Tag Archives: human rights

Danger Zone of Blind Devotion

web-trump-gun-get“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue [New York] and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” he said. “It’s, like, incredible.” Donald Trump – January, 2016

This is NOT an anti-Trump post, though there is no doubt how I feel about the man.  He is an obnoxious racist, sexist, arrogant megalomaniac who lacks any diplomatic savvy, respect or decorum.  And it is NOT an anti-gun spiel.  I’m not anti gun. I just believe in rational restrictions on them.

This is about something different.  Something that it took his latest tyrade comment to bring to light.  Allow his comment to sink in for just a bit.  Really sink in.  He could stand on 5th Avenue and shoot someone and not lose voters.  There is no disclaimer about self defense, no reason given.  Just that he could shoot any unnamed person on a city street and not lose voters.  Is it beginning to sink in yet?  Take Trump’s face out of the picture and replace it with any other politician, then put the words back in.   “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue [New York] and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters, It’s, like, incredible.”

The thing that frightens me is that I believe he is far too accurate in his statement for my comfort.  Not because of “him”, but because this country that has prided itself on independence, freedom, originality, would BLINDLY follow ANY leader, potential leader.  Tossing aside their beliefs, their morals, their common sense.  That so many could applaud and cheer a man after making such a statement.

Now, please don’t tell me it was in jest.  Maybe it was.  But, there was truth in his words.  And it is the truth that should make us step back and take a good long look at what we have become as a people.  That we have gone from a people that honors and touts virtuous behavior, being a champion for good and equality in the world, being the innovative front runners, being educational and science pioneers.  We didn’t achieve these things in our past by blindly following the Reality Show flavor of the month.  We did so by NOT following a self proclaimed messiah.

Oh, we have had small factions surface with blind devotees.  Scientologists, Jonestown, etc.  And they should serve as a reminder to us of what comes of following such people.  First, the death of the spirit, then the death of freedom, then just death.

Orazco-MassesNow, as much as many would like to hang this around Trump’s neck, the reality is that he has simply brought to light a phenomenon that has been taking place in our society for quite some time.  And he is not alone in claiming the reprehensible of the presidential nominees.  We have one that has actually bragged that he tried to attack his own mother with a hammer, that he knifed a fellow student in school.  A few that would set Christianity as the national religion.  In this land of Jews and Christians and Muslims and Buddhists and Pagans and Atheists and everything else.  In this melting pot, they would make a single dish.

When you add to that the extremes at both ends of the spectrum, the militant combativeness of one side, the don’t say anything that might be uncomfortable to anyone’s ears on the other, it is not surprising that we are seeing the rise of extreme characters in the forums.  I have even heard that there are university campuses where free speech zones are in small isolated areas, professors are being forced to not teach areas of a subject because a student has a problem with the subject.  Colleges and universities should be a place for debating difficult subjects and not liking a historical event doesn’t negate that it happened.  And then we have the other end which takes up armed occupations of federal lands and believes the meaning of religious freedom is the ability to impose your religious beliefs on everyone else.

It kind of feels like most of the country has regressed to childhood tantrums between the bullies and the cry babies.  Common sense has just been tossed out the window.  The lines have been drawn deeply between us and not a one will allow for any blurring of those lines so that we might open a thoughtful discussion, even a loud and shouting one that can lead to some constructive movement.  We needn’t give up who we are, what we believe in, to live together.  It isn’t necessary for our neighbors to share in our beliefs.  In truth, if we but open our minds and hearts a little, we might see the color they bring to our world.  Their form of worship, or lack of, only poses a threat to yours if you create one.  And as you would fight should they try and deprive you of your right to live according to your mores and interests, so should you refrain from imposing yours upon them.

obedience-300x238Saviors are a false delusion.  In most instances, they become a very dangerous delusion that lead us into destruction.  History is riddled with volumes of examples of such people.  And, as I stated earlier, as much as I would like to hang the villain tag around Trump’s neck, the truth is that it could be anyone that has elicited such a following.  Even if they begin with good intents.  The kind of devotion they create births a messiah delusion that will soon infect them as much as it infects its followers.  And absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Every time.

And we don’t need a messiah.  We don’t need someone that we will follow blindly, no matter what they do or have done.  Our “leaders” should be our voices condensed.  They should speak the voice of the people, all the people.  We need to stop listening to their message of fear and hate and remember that we are a people diverse, yet united.  We need to remember that our motto is E Pluribus Unum, Out of the Many, One.  We are an independent and freedom loving people.  We are not followers.  No leader of ours should EVER be followed blindly.  No leader of ours should ever be above question.  Our citizens should never follow blindly.

There is a reason the eagle is our national symbol.  He follows no one blindly.

Eagle-December 30, 2015 Lo-46

 

 

 

 

 

 

SephiPiderWitch
02/01/2016

 

2016 – Connection

Happy New Year 2016 replace 2015 concept on the sea beach

I haven’t quite started this new year off well.  Weeks late on a first post and a couple weeks behind on my weekly photo shots.  Ah well, better late than never.

In closing the book on the old year, it feels good to move forward and hope for the best.  For many, for the world, 2015 had been a very rough year.  People being shot for drawing pictures some found offensive, people being shot for no good reason.  Rivers of hate speech flowing from every corner of the earth, from the pulpits, the media, the high level politicians.  Cries of persecution from the persecutors,   The only right that seems to be protected is the right to hate, to denigrate to second class citizen any who don’t share the beliefs of the bullies.

