Unlearn…

Nobody asked me for my opinion about “kneel gate,” but I’m going to give it anyway. Yes, kneeling the way athletes have been doing of late is patently offensive to a person who can look at the flag and see it for what it is, or has the potential to be. So viewed through a patriotic lens, people are going to get mad about what looks like people metaphorically peeing on the flag.

What a friend helped me to realize is that isn’t necessarily the case. Sure it could be, because there are always going to be jerks out there, but I don’t think it is in regard to this situation. The reason for the protest, shortly spoken, is that racism is a real and present danger in our country. It has had it’s share of blame in the recent and fairly recent deaths of several young men of various colors.

What I was thinking is that if racial and racially based motives have been learned, they can also be “unlearned,” which they must be if there is any hope for us at all. I believe that is true of African-American and Caucasian alike.

We have much to learn, and much to unlearn.

So yes, I find the current protest trend offensive and disrespectful. I am just not sure that’s done by kneelers with prejudice and malice aforethought.

Athletes have a forum that is limited as to means of protest. They are entitled to do it, should they feel the need to do so. The constitution gives them the right to burn a flag in protest, should they wish to. I believe what they’re doing to be stupid and odious, but that right to do so is what so many fought and died for them to have. So if you don’t want to offend someone, or have your motives questioned, find another way. There are lots of ways to say lots of things. Even for athletes.

I am able to see that cries of oppression sound hollow if the people making them are highly privileged rather than oppressed. While outrage in the other direction is for me a bit easier to understand. Because the flag…well, I remember saying the pledge of allegiance in the second grade and getting all verklempt.

I saw a picture of my uncle wearing his uniform and a bronze star some time after that.

So I remove my cap when the national anthem is played and I stand with my hand over my heart.

You have a right to do otherwise. Just don’t be surprised if people find it offensive. Lots of people are offended by lots of things these days. If you’re doing something offensive and demeaning to something others hold highly regarded–whether deliberate or not–there will in some way be a consequence of that offense.

So it is with racially motivated offenses.

Unlearn, people. Unlearn.

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Paradoxical Illogicalities and Limp Bizkit

limpbizkitThere’s been a great deal of conversation lately (if you can call it that) regarding the 2016 election and the behavior of each of the candidates—both current and past. This person is dishonest and corrupt. That person is an unrepentant sexual predator. The truth is that there exists credible (and in-credible) evidence to legitimize each viewpoint, depending on how you roll.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today.

What I’m wondering is what is it about the ardent supporters for each person that makes them willing to overlook such obvious…character flaws in the person they support, while calling for the metaphorical heads of the opposition. The truth is that when you take a good and close look at each candidate one thing (to me) becomes appallingly clear.

They’re people. They’re fallible people like us, albeit with a lot more money, and as such each also seems to have that same tendency everyone else does: they do stupid things about as often as the average person.

They make mistakes.

That said, what is behind the everyday person’s willingness to overlook mistakes with a light shining on them brighter than Kleig lights on a movie set?

Some of these fallacies are not very nice. Some illegal. Some resulted in death and other traumas. In either case, the people involved are proven to be crass and inconsiderate—even profanely so—on more than one occasion.

Yet even so we carry blue signs and wear red hats. I don’t get it. It seems like nothing matters to anyone—nothing real.

Rather, to quote the 90’s philosopher/poets Limp Bizkit, “It’s all about the he-says, she-says bull—“

Why? People don’t even seem to know what they’re for anymore, in any way they can explain. They can tell you what they’re against, though.

“Never Trump.”

“Jail her.”

[Insert slogan here]

What matters to you?

PC or Bust

I’ve been thinking about political correctness the past few days, and I decided I was tired of it. It’s too demanding–and that much ambiguity is unattainable. One must become racially, sexually, politically, religiously and culturally ambiguous–or “fluid,” I believe they say now.

Don’t distinguish yourself from the pack in any way, because we are all the same–meat-covered cookies.

Refer to people without gender specificity. Tell your DNA it isn’t the boss of you.

Referring to one’s self as any particular color is racist. We are all opaque.

Fiscal and governmental concerns? Nah. Give lots of stuff to people–who cares how it’s paid for.

Don’t worship, just…be. And wear scarves and patchouli so you can better find your oneness.

Personal pronouns? Make up one. We have 26 letters. Or maybe–since letters are specific–they should all be “—.”

Are you fleeing another country because it sucks? Which country? Oh, never mind, I can’t ask you that. Do you have ID? Oh, wait. Verboten. Sorry.

Do you identify as an ampersand? Come on, &. There are no letters.

