those narrow-minded fundamentalists who thought that they were somehow demonic. So it's nothing new.

Second: There is something viscerally upsetting to me about the idea of burning books.  It is unequivocally wrong. Books - good, bad, important, ridiculous - are to be cherished and kept as an historical record.  They are the legacy of the author and also of the time period.  What we write today becomes the anthropological, sociological, cultural and historical lessons of future generations.  Leave the books be!

Third: Logically speaking, books are paper and ink. There are many copies of most books out there, so burning a handful will not matter. Besides, they make good kindling (tongue in cheek, people!) and if I were stranded and cold I would burn a library to survive.  Wouldn't you?

Why does the media try to scare us with images of burning flags and crucifixes?  They seem so worried that the radicals will be upset or offended. Hello?  They are already upset!  We are dirty Kafirs, infidels to them and must be eradicated. Remember 9/11?  Remember the first attempt on the World Trade Center in 1993?  They didn't need a minor Koran burning to be able to recruit terrorists; recruits were available all along. 

Why is it OK for Muslims to burn the Bible, our flag and effigies of our leaders in protest but it is not OK for us to burn the Koran in protest?  This is a double standard!

Why is it OK to display a crucifix in urine or paint the Virgin Mary out of elephant dung and call it art but not to draw cartoons or caricatures of Mohammad?  This too, is a double standard. (For the record, I'm cool with all of it.)

And why does the left cry foul about protests of offensive art to defend it as free speech, but not stand up equally for the right to burn a Koran in protest?  

Free speech must be upheld absolutely.  Give me liberty or give me death!

Final thoughts:
It is tragic that the radicals of Islam get more press than the peaceful, kind Muslims.  Most pay little attention to the aberrant calls to violence in the Koran. We should be seeing more of that in the media to balance what we see of the radicals.

I believe that Americans think differently from the rest of the world because of our freedoms.  We see everything through the eyes of liberty.  In fact we have no real point of reference for looking at the world any other way.  All you need do is talk to an immigrant from the communist block who still looks over their shoulder before they share an opinion.  They see the world differently and have a level of fear that Americans will hopefully never know.  Middle eastern Muslims see the world differently too.  They see it from a place where religious and state law are one in the same.  How can we possibly have empathy for each other when we cannot put ourselves in the other's shoes to gain the perspective needed?  If only there was a simple way for us to see how they see and vice versa. It is only then that the emotional charge of our differences will dissipate. Then, perhaps an intellectual discussion could begin so we could truly  

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Movie Review: Eat Pray Love

It has been awhile since I have been to the movies and much longer since I wanted to see a Julia Roberts movie, so my anticipation for Eat Pray Love was pretty high.  Although I knew little about it, for some reason, from just the title there was a certain relatability. After all, what woman doesn't love to eat?  We all pray in some form or another, whether to a God, intentionally projecting out to the universe or just uttering exasperating hopes to nothing. And of course, we all love.

The premise of the movie has Roberts' character Liz reach that point in her life where she finds herself unsettled by the routines she has fostered.  She is out of touch with her husband, her family and who and what she thought she would be as a mid to late thirty-something: An early onset mid-life crisis.  As what seems to be a successful writer she has the luxury of taking off for a year to find herself.  So she spends four months in Italy (Eat), four months at an Ashram in India (Pray) and four months in Bali (Love). In each phase, and even before her journey, there are beautiful men in her life who teach her something. What happens to her in each of those places as she focuses on the respective activities is what can happen to any of life's sojourners as we go about examining our lives and how we live them; where we put our energy, and what is truly important. In that regard the story is universal.

This is most definitely a chick flick. The scenery is gorgeous. As an out-of-sorts mid-lifer myself, I found the character and storyline completely relatable. I do wish it went further into her internal life during her journey.  You got glimpses through Julia's facial expressions, but it left me wanting. Julia was beautiful and played the on-the-verge-of-tears almost depressed, but fighting to not sink emotions perfectly.  And where.... WHERE have they been hiding Javier Bardem?  What a deliciously charismatic man.  I wouldn't mind meeting him on Bali myself!

However it is the monologue at the end that ties everything together in a neat little package and gives the viewer (or reader of the book) an idea as to how the process works. 
“…I’ve come to believe that there exists in the universe something I call “ThePhysics of The Quest” – a force of nature governed by laws as real as the laws gravity or momentum. And the ruleof Quest Physics maybe goes like this: “If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments) and set out on a truth-seeking journey (either externally orinternally), and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared – most of all – to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself….then truth will not be withheld from you.” Or so I’ve come to believe.”  

- Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love.

Overall it gets 3 / 5 stars from this occasional reviewer. 

Links: Eat Pray Love on IMDB
            Eat Pray Love on Rotten Tomatoes

Monday, September 6, 2010

Restoring Honor Rally 8.28.10: Part 2, Reflections

It has been a week since the rally in Washington DC, enough time to reflect on the experience, the speeches and the message. The overall theme, as promised, was lifting up the value of honor. Why?  Because as we look around in these United States today, honor seems to have been lost.  From our presidents, accused of everything from corruption to lechery, to citizens who drive cars with bumper stickers touting that their kid kicked your honor student's ass and everything in between, we have as a nation seem to have chosen guttural behaviors over courtesy, mutual respect and rewarding merit.  Standards have gone out the window.  Everyone gets a trophy.  Effort and achievement are no longer held up as qualities to which to cling and aspire.  Honor, like integrity is about doing the right thing, even when nobody is watching.  It comes from within and is not always the easiest path to follow. But it is with such qualities that our country was founded and with which it shall be saved.

The rally started with a slide/video presentation with an inspiring narrative by Glenn Beck. We then all stood to say the Pledge of Allegiance.  I chose to say it as it was originally written rather than with the addition of  "under God" that occurred during the McCarthy era. It actually flows better and makes sense in its original form: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."  I don't think that anyone around me necessarily noticed my omission. Appropriately, after the Pledge, we sang the National Anthem.  Hearing thousands of voices young and old, on key and off, raised and reverberating in and around the trees was pretty spectacular.  I stopped singing a few times so I could listen and my heart was filled with overwhelming patriotic pride. It was the first of several times during the three hours of rally that my emotions ran high and tears came to my eyes.  After that, Glenn came out to make a few opening remarks, setting expectations and ultimately introducing the speakers.

Since the rally was also a fundraiser for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (, the first couple of speakers spoke of the organization which ensures that the children left behind when a Special Forces soldier dies in battle, get a college education. One of the leaders of the fund spoke as did a mother of one of the recipients. 

Sarah Palin spoke next as a mother of a soldier. (Watch the video of her speech here: Sarah Palin "Restoring Honor" 08/28/10) Bringing forth living examples of people who live honorably and lifting them up as true heroes was a most touching part of the rally.  Stories of soldiers who get the job done even when they are severely injured, or go above and beyond to make sure their fellow soldiers are rescued and safe always work to pull at my heartstrings. When each of the three soldiers whose stories we heard were introduced, there was thunderous applause to greet them which was palpable.  As Ms. Palin's speech was winding down, and she was talking about the qualities that these men were made of, that our founders were made of, she reminded all of us present, "You have the same steel spine and the moral courage of Washington and Lincoln and Martin Luther King. It is in you. It will sustain you as it sustained them." 

Next, Glenn came out and talked about the original Purple Heart which was commissioned by George Washington to reward soldiers for merit above and beyond the call of duty.  Back then, it had nothing to do with being wounded and everything to do with achievement.  Then, three awards were bestowed: one each for Faith, Hope and Charity. Recipients were chosen by Glenn as best fit representations of each value.  Each recipient's story was told by someone who knew them well and how they lived their lives, and each are shining examples of how we can live and make a difference in the world. 

After the Faith, Hope and Charity awards came Alveda King, niece of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I do not like this woman. I found it misplaced that she insists on being introduced as Dr. Alveda King when her doctorate is an honorary one.  To me this is disgraceful, and diminishes the value of title as well as the effort, struggle, and hard work of those who actually EARN a PhD.  During her time on stage she spoke some and then introduced singers who then performed inspirational or patriotically themed songs.  When the last song was finished, Ms. King gave her speech, which was way too evangelical for my tastes.  Hers was also the only one to get political, the only one to play the race card. I did not need to hear her pro-life views. I disagree with her on that. The choice to keep or end a pregancy is between a woman and a man, her doctor, her God if she has one, and her conscience.  It is something that should never be politicized.  I also vehemently disagree about her desire to have prayer in public [sic] schools. In order to truly maintain freedom of religion, we must be absolute in the interpretation of separation of church and state.  But the most unconscionable phrase of the entire day was "I have a dream that WHITE privilege will become HUMAN privilege..."  This was out of line and far from the spirit of the day and also because as it was said usurping the use of her uncle's "I have a dream..." message.  This was the lowest point of the rally, at least for this observer.  You can hear it here: Alveda King at Restoring Honor

