Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The escalation of violence in Lebanon is troubling enough. The fact that Syria and Iran and the United States all are involved to one degree or another is even more disturbing. But there is something even more disturbing out there. Yes friends there are forces even darker than the ones at work in the Middle East. There are people out there, Christian in name only, who think that if the conflict in the Middle East escalates enough that Jesus will return and these will be the End Times.

So as the horrible violence escalates in Lebanon, there are fundamentalist Christians running around in the USA with their pants unzipped because they think Jesus is going to take them to Heaven. The End Timers are on the verge of yelling, “I told you so” at the world. Now granted many a faith has foretold the end of civilization before. They were wrong of course. But, fundamentalist Christians who thrive on fear instead of love, which is what Jesus wanted us all to do, are still prophesizing the end of the world. This website even has a handy clock so you can plan your damnation to the eternal fires of Hell accordingly. It’s in six days as I write this. So I wouldn’t make any long-term plans or maybe you should. They haven’t been right before.

Now fundamentalist Christians have been waiting for Jesus to come back since he left the first time. I had a history professor in college who talked at length about how antsy early Christians got the further they got from Jesus’ departure from the Earth. Imagine if you were one of those early Christians being told Jesus was coming and then you waited and waited some more and no Jesus. I can see how they might get a wee bit antsy. But it has never stopped.

At one point fundamentalist Christians got so antsy they even invented a new term, rapture. The term actually appears nowhere in The Bible and neither does the concept. Which has always caused me to chuckle. Consider that the vast majority of the proponents of the rapture are very much Bible literalists. They take every word of the Bible as literal truth with no room for interpretation at all. So that they would use something that never actually appears in the Bible is rather odd. I mean they found the one phrase in the Bible that allows them to hate gay people as much as they want. But they deeply believe in this rapture even though it’s never in the Bible at all. So if it’s not in the Bible how is it true? This is a question that would make a fundamentalist Christians very angry, which I recommend you never do, unless you really enjoy arguing with hysterical people.

There are also some out there who believe that Israelis are God’s chosen people. I think God loves all his people equally. He’s like a really good parent. He may occasionally become very disappointed in one of His children, but He never stops loving them. So I really doubt that God holds Israel in higher regard than he does Omaha or Guam or China. We are all God’s children and therefore He loves us. The idea that God has a specific chosen people is ignorant and arrogant.

I’ve said it before I shall say it again and again until someone listens, religions based on fear and fear alone are bad and can lead nowhere worth going. All they do is make people afraid and people who are afraid become hateful very easily. Any group of people that is hopped up on fear and convinced that they and they alone are right is potentially very dangerous. This fear mongering defeats the whole purpose of religion, which is to become a better person and make the world a better place. Not that fundamentalist Christians have any use for this brand of religion. Nope, they have the end of the world to get ready for so they can ascend to Heaven and spit on the heathens as they go off to the eternal reward.

I try not to look down on other faiths. Fundamentalist Christians seem to be an exception because they thrive on fear. Fear is precisely what we have far too much of in this country. Fear is what makes people buy guns and point the finger of blame at everyone else. Fear is what drove George Bush’s approval rating to over 90% at one point and got him reelected. People who live in the fog of fear never take time to really appreciate this life. They’re so busy preparing themselves to avoid whatever it is that they fear, that they never let their guard down and see the world for what it really is. That we are one people separated only by what we want to believe are differences. I think it is best said by this quote from prayer written by Mary Stewart, “Grant that we may realize that it is the little things of life that create differences, that in the big things of life we are as one.”

The situation between Israel and Hezbollah is horrific. Why aren’t these allegedly devout Christians out doing something to promote peace among all people? Why are they only worrying about their own salvation? Maybe that last question was it’s own answer.

Friday, July 21, 2006

I think this really needs to be said. I know that it might not sit really well with some people. I’m ok with that. I am really. Sometimes you have to say things that seem a little unpopular.

Often I see people talking about the causes for war, the things that inspire nations to clash. Often you see land, resources, religion and political power cited as reasons. I will grant you that those things have caused wars, at least on the surface. But there lies a deeper and darker reason for all man’s hostility against his own kind. The reason is that we are intrinsically flawed creatures. We seem to be naturally violent. We are smart enough to invent the weapons that may lead to our undoing but not smart not say that things ought never be used and destroy them before anyone can use them. Man is seemingly destined to fight to try and bring about his kind’s own Armageddon.

No religion has ever dropped an atom bomb. No pile of money has ever raped a woman. No oil well has ever shot hundreds of bullet into a house full of children. No political ideology has ever tortured a prisoner. In the end there is only us to blame. We are a part of a species that is a dichotomy. We are capable of acts of incredible kindness and incredible sacrifice. But unfortunately the acts of violence and fear and greed outnumber the good acts.

