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On Friday President Obama delivered a speech at Hiroshima Japan.   For a couple of weeks before this visit I had seen news items from some of my more extreme conservative friends about how President Obama had either already apologized (interesting that they were not informed enough to even know that President Obama had not gone to Japan yet) or was going to apologize for the US dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

U.S. President Barack Obama (R), flanked by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, delivers a speech as the atomic bomb dome is background  after they laid wreaths to a cenotaph at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

On Friday, President Obama delivered his speech.  And contrary to the claims of these conservatives, he did not apologize for Truman’s decision to drop the bomb.   From a New York Times article

 

“People in Asian countries that were brutalized by imperial Japan had warned that a presidential apology would be inappropriate. President Obama not only did not apologize, he made clear that Japan, despite a highly advanced culture, was to blame for the war, which “grew out of the same base instinct for domination, for conquest, that had caused conflicts amongst the simplest tribes.”

 

Having seen the reactions of these conservatives before President Obama had made his speech I was curious to see how they would react to the fact that he did not apologize for the United States dropping the bomb on Hiroshima.  I wish I could say that I was surprised, but sadly I was not.  They ignored reality and instead stated that President Obama was apologizing for dropping the bomb.

 

Since they have written several articles on this subject and are a favorite “news” source for the extreme conservatives I will use an article from Breitbart as an example of such conservatives thinking.  From Breitbart, “Obama Dishonors Memorial Day at Hiroshima

 

“At Hiroshima, Obama was silent on the question of American sacrifice, American valor, and American virtue, but eloquent on the issue of American guilt.

What Obama did NOT do in his speech in Japan was to praise America’s fallen warriors, the men and women whose bravery and sacrifice saved the world from nuclear war over the 71 years since that first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.”

 

This quote is the gist, the heart of all the radical conservatives’ denunciation of President Obama’s Hiroshima speech – he did not laud American virtue and praise our fallen warriors.  He did not expound on the wonders of the United States.

 

However, that is what Memorial Day is for.  This was not Memorial Day and the purpose of this speech was different.  Its purpose?  From an interview President Obama had with the Japanese news organization NHK World,

 

“My purpose is not to simply revisit the past, but to affirm that innocent people die in a war, on all sides, that we should do everything we can to try to promote peace and dialogue around the world, that we should continue to strive for a world without nuclear weapons”

 

……

 

“…that I do not expect to provide a very long speech but rather, I think, some very humble reflections about my views on how we can forge a better peace around the world, and how we can use the model of relations between the United States and Japan as an example of how we can move forward.”

 

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His purpose was not to dwell on the past but to use it as a way to reflect on how we can create a better world.

 

So, what did President Obama say in his speech?  Here is a link to the entire speech.   You will find no apology in it.  You will find no remonstration against the decisions made by our nation then.  Not even indirectly.

 

“Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not-so-distant past. We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 Japanese men, women and children, thousands of Koreans, a dozen Americans held prisoner.

Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become.”

 

This is no apology.  It is a statement of fact.  A “terrible force” was unleashed.  One that showed humanity had grown in knowledge to such an extent that humanity could now “destroy itself”.  This speech used the fact that in all wars innocents die to urge us to now grow in wisdom as we have in knowledge.  And then used the example of Japan and the United States to illustrate how that wisdom can happen.

 

“Some day, the voices of the hibakusha will no longer be with us to bear witness. But the memory of the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, must never fade. That memory allows us to fight complacency. It fuels our moral imagination. It allows us to change.

And since that fateful day, we have made choices that give us hope. The United States and Japan have forged not only an alliance but a friendship that has won far more for our people than we could ever claim through war. The nations of Europe built a union that replaced battlefields with bonds of commerce and democracy. Oppressed people and nations won liberation. An international community established institutions and treaties that work to avoid war and aspire to restrict and roll back and ultimately eliminate the existence of nuclear weapons.”

 

But read President Obama’s speech yourself and see with your own eyes and create your own understanding based on what he actually said and not what others say.  I will say that unlike the radical conservatives here  in the United States, the Japanese people see no apology.  That fact alone should give the conservatives pause since how can there be an apology to someone if that person does not see it as such?

