Autobiographies from the Dead — Jesus Christ the Martyr

black jesus

I am adding a few new autobiographies to my series.  I had stopped with seven, but it seems appropriate to add several more.  Thus, I really should not have said that this series will end since so many “dead” people still have stories to tell.  If you have not read my other “Autobiographies,” I strongly urge you to do so and add your comments or thoughts to their stories.  I know many of the “dead” will appreciate your perspectives.

38000-christian-denominations-good-luck-choosing-the-right-oneThis week, you will hear from one Jesus of Nazareth.  He has been called by many names including: Messiah, Emmanuel, Christ, Lord, Master, Logos (the Word), Son of God and by himself more often The Son of Man.   He is often credited with being the founder or perhaps foundation for a popular religion called Christianity.  Today, it is difficult to see the link between the teachings of Jesus and many of these so-called Christian religions.  I have it on good authority that Jesus never ever preached killing anyone and yet many of these so-called Christian religions are continually waving a banner of mayhem and destruction at those who think differently than they do.  Anyway, it is time to let Jesus speak for himself.

Jesus Christ the Martyr

I never thought it would end like this.  Where are my followers?  Where are my disciples?  Only my mother, my sister and Mary watched me die.  All the rest – gone – all have deserted me.  The crowds I taught, the people I healed, yet they chose me to die over a thief and a murderer.

Jesus or Barabbas

I repeat:  My God, My God, why did thou forsake me?

What did I do to deserve this?  Toward the end, I could see it coming.  I wanted to have it pass by me, but I could not deny my beliefs or still my voice.  They were constantly trying to silence me.  Finally, they arrested me on “Trumped” up charges of sedition and blasphemy.  It was called blasphemy to try and tell the truth to people.  It was called sedition to try and address unjust laws.  The rulers of my time incited the people with lies against me and turned many of my followers into haters.

Jesus-being-flogged

Who would have ever thought that I, a man of peace and tolerance, would be stripped, beaten, tortured and nailed to a cross to die.  It was a painful death.  The thirst, the suffocation, the spear piercing my body were unbearable.  I cried out in vain:

EliElilema sabachthani!

The crowds laughed at me.  The soldiers mocked me.  My close family looked on while my followers hid in the shadows and in their homes.  I felt abandoned by all.  All my good works.  All my thoughts and ideas.  All that I preached and dreamed and hoped for now seemed in vain.

Jesus with Mary at the cross

I started my mission for those who were forgotten or persecuted.  I taught the sick, the poor and the outcasts that they were truly loved.  Our leaders despised and looked down on these people.  I taught them what would later be called the Eight Beatitudes.  My principles of life were all summed up in these Eight Beatitudes.  I never denied the Ten Commandments, but the Eight Beatitudes are my legacy to the world.  They represent the sum of my teachings and the goals of my life.deny god by your actions

Everywhere I look today, I see my principles torn and shredded by tyrants, by demagogues and even by people who profess to be my followers.  I have yet to see my Beatitudes enshrined in bronze as is so often the case with Moses and the Ten Commandments.  Why have they forgotten my most important teachings?  When will my teachings be placed in courtyards and on billboards?  Why are they anathema to so many people?

 

Let me explain what each of the Eight Beatitudes mean.  My body and soul will not depart this world until I have accomplished this task and until humanity embraces the ideas I gave my life for.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

christ says help the needy.I am talking about greed here.  I am talking about wanting more and more regardless of the effects it has on the earth.  I am telling you that happiness does not come from having more of things.  The only true happiness comes from helping others.  It is better to share with others who are needy than to amass a fortune that you cannot take with you.  Those who berate the tax collector and call him a sinner and cheat are no better than the tax collector.  Indeed, those who refuse to pay their fair share for the life they are given are worse than the tax collector.  

Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 

god told me to hate youI am talking about sin here.  I am talking about grieving your mistakes and injustices towards others.  No one can walk in this world without hurting others either deliberately or by mistake.  But the people who will be comforted in the next world are those who regret their mistakes and injustices and ask for forgiveness.  They are the people who acknowledge their sins and mistakes and try to make amends.  I was not perfect, and no one born of this world is perfect.  The good and just man admits his vices and tries to overcome them.  The good and just man tries to make amends to the people he has hurt or abused.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 

child-for-hours-simply-because-hes-a-muslim-youre-not-13669022The narcissist and the man full of hubris will do injustice to all they meet.  The narcissist thinks that the world revolves around his needs, wants and desires, and is content to ignore the needs and wants and desires of others.  The man of hubris is overly prideful and arrogant and thinks that he has earned the right to have more than others.  Both feel that everyone else is there to serve their needs and that their needs come before the needs of anyone else.  The injustice done by these beliefs amounts to a mountain of intolerance and discrimination towards anyone who is perceived as inferior or beneath their consideration.  For this reason, I say “Do not look upon yourself as being better than others.  Remember that there but for the grace of God, would you go.”

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 

The righteous man looks for justice.  The righteous man looks for what is good in the confucious on good thoughtsworld.  No one who is not seeking righteousness and justice can expect to find peace.  I say that your task is to look for justice where there is injustice.  To look for goodness where there is wickedness.  You can never complete your search.  Your hunger will never be sated.  Your thirst will never be quenched.  Each generation must take up the search because evil is in our own hearts.  Only by looking to replace evil with justice and righteousness can the evil that is within us be banished.  We are all born with original sin, but the righteous man is the one who overcomes their sinfulness by replacing it with a goodness that transcends earthly needs and desires.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. 

christians and gaysThose who show mercy towards others will have mercy shown towards them.  I lived in a time when lepers, Samaritans, non-Jews and many others were thought to be unworthy of mercy.  Mercy was always for those in our own tribe.  This meant mercy for Jews if you were a Jew.  Mercy for Romans if you were a Roman.  No mercy was to be shown to the poor for they were lazy.  No mercy was to be shown to the sick because they were sinners.  No mercy was to be shown to those of other religions because they were “non-believers.”

I say that those who only show mercy to those of their own tribe, only to those who are like them, will never have mercy shown towards themselves.  I have said before that:

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. 

fakechristiansI say to you that the pure of heart are those with integrity and character.  They are without selfishness and seek primarily to do good for others regardless of the cost to themselves.  They are not opportunists who try to squeeze the most for themselves at every turn of events.  Neither are they sycophants who yield their ideas and actions to others so they can creat more profit for themselves.  The pure of heart are not greedy.  They are not profit driven.  They are not out for fame and fortune.  The pure of heart care only about the good they can do for others.  Others include the entire human race and not simply those who belong to their tribe or religion or country.  Those who put humanity above patriotism, humanity above family, humanity above friendships and humanity above self will surely see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. 

peacemakersRage, jealousy, ingratitude, intolerance, bigotry and fear are the enemies of peace.  Those who want peace must be willing to beat their swords into plowshares.  If you follow my Beatitude, you will disarm yourself.  You will throw down your guns.  You will deactivate your nuclear weapons.  You will turn your armies for war into armies for education.  There is no peace possible in aggression.  There is no peace possible in hatred.  There is no peace possible in defensiveness.  The only path to peace is to turn the other cheek.  How many times have I said you must do this to find peace?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil.  But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.   And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.   Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

I will someday be extolled for giving my life so that others may be saved.  It will be said about me that “He gave his body and blood so that they may have eternal life.”  Yet, I see a world now where people are so afraid of each other that they carry concealed weapons, where they lock people up for the slightest offenses and where they have weapons to destroy the entire planet many times over.  I do not see a peaceful people.  I do not see peaceful governments.  I do not see peaceful leaders.  I do not even see peaceful Christian churches.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

Martin_Luther_King_1872702iActions speak louder than words.  All those who cry out “Lord, lord” will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  What good is the salt if it has lost its taste?  Those who speak beautiful words will not enter my kingdom without beautiful deeds to match their words.  I spoke out my ideas and thoughts. I challenged the powers that were corrupt.  I was taken up to the mountain and promised fame and fortune and power by Satan if I renounced my beliefs, but I remained steadfast.  I was persecuted and crucified, but I never renounced my beliefs.  How then do you think you will be saved by being nice to others and by silencing your thoughts in the face of evil?  No one who speaks my name should expect to escape persecution.  There is no change without struggle and oppression.

