Out with Facts

America’s gradual decline into kakistocracy (government by the most incompetent) continues.  Our national security teeters atop the Washington Monument waiting for our man-child President to lose his temper.  Corporations are persons, and people are disposable commodities existing only to fill the coffers of the wealthy and influential.  Our children graduate from college deep in debt with evaporating career opportunities.  And our headlong rush to destroy the environment continues in spite of a Himalayan pile of evidence from experts.

The Age of Facts is dead.  We now live in the Age of Unenlightenment.  Nowhere is this more apparent than the clinical insanity of our gun culture.  There was a time when the events in Las Vegas might have been a tipping point for reason and common sense.  But the hundreds of victims of Stephen Paddock’s arsenal will soon be forgotten, along with the children of Sandy Hook and thousands of other victims of our slavish dependence on firearms.

So, I offer no facts.  Facts make no difference to Second Amendment fanatics.  I only offer moral observations based on my personal ethics.

  • Only one reason exists to own an automatic rifle – the desire to kill masses of people as quickly as possible.  Possession of such a weapon is sufficient evidence of mental illness and a criminal danger to society.
  • Any politician who denies the American people the right to open hearings on gun control legislation is a whore of the NRA and should be impeached.
  • Anyone profiting from stock sales of Sturm Ruger or Smith and Wesson in recent days represents the most vile and soulless human attributes.  I pray that you somehow acquire a heart to fill the current cavern in your chest.
  • Wayne LaPierre does more to damage this nation and its people than Edward Snowden ever will.  His religious mantra of entitlement and sacrificing the blood of innocents on the altar of violence violates any sane interpretation of the writings of our Founders.
  • The media is complicit in America’s institutionalized racism and xenophobia.  By refusing to call these murders terrorism, the media feeds the agenda of white supremacists, Christian extremists, and anti-immigrant radicals.  Mass murder is by definition an act of terrorism, whether it is committed by a young, brown-skinned Muslim or an elderly, well-off white man.

The time is long overdue to take to the streets and bring an end to this madness.  We must hold the gun lobbyists and their puppet politicians responsible.

Out of Sadness

I am out of sadness. I am numb, having used up all of my sorrow for idiotic and preventable gun-related deaths in this country.

I wish I felt surprise, even shock at the loss of life and the massive injuries inflicted by one man. But, since Columbine my shock tolerance has steadily increased.

I want to speak with the calm voice of reason. But the bile rises in my throat with the acid burn of rage. I want to look NRA backers in the face and tell them that they helped make this slaughter possible. By resisting even limitations on weapons of mass killing, opponents of gun control legislation helped Stephen Paddock pull that trigger.

I have no calm, no compassion to share with Second Amendment radicals today. I don’t care whether you think that is fair. Fair would have been Mr. Paddock failing a background check and being referred to mental health treatment before buying one of his many automatic weapons. Fair would be living in a world where civilians could not get their hands on guns that could fire hundreds of bullets in a matter of minutes.

So yes, I am filled with anger, with rage, with white-hot fury. Sitting here at my desk, I find myself incapable of thinking about anything but my revulsion at a government unwilling to collect statistics about gun violence, let alone talk about gun control.

But, at the same time, a sliver of my being still holds onto the emotion that will save me – the only emotion capable of saving us all. As the hours pass, the Love returns, pushing out the directionless rage, the unfocused fury. Love-fueled passion slowly displaces even the anger.

This is not the love of the healer and teacher, but the love of the agitator, the love of those who know that we must change our paradigms or die. This love tells me that we must enter the temple and overturn the tables again. We must chase the money lenders from our sacred spaces and reclaim the soul of the nation. We must stand up to the Pharisees who preach the status quo, as they line their pockets with bribes of gold and power.

A classroom full of school children wasn’t enough. A sitting congresswoman wasn’t enough. Is Las Vegas going to be the tipping point?

Capitalizing on Grief

I waited all week since our new President’s address to the joint session of Congress to see the reaction to the only truly memorable moment of his otherwise vague and unrealistic speech.  I waited for people to express outrage at the way Mr. Trump used Carryn Owens as a shameless public relations tool.  This woman lost her husband in Trump’s first military action as President, a disaster that also took the lives of dozens of innocent women and children. while the Commander-in-Chief could not even be bothered to attend in the Situation Room.

