politics

Exit 243. I had been thinking about doing the same thing.

Recently, a friend of mine who has been known to read this blog sometimes shared an article from the San Francisco Chronicle in which she was quoted.  The article tells the stories of people who, through DNA testing, discovered that they had previously unknown biological relatives.  I would imagine that such a discovery would bring up a lot of very complicated emotional reactions.  My friend (who gave me permission to share this article) now has positive relationships with multiple newly discovered half-siblings.  But not every one of these kinds of situations has resulted in a happy ending.

One of the other people quoted in this article (not my friend) mentioned having been contacted by a cousin that she had just recently discovered the existence of.  The article says that this woman thought that her new relatives “seemed like decent people,” but she unfriended her newly discovered cousin on Facebook and cut off all contact after discovering that her cousin was a supporter of President Donald Trump.  My first reaction was that this woman was being shockingly closed-minded and petty.  Cutting off family and loved ones, and questioning whether or not they are decent people, because of whom they voted for just seems wrong.

But then I realized that I had been thinking about doing the same thing.

I have some views that are not shared by many of the people in my social circles.  A certain such issue has been in the national media quite a bit lately, and I have been seeing many angry Facebook and Instagram posts on this issue.  The thought has crossed my mind that I need to do a mass unfriending on those sites, because I’m tired of hearing all this crap and feeling like the whole world is against me.  But if I were do that, aren’t I being just as petty and closed-minded as the woman in the article whose response bothered me?  Isn’t it healthy to be exposed to different points of view?

Yes and no.

What is healthy is having a fair and respectful discussion on these issues.  What is healthy is understanding where those who disagree with you come from, and why they believe what they do.  And a few of my friends have been genuinely attempting to do this when they share controversial posts.  I have no intention of cutting off contact with any of these.  But others are clearly not interested in learning about the opposite side.  They might be trying to rally and encourage their own side, or they might be trying to piss off or intimidate the opposition.  But reading that kind of thing, especially when it comes with an incorrect characterization of why I stand for what I do, tends to just make me unproductively angry.  I will acknowledge, though, that I probably have some misconceptions about their side’s motivations as well.

Should I be cutting off contact?  Should I be trying to engage these people in discussions?  I think that’s something I’ll have to decide for myself on a case-by-case basis, keeping both their intentions and mine in mind.  It should also be noted that many of the people involved I was never extremely close with, and I never see or talk to anymore, because of changing social circles or (in some cases) the other people having moved away.  I feel less bad about removing those people from social media as compared with people I see on a regular basis.  Also, it should be noted that Facebook offers the option of “unfollowing,” where someone’s posts do not show up in your feed but you stay friends and you can still see their posts if you look for them.  Instagram offers no such option as far as I can tell, but I wish it did.

So I haven’t undertaken a mass unfriending or unfollowing yet.  And it’s not something I need to decide right now.  I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it.

Exit 240. The harvest is plentiful.

You may have noticed I made a little change to this site today (or, more precisely, I changed something back to how it used to be).  But more about that later.  And let’s agree not to argue politics on this post, because that isn’t the point I’m trying to make.  Stay with me.

I don’t normally get political on this blog, although I’ve done that a little more than usual lately.  And I’m going to try to be respectful about it… but let’s be honest here.  The political environment in California is getting a bit oppressive.  Some of the actions recently taken or proposed by the California State Legislature, or by various city and county governments, no longer seem to be about financial policy or safety.  Instead, it seems like California’s government wants complete control over every aspect of its citizens’ lives.  (Of course, some of the local ordinances cited here do not affect me… yet.)  They want to control what we eat and drink, who gets how much money and why, how and where we travel, how teachers are allowed to do their jobs, the age at which children are introduced to certain sensitive topics, whom we are allowed to vote for, when we run certain appliances, how much water we are allowed to use, and what religious beliefs certain organizations are allowed to have.  While some of these at least have a point behind them, while possibly misguided, none of them seem to me compatible with the concept of freedom espoused by our Founding Fathers.

This lust for power echoes The Party from Orwell’s 1984 (not to be confused with a similarly named early-90s teen pop group).  While torturing Winston Smith, another character whom I will not name so as to avoid spoilers says, “The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake… We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.  Power is not a means; it is an end… The object of power is power.  Now do you begin to understand me?”

