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.

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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.

Informed Citizenship

I received a fascinating email today. The email me pointed to the results of a recent congressional vote on an amendment to invoke cloture on a habeas corpus amendment. This email expressed the forceful opinion that anyone who voted against the amendment was “a U.S. traitor.”

That email was quickly followed by a response from someone else wisely suggesting that the original author read the entire bill and all riders attached to it before judging those who voted. The author essentially reminded us that sponsors of amendments and riders often try to attach their legislation to “sure to pass” bills in an attempt to sneak pork through congress.

I did a bit of research myself and was about to “reply all” to add my two cents, when it occurred to me that the issues I was pondering would make for good blog conversation.

According to my brief internet research, “Cloture is the formal procedure used to end a filibuster. It can take up to three days and requires 60 votes. Cloture can also be used even if there is no filibuster underway, to ban non-germane amendments. If cloture wins, 30 additional hours of debate are allowed prior to voting, but they are rarely used. If cloture fails, debate would continue without limits. Instead, the bill is usually set aside.”

By my read, this means that voting FOR cloture truly means voting to limit debate on the issue, which in my mind is bad thing. Granted, failure often means the bill is set aside, but that’s a different matter and not the REQUIRED outcome of a nay vote on cloture.

Now, further research shows that this specific vote on cloture was held on a habeas corpus amendment which was attached to another amendment to the defense bill – how confusing! And trying to follow sound advice to read the bill and all the riders is practically (and I mean that literally) impossible. There are 96 different amendments to the original bill. The original bill itself is 12 pages of LINKS to text – and there are 4 different versions being considered in congress right now.

How can a relatively educated citizen desiring to be an informed democratic participant dig through this kind of bureaucracy to form an informed opinion?

Thomas Jefferson felt strongly that an informed populace was essential to the preservation of democracy and the avoidance of tyranny. According to data from the US Census Bureau, my attainment of a master’s degree places me among the top 12% of the U.S. population in terms of education. Yet I still often feel stupid when it comes to trying to be an informed citizen.

If we need to be educated and informed to preserve our democracy, yet even someone who should be considered educated often feels thwarted in her efforts to become informed, what does this imply for the future of our democratic republic?

If You Don’t Like the Weather…

I live in Ohio, between Cleveland and Akron. Although the last week has been uncharacteristically sunny, Cleveland is statistically one of the top 20 least sunny cities in the continental US. (http://www.weathertoday.net/weatherfacts.htm) The two funniest Ohio weather jokes are “We have 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter, and construction,” and “If you don’ t like the weather, just wait 10 minutes.”

Like all jokes, these have a ring of truth to them – particularly the last one. The crux of the joke is that the weather can change quickly around here. Political events over the past few months have shown that the winds of political change can also quickly shift direction.

Just a few months ago, I was blogging about the President Bush’s blatant disdain for the Constitution and my fear that the Democrats, having gained power in Congress, would be unable or unwilling to exercise their people-given power to stop him. Now it’s early April and Congress – after what I consider a rocky start – is finally starting to challenge the President.

Have you heard of “Sunshine Week”? No…it isn’t a description of last week’s Ohio weather. According to CNN, Sunshine Week is, “a three-year-old national initiative led by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. It is intended to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.” During Sunshine week this year (March 11 – 17), the House passed three bills designed to open more government records to the public.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/03/14/congress.sunshine.ap/index.html

“For the past six years, we have had an administration that has tried to operate in secrecy, without transparency, without the public having knowledge about their action,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “Well, this week, Congress is finally pushing back.”

All I can say is “amen” to that and what TOOK you people so long to get moving!

From the FBI’s abuse of the patriot act provisions (really now, is ANYONE surprised at THAT revelation?) to the deepening hole in which the Attorney General finds himself, the actions of this administration are finally being examined in a way they haven’t been since Bush first took office in 2000. I predict that future investigations will turn up even more egregious violations of the very laws and liberties Bush pledged to uphold and protect.

