Posted by: minnow | January 10, 2016

Enough is Enough!

How is it possible in America a woman who is not disrupting a public meeting, but is wearing a hijab, is escorted out of that assembly?  How is it possible a person who desires to be the President of this country allows (and by some reports encourages) his supporters to order her to “get out”, falsely accuse her of having a bomb, and boo her while she leaves?  How is it he later quips, “There is a hatred against us that is unbelievable…It is their hatred not our hatred.” and the media, the RNC and the general public still treat him like he is a viable candidate for the office of President?  Since when did American become the land of the fanatic and the home of the bigot?  Since when do we tolerate such vile behavior from a public figure?

I debated whether or not to mention the above candidate’s name.  I didn’t actually want to give him any more press than he is already getting.  And, I do not normally endorse shame as a motivational tactic.  However, in the case of those who support Donald Trump and condone the treatment of Rose Hamid at his rally, I make an exception.  Your behavior has brought shame upon our country.  Your ugliness is an embarrassment to our nation.  Your words are hateful and reveal your deep rooted insecurities, inadequacy, and fear.  If you were five I would tell you to play nice.  If you were 12 I’d tell you it is time to grow up.  But you are not five and you are not 12.  You are grown up and YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER!!  Nothing you can say will convince me your candidate supports anyone other than himself.  You can offer no rationale that excuses his egocentric behavior or his racist and sexist rhetoric.  Giving this man more power would be  irresponsible.  I do not accept you like him just because “he speaks his mind.”  Bernie Sanders, John Kasich, Elizabeth Warren, Martin O’Malley, Stephen Colbert, Ellen DeGeneres, and Maria Contreras-Sweet speak their minds.  The difference is, when they do something intelligent comes out.  People like your candidate should not be taken seriously and if you continue to support him, listen to him, and say you are going to vote for him then, by your voluntary association with him, I am forced to believe you are just as ignorant, racist, sexist, and dangerous as your candidate.

Continuing to treat Mr. Trump as a feasible candidate is reckless.  The damage his candidacy has already done to the integrity of our nation is palatable.  It has gone far beyond fodder for late night comedy.  His ideas deserve no more consideration, no more respect, than a stale joke.  And, while I suppose laughter is still better than tears, we have reached the point when it is time to become serious about who we plan to elect as president of the United States.

We need a leader capable of navigating the turbulent days ahead–both economically and internationally.  We need a person who works well with others, who is thoughtful and discerning, who seeks innovative ideas and collaborative problem solving, and who refuses to alienate or favor any one group of Americans over another.  We cannot afford to put the fate of our nation in the hands of someone who might see some American–be they Muslims, women, the poor, Hispanics, or transgender–as less than, expendable, or undeserving of their constitutional rights as Americans.  We must insist the person we elect reaches for the highest plane of honor rather than the lowest common denominator. Our ability to continue to be proud of who we are and what we can achieve depends on such an ideal.

If we, as the citizens of this nation do not believe in freedom for ALL Americans, then we do not believe in freedom of any Americans.  If we do not believe in justice for ALL Americans, then we do not believe in justice for any Americans.  And, if we do not believe in equality for ALL Americans, then we do not believe in equality for any Americans!  When the writers of our constitution conceived of this great nation, I believe they did not even completely comprehend the profound document they had drafted.  They could not have understood how difficult their ideals would be to reach, nor how long it might take us to live up to them.

Even so, from the moment the ink began to dry on the parchment we have been moving forward.  76 years after the Constitution was ratified President Lincoln emancipated the slaves. 67 years later women earned the right to vote.  95 years after that, The Supreme Court recognized the rights of same-sex couples to marry.  Freedom, justice, and equality for all have been slow in coming.  Freedom, justice, and equality for all are hard fought battles.  But, freedom, justice, and equality for all has always been our forward motion.  We must not stop striving onward, reaching upward, and seeking our better selves.  We must not quit reaching out, lifting others up, and widening our circle of inclusion.  We must not back away from the challenges ahead nor let go of the vision for America cast by our fathers, and grandfathers, and founding fathers. These are the ideals that make America great.  This is what it means to pursue the American dream.

Posted by: minnow | December 21, 2015

Who Won the Third Democratic Debate?

Bottom line? Everyone who watched.  Repeatedly I found myself thinking: I agree with him.  She made sense.  He sounds like he  has a plan.  These people are smart, articulate, and respectful of one another.  They want to engage and inform the general public.  Yes, they have areas of disagreement but the three Democratic candidates are focused on problem-solving and treating one another with respect even while wrestling with the tough issues.  They aren’t beating each other up!  You can agree with their points of view or disagree with points of view, but you can’t say any one of them is fear mongering, uninformed, or talking nonsense.   Sanders, the self-proclaimed socialist, came across as pragmatic. Martin O’Malley may lack name recognition, but  that won’t be true for long.  And with her closing remarks, Hillary let us all know she has a sense of fun!

Sanders showed class by not only apologizing to Secretary Clinton (for the data breach made by one of his staffers) but to his supporters as well.  A man of integrity, he handled the situation immediately and decisively.  Additionally, he called for an independent investigation so the problem would not reoccur.