Chimpanzees, our cousins genetically speaking, often hunt, torture and kill other chimpanzees for reasons other than food. They will as a group hunt down another chimpanzee and will beat and kill them. Dolphins, usually regarded as a very smart mammal, have a violent streak in them as well. So maybe this violent streak is instinctive.

I once got into a rather heated discussion with someone about human nature. I argued that we are born with an instinct for self-preservation and little else. When we enter this world our goal is stay alive. We have to be taught generosity and compassion. Some people learn better than others. Some people seem to never learn. They want or need to believe that every problem can be solved with force and violence.

So am I a total pessimist? Do I think we are destined for war after war? I hope not. I really do. But it’s going to take a major shift in the zeitgeist. As long as wars make people money and people think that violence makes them safer I’m sure it will not happen any time soon. People that support a large military and being aggressive militarily always look to World War II. They use it as the last great, noble and just war. But what they never mention is it wasn’t the atom bombs and D-Day that really ended the threats of Germany and Japan. It was the fact that Japan and Germany were rebuilt and not allowed to suffer after defeat like Germany was after World War I. It’s not mentioned in history books very often that it was an action of prudent kindness that ended the German and Japanese threats not military might. Had they been left to suffer who know what might have risen from the ashes of defeat?

Again our nature seems to lead down the path of self-destruction. But I’m quite sure that the reason for all man’s lackluster history of violence and bloodshed is himself and nothing else. If you outlawed religion, property ownership and governments tomorrow it’d take about day before people were gathering into groups and fearing other groups. We like the safety of a group. It’s much easier to hate and want dead a nameless faceless group member than an individual. That seems to be part a large part of the problem. We are territorial animals. We mark our precious territory and don’t want anyone crossing over into. We fear anyone that is alien to us. I’m quite certain though that if we let our guard down just a little we wouldn’t be so afraid. We would see that the common ties that bind us all together are much stronger than any of our differences.

Maybe there is hope for us after all. Maybe it will all work out and eventually there will be a utopia. I certainly hope so. Though given the state our world is I have my doubts. We had thousands of years of civilization to work out our differences and move towards a less violent planet. We’ve just made it easier to kill more people. When the crossbow was invented the Catholic Church was shocked and terrified because it could so easily penetrate armor. The Church thought it too awful to ever use on the battlefield. It almost seems quaint now. Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, thought that he could create a weapon so horrific that humans would never use it and wars would cease. He was wrong.

I don’t mean this essay to seem like an indictment of the human race. There are many wonderful inspirational people out there. They are truly angels in our midst. But the angels aren’t very loud. They seldom seem to run the governments and corporations and churches. Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut have both implied that the problem with the US presidency is that no sane person would want the job. Only lunatics would want to be in charge.

I hope it all does work out. I hope I’m wrong and sometime soon this species of ours turns the corner and starts behaving itself. Maybe we’ll get smart and let the angels in our midst be in charge. Either that or we’ll get to meet the real angels.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Maybe it was different at other schools. But when I was a wee lad in elementary school they used to try and teach us that fighting was wrong. We were taught to turn the other cheek. We told that if someone hit you or kicked you responding with something even worse was wrong and lead to nothing good. Some days I swear I’m the only person that remembers this stuff.

The states of Colorado and Florida both have laws that allow a person to use lethal force if they feel threatened. The standard throughout the rest of the states is in self-defense. You have to see that they pose an imminent and very real danger before you are allowed to kill. Not in Florida and Colorado. In Colorado after two men broke into someone’s house and delivered a beating. The victim went got his gun, chased them into the streets and shot and killed one of them as they were in a car trying to get away. The shooter was found not guilty because of the law allowing lethal force.

My town is currently under a zero tolerance plan intended to curb drug dealing and trafficking. Of course any sane rational person realizes that zero tolerance roughly translates to “let’s arrest lots of the poor and minorities”. People have been pulled over for nothing other than being in the part of town known to have drug dealers. Yes you read that correctly the police because of where the citizen is not what they are doing have harassed citizens, who are doing nothing wrong. The legal term for this I believe is bullshit. Of course the city isn’t out a lot of money for this new-fangled police state because a private citizens group is paying for sheriff deputies to come in and assist in this program. You see if you a rich enough you can pay for your own police force. Hooray for fascism! Of course the man largely responsible for this lives on the outskirts of town with a “no trespassing” sign in front of his mansion.

The great comedian Bill Hicks, whom I quote probably too often, said that life was a choice between two things, love and fear. Fear makes you buy guns and hire police officers to harass citizens. Love is more patient and tolerant. You look for the virus causing the problem and not just the symptoms. You want the world to be a far better place not for just those who can afford but everyone.

Sadly though people don’t want to hear about how we ought to be following the path of love and not fear. They see all these shows on TV about awful crimes and are told about all the evil that is out there and they get scared. They are told that criminals are everywhere and they need protection. They need bigger locks and bigger guns. They need protection from this evil. The government will be happy to provide it for you all you have to do is sacrifice some freedom. Let the police harass you and the drug dealers will go away. Get a gun and shoot people that make you feel scared. It’s ok. They’re criminals. They deserve to die. All bad people do.