 

Now before going over why these conservatives argue with a devil of their own making, I would like to point out two pieces of irony here in their strident criticism of this speech.

 

The first is that in his speech President Obama prominently and favorably talked about our Declaration of Independence.

 

“My own nation’s story began with simple words: All men are created equal and endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Realizing that ideal has never been easy, even within our own borders, even among our own citizens. But staying true to that story is worth the effort. It is an ideal to be strived for, an ideal that extends across continents and across oceans. The irreducible worth of every person, the insistence that every life is precious, the radical and necessary notion that we are part of a single human family — that is the story that we all must tell.”

 

 

The other piece of irony here is that these conservatives are so concerned with how President Obama has dishonored us, even to the point of calling on Congress to censure him, that they have totally overlooked the fact that he honored the memories of 12 American pilots who were being held captive in Hiroshima when the bomb dropped.

 

He not only mentioned these pilots in his speech, he embraced a Japanese survivor of Hiroshima, Shigeaki Mori who was 8 years old when Hiroshima went up in atomic fire.  The reason for the embrace?  Shigeaki has spent decades not only researching the fates of these American prisoners of war but rescued their memories.  Had he not done this research today we would still not know what happened to them.  Part of a good memorial is knowing the fates of those who died – how and when.  It is why the Vietnam War is still so fresh for so many who still do not know the fates of their loved ones.  It is why President Obama embraced Shigeaki.

 

Now we come to the question of why are these conservatives are creating and then believing in these delusions?  The answer is why I titled this blog “A Memorial Day Observation”.

 

Part of the reason why they are doing this may be a genuine inability to understand what President Obama said.  They are concerned only with looking back and justifying every action the United States has done.  They are focused tightly upon the honor of the United States, with making sure that our national pride is unhurt and unharmed that they interpret all things according to that measure, even things that have no bearing on that issue.  They want to ensure the world knows that the others are at fault and we are the virtuous ones in all ways and all actions.

 

Which may be one reason why this speech so confuses them – it looks forward. It uses the past, dropping the bomb on Hiroshima, as a jumping off point to look forward.  It looks to what can be done to prevent such decisions from ever having to be made ever again, from people having to suffer that devastation again.  The fact that statements explicitly stating that Japan started the war, that they committed brutal acts against not only soldiers but civilians,  and that our bombing of them saved American troops  were not needed nor the subject of this speech seems to be beyond their ability to comprehend.  The fact that President Obama used Hiroshima for something other than rubbing the Japanese faces into this muck and elevating our own stature by strutting has caused  them to overlook the fact that President Obama did NOT apologize for the United States dropping the bomb.

 

They are stuck in the past and so cannot comprehend an honest look at what could be.  All such views, to their mind, must first denigrate our opponents and laud our greatness.  They are rather like a two bit wrestler in this.

 

Of course, this is only part of the reason why these conservatives do this.   The other part is that they are so blinded by their hatred of President Obama, so bent by their bigotry, and so blinkered by their ideology that they can no longer recognize what is true or false about what President Obama did, does, and will do.  All such actions must be broken down, twisted, and bent into something that will pass the filters of their hatred, bigotry, and ideology.  Even at the expense of truth and reality.

 

And this leads me to my Memorial Day Observation.

 

Our soldiers have died to protect our freedoms – our freedom of religion, of speech, of association and all the others.  They died to protect such freedoms for all Americans, whether wise or foolish, whether ignorant or informed, whether hateful or empathetic.

 

But, while they died to protect the freedom of all, wouldn’t it be a better memorial to the sacrifice they made to have your view of the world be realistic, rational, and concerned with the well- being of all?  Wouldn’t it be a better memorial to their sacrifice for us to be working towards creating a world in which no one would have to make such a sacrifice ever again?

 

And that was what President Obama’s speech was about.

Words. I am amazed at how many people seem to believe that words mean something apart from how we interpret them. Yes, sometimes the interpretation is easy. Most often though, especially with those words whose groupings are considered to be among the most important, they are not.