ON THE ISSUES, the candidates offered a substantive debate:

BEGINNING WITH FOREIGN POLICY–Sanders and O’Malley, unlike Clinton, paint themselves as reluctant to focus on regime change in the Middle East. Both want a coalition of Arab countries to fight ISIL in Syria and a coalition of other nations, like Germany and France, to provide support. In other words, they want to avoid American boots on the ground and won’t “go it alone”.  Sanders reminded listeners that a regime change without knowing who might rise to power creates a vacuum for terrorists.  Unlike the Republicans, all three acknowledge the sovereignty of other nations and our limited RIGHT to assert our will on foreign soil.  The issues in the Middle East are complicated and made more so by religion.  Sorting out friend and enemy, especially in Syria right now, is a tricky process and another good reason to avoid committing troops.

As a side note, Martin O’Malley mentioned our need to become less dependent on oil as a factor in solving our Middle East problems.  While one of O’Malley’s signature issues, the debate gave developing clean energy options only a passing mention.  Never the less, O’Malley is correct.  We must curb our oil appetite. It will lessen our interest in the Middle East and also  help us address the serious problem of climate change.

GUNS and GUN VIOLENCE—Transitioning away from the Middle East the issue of gun violence in the US was discussed. All three candidates advocate getting on board with the vast majority of Americans and implementing some type of gun safety laws. Assault weapons and the see-no-problem-do–nothing-about-it GOP were the major targets in the debate. Even Bernie Sanders, who unlike the other two candidates, lives in a state which received an F from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in 2015, advocated passing legislation to rid us of the gun show loophole, and banning citizen ownership of military grade assault weapons.

REFUGEES—When it comes to closing our doors to Syrian refugees, both Secretary Clinton, and Governor O’Malley reminded listeners that the vetting process for refugees is actually more strict than other types of visas.  Clinton added, “We don’t want to make it seem as though we are turning into a nation of fear instead of a nation of resolve.”

THE ECONOMY–The moderators spent very little time with questions about the economy.  Still, Clinton got in her best one-liner when she was asked, “Should corporate America love Hillary Clinton?”  She answered, “Everybody should.” And while every candidate gave lip service to reining in Wall Street Martin O’Malley lead the charge by calling for a renewed use of anti-trust laws and stronger efforts to promote competition. Bernie Sanders went a step further and backed up his assertions with evidence. He has no super PAC money and doesn’t want contributions from corporate America. He plans to break up “too big to fail” financial institutions and hopes to reinstate a modern day version of Glass-Steagall.   Sanders concluded his remarks saying, “While there are some great corporations creating jobs and trying to do the right thing, in my view — and I say this very seriously — the greed of the billionaire class, the greed of Wall Street is destroying this economy and is destroying the lives of millions of Americans.”

Other issues discussed were health care, family leave, taxes, and college tuitions.  The differences between  candidates may not be huge, but they were well articulated as were the subjects on which they agree. The fact is, these three Presidential hopefuls brought a great deal to the debate table Saturday (12/19/15) night. The sad reality, however, is fewer viewers heard them than heard the last GOP debate.  The Democratic National Committee has not only scheduled fewer debates than during the last open contest, but it has  picked a calendar with potentially the fewest number of viewers.  To put it as mildly as I can, I’m disappointed!  Nobody is helped by less air time and smaller audiences. Nobody!

The DNC clearly wants a Clinton nomination.  Plain.  Simple.  Political.  Sadly, if the American people want Bernie Sanders or Martin O’Malley we will have to do it on our own time and our own dime.  So, I say shame on the political machine.  But I also say–never before has becoming a revolutionary been so easy–all you need to do is VOTE.  That’s how we shut down the political machine. VOTE–that’s how we achieve a government of the people, by the people and most importantly FOR THE PEOPLE.  VOTE and support your vote for President with a vote for a Representative or Senator who will work with the President you choose.  Radicals don’t know how to collaborate and they refuse to compromise.  We need elected officials who are willing to work together for the greater good.  And we need one of these three candidates to lead the way.

 

Posted by: minnow | December 16, 2015

Deck the Halls with Another Mass Shooting

Fa-la-la-la-laaaaa la-laa-la-la.

Too crass?  Probably.  But frankly, today I don’t care.  Last week my daughter asked what I thought about the most recent shooting in California. Suddenly, I became an extremist: Ban all assault weapons, make the use of a gun during a crime an automatic life sentence, require  mental fitness tests and demand mandatory background checks. “What?” my daughter said a moment later. “But, I thought we already had back ground checks.”  Hmmm…and how many others are under the same false impression?

Of course, some states do have background checks but most don’t.  Some have mandatory waiting periods, and limits on the number of weapons a person can buy at any one time, and safety requirements, and mental health prerequisites, and training requirements and mandatory permits, and conceal carry criteria, but again, most don’t.  What we lack is consistency.  This web site grades each state’s gun laws and offers a summary of what they include and don’t include. The least restrictive states received Fs.  Montana was one of those. The best or most restrictive states, earned an A-.  California and New York made that list.

Of course, not everyone agrees we even have a problem or what the problem we have is.  How we define mass shooting, for example, changes the conversation considerably.  The Mother Jones database narrowly defines mass shootings to include only those incidents in which a lone gunman kills four or more people, in a public place, for no apparent reason.  Limited by definition, the US has had only 3 mass shooting this year. And, technically it excludes the most recent shooting in San Bernardino, since that incident involved two gunmen. The more frequently quoted database, Mass Shooting Tracker, has the total at 353.  Their definition would include the most recent attack, which left 14 dead and 21 wounded.  Mass Shooting Tracker’s definition is: an incident which involves one or more perpetrator, takes place publically or privately, in which four or more people are shot, but not necessarily killed.  According to the LA Times this definition has problems of its own.  For example, 42 % of the Mass Shooting Tracker’s 353 total included no fatalities. Even so, their figure leaves 205 cases this year alone in which multiple people were killed.  The death toll stands at 459.

