Sunday, January 14, 2007

Government Intervention Isn't Always Bad

Fiscal conservatives have taken some examples of government waste and have extrapolated it to mean that no government program is worth a dime. Of course, they make an exception for military expenditures, which never suffer from wasteful spending ($1000 toilet seats, $2000 hammers, etc.).

Progressives have come a long way, Clinton being one of the best recent examples. Clinton believed it is worthwhile to keep government lean, mean, efficient and effective. Besides giving fiscal conservatives less red meat to justify throwing the baby out with the bath water, such an approach allows tax dollars to go further. In short, encouraging or rewarding government waste is bad publicity and bad policy.

I'm thinking of the Marshall Plan, the GI Bill, the great Interstate Highway System and the Space Program, to name just four expenditures that have paid for themselves many times over. It took great vision to foresee the monetary rewards that would arise from (re-)building infrastructure, educating more people, facilitating the transport of goods and sending humankind to space.

If only today's fiscal conservatives could understand and appreciate that aspect of government intervention, they might be inclined to support a program or two. But, instead, they pooh-pooh everything and then complain later when the consequences of their slashing and cutting become a public burden (e.g. unwanted pregnancy, increased homelessness, etc.).

This country needs visionaries like Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy, who looked to the best interest of the future of America rather than adhere to a strict ideological party line for its own sake.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Innocent Middle-Class Religious Families?

I don't buy into the myth of the innocent middle-class, church-going, God-fearing, flag-waving family when it comes to their defense of a status quo that maintains hate and prejudice. I'm still recalling the PBS special on lynching in the 1950s. I watched in horror at a black-and-white film showing well-dressed, bible-carrying, middle-class families leaving church with a relaxed smile on their face as they strolled in a park - children in hand - to watch a black man be stung up by his neck.

In America, it is believed that the Southern family is the epitome of what it means to be a good citizen. Yet, this profile also represents the demographic most responsible for fanning the flames of war; treating immigrants like interlopers and opposing virtually every advancement in science, medicine, technology, social and economic progress. It is a history of reactionary-ism, hysteria, fear, prejudice, nationalism and jingoism.

It is a truism to say that change is slow in society. And it is also true that change is even slower among religious reactionaries. And, progressives take comfort in knowing that change does come, albeit usually after severe social and cultural convulsions that the entire nation must witness and endure.

Almost without exception, religious reactionaries claim that their God is unchanging and that Christian morality is immutable; and hence why their opposition to change (abolition, women's suffrage, abortion, civil rights for homosexuals, etc.) is justified. They also claim that godless liberals and humanists seek to destroy society with their "relativism."

Yet, religious reactionaries make these claims even as their own "conservative" religion transforms itself amidst a cultural sea of liberal humanism. After all, ask yourself: How easy is it to find a supporter of Jim Crow laws among fundamentalists today? Sure, they still exist. But, they are a rarity these days. Yet, not more than 50 years ago, you would have been hard-pressed NOT to find a southern middle-class fundamentalist family that thought they were being moral and upstanding and defending "God's Word" by "keeping n-gg-rs in their place."

I could say the same thing about abolition, the right of women to vote, reproductive freedom for women, civil rights for blacks and homosexuals. Almost without fail, the recipe is the same. Progressive humanists argue for change. Religious reactionaries come out in opposition, claiming a scriptural basis for their opposition. Society changes. Religious reactionaries adapt, claiming to have supported the change all along. The descendants of said religious reactionaries deny this history and then repeat the mistake all over in another generation.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Liberal Pride & Legacy

After 20 years of abuse and misuse, the GOP talking-points generator continues to use the term "liberal" in a derogatory sense.

Well, here's an idea for those who consider themselves liberal:

PROUDLY claim the label. If someone is a flaming liberal, embrace it wholeheartedly. Beam with pride over a governing philosophy that offers hope and progress for the lower- and middle-classes of America:

Universal Healthcare. Well-fed children. A well-educated populace. Maximum support for the modern American family structure. Fair taxation. Universal contribution to the General Welfare, including corporations who benefit greatly from doing business in this great country.

If any word should be demonized, it is "conservative." In the USA, that word can properly be analogized with "reactionary." And that history is a shameful one - with the latest reactive movement arising from the Strom Thurmond and Trent Lott segment of the population: one that uses Anglo-pride and Bible-rationale to justify the continuation of prejudicial ideas and discriminating institutions.

Conservatism is a history replete with opposition to nearly every advancement for non-whites, non-Christians and non-Europeans. Let the conservatives be the ones who are tarnished with a label that is deservedly shameful.

And liberals: Wear your label with pride in a history that is full of hope and progress; and expanding freedom and opportunity. Liberalism means progress and positive solutions. Conservatism means stagnation or regress and negative reactions to new ideas.

But, don't take my word for it. Study the history of social and economic progress. All steps forward in the name of humanity have come about by brave liberal voices who challenged the status quo and who were not afraid to question existing institutions. And each of those steps forward has created a reactionary (conservative) backlash that sought to defend and maintain the status quo.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Bible Belt Values

Bible Belt Politics

Where did the myth come from that Bible Belt values equal American values?

