The Watering Hole; Friday December 19 2014; Religious Dialogue

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Once again it’s the Holiday Season. Hanukkah. Kwanzaa. Christmas.

All are celebrations of beliefs; each differs from the other, each is the product of religious sincerity, each a celebration of history, of culture, of community. In our particular corner of the world, the Christian Christmas is by far the most visible because Christianity is, after all, this nation’s dominant belief system, the one that preaches Charity and Joy, Tolerance, Understanding, and Love of Others. Right?

A quick look around at recent “Christian” viewpoints suggests something a bit different.

Rick Santorum: Separation Of Church And State A Communist Idea, Not An American One

The Perfect Right Wing Christmas Card

Bryan Fischer Explains Why Muslim Terrorists Are Responsible For The CIA’s Use Of Torture

Jesus Would Support The Use Of Torture

What puzzles me most about those four posts — selected randomly, without effort and in just minutes — is not their specific detail, but more the overall undercurrent that clearly drives them. Why, I have to wonder, so much irrational fear and hatred? I was always taught that the virtue of religious belief was the opposite. “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Be your “brother’s keeper.” Et cetera. Where’s the Christian admonition to hate Muslims? To find solace and comfort in torture? Why does Santa need a gun? Why is the freedom to believe differently, to not be forced to accept a Christian thesis, a product of Communism? Wherefrom derives — and why — the obvious fear, the implicit hatred?

A decade ago I was a frequent visitor to an online discussion group that had participants from around the world, people of every race, of every religion. Just recently I happened across a folder filled with old discussion files. The one that first caught my eye was dated January 5, 2005, and was my response to a religious “question” posed by a gentleman from Pakistan. He was a banker, also a devout Muslim; the fact that he was a regular participant in a US-based discussion group during the Bush aftermath of 9/11, and was willing to speak his mind on any issues that might arise there was, I thought at the time, both courageous and interesting.

What I found even more fascinating was that in said discussion group there was none of the vitriol, none of the fear and hatred that was so constantly featured on TV news reports and parroted back by people everywhere — those irrational fears and hatreds that were (and still remain) common to both sides of the world. Over here we’ve been instructed constantly on the best reasons to hate Muslims, to fear their next attack, and to accept torture as a legitimate consequence of (and potential solution to) our irrational fears and hatreds. The world’s other side was and still is, of course, similarly taught to hate America and to fear everything it’s presumed to stand for — the potential consequences of our irrational fears and hatreds (read: anti-Islamic passions) in particular.

Still, all participants in those discussions understood that rational chit-chat amongst divergent cultures and religions was a definite virtue. This is the only hard copy on this particular topic I’ve so far found, but to me, at least, it still speaks a lot louder than the hate and fear crap which remains so common even today.

(Note: Mr. Ashraf’s first language was obviously not English, yet he managed to use it to communicate far more lucidly than I could have ever managed in whichever lingua is common to Karachi Pakistan):

Adeel Ashraf wrote:
I agree that being human is most important thing. However, if i may submit that one can be a best human while being a bit of relgious. as per my information on Islam. Human Rights , and being human has been given first priority than duties towards Allah. For example, its mutually agreed by all muslims, that Allah might forgive his rights on judgment day i.e. saying prayers but will not forgive a penny to a misdeed on account of our fellow human beings. so i might get forgiveness from God if i dont say my prayers..But i will not be spared it i screw any of my friends, family, other human beings …animals, etc.

Reply -
Adeel — I have the utmost respect for each and all who adhere to the religion of their choice, so long as each and all live a life which respects the sum of this magnificently beautiful planet and every life form upon it, all of which is offered free of charge to those who care to take a moment to ‘see’. I do understand full well that there is beauty in each the Quran, the Jewish bible, the Christian New Testament, and in other holy books everywhere — and I respect each and every shred of that aspect of all of them, always. I am, however, troubled by what certain men do with holy text, how they interpret it to satisfy their own selfish agenda, how convenient it can be for a scoundrel to find millions of his subjects loyal to words only — to backward interpretations of words — rather than to the basic ideal which should (and would, if practiced properly) allow each to find his way to live and prosper — man, beast, bird, and tree alike.