So what does this have to do with me?  Fourteen years ago, a lot of people around me were similarly angry about a Republican being in the White House, and much like today, I was feeling (for a variety of reasons) like I did not fit in among the culture around me.  As you probably know, if you have known me for a while, I hit the road in June 2005 and wandered around the country, living out of my car, sleeping in Motel 6s and KOAs and friends’ couches.  I intended to come back to California only to get my stuff.  But after 117 days on the road, and a great experience in and of itself, I returned to where I started (my parents’ house) with more questions than answers.  I spent the holidays with my parents and moved to where I am now in January 2006.  I opted for a shorter move instead, to Sacramento County, which feels to me like California’s Happy Medium.  It was far enough away to make a real fresh start, but still within day trip distance of everything I knew.

Recently, with the contentious political environment of 2019, I’m really beginning to regret not having moved away when I had the chance.  It’s pretty obvious from the above list why I would want to leave.  But I have a lot more to lose now than I did in 2005.  I have a house and a mortgage.  I’m working at a school where I get along with my administration and coworkers, and while most people whose heads are not stuck up their posteriors agree that teachers are underpaid, most of the states that are less controlling than California pay teachers even less.  And I’d probably experience a bit of reverse culture shock in any of those other places; while those ruling California disgust me, I didn’t vote for President Trump either, and most of my hobbies aren’t the kinds of things I’d find in rural areas.

On the way to church Sunday morning, a week ago, I was planning on bringing up my inner turmoil as a prayer request.  Last week we finished a series planned around Easter by talking about the crowds who praised Jesus and then shouted for his crucifixion just five days later.  Jesus came into a world where the religious leaders were corrupt and many of the people around him were lost and confused.  Earlier in Jesus’ life, he makes a statement that shows clearly how he viewed these crowds.  “When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field'” (Matthew 9:36).  Then we had a little discussion on how this same thing plays out in today’s world, how there are many people harassed and helpless who do not know the Gospel and God’s love for them.  That led to a discussion specifically about California and how hostile the culture here can be to Christianity, and how Jesus is calling us to go out there and minister to people and tell them about God’s love through words and actions.

Six days later (last night, as I write this), I was in Davis for the annual alumni night of the Christian student group I was a part of in the late 1990s.  (I’ve written about this event before; in 2016, I was invited to speak.)  One of the people sharing was talking about this organization’s vision to open chapters on thousands of campi where they currently have no presence.  He said that college and university students are searching for meaning in their lives, and he quoted this same verse in the context of students being ripe for the harvest, ready to learn about and experience the love of Jesus.

So… the point I’m making… having heard this twice in less than a week, I’m pretty sure this is God telling me that now is not the right time for me to leave California.

As much as I disagree with much of the “California values” that those in power continue to cite as justification for their policies, God has a purpose for me here in California.  California is my home.  It’s a beautiful state as far as the natural world is concerned.  And it’s a part of who I am.

So, in light of all that, I’m changing the logo for this site from the US highway sign back to the California highway sign I used previously.  The change initially was borne of anger toward California politics, but it’s time to put that aside.  God has me here for a reason.  Jesus never came to institute a political system.  And as for my tax dollars going to support things I’m morally opposed to, Jesus also said in response to a question about taxes to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21).  So there are more important things I should be looking at, and first and foremost among them would be all the lost souls around me searching for meaning, like sheep without a shepherd.  Here I am.  Send me (Isaiah 6:8).

Exit 237. The first step in trying to change the world.

I’ve generally stayed away from controversial topics on this blog.  Today’s post is an exception. I might lose friends over this. I’m prepared for that.  The views herein are mine and do not reflect that of any organization that I am part of or any colleagues or associates of mine.

I recently saw the movie Unplanned.  I went by myself, because I knew a lot of my friends wouldn’t want to see this movie, and also because I felt like this was a story I needed to see by myself.  The movie is based on a true story, and the nonfiction memoir of the same title. The movie is the story of Abby Johnson, the former director of an abortion clinic in Texas who had a change of heart and became an anti-abortion pro-life activist.  Unsurprisingly, the movie has received mostly negative reviews from professional critics, effectively calling it a poorly done right-wing propaganda piece. There has also been a bit of a media blackout of this movie; several major television networks have refused to air advertisements for the movie, because of its sensitive subject matter.  The MPAA gave the movie an R rating, despite the lack of any profanity or nudity, preventing many of the scared pregnant teens who need to know that there are other options for them besides abortion from seeing the movie at all.  In many states, these same scared pregnant teens can get an abortion without parental consent or notification.

