Friday, March 26, 2010

Fall From Grace

I am not a proud Catholic. It cannot even be said I am a good Catholic. Though baptized and confirmed into the Roman Catholic Church, it has, at times, disillusioned and confounded me. I have questioned it, its history, and the decisions (or non-decisions) of Rome. While I believe in my heart that the teachings of Jesus are admirable, and have incorporated them in my own life, I am less enthused by the Church itself, still straining to operate a world far different than the one Jesus was born into two thousand years ago. While there are elements of the Church that show an ability to adapt to the times, the message of the Roman Catholic faith (and its many Christian offshoots) is still too mired in tired dogma of millennia past.

The saddest part of the modern Roman Catholic Church, has been the rash of incidents involving clergy and the sexual abuse of young children. It strains credibility to believe that Rome is unaware, but it is inconceivable that knowledge of such heinous acts has not stirred the Church into an encyclical frenzy. Apparently, these crimes are the product of Man, and the Church feels itself above true concern for those who are scarred, as it shows no penchant or inclination for defrocking those who perpetrate such awful acts. Too often, they are simply shuttled to a new parish, to begin the cycle again, or tucked away in some corner of the Church, unrepentant and untouched by the enormity of their monstrous work.

The Church would have me reject homosexuals as "abominations," abstain from the use of contraception, and promote an end to abortion; all these are social issues, that they have seen fit to delve into. Yet, how can I -- even if I believed in the Catholic view on these things (I do not) -- push for such things when the Church itself cannot deal with the demon in its midst? That The Vatican would have me attempt to promote their social agenda, even as they fail to address such heinous acts, is hypocrisy of a grand order. Jesus must be weeping to see how far his religion has fallen, given that the titular head of it brushed such thing sunder the rug.

Any priest, if he be a true and faithful Catholic, would know the stain that such abuse places on their soul. Though the Church preaches forgiveness and the absolution of sin, on the day of reckoning, we are to be held account for our works on Earth. No amount of absolution can wipe such a stain so easily from a man, especially when that man is a priest, charged with safeguarding the souls of his flock. It is as if the shepherd has fed some of his flock to the wolves, and expects us not to notice.

Children, once baptized into the Roman Catholic Church, are supposed to be cleansed of original sin; how despicable then that the youngest, most vulnerable of God's followers are then swallowed up by the sin of a priest, casting their soul into darkness. If The Vatican is truly intent on proving its divinity as guardians of the word of Jesus, and its infallibility, it will not shuffle such reprehensible examples of the Lord's shepherds around to pillage new flocks, but will excommunicate them, expelling their foul ichor from the body of Christ.

And once the Pope has done this, he then needs to ask the forgiveness of the members of the Church, for allowing such transgressions against Man and God to go unpunished for so long. As we are baptized into the Church and cleaned of sin, let the Church be baptized into a new age of humanity with a clean soul.

Monday, March 22, 2010

End Big Government Excess

Yes, that's right -- it's time to end big government's grip. It has done nothing but make us slaves to our own country. Take this health care bill -- just another attempt to pick our pockets to pay for those who cannot support themselves. That's not what America is about; we're about independence, charting our own course, exceptionalism. So let's repeal this bill, before it takes our hard-earned money and gives it away.

And while we're at it... let's do away with some other big government excesses!

Let's take back the auto industry bailout; those companies made their messes, let them clean them up. If a few hundred thousand more people are unemployed, well, serves them right for not working harder, better, and cheaper.

Let's take back the T.A.R.P. funds; those banks should have just been allowed to fail. OK, so it would have plunged us into a depression, but people just need to hitch up their bootstraps and hunker down.

Let's get rid of S.C.H.I.P.; I'm sorry your kid can't get decent health care, but that's your problem, not mine.

Let's repeal Medicare and Medicaid; why should our taxes be paying for health care for the old, the disadvantaged, for the developmentally disabled? What have they done for us? They should be paying their own way, like everyone else.

Let's repeal the Civil Rights Act; there's no reason we can't live separate-but-equal lives in this country. Why should we be forced to live in the same places, eat at the same restaurants, and shop at the same stores that they do?

