Category Archives: Politics

Making some sense of Ferguson

The events that have occurred in Ferguson have gotten my wife and me to think long and hard about why. We have had a lot of discussions between the two of us about the grand jury results, the protests, and what this means to society as a whole. We’ve seen debates on Facebook and Twitter, prayed, and sought God’s wisdom not only about what was happening, but our response.

But first, a little background about me if you are not familiar with who I am because my friend Luke pointed out that “our starting point matters.” I have usually identified myself as a right-wing, conservative Republican but have grown weary of many in that camp as I’ve seen most of the communication lean towards anti-Obama rhetoric instead of trying to make a difference in people’s lives. I believe that I serve a God who wants to make a difference in all of our lives. White, black, poor, rich, Hispanic…all of our lives. Therefore, I want what I do to reflect that same hope.

So this morning, because I have many conservative friends, I ran across an article with a very heavy right-wing slant ridiculing some young black men about their point of view regarding businesses that had been destroyed by some of the riots in Ferguson. One quote stood out, summarizing what I’ve learned about the actions not only in Ferguson but in many African-American communities in the United States.

Trey opined, “That’s why people loot: ’cause they can’t get no job.”

That quote in the article turned on a light bulb for me. To show you what I am seeing in that quote, however, I’d like to take it a step further: “That’s why people loot: ’cause they have no hope.”

As I mentioned before, our starting point matters. I am a white male living in a middle-class suburb of Phoenix. Because of that, I’d like to point out some of the differences I have with Trey and other young African-American males:

  • I believe that if I want something in life, I just need to come up with a plan and work for it. I believe this is possible because of the country I live in. Trey believes that as a black male in a racist society, it doesn’t matter what he does — he is resigned to his role in a lower class than other citizens who aren’t black. Who is right? Well, we both are. First, I realize that if you believe it, it’s either true now or will become true. Second, Trey has some additional obstacles that I will not have to face.
  • I believe now that I have lost some weight, my appearance does not immediately cause people to discriminate against me. Trey believes that many people will see his skin color and make assumptions about being a thug, lying, stealing, and he will not be judged fairly. Once again, we’re both right. Racism is alive and well. It may be hidden a lot more than before, but I believe that racism still influences many to deny opportunities to black people.
  • I believe that if I am pulled over by the police, I will be just fine if I comply with the officer’s directives and obey the law. Trey believes that an officer will already have judged him to be a criminal, and furthermore, his life may be in jeopardy. My own experience tells me this to be true. In addition to the many black friends I’ve had tell me stories about being pulled over for DWB (driving while black), I had an experience that taught me how well things go for me…and how badly they will likely go for others.

I was pulled over about a year ago for having one of the two license plate bulbs burn out. This wasn’t a safety issue — I think other drivers can see me just fine as all the other lights were functional. I thought this was a little picky of the police officer, but what happened next really concerned me after I thought about it. When the officer approached my car, he asked for license (but not registration or proof of insurance). He explained why he pulled me over, and I responded that I will get it fixed. He looked at my license briefly, then handed it back to me and told me to have a good night.

What was concerning to me is that I was pulled over for a minor, non-safety issue, and then he didn’t even run my license or check to see if I was driving without insurance. If this is the case, why bother to pull me over at all? Then I thought — I wonder what would have happened if I was black. Would he have run my license? Checked for insurance? Asked me if the car was stolen? Asked to search my car for drugs? Of course, we will never know, and anything I say is mere speculation. But I’d bet large amounts of money that if I had more melanin in my skin, the officer would have been a lot more critical.

I say all of that to say this: paradigm matters. I can only imagine what a black male has to endure, I can’t say that I know. But here are some topics to think about:

  • When the prosecutor in Ferguson revealed the findings of the grand jury, many whites (including myself, initially) said “see? The officer was justified. Michael Brown was a thug who caused his own death.”
    • Why did Michael Brown have a rap sheet?
    • Why did he steal cigars from a convenience store?
    • I believe it is because he had no hope.
  • When the results were carefully explained by the prosecutor, the crowds demonstrated and rioted anyway.
    • Why didn’t they listen to the reasons for not indicting Officer Wilson?
    • Why did they destroy their own community?
    • I believe it is because they had no hope.

Please think about that statement. What would you do if you have no hope? Would you commit petty crimes? Would you resist a peace officer’s commands if you believed your life was in danger? Would you assault, rape, and kill? I firmly believe I would be a much different person if I lacked the hope that I have.

