True Open-Mindedness

People throw around the term “open-minded” with the wrong meaning. Truly open-minded people know what they believe and why, know there are things they don’t know (a very Rumsfeldian idea), are willing to learn new things, and if those new things impact their current beliefs, then they are willing to change their beliefs. They also have the capacity to understand that people with differing beliefs and understandings can come to those in a logical, thinking manner, and they can respect those differences without feeling the need to embrace them.

How a White Guy Understands Black Lives Matter

A key to understanding something written or said by someone else is understanding the context in which it was written or spoken. For example, to fully understand the Constitution, you have to learn about the lives and times of the authors and the people they wrote the document for. Those things framed the meanings of their words. In a similar fashion, to understand the Scriptures, you have to understand what the words meant to the hearers. That’s why theologians study Greek, Hebrew, and ancient near eastern history. The same practice holds true for understanding the Black Lives Matter movement as a white person. Study history, both recent and that of the early years of this country. Research the failed social engineering attempts of forced bussing and building the projects. Learn about the impact that the gentrification of the inner cities is having on people. Read literature such as Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver, A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Read Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech and write down a list of the injustices he mentioned. Watch a movie like The Help (or read the book) and continually remind yourself that it was set in 1963. Listen, I mean really listen, to the album Anomaly by Lacrae. Learn the truth about Margaret Sanger and the anti-black sentiment she held as she founded Planned Parenthood. Most importantly, ask a black person that you know to explain what the movement means to him or her. Then, and only then, put feet to your convictions and become part of the solution, for if you don’t, you’re just part of the problem.

A “Conservatarian” View of the SCOTUS Same Sex Marriage Decision

I’m not a constitutional scholar, but I’ve invested a good amount of time in this issue. I don’t need to reiterate what others have said about the intricacies of the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Simply started, the Equal Protection clause states that all Americans are entitled to equal protection under the law, period.  What bears stating is the legal precedent in referencing the Fourteenth. Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there were “Jim Crow” laws in the southern states that required the states, under law, to segregate based on race. Facilities were supposed to be “separate but equal.” They rarely were equal. President Woodrow Wilson, an overt racist, practiced gross discrimination. The equally overt racist Democrats of the late 1800s through the mid 1960s did everything possible to undermine the anti-segregationist policies of the Republicans. The southern states felt their state sovereignty allowed them to discriminate within the borders of their states. The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth was the constitutional basis for the federal government to overrule state sovereignty because the federal government is responsible for ensuring all citizens get equal protection under the law. Given the preponderance of states that have marital equality laws, it was not, in my mind, a far stretch to apply the same principles that shot down Jim Crow. What the Fourteenth does not touch is the right of people that are not agents of the state from discriminating except in areas such as housing and employment. This ties into the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. By law and practice, churches are not agents of the state. Congress cannot force a non-agent to act. I am an ordained minister. I cannot be compelled to perform any service for anyone. I don’t know the individual laws of every state where marital equality is the law, but I can tell you that Maryland’s law is well-crafted and explicitly protects the clergy. Here is the text of Question 6, the public referendum for marital equality in Maryland,

“Establishes that Maryland’s civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license, provided they are not otherwise prohibited from marrying; protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs; affirms that each religious faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith; and provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.”

I am a libertarian. I voted for Question 6 even though I will not personally perform a same-sex ceremony. I am not discounting what I believe to be the biblical truth on the topic. I am standing behind the right of two people to enter into a legally binding contract, which in the eyes of the state, is what marriage is.

The reason we have this mess is that our bloated government stuck its nose into marriage, a thing formerly under the scope of religious bodies. It chose to grant legal privileges to married couples. Once it did that and the individual states began to legalize same sex marriage, it was inevitable that it would have to respond.

Before we are too quick to respond to this ruling, think of where America would be if Jim Crow was still in existence.

Imprisoned in my Baltimore Home

Earlier this evening, shortly after the curfew took effect, I stood at the back gate of my home in Baltimore City.  If I opened the gate and took a step onto the street, I would be breaking the law.  I felt a great need to express my sadness over what has become of my adopted home.  Here it is:

Freedom Bound in Darkness

The lads with no dads are always so mad

Hurting my town and breaking it down

Feeling a debt, taking what can be had

.

Prisoners of the night are those who want right

Their freedoms submerged until they all drown

Because the lads with no dads are always so mad

.

To them nothing is easy, it’s always a fight

Even joy is fleeting, it ends in a frown

Feeling a debt, taking what can be had

.

While they seem to run free, we’re bound until light

Some drown in blood, others break the crown

The lads with no dads are always so mad

.

When greed replaces need, the stores ignite

The charm has gone, with smoke it has flown

As they feel a debt and take what can be had

.

