Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Chicken with a Side of Hate?

There’s a distinct difference between disliking something, disagreeing with something, and hating something. I’ve watched – and participated in – many discussions around the recent uproar over statements made by Chick-Fil-A’s owner Dan Cathy’s about marriage. I’ve even seen debate about what the man actually said and personally believes, where the “liberal media” was accused of distorting his words and “causing this whole controversy”. But it was when I saw posted on Facebook a picture of a KFC sign that read “Delicious Chicken Served Without Hate” that I really paused and stopped to think one more time about where I stand and why. “Hate” is a strong word. Does Cathy’s heart-felt belief about the definition of marriage really translate to actual hate for gay people? Have *I* fallen into some kind of media or popular culture wave of righteous indignation without really discovering the facts for myself?

From what I have read, I can confidently state that Dan Cathy supports the concept of legal marriage defined solely as between one man and one woman as based on his interpretation of Biblical scripture. Obviously, Mr. Cathy owns a very successful chain of restaurants which earn for him a great deal of personal profit. Doesn’t he have the right to use that money to support any cause he wants? Of course he does. And I haven’t seen anyone suggesting that Mr. Cathy doesn’t have the right to use those personal profits as he sees fit.

But there is more to this story. Chic-fil-A’s official statement of corporate purpose says that the business exists “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.” Although I didn’t know the exact wording of their corporate mission, I knew they were closed on Sundays and I had heard that such a policy was because founder S. Truett Cathy (Dan’s father) believed the Biblical concept that Sunday should be a day of rest and that people should abstain from work on Sundays in order to worship God. This is publicly documented on S. Truett Cathy’s own website at the link “A Five-Step Recipe for Business Success.”

Interestingly, the origin of the “closed on Sunday” policy actually had nothing at all to do with religion. According to Dan Cathy himself, “We opened on a Tuesday, the 23rd of May 1946, but by the time Sunday came, he [C. Truett Cathy] was exhausted,” said Cathy. “He was just worn out. And Sunday was not a big trading day, anyway, at the time. So he was closed that first Sunday and we’ve been closed ever since. He figured if he didn’t like working on Sundays, that other people didn’t either,” Cathy said. “He said, ‘I don’t want to ask people to do that what I am not willing to do myself.’ ” However, even if the “tradition” started by accident out of sheer exhaustion, it’s obviously been a conscious business decision since then to REQUIRE the franchises to remain closed.

So if you are a staunch atheist who not only does not believe in Chick-fil-A’s concept of God, but does not want to support a corporation whose stated purpose is to glorify that entity in such a public fashion, it would make sense that you chose not to eat there. But what does this have to do with gay marriage? After all, several Christian denominations are supportive of the legal right of homosexuals to marry.

Deeper digging reveals that Chick-fil-A as a corporate entity, has directly co-sponsored marriage retreats where same-gender couples are not admitted and it actively, regularly gives money to very anti-gay (not just anti-same-gender marriage) lobbying organizations such as “Focus on the Family.” If Chick-fil-A were being consistent, it would block anyone who has ever been divorced from participating in those marriage retreats, but I found no indication that this was the case. Chick-fil-A has also directly supported the openly anti-gay (again, as distinct from an anti-same-gender marriage stance) groups Marriage & Family Foundation and the Family Research Council. This type of activity, in my estimation, is where the company crosses the line which has now invited wide-spread boycotts.

Despite Dan Cathy’s claims that, “we will not champion any political agendas on marriage and family,” Chick-fil-A gave direct corporate donations totaling over $8 million in 2010 alone to the private marriage and family institute that Truett Cathy founded. That institute actively supports other organizations which advocate politically against marriage equality. Focus on the Family itself, which I also mentioned already is financially supported by Chick-fil-A, openly advocates for individual political candidates, despite its 501(c)3 status which is supposed to prevent such activity. These types of actions mean that ultimately, Chick-fil-A very definitely IS championing a specific political agenda. If Cathy and people who share his views perceive homosexuality as a sin, why aren’t they advocating as strongly and loudly for laws against divorce which they also consider a sin, especially if all sin is equal in God’s eyes?