One would think that by this time we had figured out how to learn from history, but it appears to not be the case.  We  point fingers at one group, yet fail to see those same behaviors in ourselves.  Too blinded by the hate frenzy to see the very human face of the person we will throw under the bus.   Adding fuel to the already blazing inferno, we are in an electronic propaganda war where we are fed snippets that are either partial truths or outright lies.

And this, I believe, is the biggest part of the problem.  We no longer connect.  We no longer touch.   We are too busy looking at our computers, our TV screens, our tablets to see the humans before us, around us, that are us.  We do almost everything from an electronic device.  We get our news from Facebook and Twitter and even the news outlets have gone to a captioned image format.  And, as is the case and purpose of headlines, we are fed bites to incite, inflame, stir.

That has always been the case with the news and many other introductory arenas.  What is different now is that it seems that is all that is consumed before moving on.  There used to be discussions, in the coffee houses, at dinner, at breakfast, at parties and gatherings.   The story was read beyond the headline, the person was questioned beyond the introduction.  Conversation was a vital ingredient.  Understanding the issue was a vital ingredient.  The headline was simply to get your attention.  You were supposed to read further, to seek understanding, knowledge, insight.

I miss long conversations with friends around a table.  I miss long conversations on the phone with a dear friend.  As dated as it makes me, I miss a written correspondence from a friend.  And I miss the e-mail lists where there were discussions on issues, happenings,

People say it is just a sign of the changes of the times.  However, not all changes are good.  And though technology is, for the most part, a good thing, even a good thing misused can become a bad thing.  We read our smart phones and get our news from twitter, have our emotions jarred by memes on Facebook and get our smiles from kitten videos.  If we can’t say it in less than 140 characters, we know no one will trouble themselves to read it.  I actually listened to a man at my writing group the other night say that he kept the chapters in his book to only a few pages because publishers say that is the extent of a reader’s attention span.  Really???  I sincerely hope that is not true.

There have been a number of recent articles on what we have lost with the loss of letter writing.

I found this in the Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/culture/charlottehigginsblog/2012/oct/23/lost-art-letter-writing)

But still… O’Connell quotes this lovely passage from a piece by Catherine Field in the New York Times.

“A good handwritten letter is a creative act, and not just because it is a visual and tactile pleasure. It is a deliberate act of exposure, a form of vulnerability, because handwriting opens a window on the soul in a way that cyber communication can never do. You savor their arrival and later take care to place them in a box for safe keeping.These things, letters we can hold and read over and over again, conversations that inspire, delight, fuel us.”

Words are the keys to our hearts.  They are the cement that bonds people together as they speak and learn and share and understand.  They are a stew pot whose ingredients alone are a bland or harsh side dish, but when combined, form a sustaining meal that will nourish the soul.

You look at the political arena, the News Media, the Pulpit  and from their words believe that we are all galaxies apart.  Aliens living in a segregated landscape that is separated by a vast divide, impossible to cross.  And because we don’t look up from that picture, we buy into it.  We turn from people whose beliefs differ from ours, whose political stand differ from ours.  The reality is that in most cases, if we can step away from those issues that divide and simply extend our hand in friendship, sit down and have a cup of coffee, share stories, and find common ground, we may find in most cases, we aren’t so different.  We may find that we have missed that simple connection of laughing with a new friend.  And blur that edge that a few have set between us to divide us.  It is far more difficult (though not impossible) to hate someone you know than it is to hate a stranger.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.  But, I can hope for a New Year’s solution.  That we add a bit of the old back into the new.  That along with our smart phones and Facebooks and electronic gizmos, that we have a long phone call, take a walk in the woods, catch up with old friends, meet some new ones, some of whom don’t share our beliefs.  Find a divide and cross it.  Our real country motto is, Out of many, one.  We destroy hate when we blur the lines.  We blur the lines when we reach out to each other and touch.  When we touch, the divide goes away and those that would teach hate lose their power.

Holding Hands

Sephi PiderWitch
01/18/2016

 

Gender Blindness

blindersI was listening to a podcast on the way in to work this morning with a panel of trans-gender women.  I found it quite interesting and enlightening and I enjoyed listening to each of them telling of their experiences, viewpoints and the complexities of issues being addressed and needing to be addressed.

There was one of the speakers that brought my thoughts to the subject of this post, which both does and does not have to do with the trans-gender issue.  She was talking about the differences she had noticed in the way that men speak to her since she began to identify as a woman.  Many of these are blatantly obvious to most of us women, but she had the advantage of having identified as a man for much of her life and that gave her the ability to see subtleties that I think often pass our notice.  Many of the things she spoke of, I had never thought of in regards to associating with gender bias, at least not unless they were overtly blatant or said in an inflammatory way.

She spoke of how as a woman she began to notice that she was criticized at a substantially higher rate in forums and on blogs than she was as a man for everything from grammar, spelling, content and tone.  She also made sure to comment to the fact that often the criticism was incorrect.  But, the same content, when posted under her male identity received almost no negative criticism.  She also cited this type of difference in face to face encounters.  She noted that there were times when it was another woman doing the criticizing, but the overwhelming number were men.

The interesting thing about this is that most of what she cited goes unnoticed by most women because it has fallen into a category where it is spoken more politely and does not seem to carry the blatant gender bias of earlier times.  Her gender identity shift gave her a unique perspective on the issue that makes it apparent that though we have come a long way, we still have a long way to go.

I thought about what she had said and translated it to interactions I have seen on social media forums and can see the validity of her claims.  It is quite common to see a male correct a female’s comment and if she challenges it, she often finds herself being called touchy or some other such word.  Yet, on the rare occasion that a female corrects a male, she is often met with derogatory comments about nit picking, being a “grammar nazi” or missing the intent of the post.

