Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Progress?

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For somebody, like me, who can't get to the theater every time a good movie comes out, Netflix is a wonderful thing. Last weekend I finally treated myself to Selma. The movie tells the story of Martin Luther King Jr.'s struggle to convince President Johnson to support the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Photo courtesy of Amazon's Affiliate Program.

As the closing credits rolled, I said to myself, "White officials were brutal 50 years ago.  Golly gee whiz, we've come a long way."  It's the reaction the film is designed to elicit.  Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I doubted the accuracy of my reaction.

Well, today African Americans are free to vote in the south
Yeah, except for the fact that in 2013 the Supreme Court effectively struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.  Not long after the ruling was handed down, Texas reenacted their Jim Crow era voter I.D. law.  Other states quickly followed suit by passing restrictive voting laws of their own.

OK, but white police are no longer brutalizing African American citizens
Uh......,
  • Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, was fatally shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. 
  • Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African American resident of Baltimore, Maryland, sustained fatal injuries from being shot multiple times by police officers.  
  • In McKinney, Texas, a police officer pulled his gun on several unarmed African American teens and wrestled a bikini-clad girl to the ground.
As much as I'd like to believe society has learned from our past mistakes, I'm not sure it's true.

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Memories Of Things Long Gone

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My mind's eye shows me images of places which have long vanished from the physical world.

I see the chalk streets drawn on the surface of the neighborhood cul-de-sac.  Bicycle riders wove through make believe streets, only stopping, occasionally, to spend Monopoly dollars on fictional gasoline for sticker covered Schwinns and Big Wheels.

I see a wood panel in the chapel of my childhood church.  The grain of the wood looked, at least to a little boy, like God and Satan talking to one another.

I see the wide green stripe running down the center of my grade school's hallway.  One side of the hall featured a round ceilingless room, called the O.T. Circle, where occupational skills were taught.  Across the hall sat a bright yellow three sided play room, affectionately nicknamed The Mouse House for the semi-circular crawl space which lead to the school's single hoop basketball court.

I see the Orange Julius, Tower Records, and Foot Locker Shoe Store making corners of a triangle at the bottom of the mall's sloped penny fountain.

These places will exist, along with old; movie theaters, groceries stores, and video rental shops; for as long as synapses keep firing within my brain.
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Friday, August 14, 2015

The Wrong Standard - Micro Blog

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"Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor." ~ Romans 12: 9

 We hear it all the time.  Someone thanks a person for helping them.  The helper bats their hand dismissively at the comment, and, with a look pride, gives it the ol', "Ah, it was the least I could do."

The least I could do?  What kind of a standard is that?  It's same as saying, "I knew you needed help, and I gave you the bare minimum."

Shouldn't the standard be, the most we could do?  Shouldn't that be the standard by which we conduct ourselves?
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Monday, July 20, 2015

How PC Is Too PC?

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For a long time I’ve wrestled with the question of political correctness vs. tradition. My liberal default position says we should be willing to axe offensive and oppressive traditions from our society in order to promote justice and equality for all. Yet, a wise man once said, "Traditions, traditions. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as... as... as a fiddler on the roof!" So, where do we draw the line?

Lately, in reaction to a hate motivated church shooting, an issue has arisen which has brought the question to the forefront of Americans’ minds. Certainly, traditions such a slavery and whites only lunch counters were exercises in cruelty which had to be abolished. Yet, I’m not sure it’s justifiable, or even healthy, to ban symbols of such eras.

The Second Confederate Navy Jack
Subject: The Second Confederate Navy Jack | This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.
Of course, the Confederate Flag doesn’t belong on government land. Racist symbol, or not, the Confederacy lost the war, and losers of wars don’t get to fly their flag over the victor’s capitol and/or official properties. That what, “losing the war,” means.

That being said, here in Oregon, legal action is being taken to ban the symbol from, privately owned, Jefferson Davis Memorial Park. I’m not comfortable banning ANY symbol from private use.

Some debate the idea that the flag is a symbol of racism, claiming it symbolizes freedom from Federal control of local issues. The distinction is meaningless to the question of private usage though. Accepting, for the sake of argument, that the flag IS an offensive symbol of oppression, freedom of expression can’t only apply to non-offensive speech.

I’m offended by gay bashers who flaunt Christian symbols and claim to be acting in Christ’s name. I’m offended by people who claim the way to be happy is to lose 50 pounds and cut this or that from our diet. I’m offended by people who want student loans to be magically forgiven, after I spent twenty years paying mine off. You know what though? As offensive as I find their ideas, they get to speak.

The desire to ban the offensive was taken to the absurd extreme in 2012 when a Portland principle tried to ban peanut butter & jelly sandwiches from elementary school lunches, for being a racist sandwich. No, that’s not a typo. Her “reasoning” was that Mexican & Middle Eastern students are unfamiliar with white bread, peanut butter, and jelly, thus the sandwich symbolizes Caucasian oppression.

If someone wants to put a Confederate Flag on their bumper, hand out swastika arm bands in Pioneer Square, or write a book recommending we eat like cave men to lose weight they get to do that. We have the right to look down on them as idiots for doing so, but we have to let them speak.

Equality doesn’t mean we all need to eat, say, and think the same things. If we want to live in a society which respects diversity, we actually have to RESPECT DIVERSITY! It’s the only way a free society can work.
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