"In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart." -Anne Frank

Saturday, July 4, 2015

American Rights, American Freedom

In the early settling years of America, many people pilgrimaged here, seeking freedom from religious persecution.  The Puritans, who are commonly associated with this hopeful migration, wanted freedom to worship how they believed—without the oppression of the more wide-spread Church of England—so they came to America, a land still so new and unspoilt.  They came to ensure their own rights.  However, when they were introduced to the Quakers, religious freedom was apparently a right that only they possessed.  They tormented the Quakers shamelessly.  The Puritans, who had just been persecuted, were now dishing it out to others for the very same reason that they had been on the receiving end—they were different. 

This seems to be the pattern of human rights.  Seek desperately for your own rights and then take away the rights of those who do not agree with your belief system or who don’t fit your mold.  Equality is all well and good—as long as you have more of it than those who are different from you.  It’s my middle school reading of Animal Farm all over again, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” (George Orwell).  This pattern of imbalanced equality has continued in America, even into our 21st century.  The Irish Catholic were persecuted for being different—just think about what a major game changer it was for John F. Kennedy to be elected president.  Catholics had been here since the beginning of our America, and yet, it took until half way through the 20th century for a Catholic to be accepted.  The Mormons were driven from one city to another and from state to state until they were finally outside the borders of the United States.  Because Mormon beliefs were different, those who ignorantly feared them actually extended an Extermination Order.  Yep.  Equal rights were definitely not for Mormons.  Thankfully, they were eventually accepted (of sorts) and even managed to get a viable Presidential Candidate…after much harangue.  Currently, Muslims are being estranged and tyrannized because, once again, people fear what they don’t understand.

It is not just the acceptance of different religious groups and their right to rights that we as a humans struggle with.  I want to point out that it is rights in general that people have a hard time sharing.  The Native Americans were branded savages and their land and homes were taken in the name of Manifest Destiny.  The Japanese American, many of which had lived their whole life here, were placed in concentration camps after Pearl Harbor…because they were of Japanese descent.  Hollywood was turned inside out in the Communist witch hunt.  Black Americans were not allowed to use the same bathroom as white Americans…because even after 200 years living here, they were still just the color of their skin.  All four of these examples were driven by ignorance and fear.  Women were not allowed to vote because…well, they were women, you know, the “weaker sex”.  In each instance, a group of Americans had to fight for their rights against those who feared losing their own. There is no room for fear in America.  It gets in our way of being united.  Being an American should mean that you have the right to worship, vote, and think as you please…as long as you are devoted to America and upholding her freedom. 

Outside of America, and yes there are plenty more examples inside of America, the French Revolution stands out in my mind as a horrible example of what happens when one group of people finally gain their rights, and fail to remember the importance of equal rights.  The long oppressed poor of France won control of their country.  They finally could have equal rights; but many were filled with a vengeful passion.  Their own rights were not enough.  They had to destroy everyone who represented what kept them down.  So they went on a so-called legal attempt at genocide of the entire upper class.  Women, men and children were executed because of the life-style into which they were born. 

No, life is not fair.  Equality is not free, and it oftentimes must be fought for.  Whether it is religious freedom or civil rights, we can’t forget why America was established in the first place: freedom and equality for all.  America is not perfect.  Why? Because it’s people are not perfect.  However, this does not excuse attempts to take away the rights of others because their viewpoints are different.  Different viewpoints are what make America so strong and so beautiful.  They are what keep us from falling under the tyranny of despots.  Seriously!  The Founding Father’s came up with that truly inspired idea.  The more groups of citizens with differing opinions (factions), the safer America is from dictatorship. 

It’s true that we need to fight to gain or keep our personal rights, but I would add, it is even more important, for all that America represents, to fight for the rights of those whom with we don’t agree.  Why?  Because equal rights are not limited to one viewpoint.  Equal rights are strengthened and perfected when we uphold the rights of all.  If you want equality, then you must take it and give it at the same time.  So whether you are a believer in God or Atheist, Christian or Muslim, White or Black, Gay or not, Woman or Man, or whatever other group you may identify with, fight for your rights and fight for the rights of those who do not share your beliefs. 

