Thursday, January 26, 2006

Baby? What Baby?

Mention religion these days at your peril. We are bombarded by images of Dominion takeover, court stacking, zealotry and the unsupportable Intelligent Design from one side, and belief of persecution, attack by secular hedonism and being the only party of faith by the other. We’ve been handed our positions by the dividers, not uniters; it’s time we lost the blinders.

It is no more true that all Republicans think Pat Robertson makes sense that it is that all Democrats are athiests.

Unquestioning acceptance of religious stereotypes according to party affiliation is a dangerous path. Entrenchment along these lines leaves little room for acceptance and growth, both as a nation and as individuals undertaking journeys of faith.

Jews are encouraged to constantly question their faith. Christians know that to rail against God is beginning of learning. Seeking, questioning, arguing and acceptance are part of every major faith on this planet. Most of those faiths are at home and welcome in their quest, here, in America.

An American is Christian, or he could be Jewish, or Buddhist, or Muslim. In fact, there are more Muslims in America than in Afghanistan. The only difference is that in America they are free to worship as each of them choose.

An American is also free to believe in no religion. For that he will answer only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God. — Peter Ferrara, George Mason University School of Law

What I fear, and what motivates many faith based groups nationwide, is the potential backlash against religion caused by this insane manipulation of faiths for political gain; thowing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. When we see Intelligent Design stuck down in the courts, we need to maintain objectivity. This attempt to teach unsupportable theory should not be in the classroom; striking it down sent a great message. The message, incidently, is NOT religion is bad, go back and hide in your hole, you nut-jobs!

So what is the message? It’s simply that the steps towards faith need to be sought, questioned, argued and accepted elsewhere. School is not the venue. There is a place for religion in school, however, and its place in the curriculum is critical.

Human history is inexorably intertwined with the journeys, by billions, towards faith. The incredible gains in human interaction, the sorrowing loss of millions of lives due to religious manipulation and persecution, and the ability to grasp and understand inferences in literature and nuances in socialization cannot be understood fully unless some working knowledge of religious history is part of the student’s filter.

We need to be careful that in an effort to quash things like Intelligent Design, we lose site of the value of insightful coursework like “The Bible and Its Influence“.

Charles Haynes, senior scholar at the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center, says the textbook, which is promoted as an examination of the Bible’s influence on
literature, art, history and culture, successfully keeps religion out of public schools. The center is a non-profit institute that promotes constitutional freedoms covered by the First Amendment.

“If you’re considering a Bible elective, look at this textbook,” says Haynes, who helped review a draft of the book with 41 other scholars, including Christians, Jews and agnostics. “They’ve done a Herculean effort to make it as constitutional as they could.” — USA Today

I happen to know quite a bit about this project, as a family member of mine did a large chunk of editing on it. The effort to keep a historical, verifiable perspective was paramount. I have a great deal of respect for this work; I hope my kids have an opportunity to tackle this coursework and the inevitable questions it will raise. I’m not afraid of questions. They’re part of the quest for knowledge. They are also a crucial part of testing and building faith.

The correct position to take with religion in schools is not to look at how to bend facts to conform to religion, but rather to study religion’s far reaching impact on the continual development of the human race. It’s in our art, our music, and our literature, it affects our perceptions, our decision making and the stucture of our society. God is, literally, everywhere.

Regardless of our personal stance on spirituality, we cannot deny the influence of religion on the development of individual and societal humanity. Thanks to the efforts of dedicated, intelligent and frequently faithful scholars such as those involved in “The Bible and Its Influence“, we can keep the growing baby and lose the stagnant bathwater.

Crossposted at Bring It On!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

In my Heart

Shadows are falling and I'm running out of breath
Keep me in your heart for awhile

If I leave you it doesn't mean I love you any less
Keep me in your heart for awhile -- Warren Zevon

I used to think everybody has a person in their life that causes their mind to stretch into a new realm. I know now that people like that are unusual and considerable gifts. You get them for short time, and that time is your measure of what you can absorb and develop into something new.

I am a person of faith. I am also a skeptic of organized religion. To me, this makes perfect sense.

Organized religion doesn't reach me. The sermons do not hold my attention, nor do they dictate my behavior. Yet, I felt that both those things were the ultimate goals.

Reading about the intentions of Christ on this earth speaks volumes to me. I feel in my core that this is the measure in which the evolution of humanity is hinged. We will plateau unless we reach a level of love for each other that mirrors the love Christ enacted towards the least fortunate.

