a brief note on the state of things

For a long time, this nation has been under siege by a group of people calling themselves Republicans. I say that they call themselves Republicans because they do not resemble in the faintest way the Party of Lincoln, the party of sensible budgets and freedom for all citizens. Instead they have allowed themselves to embody something very different and, from my perspective, something very frightening. For decades now, they seem unwilling to say "We disagree with our opponent.", instead always insisting that their opponent is EVIL. I find this troubling.

I feel like we're a mature enough nation that we don't need to succumb to hate speech and a systematic policy of dividing the nation against each other. We don't need to hate each other because we disagree on things. We can just disagree. Isn't that how mature people behave? We don't need to pretend that whoever disagrees with us on anything is EVIL, but just admit and even, dare I say it, appreciate that they disagree on some things and do not blindly follow the pack.

I submit that it's not only okay for people to disagree on things, it's good. It's what makes the Idea of America special. The fact that those disagreements are sales-pitched as "my side vs. EVIL" is exactly opposed to the notions that our forefathers died for. Yesterday, I was talking with my parents about John Adams and Thomas Jefferson and how they disagreed so vehemently on issues, but they still both managed to have perspectives and offer something valuable and lasting to the American Legacy. Let us consider that different opinions make us stronger as a people, not weaker. Let us rise above the idea that we are somehow able to know what is good and what is evil in all cases. That kind of behavior is a hubris so vain and so glaring that it begs to bring about downfalls. That level of hubris crippled Germany twice in the last century, it ended the Roman Empire, nearly destroyed the Christian church and has been at the root of nearly every war and genocide this planet has ever seen. We are so often awash in a sea of tears that we have caused ourselves.

I think it's beyond time that we grow up and out of this notion that it is EVIL to disagree with each other, to have differing view points. It is a disgrace to the blood of the millions that died for this country (that still die) to try to turn Americans against Americans for the sake of winning an election.

One of the reasons the issues in Israel and Palestine has gone on for so long and been so terrible is that neither side will admit that the other side has some fair points. To say that Palestinians have a right to be upset about being thrown out of their homes at gunpoint over a politics that they have nothing to do with is not to agree with terrorism, it's to be fair. To say that Israel has a right to be upset that the whole world looked the other way while they were methodically murdered and that because of that they would like a stronghold from which to defend themselves in the future is not to be for Zionism, it is to be fair. To admit that your opponents have fair points isn't to say that you agree with them, it's only to say that you are rational enough to see that everyone is doing what they believe is right and that they have reasons for it. Conflict resolution is born from the acknowledgment of different ideas, even those we disagree with. It springs forth from the 'better angels of our nature' which allow us to approach things from the perspective that different people view different things differently, not because one side is evil and one is good, but because everyone sees the world through the private keyhole of their experiences. My natural tendency is to go toward that which does not encourage hate speech and division in a nation that truly needs healing after what it's been through. We need to pay more attention to 'what unites us than on what divides us'. As Jack Kennedy said "We all breathe the same air, we all inhabit this same small planet, we all cherish our children's futures." Starting in any conflict from what you have in common gives you the strength and rationality to deal more effectively with the areas in which you disagree.

I also tend to generally get bothered by people who use christianity like a used car salesman, dictating to others what they should think or feel or do as if they are capable or qualified to speak for god. The notion that to be a Christian is to vote Republican is a sales pitch intended to trick otherwise well-meaning people into being guilted into voting for what is often against their own best interests, against their own moral compass, and against that which represents the best of us as people. It is to ignore, to our own demise, the wisdom of uniters (like Jesus and Buddha) over dividers (like hate mongers in all their forms).

Do you really think Jesus wanted his name to be used as a vote-getter? Do you really think he would have wanted his name to invoked in an attempt to convince people that half the nation is EVIL and does not count? Think about this phrase: "Thou shalt not take the lord's name in Vain". In Vain means to assume that you (powered by your ego) know what god wants for all the earth. That is the very definition of vanity. Who am I to speak for god? Who are you? Who is anyone? All we can do is try our best to be the kind of people that choose love over hate, unity over division, kindness over anger, and brotherhood over bloodshed.

