Archive for August, 2010

8/28 – Historic Day, or Waste of Time?

Posted in current events, politics with tags , , , , on August 30, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

Saturday marked an historic day for America. 47 years ago Saturday, Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his “I Have A Dream” speech at his March on Washington, calling for equality, having people judged not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character. The Civil Rights Movement was put into action on that historic day.

And on Saturday, Glenn Beck called for the movement to be taken back.

In his speech, Beck said that the civil rights movement was about “people of faith looking for equal justice”. Beck’s speech was highly religious, as he had stated in several interviews that the event was to be apolitical.

But while Beck’s rally is meant to bring America “back to God” and be a sort of rallying cry for the Tea Party, all it really did was gather a bunch of people together to hear Beck wax prophetic for an hour.

I’ll admit: I was not at the rally, nor did I watch or listen to coverage about the rally. I was busy driving home from Colorado that day, listening to whatever came on my Zune during my trip. But I was receiving live Tweets about the rally, ranging from news of the rally to snarky comments about the rally and Beck himself (my personal favorite: @HookerAddict: “Dr. King’s dream is alive, cuz I’m judging the F___ out of the content of Beck & Palin’s character.”)

The main idea I’m getting from all of the coverage is that the rally was far from powerful. A reporter from the Daily Kos said that if the “Master Plan” was revealed on Saturday, no one got it, because no one at the rally was really paying attention. And while the rally was generally a peaceful event, like all Tea Party rallies, it had its fair share of lunatics causing trouble and wearing T-shirts with hateful, racist slogans on them.

Glenn Beck, commentator-turned-revivalist, appeared to miss the mark. Glenn Beck is powerful to the masses when talking history and politics, but apparently not as powerful when preaching. Whether the 78,000 or 87,000 or 500,000 people in attendance received a powerful message is purely individual. And whether or not Glenn Beck “stole” MLK’s historic day is yet to be determined.

The thing that bothers me most about the rally was that there was a lot of rhetoric, but not a lot being done about it. You can talk equality and fighting back and restoring honor all you want, but when you have no bite to back up the bark, it’s hard to take a movement seriously. Not to mention that, in true Beck fashion, much of what was talked about on Saturday will be largely forgotten when it comes time to tear down social justice and everything progressives are doing to tear down America.

What is for certain is that Washington, DC, had a gathering of people who banded together to exercise their First Amendment rights. Whether they will follow through with their call to arms is another story.

While you may not agree with everything the fringe Conservatives do–and Lord knows I don’t–you can’t help but be impressed by a self-professed rodeo clown who managed to gather a group of like-minded people in an effort to change America.

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A Taxing Contradiction

Posted in current events with tags , , , , on August 27, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

Taxes are interesting. They come out of our paychecks every day, and no one is really sure where they go. Some complain that there are too many taxes, because their paychecks don’t give them much. Others think that taxes should be gone forever, because they don’t really do anything.

Taxes are only a hot-button issue these days because the tax cuts for the rich from the Bush Presidency are about to expire. Some politicians are saying that it will be crucial that these tax cuts expire, as it will help to stimulate the economy. Others say that it is foolish to introduce more taxes in such an unstable economy.

Even the Tea Party is hopping on the bandwagon, calling for the elimination of taxes. “Taxed Enough Already,” read the signs, in a call to reduce wasteful government spending by reducing the amount of money they can waste.

What everyone seems to be ignoring should be a common sense thing: taxes are crucial to running America, and a lot of America is in shambles because there isn’t enough money to do anything.

Taxes pay for pretty much everything that we take for granted. A short list of things that taxes pay for:

  • Public Schools
  • Road Maintenance
  • Street Lights
  • Medicare
  • Unemployment
  • Emergency Room Care
  • Public Transit
  • Social Security
  • Police
  • Fire Department
  • Ambulances
  • Military
  • Garbage Services
  • Utilities
  • Prisons

And those are things that I came up with off the top of my head. There are probably so many other things that our taxes pay for that we don’t even realize pay for.

What’s really sad about this whole thing is that many politicians feel that it’s some big insult that people who make more should pay more in taxes. It makes me wonder if anyone is thinking any more.

The “American Dream” might be to make a bunch of money and have that be your measure of success, but if it is at the expense of my fellow American, then I’m done chasing the dream.

People who make more money should be expected to help out more than those who are hovering around the poverty line. It’s idiotic thinking to assume that by having a lot of money you’re just free to keep all of that. If I had that much money to spare, I would donate whole, multi-million dollar paychecks toward taxes.