I want some things to be perfectly clear: I do not expect officers to put themselves in jeopardy by refusing to shoot if their lives are in danger. I do not expect us, as a society, to stop punishing criminal behavior. And I don’t expect that we just excuse bad behavior. However, what society is doing to discourage crime and rehabilitate offenders isn’t working:

  • Almost one third of black males in their 20s are either in prison, jail, parole, or probation.
  • Black men between 30 and 34 are incarcerated more often than any other race.
  • A black man born in 1991 has a 29% chance of being in prison some time in their life. Not jail, prison.

The solution: minorities need hope. They need to feel like society cares for them. They need to feel like an interaction with a police officer is not a direct threat to their freedom and life.

My part of the solution: I will stop acting like a victory has been won when an officer has been exonerated from liability in a fatal shooting. The end result is still a dead man or woman.

I welcome your ideas below to make America land of the free and home of the brave…for everyone.

Creative Commons license used. Debra Sweet, 2014-Ferguson-GK on Flickr.

Creative Commons license used. Debra Sweet, 2014-Ferguson-GK on Flickr.

Stay Current AND Classy, America

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WARNING: Angry old curmudgeon rant follows.

Today is March 2, 2011. President Obama was sworn in on January 20, 2009. He has held the office of President of the United States for approximately 770 days, give or take a week.

In the context of the Internet, 770 days ago is ancient history. I mean, if it’s 9pm and someone talks to me about something that happened this morning, I complain that they’re talking about old news.

Why do I say this? Because I believe it’s time to expect a little bit of context from our political discussion.

First of all, President George H. W. Bush has been out of office for over two years. To all of you still taking pot shots at him, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and anyone else in that administration: shut up. That administration is gone. If you’re still complaining about what they did, you need to grow up. They’re not going to be indicted for anything, and just because you didn’t agree with their decisions doesn’t mean that they lied about anything. Find something else to occupy your time.

And you Republicans, wipe the smug look off your faces. You are just as bad, if not worse, than Democrats. Those of you in the “birther” camps that believe that President Obama was born in Kenya: shut up. The state of Hawaii says he was born there. Just because they haven’t complied with your constant requests for a piece of paper called a birth certificate doesn’t mean there’s a huge conspiracy. The discussion is over. Even if he WAS born outside the United States, we’ll never achieve a smoking gun that proves it.

And now, just when I thought us Republicans couldn’t sink any lower, one of my state’s representatives is saying he’d support impeachment proceedings against President Obama because he won’t order the Attorney General to defend the Defense of Marriage Act.

Really? On what grounds would you impeach him? As President, he vowed to defend the Constitution. Believe what you want about non-traditional ideas of marriage (i.e. “gay marriage”), a sane and rational person would have to acknowledge that not allowing gay marriage could be seen as interfering with “the pursuit of happiness” whether or not you agree.

Therefore, he has every right as President to not defend the DOMA. If you are saying he should be impeached: shut up.

So, what am I saying in this rant? If you’re going to hold political discussions, talk about something that did not happen over two years ago, and stop having a hissy fit over everything someone else does that doesn’t line up with your political beliefs.

In other words, stay current AND classy, America.

National Coming Out Day

When we got up this morning, we both noticed the amount of Facebook posts declaring this to be National Coming Out Day, with an application sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign.

This is somewhat of a touchy subject in the Christian community, of which I am a part. After all, the Bible says homosexuality is wrong. No, I’m not going to post the scriptures; we all know what they are if we’re interested. If you claim to be a Christian, and you consider yourself to be part of the LGBT community, you will need to work that issue out between you and God; it is not my role to tell you how to work out your salvation.

However, as Christians, we have the next part completely messed up. If someone else says they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered, what does the Bible say we’re supposed to do? Alienate them? Tell them they are “wrong”?

I may not be the brightest Biblical scholar out there, but my Bible commands Christians to love everyone. Period. That commandment comes directly from Jesus. If you have a problem with that, take it up with Jesus. I’m just the messenger.

For a few months, we had two women attend our church. Even though they never told anyone their sexual orientation, most everyone (myself included) assumed they were lesbians. They were a foster family, and had several children they were taking care of. I only got to know one of them. She was from Chicago, and we playfully fought about which team was better (Cubs or White Sox). She seemed to have a great heart, and I enjoyed talking to her.