These are my Eight Beatitudes.  These are my meanings for each of them.  If you want to follow me, follow my teachings.  Do not say “I am a Christian and follower of Christ” when you reject any one of these Beatitudes.

I must leave this this place now.  I cannot rest in peace.  My body has been stolen and taken to some hidden place.  But my body is only temporal.  It is my soul that now cries out for justice.  But it is not the justice of revenge or the justice of retribution, it is the justice of love.

They believe I will come again.  I hear their words praying for the Second Coming of Christ.  It is impossible.  I cannot come back to a people who practice hate and vengeance and violence in my name.  My soul will roam this planet for all eternity if my name continues to be blasphemed by the hypocrisies of those who say, “Lord Lord” or “Jesus is my Savior.”

Jesus looking at the earth

I go now, but I go to ask my Father “why?”  What was this all for?  Is there some difference on earth that I do not see or was it all in vain?  Please Father, help me to understand.

Time for Questions:

Are you a Christian?  Why or why not?  If you follow Christ, what difference have you made in the world?  How are you helping the poor, the sick and the needy?  Do you have to be a Christian to help others?  Have you read the “Parable of the Good Samaritan?”  Who was his brother?  Who are you brother or sister to?  Who do you hate?  Why?  What would Jesus say?

Life is just beginning.

A prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.”

“O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.” Amen.

 

 

 

Joy to the World

joy-to-the-world

Tis the season to be jolly, but for many people there might seem little to be jolly about.  In one of the most famous holiday stories of all time, the central character Ebenezer Scrooge gave what has become an iconic line about the holiday season.  Scrooge said:

“What’s Christmas but a time for finding yourself a year older and not a day richer?  There’s nothing merry in that.  If I could work my will, nephew, every idiot who goes about with “Merry Christmas” on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.”A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Not exactly a fan of Christmas, Scrooge may have echoed sentiments that lie dormant in many of us.  Over the years, it seems the holiday season starts earlier and earlier.  There is more pressure than ever to buy the right gifts and to spend increased amounts of hard earned money on presents for friends and loved ones.  The airwaves and pulpits bemoan the crass commercialism that accompanies so much of the holiday season while at the same time making sure that all commercial breaks are properly inserted between the “holiday messages.”

Our churches are full of giving trees, toy drives and Christmas shoes boxes.  Perhaps giving more at Christmas to some mysteriously perceived needy children in dire need of more toys will make us feel better about ourselves for ignoring the poor and needy for the rest of the year.  Even at church, the message that Jesus meant for us gets diluted with the drive to fill the toy box.  Do we even know any more what message Jesus wanted us to hear?

the-gospelJesus talked about the three classes of good people.  The first class hears his message but has little time to do anything about it.  The second class hears the message and when convenient they try to help others and spread the message of Jesus.  The third class commits their body and soul to sharing Jesus’s message.  The third class of men/women make a commitment to doing this year round and 24/7.  For the third class, it is not a onetime thing or something to be done when they have time or are not busy.  It is a lifetime commitment to share his message with the world.

“The title, Three Classes of Men, stands for three kinds of persons in any walk of life. They might be three classes of religious or priests, husbands or wives, workers or professional men.  However, classified, they represent three levels of volitional disposition to sacrifice whatever is less than God and stands in the way of His more perfect service and love.  Viewed from another aspect, they are three states of spiritual detachment which in ascending degree dispose a man for the reception of divine grace.  Implicit in the meditation is the belief that no matter how entangled in secular pursuits and impeded in the way of perfection, a person can rise above this condition if he takes the trouble to recognize these impediments and is humble enough to pray for help to overcome them.” — Three Classes of Men by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Most of us will watch at least a few moving holiday stories before December 25th.  From Miracle on 34 Street to the story of the Christmas Truce during the fighting of WWI, we will hear many heartwarming tales of kindness and love.  Most of these stories are similar in theme to the Christmas Carol.  An individual who has utter contempt or callousness for the Christmas message somehow finds redemption through the love and compassion of others.

quote-the-life-of-jesus-christ-is-a-message-of-hope-a-message-of-mercy-a-message-of-life-in-max-lucado-90-79-19The Joy of Christmas is a state of fulfillment, contentment and gratitude.  Through the love of others who give selflessly of themselves, we can all be free to experience a Joy that cannot be bought or traded.  It is one of the reasons that giving and not receiving is said to be the true path to happiness.  During the holidays, we are excited about the chance to give to others.  And nowhere is that feeling of giving more delightful than in watching the face of a young child receive something that we know they really wanted.  However, Joy to the World should mean more than just giving toys to tots.  There are physical gifts which we can give but there are also emotional and spiritual gifts as well.

thank-you-fatherI am frequently critical of all the toy drives that I see going on at Christmastime.  Not just because I think most kids in America have more toys than they know what to do with, but because of the message that this sends.  Why not I ask, have a “books for tots” drive?  Why not give books for a present?  Why is it always about toys?  We become so narrowly focused that we lose sight of the larger picture.

Christmas is about Joy.  But Joy does not just come from toys.  Joy comes from learning.  Joy comes from sharing.  Joy comes from helping others.  Joy comes from being present when needed by others.  Joy is not just a physical phenomenon; it is a spiritual and emotional phenomenon.  The Message of Joy that Jesus wanted to bring into the world was a message about peace and love.

I see a lot of talk these days about putting the Ten Commandments up on scrolls and even billboards.  Here in Arizona City, they have erected a billboard with the Ten Commandments printed on it.  To the best of my knowledge, Jesus said

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” — Matthew 5:17-20

acts-kindness-inspiremoreThus, Jesus did not come to replace the commandments but he did come to go beyond the commandments.  God brought the commandments to Moses but the message that Jesus brought to us is in addition to the commandments.  Jesus extended the Ten Commandments with a list that has come to be known as the Eight Beatitudes.   A beatitude is something that gives one both happiness and blessedness.  Jesus gave these Eight during his famous Sermon on the Mount:

THE EIGHT BEATITUDES OF JESUS

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart,
for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Gospel of St. Matthew 5:3-10

message-to-the-worldI am continually surprised by so-called Christians who seem to revel in the Ten Commandments but treat the Eight Beatitudes as though they were bastard children of Satan.  When was the last time you heard anyone wanting to put up a statue or sculpture or sign with the Eight Beatitudes on it?  The Message of Christmas is the Eight Beatitudes.  The Joy that Jesus wanted to bring to the world can only come by following the Eight Beatitudes.  If you call yourself a Christian but you do not practice these in you daily life, then you are not spreading the Gospel of Jesus.

In this present climate of fear, bigotry and uncertainty engendered by the recent US Presidential race and outcome, the message of Jesus needs to be repeated and spread as never before.  If there was no Joy in Muddville when Casey struck out, there certainly will not be any Joy in the World until all of us, Christian, Buddhist, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Mormon, Baha’i  and others start believing in and following the Eight Beatitudes.  I am not saying this to try to convince anyone to be a Christian.  The kindness-quotes1words of the Beatitudes go beyond any one religion.  They speak to a way of being in the world and a way of treating other human beings.  Just as I have found valuable teachings in other religions, I think more Christians should be willing to share the Message of Jesus in the Eight Beatitudes.  Keep in mind though, that sharing this message will never work unless you also live by the message.  You must be the change you want to see in others.  Do you know what the famous Indian Chief Sitting Bull said when asked what he thought of Christianity?  Chief Sitting Bull replied: “I have read your Bible and the religion seems good but I do not see many White people practicing it.”

