Sunday, July 29, 2007

When Encountering a Bear, Your Silence Will Not Protect You

If you're out hiking in the wilderness and you encounter a bear at a close range, wildlife experts have a few words of advice for you. First, avoid direct eye contact with the bear as this might elicit a charge. Second, make yourself seem larger than you are by waving your arms or, if wearing a coat or jacket, pull the sides of the garment to the fullest extent on each side. Third, make a lot of noise by talking and yelling -- In this instance, your silence will not protect you. Fourth, if the bear attacks you, fight back aggressively. Finally, do NOT run from the bear as this will cause it to chase you and bears are a lot faster than you might think.

While pondering this information the other day, it dawned on me that this guide describes the current political landscape in our dear nation very well. In essence, the entire country has become a vast ideological wilderness. The Bush administration is a giant bear and the Democratic-controlled Congress represents a team of intrepid hikers.

These hikers keep running into the beast and they aren't following the advice of experts. Every time the bear bluffs a charge, they take off running, ceding more and more territory to the bear. After awhile, they stand their ground timidly and make a little noise, only to take off running again. In time, the bear will corner them and, when that happens, there won't be many options left.

Coming at this scenario from a different direction, we can also liken the American public to the hikers. We too keep crossing paths with the bear. Far too many of us -- like our elected representatives -- aren't heeding the tried and true advice of wildlife experts. We stand before the bear frozen in fear, arguing about what to do next. Instead of making ourselves appear as large as we truly are, we hunker down so as to appear smaller. Instead of screaming and yelling, some talk in a normal tone, while others whisper. And, far too many of us are ready to run at the first hint of danger.

The bear has become more and more emboldened because of our conjoined silence. If we ever hope to scare the bear away, we as a group must find the courage to yell and scream at the top of our lungs at this hairy beast. At that point, the bear may well realize that we're too great of an adversary and decide he will be better served to go off and eat berries.

As our nation is under assault by forces from within; silence will not protect us.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

If I Was Running for President in '08

If I was running for the office of President of the United States, my campaign platform would look far different than the ones being touted by the many candidates vying for the Democratic and Republican Party nominations. Here are some of the planks.
  • Immediate withdrawal of US troops from both Afghanistan & Iraq.
  • I'd go to the United Nations, with hat in hand, to apologize for US-led aggression and work with the nations of the world to place a team of peacekeepers in both countries. The US, of course, would supply troops for both missions, BUT they would be under the control of the UN, not the US.
  • I would work with Congressional leaders to develop a reparations package to both nations to aid in reconstructing their countries.
  • I would go before the UN and the citizens of the US to declare that our nation does not believe in preemptive military aggression nor the use of torture.
  • I would immediately shut down Gitmo and send all prisoners currently held there to federal prisons. I would provide each prisoner will full access to legal counsel, including the release of information as to why each person was arrested in the first place.
  • I would also immediately shut down the School of the Americas in Athens, Georgia and pardon anyone who was/had been charged with a crime for protesting at the site.
  • I would submit a budget to Congress that reduced military spending by 25% and would use some of the savings to establish a cabinet-level Department of Peace.
  • I would scuttle the Department of Homeland Security.
  • I would work with Congressional leaders to introduce legislation to broaden the Endangered Species Act, develop universal health care, end all subsidies to the oil and nuclear power industries and use these savings to better fund research into alternative energy sources.
  • I would promote the use of Instant Runoff Voting and would encourage states to move away from paperless electronic voting systems.
  • I would encourage Congress to repeal the No Child Left Behind Act and NAFTA.
These are but a few of the planks of what my platform might be. What would your platform look like?

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Heaven Is A Place On Earth

In this world we're just beginning
To understand the miracle of living
Baby I was afraid before
But I'm not afraid anymore

Ooh, baby, do you know what that's worth?
Ooh heaven is a place on earth
They say in heaven love comes first
We'll make heaven a place on earth
~from "Heaven Is A Place On Earth"~

If you read a description of socialism penned by conservatives -- particularly conservative Christians -- you quickly get the idea that it would represent the kind of society few would want to live in. They characterize it as life where the many take from the few and this is all accomplished through the brutality of the state.

I've always found this critique to be both laughable and ironic. The irony is that the socialist society envisioned by Karl Marx closely resembles the fundamentalist view of the Christian heaven. It is a place where all basic needs are met, everyone lives in harmony -- no war or crime -- and people are afforded the opportunity to develop their love for beauty and poetry.

In other words, it's a world view based on cooperation and community which is in direct opposition to our current society which focuses on competition and individualism.

Since both the Christian heaven and socialist ideology appear to embrace the same concepts, why are today's conservatives so dead set against the latter?

The answer is tied up in the neurotic nature of competition.

Competition is predicated on the idea of winners and losers. If one person or group is to be victorious, then another person or group must be vanquished. The embracers of competition don't want all boats to be raised at the same time, only the "worthy" ones and, of course, they have a very narrow definition of what is or is not worthy.

So, while heaven and socialistic society seem to share common themes, there is one crucial difference: in socialism, the utopian paradise applies across the board, while, in heaven, it ONLY applies to the chosen few -- the true believers.

Consequently, the truth of the matter is that conservatives are terrified of a socialistic society precisely because it applies to each and every person equally. If it could be attained in human society, it might well turn throngs of people away from religion as we would each be able to see that heaven could be a place on earth.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Terrorism -- In the Eye of the Beholder

Pick up a newspaper in the United States and it's very obvious who the "terrorists" are. It's those radical Islamic zealots!

Pick up a newspaper in the Arab world and it's very obvious who the "terrorists" are. It's those soldiers, predominantly from the United States!

That's one of the key problems with the word, terrorist. It's always aimed at the folks on the other side of the equation. No nation looks at the terror they may be responsible for; it's always the "other guy" who gets slapped with that highly emotive label. Heck, the folks on your side are freedom fighters!

We're all so used to hearing or reading the word "terrorist" that we often forget that it's not a word that was used much before the latter half of the twentieth century. It's certainly NOT the kind of word you see used in terms of the American Revolution.

If it had been used during that time, our founding fathers are the ones it would have been used in reference to.

The British occupying forces had superior firepower and numbers in comparison with General Washington and his rag-tag army. The English had professional soldiers who had honed their teeth on wars in the European theater.

Faced with these kinds of obstacles, the new Americans knew they couldn't follow the standard military protocol of the day by lining up face-to-face with their adversaries. Too many battles like this would mean the end of the American dream of independence.

So, what did they do? They employed a new military strategy -- guerilla warfare. They'd take a few potshots from the woods, picking off a few of his majesties finest, and then disappear back from whence they came.

From what I've read, after awhile, this tactic terrorized the British army. They never knew when or where the next shot would come from. Consequently, if the word "terrorist was used back then, I'm sure the English press would slapped this label on the American Minutemen.

Another group who most assuredly would have called the Americans terrorists is the various native people who resided on the their/our lovely territory. There are numerous examples of the US Cavalry swooping into an Indian settlement and shooting anything that moved (e.g., Custer's slaughter of unarmed Indians on the Washita River).

Not only did the soldiers gun down woman and children, but they burned villages to the ground, slaughtered thousands of bison and destroyed crops. Like the current Islamic zealots, religion -- this time Christianity, not Islam -- was one of the driving forces behind this wanton desire to exterminate "infidels".

So, just remember, who the terrorists are is in the eye of the beholder.