Power of Words

Two recent claims of a belief in a literal view of words was brought to my attention recently. Or rebrought rather since I was already aware of them. And both dealt with the U.S. Constitution.

The first dealt with the 2nd Amendment and its use of the word “infringe”. As in “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

This person had posted the dictionary definition of infringed in an attempt to show that our Constitution is against any sort of gun control and that all laws regulating the purchase of firearms is an attack on one of our most fundamental rights. Now, I don’t remember exactly which dictionary this person used, but its definition was similar to if not exactly like this one from the Merriam Webster dictionary.

“to wrongly limit or restrict (something, such as another person’s rights)”

Of course, this person was focused on the words “limit or restrict” and interpreted “wrongly” as meaning all attempts to limit or restrict. However, I had a different take on this definition. Mine, and I believe most people’s, interpretation would be that “wrong” described a type of attempt, not that all attempts at limiting or restricting are wrong. In other words instead of any attempt then, wrongly means that some attempts are wrong but also strongly implies that there are also correct ways to limit or restrict.

I also pointed out to this person that they were ignoring the first part of the amendment, “well regulated”. Words when used in sentences or any other larger grouping cannot be understood fully in isolation Those other words can and usually do change or modify their meanings.
In this case, the dictionary definition supports the idea that there are ways to correctly “limit or restrict” this right, and when added to the words “well regulated”, then gun control laws are not unconstitutional. Some can be, others are not. This is recognized even in the recent Supreme Court case, McDonald v Chicago, that recognized an individual right to own a gun.
The other words under dispute was the phrase “separation of church and state”. As is usual for so many extreme conservatives, they like to point out that this phrase is not in the constitution. They then point out that what is in the Constitution instead is “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Words known as the establishment clause.

And they are quite right about this. However, where they go wrong is in claiming that the establishment clause of the Constitution has a plain and literal meaning at odds with that of the phrase separation of church and state. They act as if the establishment clause needs no interpretation. And to add to the fun, they then often then go on to interpret it as meaning to establish a state church and nothing more.

To cap it all off, their interpretation flies in the face of how the word establishment was used during the time of the writing of the Constitution.

It ignores the fact that the man most responsible for writing the establishment clause and getting it passed, James Madison, also used this phrase of Thomas Jefferson to describe the intent of this clause.

They also ignore the history of the ratification of the Constitution and how, although its writers and promoters were justifiably gravely concerned about it being ratified, they did not respond to the many criticisms hurled their way that the Constitution did not contain a reference to Christianity or Jesus or even to just God.

They further ignore the historical fact that even after its ratification attempts were made to correct this supposed deficiency, attempts which were always defeated both during the time immediately after the Constitution and for all the years afterwards – during President Andrew Jackson’s presidency, during President Abraham Lincoln’s presidency and on into the 20th century.

So, in their attempt to say that it does not need to be interpreted, they interpret it in a way at odds with the writer of those words and with history. Seems to me that their view is more the result of their ideology than any sort of reality. Or laziness. After all, it is much easier to look at a word, put your interpretation to it, pretend it is THE literal meaning of the word, and then be happy that it confirms your own biases and prejudices. Look at how much easier that process is than the one I used in the last paragraph above, wherein I had to find out how the word establishment was used in regards to religion at that time, at who wrote those words and how he described the meaning of what he wrote, and at the history of the Constitution.

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Of course, the greatest argument against this idea of a literal reading is the fact that those who claim to believe in such so often disagree on what those words mean when applied to life and when enacted in the world. This is true whether the words in question are those of the Constitution, the Bible, the Qur’an, or any other set of words.

I see that abortion is in the news again. Of course, abortion never really seems to be out of the news lately. And that is especially true during this political year when bombast, broken facts, and heated rhetoric foul the air more than usual. This time the news involves a piece of Florida legislation. Or, more accurately, a piece of proposed legislation that would ban all abortions, making them a first degree felony.

