Giving Our Best Shouldnt Be Only During the Holidays

The longer you’ve nursed a grudge, the stronger it becomes. Some people take a portion of their lives to wollow in grudgery. I have never fully understood these people or their rationale especially when they claim to be Christian or hold a religious faith. It sends a mixed message about themselves and the lessons of forgiveness throughout scripture. Yes, I have gotten mad or angered out of situations in my lifetime. I am not perfect, and I won’t be wasting time holding a grudge. Years ago I adopted a self-policy of attempting to find the right qualities about those I hold in disagreement or find uncomfortable to talk about. Perhaps this is my way of releasing the consumption of hate, greed, contempt and other scorn of my neighbors. I don’t want to sound religious or preachy. What I do want to convey is that people have differing perspectives and sometimes seek out the darkest retribution rather than hoping for a positive outcome.

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Have you ever noticed in relationships or friendships when there is disagreement that the people most harmed from fallout are the friends and relatives from both sides? They are the ones walking on eggshells in a carefully orchestrated support as to avoid the proverbial landmines set by people with grudges. Recently I overheard a relative conversation discussing her church and prayer group. She was very proud of the good work for the community they had done and mentioned how they pray for everyone. Someone jokingly mentioned an ex-boyfriend and her demeanor changed as she said, “except for that person. I hope he rots in hell.” An uncomfortable laughter filled the room. But she was dead serious. I wanted to speak up and say something to question how can one pray for everyone yet exclude based on a grudge. Apparently, the lessons of religion are failing in today’s society and will continue to fail if we allow hate to continue to be a part of our lives.

Yesterday I was standing in line at Walmart only to pick up some sodas on sale. While standing in line, I watched a woman in the 20 items or less will a filled shopping cart push an elderly lady out of line. Nobody would say or do anything. I allowed the older woman to stand in front of me. She was only holding a small bag of cranberries. I was holding two cola bottles. We watched as the other woman complained to the cashier about incorrect prices and demanded someone immediately correct it. You could sense that the woman was shopping at the last second for Christmas. The line was backing up quickly, and the boiling point of other people in line was starting to show. Finally, the woman left with her full basket. The senior woman was next in line and the clerk scanned her cranberries. I said to the cashier, “I’m paying for her cranberries after the way she was treated.” Both women looked shocked. She turned and said, “are you sure?” I said, “yes” and never discussed anything else. It wasn’t just a random act of kindness it was more than that. It was doing unto others and releasing a grudge that I may accidentally carry based on the careless actions of others. Before I left the store, the older woman walked up to me and gave me a hug. It felt good and also felt good to do something simple to keep the spirit alive about doing unto others.

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Sometimes I hear people mentioning to set aside grudges almost as if it is temporary. I ask that in the spirit of the holiday season that we end our grudges or whatever consumes us and move on. Bury the hatchet or whatever you want to call it – it’s time to put a stop to all forms of barriers that keep us from being at our best and staying active in ours and others lives. Yes, it’s hard to mitigate what life throws at us. But that is part of the lessons learned as to be mindful how to improve ourselves in the worst of times rather than continually dragging it along with our journey.

I certainly hope that you, and I mean all of you, have a wonderful holiday season and prosperous New Year. Just remember to “Be kind, don’t judge, and have respect for others. If we can all do this, the world would be a better place. The point is to teach this to the next generation.

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Did the U.N. do the Right Thing?

Albert Einstein said, “Peace cannot be kept by force; if can only be achieved by understanding.” It appears that Israel has been dealt a mighty blow from the United Nations Security Council. The U.N. resolution demands an end to Israeli settlement building. The vote was able to pass the 15-member council because the United States broke with a long-standing approach of diplomatically shielding Israel and did not wield its veto power as it had on many times before.

I think the media once again missed an opportunity to explain to the American people on the purpose of the United Nations. Instead, the hype has been centered around how Israeli President Netanyahu is angered by the outcome. What is missing from this argument is who is on the United Nations Security Council.

