Why All of the Anger?

I have a theory as to why all of this violence is showing up at political rallies, both Republican and Democrat, and in general around society.

My theory is that after years of political correctness and repressed feelings, our society is faced with a truly polarizing presidential candidate in Donald Trump and the most polarizing president since Abraham Lincoln, that is, Barack Obama, and all of those repressed feelings are coming out with a vengeance. The thought police have been telling us about how every tiny thing that is remotely offensive needs to be banned, and people in general are fed up with that.

Like any system under artificial pressure, once the smallest leak occurs, the pressure gushes out with great and terrible force and everything explodes. Our country is paying the price for having forced its people to shut their mouths and not speak what’s in their hearts and on their minds. Instead of normal discourse with its occasional bumpy areas, people have just swallowed their emotions and thoughts and they are sick from it. We don’t let our kids win trophies because we don’t want to hurt the feelings of the kids that came in second place. If nobody wins, everyone feels like a loser. Striving has been determined to be bad. Striving for greatness and excellence is is part of the human psyche. Millennials are becoming disillusioned with capitalism because they don’t think it’s fair. In capitalism, success is the driver behind striving for excellence because excellence equals success and success feels good. Success for some also means that some will fail (although for people of character, failure is the driver to work harder and try again to succeed). You can’t have winners without losers. We must come to grips with the fact that the only fairness that we are entitled to is a fair chance, a level playing field.

So whose fault is this? Is it Donald Trump’s or Hillary Clinton’s or Barack Obama’s or the news media’s? No! IT IS OUR FAULT. We have become the frog in the kettle. We jumped in the water when it was comfortable and we tried to keep it comfortable by the de facto barring of free speech and vigorous discourse. We put the ice cubes of political correctness in the water while ignoring the fact that the bunson burner of the human psyche is heating the water just a bit faster than the ice can cool it. We are now at a rapid boil with no end in sight. We as a nation have lost our minds and our abilities to disagree agreeably. We have become so thin skinned that it is a miracle we don’t bleed to death. We are fragile flowers that are offended at everything we don’t agree with.

The First Amendment is a messy thing. It entitles everyone the right to speak freely, without fear of reprisal. It also entitles everyone to peacefully and freely assemble. That does not mean that one group may invade the place of assembly of another and freely speak over the top of those that were already gathered and speaking there. We must respect each other and acknowledge the “right to be wrong.” There are plenty of public squares to go around. If it is one thing we have in great abundance in the United States, it is space.

Until we rediscover the balance between brutal truth-telling and civility, we will be a nation where people continue to either yell at each other or hide in the corner. The end result of that will be chaos and a nation in chaos cannot stand.

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.

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.

The Oligarchy Times: What is a Patriot

The Oligarchy Times, volume 2, issue 1

In today’s issue of The Oligarchy Times, I ponder the question, “what is a patriot?”

I finally got around to playing the Olympic opening ceremony. I saw many Russian people with sincere looks of pride on their faces. I thought about all of the awful things that have occurred and are occurring in that nation. Before I could finish asking myself the question, “how can you be proud of a nation that has such a dark history and is still perpetrating darkness?” I asked it of myself in light of my own nation’s past and present perpetration of darkness both here and abroad. It was then that I realized the simple definition of “patriot.” A patriot is a person that loves the nation regardless of the nation’s actions.

I do love my nation, the United States, in spite of the fact that we are currently in the business of stripping liberty from our people and those of other nations. I will never cease to love my nation. I will always act to try and direct it toward doing the right things, even if that action is costly.

Being a true patriot is like being a true fan of a sports team. A true fan loves his or her team, regardless of the team’s record. The love of a fan or of a patriot is not based on performance. It is based on an unwavering commitment to love. To quote Christian musician Don Francisco, “love is not a feeling, it’s an act of the will.”

Clothes don’t make the blog

I was on a Web site devoted to providing instruction in a gamut of subjects (instructables.com).  I was looking for instructions on how to properly wear the keffiyeh I bought earlier in the year (http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-wrap-a-Keffiyeh/).   