It has only been passed out of one committee and into another so far. And, from what I have read, is unlikely to survive the legal birthing process needed for a proposal to become law.   More political fluff to satisfy the anti-choice crowd. What I find of interest though is part of this proposed legislation’s wording, words that seem to be in line with what many of the more radical anti-choice crowd are now pushing.

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Leaving aside the problematical solely religious justification for this law, I wonder if those who promote such ideas have really thought through the implications of what they are proposing. A few years ago I did a satirical piece related to the problems involved in this concept of a fertilized egg being a human life fully equal in rights to those already born. I thought I would now revisit this issue in a more Socratic way, by posing a series of questions.

To start with, let’s explicitly state what is being claimed. Those promoting this law and other similar ones are stating that a fetus from its conception is fully a person and has rights equal to those who have already been born. That an egg, once fertilized by a sperm, automatically becomes legally a person with all the rights attendant upon that designation.

Let me respond by asking those who support these personhood amendments and laws some questions.

Do you intend then to appoint the fetus with legal counsel to represent its right to life in those cases where continuing its life would put the life of the mother in jeopardy?

  • For example, do you mean to make a pregnant woman with an ectopic pregnancy, where the fertilized egg is implanted someplace other than the uterus, wait for that life-saving abortion until the court obtains legal counsel for the fetus and a trial is scheduled and the rites of justice gone through? By the time that is done the mother will likely be dead.
  • Would you support a court ruling in favor of saving the life of the fetus even though it would cause the death of the mother? Even if doing so would be against the expressed and fervent wishes of the woman? If not, then what is your justification since, according to you, legally the two have the same exact rights?
  • What do you think the reaction will be by the vast majority of Americans if a court should ever rule in favor of saving the life over that of the woman, even when the woman does not wish that?
  • A follow on question if you doubt a court would ever rule this way, why not? Do you think that this says something then about the relationship between the rights of the woman and that of the fetus?

Since you are believe that a fetus has the same right to life as an already born human, then what is your proposal for saving all of those persons who die between six to 12 days after being conceived. About 40% to 65% of fertilized eggs never implant in the uterine lining and instead die (usually before a woman even knows she is pregnant). Given the truly heroic measures we take to save people, what is your proposal to save all of these persons who are dying in their thousands?

Given that you believe that a fetus is a person with the full set of rights as an already born person, how to you propose to ensure that pregnant women do nothing to jeopardize the health of that person? I have already seen court cases against women who miscarry, but that number is actually rather small compared to the number of women who could be tried for manslaughter in cases of miscarriage.

  • Are you now going to do a legal investigation into every miscarriage and prosecute every woman who does not follow each and every rule or good practice?
  • What would be your ruling in the case of a pregnant woman who is in a car accident that is her fault that kills the fetus? Would that be considered involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide? And if so, should she be prosecuted to the full extent of the law in that case?  If you believe she should not be, then why not?
  • Are you now going to require that pregnant women be hospitalized the moment she knows she is pregnant so that the health and life of the fetus is not endangered in any way?

These are just a few of the questions that come to my mind when these proposals for making a fetus a person entitled to the same rights as the woman and in equal measure are proposed. There are many more, but I think these should give those of a thoughtful nature cause for caution in making the fetus a separate and equal person to that of the pregnant woman. Such an action flies in the face of reality, and laws based on flaunted reality are not merely bad laws, they are disastrous laws.

Recently we had a confederate flag flap when our annual stock show parade banned the battle flag of the Confederacy (but still allowed the original national Confederate flag).

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Around the same time a letter was printed in the Fort Worth Star Telegram from a Ms. Barbara Kirkland strongly defending the flying of the Confederate flag. Part of that letter helped bring further into focus the reasons why I do not defend this flag nor its flying by any government agency.

In her letter she states that her ancestors “fought for the Confederacy” and “I’m proud that when the call came to stand and defend the South they heeded the call”.

