Archive for July, 2010

NAACP, Tea Party, and Racism

Posted in opinion with tags , , , , , on July 23, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

The biggest news among politically-minded blogs and websites is the NAACP’s charge for the Tea Party to remove and punish members of the party who use racist or vulgar language. It’s a harmless charge, one that should easily be implemented by the Tea Party, and anyone else who observes racism in speeches or signs by Tea Party protesters.

Harmless, that is, unless you work for a conservative news network.

Bill O’Reilly’s blog from 15 July, along with many other conservative news sources, seems to report that the NAACP has called the entire Tea Party racist. From his blog: According to the president of the NAACP, Ben Jealous, the Tea Party is chock full of racist people bent on harming African-Americans…. The NAACP picked a bad time to brand the Tea Party with the racist label…. By saying the Tea Party followers are sympathetic to racism when proof of that is scant, the organization has defined itself as irresponsible.

However, from the NAACP website: NAACP delegates passed a resolution to condemn extremist elements within the Tea Party, calling on Tea Party leaders to repudiate those in their ranks who use racist language in their signs and speeches.

There seems to be a huge difference between those two reports. And besides, I’m more apt to believe the report from the organization the report is about, rather than someone trying to defend the “attacked” organization.

In Bill’s blog, he also mentions Mr. Jealous talking about protesters holding signs that say “Lynch Barack Hussein Obama,” and that, after an “exhaustive search of media reportage about the Tea Party,” he could find no such signs. Even Sean Hannity is in on the talking points, saying that he can’t find any evidence of racism in the Tea Party.

Which is hilarious, because a quick Google search brought up some of these racist and otherwise inappropriate gems, all from one website:

From Huffington Post

A sign calling for several Congresspeople to be hung

From Huffington Post

A sign comparing American taxpayers to Holocaust Jews

From Huffington Post

A sign stating that Obama is the new Hitler

From Huffington Post

Obama loves taxes, bankrupting America, and killing babies

From Huffington Post

"Freeloading Illegals are Raping U.S. Tax Payers"

I wish I could post all of the signs I’ve found. I really do. But between the Huffington Post, Blue Ridge Muse, and several other websites posting pictures of these racist signs, and YouTube having several videos of racism within the Tea Party, it’s hard to believe that the movement is being marginalized and lied about.

Granted, the NAACP has looked away on several forms of racism from minorities. In glancing through the NAACP blog, there is nothing about racism caused by black people or Hispanic people. But at the same time, the Tea Party denying racism in their ranks is simply foolish. As hard as it is to say, racism is still in America today. It’s not as blatant today as it was in the 50s, but it still exists, now in code or cute little euphemisms.

In order to make even more progress with this whole race issue, we need to acknowledge it, and get rid of it. The moment the Tea Party acknowledges and rids itself of the blatantly racist, maybe more people would take it seriously as a movement.

“America Speaking Out” for the Republicans

Posted in politics with tags , , , on July 19, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

As I was listening to NPR a couple of weeks ago, I heard of a new website started by the GOP called America Speaking Out. It’s an open forum started by the GOP looking to true and honest Americans for ideas in which to improve their government and America. Because of the open forum format, it allows all Americans, regardless of political affiliation to suggest ideas. Registration is free, and the process is simple: suggest ideas, vote on ideas, comment on ideas, and there is a badge earning system (for some reason).

There is just one tiny hitch, quoted directly from the website:

As House Republicans, we are committed to our principles of limited, more accountable government; economic freedom; lower taxes; fiscal responsibility; protecting life, American values, and the Constitution; and providing for strong national security.

Meaning: “Sure, open forum, suggest whatever you want. Just know that if your idea doesn’t follow party lines, it won’t be considered.”

This means that ideas that probably would benefit the majority of Americans–like health care reform, more taxes, or anything in which the government would be involved–aren’t going to be considered for inclusion, while ideas that probably would hurt the majority of Americans–like tax cuts, decreased unemployment benefits, or anti-abortion laws–will be compiled into a huge bill and taken to Congress.

Ordinarily, this wouldn’t bother me. This is a pet project of the GOP. They’re free to do whatever they want with the ideas they’ve been given. And even if this was a bipartisan idea, it’s impossible to take every idea into consideration, because most ideas will conflict with other ideas, and just the sheer amount of ideas that come in must be staggering.

But the thing that bothers me isn’t that they are picking and choosing ideas that go into the proposal to Congress, it was the way they presented the website.

Quoted from an article from Politics Daily:

There was plenty of bashing of Democrats in Congress and the agenda they developed “in the backroom in secrecy with just a handful of leaders,” as Rep. Candice Miller of Michigan put it, and lots of vows that Republicans, by contrast, would listen to the people.