The last time I checked, it was those "nasty liberals" (secular [god-hating] and religious [not-real-Christians]) who advocated social progress -- e.g. civil rights for African-Americans ... against the Southern Baptist Convention and other stalwarts of reactionary religion in America.

Yet, today we have liberalism and progressivism being bashed like it's bad and evil; and conservatism is held up like it's a wonderful gift to humanity, as if it has a legacy of expanding freedom for under-represented minorities.

It is past time to expose those who base public policy on faith and prejudices found in "holy" books. Americans must be reminded that orthodox religions and their followers have a history of opposition to progress (examples: opposing abolition, against desegregation, etc.).

Conservative, reactionary religionists must be shamed for their past. And they must be shamed for the present, as the current generation of reactionary followers have taken up new issues - whether it be fighting against the right for people to die with privacy and dignity, opposing stem-cell research or against giving equal civil rights to those who are not heterosexual.

Just as redneck Bible-belt racists were forced to change their views or go in the closet - in the face of changing public/cultural (liberal) sentiments - the fundamentalists of today need to feel the heat of shame from those of us who are not fearful of change.

Barbarism, nativism, nationalism, fear and prejudice are not American values.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Religion as a Political Tool

Politicians using religion has a long, sad history. And, unfortunately, many religious adherents - ever ignorant of history - are duped time and again.

Of course, it's always different this time around. This really is the terrible End-of-the-world generation that Jesus will return in, unlike the 100 generations that thought the same before.

When P.T. Barnum said there was a "sucker born every minute," I think that was his polite way of saying sufficient numbers of people will become religious in any given generation to continue the insanity of it all.

To the reactionary religious in America being used by the GOP: Fool you once, shame on the political whores who exploit your credulity. Fool you twice, shame on you. Where is your discerning Holy Ghost?

"Is there a believer in the Bible who does not now wish that God, amid the thunders and lightnings of Sinai, had said to Moses that man should not own his fellow-man; that women should not sell their babes; that all men should be allowed to think and investigate for themselves, and that the sword never should be unsheathed to shed innocent blood? Is there a believer who would not be delighted to find that every one of the infamous passages are interpolations, and that the skirts of God were never reddened by the blood of maiden, wife, or babe? Is there an honest man who does not regret that God commanded a husband to stone his wife for suggesting the worship of some other God? Surely we do not need an inspired book to teach us that slavery is right, that polygamy is virtue, and that intellectual liberty is a crime." -Robert Ingersoll

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Jingle All the Way

Gosh, it's been 9 months since my last update. A lot has happened and maybe I'll get around more to updating this. But, this year was a banner year for me. As someone who suffered from social phobia for over 20 years, living a private life of shame and isolation and alcoholism, I decided it was time to live life in spite of my fears.

Through a lot of effort and self-talk and pushing myself to engage in things even when my fears said "you cannot do it," I managed to expose many of the irrational ideas that were bouncing around in my noggin for so long. If anyone wants more info, they can email me. I also recommend ADAA, although I did most of the heavy lifting myself -- it can't hurt to start with an org dedicated to anxiety disorders.

So, here are some of my accomplishments that I am very proud to call my own:

* Lost 120 lbs since 2000
* Reduced body fat from > 30% to 7% (it's too low now!)
* Taken off cholesterol medicine (goes w/o saying?)
* Increased # pushups from < 20 to > 100
* Increased # situps from < 30 to > 500
* Activities participated in: from 0 to abt 100

It's practically a given that I've omitted some milestone, but there is always edit mode. If you've read this far, thanks for reading and I hope you (or someone you know) might get some hope and encouragement from it.

Just be aware that there are no "quick fixes" -- no seminars, books, prayers, etc. that will get you there overnight. Irrational ideas take years to form; and they are not going to vanish overnight. It takes a lot of hard work and forced thinking to challenge habitually destructive thinking patterns. But, it can be done.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Rapture Mania

If I had a nickel for every Christian who anticipated the return of Jesus down through the ages, I'd be richer than Bill Gates.

I was alive 20 years ago, which was the last time rapture-mania took hold. Hal Lindsay's "The Late Great Planet Earth" was a bestseller. Fundamentalist churches were teaching that the Book of Daniel's symbolism of the Bear and Eagle represented the USSR and the USA respectively. Armageddon was to be a showdown between these two superpowers. The year 1988 was forty years after the founding of the State of Israel (another supposed prophecy of "God's word").

I could go on and on. But, the point is that this kind of nonsense has gone on since Jesus was nailed to a tree. It seems to come in waves. My theory is that a new generation of Christians, ignorant of the last, repeats the mistakes of their Christian predecessors. It would be laughable if it didn't have such tragic consequences. There are people who adjust their current behavior in anticipation for not being here beyond a certain point: High schools students forego college. Adults fail to save for retirement. Etc.

Anyone remember Y2K hysteria? I managed to talk my religious family members from doing anything drastic in preparation for "the End." To the Cosmos, a nice even number like 2000 means nothing. Only a self-absorbed, self-centered fundamentalist would think that the Universe cares about this human time metric we call a "year."

Questioning the Millennium: A Rationalist's Guide to a Precisely Arbitrary Countdown by Stephen Jay Gould