Time for Questions: 

  • When we denigrate people on welfare and refuse to support the poor and needy what Beatitude are we ignoring?
  • When we want to wage war on other countries to support our lifestyle, what Beatitude are we breaking?
  • When we have no time for immigrants and refuse to shelter those needing respite from tyranny and injustice, what Beatitude speaks to this?
  • When we practice racism and discrimination towards those who are different from us in thoughts, words or deeds, what Beatitude are we not following?
  • When we fail to speak out against bigotry and hatred, what Beatitude would challenge our behavior?
  • When we fail to treat others with honesty and integrity, what Beatitude are we disdaining?
  • When we fail to give compassion and comfort to those in need, what Beatitude should we be thinking more of?
  • When we practice narcissism and think we are better than others, what Beatitude would Jesus tell us to look at more closely?
  • Which “Class” of people do you belong to?

Life is just beginning.

“The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of love and of generosity and of goodness.  It illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than in things.” — Thomas S. Monson
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Towards a Policy of Diplomacy – Not War!

War-and-Diplomacy_3x2I was going to call this blog “how to get along with other countries?”  But the above title seemed more erudite and impressive.    As I start to write this blog, I wonder if anyone has a “policy” of diplomacy.  I will soon Google it to find out but first allow me to say a few words on the subject.  I would like to start out with no preconceived bias on the issue.  Of course, this could also subject you to my gross stupidity.  I may at best reinvent the wheel.

For the past two years, I have been reading the journal Foreign Affairs.  I am and continue to be surprised by what I perceive as the impressive understanding that the writers in this journal have concerning a broad array of subjects.  In each issue you may find articles dealing with war, politics, globalization, economics, environment and many other topics.  The articles often are juxtaposed with dissenting positions and many times there are follow-ups to previous articles with critiques and rebuttals.   The level of scholarship and experience of the typical author is almost always impressive.   If I sound like an advertisement for the journal, I am not ashamed to recommend it.

Reading this journal, I am relieved to find that many other people have seen the stupidity and arrogance that I often see in our foreign policy.  Let me state clearly though, that while the USA is guilty of many sins, I have been to thirty three other countries and I have seen the same stupidity and arrogance in every other country as well.

So on the one hand, it seems there are experts out there who have some really good advice and answers on what or how certain international affairs and problems should or could be handled.  On the other hand, it seems no one listens to the experts and instead foreign policy is based largely on emotions, machismo, avarice and stupidity.  I read recently that in 1928, a pact was passed condemning war as an instrument of foreign policy.

“The Kellogg–Briand Pact (or Pact of Paris, officially General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy was a 1928 international agreement in which signatory states promised not to use war to resolve “disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them.” Parties failing to abide by this promise “should be denied of the benefits furnished by this treaty.” It was signed by Germany, France and the United States on August 27, 1928, and by most other nations soon after.”  — Wikipedia

A total of sixty two countries signed the Pact.  In the USA, the Senate approved the pact by a vote of 85-1 with only one dissenting opinion.  Well, something most have been forgotten along the way.  How many wars have we had since 1928?  If my counting is correct, we have had 102 wars in the world since the pact was signed.   The web site Wars and Casualties of the 20th and 21st Centuries lists all the wars and deaths since 1900 throughout the world.

quote-a-congress-of-the-powers-is-deceit-agreed-on-between-diplomats-it-is-the-pen-of-machiavelli-napoleon-bonaparte-212040Thus, what seems like a very good idea (abolishing war as an instrument of foreign policy) is almost totally ignored.  Millions of people have been and still are being killed as the USA and other nations pursue war as an instrument of policy.  In some cases, it is advocated without any deference to reason as an immediate and primary instrument of policy.  First strikes and preemptive attacks are vastly more popular these days as the world deals with a host of international problems.  When Obama’s aide Marie Harf discussed other options than bombing terrorists as a solution to some of the strife in the Mideast she was trounced in the press and by many politicians as dumb and naïve.  However, when the war hawks in the USA Congress or any other nation are quick to cry War, nary a voice can be heard that challenges the sanity or even efficacy of war as an instrument of policy.  The world seems to believe that if we bomb the village, kill all the people and destroy any and all infrastructure, peace can then be resumed and we can all sleep safely and soundly tonight and forevermore.

“A country which proposes to make use of modern war as an instrument of policy must possess a highly centralized, all-powerful executive, hence the absurdity of talking about the defense of democracy by force of arms. A democracy which makes or effectively prepares for modern scientific war must necessarily cease to be democratic.”Aldous Huxley

Well, now that you have heard some of my thoughts and opinions on the subject of war and foreign policy, let us see what Google turns up when I type in the phrase “Policy of diplomacy.”  I am going to enter it in brackets so it regards the term as one concept.

Here is the first page from our search:

About 213,000 results (0.38 seconds)

Top of Form

Search Results

A Progressive Foreign Policy—and a Whole Lot of Work …  https://www.americanprogress.org/…/a-pro… Center for American Progress  Oct 28, 2015 – Then as now, CAP supported a policy of diplomacy as the first option for preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon—and military force …

Bush Aides Speak of New Policy Of Diplomacy in Central …  www.nytimes.com/…/bush-aides-speak-of-new-policy… The New York Times Nov 20, 1988 – LEAD: Aides to President-elect Bush said today that they were preparing a new strategy for Central America that would place less emphasis on …

Peace – Permanent Mission of Colombia to the United Nations  www.colombiaun…. Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United…  In furtherance of the policy of Diplomacy for Peace, the Colombian government has received expressions of support from the international community and …  Obama’s foreign policy goes from war to diplomacy in State …

http://www.examiner.com/…/obama-s-foreign-policy-goes-from-war-to-diplo…Jan 29, 2014 – 28, 2014; Obama defended the new foreign policy of diplomacy over military might. AP Photo/Charles Dharapak. While the core President …

[PDF]Atomic Bomb: Ultimate Failure of Diplomacy – Library  library.uoregon.edu/ec/e-asia/readb/93s25.pdf  University of Oregon by S Frank – ‎Cited by 1 – ‎Related articles  conceived policy of diplomacy with both Japan and the Soviet Union. Before I present my case, however, it is important to step back and revisit the Anglo-.

Obama: Be War-Weary, Not World-Weary – FPIF  fpif.org/obama-war-weary-world-weary/ Foreign Policy in Focus  Jul 9, 2014 – Pursuing the current policy of diplomacy over intervention, Obama can achieve concrete results in several areas. In the post-Arab Awakening …

WomenCrossDMZ on Twitter: “Congressional briefing for … https://twitter.com/womencrossdmz/status/623392574636748800  Jul 21, 2015 – Congressional briefing for new U.S. foreign policy of diplomacy over war 4 P.M. today, July 21 2015, Washington D.C. pic.twitter.com/ …

The CNN Effect: The Myth of News, Foreign Policy and … https://books.google.com/books?isbn=1134513135 Piers Robinson – 2005 – ‎Performing Arts The administration had been moving toward a new policy of diplomacy that could have used military force, but this hadn’t involved setting up the special …

diplomatic-insecurityLooking at these results, I find that from 1988 in the first Bush administration through the Obama administration there is talk of a “new” policy of diplomacy.  It seems as though both Bush and Obama decided that maybe war was not as good an idea as diplomacy.  However, I do not find a specific written and described “Policy of Diplomacy.”  What is this new diplomacy that they are or have brought to the world?  Just for the sake of semantics, I went back to Google and tried typing in “Policy for Diplomacy.”  Hits went down from 213,000 to 17,800.  I perused several of the links and I still could not find any specific policy either for or of diplomacy.   So let us try to formulate our own policy.  Here are some key policy points that I think should make up such a policy.