There are roads around the country that are being unpaved because there isn’t enough money for upkeep. Street lights are being turned off because the city can’t afford to keep them on all night.

The lower and middle class can’t do it alone. The Bush tax cuts need to expire, and the rich need to quit whining. A lot of rich people think that making a big show of giving a lot of money to charity should be enough to get them off the hook. “Hey, look! I’m doing something great! Look how awesome I am!”

But giving to charity doesn’t stop a lot of public schools and police stations closing. Giving to charity doesn’t fix the roads. Giving to charity doesn’t provide for better health care. The rich should have to pay their fair share, and maybe even more. It’ll help us improve our economy, and it’ll definitely help to improve America.

How to Have a Religious Discussion

Posted in opinion, religion with tags , , , on August 25, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

Recently, I got a chance to re-watch one of my favorite movies on religion: Religulous starring Bill Maher. It’s one of my favorites because it takes a look at all religions, and many of the idiosyncrasies involved with them. It’s brilliant, in that it cuts right to the core: there is no, “Tell me about the tenants of your religion,” or, “What should people of Faith X know about Faith Y?” It dives right in, with snarky observations and sharp wit that can only come from a comic great like Maher.

My only problem with the film as a whole is that Maher is sometimes unnecessarily cruel. He goes into interviews, claiming that he wants to learn more about a religion or a culture, and yet every time, the interview descends into Bill “trapping” the interviewee into a question that they cannot answer, and then not allowing them to answer. This means that the interview is over, not because they were out of questions, or the conversation ran its course, but because the interviewee realizes that they aren’t getting a say, and would rather say nothing than look like a fool.

“You guys are smart people,” Bill continually says, yet he doesn’t let them prove it.

The interviews in this movie are a good start, but it still doesn’t address the big problem with religion: no one is listening to each other. Bill shows that while intentions are good at the start, it is human nature to be biased, especially toward something that you identify with. We start with an open mind, but before long, the things we disagree on are blown out of proportion, and we end up in a shouting match.

I believe that we can have an intelligent, rational discussion about religion, one where we can all be on the same page. There just have to be a few ground rules.

The first rule sounds obvious, but it needs to be said: Listen. The biggest problem with these sorts of discussions is that people ask a question, and they wait for an answer they want to hear, rather than the answer that is given to them. This sort of half-listening means that, while some valuable answers are being given, they don’t fit the narrative that already exists in the mind.

The next rule is one that might be a little controversial: Get right to the point. Religion is a tough topic to discuss, especially with people of other faiths. In a world of political correctness and constant preaching of tolerance, it’s tough to discuss something like religion without seeming insensitive. Sometimes tough questions need to be asked, and while there still needs to be some cordiality, any fear or intimidation must fall by the wayside.

Bill Maher was right in cutting right to the chase and asking tough questions in his interviews. Where he went wrong leads to the final rule: Don’t have an agenda. Religulous was a documentary that was meant to show that religious people are crazy people, smart people who were sucked up in the delusion of religion.

This agenda he was trying to push meant that questions needed to be especially tough for the lay-person. This also meant that anytime someone was on a right path, he needed to twist words or constantly interrupt in order to make the interviewees look stupid or uninformed. Having an agenda is the worst thing to do in any conversation.

It’s three simple rules. But they are rules that could mean the difference between a religious discussion and a religious shouting-match.

Luchar para la Ciudadanía norteamericana

Posted in current events with tags , , on August 23, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

In Friday’s blog, I talked about how the greatest idea to solve the illegal immigration is to repeal the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, the one that states that anyone born in the United States is automatically a United States citizen. In that post, I briefly mentioned the option of granting US citizenship to those who volunteer for military service. It’s a position I’ve held since the idea was brought up about three years ago, and I truly believe that it is the way to go.

I say this because it actually solves two problems. One problem that is solves is the military recruiting problem. Over the years, less and less people have been volunteering to go into the service, and even though the military can boast over 100% recruitment in all branches, it’s only because they have been lowering their goals. There is a great distrust of the military for a variety of reasons. Some feel that the war in Iraq and Afghanistan have gone on too long and don’t want to be a part of it. Others feel that all war is wrong, and they will not participate in any form.

The requirements for military enlistment has changed, also. It used to be that only men between a certain age and of certain physical fitness were allowed to enlist. Now that list has expanded: women are now allowed, the maximum age limit has been raised, and the physical condition has been relaxed slightly. And with the approaching repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, they will soon be adding openly gay servicepeople as well.

