Monday, October 24, 2011

Of course we respect the right of religious freedom...

I had to comment on something that I heard in the Republican debate the other day (yeah, I know, discussing the debates is getting old, but this is touching upon another topic). In his closing argument, Texas Governor Rick Perry said that we in this country need to get back to religious freedom and moral values - meaning that he wants the country to stop embracing religous freedom of non-christian religions, and instead adopt strict Christian moral principles.
This seems to be a long-running, but seldom spoken, open hypocrisy within the conservative ideology, that reveals an intolerance on the part of many conservatives, even going into a presidential primary.
I'm not so naive to believe that we have a complete freedom of religion in this country. I'll even concede that there is a certain amount of religious speak within the formative documents of our country and that many of our founding fathers were representing some form of religious moral values in creating the laws from the outset and moving forward. However, the founding fathers, regardless of their personal religious perspectives, explicitly wanted to create a separation between church and state, and create a freedom of religion. A freedom of religion means the express right to practice freely whichever religion or lack thereof that one might choose; and separation between church and state being the unequivocal declaration that no specific religion should dictate the positions of our politicians or policies. The specific documents that these ideas were included in are moot, but the fact that the founding fathers had such foresight in creating them is not in dispute.
But over the past 30+ years, conservatives have begun to define religious freedom specifically as protecting Christians against the gross infringment of other religions and beliefs upon their precious moral values (too snarky?). While it's true that around 75% of Americans consider themselves Christians, we are still a country of laws, and not a theocracy. Therefore, while we decry Saudi Arabia and other countries around the world who have theocratic regimes, the moral majority, Christian conservative right, still push harder and harder to make Christian moral values the values of our whole country, even going as far as changing laws to comply with Christian morality.
Either conservative Christians don't understand or don't care that their denigration of minority religions in this country, along their religious laws, morals and customs, is simple hypocrisy, and specifically antithetical to the Christ-principled creation of their religion. But I suppose all of this is nothing new...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Running out of ideas

I apologize for again bringing up another Republican Debate, but I find them fascinating. The difference in mindset between liberals and conservatives has become so stark, that I find myself baffled that we're actually able to co-exist in the same country - I suppose that is why the live in Texas and the midwest, and I live in Portland in the northwest.
Regardless, I couldn't help but be amazed at the fact that Republicans are still bringing up this Mexican border fence issue this election cycle. I certainly understand that illegal immigration is an issue that needs to be dealt with in this country; I think that both liberals and conservatives would agree, but our solutions to the problems are vastly different.
While almost every one of the Republican primary candidates support building a wall along the entire nearly 2,000 mile border between Mexico and the United States, at a cost of nearly $50 billion over 25 years, none of them seem to be bringing forth any real comprehensive immigration reform (short of calling them illegals and saying we should throw them out).
As I said before, illegal immigration is a problem. It is a problem, because it costs the country a lot of money, and greatly reduces the opportunities available to the immigrants themselves. However, simply trying to stop people from immigrating illegally into this country by building a wall is folly; it would be much more beneficial to face the reality of why so many people are immigrating to this country in the first place.

*Interest side note: illegal immigration has slowed dramatically due to the global, but more specifically the United States', economic crisis. The opportunties that once abounded for illegal immigrants are no longer as plentiful. Coupled with the fact that there are so many legal citizens in this country who are now willing to do work that they before were unwilling to do, and therefore because jobs for illegal immigrants.

The issue with illegal immigration - the main issue - that no one wants to speak about is the fact that the Mexican government is corrupt and the mexican economy is terrible. The United States has consistently over the course of the last century taken advantage of this close neighbor, never allowing them full sovereignty to determine their destiny in the world. We've time and again coerced them into signing treaties that benefitted the United States and Canada, to the detriment of Mexico. Surely it doesn't make any sense that the United States and Canada have had such robust economies, while Mexico's economy has rotted in the gutter. Their currency has remained fairly stable, despite a few hiccups here and there.
The problem is that NAFTA allows Mexico, Canada and the United States to trade tariff-free, giving the United States and Canada the ability to import cheap goods from their southern neighbor, but giving Mexico none of the benefits that tariffs give to companies who trade worldwide. Overall, the United States has used Mexico specifically for the use and benefit of the United States - to the detriment of Mexico - and then complains when Mexican people want to flee illegally into the United States to try and create a better life.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Voiceless in a "free" media world

I will admit from the get-go here, that I have very little knowledge of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement that has sprung up in recent weeks; however, my specific knowledge of the rally/protest/movement does not really have to do with my overall commentary here. I'm going to be discussing a more macro-level issue at work, when I think that this protest is a micro issue (a good one).
First of all, I will say for the record that I like this protest. I don't necessary agree with everything being said (I agree with most of it), but I like the fact that Democrats are finally standing up and letting their voice be heard, instead of simply standing by and waiting for the president react to their complaining. Now, for the record, I'm still a fan of Obama. I think that he's done his best in a terrible situation, and I think that once he's re-elected we'll see a whole different president in term two. But, I also think that Obama's "best" has been reactionary to an obstinate congress, who because they are divided, can basically get nothing of substance passed. The Republicans in congress have made clear that their main goal is to "make Obama a one-term president". So with that as your focus, it seems like getting any real governing done would be impossible, because those ideas are antithetical to one another. If Republicans allow the president and Democrats to pass some bills with a sprinkle of Republicans ideas and a sprinkle of Democratic ideas, the Republicans still lose being the president will be shown to be getting things done. And god forbid the bills actually do what they're intended to the do; the economy could actually improve, and then Republicans would really be screwed.
Sorry, back to the lecture at hand. There has been a lot of easily anticipated criticism of this protest; "there is no focus", "it's just a bunch of hippies", "a few people protesting Wall Street is not going to change anything"...
Most of criticism seems to be the status quo trying to derail the movement before it has started (which is standard). We saw the same thing with the tea party movement. While I certainly don't agree with barely anything the tea party says, and while their later iteration may have had bigger - even corporate funding, it started as a grassroots movement of people that were frustrated and decided to stop stammering about it, and instead decided to make their voice heard. That is what I'm hoping this movement becomes. It's not that change will occur overnight, but it may be an eye-opener for Democrats that, while we want a Democrat to win the White House over a Republican, we still have the right and the duty to question the policies of congress and the president that we don't like or agree with. We need the president to know that just as Republicans are unhappy with the way government is behaving, we too are unhappy with the way government is behaving, but we don't want government to go away, we want it to shape up.
I'm sincerely hoping that this will be a true movement that will pick up steam and spread. Ideally, people of all political stripes would support this movement, and we could truly create a mass movement. But the unfortunate reality is that the Democrats/liberals in this movement probably don't want the support of the tea party or Republicans, any more than the tea party or Republicans don't want to support the movement. The irony is that liberals are frustrated with corporations for corrupting the government, and conservatives are frustrated at the government for being corrupted by corporations, but they're really both just frustrated with the broken system. If we could only bridge that gap in the way we thought, we could truly make some large scale changes.