 

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The U.N. Security Council has permanent and non-permanent members. The five permanent members are China, France, Russia, England and the United States. The other members are Angola, Egypt, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal, Space, Ukraine, Uruguay, and Venezuela. In this recent vote, the United States abstained allowing a unanimous vote to the resolution. I don’t see Netanyahu angrily bashing Japan, England, Russia, China, France or other nations. What I do read and hear is Israeli leadership and political snap rhetoric to defund the very world body of peace and policy because it didn’t get its way. Threats to peaceful means rather it is monetary, or force will only further isolate us from understanding. Such rhetoric is dangerous and only fuels contempt that the United Nations relocate to another nation.

It is vital to highlight that matters of U.S. politics has created a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario. If the U.S. would have vetoed the resolution, then I am almost positive opposite political parties would have complained just as loudly. Perhaps the incoming administration has a tender feeling of what an empty chair on the U.S. Supreme Court feels like. After all, this is politics at its best.

I am not here to defend or credit the United Nations resolution. Instead, I am here to assess that the United Nations did exactly what its body was designed to do. It passed a unanimous resolution without the influence or adulteration of due process. The United Kingdom is currently led by the Tory (Conservative) Party and gave support to the U.N. decision. Even Russia, a conservative-led government, supports Palestinian statehood and resolutions. Why is the United States acting so differently than the rest of the world? Are we out of touch and continually misled? Perhaps Netanyahu should begin asking not why the United States abstained but why did the U.N. vote the way it did. The media should start assessing that path rather than placing blame at the United States. Perhaps our nation should reflect on the words of George Washington, “Observe good faith and justice towards all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all.

Religious Accommodations

Accommodations such as medical, religious, physical and mental are important in our society as long as it isn’t a distraction and provides a pathway towards equality based on the conditions. But what if religious accommodations begin to reshape let’s say the typical American driver license? Today I read where a man in Maine will be allowed to wear his goat horns, yes horns, on his official driver license photo. Okay, it’s safe for me to throw out the yellow flag on this one and ask “why?”

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It is bad enough to wait in anguish at a driver license office. It is true, there are some that take an immense amount of pride in that driver photo as if Glamor Shots or Hollywood will somehow beg you to star in a feature film. But some want to defy the entire process completely in the name of god or whatever they refer to as a higher power. It is as if we are destined to abuse certain systems for our own benefit.

To be candid, I strongly feel that there should not be any religious accommodations when it comes to a driver license photo. My reason is simple; religious rights are not an issue of the state nor motor vehicles. Religion is and should continue to be a private matter. Sure, I’m sympathetic towards reasonable religious accommodations. But I fear that we are stretching the elasticity of public good towards a select few. What is next? Will football helmets require an extension for religious accommodation? Basically, when we extend the far reaches of accommodations we end up dumping more money to resolve additional issues. My fear is that such accommodations will only create a system based on biometrics and DNA. Sure it will be fair but perhaps more intrusive than meeting religious accommodations.

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I don’t want to sound insensitive about this issue. Naturally, I am curious as to what others think. I am only voicing my observation and potential outcomes. It may be true that a healthy democracy always changes and evolves. I have a concern that we may be running in circles chasing a wagging tail. While we should be mindful at accommodations, we must adhere to best practices by identifying those that intend to abuse the system.

Tax the Church

I rarely get angry about things I read. Today I read that conservative Christian evangelist Franklin Graham saying that he doesn’t believe it was the Russians who intervened in this year’s controversial presidential election. Instead, he said, “it was God. God showed up.” I could not have been more disgusted at the way religion is consistently misused for personal and political gain in our nation. For starters why should any pastor, layman, or evangelist claim that religion works in its favor? Is this to imply that any independent or democrat voter an agent of the devil? I think not. What Mr. Graham did was blasphemy and use the pulpit to create more division in our nation. Graham has disguised himself as a servant of rightousness by an orchestrated choice of words rather than the guidance of God and the holy spirit.