The same holds true in face to face encounters.  I can personally count innumerable instances where I have been verbally dismissed or challenged on comments I have made, often in retort to a blatantly incorrect “statement of fact” from another.  Oft times, they are spouting off something they heard or read from a knowingly disreputable source such as some TV show or Facebook and have no understanding of the true mechanisms or reality of a situation or thing.  Yet, when you counter them with actual facts, stated in a way that shows you have a firm understanding of the subject, you are either dismissed or challenged.  Yet, a man can offer an alternative that is as or more outlandish than the original comment, it is accepted as truth.

Granted, it is not as common or as blatant in every situation or with every group that you engage in.  But, it seems that even when dealing with more educated and open minded groups, it is still there.  All that needs be done to confirm this is to ask women working in the sciences or halls of higher learning.  Women are still to this day advised that their papers will carry more weight in the scientific community if there is also a man’s name attached to it.  Not always, but enough to add credence to the point.

At any rate, listening to this transgender woman was fascinating.  Because, through “her” eyes, she could offer what neither man nor woman could possibly offer.  And that was the truly dual perspective.  It isn’t often that someone can say they have walked a mile in your footsteps, but this seems to be an interesting and unexpected knowledge base coming out of this unusual segment of our population.  To see the world from both sides now.  Of course, we must first learn to listen.  That, could present a problem.

SephiPiderWitch
10/08/2015

 

The Inquisition of Cecile

720x405-GettyImages-490528966It was very hard to watch and listen to the Congressional Hearing with Cecile Richards.  The whole thing was reminiscent of the videos I have seen of the McCarthy Hollywood communist trials.  Ms. Richards was badgered, derided, accused and verbally assaulted for five hours.  Granted, there were many who came to her defense, to the defense of Planned Parenthood and women’s right to choose their health provider.  I am glad for that as I felt that did help in giving her strength.

One of the things that resonated strongly in my mind as I listened to these people grilling and commenting was the complete lack of understanding of women’s needs and healthcare they seemed to possess.  She was accused of lying because the Planned Parenthood site says mammograms is an offered service and they send women who need them to an imaging center.  I was stunned over this one.  Every clinic that I know of sends you out to an imaging center.  Same for ultrasound and CAT scans.  Its not financially feasible for them to have those expensive units.  They won’t pay for themselves.  The ignorance of this fact was just mind boggling.

Then there was the diatribe from Mia Love of Utah where she said she didn’t see any reason the dollars sent to Planned Parenthood couldn’t be sent somewhere else instead.  I guess she doesn’t think it matters that women trust Planned Parenthood, trust their work, their history, their care.  That many doctors and clinics will turn patients away that are on Medicaid because they don’t want to deal with it.  That many don’t even trust those establishments.  It really and truly pains me to see women also stepping up on this bandwagon.  I suppose the flaw is in me in that I expect a woman to understand such matters better.

One of the larger contentions many had with Ms. Richards was the salary she receives.  There are many instances when I have an issue with the massive salaries a CEO receives.  Cecile is one of a handful of exceptions.  She has fought tirelessly for the rights of people to free or low cost reproductive care.  She has fought the media, the legal system.  I am sure that there are few places where she can go and not fear for her life.  I can’t imagine there are very many people who would have hung in with such a position given the climate she is forced to work in.  She is worth every . . . . single . . . . penny of that salary.

And I must make note of one of the most shining, though highly under-reported aspect of this hearing/witchhunt.  During all the badgering, all the verbal assaults, all the irrelevant questions and interrogations, Cecile remained calm.  She remained polite.  She remained well spoken.  And she remained honest.  There were times when you could see the wear it was having on her.  But, she drew from an inner strength that I would lay money few, if any, of her accusers possessed.  She didn’t waver, she didn’t cower, she didn’t wave the white flag.  She was a champion.  She was our champion.

I do understand that there are people that have moral and personal issues with abortion, with birth control, with reproductive freedom and sexuality choices.  I also understand and know first hand that there are at least as many that will have moral and personal issues with many of those people’s choices and beliefs.  Its called personal freedom.  Yes, as voters you should have a say in how your tax dollars are spent.  However, and somewhere this seems to be getting lost from the discussion, YOU are NOT the only ones that pay taxes.  There are at least as many that pay taxes that stand in support of organizations such as Planned Parenthood.  Your choices do not cancel their’s.  And even if your taxes have a greater total, I am sure that their’s are sufficient to pay the 500 million that PP gets in Medicaid reimbursement.  Not for abortions, but for Medicaid approved procedures.

The major claim of fury in these so called investigations is due to the fact that a small percentage of facilities allowed the women to donate the fetal tissue.  For this, Planned Parenthood received a minimal payment ranging from $30 to $100 that barely covered the cost of obtaining, preserving, transporting and providing the proper paperwork.  I don’t even need to understand the full work involved in the transport of these tissues to realize there was no money made off of these transactions at these prices.  I am willing to bet that there was actually a loss.

The reality is that all of our lives are what they are today as a result of fetal tissue research.  “This tissue has helped to develop vaccines for a wide range of diseases, including polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis A and B,shingles and rabies.” (http://www.webmd.com/brain/news/20150929/fetal-tissue-research)    We have been using them since the 1930’s.  Its only an issue now because Planned Parenthood’s name has been attached to it in an illegal effort to discredit them and put them out of business.  The interesting thing is that many Republicans, these same people interrogating Cecile, passed, by large majorities bills allowing embryonic stem cell research.  But then, those cells did not come from Planned Parenthood, they came from fertility centers and surplus fetuses.