Their “call” was to defend a rebellion against their own country – the United States of America. Now, rebellion is, at times, justified if the cause is good and just. But, in this case the cause was the exact opposite of good and just. Many issues were involved in causing the Southern States to try to dissolve the union, but the chief and foremost of them was the issue of slavery. The treatment of other people as nothing more than property, with no more rights than a cow or horse. This was the root cause of why the Southern states rebelled and tried to break up the union.

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Yes, most confederate soldiers did not own slaves. Yet they supported the government who broke away from the union that protected their “right” to own a person if they wished or were economically able.

Just like we don’t honor the Nazi heritage of Germany just because most Germans were not Nazi’s and not involved in killing the Jews, so too should we not be honoring this part of Southern heritage by flying any confederate flag. It is a part of our heritage that should be condemned.

This letter writer, and those who think like her, have the right to fly that flag if they so wish. However, no government entity whatsoever, at any level, whether city, county, state or national, should be flying any version of the Confederate flag. And I will protest any that do.

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Despite what they may believe, the heritage they are “celebrating” and the cause for which this flag stood for were traitorous and, worse, condoned barbarous actions against the dignity and worth of humanity. This flag is worth honoring just as much as the Nazi flag – not at all.

A Tale of Two Aliens

Sometimes some points can best be made with stories. They can provide both some distance while also providing an emotional connection. Here is my attempt at doing so through a parable.

 

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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there was a planet, Vegaria, which was the envy of the galaxy. Vegaria was a rich planet with plenty of resources and a high standard of living.

Twenty years ago, Vegaria was viciously attacked by one of the planets in a nearby solar system, OOminia. Fifty million Vegarians perished on the day of the attack, which leveled an entire continent. Vegaria had launched a counter attack and exacted revenge upon the OOminians. Vegaria then focused itself on rebuilding, and now there is little trace of the attack left, except in the memories of the Vegarians.

There are 6 planets in the OOminian solar system, all of them inhabited by OOminians. While the inhabitants of some of the planets in the solar system are very aggressive and violent, most OOminians are peaceful.

Now, thanks to the successful counter-attack from Vegaria, the OOminians are pretty much confined to their own little solar system. The aggressive OOminians have overtaken all the planets in their solar system. The peaceful OOminians, who allied themselves with Vegaria after the attacks, now live in a continuous war zone, afraid to even step outside of their homes for fear of being conscripted or, worse, of being imprisoned and killed.

Other planets in the galaxy have tried to help the peaceful OOminians, helping them to escape and providing a place of refuge for them. Some of the refugees have even made their way to Vegaria and been granted admission as refugees. At the same time, however, the aggressive OOminians have been sneaking out of their solar system and launching guerrilla attacks on other planets. Citizens of Vegaria fear that OOminia will launch another attack upon them.

Two OOminian refugee families have settled in a large city on Vegaria. They both have found jobs and are trying to make a home for themselves and their families on what is to THEM an alien world.

It is very easy to identify OOminians. While Vegarians are quadrupeds with heads at the end of an expandable neck, OOminians are amorphous blobs that ooze from one place to another by means of extending pseudopods from their bodies. OOminians are also very slimy, and carry slime applicators with them wherever they go to keep their skin from drying out in the atmosphere of Vegaria.

One of the OOminians, Poth, finds a job with a company that has a diverse group of employees, including many other aliens. The other OOminian, Jav, finds a job with a different company that doesn’t hire many aliens. All of Jav’s co-workers are Vegarian.

Poth feels very welcome at his company. Poth’s manager tells him that she isn’t familiar with the OOminian culture and that she will depend on him to help her learn about it. At staff meetings, she makes a point of asking Poth how certain situations would be addressed on OOminian planets. Poth is frequently invited to dine with his co-workers, and he sometimes joins them after work for drinks. He even joins the company basketball team, where his ability to extend his pseudopod to great heights makes him a very popular player.

Four times a day, OOminians have to do a ritual called spreading out, where they extrude several limbs from their bodies as far as they can and then slowly re-absorb them. The ritual takes about 20 minutes. After trying to complete this ritual quietly in the limited space in the men’s restroom, Poth talks to his manager who secures permission for Poth to perform his spreading out in privacy in a large storage area.