Teeming in numbers, faking true might

Losing their future, having infamy, not renown

The lads with no dads are always so mad

Feeling a debt, taking what can be had

A not so chance encounter

I had a wonderful discussion with a man from Rwanda that I met in the parking lot at the FDA where I am serving as a senior business systems analyst. While my French is atrocious, I could see that the book he was carrying was a history book dealing with the struggles between blacks and whites in Rwanda from 1990 to 1994. I asked him if he had seen the movie Hotel Rwanda and if it was accurate. He told me that he had and unfortunately, it wasn’t. We started talking about the Hutus and the Tutsis and racism. He asked about the origins of racism. I talked to him about Dutch and British colonialism, the caste system in India and the Untouchables in particular, and also the treatment of the aboriginal people of Australia by the British settlers and even more contemporary Australians. Then he asked me a very poignant question, “what do we do to get rid of racism in this country?” I told him that the best things that we can do are to dispel falsehoods by teaching the truth and to show ourselves as friendly and respectful toward those of different people groups. We have to dispel the falsehood that there is a unified hatred of one group by another by proving that at least one person of that group doesn’t hate them.
We discussed what sort of teachings might change people’s minds. I spoke to him about the common ancestry of humanity as described in the Hebrew Scriptures. I told him stories of Moses and how his own brother and sister were upset with him because he married an Ethiopian woman. I told him of the Jewish people from Ethiopia that stood as a testimony to the fact that we are truly one race of people, a message he echoed to me earlier in our conversation. I told him of the origin of humanity being from North Africa and drawing the conclusion that if all people came from one place, then the essence of all humanity is identical and we simply have different appearances.
I asked him if he was familiar with the Gospel story and how when the edict went out to kill the male children two years and younger that Mary and Joseph fled to North Africa. He knew the story well. Being a Jew in my heritage and my pedagogy, I asked him a question versus presenting my conclusion. I asked him, “would parents of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy hide in a place where everyone had brown skin and black hair?” He smiled and said, “no.” Then he surprised me. He pulled out a book and asked me if I though it was legitimate because he had a friend that only spoke French who needed this book in French. The title was, “Nouveau Testament.” He knew there were versions floating around that had slight changes to promote the doctrines of certain cults. I opened the book to Jean 1:1, recited John 1:1 in English and asked him if that’s what it said. He confirmed that. I asked him to look at the phrase, “and the Word was God” and make sure that there was no indefinite article there, a trick of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to substantiate their Arian (not to be confused with Aryan) doctrine of Christ. He said there was none. We did a similar drill with Jean/John 3:16. He confirmed that what it says was what I recited. He was very happy because now he could give his friend what he was asking for.
We both ended our work days with a wonderful encounter. I have been telecommuting for five years. While I dislike making the drive, I love meeting people face to face.

Ebola and Movie Night

If you are not concerned about Ebola in the U.S., you should be.  If you are unsure of where you stand on this issue, please do me a favor.  Take $2.99 and rent the movie Contagion with Matt Damon, et al. (http://smile.amazon.com/Contagion-Matt-Damon/dp/B006SV2LWA/ref=sr_pi_1_1_ha_syps_1_1?s=instant-video&ie=UTF8&qid=1412317520&sr=1-1&keywords=contagion).  It is a very well-done movie that does not go over the top in portraying the grim reality of how fast a deadly virus can impact a nation.  Here is a dialog from a particularly poignant scene:

Aubrey Cheever: How many people are gonna die?
Dr. Ellis Cheever: Well, in nineteen eighteen one percent of the population died from Spanish flu. It was novel, like this, no one had ever seen it before.
Aubrey Cheever: One percent of America?
Dr. Ellis Cheever: One percent of the world. As many as seventy million people could die, baby, maybe more.

That figure is actually too small.  According to the CDC, up to two percent of the world died from the Spanish Flu pandemic (http://www.flu.gov/pandemic/history/1918/the_pandemic/index.html). If you take the numbers from Wikipedia, it’s even higher (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1918_flu_pandemic).

This is bigger than ISIS or any other crisis facing the world.  We need to get a handle on this now or truly be in grave danger.

My memories of Robin Williams

When I think of Robin Williams body of work, there are a few things that come to mind.
– His appearances on the Tonight Show with Billy Crystal. The two of them had this amazing chemistry and pulled off these improvisational bits that were beyond hilarious.
– His role as Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. The greatest performers have the ability to be versatile. He was equally great in a serious role as he was in a comedic role. The scene that stands out the most was where he was counseling with Will and Will was pushing Sean’s buttons while discussing his late wife’s painting. The rapid transition that Robin made from counselor to outraged widower was unbelieveable.
– His role as Alan Hakman in The Final Cut. This is another dramatic role that he was nothing short of amazing in.
– His role as Mork in Mork and Mindy. I can’t help but wonder how much of his work was improvisational. There was never a weak moment in the show.
– His role in Mrs. Doubtfire. I can envision his part toward the end of the movie where as Mrs. Doubtfire, he revealed his character’s heart. There are few roles where I’ve seen such sincere sorrow expressed in such a subtle manner.

