Entitled and Privileged

Kids should have the privilege of going to school without being murdered. The are entitled to that.

In 1968 Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., were both assassinated. A serious debate about gun control started that year, and it looked like something was going to happen. In the fifty years since then, nothing has happened. And while nothing has happened one and a half Americans have died from gunshots.

A million and a half! I can’t fathom that number; and I can’t fathom the attitude we all have, “well, there’s nothing we can do.”

I used to think a million murders constitute a genocide. I guess it’s not, because they were not singled out for their ethnicity. A disproportionate number have been poor or minority, but mostly they were random victims.

So we can’t call it genocide, but what can we call it? An atrocity? An outrage? A measure of apathy and impotence?

I know some of my fellow Christians will say, “Well there have been 45 million abortions; and that’s a holocaust.”  I will say two things:

1. I try to be consistently pro-life. I don’t think the supreme court is going to overturn Roe v. Wade, but there are things we can do to reduce the number of abortions. We can support comprehensive healthcare including pre-natal and post-natal care for mothers and children, better education including sex education, better support for adoption. These things have been proven to reduce the number of abortions.

I understand that some abortions are medically necessary. And I suppose I understand why the court ruled the only one qualified to make the decision is the mother, in consultation with her physician.

You can be pro-life and pro-woman, and pro-child, and nonviolent. You can do practical, positive things to help.

Still, I support the right of anyone to organize, march, speak out, vote, protest, get out in the streets to support causes they consider important. The first amendment is a wonderful thing. After so-called pro-life people murdered a physician in Emporia, I no longer want to be associated with confrontational movements. But I am still pro-life and pro-peace. I am against war, capital punishment, and the murder of our children, the murder of our young men, police brutality, the rejection of refugees, singling out anyone for hate and exclusion.

2. Here is my second point: it is tragic when some women feel they have no choice but to terminate a healthy pregnancy. Sometimes it happens when the developing fetus is capable of feeling pain, of responding to voices, and other human activities.

But there is no comparison between abortion and the holocaust. Fetuses may feel pain, but they don’t feel the terror of being herded into death chambers. Parents may regret the choice of an abortion, but still feel it was they right choice. They don’t watch helplessly while someone else murders children they have come to know and love. They are not deprived of their human agency by a brutal military power.

I hate to have to spell out the obvious. The holocaust and every genocide was forced on people by a military or governmental power. It was an act of state sponsored terrorism for no reason other than hate or political power. Our government upholds the constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court. It does not force anyone to have an abortion.

The murder of children and teenagers, a dozen or so at a time, the massacre we seen in school shootings is an atrocity. It is a part of a larger atrocity. The murder of young black men is an atrocity. The death of children in drive by shootings is an atrocity. And we still accept the lame rationalizations. We should feel entitled to stop it.

A million and a half!

Why are we not out in the streets?

There is something we can do. The supreme court says we can’t ban handguns and congress doesn’t have the will to ban assault rifles.

There is something congress can do. They can’t regulate guns but they can regulate gun owners. They can require rigorous training, background checks, photo ID, proof of citizenship, and licensing. Law enforcement can enforce well-designed laws. Every citizen is a member of the militia. The militia is to be well-regulated.  If you say you cannot regulate gun users, you are denying the constitution.

Congress is addicted to money from the NRA. They will not do anything.  You can guarantee it. But the voters can.

We can get out in the street and demand that congress regulate the citizen militia. And we can fire those who refuse. We can make this election about one pro-life issue: separating deadly weapons from dangerous people. We may have to let some pot smokers out to make room for those who violate reasonable gun-user control laws.

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Growing up Conservative, part 1

Below is a brief excerpt from a chapter in the book I am writing. It is about my Bible College education:

Naturally, a Bible College is a conservative institution, but not in the way you might think. My professor of hermeneutics challenged us to think for ourselves, to understand the meaning of words in their historical context, in fact to take a historical and contextual approach to the text. It was from professor Seth Wilson (we called him “Brother Wilson) I learned how to read ancient texts.