Finally, it was time for Glenn's speech. (Watch it here: Glenn Beck Keynote Speech, Restoring Honor Rally 08/28/10) It was filled with imagery and inspiration.  He spoke about the monuments and memorials around him and how we were surrounded by giants.  He spoke of the reflecting pool and how it was a reminder for us to reflect the values of courage, sacrifice, duty and honor of those men, the very giants who were there immortalized in stone. He pointed out that they were ordinary men who did the hard thing and that we are made of the same stuff... that one person CAN change the world.  But the thing that got to me more than any other happened closer to the end during Glenn Beck's speech when he talked about his sureness that in the crowd there was an 8 year-old boy or girl who would become the next George Washington and when he recited a speech which means as much now as it did when it  was delivered on November 19, 1863 by then President Abraham Lincoln on a battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania:  
"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
As the crowd dispersed, Jo Dee Messina took the stage for 20 minutes or so of patriotic songs, including America the Beautiful, one of my favorite national hymns. Many of us sang along as we made our way back towards the train station and our buses. There is something special that happens when people join together in meaningful song.  When it happens, music becomes like connective tissue bringing all those within its reach together with a single common thread of song.  It fills the heart, lightens the soul and with it comes hope.

I left the rally very honored that I was able to experience it.  What I heard from the stage cemented in me the notion that politically I truly am a Libertarian, and most definitely NOT a Republican.  What I saw and overheard in the crowd somehow strengthened my sense of atheism.  That second one was odd for me, considering the God-centered message I knew about going in.  Perhaps part of me was hoping that I would have some sort of religious experience to restore my once-held belief.  Though I walked out without regaining belief in a divine creator, the event did restore faith within me; not in an unprovable unseen force, but in people and what may be possible when the right kind of leader appears. I am happy with that. 

Note: To see my pictures from the day go HERE

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Restoring Honor Rally 8.28.10: Part 1, The Journey

From the moment I first learned about the Restoring Honor Rally organized by Glenn Beck for August 28th, I wanted to attend.  Over time, the want turned into a visceral need to be there.  Was it just that I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself?  Something that mattered?  Honestly,  I have no idea. I knew it was going to be about honoring heroes.  I knew it was going to be about challenging all of us to be more honorable in our own lives.  Also, it was going to be heavily about God.  As an atheist, one would think that I should avoid it then.  But no, I was compelled regardless. My gut was nagging me to go and for once, I didn't fight, but just went with it. It was after all, an adventure!

The logistics to make it happen on my own seemed insurmountable. I put out an open request for a road trip partner on Facebook hoping that someone may be up for an adventure. Ultimately I had a conversation with one acquaintance who expressed some possible interest, but ultimately there were no takers. As time passed and the date of the event loomed ever closer, I became resigned to not going.  It just didn't seem possible. 

Then, two weeks before the rally, Glenn posted a Restoring Honor update on Facebook with a link to a map of places that still had room on their buses.  Much to my surprise there was a bus only half an hour away from my home. Immediately, I sent an email to the listed contact  As I waited for a reply I was most concerned that the trip would not work for e scheduling wise. I needed to find a way to depart on Friday and return on Sunday. But who would plan that kind of a whirlwind excursion?  In a few short minutes I had learned that the details of the trip were exactly as I needed them to be, but she had already filled three buses and I could only be put on a waiting list for a fourth bus if I provided my contact information. However, she wouldn't book the bus until she had 55 confirmed attendees.  Days seemed to drag as I awaited word and then finally I received an email that I was on my way to Washington DC!  You would have thought I had won the lottery rather than a seat on a bus.

My excitement at being able to really be on the Mall at Washington DC grew exponentially. I started telling everyone who would listen all about the rally and that I was going to be there.  My conservative friends were excited for me and my liberal friends were at least cordial. A lot of people just didn't know it was happening and heard about it for the first time from me. Unsurprisingly, the event was not being covered by mainstream liberal media outlets. I was happy to be the informant.

It was a bit odd, but not uncomfortable getting on an excursion bus with complete strangers.  But, I struck up conversations here and there.  Most of my bus-mates were senior citizens but there were a few younger people and even a few children in the group. Everyone seemed to pretty much keep to the folks they knew, however conversations about politics did arise and it was nice to hear agreement rather than debate for a change.  The ride itself was long and uncomfortable and for the most part, there were only sporadic complaints. I was fortunate because one person who was supposed to be on our bus made a mistake and wound up on a different one, so I had two seats for the 19 hour ride which included three other pick-up stops in various suburbs prior to really being on our way. 