  1. Under no circumstances can another nation be attacked or threatened with an attack
  2. Diplomats must be trained in cultural sensitivity, win-win negotiating and the language of the country they are stationed in
  3. Diplomats should be publicly vetted for their ability to respect other cultures
  4. Bilateral diplomatic discussions should always precede multi-lateral discussions
  5. Multi-lateral parties brought in to discuss a problem should be selected by an objective third party or a selected UN committee established for this purpose
  6. Mediation can and should be used as necessary by third party negotiators
  7. Arbitration should follow failed mediation efforts and may be followed by binding arbitration
  8. Disputes with any binding decisions may be appealed to the World Court
  9. Nations refusing to submit to the agreement of the World Court will be fined an amount determined by the court
  10. Economic sanctions may be used to collect fines
  11. All nations signing this policy will be protected by the United Nations Peacekeeping Force

These policy statements seem self-explanatory and are only meant as a start towards an International Policy of Diplomacy.  Some will argue that they are naïve and that is probably true.  It is undoubtedly “optimistic” to presume that war will cease to be a policy of diplomacy.  There is a saying that I like though.  It goes:  “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.”  We need to start thinking about peace as a normal state of the world.  All too often, it appears that war is the normal state and peace only an interlude between wars.

Time for Questions: 

What can we do to help stop war?  Can you support a policy of NO WAR FOR ANY REASON?  Why or why not?  What if we are attacked first?  Can we stop war from being an instrument of policy?  What ideas do you suggest?  What policies do you think we should have in our new Policy of Diplomacy?

Life is just beginning.

A constructive approach to diplomacy doesn’t mean relinquishing one’s rights. It means engaging with one’s counterparts, on the basis of equal footing and mutual respect, to address shared concerns and achieve shared objectives.”  — Hassan Rouhani

A Candid Conversation With God:  What Do We Talk About?

How does an atheist or agnostic talk to God?  What do I call him or her?  What about the irony or would it be hypocrisy of an atheist talking to God?  I guess if I can be an agnostic, you can understand or dismiss my conversation as the musings of a man sitting on the proverbial fence.  Someone who wants to hedge his bets “just in case.”  However, even an atheist might want to hedge his bets.  (Listen to the song “Word of God Speak”- Mercy Me with Lyrics (High Quality)

talking-to-god (1)So what do I talk to God about?  The meaning of life?  When will the world end?  How can we eliminate evil in the world?  The weather?  Sports?  TV?  Movies?  What could I talk about that would keep his interest?  What if God is a her?  Would the same things interest her as him?

John:  Dear God, I am not doing much today, so I thought maybe we could have a little talk.

God:  I’m kind of busy, will it take long?

John:  Uhn, I dunno.  Got fifteen minutes?

God:  I guess so.  Who do you want saved?

John:  No one I can think of.  I know a lot of people I would like to send to hell.

God:  I don’t do that.  Talk to Satan.

John:  Just kidding.  Thought you might have a sense of humor.

God:  If I didn’t, I would not have created humans.

John:  Good point.  So why did you create us?

God:  For the hell of it.  (Laughs)

John:  Good one God.  But really, what was your purpose in creating humans?

God-creationGod:  If you really want to know, it was kind of an experiment.  In the entire universe, I was the only sentient being.  I wondered what would happen if I created a whole bunch of sentient beings and put them in one place.  So I created stars, planets, the solar system, earth and all the things that you would need to satisfy your emotional and intellectual needs.  I then created humans and let you grow and develop.

John:  You mean you never interfered or interceded on our behalf?

God:  Well, sometimes. I like to speed things up a bit, so I send some prophets or a few demagogues.

John:  So you sent Jesus and Buddha and Mohammed and Abraham?

God:  Nope, just Jesus and Mohammed.

John:  What about Hitler?

God:  Nope

John:  So who created Hitler and where is he now?

God:  You created Hitler and he is now in Hell.

John:  Where is Hell?

God:  For Hitler, it is a land ruled by Jews.

John:  Is that your idea of justice or is it vengeance?

God:  Justice is where kindness and compassion and love flourish.  Hitler will someday come to appreciate the Jewish people.  I don’t do vengeance.  It throws the entire universe out of kilter.

John:  So you mean, we can all get to Heaven some day?

God:  Only if you want to.

John:  Since we don’t have much time, I would like to be very candid with you.

God:  So?

John:  Well, you really made a mess with the earth and humanity.  Have you bothered to look at the earth and see the wars, poverty, disease, crime, injustice, famine and misery that you have created?

God:  You people.  You always want to blame someone else.

creation-of-the-universeJohn:  Who more than you?  You are All Knowing and All Powerful.  Yet you sit up there and laugh at the human race or perhaps worse, you take pleasure in our misery.

God:  I never said I was all powerful or all knowing.  I told Moses I always was and always will be, but I never said anything about omniscience or omnipotence.   You created those myths with your stories and desires; always hoping that someone like Superman or some super-hero will get you out of the shit that you create for yourselves.

John:  People look up to you. They pray to you.  They sacrifice lambs and goats for you. They build altars for you.

God:  Yes, and they fight for me. They kill for me.  They wage war in my name.  They pray that I will protect them and destroy their enemies. They pray for their relatives and ask for death for their neighbors in the next state or next town or next country.

John:  Are you blaming people for praying for these things?

God:  Have you not heard that I gave people free will?

John:  Free will for what?  To kill and maim and scourge and rape and destroy?  Is that supposed to be some kind of a blessing?

adam and eveGod:  I meant to give humans a choice.  Maybe I made a mistake.  I never told anyone that I was infallible.  I have toyed with destroying the entire human race and trying something else, but nothing really comes to mind.  How could I create a race of sentient beings and not give them free will?  Should I have created a race of puppets or robots?  Say the word and I will destroy your entire planet and all the people on it!  It is really a very small thing to do in terms of creativity and imagination.

John:  Please, don’t put that on me!  I don’t want that decision on my shoulders.  I thought maybe you would have some better ideas.

God:  Well, if you think of any, let me know.  I have things to do now and I need to end this conversation.

John:  One last question.  Are you planning to send any more prophets?  I think we need some help down here.

God:  Each time I send one, you listen for a while and then you somehow change the message back to what you want to hear or what you want to do.  The Ten Commandments become the two “maybe” Commandments.  The Eight Beatitudes become the Christ_at_the_Cross_-_Cristo_en_la_Cruzeight “Would be nice to do” but they are kind of impractical.  The Eight Fold Path becomes “I don’t have time.” The Six Articles of Faith become a prescription for Jihad.   You have a propensity for converting the words of the prophets I have sent into formulas for bigotry and intolerance.  Nevertheless, when I can, I will continue to send more prophets and messengers.  Keep in mind; they will all say the same thing:  “Love One Another.”

John:  Well, thanks for your time God, and Merry Christmas.

God:  Merry Christmas to you John, but I don’t do Santa.

Time for Questions:

Do you ever speak to God? Does he answer? Is God a he or she? Does it matter? Do you get the answers you need from God?  Do you think God should wipe out the human race and start over? Why or why not?  Did God screw things up with “Free Will?”

Life is just beginning.