The best thing that we can do in his memory is to be very honest about the reality of chronic depression.  It is a disease that in so many people lives just beneath a thin veneer of normality.

An Independence Day Letter to my Students

I am privileged to be an adjunct professor for Everest College.  The opportunity to touch the lives of hundreds of students is something I greatly relish.  On Independence Day, 2014, I wrote the following to my current students.  If you are a former student of mine, or if you just came across this blog for some other reason, I hope that you’ll take to heart the following:

Dearest Students:

As we go into this holiday weekend, I hope you all remember what we are truly celebrating. The independence that our nation gained over 200 years ago is something that allows us to be studying as we are here today. We don’t need any sort of royal decree to allow us to teach. In slightly over two centuries of existence, our great nation has accomplished many wonderful things. We face challenging times, as is often the case in any great nation. What makes America truly great is not only our great freedoms, but how we deal with struggles and the hard times in life.  We are an exceptional nation made up of exceptional people.
It’s important that you are always aware of the great sacrifices that it took to get to where we stand today. If while you’re watching a parade, you happen to see a veteran, go up to that man or that woman and express your thanks for that person’s service to our great country.  Having been a soldier, I can tell you that the greatest challenges are those we face when we get back into the “real” world. While many of our veterans don’t bear their scars on the outside, a great number bear scars on the inside. One out of every four homeless people is a veteran. On any given day, 22 veterans die at their own hands. If you started counting the number of veterans who died this way from New Year’s Day until Labor Day, the number would exceed those who died in the entire Iraqi conflict. Independence is something that we enjoy freely, but it didn’t come cheaply.
You have great things waiting for you after this class is done. College is one of the few places where you have the ability to determine almost everything that happens to you. You choose how much to study, you choose how hard you work on assignments, and you choose how much you participate in the discussion threads. If there is anything that I can tell you about your educational experience to come, it’s this; it doesn’t get easier. I have a dual Bachelor’s, a Diploma in Military Science, two Master’s degrees, and I’m working toward a postgraduate degree, and it is as hard today as it was when I was a college freshman 35 years ago. It’s always a challenge, but it’s always worth it. During the introductions to class, we ask you about those who will be your greatest supporters. It’s wonderful to have support, but remember one thing, the only one that you need to impress with what you do at school, is yourself. When you look at your grades, don’t gauge yourself so much on the letter grade as you do on the level of effort that went into achieving that letter grade. If you get a C in a class, and you put every bit of your being into earning that, then feel good about it. The size of the diploma of a student that carried a 2.9 GPA is not any smaller than that of a student who earned a perfect 4.0.

Best wishes to you all,
Andy Knaster, BA, MA, MSIS
Adjunct Prof., Everest College Phoenix Online

The Oligarchy Times, a Reminder that the Obamanation has More Issues than the Ones in the News Today

The Oligarchy Times, Volume 2, Issue 3

In this issue of the Oligarchy Times, we have another look at Obamacare because the President really cannot be allowed to run away from the disaster he created just because has created so many others in addition.

Four months ago, in regard to people losing their health insurance as a result of the inappropriately named “Affordable Care Act,” Harry Reid said that “there are plenty of horror stories being told…all of them are untrue” (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSJOLivL-NU).  I was doing some research on a paper for my doctoral program, and look what I came across…an article that was printed in the Contemporary Pediatrics journal just three weeks before Mr. Reid’s claims.  I know, it must be that the Koch brothers and the Benham brothers chipped in and bought Contemporary Pediatrics and Fox News gathered all of the fake survey respondents.  It’s just one more fake scandal.  Oh good, now I can rest safely in the Obamanation.
aca pediatrics

 

The repository of all knowledge…

A student in one of my introductory computer applications classes asked how she could learn more advanced functionality in the Microsoft Office while continuing to deal with working and going to school.  I pointed her at the repository of all knowledge, YouTube.  There are many professional software instructors and instruction organizations out there.  Many of them offer a select number of high-quality lessons for free.  Some do it out of a sense of community, others, with the hope of having you purchase their products.  When you put all of these free offerings together as samples in the world’s biggest mall, you are bound to get a complete set. Nonetheless, you can be the beneficiary.  Here is a simple two step process that works for just about anything in the Microsoft Office.

using YouTube to learn Microsoft Office