Part of the problem when trying to come up with a definition is not having a consensus with regard to the larger issue of gun violence.  Multiple shootings with seemingly no besetting incident are only one aspect.  Gang violence, domestic violence, suicide, and accidental deaths due to firearms are, for some, just as important.  So, how do we wrap our heads around the complexity of the problem? And what do we do with all the related topics?

We live in emotionally charged times. Every time violence grabs the attention of the media issues like immigration, refugees, and terrorism fuel the fires of anger and fear.  Sunday (12/6) President Obama addressed the nation.  His talk from the Oval Office lasted 13 minutes. His words were reassurance for a nation on edge. But, they aren’t enough. I for one want to believe calmer minds, as expressed by the President, will prevail as we wrestle with the symptoms of radical ideas and extremist behavior.  Yet, in order for that to happen we must not get sucked into a game of scapegoating. Those tactics only encourage the extremists in our own neighborhoods, places of worship, and businesses.

The radicalized right is growing.  It promotes fear which in turn nurses suspicion and animosity. Political posturing and big money caused the GOP in Congress to shoot down legislation which would have kept guns out of the hand of people on the US terrorist no-fly list.  At the same time, many of these same politicians stir up angst by vilify immigrants.  Additionally, they have called for a halt to accepting additional Syrian refugees.  Ignoring the constitution, some of the most vocal Republicans suggested we should place all Muslim Americans on a type of watch list, conduct surveillance on their mosques, and stop other Muslims from entering the country.  Stirring the fear pot, Liberty University’s President, Jerry Falwell Jr., announced that the school’s ban on  firearms in the dorms will be lifted.  In his recent convocation address he encouraged student to obtain conceal carry permits, bragging that he has one.  He further suggested that if more people carried concealed weapons “we could end those Muslims before they walked in” which sounds an awful lot like shoot first and ask questions later.  Personally, I prefer the words of Eastern Mennonite University president, Loren Swartsendruber, who invited “area Muslim and Christian leaders to explore how to jointly confront the local, national and global challenge of religious intolerance.”

We, Americans, like to look backwards; it often makes us feel good but we haven’t seems to learn much from our past.  We wag self-righteous fingers at Hitler and Nazi Germany’s treatment of the Jews.  Yet, we not only closed our gates to the Jews fleeing Nazi oppression but we shut Japanese Americans away in internment camps during WWII, forcing them to give up their homes and businesses and failing to compensate them even after the war was over. Why? In the words of actor, George Takei, who spent time in the internment camps as a child, “simply because we looked like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor.”

Muslims all over the world have spoken out against the violence committed by fringe extremists in the name of their religion.  We must not let our present fears cause us to repeat the fear driven mistakes from our past.  Muslim Americans have all the rights to freedom and the protection of the law that any other citizen of the United States has.  At the same time, if we sincerely want to do something about the gun violence in our communities we need to be willing to look at the ease with which guns are obtained.  We do not need to sacrifice our principles in order to increase our safety.  As has been pointed out by others, America was been built on the backs of immigrants.  We should be thanking them not vilifying them!

 

 

 

 

Posted by: minnow | December 13, 2015

The Third Candle

One of my favorite passages in scripture is from 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…”And verse 19 follows reminding us: “We love because He first  loved us.”

I have had to remind myself of these principles a lot in recent weeks.  Heck, let’s be honest–in the past several years.  With growing animosity from tea partiers and the religious right toward people of whom they disapprove it has been important for me to remember the power of love.

As tension mounts due to the situation in Syria and my fellow Americans respond on FB and twitter with fear mongering about the refugees, I have had to tell myself they are afraid.  They must not know perfect love or they would not be so afraid.  I have had to remind myself to be kind, to show grace, to try as gently as I can to pull back the blinders–exposing their fear and revealing Christ’s love as an alternative.

Still, I am puzzled and saddened by how many fear-filled people claim to know God. Why do they paint such ugly pictures and broadcast such dire warnings about opening ourselves up to the potential danger from terrorists who could possibly slip into our country along side the hungry children, worried mothers, grief stricken fathers, and war-worn grandparents that are the true faces of the refugees?

This morning I listened to a recording on FB posted by a proud mama of her daughter bring down the house with her rendition of “Go Tell It On the Mountain”.  It was a wonderful moment in Church for me.  The recording was a couple years old, however.  My FB friend’s daughter “came out” after the recording was made and is no longer allowed to sing in that particular fellowship.  I find it a shame that such God given talent would be rejected because fear and condemnation rule our behavior.