Rumor has it that people called the church to complain about them. They couldn’t believe we let lesbians in to our church! Apparently these people forgot to read that whole “love everyone” thing.

Fortunately, our pastor gave the correct response. When people complained about lesbians in our church, he responded by saying “good! Those are the people we want here!” He never took the occasion to preach at them, but instead saw this as an opportunity to preach on love, grace, and acceptance. After all, we all have sinned…who are we to look down on someone else just because we think they are sinning? Is my sin “worse” than what I think a lesbian’s sin is?

This year, National Coming Out Day has taken on a lot of momentum because of a rash of recent suicides. High school and college-aged people are being harassed by classmates because they are either professing to be part of the LGBT population or have expressed confusion about their own sexual identity. Bullying is wrong, no matter what the reason. The fact that many have taken their own lives speaks to the prevalence and intensity of the type of intimidation faced by youth in this predicament.

Therefore, on National Coming Out Day, I am taking this opportunity to talk to any Christian that uses the Bible as a reason to not treat LGBTs with love. Jesus has commanded us to love everyone. End of discussion. If you are one of those people calling the church to protest lesbians in your congregation: stop it. Read the Bible, and tell me where it condones this type of behavior…it isn’t there. If your child is bullying a classmate with a confused sexual identity, it is your responsibility as a parent to teach your kid differently.

One more thing: if your motive for harassing LGBT individuals is so they will change…think about what you are doing. Do you think any gay person is going to change just because you treat them badly? Is a lesbian going to reconsider her sexual identity because you don’t want her and her partner to be married? No one has ever been attracted to Christianity because we cajoled someone into changing. They will know we are Christians by our love, not our intolerance for what we perceive as others’ sin. It’s time to realize that we are called to love others, not judge them.

I welcome constructive criticism and conversation below.

Ignite Phoenix #6 Links

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These are the links used for my presentation at Ignite Phoenix #6. All links on this post will open in a new window/tab.

Operation Homefront Arizona: http://www.operationhomefront.net/Arizona/default.aspx

Soldiers’ Angels: http://www.soldiersangels.org/

Arizona Coalition for Military Families: http://www.arizonacoalition.org/

Joint Services Support: http://www.jointservicessupport.org/

Twitter links: #militarymon, @KissMyGumbo, @bouhammer, @SoldiersAngels, @milblogging

Cup of Joe for a Joe: http://www.greenbeanscoffee.com/coj/index.php

Thank you for supporting our men and women in uniform. God bless you.

DO ANYBODY NO HOW TO THINK?

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The passing of the healthcare reform bill over the weekend seems to have re-ignited the polarization of American politics. From where I sit, people seem to be divided into two camps:

  • This is great! We all need healthcare…and now, no American will ever go without again!
  • Obama is a socialist, and we don’t need him telling us how to get our healthcare!

I have to confess that I do not know the first thing about the bill because I have not had the time to research. Bills have become way too long to read through hundreds of pages. If I accept someone else’s summarization of the bill, I usually have to accept their bias, too.

I am ready to start having honest conversations about politics and issues without the usual party lines about crap. I do not want to hear about President Obama’s birth certificate, Chicago politics connections, or anything with the words “socialism” or “Hitler.” The same can be said about right-wing hatred based on religious connections, George W. Bush, and contradictory stances.

I believe government works best when it takes a minimal role in our lives. I believe when we look to the government to regulate or provide us with services, the cost often outweighs the benefit. That being said, there are some services that need government direction like the military.

I am anxious to see the effect HCR has on individuals, businesses, and government. Governor Jan Brewer has already complained that HCR will cost the Arizona state government $1 billion per year but has not defined how.

Talk to me, folks. Tell me where real discussions on issues are taking place. Because I am sick and tired of business as usual in the world of politics.

Diversity is not a dirty word

One of the news items I picked up off Twitter today talks about Lorenzo Hoopes. According to the Pacific Justice Institute, Mr. Hoopes is a 96 year old man who “??has volunteered for decades with Paramount Theatre of the Arts” including 20 years as part of its Board of Directors. Directors must be approved by the Oakland, CA City Council before being seated.