Gertie showed me through the way she went about her daily life that public and private piety were not exclusive. Her example, which began with the day and ended when she laid her head down, was a true example of taking the teachings of Christ, be they humility, kindness, selflessness or love, and simply living them. In pain for nearly 50 years, she endured. When she stumbled, she tried harder, when she saw need, she filled, when she saw hurt, she loved. In all things, she laughed, loved, and lived with lively interest.

Her faith was a strength, and her goal was to just be more like Christ -- more loving, more accepting, more humble, more appreciative. These qualities helped raise 10 amazing children, and they in turn marked the starting point for yet more loving families as grandchildren grew up and flew away into the world.

A tiny woman of sheer strength, self possession and determination won my heart and admiration. Losing her leaves me once again with a book in my hand, questions in my heart and a jaded eye.

It also leaves me with a flesh and blood example of why the journey is worth it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

It's the Money, Stupid

Abramoff Week has been interesting, to say the least. It's quite a feat to span the country with your crime spree, which leads me to believe Jacko has more staying power than, say, the Downing Street Memos. While equally damning, there's something about buying a company without any real cash, pilfering it with abandon, then starring at the ceiling whistling while the guy you bought it from gets snuffed, that has all the guilty appeal of good trashy novel. Mickey Spillane, anyone?

When Jacko went to Washington, however, is when the sex scene hit. Who need rules in today's Washington, anyhow? Jest goin' wid da flow, kid. This Washington iz open fer da bidness, doncha know. I gots me some gen-u-wyne goods here, and all I needs is a little grease. Bend over, baby, it's votin' time!

Quite the page turner, eh?

If there is anyone out there who doesn't get how completely Jacko is about to screw Washington, here's a primer:

Since 1998, the amount of money spent on lobbying has doubled.

Lobbying in 2004 ran to 3 billion. That's about twice what we spent on campaign finance. Herring, anyone?

"Our report reveals that each year since 1998 the amount spent to influence federal lawmakers is double the amount of money spent to elect them." -- Roberta Baskin, Center for Public Integrity

Approximately 250 former agency heads and members of congress are lobbyists. It pays, apparently, quite well.

And the paperwork? Oy Vey. Nearly 14,000 documents that should have been filed are missing; nearly 300 individuals, companies or associations lobbied without first registering; more than 2,000 initial registrations were filed after the allowable time frame; 210 out of 250 top lobbying firms failed to file one or more required document; and in more than 2,000 instances, lobbyists never filed the required termination documents at all. -- Center for Public Integrity, Lobby Watch

The fourth estate is cottoning nicely to their role of enablers. It's almost sickening. We saw 10 stories on campaign finance for every one about lobbying. Makes you wonder if the press is dining and hitting the links, too. Thank God for blogs.

Lobbyists spend a lot of time on the hill, with 17,300 companies lobbying the House, and a mere 17,200 lobbying the Senate. By comparison, a measly 2,000 companies lobby the Whitehouse. Must be why George has time for so many vacations. What a relief. I thought it was a question of attention span.

During the day, I spend my time keeping books. You keep books long enough, and accounting patterns emerge. Corporations develop their own cultures. Some are very above board, others put the payment amount in tiny type and the payment plus the penalty in big type. I always assume bottom line projections reflect the profit center resulting from holding all the money of the customers who don't pay attention. I feel pretty confident in that culture, it'd be up to the customer to notice they paid too much.

What's happening in Washington is a culture, too. We've got legislators who can influence direction, and corporations who want a variety of things that will enable them to make more money. Regrettably, these things often pollute, adversely effect the economic prosperity of workers or the prosperity of a country dependant on a robust middle class. Are all corporations bad? Hardly. But for some (Lockheed Martin, Altria Group, AT&T, Verizon, PhRMA), there's a definite culture at work, and in the last six years they've lobbied their asses off. (Can you hear me NOW?) I'll repeat it: Since Clinton, the amount of money lobbyists spend to influence votes in Washington had doubled. Doubled.

Things grow in a receptive environment. When something doubles in size rapidly, the culture must be conducive for it to do so.

Rapid, unchecked growth burns out. Maintaining the pace forever is just too much; the organism can't support it. Washington has been in a free-for-all state for too long; it's gotten sloppy. The real gift here is that so many lobbyists are former politicians; this group knows how to cut a deal.

Hellooo, Jacko. Wanna do lunch?

When the party busts up, we'll have a finite window to fix it. Sitting politicians will make the former politicians turned lobbyists out as the bad guys, but I think that's, in the vernacular, a load of hooey. So should you. When you pull a piece of meat out the fridge and it's green, do you assume the rot is just on the surface, or do you throw the whole mess away as a bad risk?

We're dealing with green meat, and the green money that drives it. As long as the next election is the whipping post every politician is tied too, the will of corporations will take precedence over the will of the people.