To be honest, some of the above is valid, to some extent.  You can tell that this is a low-budget film. And, although I’m not an expert on criteria for movie ratings, the R rating does seem a bit justified because of a few scenes with a lot of blood.  I suspect that, in the case of most people watching this movie, it is doing a lot of preaching to the choir. Those who do not believe that abortion is morally wrong are the ones dismissing this movie as propaganda.  But to me, it is a powerful story that needs to be told, a story of love and redemption and the consequences of our choices.

I believe that abortion is wrong.  The Bible is clear that all human life is precious to the God who created us, even before birth.   I believe that God gave us sex to create life, and as part of the intimate lifelong bond between a husband and wife, and that anyone who is not at least willing to accept the possibility of bringing a child into the world should be taking responsibility for that.  If birth control doesn’t work, the responsible thing to do is to accept the consequences and not end the life of a child for the sake of your own convenience.  Many people out there would be willing to adopt a child and give it a good home.  And I am not disqualified from having an opinion about abortion because I am a man. You can have an opinion about slavery in the USA even if you didn’t live in the South before 1860, for example.  You don’t have to be directly affected by injustice to stand up for it.  And my opposition to abortion has nothing to do with oppressing women. Women have the unique gift of being able to bear children and bring new life into the world. But this gift of creating life is not to be taken lightly. With great power comes great responsibility (Benjamin Parker was right), and both parties involved, the man and the woman, have a great responsibility to use this gift wisely.  I know that this is considered a very extreme viewpoint in this culture, but Jesus didn’t say we would exactly be popular in the world.

I also believe that one can make a secular argument against abortion.  Fertilized eggs, embryos, and feti are all distinct beings with different DNA than either parent, so these have as much value as any other human life.  It is not part of either parent’s body, it is a separate life that has value, so abortion takes a life, which can only be justified if one is willing to accept situations like slavery in which some human lives are more valuable than others.  And abortion is not essential health care. Essential health care makes the body act the way it is designed to when it is not doing so. Abortion is exactly the opposite: the bodies of a pregnant woman and a developing fetus are doing exactly what they are designed to, and abortion prevents this from happening.

Okay… now hold that thought.  The night before I saw the movie, I shared an article from the Babylon Bee (a satire site) referencing the accusations against former Vice President Joe Biden and his habit of smelling women’s hair without their consent.  Someone commented on my post; I knew this guy a long time ago, and he has changed quite a bit in the time since he was in my primary social circle. Pretty much all of our interactions these days are him making some kind of smug disparaging comment on anything even remotely political than I share.  This time it was something to the effect that Donald Trump has said and done much worse than this. I said that it was a straw man argument, because Trump’s misdeeds don’t make Biden’s acceptable, and that he was assuming incorrectly that I was a Trump supporter. That led to a discussion, mostly angry and defensive on my part, in which he accused me of being divisive by spreading one-sided political posts, and thus that I have no right to complain about society being so divided.

He kind of does have a point here.  Even though I didn’t vote for Trump, I haven’t shared things critical of his administration, mostly because the things the Democrats are saying are far more disagreeable and sometimes terrifying to me.  And he calls it being divisive, but I call it telling the truth, and the truth hurts sometimes.

Back to Unplanned.  (Stop reading if you don’t want any plot details spoiled.  Then come back to this post after you’ve seen the movie.) A group of pro-lifers regularly stands outside of the clinic to pray; the movie particularly focuses on one of them, Marilisa, and the man that she eventually marries, Shawn.  What struck me the most about the movie was the way that Abby was generally cordial and friendly to Marilisa and Shawn, and they were cordial and friendly to her. Shawn and Marilisa didn’t scream at Abby and call her a baby killer, and Abby didn’t scream at them and call them sexist bigots or religious nuts.  And as a result, on the day that Abby decided to get out of the abortion industry, she had someone to turn to, and she immediately reached out to them.  (I’ve read that the events of that one day in the movie happened over the course of a couple of weeks in real life, but that doesn’t take away from my point.)  Also, along those lines, Abby’s family disapproved of her work, but they did not disown her, shun her, or continually berate her for it.  They loved her despite what she was doing.

And then it hit me.

This is what not being divisive truly looks like.