But, no outrage emerged.

I presume that most Americans correctly chose to honor her loss in silence – an appropriate response.

However, I could not help but recall a similar situation at the end of 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut.  In the months following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, so-called “truthers” in the alt-right movement called the shooting a government conspiracy aimed at opening the way for stricter gun control laws.  They decried liberals’ “use” of the victims of Newtown as shameless propaganda.  Many of these same people, such as Alex Jones and others, are ardent supporters of our new President.

I cannot help but relive the sadness of every senseless loss of life from our gun culture when hypocrites take advantage of grieving family members for political gain.

Truth and Meaning: A Top 10 List That Matters

Last week, I talked about our love of top 10 lists. So, this week I offer my list of the top 10 things Americans need to do to restore sanity to our nation.

10. Labor – Establish a minimum wage that is a living wage. The endless attacks on labor undermine our economy and our democracy. No one should suffer wage or job discrimination for any reason and anyone willing to work should be able to live above the poverty line.
9. Health Care – Provide a basic level of medical and mental health care to every American once and for all. We should demand that politicians stop using our health and well-being as a political football.
8. Corporate Responsibility – Demand that the private sector pay its fair share of taxes and be held accountable when it misbehaves. Congress should overturn the Citizens United decision. The idea that a corporation has the rights of a person is not only illogical, it is social suicide.
7. Election Reform – Guarantee the unencumbered right to vote for every citizen by removing all restrictions to voting rights and making Election Day a national holiday. Enact comprehensive campaign finance reform and abolish all partisan gerrymandering, replacing current redistricting tools with common sense and reason.
6. Environment – Stop making the irresponsible assumption that petrochemical resources are unlimited. We should plan for a future where all people have access to food and clean water, and where we live sustainably.
5. Racism – Judging people by their skin color, ethnicity, or culture is a concept that has overstayed its welcome. Our mass incarceration of people of color in increasingly profit-oriented prisons is obscene. Immigrants need a clear and affordable path to citizenship.
4. Stupidity – People are free to ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence on any given topic. But we should keep such people out of positions of authority and decision making. We have tolerated know-nothings and deniers in our public discourse for too long. The Earth is round and circles the sun. Climate change is real. Sexual orientation is largely determined at birth. Evolution occurs. The world is billions of years old.
3. Guns – End our insane worship of guns. We have allowed violence and killing to be our number one national priority for far too long. We should make universal background checks mandatory and impose strict limits on automatic and semi-automatic weapons. Open Carry and Stand Your Ground may have worked on the 19th century frontier — they do not work for 21st century America.
2. Life – We should become a truly life-sustaining nation. That means no more war, an end to capital punishment, zero tolerance for police brutality, and contraception and comprehensive sex education for all so that every child is wanted. More important, it means caring about the born — eliminate hunger, provide equal education opportunities, and provide jobs, housing and social safety nets for everyone.
1. Revolution – We cannot accomplish needed changes through incrementalism. We should seek nonviolent ways to catalyze large-scale changes quickly and effectively. That means grassroots movements for policy change, boycotts, dissent and other tools the people have at their disposal. And it especially means voting for the highest quality candidates and not just for anyone who happens to have a “D” or an “R” next to their names.

Truth and Meaning: Heart and Mind

My heart weeps for the congregants of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. My heart aches for nine lives snuffed from this earth because of hate and violence. Thinking about their families and loved ones, my heart sinks in my chest, draining my body of energy. The feeling sends me into a state of stunned prayer, pleading for wisdom, reflecting on this tragic waste of human lives.