“In the beginning..
when ray and day hadn’t yet come into existence at all,
there was a kind of radiance that illuminates universe.
That radiance is the light of knowledge and goodness.
That radiance will persistently and consistently shine brightly
even after all the stars and moons in this vast universe die out.”
― Toba Beta,

 

 

 

What the Hell Do We Need Morality For?

morals and ethicsThis blog is about the subject of morality.  Once upon a time, they taught morality in school and in church.   The first system of morality that many older Americans were exposed to was probably the “Ten Commandments.”   This was a code of rules given to the Israelites by Moses on Mount Sinai.  I have always thought it ironic that a set of morals from the “Old Testament” were supposed to be the foundation for a Christian America.  Even today, advocates of this code of morality want to hang it in town halls, schools, courts and government centers.  This is a part of the Bible that also promoted an “eye for an eye” and stoning adulterers.  Of course, Jesus did say “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).  Jesus added at least one commandment to all others that was even more valuable than the ten TenCommandmentsMoses gave.   Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John: 13:34).  I would be much more in favor of seeing this posted in my neighborhood than the Ten Commandments.

Perhaps even more importantly in terms of a system of morality, Jesus gave a sermon where he proposed what has been called:  The Eight Beatitudes:   (Click here to hear the The Beatitudes Song

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  —- Gospel of St. Matthew 5:3-10

It is my opinion that the Eight Beatitudes constitute one of the greatest systems of morality to come out of the Bible.  Indeed, I would rather see these taught (if we are going to teach a system of morality) than the Ten Commandments.  I would also not mind these being posted in schools and other public places.

I said that once upon a time, we taught morality in schools and churches.   Actually, we not only taught morality but morality was imbued in our social fabric by many traditional stories and the media.  Children from an early age were exposed to Fairy tales, Uncle Remus stories, Aesop Fables, and Tales of the Arabian Nights.  These stories were full of morals on how to live and behave properly.  Early TV was also full of morality tales.  Shows like Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver and Andy Griffith each week clearly conveyed stories of morality and what was right and what was not right in terms of behavior.

sin-guilt-causes-body-pain-sicknessSomeplace along the way, we started losing our sense of morality.  Some have blamed it on becoming a multi-cultural environment.  Some have blamed it on the decline of religion and church going.  Some have blamed education while still others have blamed progress and a business culture that has no room for strict morality.  I am not sure what the actual cause was.  I am more concerned that it did happen.  Studies have shown that our culture has become more amoral than moral and that narcissism now plays an increasing role in our society.  People are less moral and more self-centered than ever before in the history of this country.  A book by Joel Marks (Ethics without Morals: In Defense of Amorality -Routledge Studies in Ethics and Moral Theory, 2012) is one of several that makes an argument for amorality:

“In clear, plainspoken, engaging prose, Joel Marks presents the case for abandoning belief in morality. Anyone who wants to defend the practice of making moral judgments will have to confront the issues Marks raises, and the alternative to morality he proposes.” – Mitchell Silver, University of Massachusetts, Boston, USA 

In the book “The Moral Fool: A Case for Amorality (2009)” the author Hans-Georg Moeller advances the following case for amorality:

“Justice, equality, and righteousness—these are some of our greatest moral convictions. Yet in times of social conflict, morals can become rigid, making religious war, ethnic cleansing, and political purges possible.  Morality, therefore, can be viewed as a pathology—a rhetorical, psychological, and social tool that is used and abused like a weapon.”

In an article “Why Is Narcissism Increasing Among Young Americans?”  by Peter Gray in Freedom to Learn (2014), Gray notes the following:

“For the past three decades or a little more, researchers have been assessing both narcissism and empathy using questionnaires developed in the late 1970s.  Many research studies have shown that scores on these questionnaires correlate reliably with real-world behavior and with other people’s ratings of the individuals.  For example, those who score high in narcissism have been found to overrate their own abilities, to lash out angrily in response to criticism, and to commit white-collar crimes at higher rates than the general population.[1]  Those who score low in empathy are more likely than the average person to engage in bullying and less likely to volunteer to help people in need.[2.]

Over the years, these questionnaires have been administered to many samples of college students, and analyses that bring all of the data together reveal that the average narcissism score has been steadily increasing and the average empathy score has been steadily decreasing ever since the questionnaires were developed [3.]  The changes are highly significant statistically and sufficiently large that approximately 70 percent of students today score higher on narcissism and lower on empathy than did the average student thirty years ago.

What accounts for this historical rise in narcissism and decline in empathy?  There is no way to know for sure, based on the data, but there are lots of grounds for speculation.”

I think we have thrown the proverbial baby out with the bath water.  I agree we need to keep the State separate from the Church.  I also agree that we don’t need the Ten Commandments as the foundation for moral thought in America.  Nevertheless, I do believe that we all need a code of morality to live by.  Whether it be Christian, Buddhist, Confucian, Agnostic, Atheist, Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, Baha’i, or other, we need a set of morals and a template and foundation for our behavior.  We need a baseline that each of us can start from as we assess what is good and what is right.  We need to have some system of ideas about what is correct behavior and how we should live in a social world.

When I was a kid, (somewhere along the way) I was taught the Seven Deadly Sins.  Sometimes they were called the Seven Deadly Vices or the Seven Cardinal Sins.  I assume that since I attended a Catholic school, it went along with the teaching.  The Seven Deadly Sins included the following:

  • Lust7 deadly sins
  • Gluttony
  • Greed
  • Sloth
  • Wrath
  • Envy
  • Pride

Some of you might think that this list is old fashioned or out of date.  How could this set of implicit moral values make a difference in our society?  These are so old; do they really have any relevance anymore?  You have only to look at the world today, to persuade yourself that these “sins” are at the top of the list of major problems.  Greed, envy, gluttony and lust appear pervasive in our culture.  TV shows, movies, magazines, radio, supermarkets, superstars, sports, credit services, escort services, pornography, Las Vegas all portray an American brand of materialism that is nothing short of sick.  Get it now, get it fast, and get more and moreMore is better!  Bigger is better!  Shop till you drop!  He who has the most toys wins!

“If necessity is the mother of invention, then surely greed must be the father. Children of this odd couple are named: Laziness, Envy, Greed, Jr., Gluttony, Lust, Anger and Pride.”  ― John R Dallas  Jr.

Black Friday is only a small manifestation of the greed, lust and sloth that has infected our society.  How many Americans have a regular exercise schedule?  How many obese citizens can you count on the street each day?  How many Americans spend more each week then they earn?  How many Americans will go in debt this Holiday Season to spend money that they don’t have on gifts and toys?  Where is the self-restraint that is necessary to push oneself away from the table or shut the TV off and say “Enough.”  It barely seems to exist.  Is it any wonder that so many countries have a very negative stereotype of the “average” American?  We appear to be a group of people who have lost our moral compass.

ARTICLE 29 —  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

  • You have a responsibility to the place you live and the people around you-we all do. Only by watching out for each other can we each become our individual best.

At this point, you well may be asking “What right does he have to be so damn moralistic?” Didn’t Jesus say “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?”  “Are you so perfect that you have a right to look down on other people?”  “Who does he think he is, Jonathan Edwards?”  “I don’t need anyone telling me my faults.”  “I get enough negativity from work without having to get it from you.”

Please allow me to clarify a few misconceptions.   In some religious circles we are all sinners.  Since I am agnostic, I don’t subscribe to a religious view of sin.  My use of the terminology is borrowed from the religious sphere since I think the concept of sin has a very useful connotation if we can free it from some of the pejorative and negative associations with which it is fettered.  First of all, I do not believe that you will go to hell for committing these Seven Sins.  Second, you will not be a bad or evil person because of them.  Third and accentuating the positive, you may be happier and healthier if you are more aware of these “sins” and can do a better job of examining the role that they play in your life.  My bringing these “sins” out is to help us all become more aware of the morality that we have allowed to become obscured in our daily lives.