Oh, do read that again.  Surplus fetuses.  Those are okay to destroy and use for research.  Because they were created for the purpose of making more babies.  Mostly for the wealthy.  War veterans who come home injured in ways that prevent them from reproducing are denied fertility benefits from their military medical insurance.  There’s an awful lot of hypocrisy going on here, don’t you think?

They scream about life being “sacred”, all lives matter, etc.  They show this by not mandating paid maternity leave (We are the ONLY industrialized nation that does not, and the other two that do not are Papua New Guinea and Suriname).  We deny women equal pay for equal work.  We cut early childhood education, free lunches, etc.  We deride “welfare moms”, yet will allow her employer to deny her the right to be covered for birth control on her insurance.  61% of women who have an abortion already have 1 or 2 children.  They understand the cost, the responsibility, the burden that comes with bringing a child into the world.  They understand that once that child is born, they will be the ONLY one looking out for it.  Many understand that they will be the only source of support for that child.  They know these same people who are fighting so hard to take their reproductive freedoms away will do nothing to help them shoulder this responsibility.

RapeWe live in a world where 1 in 4 women is sexually assaulted in her lifetime,  and estimated 20% of women were molested as a child, a country where 31 states in which a rapist can sue for visitation and custody.  Women are fed drugs in their drinks at parties, dinners, restaurants to make them compliant or unable to resist.  A world where, even with all the strides that have been made, we still only make 77 cents on the dollar a man makes.

Behind BarsWithout the basic ability to control our reproductive freedom, we become trapped.  The few doors of opportunity open to us begin to close.  The inability to receive health care within our means  endangers our lives, our health.  And it should never be up to the lawmakers to decide whom we confide in for our healthcare decisions.  No man has his choices made by the lawmakers.

istock_000012424539_full_3The lawmakers say that there are alternative places to get our health care.  True.  And many will not take Medicaid.  And then there is the change in the ownership of our hospitals and clinics.  It is estimated that 1 in 9 hospitals and clinics are now owned by the Catholic Church.  They are allowed to refuse medical options that are our constitutional right to have because they are a “religious organization”.  Which mean, we cannot have a tubal ligation when we have a C-section.  Men cannot get a vasectomy.  We cannot get the morning after pill if we have been raped.  We cannot get an abortion.  We can’t even get a prescription for birth control.  If we have cancer and are pregnant, they can refuse to terminate the pregnancy to save our life.  Yes, we can take them to court over this, but by the time it is heard, the cancer would have done its job.  Our family can’t even pull the plug if we are terminally ill.  And those numbers are growing.  And it is only a matter of time if the tide doesn’t shift till they carry those rules to also include their homophobic beliefs.  Suddenly, our choices are reduced.  Unless we give up our rights.  Unless we allow others to control our bodies.

1327518210_b72f2ccd1cCecile Richards is one of the best warriors we have defending our rights as women.  Our rights over our bodies.  She does not bend to the establishment.  She fights at every turn to protect the rights we have.  To keep open the doors of an establishment that promises, has always promised to believe in women to be able to make their own choices.

The reality is that there is no biblical standing to back this anti choice stance.  Even if there was, we have that separation of church and state.  They have no more right to impose the dictates of their imaginary friends or gods on me than I have to impose the dictates of my imaginary friends and gods on them.  And I can promise, mine can be pretty scary!  At any rate, there is nothing to back up their claims other than the desire to control over half the population.  For it is a fact that that controlling women’s sexuality is the biggest key factor to the subjugation of those women.  There really is no high moral ground involved here.  Its a base attempt to put women in their place.  Its a witch hunt against one of our greatest champions.

I think I shall end this post at this time.  Though I am sure this will be far from the end of what I have to say on this subject.  That said, I shall finish with this.  I will and have always stood with Planned Parenthood.  As we all should.
standwithpp-wvpa

 

 

The Common Thread

SpiderwebWatching the news feed nowadays, it seems like the stream of legislated hate, sermonized intolerance, surveillance and just downright abuse from those in power never ends.  And it becomes overwhelmingly accepted due to a highly organized onslaught of carefully wrought ad campaigns to make the infringements seem “reasonable”.  Or by identifying one group or another as a fringe group to be feared or less deserving.  Individually, its scary.  Put together, its downright terrifying.

Each group, each faction that is under attack (almost entirely from the radical right and money barons) has a legitimate claim to the bias and bigotry thrown at them.  I sympathize with pretty much all of them.  It seems that if you are not a white christian of devout/hypocritical  (if ignorant knowledge of the bible) beliefs who votes a straight Republican ticket, then you are placed into any of a number of buckets for derision.  And the problem is, not only are they united in their war tactics, not only do they have the finances to keep feeding into their hate campaigns and propaganda wars, but they also have brilliantly divided the rest of us.

Yes, there is an assault on gay rights, but it is more than that.  Yes, there is a war on women, but it is more than that.  Yes, there is an attack on the elderly, the poor, the infirm, the weakest among us, the military (once they have served their use to those in power), but it is more than that.  Yes, there is a war on science, on critical thinking, on free thought, on education, but it is more than that.  And yes, there is a war on any religious or non-religious belief that counters theirs, but it is more than that.

The problem is that in each of these things, we have allowed lines to be drawn so that we are only fighting a piece of the battle.  We see them as unique and stand alone issues that are unrelated to the others.  We align ourselves in one or two camps and give no energy to the rest.  And that divides us and weakens us.  And though all of those battles are real, they are only one scene out of the whole picture.

The whole thing hit me when a friend made a comment on a post the other day.  I had made similar comments before, but it took it coming from someone else for the light bulb to fully go off.  Every one of these things is a Human Rights Violation.  Every. Single. One.