Human, however, invariably imposes his own baggage, and all too often it is self-serving baggage. My choice was, a long time ago, to walk away from Human agenda and to instead immerse myself into the vibrancy of the creation itself, that immensity of beauty of which I am but a tiny speck. In my view, I’m entitled to no more, and no less, than any other collection of atoms — and therefore I try to walk carefully. I’ve found room to have no more argument with the stars and constellation than with the bacteria which digest sewage — or anything between, above, or beneath (save for politicians and crooked clerics, of course). I have no argument with the whims of the Earth’s crust as it shakes and moves, nor with the storms that blow across sea and shore. I have no argument with beasts, with trees, no argument with thorns or with sharp teeth; I only have argument with Human agenda, and then only when it is dark, seeking power rather than the light of truth or beauty.

So I hope always to draw upon that which is good and beautiful in life, and to disassociate myself from that which is not. I’ve abandoned the label, but pray I’ve saved the essence of my Christian upbringing — because it does, in its purest sense, represent too the essence of Judaism, of Islam, of Love itself, of all that is worthy of the ideas which underlie the words “Creation” and “Life”, and even “God.”

I can’t imagine that God, in any concept or context, would sanction wanton destruction — whether of Earth, or beast, or Human himself, or of property, of cities or farms. To destroy serves no useful purpose, but yet ‘destroy’ is what Human does best — and so often, he proclaims, it is destruction that is mandated *in hoc signo*, under the banner of God. I think not.

Today in the US, a topic which is near the forefront is whether America should, or will, preemptively attack and/or invade Iran. To do so is necessary, some say, to rid the world of the Mullahs in charge there, to make the world safe for …. for … for what? For me? For the children? No. More likely for agenda; some suggest it’s a good thing to make war in the Middle East because it will speed the return of the Christ. Apocalypse? Bring it on!

Do you see that I can’t associate myself with those voices anymore? That I must, instead, find the means to live as far from that chatter as is possible? I’ve found a way, I think — a way which allows me to pursue the never-ending search for Truth even as I disassociate myself from each and all of the major religions and their respective dogmatic “bandwagons” (for lack of a better word). And in so doing I can still hear the music but I no longer feel the obligation to march in lockstep. “God” is in the music, not in the rhythmic pounding of muffled feet. And while some surely believe they’ll burn in hell for the occasional misstep or sour note, I’ll be seeing “god” in the center of a flower, or in the approaching storm clouds, in a sunrise; or I’ll be hearing His voice in the howl of a wolf, a baby’s cry, or in the rumble of thunder — because I know that “God” IS the creation — a knowledge that puts me in instant communication with that one power which seems to forever elude popes, mullahs, preachers, priests, and even presidents.

In the movie Gandhi, actor Ben Kingsley, in the title role, spoke a line that (paraphrased) went something like this: “I am a Christian, and a Muslim, and a Jew, a Hindu and a Sikh …”

Would that we might all — truthfully — one day find ourselves able to say the same.

That was ten years ago, and still no progress toward understanding, toward tolerance and compassion. Why is that, I wonder? Maybe Michele Bachmann has it all figured out? I suppose it could happen because, as someone once observed, “There’s a first time for everything.”

Yeah, well, OK. Maybe tomorrow.

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The Watering Hole; Thursday December 18 2014; HELP!!

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OK. Here’s the thing. The electoral system in the US has been hijacked by the Supreme Court, by big money, by Congress, and by emergent power structures in the several states. How’d that happen? A quick look in the rear view mirror reminds us that:

1) In December of 2000 the Supreme Court jumped ahead of the pack and appointed George W. Bush POTUS simply because the popular vote in Florida was having some problem with ballot counting, and the distribution of Florida’s electoral votes would determine whether Al Gore or George Bush would become president. No matter that the national popular vote chose Al Gore, no matter the final Florida tally; only the electoral vote determines the presidency; everything else is academic.

2) In 2009, the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case essentially turned the nation’s electoral process into a ‘who can raise the most money’ contest, thereby green-lighting the purchase of the government by corporations, by Wall Street, and by billionaires. In short, money was now defined, in the political world, as the equivalent of speech. The fatter the wallet, the louder the “free” speech.

3) In 2012 the Supreme Court crippled a significant portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and essentially allowed the several states the privilege of enacting voter registration laws which could serve to reduce voter access amongst various ethnic and racial groups, thereby altering the final vote tally in ways that would ultimately act to favor one political party to the manipulated disadvantage of the other.

Whereto from here? Is it possible for the average Jane and John Doe to recapture their country, or is it too late? Have the oligarch and the right wing Fascist movement won? Has everything shifted in the worst possible way? Is there any possible solution?

Why not a Constitutional amendment, one that clarifies the right of the people to vote, and one that specifically corrects today’s major flaws in the voting/electoral system? Good idea, no? One could easily figure that at least 34 states might stand tall and ratify it by tomorrow, if only Congress would introduce it!