Jav’s workplace is different from Poth’s. Her coworkers make a point of wiping their hands after shaking hands with her pseudopod. Sometimes they hide her slime applicator—when Jav mentions this to her manager, the manager tells her that the co-workers are just kidding. A couple of times at staff meetings, Jav tries to make suggestions based on her experiences on OOminia, but her manager quickly shuts that down. “We are not on OOminia,” her manager says firmly. “You need to learn how we do things here.”

Jav also has a difficult time finding a place to perform her spreading out ritual. Co-workers complained after they walked into the women’s restroom when she was performing the ritual, so she asks her manager for ideas on where she could go. The manager shrugged. “I have no idea,” she replied. “I’m not even sure we should be letting you do this on our property or on company time. I’ve heard complaints from the others that you are getting special treatment. Maybe you should clock out and go home to do your little thing.”

Not wanting to cause trouble, Jav starts leaving at lunch and goes home to complete her ritual. She doesn’t really mind because no one ever eats with her anyway. Everyone moves away from her when she enters the lunchroom, and if she tries to sit next to someone, they quickly get up and leave. Her manager tells her it’s because of her body odor.

Because she can only clock out of her job once during the day, Jav performs her spreading out ritual 3 times a day instead of 4. It makes her uncomfortable, especially since her co-workers still hide her slime applicator on a regular basis, so her skin frequently develops large dry spots.

Meanwhile the aggressive OOminians continue to attack other planets, including some in the Vegarian solar system. People on Vegaria become very concerned about the possibility of another attack from Vegaria on their own planet. Some people demand that OOminians living on Vegaria be registered and put into special camps, or even exiled from the planet. Random groups of armed Vegarians begin standing guard outside of houses where OOminians live, keeping armed weapons pointed at the doors. “We’re keeping an eye on the oozers,” they announce loudly. “They can’t bomb us if they can’t leave their houses.”

Poth’s manager talks to him about it. “How are you and your family doing?” she asks with concern. “I know things are pretty unpleasant right now.” Poth confides that he had to walk through a group of armed Vegarians that was stationed outside his house when he came to work that morning. He had actually kept his kids home from school because he was concerned for their safety. The next morning Poth answers a knock at his door to find a group of his co-workers standing outside. “We’re taking you to work,” they say. “And some of us will make sure your kids get to school okay. Those wingnuts will have to go through us to get to you.”

Jav, however, steps out of her house on the same morning and is also met by a group of armed Vegarians. To her horror, she recognizes some of her co-workers among the group. She steps back inside and calls her manager to let her know she can’t make it in to work. The manager tells her that she won’t be paid for the day.

Jav hesitantly tells her manager that some of her co-workers are part of the armed group surrounding her house. “They are on their own time,” the manager says curtly. “They took some vacation time. They have a right to do whatever they want on their own time.”

Jav hangs up and goes to her computer to look through her messages, including several from friends and relatives left behind in the OOminian solar system. She reads through them, answers and deletes them in turn, except for one from a distant cousin. He has been estranged from Jav’s family for years as he is a member of the OOminian military and has been a key figure in several of the recent attacks on other planets. However, she finds herself reading his message over and over again. “Hi cuz! I hope you are okay. I hear things are kind of uncomfortable for OOminians on Vegaria right now. If you are having any problems, let me know. I might know some people who can help.”

Jav nervously extrudes a pseudopod and reabsorbs it several times. Then, slowly, she begins to type. “Dear Cousin, thank you for your note. Things are very scary here right now. I would really appreciate your help.

Six months later, Jav’s manager stares bleakly at what is left of the building where she used to work and shakes her head at the reporter. “I can’t believe it was Jav,” she says. “She was always so quiet. She had a couple of problems when she first got here, but once she settled in, I never heard anything from her.”

“What about her co-workers” the reporter asks. “Did she get along with them?”

“As far as I could tell. They were always joking around with her.” The manager bows her head. “I just can’t believe they are all… gone.”