And it seems to me that when you put it in this light, you begin to see just how monumentally massive this situation is.  Its almost too much to process when you finally look at it.  Its so much easier to just deal with the individual bubbles.  But, all that will do is maybe, if we are lucking, permit a temporary freedom for one of the bubbles.  And build a further wall of separation as the side that has scored the win shields themselves from the rest believing to do otherwise may endanger the liberty they just acquired.  But, that is a false hope at the very least, as the LGBT community is learning, as the minorities have learned, as women have learned, as so many have learned.

Taking a woman’s right to make decisions about her body and her health away from the sanctity of her and her doctor is a Human Rights Violation.  Enforcing junk science in place of real science to further a political agenda is a Human Rights Violation.  You have the right to make whatever decision you wish based on your personal belief on your body, your health, your choices.  You do NOT have the right to impose those beliefs on others.  You do NOT have the right to rewrite laws to target an industry unfairly and in direct conflict of years of evidence that proves it is unwarranted as have been imposed on countless women’s clinics in this country.  That’s a Human Rights Violation.

You cannot open a public establishment where access is made via public streets paid for by taxpayers, receive tax credits and enjoy the benefits of a public business owner and refuse to serve someone based on their color, their religion, their gender preference.  Hospitals that are owned by religious establishments do not have the right to impose their church’s rules on the treatment and disclosure of information to patients.  The moment they take insurance payments from the general community, accept patients from the secular community and enjoy the tax benefits granted from the government, they have given up that right.  If they choose to serve the general population, it is their duty to set aside their personal and religious beliefs as far as it regards the people they serve.  The same goes for a pharmacist, a nurse, a psychologist.  Anything less is a Human Rights Violation.

Prayer has no place being part of the public school curriculum.   Nor does religious mythology such as creationism.   Religious indoctrination groups have no place on a public school campus.  This is not discrimination against Christians.  It is protection for people of all faith, and of no faith.  It is also protection for Christians of varying denominations.  The Ten Commandments are discriminatory of non-Christians and have no place on a court house or public building.  They are pushing an ideology that is unconstitutional and a Human Rights Violation.

You cannot serve in a public office where you seek to impose your religious beliefs on your constituency.  That is called a Theocracy.  Something the founding fathers were adamantly opposed to.  Our constitution was not founded on religious principles and Moses was not one of the founding fathers.  Any person who takes an oath of public office is bound to serve ALL the people and to insure that all people are treated fairly.  For they are Servants of the people, not the rulers of them.  We gave those up when we fought the American Revolution.  They may hold those beliefs and apply them to their own life and their own personal choices.  They may not force them onto someone that may not share their belief structure or make them a part of the governing laws.

Additionally, the police are servants of the people.  Not a domestic military force.  And as such, they should not be an intimidating presence in our communities, often times inciting the violence they should be preventing.  They need to be a part of the community, not an overseeing force.  Violence needs to be far more of a last resort than it has been.  Anything less is a Human Rights Violation.

Imposing unnecessary laws and obstacles to disenfranchise votes and make it harder or costly for citizens to cast their vote is a Human Rights Violation.  We have the right, as citizens, to participate in our electoral process.  In truth, we have a duty.  And we should not be dissuading citizens from voting.  We should not be looking for excuses to disallow their vote, impose unnecessary and discriminatory regulations to minimize the counts.  We need to make it easier, to educate the citizenry of their civil duty, understanding their rights and the constitution.  As it is written, not as some attempt to redefine it.  We need to strive not to have lower voter turnout, but to do whatever is needed to have as high of a voter turnout as is possible.  Only then will we have a true government of the people, by the people and for the people.  Anything less is a Human Rights Violation.

Selling off or leasing off the sacred and tribal lands of our Indigenous People is without a doubt a Human Rights Violation.  Denial of the scientific held belief of Climate Change is your right.  But, continuing practices that are known to be substantial contributors to it, thereby affecting the majority of the population who do not share in your belief is a Human Rights Violation.  As is Fracking, which is poisoning ground water, most probably causing earthquakes and creating a toxic environment for all life is a Human Rights Violation.  So is the attempt to place ownership on the clean waters of the world and the spraying of chemicals with sufficient probable causation of things like the decline in bee populations and new cancers.

I am not, nor will I ever be a “Politically Correct” person.  I believe in freedom of speech.  I believe in it wholly including the belief that I must also defend speech that I find offensive.  I believe that people have the right to hate, though I don’t understand why anyone would make such a choice.  I believe they have the right to practice any religion they wish.  To live their lives by their own principles and morals, regardless of whether I or anyone else shares them.  The line gets drawn, however, when they encroach on the rights of others, when they try and pass laws limiting the freedoms of those who don’t share their beliefs.  When it goes beyond freedom of speech, freedom of religion outside of their personal life, then it has crossed the line from “your” freedom into someone else’s.  It is not a discrimination against your religion when you are prohibited from discrimination.  If you don’t wish to be in their presence, you can simply cloister yourself in your home.  But, outside the doors of your home, your church, they have just as much right to be, to function, to thrive as you do.

I am sorry, but if you don’t want to administer birth control, don’t become a pharmacist.  If you want your child to pray in class, put them in a religious school (which needs to also give up its tax exempt status as well as that status is a form of government sponsorship).  If you don’t want to kill a stranger, don’t enlist in the military or the police.  Its just common sense.  When you enter these areas, you must accept that these things go hand in hand with the job.  That you are accepting them as part of the job description.  You have the “right” to choose another path.  If you cannot live up to the requirements of your job without imposing your personal beliefs onto others, you should choose another path.  Because your freedom cannot be bought at the expense of another’s.