In fact, the military is already close to enacting an amnesty condition: “Noncitizens may enlist but cannot re-enlist (extend their enlistment beyond their first term of service) unless they become naturalized U.S. citizens. However, after three years of service, additional residency requirements for citizenship can be waived.” Technically, illegal immigrants can enlist in the military.

“The Military does not assist in the immigration naturalization process.” They should.

Those who come here illegally are coming for a reason, and by risking their lives to get here, they are showing that they would do anything to get here and stay here. Why not extend them the option of citizenship if they can prove their love of the country by risking their lives for it?

Obviously, there would need to be some conditions: illegal immigrants would have to serve in the military for a certain number of years, and the question of whether or not they should see active service can be discussed as well. Personally, I would even go so far as to grant citizenship to those who are injured in action. If you are willing to risk your health and your life for a country, you deserve to be a citizen of that country.

Apparently, this is a controversial position to hold, but I don’t see why. We see an increase in military recruitment, and we also see a decrease in undocumented workers. Five years of service for a green card, ten years of service for citizenship. Is that really asking too much?

Constitutionally Reprehensible

Posted in current events, politics with tags , , , on August 20, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

Illegal immigration is a topic that has been on everyone’s mind for years. How do we solve the problem of Mexicans crossing the border to steal our jobs and our welfare? How do we stop illegals from coming into the country and having their babies, in the hope that they will have a better life in the States?

Some people are suggesting changing the Constitution. Those people are stupid.

The 14th Amendment states that anyone born in the United States is automatically a US citizen, and as such, no state can stop them from having full rights as a citizen. Many politicians, mainly Republicans, are saying that the 14th Amendment should be repealed, to prevent Mexican parents from dropping “anchor babies” in the States, to stop practicing “drop and leave” tactics.

Again, these people are stupid.

To address the same thing that has been addressed over and over again, having a child in the States doesn’t mean that the parents will have automatic citizenship. The child can bring their parents back to the states, but first they have to be 21, and they have to petition the government, and then there is a ten year waiting period, and then, if all goes well, the parents may enter the US with a green card. It’s the quickest way to citizenship, right?

But the big picture that these politicians are missing is one that they don’t seem to realize: the amendment applies to everyone in the country. Mexican, Black, White, Asian, European, every person born or naturalized in the US is a citizen.

Why is that so important? Because it means that if you repeal the 14th Amendment, not only will Mexican babies not be citizens, but babies born to other people in the states won’t be citizens either.

Imagine repealing the 14th Amendment. Congratulations, no longer is there the made-up infestation of “anchor babies!” Except now, when you have a kid, you have to fill out forms for it to be an American citizen. What was once an automatic thing that you didn’t have to worry about is suddenly a necessary process for having a child. Take the wife to the hospital, deliver the baby, apply for a Social Security Number, and begin work filling out forms for naturalization: the N-400, N-300, N-600, and so many others.

So much stress, and all because you didn’t want some dirty Mexican dropping their babies in the States.

Immigration is a touchy issue all around. The question of whether to grant amnesty to immigrants who want to join the military is one that is hotly debated. The economic impact of rounding up and deporting all illegal immigrants is such that America would probably be worse off without them than they would be leaving them alone. There have been talks of either relaxing or strengthening the immigration and naturalization process, and both sides make sense. There are convincing pros and cons for every option out there, and the problem may never be solved in my lifetime.

That being said, and to be as cliche as possible, repealing the Constitution is suicide, a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I’m glad that Republican powerhouses like Lou Dobbs and Mike Huckabee are speaking out against this proposal. It puts a smile on my face knowing that there are some Republicans that can think rationally about things, and not jump at the first idea they think will work.

How Sacred is 9/11?

Posted in current events, religion with tags , , , , on August 18, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

The biggest news out of any media outlet is the hubbub that has arisen from plans of a mosque being constructed within eyesight of Ground Zero, where over 3000 people died in attacks on the World Trade Center by Muslim extremists. Americans are up in arms about the idea of something so close to such hallowed ground, that it is a slap in the face for those who died and sacrificed themselves to help out in this tragedy.

Then again, so was not passing health care for people involved with 9/11 and are now having serious health problems. But whatever.

Glenn Beck said that the proposed mosque isn’t just a mosque, but a statement: you wouldn’t build a Christian megachurch in the middle of Saudi Arabia, or in the middle of Utah, unless you were trying to make a statement.