A keffiyeh is a garment of Middle Eastern origins.  My reason for wanting to know how to wear one follows.  The sad thing I discovered in looking at the comments that followed the simple keffiyeh wrapping instructions was some people trying to politicize the simple presence of a page instructing people how to wear a garment that some people associate with terrorism.  Instructables.com is an apolitical site.  It is there to show people that don’t know things how to do them, period.  This was my response to the post:

Thanks for the instructions.  The keffiyeh is an extremely practical garment.  I am going hunting tomorrow and it is supposed to be unseasonably warm.  I have a cold weather hunting balaclava, but it will be a bit too warm to wear.  I have a bright orange and black keffiyeh to go with my blaze orange and black hunting camouflage.  The first time I used the keffiyeh was at an outdoor garage sale where I was manning a booth in the sun for three+ hours.  It kept my very Caucasian skin from getting very burnt.  Its gauzy structure kept it from getting to be too warm.

For those who are trying to make this political because of its Semitic origins, please don’t go there.  I am a Jew, an American patriot, and a Zionist.  As much as the world tends to forget, Arabs and Jews have a common parentage and a common region.  The keffiyeh is not a religious garment, it is a garment of the desert nomad.  At one time, most of us Semitic folks were nomads in desert areas.  I was in the US Army and was stationed in the desert for three years.  I wish I knew how to wear one of these back then. We wore gauze cravats like keffiyehs but they didn’t stay in place as well and were not so easily converted back and forth to face covers.  My wearing of a keffiyeh does not make me any more of a Palestinian sympathizer than my wearing of an ushanka (the Russian ear-flap hat) makes me a fan of Vladimir Putin.  As a person of Ukrainian heritage, I despise Putin because he embodies the egotistical oligarchical leader who seems to think he is better and smarter than everyone else.  That doesn’t make me want to trade in my ushanka for a ski cap or ear muffs.

When I was a soldier, the Army implemented the PASGT, styled after the German Bundeswehr’s Gefechtshelm (helmet with ear covering that is favored by bikers).  That didn’t me a Nazi.  We wore ponchos too.  They have their origins in South and Central America.  

The bottom line is this, in America, we have a creole culture.  We see it in our arts, cuisine, language, and clothing.  Our nation has been fortunate enough to be able to borrow from the hundreds (if not thousands) of cultures of our citizens.  Let’s not be so ignorant and naive to think that we Americans should avoid cultural garb because it has its origins in cultures some of us might not agree with.

Fight for a Change

I believe that we have forgotten how to fight in this country. The further we get from the fighters of the 1950’s and 1960’s such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the further we get from fighting that makes a difference in society. The Occupy movement was a perfect example of this. For all of their bluster, they accomplished nothing and broke dozens of laws that had nothing to do with their cause in the process. They left filth on the streets and caused problems for people that had nothing to do with those they were protesting. In comparison, think of the four young men from North Carolina A&T who in 1960 quietly sat at a lunch counter and simply asked to be served coffee. They were refused because of their skin color. These four young men took up a fight as gentlemen (in the old sense of the word) and with dignity and grace. They were heard. They caused real change.

Fighting involves risks. I believe that Dr. King knew of his impending death and spoke of it just before he was assassinated. Corrie Ten Boom knew that if the Nazis discovered evidence of her fight against totalitarianism by hiding Jewish people in her home, she would lose her life. The Chinese students who died in Tiananmen Square gave their lives so they could raise their voices.

We need to recapture the fires of change in our bosoms and stand against all forms of injustice. Find your passions and fight for them. Take risks. Be willing to lose what you cannot keep so that you can gain what you cannot lose (Jim Eliot). Remember that “a man [that] hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live” (Dr. King). Maintain the pressure on your “boilers” so you are hot enough to fight but not so hot as to explode. Leave nothing on the battlefield except the echos of your cries for change.