I haven’t heard that anyone in Congress is willing to take the bull by the blanks and get it done, though, so I figured why not help ‘em out a little. How about this for starters?

ARTICLE XXVII ?

Section 1.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for Senator, for Representative, or for initiatives or amendments be they national or in any of the various States, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State for any reason or by any technique. Therefore:

Clause 1.

The Electoral College is hereby discarded; the Popular Vote only shall determine the election of President and Vice President.

Clause 2.

Individual and corporate financial contributions to all political processes at all National and State levels are hereinafter permitted in any quantity, although no financial contribution can be made to any given candidate, to any given political party, or in support of any particular initiative or amendment. All financial contributions will be addressed solely to a Central Electoral Fund which will then be distributed evenly to each and all candidates and for each and all ballot issues regardless of underlying politic.

Clause 3.

Each and every citizen of age eighteen and above is eligible to vote, in each and every election, for any candidate and on any ballot issue; such right shall not be denied or abridged in any way or by any means, by the United States or by any of the Several States.

Section 2.

The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Now I admit that I ain’t a lawyer, am not possessed by the burden of a “legal” mind. Stated another way, I admit to zero talent in re finding all the “right” words that are invariably implicit in and a requirement of legal baloney. OTOH, I figure that since Rome wasn’t built in a day and since James Madison is no longer with us .  . . well, you know, gotta start someplace. Right? Right.

HELP!!

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The Watering Hole: 12/17/14: Hump Day

New study finds gun violence linked to broccoli.

In an article comming up in next month’s edition of Lancit, a highly respected, peer reviewed publication of medical research, two scientists claim they have found an irrefutable link between mass murderers and people who were forced to eat broccoli as children. Drs. O. Gobi and Juan K. N’Obi interviewed dozens of individuals currently incarcerated for killing more than 5 people and found the statistical correlation so strong as to suggest causation.

The study investigated all the food groups, and included so-called junk foods. “We really expected the results to implicate junk foods, sodas in particular, but found that green vegetables, and most notably broccoli, had the strongest correlation to gun violance.” Dr. Gobi sommented in a press release. Dr. N’Obi added, “What this means, of course, is that parents should think twice before forcing their children to eat broccolli. This may well save us from creating mass murders in the future.”

The NRA and BGA (Broccoli Growers of America) have joined forces to denounce the article, with an upcoming ad campaign featuring gun-toting children happily chowing down on broccoli. Rumors indicate the junk food industry is seizing on the study and plans to hit the airwaves with an ad campaign of its own: Parents, let your kids eat junk foods – at least they won’t become mass murders!

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I’m going back to bed.

Do not disturb until after Christmas.

The Watering Hole, Monday, December 15th, 2014: Surreal

While the vast majority of the current political, cultural, and social events have become increasingly surreal, here’s just a few examples of the WTF? society in which we are floundering.

In the wake of the release of the Senate Torture Report (“Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: Committee’s Study on the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program”), the defensive reactions of some are wandering in the realm of surrealism. There was that, pardon the expression, bimbo on Fox screaming that “America is AWESOME!”, there’s Dick Cheney calmly and coldly dragging Dubya under the same bus that HOPEFULLY runs down Cheney.

There’s surreal hypocrisy, as in Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (spit!) stating that there’s nothing in the Constitution that prohibits torture. From HuffPost:

“Scalia…said that while there are U.S. laws against torture, nothing in the Constitution appears to prohibit harsh treatment of suspected terrorists. “I don’t know what article of the Constitution that would contravene…”

[How did this scumbag get to be a Supreme?]

“In 2008, he used the example of the hidden bomb [ala the fictional Jack Bauer in 24]. “It seems to me you have to say, as unlikely as that is, it would be absurd to say you couldn’t, I don’t know, stick something under the fingernail, smack him in the face. It would be absurd to say you couldn’t do that,” he said.”

On the other hand, regarding a real imminent potential crisis situation:

“In January, Scalia seemed less concerned about the safety of residents of Los Angeles when the court heard arguments about whether anonymous tips could justify a traffic stop. Urging the lawyer for two suspects appealing their conviction to stand firm, Scalia suggested that not even information that a carload of terrorists heading to Los Angeles with an atomic bomb would be enough to justify police stopping the car, if the tip came from an anonymous source. “I want you to say, ‘Let the car go. Bye-bye, LA,'” Scalia said.