Let's tear up the Interstate Highways; we had perfectly good roads before, that went where we wanted to go. There isn't enough money to build and maintain them -- it's another government boondoggle.

Let's be rid of Unemployment Compensation; if you lose your job, that's a shame, but if you did your job, your company would never have let you go. Don't be taking money out of a company's pockets to prop up a bunch of freeloaders.

Let's dissolve Social Security; if you're too lazy to save for your retirement, there's no reason the rest of us should be helping you. If you end up poor, it's your own fault for not planning better.

Let's knock down Hoover Dam; the government had no business building a dam to generate electricity, when we have abundant coal and oil resources.

Let's tear up sidewalks and bridges built by the W.P.A.; what was the government doing, giving away tax money to unemployed layabouts to build these things? They took jobs away from good union labor.

Let's repeal the 19th Amendment; giving women the right to vote was a mistake. They were better off doing what they were told by their husbands and fathers.

Let's re-impose slavery; look at how many lives were lost in The Civil War, just to free a bunch of people we brought here to serve us. Waste of lives and money.

Let's give back the Louisiana Purchase; what business did the government have, buying up all that land, when they didn't even know if it was going to be worth anything?


The purpose of our Federal government is to ensure the essential rights, freedoms, and liberties of all Americans, not just those we like or agree with. What applies to one, must apply to all. To "establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity," requires a central government, to oversee these sweeping needs, to coordinate them, and to ensure that every American receives the fullest measure of the rights and privileges given to them by the Constitution. For a central government to work, it requires the people to take ownership of that government, provide it with the resources to carry out these duties, and install people capable of managing the government effectively and efficiently. While the government must be "of, by, and for" the citizens who created it, it must also be willing to go beyond the will of the citizenry, to ensure that the greatest number of Americans receive the benefits of liberty.

The world, and the societies that inhabit it, are subject to change, both from internal pressures and external forces. No society can remain static in the face of change; it must, of need, flow like water, around obstacles, seeking its level. A society must change with its times, and a government must ensure that its citizens are not subject to the vagaries of change, where it can. It is there to ensure that all its citizens need never fear that their way of life will be destroyed by forces beyond their ken or control. Government is protector and defender, educator and jurist, mother and father, champion of liberty and denier of oppression. If our government fails at these things, it is only because we, the people, the stakeholders in this enterprise, have let it happen. We have not reasoned critically, we have become apathetic, content to send the same shirkers, malingerers, and power-seekers back time-and-again, to take our precious resources and squander them. We have the power, granted us by the Constitution, to hold our elected officials to account, and to remove them when they fail us. If we do not do this, we have only ourselves to blame.

Like it, or not, we are in this together. Every person who is a citizen of the Unites States, has a duty and an obligation to ensure the proper operation of the Federal government. Every citizen is accorded the same rights and privileges, without exception, and no one must be allowed to prevent this. We are many, and we are one, and while we are not all alike as people, we are all alike as citizens, and should all be accorded the same level of respect. Our personal inclinations aside, if we are to be a Union, a nation united, then that uniting must be greater than our individual differences. We must speak with deference, agree to disagree where we must, and in the end, we must do what is best for us all. Only in that way, do we honor those who brought our nation into being, and perpetuate their dream of "a more perfect Union."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Day Has Come

It is finally here. The day so many of us have waited for, when America would finally show its potential for good and a love of its citizens, dawns. After a long, drawn out, momentous, contentious, acrimonious, and partisan fight, Congress is about to pass health care reform.

So many have tried to stop it. They have harangued us with talk of "death panels," of "the government takeover of health care," of socialism and fascism. They have muddied the waters with hypocrisy and hatred and ignorance. A raucous minority has attempted to set back American governance 250 years, when we were but squabbling colonies, bitter about the oppression of King George III but unwilling to take the necessary steps to secure freedom. They have plowed under reason and attempted to plant fear.

They are about to lose.