I have friends who have had abortions, and there are probably many more of them who have never told me that they have had abortions.  (And I don’t know if I want to know. I don’t want to be too sheltered from opposing views and lifestyles, but I also don’t like the thought that people I know have done this, and I don’t want my feelings about the subject to get in the way of us otherwise being friends.)  It’s really hard for me not to be divisive and accept this, given what I balieve about this. But thinking of these people as heartless baby killers and making derogatory comments about their sex lives isn’t going to change the world or do anything to make the rest of the world think differently of people like me.  Real life is far too complex for such simplistic responses, and women who have had abortions most likely went through a very difficult decision process. They are genuinely doing what they believe is best for everyone involved, as are many employees of abortion clinics.

I can say I’m not divisive all I want, but if I quietly stand by while others are expressing views and lifestyles differently from mine while inwardly calling them names in my head, then I’m certainly not doing anything to help or change the situation.  So, instead of getting angry at the way the world is, what I really need to be doing is seeking to understand why people believe differently from me, acknowledging that there are reasons for this, and caring for them as human beings.  Because understanding where others come from must be the first step in trying to change the world. It isn’t easy, it doesn’t come naturally, but it is what the world needs right now.

Exit 205. Here is what needs to happen.

This month, a ballot initiative to divide California into three states qualified to be on the November ballot.  One state (still called California) would include the Central Coast and Los Angeles; a new state of Northern California would include the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, and everything to the north; and a new state of Southern California would include Fresno, Bakersfield, the southern Sierra Nevada, the rural area east of the Sierras, the Inland Empire, Orange County, and San Diego.

As I’ve said before (here, here, here) I have mixed feelings these days about my home state.  And on the surface, this three state plan doesn’t look like a very good idea.  Looking at voter trends and recent elections, we would be replacing one liberal state with two liberal states and a swing state that has been trending more liberal recently (with Southern California being the swing state).  It also seems like some of the regions that would be in the same state after this split have little in common.  This plan puts Salinas and Los Angeles in the same state, Fresno and San Diego in the same state, and San Francisco and Redding in the same state.

It should also be noted that any plan to create a new state would also have to be approved by the federal Congress.  Also, the Constitution says that no new state can be formed within the boundaries of an existing state without the approval of that state’s legislature, and some have questioned whether a ballot initiative approved by the voters counts as approval by the state legislature.  Ballot initiatives did not exist in 1787 when the Constitution was written, and this kind of thing has never happened before.  If I remember right, only two states have ever been created from territory already part of existing states: Maine, in the 1820s, whose statehood was part of an extensive compromise to kick the question of slavery down the road; and West Virginia, created during the very unique and extreme situation of the Civil War, by Union loyalists in the mountains after Virginia left the Union.

There has been a movement off and on dating to the 1940s to create a new State of Jefferson in far northern California; historically, the movement also included parts of rural southern Oregon, although the more recent Jefferson movements are much more active in California than in Oregon.  I would support a State of Jefferson, and if it happened I would seriously consider moving there.  The rural parts of far northern California have a very different culture than the rest of California, and the rest of California pretty much only wants them because they have water.  But this current plan is not Jefferson.  This current plan lumps Jefferson into the same state as the San Francisco Bay Area, where the Jefferson conservative voices will be drown out by liberals, just as they are now.

Here is what needs to happen: some kind of convention where delegates from all over the state sit down and spend a minimum of several days, probably more, hashing out very specific details of how to split the state. How many new states? What are the new boundaries? How would the water be divided up? Would any of the new states be entitled to any water stored in reservoirs in a different new state? Would any existing counties be split, or would county lines stay the same such that each county only ends up in one new state? Would any state parks need to be split? Would any of the new states owe each other money for any of the infrastructure that is or isn’t in their new state? Would there be a grace period under which residents of pre-split California will get in-state tuition at all of the public universities that existed in pre-split California, whether or not they end up in the same state after the split?  (I haven’t read the text of the proposed plan, so I don’t know how many of these details have been spelled out explicitly at this point.)

Before any plan goes to the voters, or to Congress, all of these details need to be worked out. And everyone needs to realize that no new state or subculture is going to get everything they want. It will take some give and take among all parties involved, just like the drafting of the United States Constitution did. This won’t be perfect, but if something like this does happen, it is the best way to end up with something that will be somewhat better than what we have now.