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In my lifetime I have tried very hard to keep religion separate from my civic duties and obligations. I pray for most people. What makes my prayer different is that I pray for peace, pray for others that include our enemies. Sure, I may sound like the Catholic boy, but I am not Catholic. I was always taught to think of others before myself. This method seems to be doing just fine until I hear more rhetoric from Graham. I remember when Graham referred to Muslims as engaged in “a religion of hatred. It’s a religion of war.” Only later would Graham continue to spread doubt by claiming President Obama was Muslim and that references to Mormonism as a cult implying doubt about Governor Mitt Romney’s ability to be President. What is most disturbing is Graham’s political plans from the pulpit. He said, “I have zero hope for the Democratic Party; I have no hope for the Republican Party. I am running a campaign to put God back in the political process.”

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I would like to point out that Franklin Graham has a net worth of over $25 million dollars. That is money that was collected tax-free by contributors. There is no product to buy except fear based on his words. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that using politics in the church is a dangerous mix and somewhat unlawful by revenue standards. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has a clear rule when it comes to churches. The law prohibits political campaign activity by charities and churches by defining a 501(c)(3) organization as one “which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.

It is time for our nation to confront the combination of politics and religion. Once again it has become out of hand and dangerous by self-appointed ministers interpreting based on its capital need rather than scripture. America may see the expensive cars, mansions and offshore bank accounts by tax-free deposits of people such as Franklin Graham and his misguided rhetoric by using God for material and political purposes. It is time to start taxing these “churches” that harvest an armageddon of theater news Graham and others create for their congregations and ministries. This has nothing to do with free speech. This matter has more to do with tax-free speech and the law as it is written. God should never be used to determine politics. This is the free will of the people something religion holds dear and sacred. But, in fairness, if you want to talk about politics then you may do so if you forego the IRS 501(c) statements and disclose this to your followers. Be transparent just as God would want.

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If Graham wants to use religion in politics, let’s use the law and begin taxing his ministry. Maybe Graham should read his own Bible once in a while and reference Romans 13:7-8 “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Democrats felt the Bern on Election Day

Democratic Party and Hillary campaign staffers ultimately shuttered out Bernie Sanders supporters.

Since the day after the election, I have watched media outlets nearly overload its own circuits at how Trump miraculously won. It is somewhat like watching and listening to everyone taunt that Santa is coming to town, but he fails to show. That suggestion alone may be another reason that Hillary lost the election. Sure, we could go through all the conspiracy theory rhetoric claims from Russia, the CIA director, voter fraud and other issues. But one thing is very clear, the Democratic Party and Hillary campaign staffers ultimately shuttered out Bernie Sanders supporters. The Democratic Convention was perhaps a warning that Sanders supporters would alienate its own party on election day.

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What I failed to hear from Hillary over the course of her campaign was her connection to the working class. Instead, I would argue that Trump made a much better connection with these voters primarily with his snake oil sales pitches. Hey, it doesn’t have to be true, but you do have to connect to get voters to the polls. Apparently, Trump won those voters while Hillary alienated the Sanders camp. There was little or no mention about Bernie’s visions and how to mesh those camps together, other than just get to the polls. This was, in my opinion, no way to connect with its party and perhaps a crucial part of how Hillary lost an election. What I did hear over and over is that Hillary would be our first female president. While I would have been grateful to witness that moment, it didn’t provide a credible quality to my needs as a voter.

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Many political observers felt during the election cycle that the Republican Party was dead. Instead, Trump rebranded it and sold it to the American people. The Democratic Party had a fracture all along and pretended it had no outstanding issues. The biggest problem was that it didn’t rally its own party to show to the polls and perhaps abandoned nearly half of its Sanders supporters along the way. I would argue that the Democratic Party might be on life support or in need of some anti-anxiety medication for future elections. Perhaps the Democratic Party needs to rebrand itself. It’s going to be a huge struggle now that we have a Republican president and Republican controlled house and senate. There is also a significant possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court will shift towards becoming majority conservative. Was the Republican Party really dead? I think not. It was the Democratic Party that became complacent and overly confident of the American people. It was the Democratic Party that fell asleep during this election year and incidentally gave out Ambien pills to the Sanders supporters it should have been energizing all along.