Daesh, al Qaeda, and other Islamic terrorist groups claim that the United States is waging a war with Islam. That we hate Muslims and that our religious liberties are for Jews and Christians only, not Muslims. That Muslims are a hated and second class citizens, at best, within our borders. These claims are part of how they manage to gain recruits, highlighting our supposed intolerance of Islam and Muslims and casting this as a religious war of self-defense on their part.

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For the most part, we have avoided playing into that scenario of theirs internally. American Muslims are among the most integrated of any countries. However, now we are letting our fears and biases provide an element of truth to the terrorist claims, making their propaganda and recruitment efforts even more effective.

With the rise of hate crimes against Muslims in America, talk of internment camps, registries, and such what do you think would happen to those Muslims who truly do love the US and are proud to be citizens? Imagine if this were to happen to Christians here, what would happen to your loyalty to the US? What if your religion were demonized and reviled, you and your family and friends viewed with suspicion and often outright hatred? What if friends and family who are Christian living outside the United States could no longer visit you?

I know that these proposals are not in place…..yet. But they are being talked about and too many Americans are thinking them a good idea. Along with the fact that too often when mosques are being built they are being protested, that even Islamic cemeteries face an uphill fight to get city government approval to be created, when protesters armed with guns march outside your mosque – how safe would you feel in your own country? American Muslims make up the single largest group providing tips to the FBI on possible terrorist activities. What do you think would happen if that should cease?

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And in foreign affairs, this sort of rhetoric and these actions would be devastating. Our Muslim allies such as Jordan would cease to be allies. Our European allies would, justifiably, revile us. If a small percentage of Muslims based largely in the Middle East and Africa can create this much harm to us, imagine if the percentage were larger – or even to become the majority worldwide?

Carpet bombing Daesh with the huge loss of civilian and innocent life would indeed destroy the military capability of Daesh. But it would also give Daesh a huge propaganda win, feeding life into its Frankenstein creature of an American war on all of Islam. Our allies in the region would turn into our enemies. Muslims worldwide would decry the loss of innocent lives. And, if we made the sands glow, to paraphrase Ted Cruz, even our European allies would denounce us.

The short term destruction of Daesh’s military capability would be hugely offset by the fact that they would have won the propaganda war and would gain millions of new adherents and sympathizers. And take a good look at Paris – does that sort of action really require a country to support it? They can work underground and with the sympathy and help of millions of other Muslims, Muslims that had opposed them before, they can create even greater havoc and chaos more frequently.

This language, these proposals, these possible actions are just what Daesh and the other Islamic terrorist groups want. They want us to act out of fear, to violate our own supposed morals and principles, and create a reality in which more Muslims than ever would flock to their banner. There are many signs that Daesh is having a harder time recruiting Muslims. These actions and this rhetoric can turn that trend around for them. Trump, Cruz, and others as doing exactly what the terrorists want. Far from fighting terrorism, they are helping it.

And the above is just the practical reasons why all of this rhetoric from Trump, Cruz and too many conservatives is harmful. Just as important, in fact even more important, are the moral considerations.

We are holding people accountable for the actions of others due solely to the fact that they belong to the same religion. Not because they helped those responsible for their terrorist acts (the great majority denounce and condemn them). Not because they shared the same exact religion – like Christianity there are many forms of Islam, some good and some evil. Not because they even shared the same nationality or origin. Just because they share the same religion.

This violates all of our principles and morality. Our constitution requires that there be no religious test for office. The same principle should hold true here too – no religious test should be used to condemn a person. Especially not an American citizen.

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This is not the only supposedly American principle this hateful rhetoric and proposed actions violate – innocent until proven guilty comes to mind too. Extreme gun rights people argue, correctly, that law abiding gun owners should not be blamed for the actions of those who use guns to kill (note: I do not intend and will not be drawn into a gun control debate here as that would take attention away from the central message). Yet, they seem to, as a group, to be one of the groups who have a hard time applying this to other situations – law abiding Muslims should not be held accountable for the actions of those who are not.

Our current political climate and the rhetoric and proposals coming mainly from the conservative and Republican side are helping the terrorists. Ironic that. And scary too.