In light of the recent Supreme Court ruling, I would ask that those who gained their rights not seek to take away the rights of those who opposed.  Do not let history repeat itself.  Stop thinking of rights specific to your ideology.  Remember the important separation of Church and State and that there really is a difference.  And then remember, it is not gay rights verses religious freedom; it is American rights and American freedom.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

American Politics: A Marriage on the Rocks

You may be wondering why I am tackling this subject.  I see this topic of incessant discussion as one of the most heated and poisoned.  And because of its contentious nature, it also prevents much of the good at heart from ever being recognized or even remembered.  So I’m going to tell you what is wrong with the state of America’s politics and how I feel it should be corrected.

America is like a marriage.  In a marriage you have two unique people coming together with varying viewpoints and experiences.  Since the predominant political viewpoints are Republican and Democrat—these two will represent the experiences and opinions each spouse brings to the marriage.  You can decide which spouse takes which viewpoint.  I know who I think each is, but that would defuse the point of my writing this blog…so I leave it to you.  So, here we have a marriage of two seemingly different entities, from completely different backgrounds, families, sometimes station in life, and even many cultural differences.  And their marriage contract—the thing that holds them together and holds them to their promises to keep their entire family (still America) safe and strong--is the Constitution.  Like all marriages there are ups and downs, there are miscommunications, childish tirades, the silent treatment, and hurt feelings.  But as any couple knows, the only way to keep a union working and strong with so many differences is through compromises.  Compromise seems to be a swear word in the political world these days.  And yet, it is still important.

Viewpoints are so polarized that no one can or is allowed to compromise without compromising their political hierarchy.  I watched this conundrum in full play during the last two Presidential elections.  I did my homework and did research on each candidate.  The candidates’ political views began extremely moderate—great compromising material for a polarized country.  But as the campaigning continued (and in the President’s case—through both elections) I watched as their respective parties made each man pull away from middle ground.  By the end of this last election, both men were by then—at least on paper—polarized.  But they started with the ability to find common ground.

Compromise is a necessary component to any working relationship—especially ones as important as marriage…or the upholding of a great country.  In fact, it was compromise that made THIS country possible.  Every year on the 4th of July I watch A More Perfect Union: America Becomes a Nation, a great movie to remember how, miraculously, a group of highly opinionated men with varied backgrounds could come together and create the Constitution of America.  If these men didn’t understand how important this Union was, they would never have been able to reach common ground.  But they did.  They knew that America—not their own opinion—was worth fighting for.  Now, that doesn’t mean they weren’t fighting to protect what they truly felt was important.  They did.  They tried to find common ground for 4 months before the Constitution was complete.   Most relationships that are lacking any true commitment would not have survived such a long and grueling debate.  But again, they knew the significance of what they were creating together.  After much back and forth the Great Compromise of 1887 was reached and the Legislative branch was formed—mostly as we know it today (there was more tweaking later on).  Since this is not meant to be a history lesson—just a lesson to learn from history—if you’re interested in learning how it all went down in the simplest terms, check it out here on Wikipedia: 


Or the whole kit and caboodle:

Now what are the consequences of a stubborn and polarized country?  Remember a not so little thing called the Civil War?  I sure do.  What started this war?  Poor compromising resulted in a climactic death toll of fellow Americans.  Technically, the issue of slavery was addressed in the Constitutional Convention 74 years before the Civil War began.  And then again with the Slave Trade Act of 1794…and again with the Slave Trade Act of 1807.  However, none of these Acts ended Slavery.  They didn’t even manage to stop the slave trade.  Here we have an excellent example of what NOT to do when compromising.  The husband and wife couldn’t see eye to eye on this issue.  Here we had a newly married country and instead of addressing their state differences head-on and finding a solution that worked—they continued doing what would ultimately lead to a separation.  Luckily—there were some great marriage counselors who worked it all out—with a lot of death and carnage in the process.

