Thursday, December 23, 2010

Messenger

It will soon be Christmas Day, and the months of hoopla surrounding the season, starting with the first sign of decorations in the stores in September, then Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and the ringing of the bells and stringing of lights, and the constant media bombardment telling you how your kids won't love you unless you buy them this, or that Christmas is "under attack," will finally end. Peace will reign... until New Year's Eve.

While Christmas is a Christian holiday, it has more to do with the season that it has to do with the birth of Jesus. He, Son of God, and Savior of Mankind, was born, lived, and died, and the Biblical accounts give us no firm dates as to when this all transpired. December 25th was picked arbitrarily, to co-opt the pagan solstice celebrations, and to unify the disparate celebrations of the time into a coherent message that promoted Christian value, to give the Roman Catholic church strength in the eyes of the world. So, from its very beginning, the day has been less about the man it celebrates, and more about the people who celebrate it. That the trend should continue to this very day, and widen and expand to turn an otherwise "holy" day into a glorified shopping spree, is a sign that the message got confused with the messenger.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

We Are Them, They Are Us

It does not matter, ultimately, what I say, or how correct I believe my beliefs to be. It does not matter what facts I have considered, what obfuscations I have overcome, what logic I have applied; though I can say I have done all those things, considered, weighed, rejected, and analyzed until my conclusions became clear to me, those conclusions are mine. Whatever clarity I believe I have brought to the world, it is subject to my predilections and the mental framework in which I operate. I can only hope, in outlining and explaining my point of view, that I can convince others of the correctness on my conclusions. As a scientist, I know that even though I subject myself and my hypotheses to rigorous standards, my conclusions may seem correct on the surface, but may ultimately be flawed. Such is the way of learning and growth of knowledge.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Don't Ever Don't Ask Don't Tell

The day has come, our will was done -- "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the execrable Clinton-era legislation that turned homosexual soldiers into closeted criminals is no more. Today, December 18th, 2010, a blow was struck for the equality of all Americans, in fact and not just in principle. A lame duck Congress proved it still had more fight left in it, and did the honorable thing, by voting for repeal.

While some time will be required yet for full implementation, at this moment, the bill's passage is a seminal statement for our time. For any American who believes in freedom and democracy, and is willing to lay down their life to defend it, there is no criterion that can prevent them now save physical or mental inability to perform the duties of a soldier in the American armed forces. There shall no longer be discrimination based on gender, race, religion, orientation; those days are over.

There is still work to be done to allow our LGBT brothers and sisters to take their full place in American society, but that time is fast approaching. The forces of intolerance have been dealt a serious blow, and now more shall rain down upon them, as the words of our Founding Fathers reach full realization. From this day forth, let freedom ring for each and every American -- allow all their inalienable rights.

Tis The Season

Winter has always been a season that casts stark relief on human life. In many places on the globe, deciduous trees have shed their leaves, leaving only the evergreens to maintain silent vigil in snow blanketed forests. Ice encrusts streams and lakes and even rivers, hiding the once warm and gentle waters under crystal armor. The rolling hills and valleys, once verdant, are now stark and white, and life, while still around, hides from the bitter cold. It is as if the Earth is taking a rest, catching its breath, preparing and plotting for the year to come.

It is no wonder that humankind, over the centuries, regarded Winter as a magical and holy time of year. For it marked the calm before the storm, the riot of growth and life and beauty that would come with melting snow and ice. Given the cold and bleak landscape, is it any wonder that people found reason to celebrate? Lighting fires, sharing food and company, giving thanks for another good year and praying for an even better year to come. Winter was, and is, the time of hope; celebration, cheer, and charity are its children.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

If I Were A Rich Man

If I were a rich man I would...

...become an unpaid teacher, to shape and mold future minds and help them become the best they can be.

...not allow any person in my town go to bed hungry.

...invest in companies with pro-social and pro-environment products/services.

...encourage people to become involved in local and state politics, to take back control from the machines and monied interests.

...start an organization dedicated to teaching girls that math, science, and engineering can be interesting and fun.

...contribute money directly to research organizations looking at means for curing cancer, AIDS, and autism, as well as other human maladies.

...provide funding to allow the continued exploration of the Solar System.

...give every African family a mosquito net.

...fund a legal service that would serve the interests of those who could not afford legal counsel but have need of it

...build several houses a month for needy families, mortgage-free, solar-paneled, and super-insulated.

...create jobs wherever and however I could.

...donate money to the United Nations to help fund its social programs.

...pay my taxes plus a little extra.

...not keep a penny more than I actually needed to.

If I were a rich man.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wages Of Sin

The negotiation that took place earlier this week, which President Obama attended in good faith, and agreed to in principle, a sign of the possible rebirth of bipartisanship, has turned out to be ruse, a ploy designed to force the issue of reinstating the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Good as their word, despite the President's assurances, with sand running through the hourglass, the Republicans will not relent, stifling and snuffing out any bill that is not the tax cut provision.

The Republicans have collected their 30 pieces of silver. The high priests command that none shall have their bread until the priests have collected their due, and have sent their faithful servants out to ensure it.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Imagine

He would have been seventy this year, no doubt still spry and feisty, still concerned with the ills of the world, doing what he could to change them. Sadly, today, December 8th, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of his death. I speak of none other than John Lennon, a pioneer in music and another proponent of social conscience, felled this day by an assassin's bullet.

There is not much I can say that has not already been said of him and about him. I can only say that his fire still glows within many of us, as we look around at a world still plagued by poverty, disease, cruelty, war, and injustice. He accepted that some would think him a radical, a hippie, a freak, a rabble-rouser, and he was fine with that, choosing to turn his energies to making the world aware of the things that should concern us all, and caring little what anyone thought. It was his vision and his determination, that showed many of us the way, teaching us that you did not have to be a rich and successful music maker to do your part for social change, you only had to care about something, anything, but most of all, you had to care about people.

It is always easier, after the fact, to criticize, critique, and condemn, and many still see the things he did as somehow self-serving, but no man, no person, can be considered perfect, and we all must live with our foibles. His foibles just happened to be on display for the world to see. If he did not always put things tactfully, if he rubbed us the wrong way, if we thought what he said occasionally bordered on the egotistical, at least he got us to listen, and perhaps hear something that would make us think. He never seemed to tire of putting issues before us, dragging them from the dark places where we would prefer they stayed hidden. Unorthodox, maybe, but his words and his music set a tone, which said, in essence, "Look, this thing isn't going to fix itself -- we need to do something about it."

We will never know how much more he would have accomplished, and we can feel only sorrow at the loss of his talent, his passion, and his love. Let us not remember him this day in sorrow; let us, instead, remember the beautiful gifts he left us, the legacy that remains even to this day, and the nourishment he gave our souls. Bless you, John Lennon, wherever you may be, and thank you.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Endangered Species

It has been endangered for a long time, a rare bird whose presence at once heralded the birth of a nation, but was hunted into near extinction. It has fled from its normal regions, to hide in dark nooks and crannies, trying to eke out a poor existence and somehow maintain itself until the day the environment changes. That bird is bipartisanship.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Help Honor Love And Foster Compassion

Again, I ask of you, gentle reader, to help do something, but this time, instead of trying to move a political mountain, I want you to be moved by love in order to help someone I know with a dilemma. For there is a woman who loves her cat more than anything, and no, it's not in the "crazy cat lady" way, but in the way that I wish we humans could learn to do to all other humans and the nature we inhabit. Her cat is sick, needs an operation she cannot afford, and is desperate to see him well again. This cat has helped her through trying times, and now she is trying to return the favor, that he might be there for her again. It is as pure an expression of love as you will find in this cynical age we live in.

Now, some of you may be thinking, "Aren't there better causes to put my money towards?" The answer depends on how you define "better." There are certainly many worthy causes in this world that demand our attention during the holidays: world hunger, AIDS, poverty, natural disaster. Given the economy and how pinched many a wallet or purse is, to ask for money is excruciatingly painful, because so many of us find ourselves short at the end of the day. Still, we try to do what we can: a dollar here, a quarter there, whatever we can spare. It is far more than some who are much better off will part with.

I ask you to give to this because it shows the ineffable quality of true love that is so sorely lacking in an age where we are only concerned with the foibles of the famous. Here is a woman, who wants nothing more than to help her long-time companion, an animal that has given her comfort and strength through some of the worst times imaginable, including no less than Hurricane Katrina. If this comes to pass and she gets her most fervent wish, it is a sign that all hope for humanity is not lost, and that compassion still reigns in many a beating heart.

I do not ask you to give all you have, nor take food from the mouths of children, or to short those worthy causes you would normally support. I only ask that you help someone I know, and kindle more of the true spirit of giving and love the world needs. Whatever you can spare, no matter how little, I would appreciate it. Below is the link to the page where donations can be made. And thank you.

Nicholas's surgery

UPDATE: As of today, 12/6/2010 @ 4 pm EST, the fund has raised $512 dollars. Thank you to all those who have donated, and to those who haven't, scrape up whatever you can, or pass this on to others who would care to help in a cause such as this.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

There's A Party Going On And On And On...

During the most recent election, you know the one that was a "mandate" from the people, the Republicans rolled out their "Pledge to America," which read suspiciously like every talking point they've used since 1994, and was short on actual details and long on partisan bluster. They promised to go to Washington, D.C. and turn things around, fighting for deficit reduction, smaller government, and the repeal of the Health Care Law, among other things. They were going to work for the people, because the people had spoken, and they didn't like the direction the country is going in. Strangely, they neglected to mention that it was a Republican administration that had put the country on this course in the first place, and that captain had rowed away, leaving the current one with a ship with a mighty gash in the side, taking on water. In the end, some Americans, spoke, and because of the apathy of other Americans, the Republicans got half a loaf and turned it into a feast... sort of.