 

A Blog to Satisfy a Critic

I have a very conservative critic (whose views and thoughts match many of the extreme right) who claims that I always and only criticize whites and Christians. Never Islam, never non-whites.

Not true.

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What my critic does not understand is that when I post blogs about gay marriage and rights, when I post blogs about women’s rights, abortion, and on and on and on, that even though I may be addressing them to Christians it applies to all groups within the United States. And out of the United States even.

I focus on the United States because that is where I and my family live, and where my grandchildren will grow up. I address Christians because they have the numbers and hold the political power and are the main threat to such rights here in the United States. But it applies to all.

When I criticize those who attack Islam here in the United States, what my critic does not understand is that I am protecting their rights as American citizens and in so doing protecting the rights of all Americans. When I point out that the vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists and are good citizens my critic does not understand that this does not mean that I agree with their views and beliefs.

My defense of Sharia courts in the United States is a good example. I often do not agree on how they may rule in issues of divorce or women’s rights. However, I also do not agree with many of the Jewish and Christian courts that operate within the United States that also rule on these issues based on their beliefs. However, as long as they do not violate US law and the Constitution, then they should be allowed as part of our freedom of religion and of conscience. Defending their right to do so is a very different thing from agreeing with their views. My critic often does not seem to understand that.
What my critic does not understand is that I have criticized Islam before, in different forums and venues.. For example, in one blog about blasphemy I did so.

I will not call Islam evil, which is what I believe my critic wants. I will not because it is not. It can be evil, it can be good. Just like all religions.

What my critic does not understand is that a religion is what its followers make of it. There is enough material both good and evil in all sacred works, enough history both good and evil in all religions that whether a religion is evil or good is dependent upon how its followers put that material together – what they find central in its writings, what they find inspiring in its history. And such creations vary not only between different times, groups, countries, and regions, but even between individuals.

When I discuss motives and causes of terrorism and violence, what my critic does not understand is that I am not excusing such behavior but seeking to understand it so as to come up with the best way to either stop or reduce it. Without understanding good policies cannot be reliably formed and acted upon. Instead harmful actions that may feel good but actually work to make the problem worse happen.

What my critic does not understand is that my comments are tailored to the problem and issue at hand. My critic does not need to understand the deficiencies of Islam or the problems within the black community. What my critic needs is to be reined in as he puts too much emphasis on them – to the point of becoming very misleading – and given some perspective. My critic paints with too broad a brush and holds all Muslims accountable for the actions of a few. My critic sees blacks as almost solely responsible for their own problems and solely responsible for solving them.

What my critic does not understand is that I focus on what I see to be the bigger issue not being addressed. Islam is in no danger of taking over the US and Muslims do not pose a danger of stopping gay rights and such. Therefore I concentrate on the Christians who are.

Black already know and are working on the problems within their community. However, white privilege and the past history of racial injustice also has a large role to play in our current racial problems and needs to be addressed. Without them being addressed true racial equality and justice will never be achieved. Something that many do not acknowledge, and so I address it.

 

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That is why, although I know that there are problems within much of the black community that they need to work on to improve, and that there is much within Islam as practiced by most Muslims that I strongly do not agree with, I do not dwell on those with my critic. It is not needed within the context of our discussion. What is needed is the other side, the one that presents a fuller and thus more accurate picture of reality. And, in so doing, provides a better basis for finding true solutions.
Since my critic has such a hard time understanding all of the above my critic sees me as never criticizing non-whites or Islam, and believes my views to often be cowardly. As I said, not true. I am not afraid of criticizing Muslims and Islam (and have done so), nor am I afraid of guns. However, my views are more shaded and complex than my critics. And thus more in tune with reality.

Of course, I realize that I have mistitled this blog. And knew it from the beginning. This blog will not satisfy my critic as my critic will continue with their simplistic views of reality and how it works, and their view that a hammer as the all purpose tool that will fix all problems. But, that is OK. I am satisfied with my views even as I challenge them and change them as evidence indicates.

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