May the passage of this bill mark the breaking of the back of such tyrannical ignorance. America, the Republic, must stand above the pettiness of its citizens at times, to do what is in the best interests of all Americans. The emancipation of slaves, civil rights, granting women the right to vote... all these moments in our history were accompanied by vitriolic debate, raw anger, violence, but eventually, were met with strong conviction and earnest regard for what was proper. Though remnants of those fights remain, they are powerless and weak, left mouldering on the vine, bereft of strength. So to it might be, that those who would turn their backs on Americans who cannot afford or cannot maintain vital health care might have their opposition wither as well.

Let it be written that, at this moment, America reached beyond partisanship, beyond rhetoric, beyond reticence, and strove for a higher purpose: enhancing the general welfare and promoting the greater good. Let us also stand up to those who would have let good citizens die, who would have turned their backs on those in need, and tell them that despite everything, they too will enjoy the fruits of this, even though in the hearts of many, they do not deserve such. For America is a place where you can be who want to be, believe what you want to believe, and say what you want to say, and your rights to those things are guaranteed, even if they are contrary to the greater good.

The movement toward a greater society is never free of strife or struggle. The old ways and old ideas cling desperately to us, not quite ready to be cast off, even as human progress leaves them in the dust. Many will be shocked and angered when their will is forsaken by the government, but as with anything, they will be brought kicking and screaming into the new dawn. They will be the beneficiaries of progress, even as they try to turn their backs on it. American will be a better nation for this, like it or not.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fear And Loathing In Mississippi

It should come as no shock, when Mississippi becomes a battleground over civil rights. The death of Medgar Evers, of three civil rights works, shot in the back, show the determination of some to halt the course of freedom for all Americans. That the battle over black/white segregation was lost has not deterred some from diverting their energies into trying to enforce gay/straight segregation.

Fulton, Mississippi has now become a new battleground, which may not take on the stature of the events of Freedom Summer, but most certainly will have far-reaching implications, as a public school attempts to banish the "taint" of homosexuality in its halls by cancelling the prom, rather than allow a homosexual couple to attend.

Given the current climate in America, this should come as no surprise. Right-wing pundits harp on the talking points having to do with how the government is stripping Americans of their freedom and liberty, even as elements of American society seek to actually do this to those who have created no offense other than to be "different." These elements do not come right out and say the words, but their actions expose their bigotry in its totality. They know that to state their hatred of homosexuals would lead to their excoriation, but they are naive enough to think that merely taking such an action as cancelling a prom could not possibly arouse a nation.

For which they are fools.

Racism, sexism, ageism, bigotry... no matter what flag they are wrapped in or cloak that envelopes them, they are as plain as clouds in a clear blue sky, as obvious as the full Moon, and as poisonous as the worst snake or spider. These poxes on the body politic are unwanted reminders of the illness that still flows through our country's bloodstream; no amount of marching, rallying, protesting, or legislating has seen fit to expunge them from our society. Their odious, cancerous existence is mute testimony to the fact that not everyone can see reason or be enlightened.

And so, school administrators in Fulton, awash in the bitter swill that is local bigotry and ignorance, are punishing all the students in the high school, rather than take the chance that two rather harmless young ladies might attend together, simply because they prefer the company of their own gender to that of the opposite gender. In a way, this is the most important civics lesson these high school students can learn, for they can see the tyranny of stale ideas and dogma first-hand, unadulterated, constituted in the very adults they have been told to respect, people no doubt held up as pillars of their community. They were not here in the 60's, to see Mississippi burn, but now the drama can play out before them with new actors, in new ways, that might amplify the history of their state.

That it would take an outside agency -- either the courts, or perhaps a benefactor -- to put on a prom that all these children could attend is incomprehensible, though not as much as the mere fact that such a parochial attitude clings to life in the 21st Century. Are we so reticent, so set in our ways, so glacial in our thinking, that we the people, Americans, lovers of individual freedom and liberty, are going to stand for the continued existence of such things? Are we so removed from the shot and smoke of the Revolution, that we have forgotten that our fore-bearers died to give all Americans the chance to pursue life, liberty, and happiness?