I spent my time reading, which is challenging while riding on a bus. What with all the vibrations, extraneous conversations and overhead music or movie, concentration took effort. I had brought A Patriot's History of the United States with me. It is a 900 page book of which I got through the first 60 pages or so in small increments. Concentration became easier once I remembered that I had brought earplugs for when I was ready to sleep. They worked great!  And when it was time to sleep, all I needed to do was put down the book and don my nightshade.  

Other than the cramped quarters, the only other thing that bothered me about the trip was that each time we stopped, several people blatantly ignored the time constraints that were communicated before we disembarked. It seemed selfish and inconsiderate that adults would behave this way. Call me crazy, but it also seemed a little hypocritical since we were heading to a rally lauding the virtue of honor.  Perhaps my expectations are too high. 

At around 6AM EDT, we arrived at RFK stadium in Washington DC. We were among some of the first buses there. Four other ladies joined me as we walked to the Metrorail subway stop just a block away. Since they labeled me the leader, I had to tuck in the fact that the subway thing was the scariest part for me.  The rushing and closing doors has been anxiety producing since my first subway experience in NYC when I was a little girl. My concern was unwarranted because, though the crowd was thick and packing in like sardines, everyone was calm, polite and helpful to each other.  My ladies Rose Mary, Charmaine, Pat, Arlene and I were lucky enough to get on the very first train of the morning.  We were all on the same car of the train and it was easy to regroup when we got off at the Smithsonian stop a few minutes later. 

When we came up out of the darkness of the underground rail station, it was brightly overcast. The morning sun had not yet burned off the haze of the earth's slumber.  It took only a few seconds to scan the sky and find the world's largest phallic symbol, fondly known as the Washington Monument and begin walking towards it.  As we moved down Independence Avenue between large neo-Roman buildings marked, Department of Agriculture, we could feel the ever growing buzz of energy from the throngs. After just a few blocks, we were beyond the government buildings and approaching the famous obelisk in earnest.   Walking under the banner of welcome just east of the monument's mound marked my sense of arrival... of having made it. We moved on, walking around and over the mound and then we could see it.  Hundreds... thousands of people of all ages, shapes, sizes, colors, and socioeconomic backgrounds with backpacks, collapsible lawn chairs, and flags converging from North, East, South and West onto the grounds around the reflecting pool between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial.  The crowd became increasingly dense as we made our way closer to Lincoln.  People were happy, calm and talkative.  Though strangers, we were also friends. This was community as it should be. This was unity; real, loving and tangible. 

... to be continued.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Location! Location! Location!

Isn't that the mantra when it is time to look for a home or place of business?  It's all about location.  It doesn't matter if you are single, married, a family or the Golden Girls.  You are looking for the right place to be who you are.  Right?  It is the same with businesses as well.  Where you put your business can be a make-it-or-break-it decision, especially if you rely on public traffic seeing and entering your establishment.  So what about churches or places of worship?  Is it important where they are located?  Absolutely.  

Several years ago, the church where I belong was bursting at the seams.  The original site was land bound within a neighborhood and there was no way to expand there.  The search began and many large parcels were considered based on price, feasibility and of course, location.  We wanted to be on a major road, unlike the original site.  We wanted to remain close to the location where we started so that we could best continue to serve those who were members and friends of the congregation. Sometime during the search process a parcel of land was donated to the church.  It wasn't clear if building there was a possibility.  The location was fair. It was in the same zip-code, but a differently named section of town.  It was also "on the wrong side of the tracks" in a more rundown area that had some criminal incidents most likely due to the biker and other bars within feet of what could very well become the new church home.  When it became time to truly consider building there, members of the building task force went door to door to both community residents and the owners of business establishments, including the seedy bars, one of which shared our property line.  Thank goodness the community did not have strong objections to our building a church there.  If they had, we would have sold the parcel that was donated to us and continued the search for a new location.  Why?  Because if the church cannot respect the wishes of the community, what kind of example would that set to its members and society as a whole?

So what is up with the Cordoba Initiative's Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf wanting to build an Islamic community center and mosque within feet of Ground Zero?  How is this idea even remotely respectful to the community?  It is fact and not speculation that a group of radical Islamics  carried out the terror of September 11, 2001.  That is not very long ago. The wound still festers and mourning continues.  Americans are savvy enough to know that wackos exist in all groups and not to prejudge an entire group by the few.  That is the larger message of the civil rights movement.  We get that. We, who oppose this locale are asking for a little deference to a national tragedy.  Not even half a generation has passed.  

