The Dictatorship of the Illiteriat begins

hith-white-house-attacks-eSo it begins.

Starting today, America is being governed by a class of people who believe they know more about the military challenges we face than the military.

They believe they know more about the economy than Nobel Prize-winning economists who warned us about the consequences of the policies they intend to enact.

They believe they know more about education than educators, more about climate science than climate scientists, more about the age of the earth than geologists, more about the human psyche than psychologists and psychiatrists. They know more about the development of life on earth than anthropologists, paleontologists and biologists. They know more about disease than the American Medical Association.

They have, we are assured, the highest collective IQ of any cabinet assembled in the history of this country. Never mind that the incoming Secretary of Energy had to be told, after his nomination, what the Department of Energy (which he once proposed to eliminate) actually does. He’ll be replacing an actual nuclear physicist. We’ll have to assume the IQ difference between the outgoing and the incoming administration will have to have been made up elsewhere.

And if you happen to disagree with those who believe they are smarter than the generals, smarter than Nobel Prize-winning economists, smarter than geologists and paleontologists and psychologists and sociologists and biologists and doctors and nuclear physicists, well, you must be an elitist.

The concept of irony is lost on these people. As is the concept of hypocrisy.

Our government is being led by a man who looked people straight in the eye and said something that has happened twice before in recent memory, an inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial, had never happened before yesterday. And it’s true because he said so. Just like he never mocked a disabled reporter, because he said so. Just like he has the utmost respect for the women, because he said so. And the Hispanics, because he said so. And the blacks, because he said so. The fact that his deeds undercut his words so relentlessly and consistently is irrelevant.

Whatever. His opponents lost. Criticism is parried with the epithet of “snowflake.” Reciprocation is dismissed, without a hint of irony, as “namecalling.” People who never interact with anyone outside their own white Christian conservative demographic get to accuse everyone else, those of us who live in cities where we encounter people of different races and classes and cultures on an hourly basis, of living in a bubble.

And then it hits, like the worst, most cynical and depressing realization possible. Words have lost meaning.

We have entered the Dictatorship of the Illiteriat.

Best wishes to the President of the United States. I have never hoped to be more wrong about anything in my entire life.

Enough with the flipping flag worship!

It truly breaks my heart that some people who speak the language of freedom do not understand it.
 
Freedom is not reserved for those who think like you, look like you, worship like you, “honor” the trappings of patriotism like you. Freedom belongs to everyone.
 
kapIt belongs to the athlete who stands for the national anthem and places his hand over his heart, and it belongs to the athlete who takes a knee while the national anthem is played to draw attention to what he perceives as a social injustice. If freedom belongs to the first athlete and not the second, then it is not freedom.
 
It belongs to the student who rises and faces the flag to recite the pledge every morning, and it belongs to the student sitting next to him who decides not to stand because doing so would violate his religion. And it belongs to the agnostic or atheist student who chooses not to stand because someone in the 1950s who was afraid of communism decided to shove the words “under God” into the pledge. If freedom only belongs to the first student, then it is not freedom.
 
It belongs to the happy voter who celebrates his candidate’s victory by waving an American flag, and it belongs to the discontented voter who protests his candidate’s loss by burning the American flag. If freedom only belongs to the first voter, then it is not freedom.
 
No veteran fights for the flag. No soldier dies for the flag. The flag is a symbol of the freedom for which they fought and died. And that freedom applies to all, even to those who would exercise it in ways others find unpalatable. Especially to those who would exercise it in ways others find unpalatable. If it doesn’t apply to them, then it is not freedom.
 
The notion that “desecrating” the flag is disrespectful to veterans should offend every veteran who truly understands the freedom for which he served.
 
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:
 
The pledge of allegiance is not a prayer.
The Star Spangled Banner is not a hymn.
Patriotism is not worship.
The flag is not an idol.
And protest is not blasphemy.
 
Anyone who disagrees, by definition, commits idolatry and opposes freedom. There’s no middle ground here. You either recognize freedom or you don’t. You may not like how others express their freedom. No one’s asking you to. But if you value freedom, you respect their right to do so. If you do not respect someone’s right to sit for the pledge, kneel for the anthem, or burn a flag in legal, safe protest, then you do not value freedom. You just don’t. You may abhor their behavior, but if you do not respect their legal right to behave that way, then you do not value freedom.
 
Flag worship is unAmerican. There is no difference between jailing someone in Saudi Arabia for dishonoring the Qu’ran and jailing someone in the United States for dishonoring the flag. None. In each case a person is being penalized by the state for not respecting that which someone else holds sacred. Under the U.S. Constitution, we do not have the right to force others to recognize that which we hold sacred, whether it’s a Bible, a cross, a rosary, a Qu’ran or an American flag.
 