And, much to my relief, Nancy Pelosi is proving that you don’t need to be a man to have the …um… kahunas to stand up for what is right. From leading the charge to cut off funding for Iraq to visiting Syria in defiance of White House middle eastern policy, she is a strong symbol for the taking back of power by the people – the balance that the founders of this nation intended us to exercise.

According to CNN, Vice President Dick Cheney today said that Democrats are essentially telling U.S. troops to “retreat — with no regard whatsoever for the actual conditions on the ground in Iraq.” For once, Cheney has it right! The Democrats are simply reflecting the popular majority of the American people, who want a retreat – now. Congress is simply doing its job in representing the will of the people by voting to cut off funding.

For us in Ohio, it’s predicted to be a snowy Easter this year, but it looks like the sunshine is going to continue for a while in Washington D.C.. Let’s hope that it stays that way for more than the next 10 minutes, because we’ve been waiting a long time for this kind of political weather.

We Have Seen the Enemy…

Most people have heard the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” And in an effort not to offend any feline lovers out there, I will also refer to the statement that, “A leopard can’t change its spots.” Well, folks, in case you haven’t been paying attention – and the White House fervently hopes you don’t – President Bush is at it again.

Two more revelations in the past 12 hours show the depths to which this administration seems determined to strip the populace of their rights and subvert the law of the land. It is shocking to me that anyone could possible support this man as President given how he is raping our system of checks and balances.

First, this little gem: in a recent signing statement attached to a completely innocuous piece of legislation initiating some minor postal system reforms, Bush has signaled his intention to once again thumb his nose at the protections offered to the general public by the Constitution of this land. He has clearly signaled his intention to interpret the law to mean that the government can open personal, first class mail without a warrant.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/01/04/bush.mail.ap/index.html?eref=rss_topstories

Then, less than 12 hours later, this other tidbit of news: in the spring of 2006, when the Jack Abrahamoff scandal was escalating, the Bush administration apparently created a document changing the status of Secret Service White House visitor logs from Secret Service property subject to Freedom of Information Act requests to White House property, exempting them from such requests. What’s more, they didn’t tell anyone about the existence of this document until they presented it in court!

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/01/05/white.house.visitors.ap/index.html?eref=rss_topstories

There are few words that describe the depth of my disgust for this administration. I have a generally low regard for politicians of either major political party, mind you, but the utter disdain this President has shown for the laws of this country continues to astound me.

I truly believe that this man has done more harm to freedom and democracy in this country then any other man in our nation’s history. He is certainly a larger threat to the freedom of our citizens than any foreign dictator or religious infidel.

Not only does Bush subvert the entire legal system upon which this country is founded, he lies through his teeth, blatantly, with no apparent concern about being caught or confronted. If you doubt or disagree with my words, take a look at some of these links:

http://www.antiwar.com/roberts/?articleid=8166

http://www.bushwatch.com/bushlies.htm

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20021125/alterman

…or just watch almost any episode of Jon Stewart’s Daily Show!

Now, I will grant you that it’s relatively easy to find web links to support just about any position one could think to hold, regardless of the validity or verifiability of that position. And the “sources” I link above may not be considered to be neutral or independent.

But this is, in part, why these habitual lies and routine abuses of law are slipping by the radar of most Americans – they are under-reported and under-emphasized by most mainstream media outlets.

Any news anchor can report a change in policy as “news” fed to it by the White House. Where are the minds putting these individual pieces of news together and revealing them as actual trends? And there are, my friends, pronounced political trends toward lawlessness and lies by our own administration.

My two fears are 1) that the Democrats, now that they are in power, will still be unable to stop this administration because it’s playing such dirty and underhanded politics and 2) that the Democrats themselves will fall into the trap of playing dirty in the same way. This is why I haven’t voted for a major party political candidate in over 12 years and why we need a viable third party in this country, but that will have to be the subject of a future blog post.

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