There are concerns too about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and possible ties to radical Islamics.  There are questions regarding the sources of funding for this 100 million dollar edifice. Even the name of his organization, the Cordoba Initiative has multiple layers of meaning which can be interpreted as either benign or antagonistically. One blogger (see the Ridgewood Blog link below) insists that building the mosque at Ground Zero is a symbolic way for Rauf, his followers and those who fund him to "thumb their noses at the infidel," that it is a statement of their superiority, and that it is an act of "fitma" or mischief.  Fitmas are forbidden by Allah.

Building a mosque at 51 Park Place, less than 600 feet from where the World Trade Center once stood, and a place that was damaged by airplane fuselage on 9/11 is the moral equivalent of:
  • Building a neo-Nazi meeting hall outside the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau or Dachau
  • Turning John Wayne Gacy's former home (or any murderous pedophile's place of crime) into a NAMBLA meeting place
  • Putting a museum touting nuclear weapons or displaying a replica of the Enola Gay  at Hiroshima or Nagasaki
  • Erecting a Kool-Aid factory at Jonestown
Would those be OK?  I think not.  They are counter to all sensibilities. 

For the record, nobody I know of or have spoken to regarding this issue are trying to usurp religious freedom here.  Furthermore, no one is arguing the legality of the location on which they propose to build.  What is being questioned here is the wisdom of the decision, the lack of respect that the decision shows and a complete lack of community sensitivity which happens to be mandated by  Islam.  Questioning and voicing concerns is neither intolerant nor racist. In fact, I have heard no Islamophobic language or lack of tolerance for Islam to be practiced in NYC.  I have read different sources siting numbers upwards of 30 mosques already present on Manhattan and over 100 in all of NYC.  So tolerance is not the issue either.  What is the issue?  Location! Location! Location! Practice your religion!  Build a mosque!  Seek to build tolerance and find those bridges of common ground on which to strengthen communal ties that go beyond religious differences.  All of that is good and is encouraged. What is being asked is that you move the location another 8 - 10 blocks north.  It is really not too much to ask. Is it?

Helpful Links:
Wikipedia (well referenced) entry on the Cordoba Initiative Mosque at Ground Zero
Blog written by Muslim presenting reasons for Mosque
Cordoba Initiative's 2008 Anti- Free Speech conference

Update 08/23/10:
Over the weekend, the debate on this issue has heated up even more and so have my research efforts.  I have now found an interview with Imam Rauf that he did with 60 Minutes where he blames the United States as an accessory to the crime of the attacks of September 11, 2001 and states that Osama Bin Laden is "made in America." (Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf on 60 Minutes) This is unconscionable.  As in our personal lives, we are responsible for our own actions and others are responsible for theirs. America has made some poor choices and mistakes in its history. Name a nation that has not.  Even though our foreign policies attempt to promote liberty across the globe, we have fallen short.  We are not perfect by any stretch and I do not deny that.

Here are two links providing a comprehensive look at the history of the controversy:
Hannity Overview of the Ground Zero Mosque Controversy
Hannity on Imam Rauf

In the second of these two links, Rauf insists he is a bridge builder.  If that is the case, then the very second the outcry began he should have apologized, admitted bad judgement and chosen a site that was a more appropriate distance from Ground Zero, yet still considered lower Manhattan.  Refusing to back down and instead deny or ignore the will of the community in which he is supposedly building bridges is completely contrary.  

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I Have a Proposition for You

Unless you have been living under a rock, you are aware that on August 4th, US District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker overturned California's Proposition 8, paving the way for gays to marry.  Proposition 8 stated, in its entirety: "Section I. Title  This measure shall be known and may be cited as the "California Marriage Protection Act."      Section 2. Article I. Section 7.5 is added to the California Constitution. to read:     Sec. 7.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."   Prior to Prop 8, California sanctioned gay marriages and any such marriages that occurred prior to its passing on November 4, 2008 remained valid.

There was much debate leading up to the vote. Civic  and religious organizations took stands on both sides.  (For an overview, please refer to:  The final vote was 7,001,084 (52.24%) for the measure and 6,401,482 (47.76%) against.  Since the overturn, debate has resumed and there are many who call the decision an act of ignoring over 7 million California voters.   Conservative radio talk show host, Michael Medved has engaged his listeners in such debate.  Medved stated that it is not discriminatory for the state to define marriage as between one man and one woman because it has been established that laws can discriminate along gender lines; that women can marry any man they want and men can marry any woman.  Somehow he missing the point of marriage.  How about changing the wording just a little: A man or woman can marry any adult with whom they are in love and share a deep commitment.   Doesn't that grasp the spirit of marriage that people are so trying to protect?  Would you speak to that, Mr. Medved?  How does that tarnish the sanctity of marriage?