You see, the party of fiscal conservatism, that stood on the rock and howled at stimulus spending, big bailouts, and health care reform, has been selling America a rotten bill of goods. You see, they are determined not to spend another penny of Federal money -- unless it happens to be going to their friends in Corporate America or those who feed off it for their riches. Rather than ensuring that everyone making two hundred fifty thousand dollars a year or less gets to keep their tax cut handed them by President Bush, they are insisting that their rich friends get their fair share, too. Of course, there's the several hundred billion dollar hole in the budget that will create, but hey, that's just a trivial annoyance.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

No Man's Land

To be a man in the modern age of humanity is to be subject to the same impulses, desires, and limitations as even our distant ancestors, save with one clear difference: we have the power to override the vagaries of our hormones and are encouraged to do so. Encouraged, but at the end of the day, sadly lacking in motivation or courage. It takes conviction to decide that the old patriarchal norms are no longer of substantive value, and that we must place our mantle of societal leadership upon the ground and allow all to have the opportunity to partake of it. We act as if it diminishes us somehow, instead of what it actually does, which is marking us as advanced and enlightened beings. To loose our grip on power that has been ours for so long is not a renunciation of all that we have accomplished, but only a broadening of the scope of possibilities that will make humanity stronger.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Who Will Stand With Me?

I return to you once more, Good Reader, and ask if you will do the courtesy of standing with me to a purpose: the end of the intolerable and inexcusable policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which denies our gay brothers and sisters their just due in defending a nation that they love, but does not seem to love them. The current session of Congress could be far from "lame," if it were to address the end of a piece of Clinton-era legislation that is a larger stain on his Presidency than that of a blue dress of some note.

While the court system grinds away at an inevitable overturn of DADT on the premise of its un-Constitutional nature, Congress can do away with it far more efficiently and effectively. It has been President Obama's fervent hope for a while now that Congress would act; Congress has responded by dithering and delaying, especially the Senate, where the inordinate power of Senator John McCain seems to hold sway over the process. What must happen now, is that pressure must be applied to where it will do the most good. It is not enough to enjoin those who would repeal it to do so, for that is preaching to the choir. Instead, we must raise our voices outside the windows of those who oppose repeal, and make them see that they do the nation a dishonor and disservice by continuing to back this shameful policy.

So, I ask you once again, friends and countrymen, to take pen in hand, or keyboard beneath finger tips, or grasp the nearest phone, and make your voice heard. Specifically, I want us to concentrate on the two greatest roadblocks to success: Senator John McCain, and his cohort Senator Lindsey Graham. These men could, with but a word, end the deadlock and allow DADT repeal legislation to pass in the Senate. They must, however, be shown that the majority of Americans want this integration of the military to take place.

Here are links to the contact form for each Senator:

Lindsey Graham, R-SC: http://lgraham.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Contact.EmailSenatorGraham

John McCain, R-AZ: http://mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Contact.ContactForm

Please, write them or call them or use whatever medium you find easiest to use, and let them know that America will no longer stand for a military that is not reflective of its people, and that we demand LGBT individuals be given the same courtesy of being allowed to defend their country as any other citizen of our glorious nation.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Debatable

What could possess a couple to decide that the decision to continue a pregnancy or not was best left in the hands of millions of people on the Internet? Whatever the reason, the decision reeks of moral turpitude; one would have to examine their competence to have and care for children in the first place, given this turn of events. It would seem however, when we would look past the first blush, that there is more to this than meets the eye. Pete Arnold – with or without the tacit consent of his wife Alisha – seems to be playing a trick on the world. His explanations are hollow, filled with bullet points that sound vaguely contrived, as if handed to them from somewhere else. The whole episode smacks of a desperate attempt to put the abortion debate back in the spotlight after a contentious election season.

Any political playing aside, what would possess anyone to do it, for any reason?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What Must Come Next

It would be very easy to see the current conditions in Washington, D.C. as symptomatic of a general combativeness between Americans of different political persuasions. If you walk down any street, however, you would generally be hard-pressed to look at any number of people and determine that they are in conflict. People walk together, commute together, work together, recreate together, and in almost all cases, whatever political leanings they have are their business and no one else's, and besides the occasional T-shirt or bumper sticker or yard sign, we do not know where any American we choose stands on the issues of the day. We have various levels in every dimension imaginable, and it is hard to pigeon-hole an individual person as “that.”

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What We Do Now

To the victors, the spoils, and it is the victorious who write the history in the short term. In the long term, from the perspective of clear hindsight and a dash of imagination, the true story only reveals itself in fragments. The issues of the last decade in America -- and their repercussions -- are still as fresh as newly fallen snow; until the thaw comes, the truth of what happened and why will always be just a few irregular objects poking up through the snow. Eventually the reality will be exposed, bare soil and sere landscape etched with the tracks of a society struggling to find its way.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Do Ask, Do Tell

It is not often this commentator ask his audience to do more than read his words and perhaps take some meaning from them for yourselves, but at this time and place, I am imploring as many of you as read this to take an action, stand up for something which is right and proper, and perhaps change the course of history.
I speak of the execrable law known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," a Bill Clinton-era travesty that should never have been passed, or have been hammered down after it was first enacted, but instead was allowed to flourish, thereby depraving brave men and women of the armed forces, who happened to be gay, of their right as American citizens to defend their nation.

The Congress, specifically the Senate, has spent the better part of a year stalling action on the repeal, even after affirmations from the President, Secretary of Defense Gates, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mullen. Sen. John McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has consistently used his power and influence to derail all attempts at a fair hearing for the repeal of this unfathomable desecration of law. So, I am asking you, the people of America, to help him see the light, and push forward legislation to end this unwarranted and unnecessary law. You can use the following link to reach him: http://mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Contact.ContactForm. I urge you to take action, write Senator McCain, and tell him that he needs to end his pointless opposition to the repeal of this un-Constitutional law.

Below, is what I wrote to him:


Senator McCain: 
With all due respect to your years of service to this country, first in the armed forces and now with the Federal government, I am appalled at your stance of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." When all signs point to a nation and a military ready to move forward, as they did with allowing blacks, then women, to enter military service, you stand there with the unmitigated gall to block American citizens from their Constitutionally appointed right to defend the liberty of their country. I don't pretend to understand your motivation, though I suspect politics and self-interest play more of a role than I thought they would for a man of your stature. 
While I am not an Arizonan, I am an American, and while you do not represent me directly, you do represent the government of my nation, and while I cannot vouch for the veracity of the citizens of Arizona, I can say that for me, the idea that a decorated war veteran and legislator such as yourself cannot see the implications of his position, is audacity incarnate. You would strip rights from American citizens without so much as another thought, due to some unknown defect of thought which keeps you from seeing the clear light of day. Members of the LGBT community are people first, American citizens second, and anything else third. If they choose to serve their country and are prepared to sacrifice their lives for the freedom of those who would denigrate and repudiate them and their orientation, then I consider that the highest form of moral conduct, and that, more than anything, is what our country needs right now. 
I implore you -- bring legislation to the floor, attached to nothing, calling for the repeal of this barbarous and execrable act called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Do it for the good of the country, do it for the good of the armed services, but also do it because it is the right and decent thing to do.
Please, let us do what we must to right an injustice: write Senator McCain.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day Is For The Living

Many are wont to ask why there should be two national holidays celebrating the military: Memorial Day and Veteran's Day. Of course, this question is asked by those whose interest in either holiday is blasé at best, and are more than willing to accept a day off to shop.

Veteran's Day, formerly Armistice Day, celebrating the end of World War I, is a day when we remember those living veterans who embody the meaning in words such as duty, honor, loyalty, bravery, and sacrifice. These are the people who have fought the wars we read about in history books and see on the television and read about in newspapers. They are the ones who hold the line against those who would see our freedom diminished or our nation tarnished. They are the ones who defend those who cannot defend themselves, both in our country, and in countries around the world.

Agree or not with their mission, support or deny our nation's foreign policy, but do not ever consider that the brave men and women of our armed forces do not deserve our support and thanks. They are asked to do the toughest jobs known to our kind, and do them with the idea at the back of their minds that they might not live to see tomorrow. We must do all we can to support them, and to honor them, for their sacrifice is never a vain or empty one, given our continued freedom and liberty.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Wayward Ones

Perhaps it is the thrill of power, the sense of control, that propels a bully toward wanton acts of violence and cruelty towards those who can not easily defend themselves. It is no doubt a reaction to a life at home where the rules and the constant nagging of parents about things a child deems “stupid” or “idiotic,” causes the child to feel powerless themselves. Maybe it is being exposed to unseen or untold brands of violence, unexplained and unmitigated, that make a child feel the need to duplicate what they have seen. You could ask, but very few bullies will ever come clean honestly about what drives them.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The American Agenda

The most recent mid-term election leaves many of us bitter, our hearts filled with a rancor not easily assuaged. Not necessarily at the outcome, for the electorate -- or that part of it that chose to participate – spoke, and told the Democrats that their short reign was now over and gave the Republicans another chance to acquit themselves honorably. No, the outcome was not really in doubt; what remains in doubt, as it was before these events, is the sincerity of those elected, Republican and Democrat alike. For, far from being a repudiation of the Democratic agenda in Congress, it was mainly a repudiation of the political circus that was Washington, D.C. The voters had, at a stroke, forced both parties into a position where only compromise and cooperation was the key to further success. A divided Congress leaves no doubt – to get anything done will require talking.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Electoral Follies


One begins to wonder if anyone will ever understand politics, and by that, I don't mean the give and take of governance, the “you scratch my back I'll scratch yours” complexity, or the general desire to work toward a common goal through earnest debate and compromise. No, I speak of the knock-down, drag-out, mudslinging, partisan divide that has usurped useful politics, relegating it to dim memory and dusty textbook. We are not in the age of statesmen and diplomats; we instead see self-aggrandizers, boot-lickers, sycophants, and power-grabbers grappling for control of a nation, heedless of the cost to personal virtue, comportment, or American society. They are more eager to draw battle lines and unflattering comparisons than they are to take stock of America's situation and take the appropriate steps to keep the ship of state afloat. They are the crew of a sinking cruise ship arguing over who should get credit for saving the passengers, even though the lifeboats are all in place and a panicked mob stands around them, awaiting action.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What You Can Do For Your Country

When we think of service to the United States of America, we are perhaps lead to a vision of our citizen soldiers,defending our freedom here and overseas, or perhaps members of the Peace Corps, trying to spread knowledge and form relationships all over the world, or maybe even those who work for our government, monitoring land, sea, and sky, trying to predict the things that will affect and influence us for years to come. Invariably, though, we forget about the group that does this country its greatest service, or, in some cases, disservice.

