Monday, September 24, 2012

Can we please have a REAL conversation about politics?!?

·         Loren Richmond Jr. @relentlessloren

@chrishayes Called me crazy, but I think everyone *is* "entitled" to food and housing. – Retweeted by Loren Richmond Jr. @relentlessloren

·         Brandon Anderson @bander9289

@chrishayes @relentlessloren  Really? Entitled even to those that will take handouts their entire lives? Maybe I'm missing some context. 

·         Loren Richmond Jr. @relentlessloren

@bander9289 @chrislhayes it's funny we're talking about context within an environment that limits us to 140 characters. #antithetical :)

·         Loren Richmond Jr. @relentlessloren

@bander9289 Your tweet made me realize that twitter is emblematic of the problem of political discourse today. We think we can say all that needs to be said in 140 characters

After listening to Mitt Romney’s 47% fundraiser speech, I thought I’d be all clever and retweet something on Twitter from @chrishayes about food and housing being an entitlement.  Thing is, I have no idea who @chrishayes is.  One of the people I follow retweeted @chrishayes and I liked the tweet at first glance so I thought I’d also retweet it. Well, as recounted above, @bander9289 critiqued my retweet, asking for some context.  I tried to say something clever back, realizing he had made a good point.  Eventually I ‘fessed up, acknowledging to him that he had gotten me. 

A professor once told me it takes the Left two paragraphs to say what the Right can say with one sentence, and for that reason it’s been easy for those on the Left to accuse the Right of being overly-simplistic and glib…until recently.   It seems as if the Left has fallen into that same trap of the Right of trying to boil down complex issues into one-liners, and twitter has become the medium of choice.  As detailed above, I am just as guilty.

So what’s the point? I’m frankly sick and tired of political discourse being turned into a series of 30 second TV spots or pointless headlines, and you should be too.  There are serious issues in this country, the national debt is crazy, the poverty rate is skyrocketing, and unemployment is widespread.  Must I go on?

If you really care about this country, stop letting FoxNews—or MSNBC for that matter—continue to speak for you.  Stop letting the rich and powerful tell you what to think—think for yourself.  If we take a deep breath, take a step back, and actually try to understand what the other person is saying fruitful dialogue is possible. But when we jump to conclusions, paint with broad strokes, stereotype, sling mud, and worse we’re just reinforcing the negatives.  Compromise is not a bad thing.   I know realistic, intelligent, meaningful conversations are possible because I’ve had them before.  I know we’re capable of having constructive dialogue—I’ve advocated for it in the past, and I will continue to do so in the future.

I’m ready to have a legitimate, lengthy, respectable conversation about what we need to do to move our country forward.   Are you?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Which standard of Speech do you adhere to?

If you have grown up in church at all, you’ve likely heard a lesson or sermon on chapter 3 in the book of James.  (My pastor just preached a GREAT one from which the idea for this blog came). It’s about the dangers of the tongue and all the problems that can be caused when we let our tongues run wild.  The tongue is contrasted to the rudder of a ship which though small can steer the much larger vessel, and a bridle which is able to control a powerful horse.  The tongue, says James, is a little fire and yet is able to set a whole forest ablaze!  The point is that despite being such a small part of the human body, the tongue—or more specifically the words we say—can have a profound impact on the world around us, and far too often that impact is for the worst. Anyone who has ever “stuck his foot in his mouth,” or worse, has so-called “foot in mouth disease” understands all the problems that can come from letting our tongue run wild.  The tongue, or more specifically our words and speech, can be very dangerous.

This week in America, we have been tragically re-acquainted with the dangers of “speech.” (I don’t think I need to rehash the tragedy that took place a few days ago in Libya).  While there seems to be much debate about whether the attack was planned or not, what spurred that attack, as well as other protest in the Middle East is much more certain.  Just as James says, speech can have very bad consequences.

America is a country that values freedom of speech; it’s the first Amendment of our Constitution.  Free speech is an extremely important part of the fabric of America, yet even it has limits.  It’s illegal to scream “fire” in a crowded theater, if I shout “bomb” in an airport I’m going to be spending a lot of time talking to Homeland Security, and if I make a legitimate threat against the life of the President the Secret Service is going to be all over my as*. What we see then is that speech, true to James, can be dangerous, out of control, and meant for harm.  Oh, and it’s also illegal.  This describes exactly the “speech” of this controversial video.

What I find troubling is that many have run roughshod with the misguided idea that by condemning this video, the leadership of this country is somehow condemning American values.  (Put aside for a moment the  fact that the initial criticism was not of “free speech,” but rather the misuse of such speech to offend believers of all religions) President Obama responded wisely that a key Presidential characteristic was sometimes “holding your tongue” (my paraphrase).  Obama’s bit about thinking “through the ramifications (of your comments) before you make 'em" sounds a lot like the biblical wisdom of James, wouldn’t you say?

What’s ironic is that nearly all the criticism of the administration and it’s supposed “lack of appreciation” for First Amendment rights and American values comes from the right—the same folks who claim to be unabashedly Christian and the “true” followers of the Bible.  Funny, they don’t talk about other American values of respect for other religions or the biblical teaching of being careful about what one says. 