I can paint a picture of Mohammed reading the gospel of John in front of Old Glory and set the whole painting on fire, and I will not have committed a crime. I may offend a few people. Too bad, so sad. Offending you is not against the law. You don’t jail people for it. You don’t try to revoke their citizenship. That’s fascism. That’s state-worship. That’s idolatry.
 
And that is a disgrace to the service and sacrifice of our veterans.

A statement of principles, post 2016 election

We now return to our regularly scheduled, extremely moderate, non-partisan program.

You know, I take a lot of flack for being liberal from people who don’t know any better, usually because I find certain liberal issues more interesting to discuss. But anyone who has known me for a long time knows that, while I may fall to the left on certain issues, I am far from liberal overall.

Without disclosing specific races, I have voted for the Republican nominee for president more often than I have voted for the Democrat (actually, after yesterday, it’s now 50-50). I felt George W. Bush won Florida by every legal standard, though I agree with the analysis that Al Gore would have won the state if not for mechanical reasons and ballot confusion – the race was so close that the margin of victory fell within the margin of error. We’ll never know who would have won in a perfect world, but we know who won in the world that actually exists. And it was legit. I got over it as it was still being litigated.

FlagI believe that tax cuts can spur economic growth, but the issue is moot if spending exceeds the new growth-fueled income. I also recognize that I’m not an economist, and many, many, many intelligent economists say I’m wrong about that. I yield to their expertise.

I believe in a strong military that deserves honor and respect, not just when they’re serving but also when their service is done and they are veterans in need of services. I hate war. I wish our enemies would hate war too. But until they do, I believe in building a military force that is better at waging war than our enemies.

My views have certainly shifted to the left on climate change over the years, though I do believe that there is an anti-capitalist element in the environmental movement that needs to be checked and kept from making unnecessary changes masked as pro-environment needs. Still, climate change is real. It is happening. And human activity is a contributing factor. Science, the saying goes, is not a liberal conspiracy.

I struggle with where to draw the line between a person’s freedom to believe as he chooses and the state’s obligation to protect the rights of those who don’t agree. For example, should a photographer be forced to work at a gay wedding if he/she does not believe in gay marriage? We’re dealing with private individuals on both sides, so the answer is not as clear cut as it would seem. The couple has a right to be free from discrimination, but the photographer has the right to believe as he wishes and act accordingly. Should the government penalize the photographer as a businessman for discriminating against people whose orientation offends him, whether I agree with the photographer or not? I can see both sides of that argument. I sympathize with one side, but I lean toward the other. And my position shifts from time to time.

I do not believe in special rights for the LGBT community. I do believe in equal rights for them, which includes the right to have a marriage recognized by the state with every legal privilege attached. I do not believe this right undermines traditional marriage anymore than I believe an atheist wedding undermines Christian marriage.

I do not believe an agent of the government should be permitted to use his or her public office to deprive anyone of their equal rights under the law solely because doing so would violate the religion of the agent of the government.

And there are some principles from which I will not veer.

First, no one gets to use OUR government to promote THEIR religion (or lack thereof). That’s a big one for me, and it covers a multitude of issues. Basically, if government or an agent of the government is involved, my response will be predictable.

The courthouse is no place for the 10 Commandments (half of which are unconstitutional). Government has no business whatsoever telling me how many gods I can have, what his name is, whether I can say “dammit” after speaking his name, whether I can represent him with a sculpture, what day of the week to worship him, or whether I can wish I owned the car in the driveway next door. It’s simply not government’s concern. Put the 10 Commandments up in your house or on a church lawn. Problem solved.

I do not have a problem with people praying. I do not have a problem with children praying in public schools. I do have a problem with schools leading such prayers, because not everyone in the classroom is a child of a follower of the God being prayed to, and some follow no God at all. Keep government out of it. Period. Pray with your kids at home. Problem solved.

If your God’s ego is so fragile that it will not be appeased unless you get our government to force my kids to pray to your God, then I humbly submit he’s not worth worshiping.

I do favor a moment of silence during which students may pray silently if they wish. Lots of atheist groups oppose that, and my response is, “what’s the big deal, bitch?”

But the moment you try to come up with some kind of uniform prayer that offends no one, you dilute everyone’s religion and force that diluted religion on those who have none. It’s wrong, period. Keep government out of it.

I believe in racial harmony, which includes the recognition that things are not where they need to be. I believe Black Lives Matter. Yes, I believe All Lives Matter, but All Lives don’t matter if black lives don’t. You send a fire truck to the house that’s on fire. It doesn’t mean you disrespect every house that is passed along the way.

I believe in supporting, befriending, thanking and obeying our police officers. I do not think they are always right. I do not think they are always wrong. I think there are issues that police officers desperately need to address, and we can articulate those issues because the police force is an arm of the government, and the first amendment recognizes the right to petition our government for a redress of grievances.