The sadness in my heart for the murderer becomes an ocean as I imagine the millions of other young men filled with similar bigotry. My chest overflows with sorrow thinking about the people in his life who might have redirected his anger, who might have taught him love and understanding.
My heart reaches out to everyone affected by this tragedy. We share the pain of loss, the futility of helplessness. We cry for the future, knowing that more innocents will die before we live the message of the great prophets — love your neighbor as yourself; judge not lest you be judged.
My heart breaks. But my mind rages, seething against the inhumanity, and the senseless social paradigms that nurture such acts. In my mind, I know that the only difference between Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney and me is the color of our skin. Both men of faith, both preachers of the Beloved Community. Now he and eight of his parishioners lie dead, murdered by evil that I cannot possibly comprehend.
My brain screams at the stupidity and selfishness of a mindset that takes lives of those who are different. I look for a cause, for someone to blame. But I need look no farther than my own mirror — at the reflection of a white face in a society that privileges whiteness. I benefit from the privilege of my whiteness whether I want to or not.
I do not live in fear of a gun-toting bigot walking into my Fellowship and opening fire. I do not worry that someone “standing their ground” will exercise their Second Amendment rights to my detriment. I do not worry when my children go out to play that they will be executed by police seeing them as a lethal threat.
No, my brain works unburdened by concerns that white lives don’t matter. I spend no valuable thoughts worried that I will be fired or evicted because of who I love. I walk the streets carefree that wolves view me as meat to be abused and violated.
My mind broils, however, when people spew their vile prejudice against others. When the murderer in South Carolina is labeled a “lone gunman” and not a “thug,” I rage at the need for us to continue the call that #BlackLivesMatter. When Rep. Gary Glenn foams at the mouth about homosexuality, spreading his viral ignorance about sexual orientation and gender identity, I struggle to find compassionate words of response. And when another woman is raped or abused by a partner, I wonder whether we deserve Father’s Day at all.
So, pray with your heart. Mourn for the victims, ask for guidance, and seek peace. Use your mind, though, to challenge the injustice. Tell the racists that their violence is unacceptable. Tell Gary Glenn that his comments about gay and transgender people are disgusting. And on this Father’s Day, honor your wives and daughters, sisters and mothers; for without the women in our lives, we could not be fathers.

Truth and Meaning: Silence and Selma

The greatness of a quotation sometimes surpasses time and context. We often do not know for certain the origin of a great quote because so many people adapted the message over the years that its roots got lost in history.

“The only thing needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” We attribute this statement most frequently to the British statesman Edmund Burke. The basic concept, however, dates back many centuries further, at least to Talmudic writings. Another variation of the quote reads, “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for men of good conscience to remain silent.” While widely attributed to Thomas Jefferson, no such quote exists in his writings.

In the end, the source of the idea bears little relevance. The sentiment remains as true today as ever in the course of human history. Wrongdoing requires not only the will on the part of the perpetrator, but the blind eye and closed lips of the spectator. Evil and tyranny can only succeed with the consent of the masses, either through indifference, complacency or silence.

What is evil?

Few of us would deny the presence of evil in the world. But what exactly constitutes evil? Is evil the counterbalancing force of good? Is evil a malignant mutation of good? Is evil a concept relative to the society’s sense of immorality? Is evil anything that causes suffering, whether natural or human-made?

Since we can do little about floods and hurricanes, let us deal only with human acts of evil. I believe we can characterize an evil act as possessing three essential characteristics — the act is intentional, harmful and unrepentant. In order to commit an evil act, we must first intend to commit evil. The act must cause direct or indirect harm or suffering to others. And we must feel no remorse for the act or its consequences.

For example, accidentally harming another person is not evil because you had no intent. Wishing harm on someone is not evil if no harm comes to the person as a result. And harming someone intentionally is not evil if you truly regret your action and seek forgiveness.

Therefore, actions by those who don’t call god by the same name as you are not inherently evil. Acts by those of a different nation, skin color, sexual orientation or social class are not by definition evil. Evil comprises acts perpetrated counter to the universal themes of the religious teachings of humanity. Therefore, for instance, all murder is evil. Continuing failure to love your neighbors unconditionally is evil. Ongoing idol worshiping — be it money, guns, power or status — constitutes evil.

The magnitude of evil

Obviously, some evil acts exceed others in severity. Genocide, torture and institutionalized oppression are the acts of nations. Individual citizens can hardly be held completely accountable for the acts of nations. Generally speaking, the larger the act or authority of the perpetrator, the less personal responsibility we bear.