What can we learn from this tragic example of poor compromise?  For starters, both political sides need to be 100% devoted to making the compromise.  They need to give what they know they are willing to follow through.  Politicians need to find common ground and solutions and stop searching for ways to dismantle what little compromise is eked out of this so-called political process.  Imagine if the Southern states had looked and found other means of economical increase in the time allotted to them by the Constitutional Convention and then stopped slavery of their own accord.  The civil war damaged the Southern economy in ways from which it has never fully recovered.  If the states had made a true compromise, lives may have been spared, homes left undivided, and once great cities would have remained.

This leads to another pressing question that needs answering.  Who should be doing the compromising?  Well, we all SHOULD.  But, who runs this country?  Better yet, who do The People think run this country?  Every Presidential election year, the people of America finally start paying attention to candidates.  “We’re electing the most powerful man/woman, we’ve got to make sure we choose the best person.”  Well, it is true that we need to choose the best person for the current needs of America.  But the President is not all that powerful.  What about Executive Orders?  Eh.  Lots of presidents have given executive orders.  According to the National Archives, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave over 3,000 executive orders, President Bush only made it to 291 and President Obama has a lot of catching up to do with only 199.  So, the president can issue an Executive Order…as long as it isn’t contested by the Judicial Branch.  This really isn’t that much power.  The most powerful branch of government is Congress.  If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe the words of one of our Founding Fathers:  "...[I]t is not possible to give to each department and equal power of self-defense.  In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates."  (James Madison from The Federalist Papers #51).  The legislative branch is Congress.  Congress, which is a supposed representation of The People, holds the most powerand rightfully so.  However, in recent years, Congress appears to be less about The People and more about politics.

According to Ron Elving of NPR, “The heightened partisanship cemented in Congressional district lines has created safe havens where most Republicans and Democrats no longer worry about pleasing anyone other than primary voters.  If the primary voter goes with the incumbent, the incumbent is almost certain to go back to Washington…The audience that must be served is the far narrower one that cares about party and policy and issues—and works to elect candidates as devoted to their ideology and as hostile to the other party as they themselves are…Republican districts are now more Republican than ever, and most Democratic districts are more Democratic than ever. [Please forgive the biased superlative somewhere in the middle—and focus on his take-home message.]  As fewer and fewer members have “swing districts,” the necessity of constant partisan emphasis grows worse and worse.  Even the notion of compromise becomes hazardous.”

Compromise is the essence of a working country, and yet, we’ve created a congress where compromise is the enemy?  This is wrong.  Since Congress doesn’t always feel the need to listen to the Regular Joe voter like you and me, what can we do?  It seems a hopeless case.  Nothing is hopeless, especially, not in this great Country!  We need to whitewash Congress.  (Not going to happen—but a girl can dream)  We need to start voting for the Jeff Smiths of this country (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington), both the male and female versions (this can and should happen).  Let’s remind congress who really runs this country…and no, it is still not the President (although they’ve all looked really great on stamps).

Compromise in not a luxury; it is a necessity.  Polarity is destruction; it is not a solution.  We have to find common ground.  We have to.  No relationship has ever survived the inability to compromise.  Not a marriage and definitely not a Nation.  While I don’t feel we have another Civil War looming ahead of us, I do feel we are living a civil war of the minds.  We live in an America where hostile politics are the norm and Boy Scout politicians are destroyed publicly.  It’s time that ‘We the People” filibuster congress.  Let’s not sit down or stop talking until they start listening.  And what should we say?  That we’re tired of these childish shenanigans.  We want a country that prides itself on being able to compromise and not on being a bunch of donkeys…or elephants.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