This would be all fine and dandy, except what a lot of people aren’t getting is that the mosque isn’t going to be blatantly put in everyone’s face. In fact, there is already a mosque sitting within eyesight of Ground Zero that has been there before the World Trade Center even existed, and yet no one is holding rallies to shut it down.

The heart of the problem, as much as I hate to say it, is a misconception about both the circumstances of the mosque, and also of Islam in general. Doing any preliminary research, one would know that it is a mosque inside of a cultural learning center. The center is probably so close to Ground Zero to make a statement, with the statement being that while, yes, is was Islamic extremists that flew the planes into the towers and killed so many people, there is more to Islam than blowing things up.

Which brings us to the second problem: misunderstanding the Muslim faith. It’s a phenomena called Islamophobia, and it works much the same as homophobia or arachnophobia; you find someone that practices Islam, you project your prejudices upon that person, and then you fear or hate them.

There is no doubt that the events of 9/11 completely shook up the world. There is also no doubt that there is some lingering fear from the 9/11 attacks, and no one is exactly sure who to trust. But blocking someone from building a house of worship, no matter where it is being built, is just wrong, especially when it is a belief system that you don’t agree with.

Another pundit made the point that there is a church near the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the same building that Timothy McVeigh, a Christian, bombed. Where is the uproar? Where is the incredulity? Where is the call to arms to shut down this church for the sake of the victims involved?

All I’m asking for is a little consistency, something that seems to be lacking in this day and age. Either we need to go back to every terror attack site, and eliminate all houses of worship related to the attackers, or we can take a deep breath, and look at this new building for what it’s worth: a chance for people to better know a thing they fear so greatly.

How to Fix the Bully Problem

Posted in current events with tags , , , , , on August 16, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

On the morning of 11 August, I turned on the TV to see a story that has sadly become an all too common story: 11-year-old Ty Field was being bullied, so severely and so relentlessly that he felt his only way to escape it was to commit suicide. It’s the same story that happened a few years ago to Megan Meier, who was bullied over MySpace to the point where she hanged herself in her closet.

In fact, a simple Google search of “bully suicide” produces nearly 1.7 million hits. Story after story about teenage kids bullied to the point where they have no other choice but to kill themselves. Stories about kids like Phoebe Prince, who killed herself after being tormented by a clique of high school girls; or Jon Carmichael, who killed himself after being bullied by most of his school; or even Jared High, who killed himself in 1998 because of bullying. A website about Jared links to several other kids and teens who have committed suicide due to bullying.

In the MSNBC interview I saw with Ty’s father, the question was asked, “Why are so many kids committing suicide today? What is different about your generation than this generation?”

The response was, “Part of it is all of these violent video games.” I cursed out loud.

As someone who was bullied in my younger days (and at times am still bullied today), I can assure everyone that it is not violent video games that make people violent. It does not desensitize people to violence, it doesn’t create violent people. Study after study after study has proven that there is no link between violence and video games. It is a foolish assumption that television, movies, video games, and music can completely change a person’s character. Violent people are predisposed to violence.

But Ty’s father continued his answer: “It is also the technology of the age. Bullies are now able to torment their victims 24/7.”

I immediately apologized. It was the wisest thing I’ve heard about bullying yet. Technologies like Facebook and MySpace, which are accessible whenever, along with Internet anonymity, provide a whole new avenue of bullying which has never been seen before. Anyone can be anyone else and can say whatever they want, and they feel like there are no consequences.

Lori Drew, when creating a fake MySpace account, thought she would just mess with Megan Meier to get back at Megan for spreading rumors about her daughter. The result was suicide.

How do we solve the problem of bullying? Short answer: we can’t.

We can’t because as of right now, there is no concrete definition of “bullying.” The definition we have is: “act of repeated aggressive behavior in order to intentionally hurt another person, physically or mentally.”

This happens every day, not out of hatred, and not out of abuse, but out of kids being kids. Kids will hate other kids over stupid things, and as a result, they will make fun of and torment other kids. It happens, and it only gets out of control when people don’t intervene.

But who should intervene? The schools are doing all they can, and there is a stigma of being a snitch when reporting instances of bullying.

Like most problems with children, the responsibility lies in the parents. Parents should make sure that they are raising kids in a positive environment, and to notice when their kids are not quite right. Kids don’t just wake up one morning and are violent, just like they just don’t wake up one morning and swear. It comes from somewhere, and many times, it comes from the home.

Ty’s father said, “No one sits at the dinner table and talks anymore.” Shouldn’t we get back to that?