2008
10.28

2008
10.28

2008
10.28

This blog is participating in the . . .

1. California is such a massive state, and not only in population. It is also the financial and social leader of the nation. If California votes to enshrine ant-gay hate in their constitution, it will set a horrible precedent for the rest of the US. Gay marriage may still be 20 years away in Oklahoma, but if Prop 8 passes, then LGBT equality may forever be delayed.

2. If Prop 8 fails, many LGBT folks may choose to vote with their feet and move to California. This loss of creative capital may just be the thing that pushes states like Oklahoma to rethink their policies.

3. If Prop 8 fails, California will be a testing ground for gay marriage. In time Americans can see that gay marriage is not a threat to straight marriage. (I just visited Canada, and I can tell you that nothing much has changed for straight society since gay marriage became legal… Canadian civilization is still alive and well.)

4. For those of us who are young, the fight for LGBT rights is the main civil rights struggle of our generation. Do you want to be able to tell your grandchildren someday, “I was nervous to do it, but I stood up for LGBT rights and the world changed,” or do you want have to answer the question, “why didn’t you stand up for what was right? Were you just like the majority of white people in the South who once stood silent during the days of Jim Crow?”

5. None of us are free, if some of us are not free. The sanctity of marriage and love itself is at stake here. If LGBT folks are denied their basic civil and human rights, then the institution of marriage for straight Americans is tainted.

We are all in the same boat together. To quote one of my heroes, Eugene V. Debs – “Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

I am proud to say that I have donated to the No on Prop 8 campaign. I hope that many more of us straight people from Oklahoma and surrounding states do the same. This is our fight too. As long as some remain oppressed, we are all oppressed.

(thanks to Rena for alerting me to the Write to Marry campaign)

2008
10.27

National Guard Press release: Kid Rock, Earnhardt featured in Army Guard advertising campaign 

The new “Warrior” campaign includes music from Kid Rock and features Dale Earnhardt Jr., the National Guard-sponsored NASCAR Sprint Cup driver. Over the next two months, the “Warrior” video will appear in more than 3,000 theaters and on over 27,000 screens around the country. The video and pre-show slides will air before every movie except those rated G and PG. Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn, the director of the Army National Guard, said during a Aug. 20 screening that the new campaign will make an impact. “There is no doubt in my mind that we’re going to attract a lot of folks that are interested in serving,” he said. “Obviously, we think we are really, really strong in all the communities around the country based on the things we did last year. We think we have irreversible momentum right now.” Kid Rock wrote the song, “Warrior,” specifically for the Army National Guard. He was chosen for this project, because of his popularity among the 17-24 year old market and his demonstrated support of the military, said Col. Mike Jones of the Army National Guard’s strength maintenance office. “He is as real as it comes,” Jones said. “And he was unapologetic about supporting the Army National Guard recruiting program.”…     

Notice that the Guard is running the Kid Rock Commericals during PG-13 movies but say that they chose Kid Rock because of his poularity among the “17-24 year old market.” They won’t admit it, but the Guard is really after the 13-16 year olds too (otherwise, why are they showing the film during PG-13 movies?) The good news is that Mr. Rock has created a truly attrocious video (that makes Toby Keith’s crappy songs sound downright sophisticated).Here it is… 

Several things stand out about this video to me. First, notice that the supposed scene from Iraq is almost comical. The kid with the soccer ball doesn’t even vaguely look Iraqi, and in real life there’s a decent chance the kid would have got his blown off for getting that close to the convoy. And of course the US troops in the video have spotlessly clean uniforms on and aren’t bone tired and jumpy from being shot at and worrying about IED’s.And what the heck does Dale have to do with this. And have Kid Rock or Dale ever been in the military? What credbility do these clowns have? (and don’t forget that the Army National Guard has even created a special website to promote this song and its message of death) And of course the song itself is crap.