He would occasionally diverge into politics. I remember him saying Franklin Roosevelt was the greatest traitor the country ever had. I wasn’t sure what he meant, because he didn’t elaborate. Once he mentioned the peace conferences at Yalta where the allies gave Eastern Europe to the Soviet Union. Otherwise, I assumed it was because he thought Social Security was a slippery slide toward socialism.

Years later I took a university history course on the history and rhetoric of Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency. We studied the history and his speeches. I learned that there wasn’t really much choice about which countries the Soviets occupied. They were already there; boots on the ground had settled it. Western Europe and America were exhausted from war and there was no stomach for a new war against communism. I also was exposed to the view that FDR had saved capitalism by mitigating its harshest failings. But it was brother Wilson’s comments that sparked my interest in learning more about President Roosevelt.

There are three features often associated with conservative religion I was never taught at Ozark Bible College. We were never taught racism. The idea that black skin is “the mark of Cain,” was debunked. We were taught that God loves all people equally.

We were never taught that the King James Version of the Bible is the original, or the only, or the best English translation of the Bible. In fact, in hermeneutics class, we had to read the original preface of the translators to the reader, in which the translators responded to criticism that they were presumptuous to revise the Bible. (If you look at the dedication page in the King James Version, it says, “other translations diligently compared and revised.”)

We were taught that we should learn Hebrew and Greek if we really wanted to know the Bible in the original language. Brother Wilson raised some eyebrows when he wrote an essay defending Today’s English Version, or Good News for Modern Man back in the 1960s. We were even taught textual criticism. I learned all about the different manuscripts and the variant readings in them my Freshman year, and was fascinated by it.

We were also spared indoctrination in the dispensational interpretation of the Bible. This is the belief that the Bible contains a blue print of the last days, that there are signs we should look for, and that we should expect the rapture of the church, when people would mysteriously disappear while driving cars and flying airplanes. We were taught that the book of Revelation was written to encourage Christians in the first century who were suffering persecution from the beast, the emperor.

Go Set a Watchman

I just finished listening to the Audiobook of Go Set A Watchman, read very effectively by Reese Witherspoon. The manuscript was written in the 1950s but never published until it was discovered in 2014. The story is set after To Kill A Mockingbird, when Jean Louise (Scout) is a grown woman of 26. Go Set A Watchman was written before the more famous book, the main theme of which is summarized in a brief section.

Mockingbird was a gentler and more effective way of dealing with racism. Had she published the Watchman manuscript in the 50s, it would probably have been banned and its author blacklisted.

Mockingbird is probably a more perfect artistic accomplishment. Go Set a Watchman, though, has its literary moments, with some colorful characters and amusing scenes.  The scenes of the motherless child reaching puberty and the anxiety it causes should be required reading for every teacher or youth worker who deals with middle school children.

The last few chapters resemble a platonic dialog more than a dramatic story and consist of a series of intense exchanges between Jean Louise and those closest to her.  Her angry speeches against racism are countered with genteel defenses of the way things are and why it is necessary to go along and get along. It is this social commentary that we need now.

You remember back in November when everyone warned us to avoid politics and religion at the family gathering for Thanksgiving? Jean Louise’s speeches are the models for what we should have said.

China or Not China?

I’ve been trying to keep this to myself–to paraphrase Muhammad Ali–I don’t have anything against people from China.  It’s just that I don’t like China’s oppressive government.

Yesterday the Nobel Peace Prize was given to an empty chair, the chair representing Liu Xiaobo who is in prison in China for advocating human rights and democracy.  According to The Guardian, “China is still furious” at the committee in Norway for giving the prize to someone they regard a criminal.  NPR reported yesterday that China bullied 18 other countries into boycotting the award.

I don’t have anything against anyone from China, but it does bother me that we, US consumers, are making China rich and financing the buildup of their military.

Does anyone ever look at country of origin labels?

For over twenty years I have been buying New Balance running shoes because they have the “Made in the USA” label.  My wife recently bought me two new pair.  One said, “Made in the USA with domestic and imported parts” (I thought, at least that’s more than Nike can say) and the other pair simply says, “Made in China.”