As a compromise, it is said that gay couples can create contracts that give them the same legal rights that marriage affords or that they can have civil unions.  That's true.  So can straight couples, but they don't because it is simply not the same as marriage.  Is it?

Here are some questions to ask yourself about why people marry before you make up your mind on this issue:
  • Is your motivation for marriage based on a tax break?
  • Did you marry so that if your loved one was ill, you could be included in their information and decisions?
  • Did you marry so that if you survive your spouse you will have the rights to all of their worldly possessions should they die?
  • Did you or would you marry because you were deeply in love?
  • Is your motive for marriage to stand up and announce to the world and your God that what you have is sacred to you?
  • Did you marry out of a profound belief that your love was forever and that no other love would compare?
  • Did you marry to mark the deepest commitment of your life in a ritualized way that everyone would recognize?
The first set of questions, if agreed to, are reason to pursue a civil union.  For me, those so-called benefits are the last thing on my mind when considering marriage. What about the second set of questions?  Those are what marriage is about.  Every adult couple, gay or straight, deserves the right to celebrate their love and set it apart in the way that only marriage can accomplish.

I do not understand the selfishness of those who want to keep marriage from loving gay couples.  Heterosexuals do not have a corner on the markets of love and commitment.  In fact, many gay couples have healthier and more intimate relationships than a lot of straight couples.  So what's the problem?  What are you afraid of really?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Satan and the Pope

On June 1, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI ended the Roman Catholic Church's "Year for the Priest" with an historic mass in St. Peter's Square, Rome.  During his homily, he asked for God's forgiveness for the seemly endless revelation of sexual abuse perpetuated by a multitude of priests on young male parishioners.  (I wonder how long it has been going on. We only know of what has been reported in our time.)  He asked forgiveness for the individual priests and for the church at large.  However he stopped short of accepting responsibility by either the church, it's repressive dogma or the actual perpetrating priests. Instead he cited "the enemy" Satan as the culpable party in this horrendously common problem which came to light a decade ago here in the United States and much more recently throughout Europe.   

(Satan!  Really?  I will NEVER understand how churches of so many denominations subscribe to the dogma of a character barely mentioned in the Bible and elevate him to the level of the Almighty God in which they purport to believe.  In fact, most of what people cite about Satan and Hell is from LITERATURE.  Read Dante's Inferno.  How did the church wind up using  a book of fiction to inform canon?)

It would take a book of writing to attack the dogma, so that won't be done here. Instead let's look at a little bit of history and then propose a theory of causation for the pervasive issue (which must be dealt with properly by the Church as well as the countries in which the offending parishes reside). 

Celibacy was not always required for priests.  One of the events which caused the oppressive and unrealistic rule is based on the fact that priests were begetting children with parish women while their husbands were off fighting the crusades. Obviously this was a problem that needed to be dealt with but to deny the nature of a man's humanness with an all-or-nothing rule based on a handful of obscure scriptural citations and the unsubstantiated belief that Jesus led a chaste life, was not the best answer. (There is evidence in the apocryphal books of the Nag Hammadi to the contrary.)  And since the final version of the Bible we know of today was determined through political debate at the Council of Nicea also lends to the notion that corruption may have played a role in canon as in all activities of the body politic.  The Bible is first and foremost a political book aimed at the goal of crowd control. There had to be a better answer.  

The theory of causation about which I have thought for many years is this:  The Church's reactionary and phobic view of homosexuality created the problem and is thereby culpable.  It is my belief that homosexuality is genetic, hardwired in to a person's make-up. I cannot imagine how painful and conflicted it would be for a young man in the throes of puberty, finding himself naturally attracted to other young men and living in an oppressive environment indoctrinating him that what he is experiencing is not only sinful but the work of Satan or demonic possession.  The fear and self-hatred that would ensue for these young men in devout households must have been unbearable.  Being emotionally adolescent and unable to discuss their feelings with anyone,  what could he do?  He could shut down and forcibly repress his sexuality and attempt to purge himself of his self-perceived sinfulness and seek refuge in the protection of the priesthood or monastic life. For some this repression might last a lifetime, but for others their sexuality may percolate back up into their consciousness.  It is my contention, that when repressed feelings emerge, they do so at the same emotional state at which they were repressed.  Therefore, these now older adult men, who are responsible to spend time with young men as youth leaders and altar boys find themselves attracted to them.  Why?  Because sexually and emotionally they are dealing with the issue as pubescent boys.  Some of these men then act on their newly surfaced sexuality. They act because the sexual drive is one of the strongest human drives and they feel compelled to the point that they cannot deny it, regardless of the knowledge that what they are doing is wrong. This is not what they should do of course because in so doing, they rob young men who trust them of their innocence which is absolutely unconscionable.  Instead, they should seek counseling outside the Church and an eventual exit from the priesthood so that they can live fully realized lives and seek adult partners with whom to share their liberated selves. 