I don’t have a lot of faith that this will happen, though. The kind of people who are in power in California don’t want to do anything to give up that power.  And, let’s be honest, the different subcultures within California really don’t like or respect each other, so they aren’t likely to want to make any compromises or concessions.  The liberal populated areas of California kind of hold all the cards here.  If you were to tell someone from, say, San Francisco that there is a people group who are not represented in their government, and that their government oppresses them and steals their natural resources, the San Franciscan would most likely be on the side of increased autonomy for that people group.  But then when they find out that this people group is gun-carrying conservatives from Jefferson, all of a sudden the San Franciscan may say that they don’t deserve autonomy, because they need enlightened liberal San Franciscans to force them out of their backward ways.  The only substantial thing Jefferson really has is water, and since the dams and canals were built by California, Jefferson can’t really cut off Los Angeles from taking their water without starting a violent conflict.  I really don’t want it to come to that.

The big question for me, however, is do I vote for this three state plan?  It isn’t perfect, I don’t know that I’d even call it good, but is it better than the mess we have now?  I really don’t know.  It’s something I’ll be thinking about.  And I’ll have to at least skim the text of the proposal.

Exit 195. I definitely need a new month.

It is Easter Sunday.  Or Resurrection Day, as it is called by those who want to focus on remembering Jesus Christ’s resurrection instead of the pagan origins of the name Easter and the rabbit and egg traditions.  It is also the first day of April.  This is the first time in my lifetime that Easter has fallen on April 1 (the last time was 1956), and it couldn’t have worked out more perfectly.  Both the pagan and Christian traditions of Easter are connected to the concept of rebirth and new life, and I definitely need a new life and a new month after the terrible March I had.

As I posted two weeks ago, it hasn’t been all bad.  But some things continued to go downhill after that post.  I feel emotionally drained and beat up after this last month, and something that has been happening here that has made national news (which I’d rather not discuss right now) has gotten me regretting my decision twelve years ago not to leave California.  I was so mad a few days ago that I even changed all the graphics for this blog for the first time ever, changing the icon and logo from a California highway route sign to a generic US highway route sign, and changing the cover photo on the Facebook page from the Bear Flag to the Stars and Stripes flag.  I don’t know if I want to be Californian anymore.

I wrote in the early days of this blog about my mixed feelings about California, and how I feel like California is home, and California is in my blood, despite not fitting in with California culture.  I’m too conservative for the dominant culture in California, and the state government continues to find ways to express their open hostility and contempt for conservatives and libertarians.  And whenever I share these feelings, my friends who once lived in California but do not anymore always tell me about how glad they are that they moved.

So what is stopping me?  A lot.  I actually do like my job, and teachers are not paid well in the more conservative states, from what I know.  I have this house that I am responsible for.  And I am not convinced that I really would be better off anywhere else.  I fear that in the more conservative parts of the country, I would be out of place for not owning a gun, not knowing how to work on cars, and not being a fisherman.  It would be hard to make social connections in a more rural area without having a family of my own.  And while I am definitely not a liberal Democrat, I am not particularly a fan of President Trump either.

So is it time to leave California?  Would I be better off somewhere else?  I don’t know.  I just don’t know.

 

 

Exit 194. Angry mobs.

Today is Palm Sunday, the Sunday that falls one week before Easter.  The name Palm Sunday comes from a passage in all four Gospels, where Jesus rides into Jerusalem as a triumphant King, and he is greeted by a mob of fans waving palm branches.  Just a few days later, the mob appears again, but this time they are shouting for him to be put to death.  What caused the change?  The Bible, of course, does not say how many of the people in the angry crucifixion mob were also in the palm branch mob.  Those in the palm branch mob were expecting Jesus to be a conqueror and drive out the Roman oppressors, but instead he preached a message of humility and love for your enemies, which is not what they wanted.

Angry mobs have been in the news a lot around here lately, with another fatal and tragic case of alleged police brutality and racism, as well as the anti-gun marches happening across the USA this weekend.  I don’t really feel like going into any more detail about what I saw or what happened.  I’m kind of tired of talking about it and of all the arguing that it inevitably leads to.

I do know one thing, though.

I can pray.

This world is broken, and this world needs Jesus.  Before you try to tell me that European missionaries devastated cultures all over the world in the Age of Exploration, or that so-called Christian pastors molest children and cover up their gay affairs, and such, I didn’t say the world needed any of that stuff.  I said the world needed Jesus, and that stuff is not Jesus.

I can also fix myself.

I can do the best I can to understand people who view life through a different lens than I do.  I can try to understand what others have been through.  (And I would appreciate it if others extend the same sentiment to me and try to understand what I’ve been through.)