I speak of We, the People.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Subtle Bigotry Of The Educated Mind

When we think of bigotry, we tend to recall the pictures and videos of groups of white policemen attacking black marchers on their way to Selma, Alabama, or Klu Klux Klan marches through the streets of sleepy towns, or protesters with placards decrying Mexican immigrants, or Japanese Americans being herded into internment camps after Pearl Harbor. We tend to believe that bigotry only expresses itself on the grand scale, and that those who make up such groups that perpetrate and perpetuate it are somehow less influential, less offensive in their individuality, where they can be safely ignored.

We also believe that bigotry only really expresses itself through large differences in people, like race or religion or sexual orientation, but we would be mistaken. Bigotry is any form of intolerance of prejudice or discrimination; it is the manifest extension of an ancient survival instinct, which tells us to be cautious around, or frightened of, anything or anyone that is superficially different than us. This instinct, millions of years in the making, resident in the corridors of our primitive brain, still holds sway, a siren call to the cerebral cortex, reminding it to remain cautious and exaggerating the differences between people to make discrimination easier. In its best form, it makes us wary in situations where we are unfamiliar; in its worst form, it creates paranoia.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Color Purple

Today, people across the nation will be wearing various shades of purple, to show their solidarity with the LGBT community and to remember the recent deaths of six gay teens, who committed suicide due to bullying and/or through denigration by peers. We do this, not as a one-off moment, but as a resolution, that no teenager, gay or straight, deserves to be bullied for who and what they are. Hatred and fear can no longer be allowed to carry the day; Americans of good conscience must stand up, as one, and proclaim from every corner of the nation: "No person born to freedom and liberty shall have theirs infringed by anyone."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Know Your Rights

An interesting thing happened this morning: a candidate for public office was revealed to have a very incomplete knowledge of the Constitution. During a debate with her rival Chris Coons, Delaware Senate Candidate Christine O'Donnell, darling of The Tea Party, was perplexed by the idea that the separation of Church and State was explicitly spelled out in the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." It apparently came as something of a shock to her. She was further knocked off her game by a question about whether she would repeal the 14th, 16th, or 17th Amendments, confessing: "I'm sorry, I didn't bring my Constitution with me."

To be part of a party that claims the present administration is subverting the Constitution, and wanting desperately to "restore" it, wouldn't it be nice to know exactly what's in it?

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Real Pledge To America

The Republican Party revealed its “Pledge To America” to great fanfare, as if to say: “We've heard you, and here's what we're going to do.” Sadly, what they intend to do if the regain control of Congress, is to do more of the same that got them ousted four years ago, and which imperiled the country by allowing the recent economic collapse of two years ago. Having learned little from their most recent stint on the bench, their pledge is little more than window-dressing for a return to “trickle-down economics,” unsupported tax cuts, and the savaging of social programs and departments necessary to keep Americans safe. In addition, there will be the requisite attempts to undo the new health care law and find a way to outlaw abortion.

Somewhere in this mass of iniquity, there is a sincere desire to help America, though its execution leaves much to be desired. The problem comes, much as it does from the Democratic Party, in an adherence to the party line and an inflexibility born of partisanship. If every political issue is made into a two-sided debate, with neither side willing to compromise, and more importantly, no consideration of the needs of American citizens, then it can be said that our representative system of government no longer works as intended. George Washington, in his farewell speech to America at the end of his last term, counseled as much, warning of the dependency on political parties over sound individual judgment.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Social Networks

The conviviality and comradeship expressed in a human get-together cannot be simulated nor synthesized. It is a product of the multivariate social interaction of people with so many different points of view and experiences, that whatever commonality brings them together, the end result is a Brownian soup of interplay. Whatever we may be, as humans, we are a social species, starting with the act of parenthood, all the way up to the formation of nation-states. It is our interaction and interlocking that built the greatest works of humanity... and, occasionally, wrought our worst upheavals.

The world we live in now, a world our ancestors would no doubt find exhilarating and confounding, is a global village, where the barriers between continents are breached as easily as between localities. Our planet is girded by highways of earth, air, and sea; the rarest and most precious things, the greatest sites, the most palatable foods, are now close at hand, rather than longed for at titanic distances. Where we cannot go physically, we are not barred, flinging ourselves across wires and into the depths of space, to reach across the breadth of our home, touching others with words, and pictures, and sounds.

Even so, great gulfs remain, made not of stone or sand or tectonic stress, but human gall and greed.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Don't Think Pink

October is officially Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the United States, though it might be more accurately termed "Breast Cancer Exploitation Month." Pink is everywhere: ribbons, bumper stickers, T-shirts, water bottles, bracelets, charms, key chains, even on the shoes and gloves of NFL players. The profusion and panoply of pink-tinged items cannot help but catch the eye and assault the senses. One wonders, though, if the energies put into organizing this explosion of pink paraphernalia are wasted in the cause of awareness, reducing breast cancer to a Disney-esque parade. For as surely as the avalanche began, it became an Internet meme, perverted into something which had less to do with awareness of breast cancer, and more to do with frat boy frolics.

If we are going to talk about awareness of the prevalence and dangers behind breast cancer, let's look at the statistics:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Come Out, Come Out, Whoever You Are

Today, October 11th, 2010, is National Coming Out Day. It is intended as an encouragement for those in the LGBT community; it is a way of saying that being who they are is more important than remaining in the shadows, and that there is a wide and varied community that supports them.

They definitely need the support.

The Ocean Blue

Columbus Day is not the holiday it once was.

A century ago, Columbus was the toast of many a school, and his importance in the grand scheme of things  could not be understated. He discovered the "New World," a strange name for a place that had always been there. He opened up a route to trade in the Caribbean and brought Western sensibilities to the "barbarous tribes" of the region. He brought religion, he brought technology, and he brought commerce, and lifted the natives up from their primitive state; those who fought against the changes, were backward, and often had to be destroyed.

In more recent times, under the agitation and encouragement of the surviving native tribes of North America, a movement has been afoot to set the record straight about Christopher Columbus and those who came after him. Columbus, far from being the noble explorer, was by turns the greedy impresario, a charlatan looking for easy riches, and the world's worst seaman, completely inept when it came to navigation. His finding the Caribbean was a happenstance, a dangerous one, as it turned out, for those who lived there peacefully. Columbus and his retainers began an unending series of depredations against native tribes in the Americas, leading to their wholesale destruction in some cases, and their marginalization in others.

There can be no doubt, as we look through the lens of history, that the day Columbus stepped off his ship and into the lives of the natives of The Bahamas, was a seminal moment in history. The native tribes of the Americas, safe in their isolation, with fully formed civilizations of their own, were now intruded on by strange, alien visitors, who brought with them sights unseen, things unimagined, and concepts utterly foreign to the self-assured tribes. They welcomed the visitors at first, perhaps thinking of them as gods, or perhaps merely long-lost cousins; their hospitality was repaid in disease, rape, slavery, and death. From those tenuous beginnings, the influence of Western culture spread, a virus engulfing and infecting everything in its path, rendering once proud nations of natives impotent to stop them. No matter what the reason, the infiltration of Europeans into the vast and open continents of the Americas altered the course of history irrevocably, and lead to death on a scale unimaginable, even in the great wars that would be fought in the 18th, 19th, and 20th Centuries.

October 12th, 1492 is a bittersweet day, depending on what side of the divide you are on. If you are Italian, Columbus, native son of Genoa, brought great pride in his accomplishment. If you are from Spain, Columbus represents one of the high-water marks of Spanish domination of the seas, and Europe. If you are a modern native of one of the many South or Central American countries, you have him to thank for your existence. If you are a member of any tribe of North America, there can be only bitterness and betrayal. If you are American, you got here because of what he did.