After 20 years, one would think re-appointment is guaranteed. According to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community, not so fast. Mr. Hoopes contributed $26,000 to the Proposition 8 campaign in California, seeking to define marriage as one man and one woman. This contribution has caused public outcry against Mr. Hoopes’ re-appointment, with one activist claiming that “the gay community in Oakland is being run over by a bus.”

Thinking that I was missing something, I researched a little further, and found an article on change.org under the Gay Rights heading. The author references a Facebook group called “The Paramount: No Place for Homophobia,” stating that Mr. Hoopes is allowed to hold his beliefs…but should not be “rewarded” with a seat on the Board of Directors.

This issue refuses to go away. From my small corner of the world, it seems like compromise is not going to happen any time soon. Therefore, I would like to state my opinion…and hope I am not the target of hate mail.

As a Christian, I believe marriage is one man and one woman. Period. No ifs ands or buts.

However, I live in America, a democratic republic. Depending on what source is used, about 10% of our population is part of the LGBT community. This group is entitled to their freedoms, regardless of what my beliefs are…as long as their rights do not infringe on mine.

Should two gay men, cohabitating  and loving each other, enjoy the same rights as a traditional married couple? I have to say yes. However, I do not believe that is a marriage. Call it a civil union, call it a homosexual union, call it whatever you want…but I will not call it a marriage. You can call it a marriage if you want to…but I won’t. And if you call it a marriage, I’m not going to get myself worked up over it. It’s my definition. Possibly not yours.

But according to the change.org article, I am now a homophobe. Really? Just what is a homophobe, anyway? According to Princeton’s dictionary, a homophobe “hates or fears homosexual people.”

I do not hate or fear anyone in the LGBT community. Jesus commanded Christians to love our neighbor. He didn’t qualify it by saying only love straight people, or only love other Christians…he basically says we need to love everybody.

A frequent argument I have heard against alternate definitions for marriage is that homosexual couples calling themselves married will desecrate the institution of marriage. If you feel this way, I feel sorry for you. If anyone has desecrated marriage, it’s Christians. The divorce rate in our community is as high or higher than non-Christians. Therefore, I do not possess this fear…or any other fear from the LGBT community.

For what it is worth, I am not a proponent of Prop. 8 or similar propositions. I voted “no” when Arizona voters had a similar measure on our ballot. The main reason for my opposition is because I feel government has bigger fish to fry. Fix the budget…and then we’ll have time to kick around other stuff.

Mr. Hoopes has provided countless hours in support of the Paramount Theatre of the Arts. If he is re-appointed to the Board, it will be for his past service, not his contributions to Prop. 8. If supporters of gay rights call the appointment “a reward,” they are sadly mistaken.

In the corporate world, I was taught the value of diversity. I do not have to agree with everything my co-workers believe, and the workplace is better for having a non-homogeneous staff. If I don’t agree with you, calling me a homophobe is not going to solve anything. Let’s find some middle ground so we can live in peace, if not harmony.

Category: United States

Reproductive Rights

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I thought I would do another post that has almost nothing to do with the rest of my blog…but I think it still needs to be said.

Tessa Savicki recently delivered her ninth child at Baystate Medical Center, and requested the insertion of an IUD. From some of the articles I have read, this is fairly common. However, when she woke up from anesthesia, she discovered her tubes were tied (tubal ligation). Anyone living in the United States knows what happens next: mommy hires lawyer and sues hospital for gross negligence.

The article accompanying the thread on FARK states Savicki is receiving threats and criticism for her lawsuit. Some of the comments applaud the doctors for permanently sterilizing her without her authorization.

The reason for the harassment of Savicki is because her family uses public assistance, aka welfare.

In America, we value our freedom above all. We want reproductive freedom, freedom of speech, religion, et cetera; however, we are told from an early age that freedom comes hand in hand with responsibility. We have a responsibility to treasure our freedoms…to not take them for granted…to not abuse the freedom we enjoy.

Laws are restrictions on our freedom. Certain laws we regard as necessary because we trade off part of our freedom for protection. For instance, we may not like speed limits, but it protects us (somewhat) from the idiots who want to do 120 mph in a school zone and hitting children.

Generally, we allow freedom of about anything…as long as your freedom does not infringe on someone else’s rights. Today, there is no law that restricts women from having more children if they are accepting welfare. However, if a woman on welfare has additional children, it produces an additional burden on taxpayers.