What understanding do we lack?  Are our differences really so great or have we simply not been taught to see the face of Christ in the lost, the wounded, the marginalized, the other?  One of my favorite scenes in the movie Schindler’s List is when Schindler, a catholic German who had become rich off the war stops the Rabbi character in the middle of work and mentions that the sun is going down.  Then he reminds the Rabbi that it is Friday.  Then Schindler asks if the Rabbi should be getting ready for the Sabbath.  Finally, he offers the Rabbi a bottle of wine.  The recognition of otherness in this scene is profound.  At the end of the movie one of the workers “donates” the gold from one of his teeth so the prisoners can make a ring they give to Schindler.  It is inscribed with words from the Talmud which read: “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.” The changed heart of a German Nazi was used to spare 1200 Jews from the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

Today (12/13) is the third Sunday in the Christian celebration of Advent.  Some call it the Shepherd’s candle while others say it symbolizes Joy.  I think it is fitting to think of it as the candle of Others.  The Jewish leaders were looking for a Messiah but they did not recognize the Savior they were sent.  Their legalism and self-righteous interpretations of the scriptures did not allow them to see in the face of a baby God’s plan for the world.  Yet, when the shepherds were invited to share in the joy of Christ’s birth Luke 2 tells us they immediately went to investigate and were amazed by what they found.  I believe the simplicity of their faith and their lowly stature in society worked together to make them the perfect recipients of the Good News.  Their otherness opened their hearts and made them vulnerable to God’s plan.

The question before us this Sunday is simple.  With which characters in the story of Christ’s birth do we wish to align?  Are we in step with the religious leaders of the day–unwilling to see beyond the tenants of the scriptures we have embraced for centuries in order to purify our lives, the books of the law we have poured over night and day so we might discern God’s will, and our long-held understand of what the Bible says?  Or, are we willing to walk with the shepherds, in the middle of the dailiness of their lives, jolted to a new level of awareness, infused with a new hope and able–not to reject what they have been taught but rather–to hold it a little more lightly, share space in their world for the more of God.  I believe, even as my enemy wishes to annihilate me, my God calls me to love my enemy.  And, love does not reject.  Love does not shut out.  Love does not condemn. Love gives hope and margins and open arms.  Love gives joy.  And joy, when it is fed by love is never, ever afraid.

 

Posted by: minnow | December 1, 2015

Wringing Our Hands

Multiple people seem to be wringing their hands over the Donald question.  What is the Donald question?  Obviously you haven’t seen the man or you wouldn’t need to ask.  What the #@%!! do  we do  with him? is the question.  How do we get rid of him? is the question? How do we shut him up? is the question.  The Donald question is: how do we make him go away and wake up from the nightmare he’s been starring in?

Mainstream media won’t like what I have to say but I’m going to say it anyway.  Our current system is NOT run on the basis of getting at the truth.  Our present system, our news system, is feeding on entertainment, ratings, pulling in the big bucks$$!  Yup.  And, we aren’t going to get rid of Donald until we take our world more seriously.  We won’t be Donald free until we, in America, are willing to say, some things aren’t funny; not that humor–real humor–shouldn’t be used.  Even satire has a political place.  But, the political process is not a joke. And, the leading Republican candidate for President should not be the lead in every late night comedy act.

We have past the time for the vaudeville hook. It is time to turn off his mic.  Shutdown the lights. Strike the set. And, take your cameras elsewhere.  Quit inviting Donald to Meet the Press.  Don’t interview him on ABC’s This Week. Stop quoting him in US News, the Journal, and the Times.  Those venues should be reserved for thought filled, intelligent, discourse; they should not be a platform for buffoonery and bigotry.  Trump whines that media has a bias.  Fine!  Show him your bias.  The world isn’t shown any favors by giving Donald Trump equal time on every issue, as if he actually had a reasonable response or comment.  Show him your bias. Ignore the megaphone.  Make him pay for his 30 seconds of hate speech.  Show him your bias. Champion the truth by refusing to quote any more of his lies.  Show him your bias.  Stand up for common decency and deny his foul verbiage access to the legitimate media.

Please–ABC,CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, and all forms of honest print, give us back our sanity.  Decide problem solving is more important.  Decide the lives of Black Americans are more important.  Decide the refugee crisis is more important.  Decide a realistic immigration policy is more important.    Decide economic disparity is more important. Decide intelligent conversation about climate change is more important.  Decide the threat of war is more important.  Decide our standing as a serious world leader is more important.  Decide, really decide, a world in crisis. is more. important. than entertainment.

You have a calling, a sacred obligation.  Please, remind Americans what our better selves once sounded like and looked like and stood for.  Re-establish the boundaries which need to exist between our fictions and fantasies, and  our facts and reality.  Yes, you must inform but you must also discern.  Propaganda should never replace truth.  Ego can’t ever stand in for integrity.  And, bluster is never a surrogate for character.  The position of President demands we use our most sincere and discerning voice.  Take back the fourth estate!

Cancel the Donald show!

Posted by: minnow | November 27, 2015

Setting the Table

I am a highly critical person. (No joke, right!) Even though for a split second, as a child, I was a social butterfly and the most negative thing my teachers said about me was I was too chatty. (I’m serious!)  I realize, unless you knew me back then, wrapping your head around this particular thought plays tricks on your brain, but I have the report cards to prove it!  Still, the truth is I have been critical for so long I can’t quite wrap my own head around the idea.  But that’s okay, I’m not trying to defend the person I was, as if having once been her, changes me now.  I just know that she was liked.  And, being liked felt good in a way that built confidence.  As a child, I wasn’t afraid to venture out.  I trusted in the goodness of things–systems, people, my world.  I liked who I was.