In the end it will not be the government, but we the citizens, who shall decide this issue. If we do not care for intolerance and blind hatred and unwarranted fear, then we must stand up and say we will no longer tolerate these things. If we are truly to be a freedom-loving people, then we must free ourselves completely from our own self-imposed oppression, for silence only allows those who seek to restrain liberty more rope.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Principles In Motion

If there is anything that causes the government of the United States to function inefficiently, it is partisanship. While, technically, our country operates on a multi-party model, the fact remains that both the Republicans and Democrats have made it, so as to monopolize the conversation, and maintain their grip on power from the national level on down to the local level. It is monarchy gone amok, with two "kings," neither of which is able to rule effectively on their own, but incapable of sharing power effectively.

Worse, each party has taken the interceding decades to consolidate their message to the point that they stand in almost complete opposition to each other on most points. As such, members of each who lean a little toward the other party, the moderates, are castigated and considered outsiders, out of touch with the party base, and often left to twist in the wind. Anyone who speaks of bipartisan compromise is not being "true" to the party's "ideals."

It is maddening, in the extreme.

It is not possible to rule effectively through one set of principles. Any nation, any empire, that has neglected the wider spread of ideas, and disenfranchised portions of its citizenry, has paid the price for its arrogance in civil war, dissolution, and destruction. Many a high-sounding idea for government has inevitably crumbled under the weight of power-gathering and autocracy. Any government that does not represent the interests of all its citizens, and weigh those against the common good, is doomed to the compost heap of history.

Even now, one of the most successful democratic republics to exist, ours, is in danger of falling into this trap, as Democrats and Republicans hunker down behind bulwarks of tired, nonsensical rhetoric, and see fit only to lob epithets and talking points at each other. The shrapnel from these exchanges rains down on us, the citizens of the United States, in taxes that are spent on frippery and boondoggles, wars that do not actually protect us from anything, economic chaos caused by unbridled speculation coupled with an unsustainable model of growth, and the continued existence of poverty, disease, and deprivation in a country that prides itself on being one of the most modern in the world.

This is a trap of our own making. The Founding Fathers thought it important for the people to run the show, to elect the officials, to shape and mold the country. This is what they got for their trouble -- a polarized government and a weak, stratified electorate, unwilling or unable to accept responsibility for creating the nightmare that is the power structure in Washington, D.C., and unwilling to do anything about it. Even the election of President Obama, a hopeful sign to be sure, was not followed up with a wave of fresh thinking. Congress still stagnates in the fetid swamp of its inaction, more interested in carving up the country into personal fiefdoms, and making off with the cutlery, that standing up for the guiding principles upon which the country was founded.

It is not about who is right and who is wrong, who is fair and who is unfair, who represents the "true" American people; it is about governance, and providing three hundred million people with the services and support that can only be handled through a centralized, national government. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few; all Americans deserve equal protection under the law, equal access to the services that government provides, and an equal right to make their own destiny. Sometimes the government must overrule the cries of the people, where a policy is not in the best interests of everyone, even though that may be unpopular.

Instead, we have politicians who promise much, deliver little, and live off the fat of the land, even as their constituencies fill with the poor, the under-educated, the homeless, and the helpless. They make great shows before the cameras of "standing on their principles" and "looking out for the voters," even as they compromise those principles and pay little attention to their constituents, especially those who have not contributed to their campaign war chest. Apparently, unless you are on the donor role, your voice need not be heard.

We created this problem, we the people. The idea of a perfect union has been sold to the highest contributor, because our votes have become automatic instead of thought out. We complain about the state of affairs, but we choose not to examine the root cause of the problem: our lackadaisical approach to the responsibility given to us under the Constitution. We have ceded control of our country to lobbyists, corporations, special interest groups, and foreign powers, because we cannot be bothered to take an active interest in what our representatives do day-to-day, and we do not seem to be able to force the media to report accurately on the problems at hand.

Vote, or don't, but at the end of the day when your paycheck seems too small, when the bills seem too large, when what was once something you gave no thought to now consumes your every waking moment, look in the mirror and stare at the face of the real culprit in the shoddy affairs of state: you. If we do not stand up, do not demand justice, do not demand that out representatives afford us the services it is their responsibility to provide, and do so without pouring our hard-earned money down myriad rat holes, then we have no reason to complain about what happens, because the fault lies not in the stars, but with us. We determine how our government functions, and we have fallen down on the job.