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Band-Aid on a Neck Wound

I think it’s completely understandable that when there is some sort of gun-related crime that makes the National news, people become more concerned about the ease of obtaining firearms, especially if the incident is a multiple-victim shooting.

There have been so many of those of late, the President has vowed to issue an executive order for what he and those like him have deemed better gun control laws.

Ok, go ahead.

It just seems to me that they are–metaphorically speaking–putting a Band-Aid on a neck wound. They may temporarily stop the bleeding, but the wound is still there.

If you doubt the veracity of that statement, take a long look at Chicago crime statistics–where you will find some very tough gun control laws.

In my opinion, our nation’s problem with guns is more related to the de-valuing of human life, and less related to gun purchases at firearm expos and large capacity magazines.

For so many, I believe, human life is meaningless.

The President rails against well publicized gun violence when it occurs, but at the same time supports an organization responsible for literally, millions of deaths. How am I then to take his diatribes seriously?

From what news sources indicate from all sides of the spectrum, gun purchases are surging. I’m not sure what that will mean in the end, but it’s seems very possible this president will go down in the annals of history a little differently than he would probably like to.

Maybe his executive order will help things. I really hope so. Time will tell.

Maybe the President will realize that all lives really do matter, and that simple truth needs to resonate.

The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Seen

Still image from video shows men purported to be Egyptian Christians held captive by the Islamic State kneeling in front of armed men along a beach said to be near Tripoli

I took a picture a couple of years ago, and the object I was photographing nearly took my breath away with its subtle beauty. I looked at it again today, and it made me think of how easy it is to find beauty when you least expect it.

I also saw the image above, and it took my breath away, too. 20 men–all ostensibly believers–about to die for nothing more than believing in a God a large group of extremists hate with a violent passion.

I have seen a lot in my life. There has certainly been a lot in the News this year–plenty for Conservatives and Liberals to chew on, and get angry about. For my part, the image at the top is the most terrible thing I have seen all  year, and maybe all my life.

These men are Egyptian Christians. Taken captive by ISIS for more or less doing nothing other than worshipping what this group of individuals thinks is the wrong God. I think the terrorists called this video something like “A message signed in blood to the People of the Cross.” Erudite, these people are not.

I found the image online, as well as an article and an accompanying video I will never be able to unsee. I didn’t intend to watch it, but the article mentioned the men crying out at the end, and I felt compelled to bear witness to that. They are marched down a deserted beach, and made to kneel on the sand. The man in the camo with the knife gives his shpiel and  near the end, mentions who the men are (without naming any of them), and what’s going to happen to them. He tells them to cry out to their God. They do cry out here and there, and then are forced into a prostrate position, and their heads are sawed off with knives.

There was even a link to an article quoting Pope Francis that mentioned the men crying out to Jesus in their last few seconds.

They really did die for their faith. Scripture promises they will be raised up again in Revelation 4. After Jesus, I want to meet these people and others who died for the God they believed in (I am not numbering the multitudes of idiots who blew themselves up for Allah among them).

Anyway, that image really made me think–long and hard–about what’s coming. I know many of you don’t believe in a literal bible, and that’s your choice.

That doesn’t change what’s coming, for those who believe and those who do not. In the movie Return of the King, Aragorn says something to Théoden like “Open war is upon you, whether we would risk it or not.” And that’s where we are today. It doesn’t matter much what the President chooses to do (or more accurately, not do), I don’t think.

And I have been wondering all year, what would I do for my faith?

Will I die for it?

Would I cry out for Jesus as some jackal with a knife executes me?

I hope so.

And then I’ve been wondering where all the beauty in the world went off to? Is there any left?

Turns out there is, and it’s everywhere. The world is terrible and wonderful at the same time. And amongst all the strife abroad, or here at home, there are nuggets of beauty among the ashes. I will do my best to consider the beauty that still exists, and the God that has a hand and heart in everything. And I will wait for whatever is coming, knowing that I will not go through it alone.

The image at the bottom of this post is what I was talking about at the beginning. I took it on a patch of dirt and gravel, next to a pile of old and rusted metal and a dumpster.

Beauty amongst trash. It exists. And it’s comforting. It comforts me because to me, in my heart and mind–it is evidence that God also exists. I didn’t need it, but it’s wonderful to see.

And it makes the rest…more bearable.

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On Extremism, and Starting a Conversation

Not everyone dressed like this is a terrorist, or (according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation) radicalized Muslims. A hijab and a taqiya are just articles of clothing.

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These people were, however, and did carry out their plan, although probably not to the degree they wished, thanks to a hail of bullets and a tactical vehicle.