There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.  —-Buddha

We have had a decline in morality that started over one hundred years ago and it still seems to be declining.  More people are worried about their taxes increasing then the poverty facing many people in this country.  More people are worried about their security then the number of people going to jail every day for victimless crimes.  More people are worried about the price of gasoline then the pollution we send into the atmosphere every day.  Self-centeredness has become a dominant fixture of the American landscape.  “Greed is Good” says Ivan Boesky and everyone applauds.

If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.   — C. S. Lewis

Why do I think we should care about morality? 

goodevilWithout morality, we are not even as good as animals.  Animals eat, drink, sleep, procreate and fight when they have to.  They do not do it simply to hurt other animals or to wage war against groups or individuals that they cannot tolerate.  Animals care for their young and exhibit many characteristics of moral behavior.  In captivity, animals may display much more aggressive behavior.  For instance, Orcas in the wild have never been observed to kill other Orcas.  This is not the case for Orcas in captivity.  There is no such thing as civilization without a commitment to moral and ethical behavior.  Even animal societies are proof of this.

“I am Envy, begotten of a chimney-sweeper and an oyster-wife. I cannot read, and therefore wish all books were burnt; I am lean with seeing others eat – O that there would come a famine through all the world, that all might die, and I live alone; then thou should’st see how fat I would be! But must thou sit and I stand? Come down, with a vengeance!”  ― Christopher MarloweDoctor Faustus

Without morality, we have no compass to define what is good behavior and what is bad behavior.  We are reduced to the level of opportunists willing to take advantage of anyone and anything that suits our ends.  Listen to the current debate on the use of torture and the recent CIA report and you will find numerous “experts” advocating that the “ends justify the means.”  One man on NPR noted that he thought we should ask the victims of the Twin Trade Towers what they thought about the use of torture to capture Osama Bin Laden.   John McCain said it best when he opined in Congress (12-9-14) that “”Our enemies act without conscience. We must not.”  Nevertheless, he is opposed by his own party in his opposition to torture and in fact to even releasing the CIA Tortmoralityure Report.

Many Republicans have argued against releasing the report, especially as the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria grows, and U.S. intelligence officials have warned that its release could cause backlash from nations and groups hostile towards the nation. American embassies in the Middle East have been put on heightened security alert for its release.

McCain replied that “This report strengthens self-government and, ultimately, I believe, America’s security and stature in the world.”  (CNN 12-9-14)

Finally, without morality, there is no way to transmit values from one generation to another.  A lack of morality has led to the increase in amorality that is now symptomatic of our society.  Amorality is a set of beliefs which deny the value of morality or at best are indifferent to morality.  A rock is amoral.  It is neither good (moral) or bad (immoral) but may be used for either purpose.  Anything or anyone without a conscience is amoral.  It is a fine line and one that is very easy to trespass between amoral and immoral.  Many people today may think their behaviors are amoral when actually they could better be described as immoral.  Harken back to the Seven Deadly Sins and ask yourself, how many of these vices are amoral?  Are greed, gluttony, lust and wrath amoral?   Can anyone with a good conscience say it is okay to partake in these vices?

“Seven deadly sins,
seven ways to win,
seven holy paths to hell,
and your trip begins

Seven downward slopes
seven bloodied hopes
seven are your burning fires,
seven your desires…”
― Iron Maiden

Time for Questions:

What is your moral code? What are the three most important morals in your life?  Do you think everyone should have an explicit moral code?  Why or why not?  Do you know many amoral people?  What do you think about amorality?  When is it justified?  What do you think the world would be like if everyone was amoral?  Would it be a better world or worse? Why?

Life is just beginning.

“Remember tonight… for it is the beginning of always”  ― Dante Alighieri

The Tenth Greatest Mystery of All Time:  Do Weapons Prevent or Create Violence?

peace textGuns don’t kill people, people do!  Obama wants to take our weapons away so the Communists can take over the country.  A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. We have the right to defend ourselves.  What if someone attacked us and we had no means of self-defense?  Ridiculous, you cannot eliminate weapons.  If we did not have guns and missiles, people would kill each other with sticks and stones.  They always have and they always will.  You can’t eliminate violence by taking people’s weapons away!  Or can we?   (Listen to Give Me Love by George Harrison)

“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.”  ― John Lennon

There are several paths to take that would help us solve this mystery.  We could look at all the time spent in current and previous wars and compare that to periods of time when the earth was relatively peaceful.  We could look at countries where dollars spent on weapons are high and compare war or violence in those countries to their counterparts where dollars spent on weapons on low.  We could look at the per capita number of weapons in various countries and compare that to crime rates.  Unfortunately, each of these we are warapproaches has been tried and they actually prove very little.  For the most part, it would be a toss-up for each approach.  Those in favor of weapons would argue that without them, there would have been even less peace and those against weapons would argue that the weapons caused the wars, violence and crime in the first place.  They might say “Can you imagine ISIS attacking with flowers and cotton balls?”

“Dad, how do soldiers killing each other solve the world’s problems?”  ― Bill WattersonCalvin and Hobbes: Sunday Pages 1985-1995

Looking at the role of weapons in violence actually misdirects us from a more important question. The more important question is how effective are weapons at resolving violence?  While it can be conceded that weapons do not create violence, are they the most effective means of dealing with violence?  It has often been said that “war is a continuation of politics by other means.”  It might even be more true to say that war represents a failure of politics and a resort to violence to solve problems.  So who is right?  Were Gandhi and King right or were Generals Sheridan and Patton right?  There has been some research which might cast light on this second question.

non violenceResearchers Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth show that non-violent movements are twice as effective in achieving their political goals as violent movements. For example, in Timor-Leste, where violent revolution failed, non-violent tactics secured independence and the country now earns a peace score of “high” in the GPI. (Timor-Leste scores 1.95; a score of one is perfectly peaceful.) When people choose non-violent movements they may be improving the structures that support peace in the long run even when governments respond violently in the short run.  http://economicsandpeace.org/

Let’s take a hypothetical case.  Paul and Mohammed are arguing over whose religion is best.  Paul is a Christian and Mohammed is a killed manMuslim.  The argument gets more and more heated until Paul slanders the prophet Mohammed and calls him a pedophile.  Mohammed fires back that Jesus Christ was a fake and not the son of God.  Paul is armed with a concealed carry permit and carries a Glock 36 in a concealment crew neck shirt.  Mohammed is carrying a small 6 inch Jambiya in the waistband of his trousers with a special quick draw holster concealed under his shirt.

“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.”  ― Albert Einstein

Paul throws the first punch at Mohammed who is knocked to the floor.  Mohammed starts to get up and reaches for his Jambiya.  Paul upon seeing the blade being pulled out of Mohammed’s waistband, draws his Glock.  Mohammed (still feeling the effects of Paul’s punch) lurches forward.  Paul aims and fires three times hitting Mohammed in center mass and right arm.   Mohammed dies almost instantly from a hit to the heart.

anger-cycle-3When the police arrive, Paul is very sorry. He did not mean for this to escalate as it did.  The police charge Paul with manslaughter.  Paul goes to court and is found not guilty.  Paul is then charged in a civil lawsuit with a wrongful death claim and found guilty.  The financial costs of Paul’s argument are well over 100 thousand dollars.  The mental and emotional strain to Paul and his family are incalculable as are the losses to Mohammed’s wife and children.