So, here's my two-cent solution. One Term and Out. President, 6 years. Senator, 8 years. Rep, 4 years. One shot at the money. No re-election campaigns, no need to raise insane amounts of money, no need to cut deals today for war chest cash tomorrow. Stagger elections so the congress is populated with new and experienced people, but no lifers. The original concept of Civil Service was to attract smart, patriotic people to "serve" a term for the country and then get back to their business. Coupled with campaign finance reform (that doesn't attempt to muzzle blogs while letting bought and paid for corporation-style news opine unmolested), One Term and Out could literally change the way Washington does business. Perhaps even put the trust of the American people back into the equation. Make our governance accountable to the people, for the people.

It's not a democracy if your representation is, literally, out to lunch.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Stepping Up

I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity. -- Gilda Radner

I must take a week or two to be 1000% with my family. I will be back, and we'll tackle more stuff, but for now, that is where I need to pour my efforts.

If you pray, ask God to watch over Gertie. She's very special. He'll know who she is.

Friday, December 16, 2005


Milestones are like little gifts. You're handed the opportunity to reflect; how travels the path you've chosen, or didn't? What lies ahead? Are you ready? Are you scared?

Sometimes people don't recognize milestones. There's always something still out of reach, a goal or desire required for ultimate happiness. Other times, milestones are of the in your face variety. A decision is required. A door must open or close in your life. Relationships, jobs, death... all stones of a sort, to be endured or enjoyed, but undeniably, to be recognized and pondered.

God Dem! is one year old.

Re-reading my first post was interesting, to say the least. Like lots of left leaning bloggers, the Presidential Election was a turning point that bloated discontent to the breaking point and belched it into the blogoshpere. I was a belchee. Anger, an emotion I'd never felt in connection to the American political scene, was in my driver's seat. I'd lived in a reddish state, surrounded by people who ate, breathed and slept Rush Limbaugh, patiently waiting for sensibility to take over. Surely a blow job was not this encompassing.

But it was.

If so, certainly we could move past a "mis" leader after four years? The administration that scared me with nonexistant nukes, yellow cake, and WMD's should be accountable for their words, right? The President who was a divider, not a uniter, would publicly scrutinized for his actions?

What we saw was the nastiest election ever. Florida was too close to call. The last three weeks of the campaign left me nauseated. Truly, I saw American idealism decimated for profit and power. My country was not great, it was not honest, it was not civil or gracious. She was the hot, easy chick who asked for it. America is a nation that is comprised by millions. Our "being", as it were, is personified by the leaders we choose to implement the course we believe best. When the bullies took the keys from Diebold, they changed the look of the country.

They raped idealism.

Overnight, we became citizens too scared and stupid to know what was best for us. We allowed aggression to become our footprint, without viewing aggression through Honor's looking glass. Afghanistan lies on the bed, forgotten, while Cheney humps for oil. We've shit on our veterans, exist in racial denial, and denigrated our poor.

A year later, I look at the body of essays that is God Dem!, and I'm proud of the work. This blog started in anger has grown, and grown up. Through it, we've pondered the role of liberals in our world, the schism of the Democratic Party and religion, in three parts (1, 2, 3), the power of prayer, and the fall of an administration built on a tissue of lies. I've met some amazing minds, and learned how to defend with grace and pith.

Coming into another election year, we will undoubtedly be nauseated again. This time, though, the number of blog voices has grown in both ability and desire. We understand very well that nothing less than citizen involvement will do. There will be no more waiting for sanity to prevail.

Lock and load.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Piper

We are a country in love with clichés, figures of speech, maxims, you name it. In America, things come home to roost. If you build it, they will come. What goes around, comes around. If you have to ask, you can’t afford it. We don’t do the crime if we can’t do the time

In the case of the Iraq war, it’s time to pay the piper.

Comparisons of Iraq to the Vietnam War are increasing. I’ve seen several remakes of Nixon’s “Vietnamization” speech of 1969, and it’s a bit eerie. Dems in Washington smell blood, and some of the more professional fence sitters (Hi, Hillary!) are sliding off the pickets. Personally, I think this country runs best when the congress and the Whitehouse are controlled by different parties. After this last fiasco, I’d like to see a fiscal conservative of any stripe replace the theo-wags in the House (Yes, Mr. Santorum, I’m talking to YOU, and no, I’m not Satan), and a Dem with vision at the helm. Gore would do nicely.

But, we were talking about maxims, weren’t we? Specifically, piper paying, I believe.

This is where any similarity to the Vietnam War ends. We have summarily created growing enemy combatant forces, training grounds and funding in Iraq where there were none. (See the things come home to roost thing, above. You see, we built it. Now, they are coming.) In Vietnam, we schlepped some fancy names on it, and finally, years too late, we pulled our troops out.