Here are the lyrics… 

Warrior So don’t tell me who’s wrong and right When liberty starts slipping away And if you ain’t gonna fight Get out of the way ‘Cause freedom ain’t so free When you breathe red, white and blue I’m giving all of myself How ’bout you? And they call me warrior They call me loyalty And they call me ready to provide relief and help, I’m Wherever you need me to be I’m an American warrior Oh I’m an American warrior Citizen Soldier Ahhhhh Yeahhhhh!Citizen Soldier I’ll never leave another behind I will never accept defeat I’m a Soldier in war Civilian in peace ‘Cause freedom ain’t so free When you breathe red, white and blue I’m giving all of myself Cause that’s what I do And they call me warrior They call me loyalty And they call me ready to provide relief and help, I’m Wherever you need me to be I’m an American warrior Citizen Soldier    

 

So let’s go over this line again, “So don’t tell me who’s wrong and right When liberty starts slipping away And if you ain’t gonna fight Get out of the way ‘Cause freedom ain’t so free When you breathe red, white and blue.”   

Don’t tell me who’s wrong and right? What in the world? What does he mean? Maybe I’m taking this song too seriously, but I think he is saying that he doen’t want to be bothered by the morality of the war itself (the old “my country, right or wrong, but my country), and that if he is told that “liberty is slipping away” then he’ll fight. And then he goes on to say that if you “ain’t gonna fight, get out of the way.” 

Well I’m sorry Mr. Rock, but I will get in the way. What you are teaching is straight out of the playbook of the Third Reich. The Nuremberg Priniciples say that a soldier has the right, even the obligation to resist unjust orders. And I would argue that civilians have that same obligation too. I will do my best to help soldiers get out of the Army and to encourage young people to not drink the koolaide by enlisting. And I hope my readers will do the same. Don’t just refuse to fight, but get in the way of the machinery of death. 

CPT (Christian Peacemaker Teams) has embraced this path for a long time and I think it is a good one. When I first was shown this video from a friend (an Iraq war vet who also found it troubling), I was angry beyond words. Now though, I’m almost grateful because the crassness of Kid Rock’s message really helps to prove the point. The US Army is engaged in a propaganda war against American youth and against the Iraqi people.If you think Mr. Rock’s message is wrong, I would encourage you to speak out. Especially be sure and blog about it so that when kids google search about this song, they’ll find out the truth.

2008
10.27

I’m sick and tired of seeing celebrity hacks use their talents for the sake of military recruiting and propaganda. Toby Keith has made a whole career of it (and yes Toby, I’m ashamed you’re from Oklahoma) but there are two other folks that I think are worthy of public ridicule.Army Times: New recruiting ads focus on Army careers

“As it turns out, camouflage is a great way to get noticed,” comes the commanding voice of actor Gary Sinise, who in a low register informs the viewer the Army offers “150 careers in the strength America’s top employers are looking for.”The family scenes are still out there, but now they’re on the newly overhauled http://www.goarmy.com, which launches with an opening video showing a stack of infantrymen in a smoky alleyway and ends with an invitation to “click on any video” to see other career choices, none of which is combat arms.“People already know about the infantry, but they don’t necessarily understand the rest of the Army. This is an opportunity to give them a look at our other careers,” said Accessions Command spokesman Lt. Col. Dan Lee, who said the fact that the Army is at war is also represented in the new ads.

What a putrid pile of dog excrement. If the Army is so great for one’s career, why is it that the average veteran has a LOWER average salary than the average non-veteran?As far as I can tell from digging around online, Gary Sinise has not served in the military (but he did give $2300 to John McCain’s campaign), so he needs to shut up. And stay tuned for my mocking of another celebrity propagandist, Kid Rock. 

2008
10.27

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

(thanks to The Trouble with Spikol for this link)

2008
10.26

My trip home from Canada has been pro-longed by at least one day due to the need for more time to recover from a sprained ankle. (this post will be some personal thoughts, so if you just read the political stuff feel free to skip this post)

I initially thought I could just go full speed ahead (driving 10 hour or so a day) and get back to Oklahoma, but the ankle soreness just wears me down. It’s not so much the pain itself (which really isn’t so bad) but more that it just tires me out.

So I decided last night after a very tiring day to stay at least 2 nights in Jackson, MI (a town of 30,000 or so between Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo . . . notable for being the birthplace of the GOP). Hopefully if I can get lots of rest and do what I should have wen i first sprained the ankle (R.I.C.E. – rest, ice compression and elevation) then the swelling and pain will go down and the rest of the drive home will be more pleasant.