Some responsibility for national acts, however, does exist for individuals. Every white American of European ancestry carries a small portion of blame for the mass murder of indigenous peoples. Every male American can be held accountable for our shocking statistics of sexual assault and domestic violence against women and children. Every straight American shares culpability in hate crimes against gay and transgender individuals.

I doubt that any reader of this editorial ever killed an indigenous American. I hope none of you has ever raped a woman, or beat a child. And few of you have assaulted a gay person, or murdered a transgender man or woman. And, if you did commit one of these direct acts of evil, our criminal justice system has procedures for dealing with this evil. The system falls far short of perfection, but we make a strong social commitment to the attempt. Regardless, because we support our institutions, we all share in the imperfections of our social systems.

In addition, we are, and cannot be perfectly moral creatures, so we are all directly guilty of some acts of evil. These acts may be small, almost minuscule. We cheat on a test, take claim for another’s work, fudge some numbers to get a more favorable result. We all bear the burden of evil in some small way.

Eradicating evil

No amount of faith, prayer or good intentions will eradicate evil. To destroy evil, we must act. Following basic rules of morality is a good start. Whether you read the Torah, the Gospels, the Qur’an, or any other sacred text, you will find a common core of sound ethical rules — don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie, help people, love others as you love yourself.

But while those rules help eliminate evil acts from your personal life, they do not help with the larger evils. Those rules did not help America from enslaving millions of African Americans; from polluting every river; from keeping millions needlessly in poverty; from abandoning veterans, the homeless and those who suffer from mental illness; and from allowing advocacy groups and lobbyists to reduce our democracy to a commodity to be purchased.

In his novel “1984,” George Orwell envisioned a society where war means peace; hate means love; spying means freedom; and conformity means happiness. Those are the conditions of a dystopian society. Those are the conditions of hell.

Silence = Death

In 1987, six gay activists in New York began plastering posters around the city featuring a pink triangle on a black background stating simply “SILENCE = DEATH.” The symbol derived from Nazi Germany, when known homosexuals in concentration camps were forced to wear inverted pink triangle badges, just as Jews were forced to wear the yellow Star of David. The Silence = Death Project compared the Nazi period with the AIDS crisis, declaring that “silence about the oppression and annihilation of gay people, then and now, must be broken as a matter of our survival.” The slogan thus protested both taboos around discussing safer sex and society’s unwillingness to resist injustice and indifference.

Fifty years ago, events in Selma, Ala. created a similar moment of people coming together to combat evil. There, on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, armed officers attacked 600 peaceful civil rights demonstrators attempting to march to the state capital of Montgomery. That day, March 7, 1965, became known as Bloody Sunday. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. subsequently called upon clergy and citizens to come to Selma to stand united against the injustice of racism and the indifference of society to the plight of Negroes in the South.

Shocked by the televised images of savagery against unarmed and peaceful marchers, his call was answered. Two days later, a second march of 2,500 people crossed the bridge, prayed and then obeyed a court order to return to Selma. That night, Unitarian Universalist minister James Reeb was brutally murdered outside a KKK hangout in town by four white men. The subsequent shooting of Viola Liuzzo, a Unitarian Universalist homemaker from Detroit, prompted the federal government to act. The march from Selma to Montgomery was successfully completed a week later.

A new model

Many people died to secure the civil rights of African Americans. Tragically, more work remains. Quiet acceptance of institutionalized poverty, racial profiling, unjust incarceration and shooting of African American men, and recent assaults on voting rights have continued our legacy of oppression into the 21st century. Today, this work requires sankofa. Sankofa is a word from the Akan language of Ghana often associated with the proverb, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi,” which translates as: “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.” Sankofa means that we sometimes must look backwards and learn from our past before we can move forward into the future.

We need to look back, to remember the events and people in Selma 50 years ago. We need to hear the voices raised up in song and prayer. And we need to channel those voices now through our own mouths. For we as individuals can only fight the evils of society by speaking out. We can remain silent no longer, because silence only means more evil, more tyranny, more death.