Let us not belabor the issues, because the history of the "New World" is fraught with pitfalls; the events that sprang forth from it are so wide and varied and divisive, that to bring coherence and consensus is virtually impossible. I sit here, now, a product of a nation built on the backs of natives who were forced from their homes, exterminated in large numbers, and robbed of their existence as a people. My success as an American comes at the price of so many who came before me, and I cannot undo, to any sufficient degree, what was done. I can only try and move forward, and as I do, remake my nation into one that accepts what it did, is genuinely sorry for what it has done, and makes whatever reparations it can. In the meantime, I can work to understand what Columbus' voyage meant to America as a nation, and mourn for all that was lost because of it. Instead of celebration, may Columbus Day become a time of reflection,  when we seek understanding and make peace with a troubled past.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Burning Down The House

A house catches fire. A phone call is made. Within minutes, racing red machines blare a warning of their approach, and stop before the conflagration. Men and women leap from their trucks, clad in their heavy, fire-retardant armor, connect canvas hoses to bright brass connectors, and charge forward, aiming pressurized streams of water at the flames, intent on snuffing them out. Hopefully, no one remains inside at the mercy of the inferno, but if they do, these brave souls will battle heat and flame to pull them to safety. It is the ultimate act of selflessness, to give your life -- potentially -- for a stranger, to put yourself in harm's way, casting aside fear and the desire to flee, to rescue someone you do not know from the jaws of the malevolent beast.

Not more than a few in a thousand have the ability, the guts, and the selflessness, to do this. They become our heroes: firefighters, police officers, soldiers. They would risk life and limb, and not for consequential amounts of money, for they are not paid nearly as well as they should be, but because inside them is a commitment to their fellow citizens, to protect and to serve. They do what they do partly out of honor, but more out of a sense of duty.

Then how horrible must it be to know a fire burns, that lives may be threatened, and a family's life destroyed, and to be told to do nothing, because the family did not pay a fee? That is what happened recently in rural Tennessee. A family's home, set afire by the ill-considered burning of leaves, burns to the ground, because they did not pay a seventy-five dollar fee to the local township, a fee required to extend fire department services into the rural areas. The family forgot to pay the fee, and the result was the destruction of their life. The sad irony: when the fire threatened a neighbor's house, the fire department did respond, because they had paid the fee.

Now, having a fire department is not cheap. The equipment is specialized, the training of firefighters is extensive and on-going, and the maintenance of an effective firefighting force is intensive and expensive. Still, few would argue that letting a home burn down for lack of any firefighting force is a good thing; so how could it be that letting a house burn down when there is a fire company available is allowable or even acceptable? Couldn't a portion of tax revenue in the surrounding county be used to provide the service to rural homes? Did someone really think charging a fee was a good idea? What bureaucrat would let a home burn by quibbling over the payment of a fee?

That this was a shameful occurrence was bad enough; that people are making light of it in national media is worse. A family's home is destroyed, their pets are dead, their possessions gone, and they find themselves homeless, dependent on the kindness of others. What makes this a situation for mirth and offensive humor? Apparently, if you are Glenn Beck, champion of our nation's "honor," that it happened, and that it serves them right. Yes, apparently, if you don't pay your fee, you deserve to have your house burn down:

And it goes nowhere if you go onto “compassion, compassion, compassion, compassion” or well, “they should’ve put it out, what is the fire department for?” [...] If you don’t pay the 75 dollars then that hurts the fire department. They can’t use those resources, and you’d be sponging off your neighbor’s resources. [...] It’s important for America to have this debate. This is the kind of stuff that’s going to have to happen, we are going to have to have these kinds of things.
So, yes, the social contract, which is at the heart of organized society, that says despite our differences we shall live as one nation and obey all the same laws and rules, is nothing but a fabrication of "socialism," a desire for the poor and weak to "sponge" off their country. This is the "debate" that Glenn Beck wants to have.

Well, Mr. Beck, I will take you up on your challenge. I will have this debate with you, any time, any place. Because my reading of the Constitution, which makes the general welfare of the people a paramount priority, and my understanding of the social contract, which was the basis of so much of what would become our Constitution and the laws of our land, and the desire of our Founding Fathers to build a nation that ran through the good graces of its citizens, goes contrary to this idea that somehow services that benefit all American citizens are sponging. If anything, the rich in our country are sponging off the hard-working and dedicated employees of the companies that make them their fortunes. Still others are sponging off Americans by filling the airwaves with abject ignorance, petty nonsense, and unsupportable hypocrisy, but you wouldn't know anyone like that, would you, Mr. Beck.

For someone so concerned about the faith and honor of his country, Glenn Beck treats Americans as disposable commodities, nothing more than a cigarette butt to be ground under his heel, as he blathers on, filling the hearts and minds of the sycophantic with delusions and demagoguery. He is more than happy to sit atop his piles of cash, bemoaning the "socialism" he sees as rampant in this country, apparently unaware that the whole idea behind unity as a nation is the support of our fellow citizens. His claims of a need for restored faith fall on deaf ears, where his hypocrisy is so transparent, perfectly willing to watch Americans suffer and do little of substantive value to change the causes, even as he pins targets on the backs of those trying to make the changes necessary to keep our country afloat.

remediate the lives of those touched by misfortune. It is not just the way of religion, but it is the way of the human, our human duty to do whatever we can, however little it is, to help our fellow humans. It is that core value that made civilization rise up from the dirt, and it is a lack of humanity that now threatens to cast us back into the dust. Humanity is burning, and it's time to pick up a pail and put the fire out.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It Gets Better... Far Too Slowly

Of late, the number of LGBT teens who have committed suicide seems to be staggering, though this may be an artifact of increased news coverage of issues involving the gay community. The fact is, these children are not the first, and, sadly, will not be the last casualties of a culture war that has been brewing for centuries. While homosexuality may have been a run-of-the-mill occurrence in ancient Greece or Rome, the advent of Christianity, the Protestant Reformation, the Spanish Inquisition, and other such events led to the persecution of homosexuals. Is it any wonder that the common slur used for homosexuals, "faggot," is derived from a Medieval word for a bundle of sticks used to start a fire, a fire no doubt started at the base of a pole that an unfortunate gay person would find themselves tied to, to be burned before God in hopes of redemption?

What is most troubling, aside from the waste of potential good in those who have left this world by their own hand, is how these incidents came about, through the bullying of others, who found it convenient to hurl epithets and treat them as if being gay were a crime, making them out to be social lepers, or worse, God's trash. This goes beyond the bullying that has been prevalent in schools for a seeming eternity; it is vicious and virulent, a blatant attempt to torment teens who may be having trouble with their sexual identity, trying to convince them that this somehow makes them pariahs.

This bullying, and the accompanying social unrest that follows it, is, in no small measure, amplified by the vitriol and invective that floods the airwaves daily, from social, political, and spiritual leaders across this nation.  To give just a few examples:

  • Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who declared that if someone is openly homosexual, they shouldn't be teaching in the classroom
  • Boyd K. Packer, the second-highest leader in the Mormon Church, said in a sermon broadcast to millions yesterday that same-sex attraction is "impure and unnatural" and can be overcome, and that same-sex unions are morally wrong. [Courtesy, the Human Rights Campaign]
  • Focus on the Family has accused gay-rights groups of using tolerance and anti-bullying programs to introduce curricula and books into schools that promote political aims such as same-sex marriage. [Courtesy, ABC News]
  • Fred Phelps, pastor of the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, regularly organizes demonstrations at military funerals with anti-homosexual rhetoric displayed prominently on their picket signs
With intolerant and bigoted people and groups dominating the news cycles, it should not shock us that such homophobia works its way down into our schools. Far too many parents either agree with these sentiments, or are loathe to talk about controversial subjects, perhaps because of personal discomfort or mere reticence to discuss actual issues of the day with their children.

However, a groundswell is beginning to occur, as famous personalities begin to speak out about the horrors being perpetrated and the difficulties of being a member of the LGBT community when you are young. From Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" project, to heartfelt pleas from the likes of Ellen DeGeneres, Kathy Griffin, or Tim Gunn, people are beginning to speak up in a meaningful way, trying to steer the conversation away from rhetoric and toward the realization that these are, above all, human beings, people with feelings, people who may be scared, people who simply want to live their lives in peace.

Centuries in the making, the battle over the true place of homosexuality in the human race is starting to come to a head in this century. It is by no means a matter of a short amount of time; this topic and the intractable dogma surrounding it, are not so easily dispatched. There is, however, hope, for time has caused us to see more clearly the world we inhabit and our place in the scheme of things. No longer tied to the fear and fervor religion used to control humankind, our reason has shown us that homosexuality is just another human trait, another variation of the theme. It does not necessarily confer any kind of advantage, but it also does not confer any harm on the human race. Any harm that homosexuality presents to us is self-inflicted, the product of the ravings of madmen and the ignorance of the petty and tyrannical.

This would seem to be our moment, when humanity would take the next step forward toward unity, or cast all civilization asunder in a flash of global inhumanity. For those who must continue to suffer, to fend off day-after-day the assault on their psyche and body by ignorance and intolerance, it can be said that it will get better, but perhaps not soon enough to abate the terror. Many may still have to suffer, may still have to hide their true selves in fear for their sanity and their life. They are the current soldiers, those who must steadfastly stand up, with our help, to put an end to the depredation and denigration of their kind. It is their fight, but it our war, and only together can we hope to strike down the last bastions of bigotry.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Lack Of Decency

The current climate in the United States is one that makes a fact very plain: the idea of the "decent" American is dying. As sure as the American Dream is slowly sliding into the sunset, it drags along with it the very fabric of the country, the decency and honor of its citizens. It is hard to notice, perhaps because of the shouting and vitriol which spew forth almost constantly. The better angels of our nature are being engulfed in a cacophony of bitterness, bigotry, ignorance, and insolence. We have moved from "one nation, under God," to "Us versus Them."