Facebook led me to an add for a cycling clothing company.  The kids in the photo above are a likable looking bunch, and there cycling apparel appears to be of high quality.  I would be willing to give it a try.  As their web page says (in typical translated Chinese):

As you know , many big companies (NIKE , Adidas , etc..) usually build some factories in China , Thailand to product the clothings for them , because the labor costs is very low.We are the one of these factories.

All the clothings which producted by our factory , once they are delivered to US , UK ,  these price will grow up , but its real price is low.

Because we sell them to you directly , so the price is lower than official price!!

There is also a company that makes high quality cycling clothing, and sells them at a reasonable price, within the US, Voler.

The above photo shows the solar panels on Voler’s factory, accompanied by a statement on their policy of being environmentally responsible.

I’m not in favor of trade wars or boycotts.  I wish the kids at MUPi cycling well.  But this year I am going to try to help out some of my neighbors who are trying to hold on to their jobs.  As far as I can, I am going to buy products made in the United States, or at least somewhere beside China.

Pro-Life/Pro-Gun/Anti-Immigrant Primary

So, who should I vote for in this Tuesday’s primary?

The candidate who’s going to “stick it to Pelosi and Obama”? Or the one who is endorsed by Sara Palin.  Or the doctor who is going to repeal health care reform?  Or the one who accuses his opponent of wanting to abolish the constitution by taking away the constitutional right of “our children under the age of 17 to own certain firearms”?

Or the one who is going to balance the budget by cutting taxes and laying off teachers and fire fighters?

Or the one who accuses his opponent of wanting to educate the children of illegal immigrants?

Or the one who is going to eliminate all taxes, all regulations, social security, and medicare?

The one who’s not one of those “weak-kneed Republicans, but a real conservative”?  Or the one who is going to protect us from voter fraud by requiring us all to carry photo ID at all times?

So many interesting choices.

More Illogical Nastiness

I still want to remind everyone to visit the Iwig web site and do what they can to save the farm.  In the meantime, I’m still discouraged by the meanness I am seeing in primary race for senate in my state.

One candidate is now accusing the other of wanting to grant lower in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants.

That sounds reasonable until you apply a little logic.

Who are these “illegal immigrants” who want to take advantage of our educational opportunities?

They are graduates of our state’s high schools who were brought here as children by their parents who came here without permission, seeking jobs they were told “Americans won’t do.”

What law did the children break?

They were brought here by their parents.  Did they have a moral obligation to turn back and cross the border alone in the other direction.  The parents broke the law and were aware of the risks and the possible consequences.

The children went to school, did their homework, obeyed the rules they understood, and now want to go to college.  The only home they now know is the state where they graduated from school.  How is it to anyone’s advantage to deny them an education?

Ronald Reagan wouldn’t have a chance if he were running in the current political climate.  After all, he granted amnesty in 1986 to undocumented workers and their families.

The Nasty Campaign

I live in a one-party state; at least when it comes to the race for the senate, and the primary campaign has really gotten nasty.  One of the candidates accused his adversary of wanting to give constitutional rights to terrorists.

The first casualty of politics is logic.

I see two problems with the underlying premise that terrorists should not be given constitutional rights.

1.  Who decides who is a terrorist?

Unless there is some sort of due process or oversight, there are only two options–the civilian branch of government or the military: either the president or the commanders on the ground.  I can’t believe that conservatives, given the fears they have of the president, would want to give him the power to declare someone a president and make him disappear without any kind of public notice.  And it has been proven that in the heat of battle, and lacking a knowledge of the language, the military has made mistakes.

2.  Who gives us our rights?

It is un-American to believe that congress gives us our rights.  According to the Declaration of Independence, we are granted inalienable rights by our creator.  Those who live under a monarch may believe their rights are granted by the king; those who live under organized atheism may believe they are granted by the state; but our heritage tells us human rights are granted by the creator and the role of government is to protect these rights.

But now some politicians want us to believe that there is a class of people who are entitled to no rights at all, neither the rules of war nor the laws of our land.  Once defined by the undefined authority as terrorists, they have no right to a trial or protection from torture.

Whatever happened to the idea that if we let terrorists make us abandon our own ideals, they win?