Yes, I believe there are problems in communities of color, and white communities for that matter, that need to be addressed. But it’s foolish to say that society cannot address one problem until another problem is addressed. And it defies reason to suggest that the general public can address something like “black on black crime” or “white on white crime” for the simple reason that the perpetrators don’t comprise an arm of the government that can respond in an organized way when we petition them for a redress of grievances.

I should not have to wait for a crook to stop being a crook before I have the right to ask a cop to please don’t shoot me I’m only going for my wallet.

Violence against the police is never the answer, and it robs you (obviously) of any moral authority to state any case you’re trying to make, whether it’s Black Lives Matter or I Want My Country Back.

I struggle with the death penalty. I suspect it’s not worth the trouble. Outside of war, the taking of a human life should be reserved not only for the worst of crimes, but also for cases where the guilt and competence of the accused is established beyond a shadow of a doubt. And even then, I still wonder if it’s worth it.

I believe abortion is not murder in the same way fornication is not adultery. Yes, I see what they have in common, but they’re not the same thing. My personal belief is that it is something I would not endorse unless under a very particular set of circumstances. I need not disclose them, because my larger point is that I cannot come up with any set of circumstances without recognizing that you may come up with a set of circumstances that may differ, however slightly or greatly. As such, I am pro-choice. But when it comes to the pro-life view, man, I get it. I just can’t see imposing it on others. Hence, pro-choice.

I believe in freedom of speech. I do not believe in compelled speech, even if it’s compelling something I like, such as patriotism. I was raised Jehovah’s Witness. We did not say the pledge of allegiance. Today I say it because I don’t have to. If I didn’t, that would be my right. If that bothers you, too bad. Veterans fought and died for my right to CHOOSE whether I want to pledge allegiance to my country, not to force me to do it. If you don’t agree, then you don’t honor veterans’ sacrifices. You only think you do. Forcing an expression of patriotism is fascism and it is meaningless.

I believe patriotism and theism are separate traits, and you can have one without the other. It is a travesty that we have allowed an expression of patriotism to be co-opted to force people to acknowledge a god they don’t believe exists or risk having ignorant people believe they do not love this country.

Yes, I said ignorant. And I meant it.

Cutting taxes is not government spending.

Raising taxes is not robbery.

I expect those in our country illegally to be respected as human beings and afforded the due process rights we would grant to any other human being accused of a civil infraction and/or crime. I also think the immigration laws of this country ought to be respected [except in cases of civil disobedience, in which the offenders ought to be prepared to face the consequences to make their points].

I don’t believe it’s racist to oppose illegal immigration, but shucks, I sure do notice that an awful lot of racists do. I don’t believe it’s racist to oppose affirmative action, but shucks…

I think The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird are brilliant works of literature. And I think all children of all races and ethnicities should read them.

I do not “look for reasons” to be offended. I do not look for reasons to offend. I believe if you are thick-skinned, it doesn’t make it OK for me to offend you. And vice versa.

I am tired of being so “politically correct” that I am not allowed to say what I really think of racist positions and views for fear of offending the people that hold them. I’m over being polite to people who are rude to me and to those I love and respect.

I go with my head and, if unable to draw a conclusion, go with my gut. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes it’s a mistake. But it’s always with the best interest of our country at heart.

(portions previously published).

I got tired of click bait: How I solved it will shock you!

Click Bait

I stopped clicking on manipulatively titled Facebook posts.

Hey, thanks for visiting. While you’re here, check out my three most recent posts:

Time to hold Fox and Friends to a lower standard>

Convert or Die: Unacceptable for any religion

The ice bucket challenge: a fad that stands apart

Thanks!

Holding Leo’s Hand: The worst thing about having autism

This is an excerpt from The Reason I Jump, by Naoki Higashida. Click on the title and purchase the book on Amazon.com.

Naoki was, at the time this was written, a 13-year-old boy in Japan living with autism. He was not someone capable of carrying on a normal conversation, but using a specially designed keyboard, he was able to express his thoughts so eloquently that he became a voice for those who struggle to let the world know what’s going on inside their heads.

My son, Leo, was diagnosed with autism in mid-2012. I’m reproducing this question and answer to remind myself what my son is going through, and how I can help him by exercising just a little more patience.

[Note: I no longer believe the premise behind this excerpt, but I do sympathize with the sentiment, so I’m not deleting it. 9/5/2014]

Q. 23: What’s the worst thing about having autism?

You never notice. Really, you have no idea quite how miserable we are. The people who are looking after us may say, “Minding these kids is really hard work, you know!” but for us — who are always causing the problems and are useless at pretty much everything we try to do — you can’t begin to imagine how miserable and sad we get.

Whenever we’ve done something wrong, we get told off or laughed at, without even being able to apologize, and we end up hating ourselves and despairing about our own lives, again and again and again. It’s impossible not to wonder why we were born into this world as human beings at all.