Also, think about the implications of the wording in this statement that Dan Cathy made on July 16, 2011: “We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit.” So…wait – we’ve moved from opposing single-gender marriage to implying, quite clearly, that no structure but a married man and woman constitutes a family? Hmm… Not only that, but Focus on the Family actually believes that the so-called “Biblical family unit” is even more narrowly defined as comprised of “a homemaker mother and a breadwinner father.” (James C. Dobson and Gary L. Bauer, Children at Risk, 1994, p. 119, 122) Dear Chick-fil-A and Focus on the Family: it’s the 1950’s calling for you.

So back to my original question: do the actions of the Cathy family in support of their beliefs rise to the level of “hate” for gay people? Maybe they themselves don’t specifically hate gay people, but their money definitely supports – in a significant way – organizations and individuals that say and do offensive, hateful things. At best, there is disingenuousness present in their protestations and a very definite use of corporate – not private – money to advocate against political and social equality.

I hope that God will use the Holy Spirit to work in Dan Cathy’s heart and mind to reveal what I feel is a deeper truth about the depth and breadth of God’s love – and our REAL mandate from God to simply love and to leave the judging to him.

End of the Innocence?

For 10 years, I’ve been quiet about my personal reaction to and feelings about the events of September 11, 2001 and the aftermath. But it seems fitting on today’s 10 year anniversary to let my perspective finally be heard.

Nothing in my experience of the day or my feelings as it unfolded was unique or remarkable. I was a stay-at-home mom of two young children ages 2 and 2 months who took her kids to a morning gym class and came home to news reports of tragedy. Millions of Americans saw the same scenes I saw and were glued just as voyeuristically to the horror unfolding on television as I was. It was what happened in the days, months, and years afterward that came to shape how I feel today about the events of that day.

People associate a wide variety of feelings with their personal experience of 9/11: grief, loss, fear, confusion, insecurity. Personally, I associate 9/11 with shame and anger – for my own country. If today’s ten year anniversary is about loss, and here’s what I believe we truly lost on 9/11:

* We lost over 3,000 civilian lives in a horrifically tragic way – as tragic as the millions of innocent lives which continue to be lost in horrific ways all over the world from violence, preventable disease, human cruelty to fellow humans, and wars which we ourselves are perpetrating.

* We lost our sense of fiscal responsibility, led by a President who told our citizenry that to spend money to avoid recession was their patriotic duty. Is it a surprise that we are in the economic situation we are today?

* We lost our sense of security at home, just like we lost that sense when Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. We vowed we’d never forget the lessons we learned following that particular national tragedy, never repeat the mistakes made in the aftermath.

* We lost the recognition of individuality for which we were admired throughout history. We blamed an entire religion instead of a handful of radical zealots. We feared and institutionally discriminated against Americans who practiced Islam, making them feel fear in their own country and depriving them of individual liberty, just like we did to Americans of Japanese descent after Pearl Harbor.

* We lost the very foundation of freedom that defines us as a nation. Instead of being MORE vigilant to protect that for which the world envied us, we gave it up for the illusion of action to create a false security which never did, never could, and never will exist.

* We lost our pride in our freedom to question those in power. We pretended unity and called it patriotism. We called traitor those who disagreed, rather like the very extremists we abhorred.

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty – power is ever stealing from the many to the few…. The hand entrusted with power becomes … the necessary enemy of the people.” Wendell Phillips, 1852

After the events of 9/11, we vowed not to let the terrorists and the extremists win, but when we allowed them to take our sense of security in ourselves, when we allowed our priceless American liberties to be eroded, we gave up our power. “We have met the enemy – and he is us.” (Walt Kelly, 1953)

“The world changed that day,” they say. But did it? Or was it just your personal perception of the world that changed? “We will never forget,” they say. But that’s what a generation before us said after Pearl Harbor.

I believe with all my heart in what the United States of America truly stands for, in the ideals on which it was founded. But I feel we have fallen far away from those ideals as a result of our reaction to the events of 9/11 – and THAT is what saddens and angers me even more than the loss of innocent life. I pray that as a country, we will stop cowering behind bravado and return someday to what made us truly great: to embracing the REAL American values of individualism with respect, openness without fear, and freedom with hope that made us a target that fateful day.

Living History

It’s been 12 momentous hours.  More words have and will be written about this day than one person could read in a lifetime.  People far more qualified an insightful than I will dissect every aspect of this day.

There’s no doubt that President Obama is an outstanding orator and an inspiring leader.

“We will extend a hand, if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

“Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met.”

“Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed.”

“We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.”

“We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and nonbelievers.”