When and how the happy-go-lucky she transitioned to the borderline cynical and highly critical me is still up for grabs.  Yet, I do know, while I have been critical most of my life, the cynic is a relatively new development.  Being critical has often left me on the outside looking in, at times wishing I could be more carefree, more personable, easier to engage with, and more willing to ignore the flaws I found, especially the flaws in other people’s thinking.  (It would have made parties and large family gathering much easier to deal with).  But, I learned to walk alone instead and to ignore the pangs of grief that came with being alone.  (It’s okay–no sympathy necessary.  I made the choice a long time ago, and honestly for me, the alternative is less attractive.  When I feel sorry of myself, I just remember that discernment is a synonym for criticism and I feel much better).

I’m not so okay with becoming a cynic, however.  I see cynics as replacing hope with suspicion.  That’s not who I want to be.  I admit, I no longer trust systems or people the way I once did.   As an adult, I believe I have a responsibility to impact the world around me as positively as I can.  Sometimes (I actually think most times but that’s just me), making a positive difference involves taking a long hard look at my personal flaws and determining to change.  Applied outward, it also means willingly taking a long hard look at the flaws of those systems and people groups to which I belong.  I am critical of the big C Church, the government, education, individual politicians, and other leaders because I believe until we acknowledge where we have gone wrong we are helpless to formulate better strategies.

I have a FB acquaintance whose solution to the refugee crisis is to change our focus, refuse to get bogged down in the debate of should we or shouldn’t we let more refugees in, instead support organizations like World Vision.  World Vision is in the business of helping refugees.  It just does it a little closer to their homes and a little farther away from our own.  “By all means,” I told her, “support World Vision.  But, don’t pretend we are looking at an either/or proposition.”  Finding a way to help refugees on another continent no matter how much good comes from it, doesn’t answer the moral debate in the United States. Yes, it is doing something, something helpful. BUT, SO IS RAISING AWARENESS. SO IS REFUSING TO BE SILENCED BY FEAR.

My Facebook feed was lit up yesterday (11/26) with friends and acquaintances giving thanks.  The same thing happens every year.  We are thankful for our families, for the bounty of our tables, for our health.  Post-it stamps abound with pictures of winter scenes, fall foliage, amazing cornucopias full of gourds and corn and pumpkins and leaves, all wishing each other Happy Thanksgiving or making jokes about eating too much. But then there were the other Post-its, reminders from my conservative friends to pray for the military men and women who, because of their service, couldn’t be with their families.  And, notes from my liberal friends to remember those in the LGBT community, the children who had been kick out of their homes because their families couldn’t accept them.  They, too, had no one with whom to spend Thanksgiving.

And my heart broke.

You see, most of my conservative friends would be appalled at the thought of a family kicking their child to the curb.  Most of my liberal friends are grateful for the sacrifices military men and women and their families make every year!  Most of MY FRIENDS, even given their different political slants, see the world the same way.  Our world is in pain.  It requires our help. It  needs answers.  Most of the world, like MOST OF MY FRIENDS, want what is good and just and GOOD. But we let stuff get in between our hearts and our heads.  Our goodness is detoured by fear and worry, by a sincere desire to keep our loved ones safe, and the frightening realization at the core of who we are that WE. ARE UNABLE. TO DO SO.

I am the most critical person I know.  I pick everything apart.  I play the devil’s advocate.  My son frequently likes to explain to his friends that I bleed all over my students’ papers.  And, he’s correct.  I do, because I believe in their potential.  I know they have more.  And, I want them to find it!  I want the government, the Church, the education system, my family, my friends, and myself to find our more.  I want us to live up to our potential and cast our vision farther beyond the potential we reach.  We don’t have to settle for our lowest common denominator but we do have to cast off the chains that bind us to it.  Fear and suspicion have no place at a table set for Peace, and Justice, and Compassion, and Righteousness.

Posted by: minnow | November 25, 2015

Crying Out Loud

My grief is real. The nation I love, the only place I have ever lived, a country I once thought was beyond a doubt the greatest country in the world, today is unrecognizable to me.  I have gotten on-line the last few weeks and my news feed has been full of ugliness.  Who are we?  What has happened to the country I once believed would stop at nothing to be better, do right, and be the hope for the rest of the world?

Our Congress, which should be filled with the most informed minds in our country, wants to shut our doors to those most in need.  Why?  How can they ignore the fact that a person is more likely to be shot by a toddler in the United States than a terrorist? How can they ignore the fact that getting into this country as a refugee is considerably more difficult than arriving as a tourist?  How can they ignore the fact that WE are at least partially responsible for the mess in the Middle East in the first place? In what way does turning our backs on the world, reflect the freedom, moral integrity, and common decency we claim to uphold?

Donald Trump, the front-runner in the GOP presidency race, is the loudest voice in the madness played out daily in the media.  He thinks surveillance on “certain mosques” in the United States is perfectly reasonable.  He sided with the bullies who punched and kicked a Black Lives Matter protester during one of his rallies, suggesting, “Maybe he should have been roughed up.”  He approves of torture, despite evidence that it is ineffective and creates more hostility. The man’s rhetoric gets more brazen by the day and what’s worse–average citizens–unwilling or unable to understand how such thinking undermines the integrity of our Constitution follow right behind him. Are we truly willing to elect a gangster as our president?