Is the Alt-Right, Right?

Lately, the media has been increasing the mention of a loosely termed group called the Alt-Right.

Lately, the media has been increasing the mention of a loosely termed group called the Alt-Right. Yes, I am concerned about a shift towards racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Muslim bigotry, and anti-Semitism in American society. However, I cannot solely blame Trump for waking the sleeping lion. Instead, I somewhat lay blame towards universities and our educations system and the way it provides discourse. While it may be true that we do need safe spaces and some ground rules for the exchange of language. What may have created a misguided method without the other side having a viewpoint or voice? I have learned that if you do not allow a voice to be heard, even if it is racist, bigoted and filled with hate speech, then it will become a quiet storm brewing. At some point, it will explode with many followers and may accidentally capture more members.

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We may hear such adage such as “education is essential” or the beautiful, provocative poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller that begins “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out.” This was perhaps our warning. We don’t educate nor do we provide a flexible voice platform for all. Instead, there is, what George Carlin referred to as, the illusion that we have liberty, freedom, and equality. In actuality, we do not. American society is consistently barraged with white washed speech usually leaving one side silent further reducing a platform to be heard. It is easy to lay blame at shock media such as Rush Limbaugh or other conservatives. But media hosts such as Limbaugh have been providing this theory for decades. Many conservatives became silent until this powderkeg moment. It blew up silently and lethal. This is where the Alt-Right will continue to grow and shift safe speech into a “you had your decades of that” rhetoric. Perhaps another reason the Alt-Right continues to grow is that it doesn’t want to research what it truthful or credible. In defense of the Alt-Right, I agree that locating reliable sources in today’s world has become rather difficult.

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I am not worried about what Trump and his administration will do in the next presidential term. What I am concerned about is what we as Americans will not do just like the other presidential terms starting with Civil Rights. I remember the words of John F. Kennedy saying, Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” Are we going to sit idle and watch protected classes become unprotected? I certainly hope not. I hope we become once again a credible society with a voice for everyone in hopes we can learn from one another in peace. So far the national division is killing us.

Hate Speech Problem

I am concerned that our nation is becoming a tender box for a larger fire ahead. After the recent presidential election, I have seen or witnessed many white people acting as if racism is completely okay and acceptable in our society. This greatly disturbs me. I don’t blame Trump. However, I do reserve a bit of responsibility for law enforcement and political leaders in general. First, our elected leaders represent all Americans and the spirit of our nation. We are all equal and should be treated as such. No person should ever be harassed anywhere in our country because of the color of his/her skin. I will also say that to a person or group should be subject to insult, maliciously slur or defame them in a manner violating their human dignity. Just like you cannot yell fire in a theater you shouldn’t be allowed to yell at someone with using the N word or other phobic phrases or gestures.

I believe in our Bill of Rights and Constitution. However, it should not be used as a literal punching bag to see what we can do to push the proverbial envelope. When I see any race doing its best to intimidate another race or group in a public setting such as a mall, store or restaurant, then they should be charged and go directly to jail. I’m not trying to say we should live in a perfect state free from scorn. What I am saying is that there is no place to throw your temper tantrums at humanity because you didn’t get your way and feel superior to others.

Law Enforcement does very little to separate these issues because of the courts. An officer is not going to use a hate crime or public disturbance arrest because of the levels of paperwork only to be perhaps dismissed by a judge. But let the judge decide would be my argument. To remedy and change the problem we must address the issue head on, even if it is not popular. It’s the law and should allow a cooling off period of what is acceptable in our society. Otherwise, racism and forms of discrimination will continue and I fear will escalate to larger forms of violence if we allow law enforcement just to shrug it off.