The question ultimately comes down to, which standard of speech do you most value? America’s or God’s? 

So then, I condemn speech such as this video not as an American, but as a Christian.

Monday, September 10, 2012

What an iPhone app taught me about the Presidential election.

My Brother-in-law turned me onto a new iPhone app that can listen to a presidential TV ad and give all the background information regarding the message told.  Essentially it will do an instant “fact-check on just about any national political ad.” Well, sort of…

The app tells who paid for the ad, how much they have raised, and how much they’ve spent over the election season.   There is also a “see claims made in this ad” option which links to different articles which explain the premises made in the ads.  A “Love,” “Fair,” “Fishy,” or “Foul” poll also allows users to vote on how accurate the commercial was.  

I decided to give the app a try on my wife’s iPhone and was pleasantly surprised by how well the app performed—and thanks to the fact that pretty much every other commercial is a political add on network TV during prime-time—I was able to get a pretty good sampling in only an hour.

Rather than rehashing all the ads and the truth (or rather lack thereof) of each ad, I’d rather just draw some simple conclusions.  Just about anybody would agree that there are far too many political ads on television.  Most would also agree that there is far too much money involved in running for political office.  Just today (9/10/12) the Obama campaign reported that they raised nearly $117 million in the month of August to Romney’s $112 million that same month.  August was actually the first month Obama outraised Romney, but combined, they’ve raised over $1 billion (so far!)! And that’s not even counting all the various “Super-Pacs” or other special interest groups. 

It seems pretty obvious to me, and I think it should be to most everyone else as well, that there is far too much money in politics.  By time the election is over, I imagine somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.5 to $2 billion will have been spent.  What a huge waste of money! There are millions out of work, millions more in poverty, roads in desperate need of repair, and dare I say a huge national debt, yet we’re spending this much money on getting someone into office.  President Obama is hardly innocent in this regard, he initially vowed he would only use public (tax payer funded) monies in his 2008 election but then changed his mind and began his own fundraising efforts.  (Side note, if both candidates had only used public campaign money this election, they would have each received $91 million for the entire campaign!)

By now we should all agree that there is far too much money in politics, yet strangely enough one political party actually wants to increase the availability of money.  Yep, more stupid attack ads, more “I approve of this message,” more of every other commercial being a political ad, and worst of all—more horribly misinformed voters. 

Here’s my recommendation:

Good: Use this or some other app to fact-check commercials.

Better: Turn off the TV when a political commercial comes on.

Best: Stop supporting politicians that want to put even more money into politics and rather demand                      they actually start using less.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What have the Romans ever done for us?!

I'm taking a class this semester on the social world of early Christianity. Our professor had us watch this video.  I reminds me of a bunch of conservatives sitting around complaining about the government.  Substitute "Rome" for "the government" and laugh with me at their foolhardiness!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Thanks to Feminism, I can be a Father

The other day I was thinking about one of my co-workers, he works while his wife stays home with the kids.  I thought that must be nice for her, but inversely, I realized that it also meant he must have to work a lot to pay the bills.  Being a “traditional” family, that’s sort of the way things go, the man works however many hours to pay the bills while the woman stays home with the kids managing the house and doing the majority of the child rearing.

Being a new father myself, I imagined myself in the same scenario—working fifty or sixty hours a week to make ends meet, then coming home to do home repairs, yard work, and so on.  I realized that such a scenario wouldn’t actually leave much time for me to spend with my child. But then it hit me, that’s exactly the point, I’m not supposed to be doing that—that’s the woman’s job.

In America right now, and especially during this political season, there are two images being portrayed as to what our society should look like; what it really means to be an “American.”  Many are suggesting that we need to go back to the “good old days.” What does that really mean? At least in the context of the family, when some speak of “traditional family values,” what they mean is the dad working and the mom staying at home with the kids.  Leave it to Beaver is the model of the true American family, the ways things should be.

Well, I decided I don’t want to be that kind of man.  I want to be a part of my child’s rearing; I want to help change her diapers, feed her during the night, and take her on walks.  If I’m working fifty hours a week, working in the yard, and doing repairs around the house I can’t do as much as that as I want.   So I’m left with a choice, abandon the traditional image of what being a father looks like in society or miss out on bonding opportunities with my daughter.  Sure, many traditionalists are going to question my status as a good man because I don’t do all the things they expect me to do (work, work, work), but so be it. 

You may be wondering what this has to do with feminism—everything!  It was/is the feminists who continually challenge the status quo, the ways things “used to be,” the good old days.  It’s feminists who point out that a patriarchal society only works for the men.  It’s the feminists who say it’s ok for me to be the father I want to be.  Think about that, I as a man am actually reaping the reward from the hard work of thousands of women over the years who have sought the end of a patriarchal society of “traditional family values.” 

More so, I have the assurance that I can encourage my daughter as she grows  up to do whatever she sets her mind to—no need to worry that only certain careers open to her or that she’ll automatically be considered lower than a man is intellect and capability.  Yes, there still is far too much gender discrimination, but I’m thankful for how far we’ve come.

So, thanks to all the feminists and others who struggle to change the status quo! I fully support you and am with you as we continue to work to bring equality and opportunity to all people.