Buckminster Fuller once said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” We cannot change unjust laws and practices through our current model. At a time when we are electing representatives who are intellectually dogmatic, scientifically illiterate and religiously bigoted, we cannot look to government for change. We must be the change. With our voices, we can change society by saying that we will no longer accept our nation’s evils. We must stand united and shout as one that we will no longer accept needless suffering at the hands of special interests; we will longer accept the rule of violence and force; and we will no longer accept the dismantling of our inalienable freedoms by misers, bullies and zealots.

We must come together and reject the Newspeak saying that religious discrimination equals religious freedom; that right to fire equals right to work; that privatized profit equals free markets; that easy access to guns equals more safety; that homophobia equals family values; and that anti-woman equals pro-life.

Truth and Meaning: The Infallibility of Fallibility

Most of our problems today boil down to one root cause. Far too many people consider themselves, their ideas, their beliefs, their faith to be the one and only Truth. This fundamentalist way of thinking creates in our social discourse a false dualism – I am right and you are wrong. The middle ground gets obliterated and compromise means catastrophic failure.

Sadly, this disease is spreading. Some oppose anything a president does because he or she is from the wrong party. Any attempt to impose limits on access to guns is labeled by some as violating the core tenets of our Constitution. Some seek to ban all abortion, even when the fetus is brain dead and threatening the life of the mother.
American poet and artist Ezra Pound once said, “The technique of infamy is to invent two lies and get people arguing heatedly over which one of them is true.” Two of the largest infamous lies facing this nation today are White supremacy and religious infallibility.
White supremacy is insidious because it preys upon our passive acceptance of privilege granted merely because of skin color. White supremacy whispers in your ear that Black and Latino cultures are inferior; that Jews are Untermenschen (subhuman); that social engineers have orchestrated the demise of White people; and that the history of North America began when White Europeans arrived to clear the land of savages. Cloaked in the disguise of love of family, White supremacy today still wears the hood and sheet that made yesterday’s murderers anonymous. Embracing discredited science and social paranoia, White supremacy proclaims that those artificially forcing the different races together are the true enemy.
Religious infallibility is the doctrine that nothing you do in life matters unless you meet some precondition of faith. Salvation rests on accepting without question the literal words of some ancient document, regardless of its context or linguistic devices. Religious infallibility preaches from the rooftops that all Muslims are engaged in a holy war against you; Jews killed Jesus so they deserve any punishment God doles out to them; and Christians sit in judgment damning all others to eternal hell fire. Cloaked in the perceived purity of self-righteousness, religious infallibility brands gay people abominations unworthy of marriage equality or the ability to adopt children. Religious infallibility clings to political control like a bloated leech, seeking to turn every nation into a theocracy of injustice and intolerance.
Both of these lies are the product of small fanatical groups. Most people with light skin color do not hate those with darker skin. Most religious people are open to learning about other religions and participating in interfaith dialogue and works of charity. But the strength of these fanatics derives from an irrational conviction that they are incapable of error, and that anyone who views the world through a different lens is blinding themselves to their Truth.
That is why I am a Unitarian Universalist. We embrace fallibility. We acknowledge fallibility as a human trait. By affirming the infallibility of our fallibility, we are free to question, to search for truth and meaning wherever that search leads us. By believing that no one group has a monopoly on the Truth, we find value in all religions and philosophies. And by using our gifts of reason and compassion, we separate the freedom to believe from the freedom to oppress. By applying our gifts to the cause of justice and equality, we challenge those who would use their beliefs to discriminate, to cause harm to others.
Affirming the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and respecting the spiritual growth of others requires that we label White supremacy and religious infallibility as the lies they truly are. For the only infallible attribute of humankind is its fallibility – its susceptibility to the lies of the infamous.

Truth and Meaning: Respect

In an editorial earlier this week titled “We should respect our police officers,” the Midland Daily News asserted that “Police actions have been scrutinized to the point in which many law enforcement officials believe that they can no longer do their jobs effectively because of public pressure.” The editorial concluded, “Law enforcement officers have a demanding, difficult and sometimes dangerous job to do. And because of that, they deserve our respect.”