Yes, each of these and more are, on their own, their own separate issue, but they are each of them also part of a greater whole.  For every one of them is a Human Rights Violation.  They must each be joined by this common thread in order for them to achieve the united front that is needed to make real change.  None of the individual groups hold enough power, enough votes to make more than a temporary change, in constant danger the moment they glance the wrong way.  Too many factions dismiss “women’s rights”, “gay rights”, “minority rights”, “religious rights (other than Christian)”, etc.  But, if all of these people keep pounding on the table and stating over and over its a Violation of their Human Rights, it makes it slowly harder for them to chip away.  It removes the wall between the gays and the women and the minorities and the atheists and the nones and all the rest.  Its a Violation of Human Rights.  Period.  And the Violations need to stop.  Now.  Erase the lines and grab the common thread.  Because we all want the same thing.  Basic. Human. Rights.

 

Paving the Road Towards Theocracy

church-and-state“The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian Religion.” 1797, The Treaty of Tripoli, initiated by President Washington, signed by President John Adams, and approved by the Senate of the United States

From the beginning, our Founding Fathers were adamant about the separation of church and state.  Not just the agnostic ones, not just the questionably atheist ones, but all of them.  Not because they were against religion, not because they wanted to suppress people’s religious rights, not because they wanted to wage war on Christmas.  But, because they were truly wise men who understood that there needed to be a clear and distinct line drawn between the two.  They understood that history has always shown that Theocracies to be the most oppressive forms of government.

Currently, almost all of the existent theocracies are Islamic with the exception being The Vatican City being Christian/Catholic.  But, those are enough to paint a picture of the consequences of such governments in the modern world.  In history, you have the Mayans, the Egyptian Pharaohs, China, and the divine rule of Europe.  Every one of these governments is a horror show of elitism, bloodshed, slavery, torture and subjugation of its people.

For even in a country where there is a shared religion, quite often there are still variations on those religions, areas of disagreement, application, fundamentalism.  And it is predominately in the realm of fundamentalism that things can get taken to the extreme.  The word itself defines taking those religious texts to their literal extremes.  And any delusions that a Christian theocracy would be any less oppressive shows that one is not listening to the political demands of the Religious Right or any true reading of the scriptures.  Since so many of them are so fond of quoting laws of Leviticus, it would be suggested that one’s research begin there.  I doubt Shariah law can hold a candle to the laws in this book.  Leviticus prohibits eating fat, eating blood, touching an unclean animal, bringing unauthorized fire before god (which begs the question, where does one get fire authorization from?), drinking alcohol in holy places (so much for Catholics), having sex with your mother, sister, granddaughter, etc. (well, there are some that make sense).  It is from this same set of laws/rules that they draw their anti-gay rhetoric from.  It also acknowledges life to begin when it has breathed life.  In the womb, the bible only treats it as a property loss and subject to such penalties if lost in an act of violence.

The beliefs of our founding fathers have been the subject of debate for as long as I can remember.  It is known that at least 1/3 of the signers of our Constitution were Masons, a secret fraternity whose origins could be traced to the church, but also with magic and secret rituals.  Reading many of the writings of the founding fathers does cast much illumination on their beliefs.  Some of these men were strongly religious, and yet others were one step removed from atheism, if they were not in silent embrace of it.  Simply read the writings of Jefferson (a man who created his own bible by removing all the supernatural passages from the new Testament and clipping it down to what he believed were the essential teachings of Jesus.  In truth, many of the founding fathers spoke and wrote in words that showed their staunch position regarding the complete separation of church and state.     Although none of the founding fathers were out of the closet atheists, or even agnostic, the writings of many of them shows that many of them almost certainly were.

“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.” ~~ Thomas Jefferson – Letter to the Danbury Baptists, January 1, 1802

Regardless of whether they were Christian, Atheist or anything between those, the fact remains that they held the universal belief in the absolute separation between church and state, the free exercise of religion, all religions and no religion, to belong to the individual and to have no place in the government of a free republic.  Even the most Christian president this country has had, Jimmy Carter, believes that there should be a clear and distinct separation between church and state.

And even granting that there has always been debate as to the meaning of the text of the first amendment, that it does not explicitly call out a wall between Church and State, the Supreme Court has always found on what is obvious of the intent of the authors, that there should be a separation.  That you cannot have the free exercise of religion, regardless of religion, if that separation does not exist.  And that said exercise is an individual right, not a state or government right.

And the problem with allowing that line to blur, to fall into question, opens the door to insert religious morality and laws into the government.  The Comstock laws of the Victorian period in this country were so restrictive that even medical texts that showed nudity or the reproductive organs were deemed to be lewd and pornographic.  Most people would find most of these to be ridiculous.  But, what many don’t understand is that these laws are still on the books.  The saving grace has been the Miller Test by the Supreme Court for determining if something can be considered to be “pornography”.  Because this is a subjective test based on who is seated on the court and the lawmakers in power, what is currently allowed as freedom of the press, art, freedom of expression can be quickly changed.  In fact, there have been politicians running for as high as the office of the president that have vowed to enforce the anti-pornography laws on the books.  Those laws are the Comstock laws.

Move forward to the McCarthy era where hundreds of people were questioned and suspect for being “communist sympathizers”, mostly artists and people in the film industry.  Yet, like all true persecutions, anyone that was an annoyance to those behind this witch hunt could find themselves under scrutiny.  One of the results of this period was the addition of “In God We Trust” on our money and “Under God” added to the pledge of allegiance.  Prior to these proceedings in the early 1950’s, these words did not appear on our currency or in the pledge.  And we have now allowed them to be so firmly ingrained in those that most people believe they have always been there.  Even more so, they believe that a person is a traitor if they refrain from speaking the added line, threatening a kid in school for it and taken disciplinary action against them.

“Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814

Enter the current time and we have politicians not just espousing their religious beliefs as supposedly guiding them, but making statements that this country was founded on Christian principles and is a Christian nation.   They strive to insert god into the classroom, teach religious doctrine as science and deny any science that interferes with their goals.  And they take it to levels of absurdity that makes one wonder how any sane person can buy what they are selling.  There is the congressman who says that climate change can’t happen because humans can’t change what god created, a rape pregnancy is a “blessing from god”, homosexuals should be put to death, etc.  They have granted religious rights to for profit corporations, seek to legalize discrimination, just to name a few of  their latest trends.

“Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law.”  ~~ Thomas Paine – The Rights of Man, 1791-1792

Keeping the bible out of politics, out of our government is not a war on Christianity.  The truth is that it is as supportive of Christianity as it is for all religions.  In fact it is tantamount to having freedom.  Our constitution was not based on the bible, as has often been said.  Yet, we find ourselves being herded further and further into the pen of a theocracy.  Even in the face of the statistics that state that fewer and fewer people consider themselves religious.  Yet, it seems they are still afraid of having that non-believer finger pointed at them and step in line.  Our politicians now go out of their way to espouse their religious convictions, denying science, promising to uphold bigotry, intolerance and greater separation of the classes.  With each election, it seems we are stepping one step closer to that Theocracy.

“The civil government … functions with complete success … by the total separation of the Church from the State.”
James Madison ~ Writings, 1819

Keeping religion out of government does not in any way restrict or prohibit anyone’s religious freedom.  It, in fact, is the only way to protect those freedoms.  We may or may not agree with all that a secularist government protects, but it protects on the basis of personal freedom, common sense and the inclusion of all of its members.  Its what the Founding Fathers intended.  And it works brilliantly until we attempt to tamper with its mechanisms.  For the reality is, if there is not freedom for all, there truly is not freedom for any.

I believe “their” words could not be any clearer.

“If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.”
George Washington ~~ Letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia, May 1789

SephiPiderWitch 01/05/2015

 

 

 

The Silencing of Justice

ProtestIt was another day, another failure to indict a cop for the killing of a citizen.  There are protests taking place all over the country.  Thankfully, most of them seem to be more peaceful this time than the ones in Fergusen.  I have been feeling the need to express how I feel about all of this and struggling to find the words or know where to even begin.

First, I think I need to say that I am not going to approach this from making a statement as to the guilt or innocence of any of the parties involved.  What we know of the situations is what we are given by the media.  And information from the media is always, always tainted to whatever they feel will sell the most papers, glean the highest ratings.   So, I am not going to focus on whether any of these men were guilty, innocent or even venture a guess to who held and to what extent they held any culpability in the events.

My biggest concern is what has happened, or rather not happened, in the aftermath of these killings.  Because, killings happen every day.  They happen in the home, they happen on the streets, and they happen at the hands of “public servants”.   And I think that is the main area where my concern lays.  Because, I found the need to put public servants in quotation marks.  For it seems they no longer seem to feel that they are public servants.  Its become a systemic problem, starting from the bottom and continuing all the way to the highest ranks in Congress.  And the reality is that both sides need to take responsibility for this breakdown.

One cannot argue that police are capable of abusing the power of their uniforms.  This has been a problem probably since the first creation of a police department.  Its a position of power, and there are always those that will abuse it.  The question is, is it worse now than it has ever been.  I’m not sure.  Statistics list that between 500 and 1000 people are killed each year by police.  That number is more than the number of soldiers that were lost in the war in Iraq, more than were lost in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  Departments are not required to submit information about their use of force.  I think that bespeaks a problem.

There are protests continuing around the country.  And to an extent, I feel this is a good thing.  But, where I see the problem is that protests tend to run out of steam.  The cause is often forgotten.  They are not long term fixes for the abuses of power.  Because the abuses are much farther reaching than what the protests are addressing and I believe ignoring the extent will only further erode our rights and freedoms.

Police are almost never charged with abuse of power.  At the very most, the departments are ordered to look at their procedures.  Things clean up for a while.  There may be a few people that lose their jobs.  Politicians no longer tell you what they will do to clean up the abuse on the streets.  They now simply tell you what their opponent did not do, could not accomplish.  And the air waves are full of so many people preaching their own brand of hate, blame, bias and intolerance.    We have politicians trying to insert their own brand of religion into our government and the right to discriminate against anyone that doesn’t fit their brand’s acceptable model.

It seems to be a no win situation.  It makes you want to just bury your head in the sand and never come back out.  To be honest, I have lived through times where such biases were part of everyday life.  I don’t want to again.

Its so easy to point fingers in all of these situations.  To say the police are wrong, to say the victims are wrong, the politicians are wrong, etc.  But, all of us hold a piece of the responsibility in the degradation that is taking place in our society.  Whether it be through acts of hate, or inaction.  We have created the climate.  We are seeing the fruits of those labors.  But, as is generally the case, we seek an immediate answer to a series of problems that have been brewing for years.  But, the change will happen, if it does, the same way we got here.  One step, one change at a time.

I listened to an interesting podcast a few days ago by a man named Bart Campola.  What he said, though it didn’t have anything to do with the current demonstrations, still had much to do with the current demonstrations as well as what has happened to our society.  Its true that we have become and are becoming more and more of a secular society through the years.  That’s not a bad thing, in and of itself.  But, what is a bad thing is that we have released the connection with others in letting go of our beliefs in the supernatural.  And it is through those bonds, those connections that we create community and make change.  We did it in the 60’s and 70’s with the Summers of love, with community projects, outreaches, organizing.  And what change was made during that time!  The embracing of peoples of color, religions, sexuality.  It utterly changed the landscape of the world as we know it in an handful of years.