Dr. Carson, another top Republican candidate is not much better than Trump. Carson declared the mere fact a person is a Muslim should disqualify him or her from becoming the president. Furthermore, he equated the Syrian refugees with “rabid dogs” and brushes off the criticism about his analogy as quibbling over semantics.  Yet, he has had to back peddle on more than one occasion.  Most recently, Carson joined Trump in stirring up anxiety by claiming to have seen video of Muslim-Americans celebrating the tragedy of 9-11. Later he walked his statement back by saying he didn’t know the media had an agenda in asking the question and he wasn’t sure where the celebration took place–although the original Q&A was crystal clear.

After the terrorist attacks in Paris last week, Ted Cruz surged past Carson in the Iowa caucus poll.  Seen as more knowledgeable on foreign policy, Cruz minced no words when it comes to the Syrian refugee crisis.  All displaced Christians but no displaced Muslims would be welcomed in Cruz’s America.  Remember, this is a man who must swear to uphold the Constitution, the same Constitution that guarantees the government will not single out an individual or group based on race, or religion.

The following clip from the HBO series, “The Newsroom”, explains what seems to have happened to the country I love.

The America we have seen in recent months has grown afraid.  And, fear is a powerful force once it is let in.  It overwhelms its victims causing them to behave is ways that otherwise would be unthinkable.  In 1933, during his First Inaugural Address, Franklin Delano Roosevelt warned America that, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”  The nation had been in a tailspin since the stock market crash of 1929.  The unemployment rate had hit 25%.  Americans had lost their savings, their homes, and their livelihoods.  Adolf Hitler had just become Chancellor of Germany.  Still, FDR assured America the only thing we had to fear was our own fear.

His words are just as true today. We must, if we are to preserve what is great and good about America, grab hold of our courage to stand and face fear head on.  We must resist the degenerating symptoms of fear–bigotry, greed, isolating self-interest, and unwarranted blaming.  We must trust that united we are better, united we are stronger, united we more innovative, more resilient, and more determined than any force which might be wrought against us, because united–rich and poor, male and female, black and white, Gentile and Jew–we better reflect the face of God than we do when we are divided.

In the clip Will McAvoy almost whispers the words, “We didn’t use to scare so easy.”  I hope it is not too late.  I hope, like the Americans who sat by their radios as their newly elected president spoke back in 1933 we, in 2015, choose to confront the only enemy with the power to defeat us.  I pray we pry our hearts and minds away from the grips of fear and choose to face our truer enemies together.

Personally, I refuse to give up on the country I love, despite the sickening headlines and the fear-filled verbiage of those who want me quaking in my boots.  But it will take more than the one vote I have to cast in the next election to cast out fear. It will take looking at the ways in which I treat others as less than and changing my behavior.  It will take teaching myself, and my children, and my students, and the people around me that difference isn’t the enemy.  It will take sifting the chaff of lies from the grains of truth and remaining steadfast in my desire to break bread together with those who also hunger for what is right and good about America.

***

Just in–a link worth reading: http://centraleuropenaz.org/2015/10/11/three-great-reasons-to-reject-refugees-and-starbucks/#comment-2348

Posted by: minnow | November 18, 2015

When Love is Tossed Around

I feel prickly.  This morning (11/15) I engaged in an on-line conversation which started when I commented on one of those postit notes on FB.  I found the postit offensive, especially from a Christian perspective.  Since I knew the poster claimed a Christian allegiance, I dove in.  Grrr…I got nowhere trying to reason, became too blunt, and finally walked away frustrated and irritable.  I don’t like these feelings.  I don’t like letting my irritation gee best of me.  And, I really don’t like coming to the conclusion that nothing I can say will provide the person I’m talking to with that ah-ha experience which convinces him or her that the thread is truly offensive.  On the other hand, I think the fact it is offensive is a no-brainer, especially to someone, anyone, who holds onto Christ as a role model.  Yet here I sit, having just posted my Bullies VS Visionaries thread feeling less than hopeful, again.

I tried to ask myself why this mattered to me.  The fact that most of the people who see this person’s posts already stand on the same side of the line didn’t help me feel better.  In fact when I saw this individual had over 400 friends it made me feel worse.  At one point I thought maybe I’ll just be defriended and thus put out of my misery.  But that didn’t happen.  Instead, I got an assurance that the poster loves me and then–crickets. I tried to distract myself with other work BUT the pricklies lingered.  Even now, I want to break china or something just to express the ARRGGHHH!!! I’m feeling.

It has finally dawned on me that the assurance of love from the poster set me off more than the rest of the post.  Those words don’t mean anything.  When my Christian friends ignore my concern that the words they spew and the postits they repeat might actually cause others distress, might hurt their cause, might wound their God, when they justify their bigotry by evoking God’s name or some regurgitated interpretation of scripture, when they warn me about some dangerous slippery slope I’m on because I refuse to embrace their brand of truth, and follow it all up with those two little words: “Love you” I want to gag.  I want to call them liars and false prophets, hypocrites and Pharisees.  I want to plead with God, like I’m pleading right now, that He send down some divine wisdom, some super spiritual, undeniable, bigger than life, ah-ha of truth!

Mostly I want my fellow Christians to know that loving me, or at least claiming to, doesn’t take them off the hook when they don’t love others.  And, assuring me that they really do love “others” while I watch them offend, damage, frighten, and repel them doesn’t actually count for anything.  Just like wishing a starving man good health isn’t actually the same as sharing your meal with him, quoting scripture isn’t the same as walking it out.  I want my fellow Christians to understand that words, even words as nice as “love you” ring hollow when accompanied by behavior, gestures, and additional words which exclude, slander, demean, and wage war.  I want my fellow Christians to realize that even though they may feel good about themselves for being able to say “love you” even after I’ve angered and rebuked them, I am beginning to doubt the meaning of such love.