Confronted by a demoralized army on the battlefield and by growing opposition at home, in 1969 the Nixon administration started withdrawing most of its troops in order to facilitate what it called the "Vietnamization" of the country. The rest of America's forces were pulled out after Secretary of State Henry Kissinger negotiated a "peace settlement" with Hanoi. As the troops withdrew, they left most of their equipment to the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam — which just two years later, after the fall of Saigon, lost all of it to the communists. – Martin Van Creveld, The Forward

It’s VERY expensive to move gear out of an arena. That’s why we left all that stuff in Vietnam. That, and because in order to conduct a classic withdrawal, moving piles of equipment over hundreds of miles, we put our military personnel at extreme risk. Factor in a country guaranteed to sink into an all-out civil war, whose love of America is thin, and whose population is growing daily with our true enemy, Al Qaida, and you have a horrific scenario of our own making. What goes around comes around.

Why do it?

Well, if you have to ask, you can’t afford it. Our 1960’s version of the military was vastly different than the one we field today. The technological advances in weaponry which enabled us to mass greater firepower and effectiveness with less personnel (not to mention the huge cost of these weapons), means we don’t exactly have that many of them. It’s critical to our national defense that we keep them, and that means we have to move them with our troops. Hence we are already committed to an expensive and deadly classic withdrawal strategy.

Handing over their bases or demolishing them if necessary, American forces will have to fall back on Baghdad. From Baghdad they will have to make their way to the southern port city of Basra, and from there back to Kuwait, where the whole misguided adventure began. When Prime Minister Ehud Barak pulled Israel out of Lebanon in 2000, the military was able to carry out the operation in a single night without incurring any casualties. That, however, is not how things will happen in Iraq.

Not only are American forces perhaps 30 times larger, but so is the country they have to traverse. A withdrawal probably will require several months and incur a sizable number of casualties. As the pullout proceeds, Iraq almost certainly will sink into an all-out civil war from which it will take the country a long time to emerge — if, indeed, it can do so at all. All this is inevitable and will take place whether George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice like it or not. – Martin Van Creveld, The Forward

Once we’ve paid for all that, we still have to maintain a presence in order to keep the dogs at bay. Iran, complete with impending nuclear capability, will sniff around that door immediately, and this war that wasn’t about oil but really was about oil is going to require us to stay in a security capacity. The value of the region is too high.

The cost of this war for lies, ego and profit sickens me.

Tough nuts. The piper is at the door and he doesn’t take checks.

Impeach Bush.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Sandbox Ettiquette

Kids have a way of peeling back gentility. When needs are immediate, and generally self orientated, the niceties of cooperation are basically just in the way. After all, we’re talking things of value, here; who wants the red truck when the blue one rocks?

Not getting your way happens. It’s how you handle it that’s interesting.

Grabbing works, sometimes. Just march your happy self across the box and TAKE that toy. This works best for the littlest or the biggest kid. Little kids get away with grabbing because they’re too little to know better. Uh huh. Big kids get away with it because they’re scary. Oh boy.

Once a toy is commandeered, there are choices. Adults would ask for it back in a reasonable tone. In the sandbox world? I don’t think so. Depends on the variables. How big is the kid? Is your Mom looking? What would make you happiest? Grabbing it back, throwing sand, or just whacking the kid upside the head with the yucky truck?

See, you were having a good time with the blue truck. You made roads and built a big pile of sand. Things were great. Then, three kids grabbed your truck, stomped your pile flat and dug a big hole where your extra sand used to be.

Everything is messed up. You not only got no sand, you owe huge amounts of sand. You may never get that hole filled. Plus, they stole your truck!

Sometimes, being the nice kid in the sandbox sucks.

So you check out the three kids. Kid number one talks pretty tough, but you think he’s bluffing. He’s got the truck. He’s also got two kids to back him up. Kid number two is big. And scary. He looks like he’d eat live baby rabbits. He keeps digging that hole, deeper and deeper. Kid three is a weirdo. He keeps standing behind one and two, whispering in their ears. He’s creeping you out.

Big Time.

What’s the best way? Who do you tackle first? You can’t walk away because you really love that truck. After scoping out the status of the ruined sandbox, it’s obvious your truck needs you too.

Sometimes, problems are just too big for one kid to solve alone. A kid needs reinforcements. A kid needs numbers. A kid needs….you.

Allleealllee all in free!

Georgie swiped our truck. Little Dick’s digging for oil and smearing dirt to cover his tracks, and that weird kid Karl just took a crap in the sandbox.

There's a lot more of us now than there used to be. It's time to get our truck back.