The strongest defenses to a murder charge are provocation and Self-Defense. If the defendant acted completely in self-defense, this fact may relieve the defendant of all criminal liability. If it does not relieve the defendant of all liability, self-defense at least may reduce the charge from murder to manslaughter. Provocation rarely results in complete absolution, but it may reduce the defendant’s criminal liability.

Now let’s rerun the same scenario with a few minor changes.  Paul is not carrying a gun and Mohammed is not carrying a knife.  The same argument ensues and Paul punches Mohammed.  Mohammed rises shakily from the ground and stumbles to his feet.  Mohammed is too disoriented to counter-attack and has no training in hand to hand combat.  He has no knife to rely on.  Instead, Mohammed asks Paul “Why did you hit me?”  Paul, now on the down stage of the Anger Cycle is feeling remorseful and says “I am really sorry.  I don’t know what got over me.  I did not appreciate your calling Jesus a fake.”  Mohammed says “well, you insulted the Prophet but I did not hit you.”  Both men go their own way vowing never to talk to each other again.  No police have been called and the only physical damage is a sore jaw for Mohammed.

“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.”  ― Mahatma Gandhi

Road-RageAt this point, you might be laughing at my scenarios and decrying their likelihood.  However, I have been in many situations where fighting has occurred and the second scenario was the more likely of the two if no weapons were involved.  Put weapons into the mix, add alcohol and I guarantee you will be looking at the first scenario.  Add alcohol san weapons to the second scenario and you will simply have two drunks cursing each other but going home physically sound.

So, what role do weapons have in peace making?  Did the Russians not nuke us because we had a greater nuclear deterrent?  Quite likely this was the case during the Cold War.  However, what if neither side had nuclear weapons, or bombers or aircraft carriers or machine guns or hand grenades or napalm or bio-chemical weapons?  What if diplomacy and persuasion and peaceful non-violent protest were the only weapons to grace each side?  Would the world be more peaceful or simply less violent?  What is the difference you may ask?  A good question.

Peace can be defined:  A state of mutual harmony between people or groups, especially in personal relations.

Non-violence can be defined as:  The policy, practice, or technique of refraining from the use of violence, especially when reacting to or protesting against oppression, injustice, discrimination, or the like.

gun store 047Peace is never likely to exist perpetually.  People, nations, religions, ethnic groups will always have a degree of enmity between them.  Peace will be cyclical as the nature of the world is in most things.  Periods of civility will be interspaced with periods of incivility.  But incivility does not have to turn into violence.  Without weapons of mass destruction, without weapons of mayhem, without weapons of killing, people may be more likely to find non-aggressive means of settling disputes. The disputes will most certainly arise but a focus on peace as opposed to aggression can mean that we minimize violence and decrease the amount of murder and wars that our societies have seen since the first cave-people.  We must substitute non-violence for violence and teach peace and not war.

Time for Questions:

Do you feel peace in your life?  Are you confident in walking the streets at night?  Do you worry about road rage?  Do you carry a concealed weapon?  If so, does it make you safer?  What would it take to make you feel like the world is a safe place?  Do the Army, Navy, Air force and Marines help you to feel safe at night?

Life is just beginning.

“The artist is always beginning.  Any work of art which is not a beginning, an invention, a discovery is of little worth.”  ― Ezra Pound

The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave?

Repeat the words in the title anywhere in the world and they are immediately recognizable as referring to the United States of America.  As Michael Medved loudly proclaims on each of his shows:  “And another great day in this, the greatest country on God’s green earth.”  It is my guess that you have never thought about where the phrase “land of the free and home of the brave” comes from.  Of course, it comes from our national anthem but where did the words originally come from?  Were they from some patriot during the Revolutionary War or from the War of 1812?  Actually they came from a lawyer and amateur poet, Francis Scott Key.  He penned them as part of a poem he wrote in 1814 which was originally titled:  “Defense of Fort McHenry.” 

The poem was set to the tune of a popular British song written by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society, a men’s social club in London. “The Anacreontic Song” (or “To Anacreon in Heaven“), with various lyrics, was already popular in the United States. Set to Key’s poem and renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner”, it would soon become a well-known American patriotic song.”  — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Star-Spangled_Banner

Today, we naturally assume that the words refer to our penchant for American independence and heroism.  Our unique ability to save the world from itself and to right injustices wherever they are found.  Our vaunted American exceptionalism that gives us the moral right and categorical imperative to influence and insert ourselves in events and places the world over.  No one dares to question (or at least few in this country) the right of America to influence politics throughout the world.  No one questions the assumption that we are only in it for the greater good of humanity.  How could anyone from the “land of the free and the home of the brave” do otherwise?  Where our boots tread, soon follows democracy and prosperity, right?

But what if the “land of the free and the home of the brave” was not the reality anymore?  What if it was more accurate to say that today America has become the “land of the guarded and the home of the fearful.”  Since 911, Americans have seemed to retreat behind a cloak of ongoing surveillance and security measures that could become the greatest detriment to freedom, this country has ever faced.  As Benjamin Franklin so wisely noted; “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”. 

So I have decided to do some first-hand research and go visit a few “average” Americans.  I took a little road trip across Wisconsin to find some true patriots and to see what they think about our country.  Are we really scared and fearful?  Are we willing to give up our freedom for security?  Have we become more xenophobic?  To answer these questions, I stopped at diners, coffee shops, rest areas, truck stops, libraries and Denny’s Restaurants to visit with real Americans.  Not the 1 percent who make their money from stocks and bonds, but the hardworking “Joes and Janes” who make their money the old fashioned way, by the sweat of their brows.  I will briefly post a few excerpts here from some of my interviews.

Roxanne:  The Full-Time-Part-Time Worker:

I met 36 year old Roxanne in a booth in Mc Donald’s where we talked over a Big Mac, fries and a shake.  Roxanne is a divorced mother of two school aged children whom she is raising with the help of some grandparents.   She works both a part-time day job at Benny’s Cleaners and a part-time night job at Wal-Marts.

John:  Let’s cut to the chase Roxanne. What do you think about America today?

Roxanne:  Well, John, its dam hard to make a living, I can tell you that. Without my grandparents helping me, I don’t know how I would get by.

John:  Do you think we have too much security and not enough freedom?

Roxanne:  I don’t know, seems like there is never a cop around when you need one.  I had a fight with my boyfriend the other day and called the cops, but it took them over 30 minutes to get to my place.

John:  What do you think about the Russians, Iraqis, Mexican Cartels and Obama?

Roxanne:  I think they should all go back to the countries they came from and leave us alone.

John:  Did you vote in the last elections?

Roxanne:  Who was running?

John:  Thanks Roxanne – got to go now.

Patriot: the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about.”  — Mark Twain

 Pete:  The Carpenter

I met Pete while stopping to fill up my gas at a Pilot Station.  I noticed the painted sign on his pick-up truck which read “Carpenters keep it up longer: Call Pete for a good job.”  I offered to buy him a coffee if he would answer a few questions.  Pete was 54 years old, married with four kids. One daughter was still living home with him.  She had been married and was now divorced.  Pete’s wife worked part-time as a church secretary.

John:  So Pete, what do your kids do?

Pete:  Well, one boy works with me when I need extra help. One daughter is married and lives out of state.  One daughter lives with us and the other son works nearby at a local manufacturing plant as a night supervisor.

John:  Do you think this country has provided enough opportunity for them?

Pete:  Yeah, I guess so

John:  What do you think about the economy Pete?

Pete:   Sucks.

John:  I guess a lot of people would agree with you there.  What are your biggest worries for the future?

Pete:  Paying my mortgage and taxes.

John:  Are you worried about freedom and security.