There are two ways for the reader to take editorial sentiments such as these. First, they can be viewed as the innocuous kind of flag-waving we see on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. However, on the other 363 days of the year, our veterans go without adequate treatment of the mental and physical afflictions they suffered performing the dangerous work of imposing American foreign policy around the world. On each of the other 363 days of the year, according to the Veteran’s Administration, 22 veterans commit suicide. On the other 363 days of the year, our best patriots must live with the knowledge that their dedicated service has contributed to innocent civilian deaths, torture, and the ongoing destabilization of sovereign foreign governments.

So this editorial could simply be rhetorical pleasantry, a pat on the back to men and women who do perform a truly demanding, difficult, and sometimes dangerous job in our society. No one taking to the streets in Ferguson, New York City, Washington, D.C., or elsewhere is questioning the courage of law enforcement officials. They would join in commending police for taking dangerous criminals off our streets, for protecting and serving the citizens within their jurisdictions.

But, the second interpretation of this editorial reveals a far more insidious agenda. In citing the findings of the statistics compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, the editorial fails to offer the details of the 50 firearms-related fatalities of police officers in 2014. Only 15 of those 50 resulted from ambushes, including the two recent heinous murders of Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in New York City. Most of the firearm-related deaths of police officers in 2014 came from the regular performance of their duties, including traffic stops, routine investigations of suspicious behavior or disturbances, and others including accidental shootings. A logical conclusion one might draw from these statistics is that too many people own and carry guns who should not have them and that our society should improve efforts to better manage the sale of deadly firearms.

The claim that “many law enforcement officials believe that they can no longer do their jobs effectively because of public pressure” is dangerous hyperbole. If our police must exact unquestioning loyalty in order to perform their function, then something is wrong with our law enforcement system. If we are unable to hold people accountable for the negligent acts of violence committed behind the shield of a uniform and badge, then something is wrong with our criminal justice system. And if we continue to allow unfettered access to deadly firearms without adequate controls, then we should hardly be surprised at the toll such a policy exacts on our citizens and on our police.

The concern being expressed about the recent deaths of unarmed African-American boys and men at the hands of police officers has nothing to do with being pro- or anti-police. Dismissing recent “public pressure” as anti-police sentiment is misleading and factually incorrect. Recent public pressure has focused on our inability to objectively follow our system of prosecutorial due process in order to find justice. It is about needless deaths and what must occur to prevent such waste from ever happening again.

Should we respect the police? Absolutely. But respect does not mean turning a blind eye when police abuse their authority or use lethal force inappropriately or unevenly. Respecting the police means not only honoring their contributions, but also holding them accountable when their actions result in the death of innocents.

Guide to Holiday Conversations


You find yourself at a family gathering. On your right sits Uncle Harold, who voted twice for Nixon, Reagan and Bush (senior and junior). On your left sits your Cousin Gloria, the Prius-driving, recycling, public school teacher. You uncomfortably count the seconds before someone raises a contentious topic. In anticipation of that moment, here is your holiday guide to surviving inevitable conflicts, and to build bridges of love and understanding.

Immigration
Uncle Harold starts. “We need to ship those illegals back where they came from. Emperor Obama should wait for Congress to protect American jobs and keep our borders safe from terrorists, drug dealers and freeloaders.”
Cousin Gloria retorts. “Our ancestors were undocumented aliens who came here and slaughtered the indigenous peoples. No one made them go through years of red tape and expenses. No one broke up our families and deported people without due process.”
You: “We are a nation of immigrants, and people around the world have long viewed America as a land of freedom and opportunity. We can find a way to provide a more efficient path to citizenship while still providing reasonable security at our nation’s borders.

Abortion
Cousin Gloria: “This is my body and the government has no business invading my privacy and interfering with my health care. My body, my choice.”
Uncle Harold: “You are murdering tens of thousands of babies every year and I don’t want my tax dollars supporting godless groups like Planned Parenthood.”
You: “Everyone wants to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. But being pro-life also means educating our children about sex, and providing them with contraception. We should care about every child by supporting loving families that need help. Every child should receive an equal shot at the American Dream.”

