Tag Archives: america

Because it’s too complex and long for a hashtag. Black Lives Matter. Yes All Women. The Mockingjay Lives.

27 Nov

It’s Thanksgiving in the year 2014 (by a certain reckoning) and I live in a world where people behead other people. Seriously! Beheading! I live in a world where women are scared to be women. Where people with darker skin get shot at and killed. Where shooting and killing other people is often considered (and then demonstrated) to be ok.

I want to live in a world where humanity is free to discuss the exciting stories of our times. “Hey! There’s a new Star Wars teaser trailer coming out tomorrow!!” “Star Wars Episode 7: The One Where Han Solo is Old.” “Have you all seen the brilliant Mockingjay (part 1) yet?”

In one corner of my Facebook newsfeed people are discussing how the cops in Boston are pretty good and that being afraid of them doesn’t make too much sense. In another corner a friend of mine posted about their experience peacefully protesting and being forcefully pulled across a barrier and then arrested by Boston police. They’re pretty good though and being afraid of them doesn’t make too much sense. Maybe I read too much Facebook.

We are human beings. We ought to live in a humane world. I like to start from there because it’s the ultimate purpose behind things. The goal isn’t “just” equality. We are human beings. We ought to live in a humane world.

We ought to live in a world where it is never ok to shoot another human being. We ought to live in a world where everyone is encouraged to be who they are and given the support they need. We are human beings. We ought to live in a humane world.

Theoretically, we tell stories because they help us learn and grow. Well told stories can inform us about being human, and about how we can work towards that humane world that we all ought to be living in. I want to talk about the story of The Hunger Games, I don’t want to live it. Heck, the point of telling The Hunger Games is to show us all how to avoid living it.

And yet… here we are.

We ought to live in a humane world. Katniss is a hero because she is deeply human. She is powerfully humane in even the most inhumane and cruel circumstances. She is not a hero because she kills other people. She is not a hero because she can fight well. Indeed, when she fights and kills she becomes less human.

We need more empathy and less fear. We need to remember not just to love our friends and our families, but every human being. Every. Single. One. Even the ones who behave inhumanely.

Happy Thanksgiving. May the odds be ever in our favor, and The Force be with us. Especially since it’s waking up.

Advertisements

Hope and Change

24 Jan

Obama saw Brown’s victory as a mirror-image of his own: “The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry, and they’re frustrated, not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.”
It seems the secret to getting elected, especially if you want to capture my generation’s vote (which numerically is often necessary if we’re voting at all) is convincing us that you will change what’s come before and what is there now.

How many people do we elect who convince us that they’re going to change things, only to have them not change things, before we become skeptical again and stop caring and voting?

The Least of Three Evils (for MA voters)

13 Jan

In Massachusetts, a state where gay marriage is legal, the representatives of the state ought to believe that gay marriage being legal is a good thing, right? Joe Kennedy is sort of for gay marriage, but only in that the government shouldn’t really have a say and that churches ought to be allowed to decide for themselves. Scott Brown believes marriage is between a man and a woman.

Viewed through this lens Martha Coakley is the only viable candidate. But Martha reeks of standard party-line politician, and I hate the party system. Nearly everything she says seems like it was pulled from the “how to be a democrat 2010” handbook. Maybe she believes it all, but it all reads and seems like it’s just politics. It seems like she says things because they are the-things-you-say-to-get-people-who-believe-what-I-believe-to-vote-for-you, and not because they are her true beliefs.

Aside from gay marriage, what I want from my government is the, well, the governance, that will lead us to a humane world. Everyone wants a humane world. We’re human beings. We ought to have a humane world. That said, the three areas which I think are most important for a humane world – Health Care, Education, and the Environment – are all poorly represented by these three would-be-representatives.

Joe Kennedy is by far the most realistic candidate of the three. His website shows that he’s familiar with bills currently under review by the legislature, and that he understands what the job he’s applying for actually is: he’ll be reading a lot of complicated bills written in legalese. He’ll be writing other bills, filing bills, and voting on bills. That’s it. Promises like

“Martha will fight to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to housing, education, health care, and employment opportunities”

or

“I believe we ought to strengthen our border enforcement and institute an employment verification system with penalties for companies that hire illegal immigrants (Scott)”

are un-detailed statements of large scope essentially beyond anything that a senator can actually do and they do little to convince me that Scott or Martha are actually aware of what the job is (odd for Scott, who is already a state senator). Joe Kennedy is, at least from the impressions he’s given, trustworthy. He makes his share of un-detailed statements of large scope too, like “I believe we must promote free trade and peace” (who doesn’t?) but he also includes detailed ideas about what bills he’s going to write and file, and how he’s going to vote on current ones. Unfortunately he seems to be wrong about Health Care, and claims to be against both income and sales taxes, which sounds nice but does beg the question of where he expects the government to get any money at all. China?

Like Joe, Scott is also wrong about Health Care. Both of them vehemently oppose the current Health Care bill (although only Joe claims to have actually read it) but neither of them provide any workable alternatives. The bottom line is that we absolutely have to change our Health Care system. It’s awful. It’s inhumane and utterly embarrassing that a country claiming to be civilized doesn’t provide healthcare to all of its residents. While Martha is at least vowing to support the reform the Obama Administration is hoping to pass, she doesn’t seem to be aware that it doesn’t go nearly far enough and that while changing what we have is extremely important (so important that we must change it even if it’s only for the sake of change), changing it into something which treats health care as the humane right that it is is even more important.

None of them seem to understand this.