Then there’s surreal racism/white privilege in ‘law enforcement’. As this Daily Kos diary points out, why aren’t vicious white criminals called “thugs”? One particular white Texas criminal who brutally murdered a white prosecutor, the prosecutor’s wife, and the assistant prosecutor, was:

“…a felon who had a prior record of burglary and theft. Yet somehow he had amassed a veritable arsenal of weapons as prosecutors during the penalty phase of his trial revealed:

“On Tuesday afternoon, prosecutors assembled the arsenal of weapons found in Williams’ storage unit in the courtroom. The guns were displayed on three wooden racks in the middle of the courtroom, 42 handguns in the middle and 22 long guns flanking each side. In front of the racks were boxes of ammunition — thousands of rounds were recovered — and a crossbow. Bullets were loose in bags, as well as still packaged in boxes.”

Now let’s switch to more palatable surrealism: I ran across this assemblage of ’30 surreal photos’ while I was clearing out/sorting my emails at work–Wayne had sent me the link in a 2012 email, noting that he liked this photo:

"Seemingly Surreal Swallows in a Snowstorm" - photo by Keith Williams

“Seemingly Surreal Swallows in a Snowstorm” – photo by Keith Williams

While I found many of the “surreal” photos to be too contrived – I like the ones where a simple alteration of one’s perspective reveals a glimpse of other-worldliness (see “Towering”, among others) – I agree with Wayne, I love the swallows photo. For more of photographer Keith Williams’ bird photos, I highly recommend checking out his gallery – makes a nice palate-cleanser.

This is our daily open thread – go ahead, speak up!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, December 13, 2014: Lazy Day

I just got back from the dentist and boy, are my arms tired! But seriously, Jokes. It’s just one of those lazy days for me, my seventh this week. So, rather than go into one of my patented long, rambling rants about Continue reading

The Watering Hole; Friday December 12 2014; Action Request

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The following is a recent communication courtesy of the Center For Biological Diversity, a request mirrored by (among others) Defenders of Wildlife and the Wilderness Society. It’s a simple request for action, an effort to STOP in its tracks the latest irrational attempt to eradicate wolf populations in Idaho’s back country. Note that the BLM has already acted appropriately, and that now the wolf-kill enterprise has shifted its focus “to national forest lands (along with private and state) instead of BLM” with intent still the same: the irrational eradication of all timber wolf populations therein and thereupon.

In November, following an onslaught of letters and a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the Bureau of Land Management cancelled its permit to a hunting group trying to hold a wildlife-killing contest on Idaho’s public lands.

The hunt was neither in the public interest nor consistent with the agency’s mission. But now the misnamed “Idaho for Wildlife” is trying to peddle its wolf-hating elsewhere — switching its family-friendly carnagefest to national forest lands (along with private and state) instead of BLM.

According to the group, up to 500 participants — including kids as young as 10 years old — will compete to kill as many wolves, coyotes and other animals as they can.

The competition will take place in January — unless we demand a stop to it now.

The Forest Service has effectively escaped any public review of the competition by not requiring a permit for this event. But the public must have a say in how our lands are used and managed, and an event of this magnitude must be preceded by an environmental review.

Act now to demand that the Forest Service bring a stop to this barbaric hunt on our public lands or, at the very least, conduct a review in the clear light of day.

Click here to take action and get more information.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome years ago, Alaska resident and outdoor enthusiast Jill Missal wrote the following (my underline):

“The precise origins of man’s unusual fear of the wolf are obscure. The wolf is human’s most feared animal, even though there has never been a verified account of a healthy wild wolf attacking and killing a human in North America. There have been many maulings caused by bears, and many a diver has experienced a shark attack, but never a wild wolf attack. So why are wolves so feared and hated?

Why indeed. Actually, Canadian environmentalist and author Farley Mowat answered her question in his 1963 masterpiece Never Cry Wolf where he wrote a most able summary of today’s wolf-hating idiots:

“We have doomed the wolf not for what it is but for what we deliberately and mistakenly perceive it to be: the mythologized epitome of a savage, ruthless killer — which is, in reality, no more than the reflected image of ourself.”

There is no reason — other than the irrational attitudes of the unenlightened and poorly educated masses — for ANY state or federal governmental agency to allow the wanton slaughter of recently reintroduced (endangered) species which are of NO RISK to any human anywhere. Irrational hatred and fear have become a defining hallmark of a substantial portion of Americans these days, but is that fair reason to allow wanton slaughter?

No.

I hope all who read this will access the petition linked above and sign it. With luck, someone with authority to act will listen. And then ACT. Appropriately.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(Photos by Frugal)

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