Again, their conference, their freedom of speech, whatever. But if I can be perfectly honest, I think the Republican Party has lost any semblance of class that they once had.

I remember reading about politics of old, and about how even though the different parties had their different ideals, they would still all go out to the bar with each other. There was no bad blood outside of the halls of Congress, and yet somehow, all of that has changed. But that is for another entry.

As far as this new GOP website is concerned, I’m urging everyone to sign up. Yes, seriously, sign up. Submit ideas, vote on ideas, and earn your precious badges. The only stipulation I’m making is that the ideas that you vote positive on and submit are ideas that benefit Americans, and not Congress or the rich. Show the GOP that Americans have class, and are concerned about their fellow man.

I bet that if the website is flooded with beneficial ideas that don’t follow party lines, there won’t be much of a proposal heading to Congress in the fall.

The Presidential Blame Game

Posted in current events, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 9, 2010 by Kyle Fleming
The Presidential Blame Game

Image from Jim Morin in the Miami Herald

It’s human nature to want to blame someone for the problems of the world. From the impoverished to the wealthy, there is always someone to blame for all of the wrongs in your life. Some people blame their parents for not raising them right, other people blame teachers or professors that they’ve had for not nurturing them as well as they should have. Still others blame God, because if God was truly watching out for God’s creation, then bad things would never happen to good people.

The latest in this trend goes toward politicians, and their trying to assign blame to a certain administration for certain terrible things that are happening to the country. It’s no secret that I believe that all politicians are children who never grew up, but this awkward, off-the-wall blame game that’s happening is extremely frustrating.

Take, for example, this video from the 29 June episode of the Daily Show. In it, Jon Stewart, with all of his wit and tact, shows different Fox News analysts and reporters blaming everything bad during the Bush administration, as well as part of the Obama administration, on the Clinton administration. Bad economy, 9/11, invasion of Iraq, the housing crisis, and the oil spill are all the fault of Bill Clinton.

The biggest problem I see with this whole debacle is that there is no reason to blame President Clinton for most of that stuff. Sure, there are some ties between Clinton and 9/11, in that he probably got some memos warning about a possible attack. But President Bush probably also received those memos as part of a “Welcome to Being President” package upon moving into the White House. I know that the new President gets all sorts of bomb codes and different secrets like that. Surely some memos of national security are bound to be included.

And while I could mention something hypocritical in the way that Fox News says, “Don’t Blame Bush” while simultaneously saying, “It’s Clinton’s Fault,” I’m not even going to touch that. It’s way too easy, and happens far too often.

Instead, why not focus on the real problem: the lack of personal responsibility. It a problem that reaches into all demographics of the world. No one wants to be the one that screwed it all up, so if they can think of a scapegoat, or can find someone else to share blame with, then they aren’t as bad as other people would think. It’s a tactic that is meant to keep up a cognitive bias known as Illusory Superiority, which is essentially the belief that people have that they are above average, even when everything else shows that they are not.

Fox News didn’t want Bush to be the worst President in history, so they blamed everything on Clinton, making Clinton the bad guy, and keeping Bush above average.

Fox News and conservatives can blame Clinton all they want, and they can shout down the Obama administration for “blaming Bush” for all of the bad things in the Obama Presidency, but the bottom line is: blame will fall where it is most justified. Any ill that comes from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be Bush’s fault, because it was his decision to go to war, not Clinton’s.

The BP oil spill will be partly Bush’s fault, because he passed legislation that allowed oil companies doing off-shore drilling to use lower standards, but it will also be Obama’s fault because the clean up effort is a mess, and not enough is being done to have BP take responsibility.

Every President is going to have some things that are obviously their fault. Everything that happened after 9/11 in Bush’s presidency is Bush’s fault, because the honeymoon was over, and Clinton’s scent was far removed from the Oval Office. And I’m stating this for the record: everything that happens after this oil spill is going to be Obama’s fault, because it’s been over a year since he took office.

But the bottom line is: someone has to step up and say, “Yeah, that was me. Sorry. I screwed up.” Playing the blame game will only go so far before people stop listening and start making their own conclusions.

Children’s Bible Misses the Point

Posted in religion with tags , , , , , , , on July 7, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

A couple of weeks ago, I was wandering around a Waldenbooks book store that was in the mall, and for fun, I decided to check out the children’s Bibles. I remember getting one when I was a kid, and I was more enthralled by the drawings of the people and the animals with huge eyes than the actual stories. Really, I was curious as to how simplified the stories would be, and if there was any improvement in the illustrations.