Over 5 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust.  This number never ceases to be staggering. How could something like this happen in a fairly modern and so-called civilized world?  How could any human being, with the ability to not only feel but understand love and compassion, ever consent and condone the murder and attempted genocide of men, women and children because of their religion?  And yet, this type of bigoted attitude still thrives in our world today.  There are many reasons why Hitler's Jewish hatred and distorted viewpoints spread like a highly contagious virus. Too many.  Jealousy. Fear.  Biases.  The list could continue, but today I want to address the one reason that, I feel, encompasses them all:  Ignorance.  Ignorance is defined as "the lack of knowledge or information".  Synonyms include:  incomprehension of, unawareness of, unconsciousness of, unfamiliarity with, inexperience with...and so on and so on.

How could Hitler gain so many followers?  He fed them his deluded ideas and their egos feasted.  But it was ignorance about the Jewish people that led to nefarious and disastrous events.  What would have happened if people, upon hearing Hitler’s views, cross-checked the “facts” being presented?  What if they had taken the time to get to know a Jewish neighbor, asked a Jewish person about their faith, observed Jewish traditions?  Now let me be clear.  There were non-ignorant people who did exactly this.  Some already had Jewish friends or had educated themselves and couldn’t be swayed by the popular and mainstream views.   But what is so disturbing to me is the fact that over 5 million Jews were murdered.  It wasn’t just a few followers.  It was many.  You can’t have these kind of detrimental and genocidal effects with a handful of people.  If Hitler’s views had been discredited early on and no one acted on them out of ignorance- nothing would have happened.  He would have disappeared into nothingness.  No one would remember his name, or at least, no one would care. 

Let me state here that what follows is not meant to insult anyone’s intelligence.  Intelligent and well-educated people do and say ignorant things just as often as the un-intelligent and uneducated people.  I can willingly admit to having had my share of ignorance and I hope I have learned and continue to learn from my mistakes.  The point of this blog is meant to change the heart and help us all realize our mistakes and help us rectify them. 

So why is this subject current?  I witness the same ignorance daily.  And sometimes, to the extreme of Hitler’s regime.  Ignorance has fueled racism.  Ignorance rules politics.  Ignorance breeds hatred between varying religions. 

One of the biggest instigator of all things ignorant is the news media.  Let me explain how news works.  People of varying biases segregate themselves into specific news providers and networks.  Then they proceed to present recent history as irrefutable truth.  Here is a fact:  the moment history is put down from one viewpoint it becomes a work of fiction.  I can hear each political side chiming in here.  “The Democrats slant news to their biased and wrong opinions and I only trust Republican news”.  “Oh, no!  It’s the Republicans who broadcast falsified facts and the Democrats get it right!”  But here is another fact:  both sides are the authors and both sides slant it their way.  It is part of human nature to see things from what our experience has taught us.  This is why it is so important to cross-check “facts”

So many times I see on Facebook a news article posted that declares So and So as a tyrant because they said this absolutely horrible thing during an interview or a public speech.  And the responses go something like this…”How could they say that?”  “How completely un-American.”  Etc. Etc. Blah. Blah. Blah.  Oftentimes, I witness name calling and derelict language.  Apparently on the internet, you’re guilty until proven innocent.  Ignorance.  But what happens when you actually read the accused tyrant’s words in context and not through the already biased eyes of some reporter?    All of a sudden, their words take on whole new meanings.  And usually those meanings were not what was reported.  Usually they are harmless and referring to something completely unrelated to what they were being accused of saying. 

Now the first crime of ignorance was indeed brought forth by the news reporter. They ignorantly thought that their negative opinions of a fellow human were worth sharing as truth (In the world of political talk-show hosts, they’re actually paid to present antagonistic and inflammatory opinions).  Then these biases are readily eaten up by the ignorant because people willingly believe everything at face value.  Then it is posted for all your friends to add their own uniformed and fallacy ridden opinions.  And within seconds, the victim of news has had their reputation bespattered all over social media. 