Americans certainly have a right to be angry, when the inequities of life are so plainly written across the front page of the newspapers or splashed across the bottom of their TV screens. Wall Street, cause of our economic woes, goes from bankrupt to propped up, and all the while no one is called to account for their actions. Big oil, heedless of the cost, sprays oil into the sea, and still manages to reap large profits. Jobs, once so plentiful, are slowly eroded away by cheaper labor overseas, and its attendant lack of quality. Washington, D.C. is awash in partisanship and seat counting, leaving governance at the doorstep to the Capitol. Rogue nations and extremist religious groups wage a campaign of hate against us, attacking us outright, and thumbing their noses at our demands. Families are forced to leave behind all they have worked for, as those who precipitated their poverty continue to reap their profits.

But anger, while prevalent, is the wrong emotion for what ails the nation. Yes, anger is natural, given what we see, but anger does not solve our problems, for after we are through being angry, our problems are still there before us. Anger also blinds us to the truth, to reality, to the root cause of our problems, and makes many simply lash out at targets of opportunity, rather than iniquity. Too broad a brush is applied to some problems, too narrow a focus to others, resulting in wasted energy and effort, and the maintenance of the status quo.

It reaches deeper than that, though, for the cauldron that is stirred up by the rage of our nation feeds the next generation, planting the seeds of newer and greater anger. Passed on from parent or teacher or clergy to the children we raise, is this whirling maelstrom of ignorance, bigotry, malfeasance, obfuscation, and bitterness, swallowing up the innocent and helpless. Children are taught who the bogeyman is, and do not question the motivation that belies this. They believe what they are taught to believe, and dogma replaces reason.

We see it all, in what happens daily: fired people returning to places of business with weapons, exacting revenge. Repressive bullying of homosexuals, driving them to suicide. The shouting down of those who are trying to have reasonable debate. The eruption of bigotry, homophobia, racism, and sexism by varied groups, flung into the light of day from the dark corners where it used to hide. Impartiality replaced by politics. Rampant theft, both at the point of a gun and threw stacks of paper. Hypocrisy in the name of morality. Quashing freedom in the name of "restoring America."

This is not how it should be. This is not the country in which I have so much pride. This is not the country that believes in individual liberty. This has become a nation of ne're-do-wells, fame seekers, hucksters, and reprobates; it is now a home for the greedy, the covetous, the self-righteous, and the conscienceless. Hard work, honesty, reason, and excellence have been subordinated to flashiness, boosterism, abject ignorance, and mediocrity.

America deserves better. If we are truly the nation we think we are, then it should cause us no amount of inconvenience or irritation to work together toward bettering ourselves and our nation. If our Pledge of Allegiance is to be more than a hollow joke, the we must be one nation. It does not mean conformity, or obedience, or rejecting the right to question authority; it does mean that all our laws, all our precepts, everything we hold dear, must apply to everyone who is a United States citizen, no matter their stripe. Nothing of the individual should make them less human, less able to enjoy the fruits of freedom and liberty. There can be no difference between us as individuals that invalidates our ability to be of one nation or one law. Our differences make us unique; our similarities make us strong.

We, Americans all, must unite under the one flag we fly, if for no other reason than to divide us, to erect barriers between ourselves, is to crush that which so many sacrificed to make. As has been said, a house divided against itself cannot stand, and even now, one can hear the creaking and tottering that the shifting fortunes of our nation are causing to reverberate throughout. It is time to strengthen our resolve, and thereby strengthen our nation; only then, will we regain the sense of freedom and liberty handed to us by our ancestors.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cause And Effect

His name was Tyler Clementi. I say "was", because the smart and quiet 18-year-old Rutgers University student committed suicide. It is not unusual for high school and college students to kill themselves; the stresses of growing up through puberty and the pressure to excel in school often lead to children finding themselves isolated and unable to cope. Though not everyone succumbs to the creeping fears, doubts, and self-loathing, occasionally one will decide that death is preferable to the "torture" of living.

What makes this death more heart-breaking and mind-numbing than the usual, is the why. Two fellow 18-year-old students, Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, perpetrated what can only be described as the most reprehensible and disgusting "prank" on Tyler -- they allegedly placed a video camera in his dorm room, and captured a video of one of his sexual encounters, then apparently broadcast it over the Internet. What was undoubtedly horrifying to Tyler, was that it was a sexual encounter with another man.

Let me be clear: that it was an encounter with a member of the same sex is nothing new, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. The body is a container, a shell, a power supply and protection for the human brain and the genetic material that created it. That we come in two genders is obvious physically, but gender is more than a function of genitalia. The profusion of LGBT individuals in the world shows us that "gender" goes deeper, is more a function of hormones and neural wiring that what sexual organs you happen to have. Love, the tenderest of human emotions, is figuratively a function of the heart, not the head, and there is no reason to think that two people of the same gender cannot love each other. Love is about feelings, emotions, and psychological compatibility, not which tab fits into which slot.

Still, our society has, for the most part, a hard time accepting this. As with anything that science brings to light, the beliefs of many override reason, and they see the human body as some divine arbiter of who you are, and believe that things can only work one way, where that way is merely the design, not the demarcation. A spiritual fear of same sex love over centuries has led to many homosexuals becoming easy fodder for the self-righteous and bigoted. Even now, with the virulent and voracious attacks on attempts to equalize the playing field for LGBT community, we see that innate fear being stamped with the approval of religious zealots, who are more afraid of the truth that stares them in the face, that perhaps their view of how the creator built his creation is not as simple as their ancestors once believed.

Given this, a society where homosexuality is a battleground, an easy target for the bigot and the bully, can we not feel the weight of this discovery of the transgression by Tyler as similar to a weight we have felt on our own hearts? How crushing, to know that his experimentation, in an earnest attempt to learn more about his feelings and desires, would be turned into fodder for the rabid packs of hate-mongers and ignorance-peddlers. More horrifying still, to know that this information would make it out to the world through the auspices of the Internet, bringing down misguided and vitriolic homophobia on a simple 18-year-old college student. How does one fight a world? How can one absorb the blows of dozens, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, perchance even millions? What can you do, when something you thought few would ever know about, is now front-and-center on the greatest communications network of our time?

So, Tyler Clementi killed himself, his life snuffed out by the weight of a world of rabid hatred and fear that would rain down on him mercilessly. And now, two classmates stand accused, but only of an invasion of privacy; heinous enough, given what they did, but far from the only charge they should suffer. For as surely as the planner of a murder also receives a charge of capital murder, even though they have not pulled the trigger or plunged in the knife, so, too, must these two amoral cretins face their actions with a charge of manslaughter. No doubt, they thought nothing of what they did, for this "prank" was not a hallmark of true rational thought and social conscience, but the act of moronic, misanthropic, and mean-spirited individuals, with no consideration or clue as to what decency is. They may not have pushed him off the bridge, but they pushed the poor man's mind into a place where that seemed like the best resolution to a problem they caused.

These two are not alone in their indecency. This week has seen too many stories of LGBT individuals committing suicide, harangued and hectored by small-minded and socially inept peers, who no doubt pick up the threads of their abject hatred from their homes and from other members of their community. How can we be surprised, when the nightly news is filled with scenes of screaming and shrieking sycophants, claiming homosexuality an "abomination," and treating LGBT individuals as if they were lepers, or worse, subhuman? Why should we be shocked, when words spill down from pulpits for supposedly "Christian" ministers, condemning gays and their lifestyle, spreading homophobia in place of messages of mutual understanding and fellowship?

No more. We, of good heart and great conscience, cannot stand for this sort of behavior in our country, or in the world. You cannot look at an LGBT human being and not see them as any less, human, and certainly no less deserving of the freedom and liberty of everyone else. If we are to be true to the founding credo of our nation, that all are created equal, then to condemn these people simply because of what they are is morally reprehensible and hypocritical of us. They want nothing from us, they take nothing from us, and in the end, only seek that which they should have by fiat: the right to live their life as they will, free of ignorant persecution. If we cannot give them this, then our nation is broken, and we mark democracy as a failure.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

These Are The People You Want Leading Us?

As the rabble that is The Tea Party continues to shake the political trees, voter apathy reaches new lows, and partisan bickering and gamesmanship replaces governance, it is probably best to reflect on just what it all means to you and I and our fellow Americans. Perhaps the gravity of the electoral process has lightened over the centuries, to the point that -- in an age of instant communication and the global village -- we feel more disconnected from our leaders than at any time in the past. When the nation was formed, it still had a very close-knit and neighborly feel, but with its expansion in size, distance, and population, perhaps the differences between us are more stark than they were at the time of the Revolutionary War.

Congress, which is the linchpin of Federal Government, being the place where laws are incubated, hatched, and set free to provide all Americans with the protections afforded us by the Constitution, is certainly the most important branch of our tripartite government. The President has very little unitary power, owing to not being a monarch. He/she can only work with what is given to them by Congress. Even a declaration of war, though the purview of the Commander-in-Chief, must still be ratified by Congress. It is by working together, that the Legislative branch and the Executive branch, under the watchful eye of the Judicial branch, bring our nation alive, provide all Americans liberty, protect our freedoms, and protect us from those things which might harm us. The intent of the system was to give average citizens a means to ensure balance and fairness in legislation, by leaving the ultimate responsibility for the composition of the House, Senate, and Presidency to the voting public.

The Republic which we inherited from our ancestors is still basically no different than that they crafted, with some additions and re-engineering to smooth out inequities and fix some basic flaws. No one would claim that the United States and its government are perfect, but then the Founding Fathers knew that when they created the Constitution, and made provision for the American people to make the necessary changes to allow our government to grow and change with the times. Even as the Revolutionary War was being fought, science and technology were beginning to change things, and the Founders knew that a future nation would have to adapt to the changes brought about by these forces. It would also have to deal, eventually, with those short-comings they, themselves, had written into the Constitution.