But I ask you, those of you who are with us all day, not to stress yourselves out because of us. When you do this, it feels as if you’re denying any value at all that our lives may have — and that saps the spirit we need to soldier on. The hardest ordeal for us is the idea that we are causing grief for other people. We can put up with our own hardships okay, but the thought that our lives are the source of other people’s unhappiness, that’s plain unbearable.

Leo Olmeda, age 4

Leo Olmeda, age 4

Response:

No two autistic children are alike, and I have no way of knowing whether this excerpt reflects how Leo feels sometimes. I’m going to respond as though it does.

Leo, Mommy and I love you with everything we are. We absolutely adore you. Nothing makes us happier than seeing you happy. I may not always understand you, and I may lose my patience sometimes. That’s not because there’s something wrong with you, my son. It’s because there’s something wrong with me. I need to be a better dad to you sometimes. Believe me, I’m trying.

You are NOT causing us grief. And if you feel that you are, it’s because I’ve failed. I hate it when you cry, because I want you to always be the smiling, happy, beautiful boy I know you are. So I’m going to do my best to help you, to remember your challenge and to rise up to mine as your dad.

Sometimes when we talk about being sad or unhappy, it’s temporary. It’s because you hit your brother or spilled water out of the tub. We don’t like when you do those things. But that’s not the same thing as you making us unhappy as your mom and dad. When it comes to you being in our lives, you being our son, our responsibility, our privilege, when it comes to those things, you bring us nothing but joy. Yes, even on the days when you’re a challenge. You’re our challenge, and we embrace it as much as we embrace you. Never, ever, ever think you bring us grief. You are our son, and we love you unconditionally.

I will keep trying to be the dad you deserve.

UNITY: The members have spoken

I’m just writing this to update my recent post on UNITY’s name change and offer a few thoughts.

First, I want to applaud the UNITY leadership for opening up the process I described in my previous post and giving members a real choice, albeit a difficult one. And I applaud the membership for choosing the most inclusive name that reflects the reality of the current coalition.

Understand that I am well aware of how much this debate has complicated matters, and I am equally aware that UNITY has challenges that will prove difficult to resolve, particularly if we are ever going to reunite with NABJ. In the long run, I firmly believe that UNITY has done the right thing, but I would be a fool not to recognize how difficult things are in the short run.

So I offer a few encouraging thoughts as we approach the new year.

UNITY: Journalists for Diversity has a just mission. Funding it will be the goal of determined and resourceful leadership, and each board member must make it his/her responsibility to bring in new sources of revenue.

The mission of UNITY remains consistent with the mission of NABJ, but reunification will only take place if it is not at NABJ’s expense. UNITY must be self-sustaining, not dependent on any single alliance partner. Anyone who doesn’t believe that’s possible is an obstacle to UNITY’s progress. Only when we can approach NABJ with something to offer and nothing to gain will we ever hope to lure them back into the coalition in any meaningful way. We can’t “need” NABJ financially. We must need them because the mission is, frankly, incomplete without them (and always will be).

I do not doubt that there are those who thought my voice, my advocacy, amounted to an interference that has hindered UNITY’s long-term prospects. To those, I say that my position was self-evident and resoundingly supported by the public vote of the membership of each existing alliance partner. True leadership is a balance between doing what the people want and taking the people someplace they would not otherwise go. Knowing when to choose which course is the mark of a leader’s wisdom. Whether the correct course has been taken here, as I believe it has, is for the future to judge. That future is ours to shape.

I am but one member of one coalition partner. I spoke for myself. My apologies to anyone who feels I spoke out of turn. We’re journalists. We tend to do that.

UNITY was forged on the ability of disparate groups to find common ground. If we are to speak of honoring that history, it is incumbent on us to live up to it, now, with the coalition we have, and with an eye toward eventual, not immediate, reunification with those who left the coalition but not the cause.

Happy New Year, alliance partners present and past.

Make them hear you.

I’m not the first to embrace moderate extremism. And look! I’m not the last, either!

The Michigan Moderate

While I promise I didn’t yank the term from his website, I stumbled across Rafael Olmeda’s post about moderate extremism, “What is a Moderate Extremist?”  In it he rather poetically shows the back and forth views of Americans and implies their views stay firmly planted in the middle.

While I don’t refute what Mr. Olmeda says, I would like to add that my view of Moderate Extremism is a little different, and is why I started this blog.  Moderate Extremism is more about the enthusiasm for being a centrist.  Many Americans think a moderate/centrist just picks the middle way every time, which removes from those people the legitimacy of their own, independent ideas.

I am a moderate extremist not because I will always triangulate to the middle, but because, at the present time, the views I firmly hold fall somewhere in the middle of America’s political spectrum.

So where…

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