I want a lot, both for and from my fellow Christians, but since wanting something doesn’t make it happen and I don’t know any magic formula to guarantee we will ever learn to love the way Christ has loved us, I only have the following to offer.  I promise anew every day to love God more and my neighbor better, knowing that God will not do what I can do, and what I cannot do, He has already accomplished.

Posted by: minnow | November 15, 2015

Bullies VS Visionaries

I am honestly concerned for America.  How has my religion–Christianity–been so thoroughly hijacked? Why can’t I recognize the Republican party I once supported? Truly, I am not suddenly an enthusiastic democrat or an anything goes religious progressive, but I cannot support the ugliness I see on the other side of the isle and that grieves my soul.

This explanation from Robert Reich sets the stage:

…Bullies prey on peoples’ vulnerabilities — using intimidation and humiliation to belittle others and thereby make themselves feel and look more powerful. Bullies scapegoat the weak. They spread fear. They use their power – physical strength, status, rank, or money, to browbeat those who don’t have these attributes.

American society today is filled with bullies. Some are economic bullies – CEOs and Wall Street moguls who use their power to pad their wallets and ride roughshod over shareholders, employees, and communities. Some are billionaires like the Koch brothers who use their money to undermine our democracy. Some are wealthy blowhards like Donald Trump who use their megaphones to belittle immigrants and women. Some are politicians who take bribes (campaign contributions) to favor the rich and hurt the poor. Some are police who use their authority and weapons to intimidate or even kill poor blacks. Some are bosses at the workplace who use their rank to spread fear among employees.

…bullies intensify their bullying if no one stands up to them. And the best way of standing up to them is to join with others who are also bullied…That’s what’s needed now. That’s what the movements we’re witnessing (‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬, ‪#‎feelthebern‬‪#‎fightfor15‬ and so on) are seeking to do.

I will vote for Bernie Sanders in the primary, and general election if he wins.  I will vote less enthusiastically for Hillary Clinton if she gets the nod.  In this election core values are more important to me than specific policy.  Character, thoughtfulness, reason, compassion, humility, decorum, and intelligence matter.  A person’s core beliefs inform their behavior.  Faith informs how individuals sees the world, what they pursues in life, the ideas which are allowed to grow in their hearts and minds, and the words to which they give voice.  Bernie Sanders may have been a broken record in Saturday’s debate (11/14).  Still, what parted his lips was worth burning our ears. The economy is rigged and Americans, not politicians and certainly not Wall Street, need to do something about it.  Money in the hands of average citizens, who’ve been given a living wage, will grow the economy, not the unfettered greed of trickledown economics.  Healthcare ought to be a right.  If we respect and are thankful for the service of our veterans and soldiers we need to start paying for it by taking care of them! And finally, higher education should not mean 10 to 20 years of debt.

Sanders has backed up his words with a life time of effort.  The mantra he has on repeat is nothing new.  He’s spent his entire career fighting the good fight, championing the underdog, trying to assure his constituents we still have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  Veracity matters and Bernie Sanders, though imperfect, wears the mantle of humility and authenticity well.

I started by saying I am concerned for the United States.  The contrast between those on the GOP debate stage and those on the Democratic stage is startling.  The thought that average Americans (who tuck their children in at night, kiss their spouses good-bye as they head off to work, sit and drink coffee together, or cheer enthusiastically at their favorite sporting events) might actually support and vote for one of the Republican candidates frightens me.  When I listen to the vile names some use to describe Mexicans, Muslims, the poor, or their opponents I am appalled.  When I examine their tax proposals that favor the wealthy (those making seriously more than $250,000 a year); and see their positions on foreign policy which include throwing our military might around and increasing a military budget already four times larger that the next country in line; when I hear their attitudes toward women that suggest women don’t deserve equal pay or time with their families through family leave; and when I realize the burden they are willing to place on the working class (those making under $60, 000 a year), I have trouble believing any thinking, caring, God-fearing, reasonable person will seriously buy into the idea that any one of them is good for America.  Not a single GOP front runner is looking out for the best interest of the masses.

The masses–that’s us–you and me.  1 in 50 Americans makes less than $250,000 a year, over half make less than $60,000.  The fight over raising the minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour squabbling over increasing the minimum wage for just 2.95 percent of the total work force in the US.  If you believe America was founded on Christian principles then please, demand that your representatives  reflect Christ’s attitudes toward the poor, the marginalized, and the heavy burdened.  We are the voices the elite think they can ignore, the shouts their intimidation tactics and fear mongering believe they can subdue.

This week  my freshmen English classes will read Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, I Have a Dream, as we continue our unit on Identity.  I would like to borrow some thoughts from Dr. King’s speech, and apply them to the growing economic divide in our country , a divide that hammers the Black community but is not limited to a single ethnic group.

When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note…Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us, upon demand, the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

America, these are dangerous days in which to slumber.  Dr. King’s dream is one all Americans must walk out, together.  We must march now, in the harsh light of day, before our lethargy and fears make us  casualties of other people’s greed.