There are strong feeling on both sides on the issue of gay marriage. But I ask again, who are we to decide what consenting adults are allowed to do? Who are we to deny the right of people who have loved each other for all of their life to receive the same treatment from the government as other people who love each other? In this day and age, shouldn't we be looking for any amount of love anywhere and praying for it's prosperity rather than devising it's downfall? To say that we agree that people should be allowed to live as they choose as long as they are not hurting anyone else is not to approve of acts you think are immoral, it is to recognize that we are not god's jury.

Apparently, that old Republican standby issue of Abortion is again being brought to the surface. I think it's of note that every scientific study conducted on earth concludes that the shortest route to less abortions is proper sex education thereby reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies, not legislation that would force women into dangerous situations since they will seek out the right to control their own bodies whether it is legal or not, nevermind the vague absurdity of the idea that it is possible to legislate away someone else's control of their own body. Perhaps we should ask ourselves what we are after. Are we after less abortions, less unwanted pregnancy, less infection and danger for young women or are we after feeling very important because we made a shiny new law?

On Islam:

This phrase came to me in an email today in an effort to explain why one candidate is evil: "many want to accept Islam as a "peaceful religion."

To say that Islam is a warlike religion because there are some wackos out there is no different from saying that Christianity is warlike because of the KKK, the Nazis (who were christians), or the Spanish Inquisition. Let us not forget that the second largest terrorist attack in US history was perpetrated by a white Christian named Timothy Mcvie and that it was done in the name of Christianity. There is more blood on the hands of Christianity than any other religion on earth. Should it be outlawed? Should Christians be persecuted because some wackos do and have done some seriously bad things?

Perhaps it is of value to remember not just the bad things that Islam brought to the world, but, in the interest of fairness, the good things. Here are a few:

1. Algebra. Algebra is actually an americanization of the name it originally had, Al-Jabrwa, which was founded by a man named Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī. Without algebra we have no engineering, no internet, and few of the basic aspects of logic and problem solving that come from algebra.
2. Aristotle, Plato, the Greek thinkers. When the Christian church was burning books it thought were dangerous because they encouraged people to think for themselves, the Muslims were saving them. It is widely acknowledged that the only reason we still have access to these great minds is because Muslims had the vision to see what they were worth, when Europeans and Christians (at the time) were scared of the idea of people thinking.
3. Geometry. This was also invented by the Greeks and nearly destroyed by the Christian church, lest Islam's recognition of it's value and their desire to save it from extinction. Goodbye bridges, skyscrapers, etc.
4. Education for all citizens. This was one of the core tenets of Islam. Back when Europe led by the Christian church was discouraging people from learning to read and write (lest the church lose influence over them), Islam was demanding an education for every citizen.

Of course, this does not make Islam perfect anymore than a list of good things Christianity or Buddhism has done would make it perfect, it just says that we are mature enough and noble enough to recognize that the actions of some badly behaved elements in a group do not make the group bad. I say the baby should not be thrown out with the bath water. I say we should choose to nurture the good in people, the good in different ways of life, in different belief systems rather than closing our eyes and ears to the good because we are so easily distracted by the behaviors of the bad. Why should we have been blessed with eyes and ears if not to use them? Isn't it possible for us to admire and appreciate the good aspects of Islam while still acting to stop those who do bad works? Isn't that how we want to be treated? Do we want to be banned and hated for the systematic genocide of tens of millions of Native Americans? Do we want to be outlawed and persecuted for the kidnapping of 100 million African people and their subsequent 400 years of enslavement and brainwashing? Some people say "hate the sin, love the sinner." I think that by the end of the first phrase, they've lost all sight of humanity as well as that in us which strives to be good. I say that it should be "discourage the bad, encourage the good." I believe that we (as a species) should strive to nurture the good in all peoples that it may grow and flourish, that one day we may stand proudly on any hill anywhere on earth and look out at the flowering of the human spirit, at the blossoming of our better instincts, at the blooming of our finest tendencies.

For those that pray, I think now is the time you should pray. You should pray that you will be able to clearly see the distinction between those who run for office on their ideas, and those who run on the hope that enough Americans will HATE and FEAR the other candidate enough to vote for the hate-mongerer by default. You should also (I think) pray that we have the wisdom to see through those that encourage hate and see clearly to those that encourage love. Are we a nation of hate or are we a nation that disagrees on some things? The choice is as much yours as mine.

Of course, all of these are just my opinions. Take or leave them, as you see fit.

2008-11-03 | 1:25 p.m.
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