Wow.  And yes.  To it all.

Let me add just a few personal, and uncharacteristically non-sentimental observations on the day.

1.  President Obama spoke thousands of words today.  Many were well-crafted, profound, thought-provoking.  But these words, spoken near the beginning of his remarks at the Congressional luncheon after the swearing-in ceremony, stopped me in my tracks:

“I want to think the devoted staff and volunteers, including our wait staff here today who were putting up with me wandering through the tables.  It’s always hazardous duty serving in a room full of politicians, but I thank all of you for just an incredible, incredible event.”

In the midst of his 12 hour marathon academy acceptance speech, he thanked the luncheon wait staff.  Complete class.

2.  President Obama is left handed like me.  I didn’t know that until I saw him sign his first official documents, then I noticed immediately.  He is only the 8th left-handed president in history.  (I love the internet!)  Here’s the list.  This is also a cute article that discusses his lefty-ness.

3.  The watch President Obama wore to the inaugural balls was ugly!  A big clunky, chunky black thing – ugh.  But it’s interesting that he wears a watch.  So though he’s young, he’s not quite young enough to be of the “let me check my cell phone for the time” generation.  The 39 your old me likes that, because I am still a watch person myself.

4.  He’s been in office just over 12 hours and he’s already starting to fulfill campaign promises. Within the last hour, he suspended for 120 days proceedings involving prisoners at Guantanamo.  And there’s this from the new, improved, and completely redesigned www.whitehouse.gov website that went online at 12 noon:

“One significant addition to WhiteHouse.gov reflects a campaign promise from the President: we will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment before the President signs it.”

What?  We get to SEE and COMMENT ON legislation pending signature? Yes.  And wow.  (Go sign up for the White House blog RSS feed – and if you don’t know how to do it or what “RSS” even means, I challenge you to go find out and learn something new!)

History’s been made.  The future awaits.

Why I Vote

In March of 1989, I was a 19 year old student studying abroad who had the opportunity to go with my class behind the iron curtain for a day and visit East Berlin.  To say it was life changing is a gross understatement.

Here was a city divided in the most literal sense; where a wall sprang up within a week, dividing neighbor from neighbor, making thriving thoroughfares into dead-ends.  It was a wall that anyone could touch without incident on one side, yet on the other to even approach within 100 yards meant near certain death. It was a city where a mere 200 yards meant the difference between total freedom and complete captivity.

This wasn’t the movies, and it certainly wasn’t a joke.  I saw with my own eyes the guards armed with machine guns patrolling the “death strip” and I felt in my soul the fear of the state that East Berlin residents lived with for 28 years and one day.  I was transported back in time looking at dilapidated buildings still pock-marked with World War II bullet holes.  I wandered down rows and rows of empty store shelves on floor after floor of one of the city’s largest department stores.  I saw people afraid to make eye contact with a Western teenager under the gaze of the all-seeing eyes of security cameras.  I held in my hand an essentially valueless currency.  The resignation of a people from whom all hope had been systematically stripped was palpable and horrifying.

In all, 125 people lost their lives trying to escape the oppression that was East Berlin.  In fact, just weeks before I personally experienced the degradation of this once glorious city, two people about my age tried to breach that monstrous wall.  One was fatally shot and the other was badly injured and later imprisoned.  Their crime was yearning for freedoms I took for granted.  The only difference between us was where we happened to be born.

I vowed never to return to Berlin until that wall came down.  And I was certain that I would not live to see that day.  Yet fewer than 8 months later, on November 9th, 1989, I sat sobbing in front of the television in my dormitory basement as ecstatic East Berliners stood atop that wall and crossed freely into a West Berlin many had only dreamed of ever seeing.  And in 1998, I returned to Berlin, blessedly not the city I remembered.  And I sobbed again as I walked freely beneath the Brandenburg Gate where 9 years before I would have been shot for walking.

So will I vote tomorrow?  Yes, I will – reverently.  While I vote, I intend to hold in my hand the small, graffittied piece of the Berlin Wall that a fellow student, with whom I travelled in March of 1989 and who returned soon after the wall’s fall, collected for me.  And if I have to stand in line amidst what I hope will be the greatest turn-out in the history of this democratic republic, I will think about great moments in the history of freedom and reflect on what it means, the people who have died to attain it, and what a privilege I have been granted to have it.

Tag Cloud