Gay and transgender equality
Harold: “God condemns these abominations. I love the person, but homosexuality and the choices people make to tamper with God’s creation are sins.”
Gloria: “You hate LGBT people. You have no right legislating our bedrooms. Your bigotry just encourages bullying and violence against gays.”
You: “As Americans, we believe in freedom and equality. The research seems to show that sexual orientation is determined at birth. So while I respect people’s religious beliefs, I also support equal rights for all people on the basis of differences that we cannot control.”

Health care
Gloria: “Insurance companies are heartless and greedy. Because of them, thousands of people die from lack of adequate insurance. And now you want to take away the safety net of the Affordable Care Act.”
Harold: “Obamacare is fiscally irresponsible and forces people to pay more for their insurance, and to change doctors with which they have developed long relationships. We should let the free market do its job.”
You: “I know families who cannot afford medical insurance. If we can’t fix Obamacare, then we need to come up with a program that serves everyone, because all Americans deserve access to quality health care.”

Religious freedom
Harold: “America is a Christian nation and no one should be forced to do anything that violates their beliefs.”
Gloria: “Employers have no business discriminating against people who don’t share their religious beliefs. These so-called ‘religious freedom’ bills are nothing but legalized bigotry.”
You: “No one has the right to infringe on another’s religious beliefs. But government determines who needs protection from unlawful discrimination. Religious freedom should be a protective shield, not be a sword used to hurt others.”

Gun control
Gloria: “How many more children need to die to support your right to buy machine guns and to carry rifles into my grocery store?”
Harold: “The founders wrote the Second Amendment to protect us from tyranny and it is my duty to protect our nation, as well as to protect my family from harm, whatever the cost.”
You: “Everyone has a right to defend themselves from harm. Everyone also has the right to walk the streets free from the fear that some deranged gunman won’t open fire on them. We need to sit down and find common sense solutions to protect all Americans’ rights and to reduce the gun violence in our country.”

Gloria: “Fascist!”
Harold: “Communist!”
You: “Both of you stop it! Name calling will get you nowhere. Jesus taught us to love our neighbors, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick and free the prisoners. Can’t we set aside our partisan differences and agree on these noble goals — not just as Christian goals, but goals that all Americans can agree upon?”

I hope this helps you survive the holidays, as well as what is sure to be another new year of social, economic and political turmoil that will not end until the great mass of centrist thinkers takes back the moral middle of America.

Truth and Meaning: Occupy 2.0?

 
Sept. 17 was the three-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Whatever you thought of the movement’s strategies or success, its wondrous and flawed idealism, ask yourself this question: Has anything Occupiers protested improved in the past three years?
  • The bankers, lawyers and other white collar criminals responsible for our economic collapse have not been charged, let alone convicted of crimes. 
  • Income disparity continues to rise, with the average corporate head earning hundreds, even thousands times more than their average worker. 
  • Racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and other oppressions continue unabated and largely unregulated. 
  • Our diet has become more genetically modified and our environment more polluted. 
  • Labor unions continue to be assaulted, no living wage is in sight and health insurance remains a target of the “haves.” 
  • Jobs remain scarce, and students continue to graduate from college with decreasing hope and increasing debt. 
  • Corporations are being treated more like people, and people are being treated more like disposable commodities.
  • Our reckless policies regarding campaign financing have created a government owned by the tiny elite they are supposed to be regulating. 
  • Our blind pursuit of war abroad has now expanded onto our city streets as paramilitary police gun down unarmed, innocent civilians. 
  • It has become increasingly easier to buy a gun than to vote in some states.
As the original statement of the Occupy Wall Street movement said, we as one people united must acknowledge that the future of humanity requires that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to us to protect our own rights; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We continue to live in a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments.
 
The embers of the Occupy movement still glow. Perhaps the time has come to reignite the flame. While we wordsmith and squabble over pennies to aid the poor, the wealth of this great nation is being drained by a new monarchy as trickle down economics has become flood upwards economics. A people united cannot be divided. North Carolina is showing us the way with its Moral Monday movement. Perhaps the time has come for every state and for all people to unite and exercise their rights and responsibilities as Americans to reclaim the moral center of our country.