I feel like I’m not very talkative (writative?) tonight.

Exit 184. Doing nothing.

I just spent an entire three-day weekend doing nothing.

And it was great.

The world went on without me.  There were lots of opinions over politics and political figures.  One of my teams kept finding new ways to lose.  There was another death of a celebrity whom I associate with my coming-of-age years.

And I did nothing.

I didn’t leave the house much this weekend.  I went to church, I went to one of the places where I used to go dancing regularly, I met a friend for lunch, I went for a 27-mile bike ride, and I walked around the big park in my neighborhood catching Pokémon.  And that’s it.  The rest of the time I was home, sleeping, reading, or playing retro video games.

It was the best weekend I’ve had in a long time.  I should do nothing more often.  Yay for taking care of myself.

Have a great week, friends.

 

Exit 165. Torn loyalties.

The current controversy over the removal of monuments of historical figures associated with the Confederate States (for my non-American readers, that would be the rebels of the American Civil War of 1861-65, who lost), as well as a recent trip to visit relatives north of here, got me thinking.  During my travels in 2005, I visited a number of Civil War museums and battle sites, and saw firsthand the perspective that many outside the South tend to forget, that the history of that era was much more nuanced than a simple concept of evil white supremacist racists vs. heroic progressive good guys.  In addition to the issues over slavery, the war was also a battle over the rights of states versus the federal government, and of two different lifestyles and economies competing for a place in the growing nation.

A number of my friends were sharing articles last week about Robert E. Lee and his complex history.  He served for many years in the Union Army before leaving to join the Rebels.  He was initially opposed to a war between the states.  In the months leading up to the war, seven states had formally voted to secede from the United States of America, despite the fact that there was no legal means for doing so.  Shortly after the war broke out, four more states voted to secede, including Lee’s home state of Virginia.  Lee, with torn loyalties, eventually resigned his position with the Union Army on the grounds that he was loyal to his home state and could not fight against it.

I understand completely how one would have torn loyalties.  Since the election of President Donald Trump, there has been much talk here in California about wanting to leave the Union, on the grounds that the current administration does not reflect California values.  Where would my loyalties lie in that case?  I’m not a big fan of this current administration, but I’m even less of a fan of many of these so-called California values.  Would I stay loyal to my beautiful home state, and continue to hope that it might somehow change from within?  Or would I stay loyal to the nation and its Constitution, even if it meant leaving my home behind?

And what if the State of Jefferson were to happen?  In the early 1940s, the counties along the border of California and Oregon began talking about leaving the two states and forming a new state.  A few minor protests happened, but the attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entry into World War II stopped the momentum.  In recent decades, talk of this movement has revived, particularly in the northern and eastern rural areas of California.  It is doubtful that this would ever happen in the current environment.  In order for a state to split, the pre-split government of the state would have to approve (as well as the U.S Congress), and California’s liberal legislature would not approve the creation of a conservative state that would add Senators and electoral votes for things that go against these so-called California values.  But if California were to leave the Union, especially if there were an armed rebellion involved, the federal government may be more likely to accept a new state that broke off of California and stayed loyal to the Union, much as how West Virginia formed during the Civil War.

But if somehow Jefferson were to become a state while California remained in the Union (or was readmitted after a failed rebellion), would I stay in my home and hope for change from within, or would I move north to a state that more reflected my values and did not spend my tax dollars on things that I am morally opposed to?

I don’t know.

Would I still want to move to Jefferson if it attracted the most toxic kind of activists who vote for conservative politicians, like the ones carrying torches and Nazi flags in Charlottesville?  Would it be worth it to find a new home if I had more of those people around?  I don’t know.

Every state and every community has a different history and culture.  Every monument means something different.  So instead of forming a mob to tear these monuments down, what we should be doing is studying history, and learning how people in the community feel about the situation, especially people different from us.  Then, an informed decision should be made, calmly, by the people in the community, not outsiders with an agenda.

 

 

Exit 164. Prayers.

God, our Father in Heaven,

I pray for our world.  I pray for my country.  I pray that all of us will pay attention and engage with those who are different from us for whatever reason.  I pray that we will seek to understand why they feel, believe, and vote the way they do, rather than ignore them or belittle them as wrong for whatever reason in whatever way.

I pray for all of those who feel oppressed, marginalized, ignored, and patronized.  I pray that we will understand why they feel this way, that we will understand their lives and their history and their reactions that may differ from ours.  I pray that we might see each other as fellow human beings, not antagonists.