So, despite the misgivings of some, the composition and functioning of the Federal Government were left in the hands of the citizens. They would have to find the most capable among them to represent their interests at the capitol, and do that not only for the local constituency, but for the country as a whole. Congressmen would have the daunting task of listening to what the home folks said, and keeping in mind the general welfare of all Americans at the same time. This balancing act would require only those of the most open minds and greatest character, for to go to Washington, D.C. with a personal agenda, bent on making legislation only to benefit themselves and their cronies, would be a mockery of and a perversion of, the legislative process.

It cannot be said that the history of Congress and the Presidency has been filled with only the most stellar and erudite minds; the problem with leaving the decision as to whom will represent them, to the people, is that a great many of the people can be swayed by words that resonate with how they feel, even where those words do not represent the truth. Rhetoric and obfuscation can make a king of a pauper, and as the centuries pass, free government has become less a function of the citizenry and more a function of the power brokers. Party politics has led to rampant abuse of a system meant to protect the citizens of America from the very excesses practiced in Washington, D.C., and the saddest part is that this is done with the tacit approval of Americans, who vote the same barons back into control of their fiefdoms, then are shocked when nothing changes.

It is not enough, however, to simply vote out the incumbents, though that is definitely a start. What is more important, is that the incumbents be replaced by people of good character, who are concerned for general society, and are willing to subsume their personal views to the needs of the country as a whole, and to the Constitution which they serve. Sadly, despite the fervor that has swept the nation, stoked by cries ripped pell-mell from the history books, the citizenry has missed the mark, trying to replace the tyranny of the politician with the tyranny of the ignorant. By subsuming themselves to personal messages and talking points, they have failed to take a good look at the candidates they would support, and find them, as so many of us do, wanting.

Whether it is by racist overtones, through misappropriation of campaign funds, rejection of established fact or convention, or the desire to override the personal liberty of all Americans with their vision of what is right and wrong, these candidates reveal themselves to be unfit to represent all America and provide the kind of leadership required to lift Congress from its muck and the miasma of partisanship. They would simply open up a new front, to create even more stagnation and chaos, and would lead to even less action. They would spend more time on trying to reshape the social structure of America, and less time doing what was necessary to keep the country moving forward and becoming strong again. They would attempt to sow their religious beliefs and have them bloom into new laws, restricting the freedoms and liberties of all Americans, forcing a confrontation with the Supreme Court.

It isn't about talking points. It's not about political gain. It's not about who controls what. In the end, it is about how we govern ourselves, and who we ask to take on the responsibility. Only by choosing wisely and thoughtfully, do we show the world the strength of democracy built by the people, for the people.

Monday, September 27, 2010

To Your Health

Provisions of the new health care law passed by Congress are starting to come into play, though the bulk of the law will not be fully enacted until 2014. It is the start of a change in how health care in the United States is run, a change that was long overdue and still remains hotly contested. The Republican Party and its disreputable offshoot The Tea Party, are busy trying to win votes by claiming they will repeal the law when they take over Congress, failing to take into account all the obstacles that stand in their way. Even if they manage to secure majorities in both houses, any repeal would cross the President's desk and surely be vetoed, leading to the much harder task of garnering a two-thirds majority to override the veto. To say it would be easier to summit Mt. Everest is an understatement.

What both opposition parties fail to realize is that failing to keep the health care law from being passed in the first place, there is little chance they can ever do anything about it. It would be two years at the earliest before there would potentially be a Republican President, and even then, there would be no guarantee of that happening, nor of the Republicans maintaining control of Congress. A lot can happen in two years. Plus, there will be the inconvenient fact that, as more provisions of the bill take effect, people would suddenly like what they have gained, and be loathe to see it taken away. It is becoming quite clear, that for all the ruckus thrown up during the debate over the bill, the opposition could not keep it from becoming law, and now has very little recourse but to work within its provisions to make any changes they would like.

It comes down to a simple truth: health care, like so many things that did not start out that way, has now become an inalienable right, a part of the general welfare that many Americans are dependent on. Gone are the days of going to the family doctor and paying the bill like any other; the current medical landscape is one of forms, co-pays, networks, regulations and red tape, drugs being peddled like cigarettes used to be, and an acute lack of health care professionals to meet the growing demands of an aging population. Add to that the epidemic of obesity, due to the inability of families to find or afford decent food, or the time to prepare and serve it, along with the explosion in varying sorts of chronic diseases, and some sort of reform to rein in health care costs was necessary. The health care law may not have been perfect, but it was certainly a step long overdue to try and control skyrocketing costs, soaring insurance premiums, and the growth of an ever-expanding pool of the uninsured.

For all the talk of how others do not want to pay for everyone else's health care, the fact remains that not only do we all pay for it, we pay more for it. People who are without insurance or some way to pay for their services are not turned away. The Hippocratic Oath forbids medical professionals from turning anyone aside; society would be horrified if hospitals simply let people die in their parking lots for lack of ability to pay for medical care. So, hospitals and doctors end up treating those without insurance and sending taxpayers the bill, in the form of increased costs and higher taxes. Allowing people to go without any kind of assistance in paying for their medical care is a road to financial ruin for the nation.

It always easy to assume that everything government does is somehow outrageous, out of control, bad for us, or unnecessary, but given the task of running a large nation, a central government with the mandate of providing for the general welfare of all its citizens must do everything it can to protect those citizens. It is only through the health of the citizenry that a nation lives. It is not enough to protect a nation's borders, if the people are allowed to suffer. Many a totalitarian regime has put the existence of the nation as idea ahead of the existence of the people that form the nation. Treating people as disposable is barbarism.

We are faced with such choices because, as Thomas Paine wrote, "[but] government, even its best state, is but a necessary evil." We need government to make a level playing field for all Americans, because we, left to our own devices, will not. We will not treat our neighbors as we would be treated. We will not extend the same courtesy to others as we expect to be extended to us. For all our protestations of being a "Christian" nation, it is amazing the level to which many Americans will complain bitterly about others receiving the benefits they receive. The Founding Fathers did their level best to make it clear that their intent was to build a nation where all Americans were treated as equal, and we have spent a good portion of our nation's history treading on that legacy, too busy trying to carve the United States into discrete chunks.

Health care reform, along with Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, form a bulwark as necessary to the strength of our nation as the armed forces. If our nation is made as strong in body, as it is in spirit, then there is no reason that we cannot regain our stature as a leader among nations. For this to be true, we must put aside the animosity stirred up by partisan politics, and look at this for what it is, a chance to prove to the world that we are capable of growth as a society. Only then we will become not just a military superpower, but a social superpower as well.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Inside Outsider

With every election cycle, comes the inevitable boasting and bluster that is partisan politics. Republicans claim Democrats are running the country into the ground with their rampant spending, even as they are attempting ridiculous and fiscally unsupported tax cuts. Democrats complain Republicans are busy saying no to everything, even as they are constantly waging war against the Republican Party rather than working with them. At the end of the day, neither party comports themselves well in the arena of governing responsibly. Both parties are more interested in scoring political points than in settling down and doing the hard task of running a large country.

So it is, that when mid-term elections roll around, so many candidates for office attempt to challenge the incumbents with the claims of being Washington, D.C. "outsiders," people not immersed in the rough-and-tumble of the nation's capitol. Sadly, these candidates inevitably become beholden to the national party organizations for funding, and the "outsider" tag is quickly stripped away as they fall in line behind their party, lest they lose the support they so desperately need to run for office. Once they take cash from the national party organizations, any air of independence is completely fouled with the stench of partisanship. Should they actually win and find themselves in Congress, they then quickly find out that they are expected to toe the party line, lest the goodies of Congressional membership be withheld.

Politics is no longer the realm of the people, but the realm of the party, and the parties in this country are beholden to special interest groups and corporations, who dole out huge amounts of money to elect candidates that will do their bidding. Members of Congress may harrumph and harangue, claiming they are not the puppets of others, but their election coffers are the surest sign that they have been bought and sold by those who would stack the legislative deck in their favor.

Even the nascent Tea Party is simply an offshoot of the Republican Party, a more vocal, more rambunctious, more morally conflicted version of its older sibling. Built upon the anger of fringe conservatives, wishing to rein in American society by clamping down on those things that are at the root of freedom and liberty in this country, it is no better or worse than the established parties. It, too, is rife with greed, corruption, ignorance, bigotry, and political payback. It represents an opportunity for Republican players and retainers to get around the party establishment, riding those conservative sycophants who are willing to avoid applying critical reasoning to their choice of candidates.

For American government to function at any level, it starts with the people, deciding that they will no longer be held hostage by small numbers of people deciding to determine their destiny. It is far too easy for any group to decide that they know what is best for all Americans, but as has been said many times, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, no matter how many that few should be. Personal conviction, religious faith, and political precedent should not rule; they should be factored in to what is required to provide for the general welfare of everyone in this country. The diversity of this nation means that all views must be considered, and compromise must be the order of the day. Eventually, though some may grumble, consensus must lead to rules and laws that all can live under without fear of coercion or corruption.