What is the point of this diatribe?  Please.  Please! Do your research before posting anything.  Cross-check your “facts” (this is my 3rd time mentioning this thought).  Stop using only one source of information.  Broaden your viewpoint by educating your mind with multiple viewpoints

What?!!  Listen to what the opposing side has to say?  From their own lips?  Actually listen to why they believe what they believe?  Are you serious?  That’s like blasphemy and punishable by death, isn’t it?  How far-fetched an idea?  Insane!  Witchcraft!  Burn her at the stake! 

I admit this idea does seem novel and perhaps too hard for the hard-headed.  But maybe if this happens we might actually get more unbiased information, instead of the inflated news that is currently predominant.  What would result from not distorting the facts because all the viewers were informed and not easily finagled into believing anything they hear?  I’ll tell you.  World peace.  You laugh and scoff, but what causes war is the inability for humans to put ignorance aside and try to understand each other’s viewpoints.  I don’t mean that everyone should have the same viewpoints, or to accept other’s opinions as your own—just because.  It is important and a part of what makes us individuals to have our own beliefs and opinions.  But it is also more humane and compassionate to listen and accept that not everyone thinks the same as you.  And to respect those opinions.  Now if those opinions are not in keeping with basic human laws….like cheating, stealing, murder, etc…feel free to be 100% against those opinions and fight them both tooth and nail.

In a world of varying viewpoints, religion seems to be one of the most ignorantly approached subjects in existence.  I was raised in a religion that was misrepresented and continues to be misrepresented by those who don’t believe as I do.  Those ignorant views in earlier times led to fear and deep-rooted hatred which in turn led to persecution and murders…nothing like the holocaust, but just as wrong.  Nowadays I don’t have to worry about my family’s safety, but I can still sometimes feel the effects of long-standing ignorance causing hostility.  And because of this personal experience, nothing puts me into a passionate tirade faster than hearing other religions besmirched, including my own. 

The largest world religions have the same basic messages.  And the biggest one is loving one another.  No one religion has the market on love and kindness.  Now there are definitely groups of evil people who take their religion and drag it through the mud, while professing their actions to be sanctioned by their beliefs—when in truth, they are acting against the core values they are misrepresenting.  These groups of people are extremists, or radicals.  Sometimes they refer to themselves (and sometimes misguided others refer to them) as fundamentalist.  But these groups have twisted the very values of their religion, such that they are as far from fundamental as you can get.  However, they still manage to dupe the ignorant masses into believing everyone with the same religious name is one and the same.  What annoys me is how the few are so easily grouped with the majority.  I have witnessed in my own Faith people doing things that are not in keeping with our beliefs (a lot of times they are some off-shoot religion, but not always), and immediately the populace is pointing their grimy and accusatory fingers at everyone within my Faith.  Stop judging by the minority.  And remember, don’t trust the news to give you a crystal clear viewpoint either.

Here comes my next request.  Do your research.  Look at the numbers.  How many people actually follow extremist views as opposed to the number of members who follow the actual religion?  Learn about many diverse religions and their beliefs.  Get to know people of other Faiths.  Each religion has its own beauties and some pretty incredible people.  Don’t repeat history.  Instead let’s envision and create a world where religion is no longer a reason to fight or kill our neighbors.

There is a trend in social media of putting a prominent figure in society’s picture next to Hitler’s and saying that the two are one and the same.  Usually the biggest crime the person committed is being a Republican or Democrat.  Bush was compared to Hitler.  Obama is compared to Hitler.  Ignorance.  The true Hitler’s and Hitler’s eager followers of the world today are not politicians.  They are regular Joes who spread ignorance and accept slanderous views ignorantly.  And if these trending habits don’t cease and desist, the damaging consequences will be unsurpassable. I pray the consequences will not be millions of extinguished innocent lives.  One holocaust is enough to taint humanity through the eternities.