And then we got busy with other things and forgot about making a better world and thought only about buying a bigger house or where our next vacation was going to be.  We got richer.  We got greedier and we gave up community in exchange for the new and improved American dream.  And it was all about the individual and we forgot we were part of the community of man.

Then the towers fell, Wall Street fell and those in power seized the opportunity to recreate the world in their own image.  We gave up our freedoms for the illusion of safety.  The elected said we will pass this bill to protect the citizens even though we have not read it and they made it so.  And they gave powers to the police they had not had before.  And they gave military equipment to the police, who were not military.  And many believed it good that we were so well protected by these newly re-armed police.  And we put in office people who said they would make government smaller, care for us, represent us.

And we saw our rights erode before our eyes.  And they fed us stories of hatred for our neighbors and our friends.  The gays, the women who wanted control of their bodies, the Muslims, the atheists, the black, the immigrants.  And they brought in the preachers and the speakers from the lower levels to take up the causes.  So, each was only preaching for the rights of their small group.  The black preacher was condemning the gays, the women.  The white preacher was condemning the Muslim, seeding fear of any person of color, damning the gays.  They fractured and they split and they shattered.  And no one knew who to trust.

We made a step with Occupy.  But, it lost its momentum.  I believe this was because there was no real leadership in it.  That was one of the primary things in it, was that there were to be no leaders.  Leaders are needed.  But, leaders that answer to the needs and wants of the group they represent.  The problem with Occupy is they didn’t understand that.  They didn’t have leaders.  They didn’t have goals.  They didn’t have direction.  And you can’t win a campaign without those things.  They lacked the cohesive glue that holds a movement together.  They lacked the structure that creates a community.

The 60’s and 70’s with all its promiscuity, drug experimentation, insanity, did have all of those.  Granted, there wasn’t a single leader in it.  But, there were leaders.  There were communities.  There were goals.  Ending the war in Viet Nam.  Women’s rights.  De-segregation.  And in most of it, they all held hands together.  They were in it together.  And they changed the world.

The side of power is winning because we are wandering like chickens with our heads cut off.  We march in the streets and then next week or next month, we go back to whatever we were doing before.  We ignore our neighbors, we anesthetize ourselves with electronics and we stay home on election day because we convince ourselves that our vote doesn’t matter or its too much trouble to turn off long enough to go to the polls. We have effectively told those in power that we don’t care what they do.

And so, they are doing whatever they want.  With the knowledge that we aren’t going to do anything about it.  We aren’t going to vote them out of office.  We aren’t going to take the time to understand the system enough to know who is responsible for what.  All we will do is throw a tantrum for a few days and then forget about it.  We’ve been doing it for quite a few years now.

Those that have the greatest long term vested interest in what will happen to their world, the young people are turning out in fewer and fewer numbers every year to vote.  This last term, they showed at 13% of those that were registered to vote.  And even as they complain about things like student loans, gay rights, voter right infringements, they still do not show at the polls.  And then when it blows up in their faces, and the powers against them begin to abuse their power, they cry foul.

The other side, however, does show up in large percentages to vote.  The ones that believe that gay marriage should be criminal, that all blacks are thugs, that women who want the right to govern their reproductive lives and their lives in general are whores, that rape victims must have done something to ask for it, that domestic abusers should have the right to carry guns, even if they have a record, that there should be no limits or restrictions on gun ownership, that you should be able to shoot someone simply because you “think” they pose a threat, but you should not be able to marry who you want or choose when its right to have a child, that arguing with a police officer is grounds for being tackled and strangled, that the President of the United States should be shot, no respect should be accorded him and calling him a nigger is part of your first amendment rights.  These people vote.  Every. Single. Time.

You don’t think your vote matters?  There is a reason it matters to them.  Because they know it counts.  And they vote.  Every time.  And they organize.  And they have a community.  Granted, its a community based on hate and bias and intolerance.  And if only hatred votes, then the laws of hatred are what will prevail.

The sad thing is that it really doesn’t seem like love is a very strong force.  And sometimes it isn’t.  Hatred is so very often far more powerful.  It is far easier to get people to take the hands of others and cross the lines to meet the eyes of a stranger in anger or fear than it is to do so in brotherhood and in love.  But, that is what we need if we want to change the climate.  If we want to change the power.  We need to build communities, not based on superstition, but on human connection.  We need to take the hand of our brothers and sisters without looking at their color, their religion (or absence of religion), their gender orientation, their hairstyle or their shoe size.

I believe there are far more of us that want an inclusive world where everyone matters.  I believe there are far more of us that want a world where it doesn’t matter how you gender identify, what color your skin is, what god or demon you follow.  I believe the 1% will cease to matter if the rest of us stand up for what our hearts tell us is right and stop listening to what Brother Loveless tells us.  And I believe it is harder for the police to brutalize when a true community exists that will call them to task.

We need to bring to light what is wrong in our communities and our power structures.  But, we also need to take responsibility to create the communities that we want.  We can’t just sit back and trust that justice will prevail.  Justice will only be as good as the elected official in charge of it.  The good of the community will only be understood if the community works together and talks.  And shows up at the polls to insure that the officials best suited to meet their needs are put in office.

I hope that maybe the good that will come out of all that has happened of late is that maybe people will realize this.  That maybe they will take back their communities.  That they will go beyond the protests in the streets to the real long term actions necessary to reclaim the government for “the people”.  And that if you don’t stand together, you will find that you are standing alone.  And that is how “they” win.