It is my ardent, though admittedly unlikely hope that the Church would wake up and begin to accept the fact that the very God in which it says it believes created homosexuals in his/her image just like s/he created heterosexuals in his/her image.  If that happens, then true healing for the harmed young men, the priests and society at large could truly begin. It seems that believers don't really understand the part of the book of Genesis where the creation occurs and God pronounces it all GOOD.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

It's a Mixed Bag

On April 27, 2010 Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed into state law a new immigration bill ( which has caused fevered debate, accusations of racism, and worse.  Well, I decided to learn the facts on my own rather than get them from the fact-contorting media and so I read the bill.  What I found was this:
  • The Arizona law simply mimics current federal regulations that were not being enforced
    • Currently, Federal law mandates that all aliens must register with INS and are required to carry their green card AT ALL TIMES and should be prepared to produce it on request at any time.
  • That police are not required to stop anyone, but may do so if they suspect that an illegal alien is present
  • That employers may not knowingly hire persons who are present in Arizona illegally and
    • Must verify that all employees are eligible to work in the United States of America
    • Must keep proof of eligibility on file for the length of a person's employment or three years whichever is longer
    • Employers will not receive state monies designed to help small business if they are in violation
    • Employers must, if found in violation, terminate all aliens under their employment within three days of verification that a violation exists
      • And may have their business and other licenses suspended for up to 10 days for a first offense or permanently for a second offense
  • That law enforcement officers may not entrap employers or coerce or encourage them to hire persons not legally eligible for employment
  • That NO citizen is required by law to turn in anyone they know to be an alien but that
    • A citizen shall not be impeded by another citizen or alien to report
    • A citizen may report an alien either by official form or anonymously
  • That citizens knowingly transporting, harboring or hiding aliens are violating the law and will be prosecuted accordingly
No part of the Arizona bill seems unreasonable to me.  It is a call for justice plain and simple.  Neither does the law have any racist underpinnings nor does it discourage immigration. In fact, aliens arrive by air from Europe and Asia as well as swimming across the Rio Grande.  The Arizona law (and federal law) look blindly as to where an alien originates, and applies the law equally!

The truth is that Arizona and other border states have been left holding the bag because the federal government has not kept its commitment to secure the borders.  What sickens me most about this fact is that securing the borders is the federal government's primary responsibility!  You know: Protect & defend!  Instead the feds are busy carrying out socialist policies (i.e. ObamaCare) which serve to irrevocably harm the country rather than doing the work of protecting the country.

I agree with the law and believe that all aliens should be repatriated back to their countries of origin until such time that they can pursue a legal course to gain entry. That's it.  You are welcome to escape your tyrannical home country and come to America.  Just do it legally. Is this too much to ask?   Immigration is a good thing! Without it, I would not be able to call America home.  My paternal grandfather was an immigrant.  He came legally through Ellis Island and gained citizenship.  The paternal side of my ancestry are what I would call "recent" immigrants.  From what I have been able to figure out about my maternal ancestry, it seems some of them have been here since the 1600's or 1700's.  Aren't most of us descendants of immigrants or colonists?

Now here is where the mixed bag comes in:  I have worked with illegal aliens in the restaurant industry and also day workers in my current job who I suspect are also alien.  Did I turn them in?  No.  Should I?  Perhaps.  Is that hypocritical?  Most likely. The thing is, I grew to know and love these people.  I do wish they would do whatever it takes to make themselves legal because they are, by and large, assets to our country. It is my desire that they do this on their own however, because frankly, I don't have the heart to force them. My humanity, in this instance, is stronger than my conviction for equal justice.  Admittedly, I am flawed.

Helpful links:

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Thinking about Dad

With all that is going on in America today, I find myself thinking more and more about the people who most influenced my sense of patriotism.  My father and his shipmates from when he was in the Navy.