So the unplanned stop has really given me some time to think (I know driving should do that, but your brain is too occupied with “did I miss that turn” and “that is one crazy billboard” and “the fall leaves are so pretty” and “Oh ****! That was a close call with that 18-wheeler!” and “Sandy, calm down! I’ll take you for a walk in just a little bit!”).

Spending almost a week in Canada was one intense exerience. I came away with a mix of confusion (the contradictions of Canadian society are just as crazy as those of the US, but still very different), appreciation (for the work of the War Resisters Support campaign and others giving up so much to help AWOL US soldiers in need) and grief (that Canada, as wonderful as it is, is still infested with the same poisonous brew of patriotism, capitalism and militarism).

In other words, someday I may choose to live in Canada (or not), but it won’t be a utopia and likely will just mean I’m trading one set of moral dilemnas for another set of moral dilemnas.

But then even more strangely, I don’t feel at home in the US either. Today for lunch I hit a local buffet and ended up being there with the Sunday after-church crowd. I had on my t-shirt from the WRSC (the one that says “War resisters welcome here”) and a high school aged kid asked me about it. I explained that about 200 US soldiers had fled to Canada. He was respectful and all about it, but i could tell he was dumbstruck by the concept that “our guys” (as he put it) would do such a thing.

And as I continued to be in the restaurant I felt like a pariah. I put on my coat so people would’t see my shirt, but then I felt like a coward. And I was angry. It’s not fair for me to judge them either, but I kept wanting to jump up and scream, “how can you be in your Sunday best, just out of church and not caring about the war. Just a few hours away, folks are fighting for their lives to stay in Canada, and you don’t even know about it, and probably wouldn’t care if you did know about it.” I know, I have no right to judge, but that’s what i was feeling. — And I thought of something that a friend told me, about the sky not bearing allegiance to anybody. To think that that the same sun and stars shine in the US and Canada and Iraq, and the wind howls and blows across those imaginary lines. To know that a few hours away and that folks don’t know or care about what is happening so close to them, just broke my heart. I’m sorry, again i have no right to judge and yet I’m judging. I’m just depraved as the folks eating at the buffet. I was there too being sure to get my money’s worth. Trying to drown all of this out in food. Goodness, I’m saying more than I really should here.

I guess as you might have guessed, I’m doing a lot of soul searching and emotional sorting. I am very frustrated that my desire to quit taking Paxil (a antidepressant that may have helped me at one time, but I’m now convinced that it is a poison. It’s made it hard to trust my own emotions and it is so, so hard to get off of. The withdrawal symptons are every bit as bad as the problems that led me to start ingesting the poison in the first place) won’t be enough and that the process of quitting paxil will take a long time (6 months? a year? there is no telling — it helps to know that I’m not alone in having such difficulty quiting paxil but it still doesn’t help the frustration to go away)

I also feel spiritually out of sorts. I can talk a good talk, but I feel disconnected and uncentered. And right now the path out of this place seems obscured by fog and busyness. And that’s another thing. I don’t feel like I’m doing everything I should do for my clients. I’m really overwhelmed right now and that feeling makes it harder to act to change it (a nasty circle of despair sets in)

So anyway those are the thoughts that are on my mind. I am trying to get some work done (lots of catch up to do for client work) but am hoping I’ll have some time to reflect and write. I know i’ll have a lot more to say about Canada soon.

2008
10.25
From Sandy, the Peace Dog
From Sandy, the Peace Dog
2008
10.22

I found two pretty good artiles that discuss voting from a Mennonite perspective. The first takes a pretty radical position (but one that was pretty common during much of Anabaptist history), that of non-participation in secular government. 

Anabaptist.org: Polls Apart — Why Believers Might Conscientiously Abstain from Voting – by John D. Roth (from the conference “God, Democracy and US Power” held at Eastern Mennonite University, September 23-25, 2004)

The most compelling argument made by Roth is this part (emphasis added is my own)…

Not voting in the presidential election might be understood as a practical expression of our pacifist convictions. Those in the believer’s church tradition are agreed that the decision to become a Christian involves a choice, one with genuine consequences for our most basic understanding of reality. The heart of that choice is an affirmation of Jesus Christ as the One who saves us from our bondage to self-centered (or nation-centered) pride, and who offers in His life and teachings a model of the true nature of power—a power, as Paul writes, “made perfect in weakness.” Becoming a follower of Christ implies more than just a “quantitative” change in our actions (where we become a little more moral, decent or honest than everyone else); rather, it assumes that we will engage the world in a “qualitatively” different way. Indeed, every aspect of our lives should point to Christ’s new understanding of power, expressed most dramatically in love for our enemies.

As Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, the president is explicitly charged with the duty of maintaining the military, defending our borders and preserving national interests through the use of violence if necessary or expedient. If I, as a follower of Christ, could not conscientiously serve in that role, then how can I in good conscience cast my support for someone else to do that in my stead?

Another article that takes a pro-voting stance, but more of an inclusive idea of what “voting by The Book” looks like, is one that I received in an email forward that was originally from the Mennonite Peace & Justice Support Network (emphasis added is my own)…

Voting with our faith in mind

On what criteria do Christians base their voting decisions? Life experiences? Sunday school or small group discussions? Common sense? The Bible?

Christians who vote based on their understanding of the whole Bible might evaluate a candidate through the lenses of the Christian principles below, outlined by Leo Hartshorn, minister of peace and justice for Mennonite Mission Network, in an October 2004 PeaceSigns
article: http://peace.mennolink.org/cgi-bin/m.pl?a=126

1. The earth is God’s good creation (Genesis 1). We are stewards of creation.
2. God has created humanity in the divine image (Genesis 1:27). We are to foster the dignity and rights of all peoples and the sanctity of life.
3. The state was created to serve human welfare (Romans 13:4). We are to call upon the state to serve its more noble purposes.
4. In Jesus Christ, God has revealed a way of peace, nonviolence, justice and reconciliation (Matthew 5). We are to live in the way of peace and justice.
5. All human reality has “fallen” from God’s purpose (Romans 8:22-23). We are to live in that creative tension of being “in” the world, but not “of” the world.
6. The church, as a signpost of God’s reign, is the primary arena for Christian “politics” (1 Peter 2:9). We are to be the church, an alternative community or polis.
7. God’s mission is for and within the world (John 3:16). We are to engage the world reflecting God’s compassion.
8. God has compassion for the most vulnerable in the world (Proverbs 31:8-9). We are to welcome the stranger and seek economic justice for the poor and the marginalized in society.
9. Security is in God (Psalm 146:1-6). We are to place our ultimate trust in God.
10. God’s reign transcends peoples and nations (Revelation 7:9). We are first and foremost citizens of God’s rule.

Studying and prayerfully evaluating candidates and their views on a wide variety of topics is time consuming. However, it doesn’t take long to realize that no candidate will bring about God’s kingdom on earth. That’s not the job of government–that’s God’s job. The church
is here to proclaim that some government laws and policies–and the candidates and politicians who pass them–bring more justice and peace and some bring much less. That’s the goal of voting in a democratic society.

Here are resources to help you gather biblical voting information:

* Mennonite Central Committee, Congressional Voting Record (PDF download)
* Sojourners, Voting All Your Values (pdf download)
* “Guiding principles for Christian political engagement” by Leo Hartshorn (PeaceSigns, Oct 2004)
* National Council of Churches: Christian Principles in an Election Year (PDF download)
* National Association of Evangelicals: For the Health of the Nations, An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility (PDF download)

I myself am not sure that I’m ready to take the more radical perspective of the first article, but at this moment the arguments for not voting seem more in line with Mennonite teachings than do the arguments for voting.

Also on a sidenote while I’ve been in Canada the last 2 days, I’ve been struck by how patriotic folks are here. The Canadians are just like the US Americans in this regard, and it seems equally arrogant and idolatrous. Canada does some things very well but it is no liberal utopia. In fact, Canada treats their poor people and their American Indians about as crappy as the US does. Seeing this makes me wonder why the Mennonite Church in their big merger a few years back (turning two bi-national denominations, The Mennonite Church and General Conference Mennonites, into two national denominations, Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada) split on national lines?

I thought we were a community that transcended national borders? It seems like the decision to form national denominations contradicts that ideal.

2008
10.20

In Canada

Just wanted to let y’all know I’ll be in Canada for the next few days. My cell phone will be turned off (because roaming minutes and text messags are 49 cents!) but I’ll be checking the voice mail on my toll-free number (1-866-933-ARMY) nightly and hopefully getting to check email too.