Friday, September 10, 2010

religion and citizenship - all tears are the same

I realize this is a touchy topic, but most would agree with what I think. The debates that are happening currently about Islam vs Christianity, the question of whether or not people of faith and people of non belief can coexist peaceably have had my blood boiling for weeks.

When I learned of the plans for the Park51 Muslim cultural center in NYC several months ago, it didn't seem to be a big deal. It is being planned at a site 2 blocks from Ground Zero, and will be placed where now an abandoned Burlington Coat Factory remains. Emotions ran high as the months waned, and several protests have been staged. The national media has played a role in this with right leaning Fox News leading the charge against, and left leaning MSNBC leading the charge for it. Where I stand on this is no secret and I won't bore you with it.

What interested me, more so than the debate itself, was the frenzy that was generated. Masses of people, being fed misinformation, with avarice toward Islam who still, as we all do, feel the punch to gut we got that Tuesday morning 9 years ago. They took to the airwaves, the streets, the blogs, and made their voices heard. And to think, 6 weeks ago we were all watching as the gulf got covered in oil, and for a little while, we cared about our neighbors and reached out.
Now we're back to fighting with each other. It's worth noting that many who were lost on 9/11 were in fact Muslims. And immediately after 9/11, most of us, though angry, and hungry for revenge, when we heard someone say "let's round up all the Muslims and get them out of here", we listened to our better selves. We, and much to his credit our then president George W. Bush, leaned on our consciences and said no. We said at the time, that this wasn't the work of all Muslims. It was a group of thugs, and dirt bags with nothing to lose.

9 years later, we ignore our better selves, and don't think twice to spit on our Muslim neighbor. Or our gay neighbor, if that's your particular hang up.

I am a Christian. I believe in the redemptive work of Christ at the cross, and in the sacraments of the church. I am also an American. I take "love thy neighbor" quite literally. My neighbor is my fellow man. When he needs help, if I'm able, I'm there to help. And, I don't bother him if his life is different than mine.

There are a few axioms in addition to Loving My Neighbor that I have taken to heart. The first one is "Do what ye will. Harm none." I am fully aware of the pagan overtones of this phrase. But, that doesn't make it wrong. It's practical. And, it's good civics. If they aren't hurting anyone, then it's none of my business.

Another favorite of mine is "Not all who wander are lost". This one speaks to me as an artist. I'm a musician and a struggling song writer. Struggling only in the sense that I want to be published, and recorded and it hasn't fully materialized yet. But I think looking at the world from only the one lens we have is a sure way to become jaded and unpleasant. I do believe there are absolutes, and rights and wrongs. I also believe that I haven't been where you've been, so I can't possibly judge who you are. Explore and expand.

And the last one of these axioms that I enjoy is "all tears are the same". I once sat in on a lecture from a sociologist at a college in Texas, and she made a point that is the only thing I remember from her lecture. She said "I've seen a variety of different cultures, on 6 different continents. I can tell you that every culture has 2 things for sure in common: they all smile, and they all grieve."

That stuck with me. All tears are the same. What makes us different, and what makes us fight with each other, may be important on some level. But, if, God forbid, a tragedy like 9/11 were to strike again, would you think twice about helping out your Muslim neighbor? What about the gay couple down the street? Would you think twice about saving their lives? Of course not. It's part of what makes us human. We look out for each other. All tears are the same.

I made up an axiom of my own a few years ago. I never wrote it down, and I never put it in a blog, in a poem, or on facebook. I just kept it in my heart until now, but it's served me well: We have to live on this planet together, so we may as well learn to get along.

It's longer than most, but hopefully just as heavy.

Peace out, and take care of each other.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Labor Day Rant (warning: left wing politics being espoused. read at your own risk.)

I worked all weekend, so the 3 day weekend idea is out the window. But I did get today off. When most people think of Labor day, they think of the last gasp of summer before the fall begins. I think of something else.

I think of my dad getting laid off after 25+ years with the same company. The company fired 15,000 people, and did it on Labor Day in 2002. My dad was a Teamster, and because of that he was able to keep his retirement, work a few more years, and get his pension. Had he not been in a Union, those 25+ years would have been lost. And sadly, this happens more often than people would like to believe.

We'd like to believe that private industry does the right thing. The idea of businesses policing themselves is a nice idea, but companies are outsourcing more, paying their employees less, slashing benefits, and despite healthy revenue streams they aren't investing.

And now, we have a party that has fought hard against federal funds for schools, so teachers are getting laid off. They fought against money for infrastructure, so roads are literally being unpaved, and many state and local governments are cutting back services, and firing workers.

Spending for the poor and middle class = bad.

Tax cuts for upper 3% of wage earners =good. Just like Jesus said.

Despite all that, the same people fighting against the middle class and fighting for the ownership class, are now accusing the president of failing on his stimulus package. Even though the most stimulative parts of the stimulus package were bargained out to get Republican votes, which never materialized.

Progress indeed.

And has the President found the courage to finally tell his critics they can take a flying leap and that he answers only to the American people who elected him? No. He wants to play it safe. He tries to straddle the middle of the fence, and what's trickling down now is only more suffering, and more misery.

Workers are bearing the brunt of the tax burden, and being asked to sacrifice so the upper 3% can be given a 700 billion dollar tax break. I say no. Hell no.

And it's about time those who claim to represent the working class say "Hell NO!" too. When they tell us "What's good for business is good for workers" we should scream "LIKE HELL IT IS!" When they tell us "Union bosses are thugs" we should scream "PROVE IT!" And when they say that 700 billion dollar tax break for the rich will generate lots of new jobs and investment in the economy, or that the private sector is great at creating jobs we should stand up, and at the top of our lungs demand "THEN WHERE ARE THE JOBS?!".

Do politicians exploit labor at their peril, or ours.? Time and resolve will tell.