Martha is also weak on education, seemingly pleased with the foundation of “No Child Left Behind” stating that it just needs “several reforms” in order to “deliver the changes students deserve.” This is, of course, ridiculous. Joe thinks we should abolish “No Child Left Behind” as well as the Federal Department of Education and instead let each state innovate their own educational systems. It might work… it might not, but at least it’s an acknowledgement that our education system is in need of truly radical reform, something neither of the other two candidates seem to know. Scott is politically vague about education, saying he is “passionate about improving the quality of our public schools” (who isn’t?) and that he “support(s) choice through charter schools, as well as the MCAS exam as a graduation requirement.” Goodie. Let’s first give them a “choice” about which type of school to go to but then continue using standardized tests as a way to determine the education level of our citizens regardless of which school they chose. Great plan.

Nothing short of a complete redesign of our educational system is good enough. We need a system which acknowledges that each individual student has different interests, different ways of learning, and different levels of understanding which develop at different rates. Anything less is inhumane.

None of them seem to understand this.

As for the environment, here’s Martha:

“I support common-sense environment policy that will help to reduce pollution and preserve our precious open spaces. I realize that without action now, future generations will be left to clean up the mess we leave.”

Here’s Scott:

“Our planet is in trouble. I believe protecting our environment must be a priority, not only for today but for future generations.”

No, I’m sorry, that’s backwards. The first quote is Scott, not Martha, she’s the second quote. Point is they sound basically interchangeable.

Give Joe points for being different at least:

“I would consider myself an Environmentalist and I am a strong advocate of green initiatives… The Greatest Polluter in America is the US Government.”

I kid (a bit) about the similarity of Scott and Martha here but give Martha credit for at least being thorough and detailed and stating that “climate change is one of the most pressing moral issues of our time.” I’m not sure it’s a moral issue, but it’s certainly pressing. The only thing Scott’s website provides are vague promises and beliefs about the environment and his site doesn’t mention even once global warming or the climate crisis (neither does Joe’s) although I know from the debate that he’s not convinced it’s entirely caused by our actions. Scott says

“I support reasonable and appropriate development of alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal and improved hydroelectric facilities”

as if there’s someone who doesn’t. Way to say nothing. I support the sky being blue. I support wheels being round.

Look, we can’t have a humane world if the planet our world is on is sick. It’s really more important than anything else. It doesn’t matter how well educated we are, how healthy, how safe, how peaceful, how anything, if our planet is sick.

None of them seem to understand this, though Martha comes out as the strongest of the three here if only because she’ll support the progress that the Obama Adminstration is trying to make in this regard.

So I’m genuinely stumped here. I have no idea which of these three represent the least of the three evils. I’ve read and heard that a lot of people are voting for Scott simply because he opposes the current party that’s in power. This is true, he does, but he represents the other party. Checks and balances aren’t supposed to work the way the party system works. If you really want to elect someone who is going to ensure that one party isn’t in control, vote for Joe. But is that even a good reason to vote? If I truly don’t want any of these people to represent me, shouldn’t I not vote for them? Isn’t that how a democracy is supposed to work? Votes are our way of saying “yes, I agree with you. You represent me.” Isn’t there more to you than just “I oppose large government” or “I oppose the currently-in-power party”?

How about “I support a humane world with an effective government”? I’d vote for the one who could back that up with details about how they’re going to do it.

What, drawn, and talk of peace!?

15 Oct

Recently the President of the United States of America won the Nobel Peace Prize. You probably heard.

I read and saw many responses (Garrison Keilor’s, for example) talking of “the republicans” or “conservatives” as if they are a unified group that exists for the sole purpose of hating the current president. They are not. They are individual people. I read and saw many responses referring to what “some people” think and say without naming or identifying these people in any way. Most of the things I saw and read ended with a viewpoint, a takeaway, so that I would know what to think and feel about the President’s award. We are all individuals.

Let’s talk to each other and not about each other.

The purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize, as written by Alfred Nobel in his will, is to honor “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

The winner of the prize, if there is to be one (the prize statutes say that if there is no suitable living candidate, the prize is not awarded that year), is determined by (again, per Nobel’s will) “a committee of five persons to be elected by the Norwegian Storting.”

So all emotional responses aside, what happened was this: Five people (chairman Thorbjorn Jagland, Kaci Kullmann Five, Sissel Marie Rønbeck, Inger-Marie Ytterhorn, and Ågot Valle) in Norway decided that, out of 205 nominees, nobody had done more to be a “champion of peace” this past year than Barack Obama.

In response, Republican chairman Michael Steele said that “It is unfortunate that the president’s star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights. One thing is certain – President Obama won’t be receiving any awards from Americans for job creation, fiscal responsibility, or backing up rhetoric with concrete action.”

It’s a response I don’t understand. What is the value of such a response? What is the purpose of it?

It seems to say that Michael Steele doesn’t feel the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the right person. He feels it was undeserved, but neglects to suggest who did deserve it. He also feels that Americans agree with him, although I’m an American and I do not (Nor, it seems, does John McCain, who says that “Americans are always pleased” when their President is awarded. I guess he knows different Americans than his party’s chairperson?).

Michael Steele, you’re a human being, so I can talk to you directly. I can ask you, because I do not understand, what is the purpose of responding in this way? What is the value? Is anything positive accomplished? The purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize is to honor people who champion peace. The purpose of this response seems to be the opposite.

Look, I’m not saying it’s unfair to feel like, perhaps, someone who had accomplished more (if there were such a person) would be more deserving. That’s true, and it’s a sentiment that Obama himself agrees with. “Let me be clear,” he said, “I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.” He went on to say that he felt he didn’t deserve it, but that he accepted it as a call to action.

The purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize is to honor champions of peace. It’s a good purpose. It’s a purpose fulfilled by the 2009 award. Feeling proud as an American, feeling hope that we are moving humanity towards a more non-violent world, helps to fulfill that purpose. Anything that can be done to further that purpose is good for humanity. Why do anything less?