But one of the Bibles I found made my jaw drop. It had all of the traditional stories of the Bible–Creation, Noah’s Ark, Jonah and the Big Fish, Jericho, Birth of Jesus and all of his Miracles–except for one important and crucial story: the Death and Resurrection.

Anyone who has ever been a Christian in their entire lives knows that those two events in the life of Jesus are the whole reason there is such thing as Christianity in the world today. It’s one of those things that can be boiled down to an “If you only learn one thing today” statement: If you only learn one thing, it’s that Jesus died and rose again to save us from our sins.

Simple. Easy. It’s in the Apostle’s Creed even: I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord… was crucified, died, and was buried. On the third day, he rose again, and ascended into Heaven.

So why is it missing from this childrens’ Bible?

I’ll admit, sometimes it’s hard to talk about the death of Jesus. We have to deal with it for 40 days of Lent. It’s a tough topic to preach on, and many people have to actually force themselves to go to church during Lent. And I’ll also admit that trying to explain something as complicated as death and resurrection to small children will take a lot of creativity.

But imagine what that kid is going to think the first time he or she hears about the crucifixion of Jesus. He or she will probably turn to the parents and say, “What are they doing to Jesus?”

“Oh, they’re crucifying him. It’s part of the life of Jesus in the Bible.”

“No it isn’t.” And out comes the children’s Bible, which ends with Jesus performing a lot of miracles and living a happy life.

Hopefully this child is taught about the Crucifixion before they see Passion of the Christ for the first time. It could be disastrous going into that blind.

How can such an important aspect of a religion just be left out of a Bible? It’s a question I’ve been tossing around in my head every so often since I saw that Bible. It’s like Scientology without Xenu. It’s like Buddhism without the enlightenment. It’s like Harry Potter without wizardry.

A s’more without chocolate is just a sticky, burnt marshmallow between graham crackers, just like a Bible without Jesus’ death and resurrection is just a story about a nice guy that did a lot of cool things for different people.

When you leave out the most important part of the story, you take out the entire reason the story existed in the first place. For those with or expecting children, check your children’s Bibles. Make sure you’re giving them the full message.

Uniting America Again

Posted in opinion with tags , , , , , , on July 5, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

Yesterday was the Fourth of July, a traditional American holiday which includes grilling, fireworks, patriotic music, all in celebration of the Founding Fathers signing the Declaration of Independence on July Fourth. (Never mind that most of the signatures came in the middle of August. That’s not even important when there are brats and steaks on the grill.)

Sadly, in looking through the blogs and the tabloids, the focus is not on the celebration of the Revolution, nor is the focus on horrific fireworks accidents (which are horrific, but also kind of funny, depending on the ridiculous scenario that is being presented). Instead, the same old arguments that showed up during the election are returning: Obama’s Presidency is illegal and unconstitutional. He was never born in the US, he’s a Muslim, he has a fake birth certificate, and so on.

It’s frustrating to me that in a time when we are supposed to be united as Americans, we are still so bitterly divided amongst ourselves. Abraham Lincoln, paraphrasing a passage from the Gospel of Matthew, said, “A house divided amongst itself cannot stand,” and honestly, I feel we’re on shaky foundation.

There is too much division amongst ourselves, it seems. And it goes well beyond the political world. Fans of different teams are often cutthroat in their hatred of one another, with the most vivid example I’ve seen of this being from a Vikings-Packers NFL game at the Metrodome, when the cops were called after a Vikings fan kicked a Packers fan down a flight of stairs.

Then there is the world of literature, where it seems like fans of Twilight are up against the entire world. Even author Stephen King has joined the fight, saying that Stephanie Meyer “can’t write worth a darn,” which has prompted many Twi-hards to state that Stephanie Meyer is obviously a better writer, because none of Stephen King’s books have ever been made into movies (if you don’t count The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption, Carrie, Christine, Cujo, Stand By Me, The Mist, The Shining, Children of the Corn, and a couple of others).

It’s frustrating. My bleeding-heart liberalism tells me that we should all just get along, and that there should be no violence or strife left in the world. And yet, despite all of the advances in the world of equality, there is still blatant racism, there is still blatant bigotry, and there is still hatred of all sorts coming from all sides.

In a time of celebration, we should all remember back to a younger America, one that had to pick itself up by its bootstraps, and fight for their right to be equals amongst themselves. We cannot sit back and just watch everything we’ve worked so hard to accomplish be tossed aside because of some little difference like religion, skin color, lifestyle, favorite brand of beer, or different colored eyes. We must unite like we did in 1776, fighting for equality in the world, and showing everyone that we have something meaningful to offer.

We are the United States of America. We are One Nation, Indivisible. Or have we forgotten the Pledge already?