Forgive us, Lord.  Forgive our sins as a people.  Heal our broken nation.  I pray that we may remember our Constitution and the ideals of freedom and liberty that led to the founding of this nation.  I pray that we may heal from the sins of our history and move forward.

I pray that you will be at work in the hearts and minds of those who are angry, and those who feel hate toward others who are different.  I pray that they will be softened and broken, and that they will see the people that they hate as human beings, as beloved children of God.  I pray that bridges will be built.

I pray for my good friends who live in and around Charlottesville.  I pray that you will keep them safe as protesters and the news media descend on their region.  I pray that they will be good examples to the world at large, so that the rest of the country will know that central Virginia is a beautiful place full of friendly people who are not white supremacists.

And I pray for my own heart.  God, I pray that you will expose the biases I have, and help me practice what I preach and heal the anger I sometimes feel toward certain groups.

In the name of Jesus, who died to forgive our sins, and bring us to everlasting life with him,

Amen.

Exit 116. People stood by apathetically and did nothing.

It’s that time again here in the USA… the time when everyone is talking about the upcoming Presidential election.  And, as is the case pretty much every year, there are those people out there talking about how they don’t like any of the candidates, but the system is flawed because you have to vote for one of them, and voting for a third party candidate is throwing your vote away and/or helping the candidate you don’t like to win.  This year, this conversation is coming up more often than ever, because of the staggering unpopularity of both major party candidates.

Some disclaimers first: What I’m writing here assumes that elections are not rigged.  I’m sure that some are, but I want to believe that this is a vast minority of cases.  Also, I recognize that at the time that the USA was founded, the definition of “people,” in the sense of who was eligible to vote and make decisions about government, was much less inclusive than it is today.  That is not particularly relevant to the discussion about what is happening now, though.  Finally, I apologize to my readers outside of the USA, because this discussion may not apply to your systems of government.

There are valid complaints in this line of discussion.  But there is something else that many of us seem to have forgotten (as I have written about before): Our government exists only by the consent of the governed.  If the system is flawed, that is because people put that flawed system in place, or, more likely, people stood by apathetically and did nothing while those who stood to benefit from the flawed system put it in place.

Every single elected official in this country was put in power by voters.  And every single elected official is held accountable for their actions when they come up for reelection.  The main reason that so many of those incompetent NTACs keep getting reelected is because their constituents find the status quo less detestable than the alternative.

I think what bothers me the most about this kind of discussion is the line of thinking that a third party candidate cannot win.  It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  No one votes for third-party candidates because they believe that they cannot win, and they cannot win because no one votes for them.  Third-party candidates have won states in the past, often when they hold a particularly strong following in one region of the country, which usually occurs because of one specific issue.  (This happened most recently in 1968; sadly, the issue in question was racial segregation.)  The third-party candidate came in second in 1912, and some consider Abraham Lincoln a third-party candidate when he won in 1860, because the Republican Party had not yet been established as the second national party after the breakup of the Whigs.  Some say that third-party candidates never get votes because the mainstream media never pays attention to them.  But this is a time period when the mainstream media is less relevant than it has been in years.  If some no-name lady in a Chewbacca mask, hundreds of foul-mouthed douchebags and douchebaguettes, and dozens of funny-looking cats can all get millions of followers on the Internet, then surely political candidates out of the mainstream can do the same.  The reason it doesn’t happen all comes down to what I said earlier: too many people don’t care.

If a third-party candidate does win states in an election where the two major party candidates are running close (which has the potential to happen this year), this opens the possibility that no candidate will win a majority of the electoral vote, invoking the Twelfth Amendment and sending the election to the House of Representatives, where each state’s representatives will get one collective vote per state, from among the top three candidates.  This is not an archaic vestige of the past; it was designed on purpose, so that compromises and negotiations could happen among the elected representatives.  Each state is different, geographically and culturally, and each state should be different.  The Electoral College and the Twelfth Amendment were designed purposefully as part of this feature of our nation.  This kind of compromise, integral to our nation’s history, is sorely lacking in today’s political climate; once again, the reason for that is that the politicians who refuse to compromise keep getting reelected by people who don’t care, who see ability to compromise as a weakness.

I may be sounding like an idealist here.  But I still believe in the ideals of our nation’s government, and I hope that more people will learn about these ideals so that they will too.