 

 

 

Posted by: minnow | November 1, 2015

The Republicans

GOP Debate number three is in the books.  I’ve tried since Wednesday to watch it.  But, NBC–interested in $$ more than informing the public–decided the only available access on the evening of the debate would be via cable (I would if I could but where I live I can’t, so…) or by paying them for online access. Even after the fact I had trouble.  I started to watch it Saturday, got interrupted, and Sunday when I went back to the site my access was blocked on copyright grounds.  Same story when I tried to access clips.

The little I heard Saturday didn’t impress me much but that really isn’t the point, is it?  HONESTLY, SINCE WHEN IS THE POLITICAL PROCESS ONLY AVAILABLE TO THOSE WHO CAN PAY FOR IT?  And, aren’t the debates generally understood as part of the political process?  And, since when are news outlets more interested in money than informing the public?  When CBS is able to rake in $250,000 per 30 second ad during the debate, is charging their viewers really necessary? Enough said.

With opposing personality types but similar “run against the establishment” campaign strategies, Ben Carson and Donald Trump continue to be one and two in the polls. Carson actually inched ahead in the latest CBS poll, according to RealClearPolitics.  The RNC however, wouldn’t pick either as its first choice candidate.  Unfortunately, Rubio and Cruz who rank third and fourth in most polls, aren’t the old guard’s favorites either.  The only other Republican with a chance of the presidential nomination, and undoubtedly the RNC’s first choice, is Jeb Bush.  But, with his poll numbers declining, the RNC is stymied.

During the debates, Bush’s biggest problem has been he’s too nice, too polite.  Then, when he tries to get tough, he gets tough about the wrong thing.  Like Kasich (my personal first choice), Bush is not  debater material.  Although he told the audience his greatest weakness is impatience, my assessment of Bush is, he’s too methodical.  He is not quick witted or flippant and thus seems slow compared to his opponents.  In the age of instant gratification and sarcastic come backs, Bush’s poise and polish doesn’t fair well.

I predict (barring an unforeseen disaster) Marco Rubio will ultimately receive the Republican nod next summer. He’s overcome his missed votes by seeming feisty.  A relatively fresh face, he’s  more palatable to the anti-Washington crowd.  Additionally, many of Rubio’s policies ought to appeal to the pocketbooks within the GOP. For example, he plans to solve our budget problems by freezing spending on everything except defense.  And, his tax plan gives the wealthy almost twice the cuts he gives to the middle.  His personal narrative plays well to the working class, in spite of personal financial problems which might otherwise make him less attractive.  Finally of the religious candidates, Rubio is the least offensive and therefore less likely to stir up vehement opposition from progressives.

Should a possible Rubio presidency scare anyone?  Probably, but a Trump or Carson presidency should scare us more!  In Trump’s own words he doesn’t forgive those who slight him.  And, to disagree with him is to slight him.  Taking that attitude into foreign affairs would spell disaster.  As for Carson, his flat tax might sound good in theory but it cannot cover the budget costs unless it’s at least 28%.  In order to cover current spending, Carson’s flat tax would raise taxes on couples making $150,000 or less a year while lowering taxes on couples making $230,000 or more.

In other news: The RNC has decided to reevaluate all future 2015-16 GOP debates. They’ve called the moderators in Wednesday (10/28) night’s debate biased and several of their questions rude.  I read through most of a transcript of the event to find out what the candidates were asked that so offended them?  Honestly, I’m a little baffled.  In the first question Quintanilla asked each candidate to reveal his or her greatest weakness and explain what he or she was doing about it.  I don’t know how many job interviews these candidates have experienced, but in every interview I’ve had that question is on the list.  Every person on the stage dodged the sincere nature of the question.

John Harwood then made the harshest jab of the evening when he said,

Mr. Trump, you’ve done very well in this campaign so far by promising to build a wall and make another country pay for it, send 11 million people out of the country, cut taxes by $11 trillion dollars without raising the deficit, and make Americans better off because your greatness would replace the stupidity and incompetence of others.

Trump heartily agreed. Then Harwood asked, “Let’s be honest.  Is this a comic book version of a presidential campaign?”  Trump immediately objected to the way the question was asked but failed miserably to explain how the implicated was inaccurate.  The facts of the matter are Trump cannot accomplish what he claims he will do.  Trump knows it.  The other candidates on the stage know it.  And, the moderators know it.  Yet some how the moderators are at fault for trying to shine a light on the facts and expose the fantasy nature of Mr. Trump’s assertions.

Becky Quick asked Carson to explain the math with regard to his flat tax.  Because he couldn’t, the query made the rude questions list.  Also on the list was one to Rubio.   Quintanilla asked him why he doesn’t finish what he started in the senate instead of missing so many votes to run for president.  The question caused Rubio to go on a tirade about what the Washington he-is-a-part-of hasn’t accomplished, while deflecting the point of the questions: that he isn’t doing his job. When Quintanilla attempted to refocus the conversation, Rubio took the opportunity to cry bias and bash the media. A question from Quick to Ms. Fiorina also made the top 10.  It came with a stock market analogy which suggested a CEO whose stock values had been cut in half might not deserve to be “hired” for an even more important job.  When Cruz was asked about his problem solving abilities he joined Rubio’s deflection method and picked up the media bashing mantra.

All in all, what I would label hard hitting and pertinent, the RNC evidently calls rude.  And though the candidates’ answers held little substance it was not for lack of effort on the part of the moderators.  Our politicians need to be asked tough questions, not just about what they want to do but also about how they plan to do it!  If they can’t take the heat them maybe they need to step away from the fire!

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