Many laws are written as a knee-jerk response to people not doing the right thing. DWI laws were made as a result of impaired drivers injuring or killing others. Securities laws were created to prevent traders in powerful positions from taking unfair advantage of others’ investments. To prevent laws from being created to restrict our reproductive rights, we need to show that we are capable of doing the right thing.

Welfare is available for those families having a hard time with basic living expenses. But Americans are growing increasingly intolerant of people who take advantage of the system funded by taxpayers.

To protect our freedoms, we need to do the right thing. Consistently. Otherwise, we run the risk of having our freedoms taken away…whether it is driving, reproducing, or any other freedom we too often take for granted.

Category: United States

Let’s Make a Deal

While doing some research for a school project, I came across an article in the Washington Post reporting on a proposal by President Obama, offering to pick up retiree health costs if American automakers would increase fuel economy on their vehicles by 3%.

Really? 3%? I understand that one of your principles is to protect the environment, but is a 3% boost in fuel economy worth paying healthcare costs to thousands and thousands of retirees? I try not to be too critical of you, Mr. President, but if this is the deal you offer at the start of negotiations, your negotiation skills may need some fine-tuning.

Oh, and one other thing. I was a little less than truthful. Because President Obama made this offer in 2005. When he was still a Senator. Less than one year after becoming a United States Senator.

If you look at my blog, I haven’t talked too much about politics lately. Mostly because I see my fellow conservative Republicans acting the same way that Democrats did when W was in office. However, on occasion, I see something like this and it drives me nuts. How does a United States Senator with less than one year experience start making offers like this on behalf of the United States Government?

I do not know if any one individual, even the President, possesses the authority to make offers like this on behalf of the Federal government. But even if he does have that much authority, he better be able to negotiate for a little something more than a 1/10th of a gallon increase in fuel efficiency in exchange for taxpayers assuming the cost for millions of dollars in healthcare expenses.

Category: United States

No More Private Student Loans

Since I am a student right now, this hits home for me.

According to WREX in Rockford, Congress has voted to end the Federal guarantees to private student loans. In its place will be loans made directly by the feds. The average student won’t know or care; they will still be able to obtain loans…but the loan won’t be from Wells Fargo, Chase, or anyone else but the government.

It also appears that the FAFSA will discard questions about assets and some income types, possibly shortening the form. To my knowledge, the President has not signed this into law yet. But with voting closely following party lines in Congress, it would be hard to imagine President Obama will cross party lines to veto the bill.

Category: United States

A New Era

First of all, my apologies for not posting in so long. Things have been crazy busy…more about that later.

However, today is a historic day, for several reasons. First of all, the United States is going to change Presidents. As I reminded some in a previous post, this will happen in a peaceful manner. No one will be shot, threatened, or harmed in this transition.

And yes, we all know by now that this will be the first African-American President elected in the United States. For this, I am glad; even though our country has made tremendous strides in race relations, I know that pockets of racism still exist. Obama’s election is a great triumph for a nation that often defied the law to practice open discrimination as little as 40 years ago.

I thought I would put some of my thoughts, scatterbrained as they are, to a post on how I feel about this day.

First of all, if you have not read any previous posts, or met me, or followed me on Twitter, I did not vote for Obama. Not because of skin color, but because I feel that his foreign policies are dangerous for our safety. I also believe some of his domestic fiscal policies will serve to extend the recession, not end it.

However, this is a democracy, and my fellow Americans have spoken. Knowing that Romans 13:1-3 talks about being obedient to authorities placed above us, I will be obedient. I will also claim him as my president. Via The Born Again Redneck, here’s Dennis Miller echoing my sentiments, especially starting about 5 minutes in:

However, I guess I have a few misgivings about this moment. Most of them have to do with Americans that voted for Obama because of reasons not based on logic – “he’s black”, “he’s not George Bush”, “he’s not Republican”, etc. For instance, one co-worker that said he voted for Obama: “I don’t know why I voted for him…guess because I can’t stand Bush!”

Kids, I’ll get along with anyone as long as they know WHY they believe what they believe…even if they don’t agree with me. But people that just mindlessly follow the crowd really irritate me, especially when it comes to electing the leader of the free world.

But today, we’re putting all of that aside, along with the other stuff. In a few hours, Barack Obama will be my president. God, please grant President Obama wisdom to lead us to prosperity and peace, in the mighty name of Jesus.

God bless America…and may God bless President Obama.

Category: United States