For some reason—although they were known to the FBI very soon after their deed was done—it was determined by someone not to release information regarding their identities right away. I can actually imagine why without straining my brain too hard. The powers-that-be did not want to create anti-Islamic paranoia while blood was still hot over what had been done, which was, of course, murder motivated by terrorism and perpetrated by people taken captive by a hateful ideology.

No, I am not talking about the GOP. In spite of what many of our liberal friends might think.

(I am not planning to address Donald Trump’s remarks here. That’s for another post)

Personally, I do not know any practitioners of the Muslim faith. No, I do not believe they all want to kill me. I would say, of course, that some do. It would be foolish to deny that.

But certainly not all, and nowhere near a majority.

That said, what do we do? Do we round them up? Kick them out of the country? I don’t know. It makes me think of Japanese internment during WWII to an extent, and that was wrong. It feels the same way here.

BUT.

Radicalized Japanese people were not coming to the U.S. under a peaceful guise and murdering people at office Christmas parties.

Also, I understand how left-leaning purveyors of social justice might be worried about citizens getting all exclusion-y and prejudiced regarding Islamic people in the U.S. I get that—and they probably should worry, to an extent. Many people do and say stupid things, especially when people have been murdered.

I don’t know what the answer to that is. I don’t know how to keep people from feeling like they are the arbiters of justice, social or otherwise.

I think this is a dialogue the country needs to (and hopefully will) have.

But I also think it is liberal-minded folly to behave as if NO Islamic extremism has occurred in the U.S. since 9/11.

Sure, the U.S. can be held captive by ideology, too. It isn’t just GOP, though. Extremism exists in every country, every faith, and it is beyond dangerous.

I’m just trying to recall the last time folks from the U.S. got dressed up in their cowboy hats and baseball caps and took their game to Islamic countries….nope, I got nothing.

We just need to stop denying what’s going on. And we need to have a reasoned conversation, and not a blame party. Are we honestly supposed to believe San Bernardino was because of the NRA? Come on, folks. Pretending there is no danger domestically, doesn’t mean there is not. It just means it isn’t only ostriches who bury their heads in the sand.

Let’s put our respective agendas aside, and figure this nightmare out.

Basic Human Rights 101

These two paragraphs from a New York Times article upset me so much I hardly know what to think about it:

When asked about American military policy, the spokesman for the American command in Afghanistan, Col. Brian Tribus, wrote in an email: “Generally, allegations of child sexual abuse by Afghan military or police personnel would be a matter of domestic Afghan criminal law.” He added that “there would be no express requirement that U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan report it.” An exception, he said, is when rape is being used as a weapon of war.
The American policy of nonintervention is intended to maintain good relations with the Afghan police and militia units the United States has trained to fight the Taliban. It also reflects a reluctance to impose cultural values in a country where pederasty is rife, particularly among powerful men, for whom being surrounded by young teenagers can be a mark of social status.

The article was in reference to the struggles soldiers are having with looking the other way while these Afghan chicken hawks rape and abuse young boys (occasionally girls). Domestic Afghan Criminal law? Please. This is a country that seems to encourage (or at least condones) the perpetuation of child sexual abuse as policy.

Really? These are our allies?

Isn’t not being raped a basic human right?

And while I’m thinking about it, just because these…men have always been a rapin’, does that mean they always should?

Does it really take a doctorate and a radio telescope to see when something is wrong?

If placating our “allies” requires allowing them to violate children because they’ve always done so, then we need to rethink our own military’s policy.

I spent several years witnessing first hand the terrible cost perpetrators of this “policy” exact on the victims of it (meaning rapists and victims–though domestically rather than internationally), and the closest I can come to describing how it makes me feel is rage.

And I know that makes my own faith–my own Christianity–sound feeble and hypocritical, but I could not ignore something like that. And I have nothing but respect for the soldiers who acted, and are going to lose their careers because of it.

I will just say it. It’s difficult for me to see the wrong in putting a beat down on a sack of goat crap like this Afghan commander. He’s lucky they didn’t kill him.

My response to all of this is there are some things in life that should not be compromised–one of which is the right of children to experience life at their own speed, and to not be subject to things like what our soldiers are told to ignore in Afghanistan.

Ignoring the screams of children is wrong, and the message this…policy is perpetuating is also wrong.

No, it isn’t the United States.

Yes, they should police these men in Afghanistan, in accordance with Afghan law.

They aren’t going to.

In my opinion, ignoring this crap is going to backfire big-time.

There has to be something we can do?

At the very least, the people entrusted with command of these men–as well as our commander-in-chief, should create a dialogue with our “allies.”

Because eventually, someone is going to go all “Marcellus Wallace” on these Afgan commanders.

Think it can’t get any worse? Wait a while.