If we truly wish to live by the spirit of the framers of the Constitution, and do justice to the sacrifice of those who forged a nation, then we owe it to them to throw off the shackles of organized politics, and reassert control of our nation, a nation of, by, and for the American citizenry. Until we decide to sweep away the detritus that has piled up in the corners of our Congress, we risk watching our freedom being further eroded by forces that would rather preserve their power than preserve our liberty.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Inhumanity

A woman was killed last night in Virginia, killed by the State, killed for planning and perpetrating a heinous crime, the murder of her husband and stepson by killers she hired and apparently, had sexual relations with. She was apparently of a lower IQ, and her lawyers made the case that given her more limited mental capacity, her punishment was far too harsh. No one agreed with them; even the Supreme Court of the United States refused to stay the execution. It is interesting to note that she did not commit the murders herself, but the men she hired have received life sentences, and not the death penalty.

There is no reason to argue the merits of the case here. Justice in America is an imperfect system sometimes, and no matter what we may think of it, as long as the system operates as intended, we cannot argue with the result, having given our tacit approval to it by electing our representatives, who are responsible for the statutes enforced. The simplest way to change how justice works is to change the laws, and to do that, we must vote for the right representatives to do it.

What we must discuss, once and for all, is the need for retribution and vengeance in the name of the State. The idea is as old as humanity: an eye for an eye. You kill one of ours, we kill one of yours. You attack our tribe, we attack yours. Death is still, sadly, the ultimate currency of justice, and the belief has survived the millennia, that the murderer must die to make up for the life or lives they have taken, as some kind of appeasement of God or the universe.

Murder is the most heinous of crimes. To take a life, with malice and in violence, is to stain the soul, because once taken, it cannot be restored. Death is the ultimate doorway to whatever lies beyond, a door that only admits, never releases. Once the murderer commits the act, they are persona non grata in human society.

Then comes the hammer of justice, to strike them down. The murderer can expect little sympathy and faint mercy at the hands of a justice system that marks them as the worst of the worst. Even where there are mitigating circumstances, the fact of relieving another human being of life leads others to look down on the person whose hands are covered in innocent blood.

Herein lies the issue that vexes us even now: do we take from the murderer, the life that they so easily took from someone else? Does a murderer, by committing the act, forfeit their own life by fiat? Is there true justice in killing the killer? My mind always told me that those who found it so easy to take life, should realize that to do so, meant the forfeiture of their own. In this way, the idea would prove a natural deterrent to murder. Now, I am not so sure.

When you watch shows on television about cases of murder, what invariably strikes you is that, even in states where the death penalty is prevalent, murder still goes on, and goes on in a profusion of ways, from the simple murder by a robber surprised by a store clerk, to the cold, calculated murder of the serial killer, reeling off victims one-by-one or in droves, to the person who has become unhinged by circumstances, and seeks revenge for perceived injustices in their life by taking the lives of others, often in armed and brutal slaughter.

Murder is not the result of the higher, thinking brain; it is a relic of the primitive animal brain. Deep down, instincts from millions of years ago, the kill-or-be-killed, fight-or-flee kind, still lurk in the dark recesses of human consciousness. Triggered by childhood abuse, chemical imbalance, brain injury, drug abuse, psychological torture, or even conditioning, the murder of another is the ceding of control of the cerebral cortex to the primitive medullar regions. The instinct, the need for self-preservation, bubbles up from its hiding place, overwhelms reason and logic, and takes even the most decent of people to a place where taking the life of another is almost a requirement. In essence, the idea, the instinct, the drive to kill another being is a part of everyone of us, and only those of us with the strongest wills can overcome whatever urges it may flood our higher logic centers with.

Given that it is a hard-coded piece of our primitive past, and that the act can be triggered in so many fashions, is it any wonder we are still plagued by it, even in the calmest and quietest of communities? Some of the most peaceful nations on Earth still have murder, though perhaps not at the rate found in the United States. It is there, hiding in the bushes, waiting for its moment. For many of us, that moment never comes, and the instinct slowly dies, fading and wasting away to nothing, smothered by more reasoned and logical impulses.

So, from a rational standpoint, the idea that proclaiming that a murderer will be hoist upon their own petard, subject to the most singular and permanent punishment known, in order to deter further murders, is folly. The instinct to murder is welded too closely to us still, to be so easily stamped out by our commandments or laws. While our rational selves know inherently that taking another life is wrong and amoral, even that knowledge is sometimes not enough to overcome a deep-seated desire, biding its time in the darker parts of our primitive brains. To kill the killer is to place no greater stricture on murder than can be reasonably taught to any human being through parents, teachers, and clergy. For some, no matter the environment they are immersed in, the urge to kill will not be sated or starved. If we are to consider ourselves a civilized race of beings, then we must also live by the stricture we would have others live by. For the State, or even a citizen or citizens, to decide that murder is a justifiable punishment for murder, is to violate that tenet we hold so dear in our hearts: thou shall not kill.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Care

I was told by someone, formerly of the military, that my opinion about gays in the military does not count. It seems that being an American citizen, who elects the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, whose tax dollars go to support the military's budget, and whose life is dependent on those brave men and women who would willingly sacrifice theirs for it, does not count. Apparently, the members of the armed forces should dictate what they do and how they do it, and the rest of us should butt out.

What a lovely idea -- no civilian control over the military. Let's just let them go about the business, unfettered by civilian oversight or complaint. Let them discriminate, let them segregate, let them pretend that they are more important than the country they defend. These people are supposed to be "citizen soldiers," recruited from the ranks of Americans everywhere, to provide for the common defense of the nation. They are us; we are them.

While the military is not a good breeding ground for social change, it is one of the most public arenas for it. It is supposed to be a cross-section of America, representative of who we are and what we stand for. It gains strength through diversity. The inclusion of blacks, then women, saw upheaval and rough moments, but eventually those groups became an established part of military life. But for some reason, the idea that homosexuals are in, or want to be part of, the military, sparks an entirely hyperbolic reaction, akin to the idea that Western civilization will collapse.

There will always be those who, either through homophobia or prejudice or ignorance, will regard gays as somehow being "abnormal" or "disruptive." That abnormality or disruption, though, is caused by those people themselves, not by the gays in their midst. It is their overreactions that cause stress and strife, as if gay people exude some mysterious radiation that will influence all those around them to break from their social norms and immediately crave the flesh of the same sex, a kind of perverted zombification. This is, of course, far from the truth. Homosexuals are the way they are because something inside them influences them in that direction. It is no doubt genetic, and for whatever reason, it is fairly prevalent in our species. They did not choose homosexuality; it chose them. They had no way of knowing of the propensity, until they were able to sense it and until it influenced them in ways they were not ready for.

In the end, however, say what you will, but gays are human beings, and in this case, Americans. They are afforded the same rights by the Constitution as anyone else, though there are those eager to change that, as if to prevent a plague from descending upon the land. To treat them as anything but human, to scorn or ridicule them for a choice they did not ultimately make, is to sow the fields of ignorance with a new crop, a bitter harvest of intolerance that will feed no one, and lead to divisions akin to those of The Civil War era. To think that we are unable to learn the lessons of history, cast aside the demons of our humanity, and for once embrace all human beings in fellowship, is a sad commentary on our growth as a nation.

I have nothing but the greatest respect and admiration for those who serve in the military, and wished I might have joined those ranks. Members of my family did participate in WWII, and I hold them in the highest esteem. Anyone who would willingly give up their life for others is a hero, even if they do not fire a shot in anger, for just reconciling the idea that combat may inevitably lead to their death, and that they may be required to take another life in the course of their duty, leads me to believe that they are of the highest moral caliber. If they are not saints, not perfect, all the better, for they are just like you and me, and nothing more. That makes their heroism that much more amazing.

In that vein, I would think the military would be proud to count among its ranks anyone who wishes to serve to defend the United States of America, and is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to preserve freedom and defend democracy. That they should shun someone merely because they are different, is another poor postscript to an otherwise glorious history of defense of our nation. Those in the armed forces must know that the bond of combat, the test of shared strife, and the coming together as one to perform the toughest missions ever asked of any group, transcends all differences, and forges men and women from everywhere together into an organization that has persevered in the face of every adversity for well over two hundred years. The military forces of the United States is only as strong as the nation it serves, and the nation it serves says that it is time to drop the last barrier to being true defenders of freedom and liberty.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

43.6 Million Reasons

According to a United States Census Bureau report, in 2009, 43.6 million Americans were at or below the poverty line, defined as making less than 21,954 USD per year. That translates to 1 in 7 Americans being in poverty.

Let that sink in.

That means that the next time you are in a crowded room, or at Wal-Mart, or at a doctor's office, you can count the people in the room, and every seventh one of them is poor. Of course, being poor, they might not be in that room or that store or that office; a great many of those in poverty will not be found roaming the halls of commerce or medicine. They will, instead, be struggling to survive, eking out a living in menial, low-wage jobs, relying on public assistance to fill in the gaps in their income, and hoping desperately that their job is not the next one cut. Or perhaps, they aren't even that fortunate, forced to live in shelters, or on the street, or in a tent in a park or under a bridge, bereft of even the simple comforts of a home and food.

For all the chatter about how this is a "Christian nation," it becomes more evident as the years pass that it is far from the truth, for anyone living by the principles of Jesus Christ would not be able to stomach the thought of one in seven of their neighbors struggling with poverty. He proclaimed that it was our duty to love everyone, and that we were to do everything we could to lift up those who are often ignored or shunned by society. He proclaimed that there was no wealth where there was want. He wanted humanity to do its duty to itself. And while many of us strive, in some measure, to follow his example and do what we can for our brethren, we, too, are stretched to the limit, burdened by bills it is increasingly hard to pay. We give what we can, but it is never enough.