Pete:  Nope, got a concealed carry permit and a good stockpile of ammunition.

John: What do you think we should do about immigration?

Pete:  Send them all home.

John:  Well, thanks for your time Pete.

True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else.” — Clarence Darrow

 Bob:  The Tea Party Member

Bob is a 47 year old accountant. He is married with wife and no kids.  I met Bob at a local café that I had stopped at on my journeys.  He was wearing a t-shirt that read: TEA: Taxed Enough Already.   I sat down at the counter next to Bob and struck up a conversation.

John:  So you belong to the Tea Party?

Bob:  Yeah, joined about five years ago.  I am fed up with big government, taxes and the present no ethics politicians running this country.

John:  So how is the Tea Party going to change things?

Bob:  Well, for a start we are going to only elect politicians that support our views and are not going to compromise away what we stand for.

John:  So what do you stand for?  I know you hate taxes but is that all?

Bob:  Well, here look at this card.  It says it all.

John:  The card Bob gave me read as follows:

Our Core Principles

Tea Party Patriots stands for every American, and is home to millions who have come together to pursue the American Dream and to keep that Dream alive for their children and grandchildren.

What unites the Tea Party movement is the same set of core principles that brought America together at its founding, that kindled the American Dream in the hearts of those who struggled to build our nation, and made the United States of America the greatest, most successful country in world history.

At its root the American Dream is about freedom. Freedom to work hard and the freedom to keep the fruits of your labor to use as you see fit without harming others and without hindering their freedom. Very simply, three guiding principles give rise to the freedom necessary to pursue and live the American Dream:

John:  That sounds very good Bob, but I don’t see a lot of progressive thinking coming from the Tea Party.  Seems like you guys are more against things then for things?

Bob:  That’s because we want to go back to the way this country used to be run before the bureaucrats, illegal aliens, liberals and socialists took over this country.

John:  What about health care and education and social services for the needy?

Bob:  This country is full of free loaders who sponge off the hard working Americans who work for a living.

John:  So you don’t believe that there are truly needy people out there in this country?  What about new immigrants?

Bob:  No one gave me anything or my grandparents.  They came over to this country with just the shirts on their backs.  People used to believe in hard work and honesty.

John:  What about education?  It is barely affordable anymore.

Bob:  That’s because we give all of these free scholarships to students from other countries and the high salaries that those lazy professors make.  Do you realize most of them work less than ten hours a week?

John:  Well, thanks for the opinions Bob.  Time to go!  You have a great day.

 “Let us take a patriot, where we can meet him; and, that we may not flatter ourselves by false appearances, distinguish those marks which are certain, from those which may deceive; for a man may have the external appearance of a patriot, without the constituent qualities; as false coins have often lustre, though they want weight.”  — Samuel Johnson

Cassie Jean:  The NRA Member

Cassie Jean is a 33 year old single woman who works as an Assistant Manager in a small bakery.  I talked to Cassie Jean while she was on a break over coffee and a cigarette.  I had stopped for donuts and a rest break.  Cassie Jean rides a 2002 Honda Shadow 600 motorcycle.  She is an avid hunter and a card carrying member of the National Rifle Association.

John:  So Cassie, what was the last thing you killed?

Cassie Jean:  Well, got me a good sized buck this past fall and a nice turkey this spring.

John:  How long have you been shooting?

Cassie Jean:  Ever since I was a little girl.

John:  Why do you belong to the NRA?

Cassie Jean:  They protect our rights.  You know the Second Amendment.

John:  Isn’t that about militias?

Cassie Jean:  People have the right to arm themselves.   If we let them take our guns away, we will have no protection.

John:  Protection from what.

Cassie Jean:  The wackos and socialists.

John:  What about our army, National Guard and the police department.  Isn’t their job to protect us?

Cassie Jean:  They work for the liberal socialists that are destroying this country.  The only thing that stands between them and us is our guns.

John:  But what about all the gun violence in this country?

Cassie Jean:  If more people were armed, there would be less violence.

John:  How do you figure?

Cassie Jean:  Well, would you screw with someone who had a gun?

John:  But what if no one had a gun?

Cassie Jean:  Over my dead body.

John:  Well, you sure make good donuts.  Take care and happy hunting.

Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear – kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor – with the cry of grave national emergency.”  — General Douglas MacArthur

 Dick:  The Mechanic

Dick is a retired Ford mechanic who worked for a small Ford garage in upstate Wisconsin for over 30 years.  A bad back and a desire to enjoy more of life convinced Dick to retire early.  Dick is a strange sort of man as he does not like hunting or sports but enjoys literature and particularly good poetry.  He is a connoisseur of fine wines and good music and never misses an opportunity to travel with his wife Paula to see new places.  Dick belongs to a group of retired men who hang out at a local library where they can get free coffee and an occasional donut.  Despite his lack of a formal education, Dick is knowledgeable and well versed on many subjects.  His views would surprise many.

John:  What’s new Dick?

Dick:  I am going to Russia!

John:  For real?

Dick:  Yep, I like the way Putin is running things.  No BS in that country.

John:  What about freedom of speech and freedom of religion?

Dick:  Religion is a farce, just a bunch of know nothing do-gooders trying to live off the backs of hardworking people.

John:  What about freedom of speech?

Dick:  No one listens to you here anyway unless you are a billionaire.

John:  I don’t think Putin would tolerate unions and I thought you were a union man?

Dick:  Unions used to help people now most of them are just parasites as well.

John:  You sound like a libertarian.

Dick:  I don’t belong to any party.  They are all useless.

John:  When are you leaving for Russia?

Dick:  Soon

John:  How soon?

Dick:  Not soon enough.

John:  Well, I imagine many of your friends would hate to see you leave.

Dick:  Yeah, well I can send them a postcard.

John:  Do you think the libraries in Russia would have a men’s group and free coffee?

Dick:  I don’t know.  I will talk to Putin about it when I get there.

John:  Well, if I don’t see you before you leave Dick, have a good flight.

Conclusions:

I arrived back to my starting point in Frederic Wisconsin after several days on the road.  Truly, I cannot say I had any great insights into the subject of freedom and liberty.  My “random” sample of “average” Americans would not satisfy even a lazy graduate student much less a hard core researcher.  Nevertheless, my total observations have literally been based on hundreds of such conversations over the past ten years.  My interviewees are a composite of dozens of people whom I have met and talked to from the shores of Coon Lake in Wisconsin to the rocky Casa Grande Mountains in Arizona.

Numerous books attest to major changes taking place in our country.  Are we going backwards, forwards or perhaps sideways?  Are things getting better or worse?  Are we still the place that everyone wants to immigrate to?  If not, what has changed?  We are surrounded by apocalyptic visions.  The USA will be overrun by illegal immigrants.  Socialists will take over the country.  Fascism will become the norm.  The end days are near and the Messiah will return to judge the good and the evil.  The poor will rise up and destroy America.   The country will become one vast prison with drug addicts and drug dealers on every corner.  No one will be able to afford health care or education.  Terrorists will infiltrate and bomb our most prized establishments.  The country will give in to Sharia Law.

With such gloomy visions of the future, is it any wonder that many people are fearful and ready to sacrifice their freedom for security.  More and more Americans live behind walls either in a prison or in a gated community.   Neither prison walls nor community walls seem to protect us from our worst enemies which may be ourselves.

Beck – It’s All In Your Mind, music video         (Love this Song, click on here to listen)

Time for Questions:

Have you felt things are getting better or worse in this country?  Do you think we need more or less patriots?  Do you think most people professing patriotism are really patriots?  What do you think makes a good patriot?  What do you think makes a “bad” patriot?  Where do you stand on patriotism?

Life is just beginning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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