Dad served in the Navy during WWII on the Destroyer U.S.S. Thorn DD-647 in the Pacific theater.  He saw action at Guadal Canal among other places.  Around 1970, when I was 9 or 10, my dad got a letter from Kaj "Swede" Swenson, an old shipmate. The letter was one of inquiry and information, asking if my dad had served on the Thorn and that there was a reunion in the works.  Swede had even located the Mighty T.  It was in mothballs in the Philadelphia Navy Yard, on the schedule to be scuttled for target practice.  But before she would sink, the former shipmates and their families would have free reign to explore and grab souvenirs. My father lit up.  He got so excited about the prospect of seeing his old friends;  the only ones that could understand that very influential part of his life. 

So every summer during my formative years a long weekend was spent in the company of those who sailed on the Thorn.  These were wonderful times.  The men were fun and funny; smart and loving, and I am better for having known them. The "Skipper" had stayed in service and was Vice Admiral of the Pacific fleet at the time.  The rest of the men were from every imaginable walk of life. Some successful, happy & thriving..  Some struggling with money, alcohol, blindness, depression or some other demons of life.

Between the banquets, the trips to visit the ship, there was sing-along time in the central gathering spot called the hospitality room. At any given hour though, deep conversations were occurring. These men talked about their love of country, the duty they felt and were glad to have met, no matter the hardships.  They talked politics and debated passionately.  There were also times when the men asked that spouses and children leave so that they could have time alone as comrades.  I can only imagine that it was at these times when they remembered together and spoke of those experiences that were uniquely theirs. 

My father certainly never talked about the war.  He would recount anecdotes about the men occasionally, but never spoke of battle. The most personal story he would tell was when, after the war when they were spending excess ammunition, an 18mm gun blew up in his face. He would talk about being airlifted off the ship and coming home.  And we saw the evidence of that fateful day in the contours of Dad's face where he carried shrapnel.

My father was a boy when he went into the Navy at the tender age of 17 to help fight WWII. The war would change him forever.  I had heard relatives say that he came back from the war a different man than the one who went in, but I didn't truly understand until after my father died.  In the week after we laid him to rest, the family spent more time together than usual.  Mom  brought out boxes of photos and memorabilia and we looked and remembered and told stories as a part of our communal grief.  One of the things that my mother, with whom I was staying, brought out was my father's war diary.  I had no idea that such a thing existed before. 

The awe that I felt in simply holding the two volumes was huge.  Then, one evening, I sat in my father's chair at the kitchen table and read aloud to my mother the contents of the diary.  We laughed and cried a little now and then as we took in Dad's personal views of his time on board the Thorn and got a small glimpse at that time of his life.  At some point I expressed to my mother that I felt like we were both being introduced to a man neither one of us had known.  Not even Mom knew my father before he went to war.  She knew the man I knew: the anxious, pessimistic, emotionally closed off, worrying, sometimes angry one.  What we learned together as we shared his words was that Dad used to be an open, outwardly loving, positive, emotionally healthy man.  He gave those qualities up for his country. One of the qualities that bridged the two men that were my father: his sense of humor.  I could imagine that his boisterous full-body laugh that I very much miss is perhaps the only common behavior that I experienced. His sense of honor and responsibility carried through as well.  He was the hardest working man I had ever known, always holding down two, and sometimes three jobs to make sure his family was well cared for and that we truly had everything we wanted.  To the end, Dad took care of Mom.  He did not rest until he was granted 100% disability from the V.A. so that he could leave my mom with guaranteed extra money and health benefits.

Toward the end of his life in the summer of 2007, my father and I had many a heated discussion about politics.  We agreed on some things and not on others.  One thing he would not back down on was his utter disdain that we were again at war.  Although he couldn't express how, I knew that he identified with all of the young men and women who had willingly put themselves in harm's way for their country... for his freedom... for my freedom.

Over the years, Dad and I talked about communism and how he despised it.  We would look at pictures of the breadlines in the Communist Block and he would warn that if our liberties were not protected, that could be us.  He worried about the fate of the Republic.  

Dad loved America.  He flew his flag proudly and according to the rules until he no longer had the strength to do so. But just because the one on the pole in the front yard no longer flew, Old Glory flew inside the house and on his car.  Now, his funeral flag sits in a triangular box in the den, where Dad died and had spent so much time while alive.  He often disagreed with those in power, but his patriotism never wavered.  I am proud to carry on with a strong sense of patriotism in my heart because of him.  He did not go to war and lose himself so that a short 70 years later, communists could corrupt and "fundamentally transform" America.

Don't worry, Dad.  I won't be silent.  Thank you for my lessons in patriotism. I'll never forget and I will always carry you in my heart.

Not a racist!
Not violent!
Just no longer SILENT!