Is it too much to ask of those of greater means to help provide sustenance and succor for those of lesser means? It is couched as an imposition by those who make more money, to be forced to support social programs that do not substantially affect them, to be forced to pay more in taxes for which they receive no greater benefit. But isn't it the truth that their wealth is a result of those who work for them, directly or indirectly? That without the individuals who build and manufacture and program and toil at all the other menial and manual trades, there would be no wealth for them to covet? Or do they see other Americans are merely more disposable commodities, to be used until they are no longer capable, then replaced by the next desperate soul?

There are 46.3 million reasons to change how we, as a nation, should deal with our economic problems and social issues. Poverty is the driver for so many of the ills we see around us: drug abuse, domestic violence, rape, robbery, and murder. 46.3 million reasons, but it should take only one. The idea that one child will go to bed tonight hungry. The idea that one family will spend the night in a shelter, rather than in a home. The idea that one man will turn to crime to support his family because he can't find a job. The idea that someone will turn to drugs to salve their guilt over being unable to provide for their family. The idea that a baby will suffer because it cannot receive proper health care. The idea that a veteran would be forced to live on the streets, after making so many sacrifices for his/her country. These are the reasons that everyone should be working toward a more equitable society.

If greed is good, then charity and compassion are better, and better still is accepting that your fellow human beings are suffering, and you have the means to do something about it. Tax cuts, economic stimulus, bailouts, unemployment insurance -- this is not about the economy, but about society, about ensuring that people who want to work can work, can earn a decent wage, and support themselves and their families. If those who would rail against "socialized government" were to stop shouting long enough to hear the voices of the needy, they would realize that people want to work, want to have jobs, want to pursue the American dream, but they cannot do it until the captains of industry decide to put industry over profit, and begin hiring again.

War on poverty is not the answer -- the elimination of poverty is. We must do whatever is necessary to erase this scourge from our country, and then the world. Where poverty reigns, the ills of society will continue to follow. If we consider ourselves a moral people, then it is criminal to allow so many to suffer deprivation and want. It is in the hands of those with the most resources to do their human duty; until they do, the rest of us will do what we can. We cannot rest easy while one belly is empty, or one family homeless, or one American suffers.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Bad Apples

It is far easier to condemn a group for the faults of a few, than to take a long, cold, hard look at the larger picture. Stereotypes are often born of those who make themselves prominent from a group, even though they are not representative of the whole. This leads to the whole body of individuals being dragged down into the mire of iniquity, where they do not belong. It is better to single out those bad apples for the treatment they deserve, rather than extend our disgust and displeasure to everyone.

Islamic radicals have done an excellent job poisoning American opinion against Muslims. Far from pointing out America's "war on Muslims," they have been able to create it from whole cloth, by showing the rest of the world how we react to their religion, with threats of burning the Qur'an, or marches opposing the building of mosques (or community centers), or even abandoning one of the fundamental precepts of our founding, the freedom to worship, by claiming Islam is "not a real religion."

Of course, what can be said for Islam can be said for Christianity. The tiny church group that created the furor over the potential burning of the Islamic holy book is a tiny fraction of all Christianity. It is certainly -- we would hope -- not a representative cross-section of the many and varied Christian sects, or even the Roman Catholic religion.

And of the Roman Catholic religion, we could say the same, that though the idea of priests preying on innocent children is repugnant and reprehensible, those priests certainly do not represent a sizable fraction of all the priesthood. The Roman Catholic Church, for its many faults, still tries to do good in the world, though its messages has become less secular and more deterministic of late. The church's refusal to allow women into the higher echelons of the faith has certainly led to these issues being more pervasive than they should be.

When it comes to women, we must also learn to not look at the likes of Christine O'Donnell, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Bachmann as the new wave of women in politics. They are but a small slice of the much larger pie of women making strides in the political arena. While they may seem to be weakening women's positions in the world, I think they are in fact creating dialog that was for too long missing in America. It almost seems as if the feminist movement has lost steam, with younger women coming to the conclusion that with so many freedoms, there was not much left to fight for, even though equality on paper does not translate into equality in society.

When we speak of equality in society, we must touch on that portion of Americans who are virulently homophobic, working diligently to ensure that gay people do not end up being regarded as equal to themselves, borrowing from the era of Jon Crow segregation in all but the signs on water fountains. The majority of those who may not appreciate homosexuality as a fact of life are probably not of the type to look at them as sub-human or less than normal; they merely are scared that somehow giving gays the same rights as everyone else will dilute their way of life, when nothing could be further from the truth, given how watered down the "sacrament" of marriage is in our modern age.

The list goes on. In every category, in every group or organization or society, there are those who stretch the limits, who go beyond what is normal, what is fair, and what is decent, to proselytize and pound their fists, enraged by the rest of us who choose not to buy into their paranoia, fear, and ignorance. We can never truly be rid of them, for they are a natural product of our development. Just as there are those who will find it possible to transcend the moment, to become much more than simply a product of their gender, religion, nationality, or sexual orientation, there will be those who retain a death grip on the walls they have created, and the boxes they have labeled, trying to create order in their rapidly deteriorating universe. They will wail and rail against change, commit themselves to do battle with it at every turn, to keep their "precious" world alive, no matter the cost to others. Because it is never truly for the greater good that they do this; it is merely to fill the empty void that would otherwise be their life, to give them some purpose and meaning, even as they see humanity passing them by.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Nobody Looks Like Joe McCarthy

They come from the shadows, from the corners, from out-of-the-way places. They seem, on the surface, to be normal, average Americans, concerned citizens who only want to change things, to get America back the way it ought to be.

None of them look like Joe McCarthy. Even Joe McCarthy didn't look like Joe McCarthy. There was little chance of knowing to what depths he would go to ferret out the "Red menace," and in the beginning, he was able to fill a power vacuum, and turn himself into the most feared man in Washington, D.C. He might have thought his motivations were pure and that he was saving America from Communism, but in the end, he was merely a bully and a thug, so busy raking innocent people over the coals and ruining careers, that the spies and sympathizers he claimed to be exposing were still firmly ensconced in the halls of power, only to be revealed after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Well-meaning, well-intentioned, but ultimately hypocritical people attempt to steal into the spotlight in an effort to push their agenda, always couched in terms of "saving America" or "reclaiming America" or "restoring America," as if America were a venerable old house that had fallen into disrepair and required rehabilitation to bring it back to shining glory. If America can be said to be in some form of disrepair, then these champions of restoration might wish to peer into the looking-glass to behold the faces of its absentee landlords.

Where was The Tea Party during the Reagan years, when taxes for the rich were cut in half but the Federal budget deficits skyrocketed? Or during the reign of George Bush, Sr. when reading his lips led to higher taxes, which failed to do anything to halt a near doubling of the national debt? And it's still shocking that they were not roused form their slumber during the reign of George Bush, Jr., when the reduced budget deficits of the Clinton era were exploded by rampant spending on wars, unsupported tax cuts, and an increase in pork barrel spending. And why is The Tea Party now not vehemently standing up against the reinstatement of the Bush era tax cuts, which would add an unsupported three trillion dollars in debt to the budget deficit?

It isn't about looking at the whole picture, picking facts from amidst hyperbole and obfuscation. It isn't about coming up with reasonable and actionable plans that would create a stabilization of the economy and lower tax rates while increasing revenue through the creation of more jobs. It is about peddling an agenda, taking advantage of a seismic shift in American society with the election of a black President, to hurl forth long-hidden desires to wrest control of the nation from the "Socialists" and reestablish America "as it should be." It is about trading on fear, xenophobia, and ignorance, to whip sycophantic followers into suspending rational judgment to feed the egos of small people who insist that their way is the right way, and the rest of America is just going to have to accept it.

Far from being defenders of liberty, these half-baked "patriots" are its greatest threat, secure in their belief that their view of America is the "right" one, and that anyone who disagrees with them is unpatriotic or traitorous. Far from honoring the contributions, sacrifices, and work of the Founding Fathers, they denigrate their struggle to bring about a new birth of freedom and liberty by ensuring that it is denied to as many others as possible. They would strip away the rights of women, homosexuals, immigrants, and anyone else they felt was "undeserving" of the same liberties they have. They would force gays out of the military, denying them the right to defend their own country. They would make a woman or young girl bear the wicked spawn of incest and/or rape, simply to salve their conscience and perpetuate their dogma. They would hand the wealthy more money, and wait for it to "trickle down" out of their bank accounts. They would pull the rug out from under Americans struggling to survive, by doing away with health care and unemployment benefits and aid to the poor, all in the name of "fiscal responsibility." They would force us all to pray to their god, and would deny anyone who would worship otherwise the right to do so. They make a mockery of the Constitution and all it stands for.

Change in Washington, D.C. is necessary, but the change must be for the better and not the worse. These candidates are not interested in furthering the bond of humanity, or doing their human duty to help all their fellow citizens. They are in it for self-aggrandizement, for their own enrichment, coveting power which has been heretofore in the hands of others. They wish to enslave us with their wretched "morality," taking away liberty in the name of returning America to some colonial time, whereby races and classes were kept in their place, and obedience to god was paramount. It is the 21st Century, and they wish to live in the 17th Century. The world has passed them by, but they refuse to go away quietly.

Americans of good conscience must stand up to these bullies, and send them back to where they came from. We need serious people, willing to use reason, provide accountability, and agree to compromise, to put our house in order. America does not need to be restored, it needs to grow, to struggle up from the muck, and to once more become a nation of principles. To do so, will require us to step up, to realize that we are greater as a whole, than as a nation of classes and social barriers. We must reject the strident voices that would divide us, and embrace the song of fellowship that will unite us.