Maybe the world just needs more forceful elementary school teachers to reinforce that violence and escalating violence is wrong. It would be better than right to kill laws and zero tolerance.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

John Dear’s Declaration of Peace has inspired me. I know I sporadically update my little corner of the blogosphere with whatever has crossed my mind. But for the next two months or so it shall be a bit different. I will be writing about nothing but peace. Yes I shall now have a singular focus. I know John Dear’s work is focused largely on Iraq but I’m reaching in a slightly different direction that will hopefully end up at the same place as John Dear.

This is couldn’t have came at a more appropriate time. Tensions between Lebanon and Israel are running higher every day. The war in Iraq is not getting any better. Africa, the cradle of civilization, is being brutalized with genocide, famine and disease. North Korea and Iran are rattling their nuclear sabers. These are contentious times we live in. If we don’t act now to make the world a better place for all people we might not get another chance.

So there you have it. My plan up until September 21st is to write about peace as much as I am able. In fact I shall start right now.

If I have one thing that really irks more so than anything with the President it is this. On September 12th, 2001 George W. Bush, the President of the United States of America, was given a golden opportunity. In the aftermath of the terrorists attacks on the United States George Bush had the world’s support. He was tantalizingly close to making the world a better and more peaceful place. He had to make a simple choice. He had to choose between the paths of love and fear. He had to choose between inspiration and intimidation. He chose fear and intimidation.

The United States attacked Afghanistan to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network of terrorists he led. It is almost 5 years later and we do not have Bin Laden and Al Qaeda is still planning and executing terrorist attacks. The Taliban, the organization that we took out of power is now slowing returning to prominence.

In March of 2003 we invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein had connections to Al Qaeda and terrorism and he also had weapons of mass destruction, or so we were told. We were lied to. Hussein had neither ties to Al Qaeda or weapons of mass destruction. So after more than 2,500 American soldiers have been killed and as many as 100,000 Iraqis have been killed and we have spent almost 300 billion dollars what mission was accomplished? We have a shaky Iraqi government that wants us out. We have an Iraqi population that is growing more resentful of the American presence there by the day. Iraq has become a training ground for new terrorists.

The world that on September 12th stood behind the United States has largely abandoned us. They view us with suspicion and contempt. We are the thugs and bullies of the world.

We must change course it’s no longer a matter of if it’s a matter of how soon. If we continue down this path we never recover financially, politically or morally.

Friday, July 07, 2006


We foiled a terror plot today! Isn’t that great news? Don’t you want to go salute your flag? I mean sure the people arrested really didn’t get much past talking about doing it. They had not done any reconnaissance or bought any explosives yet. Sure no one was totally sure which tunnel they were about to blow up. I will grant you that their plan was asinine at best. Blowing a hole in a tunnel and waiting for it flood a city above sea level has the ring of something from a bad Jerry Bruckheimer movie. (Is there a good Jerry Bruckheimer movie?) Not to mention the laws of physics were totally against them. I mean we captured bad guys right? This is just like in Miami when we got those guys who didn’t really have ties to Al Qaeda. I mean sure they were probably slightly less dangerous than all the concealed weapons laws and all the militia groups out west. By God though we got us the bad guys though.

This couldn’t be some crass political ploy could it? Sure the CIA officially has disbanded the unit charged with hunting Osama Bin Laden. Sure violence in Iraq hasn’t abated since the death of Al Zarqawi. Sure the Iraqi government has made some overtures about a timetable for the withdrawal of US forces from their country. But the US government wouldn’t use an arrest like this to their political advantage. Would they? Isn’t that what the color-coded terror alert system is for? Hey whatever happened to the old terror alert system? They seemed to have stopped using it after the 2004 presidential elections. I wonder why?

I mean the US of A takes the “war on terror” very seriously. I mean we invaded Iraq didn’t we? Sure they didn’t have any ties to Al Qaeda. Sure they didn’t have any “weapons of mass destruction”. But we sure did invade them. We invaded Afghanistan to get Bin Laden and overthrow the Taliban. That worked out great! We haven’t gotten Bin Laden yet, and I emphasize yet, but we will someday more than likely. The Taliban maybe returning to power in Afghanistan but we’ll just invade them again. That’ll teach them but good.

Oh and North Korea with their long-range missile that flew all of 42 seconds. Of course our fearless president will use every diplomatic avenue possible, just like he did with Iraq. I mean North Korea may actually have more than one nuclear warhead. That’s only about 10,000 less than we have. That’s scary.

I mean, as these terrorists get scarier and scarier I need to vote for and support a leader that will stop at nothing to protect me. Even if it means I have to sacrifice my civil rights and the human dignity and the very lives of others. Because the only thing we have to fear is the terrorists.

This message was brought to you by the letter S as in sarcasm. It’s all that keeps me sane in these maddening times.