Doug’s Soapbox

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Justice and Equality

Published January 1, 2013 by sojournerdoug
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There’s an image that has gone viral lately. It shows three kids, one tall, one medium, and one short. If they each stand on a box in order to look over the fence and watch the baseball game, that’s labeled “equality.” On the other side, the short guy gets two boxes and the medium guy gets one, which makes it easy for them all to see the baseball game.

Both conservatives and liberals will agree that it is both kind and sensible to give the individual who needs help the extra box or whatever is analogous to the box. But if we read into the picture a little bit, the differences become clear.

Let’s say it isn’t boxes, but seat cushions.

Three brothers know that dad is taking them to a ballgame. Two brothers remember how uncomfortable the concrete benches are, and use their allowance to buy seat cushions. They tell the third brother he should do the same thing, but he ignores them and spends his money elsewhere.

The brothers with the seat cushions try them out on the back porch. They discover that, although it’s better than sitting on bare concrete, it doesn’t help much. One brother decides he’s OK with that. The other brother decides to dip into his savings and buy an extra cushion, so he has two.

On game day, one brother carries his two cushions into the ball park. Another brother carries his cushion into the ball park. The third brother complains that he doesn’t have a cushion.

Now, if the brother with two cushions decides to give his brother the extra cushion, that is a nice, generous act of charity.

But what if Dad makes the brother who bought an extra cushion give the extra cushion to his brother? That makes the three brothers equal, but it certainly isn’t justice.

Oversimplified

Both examples are oversimplified. The argument comes when you try to define “deserving.” What if it was three cousins who want seed money to start a business? One cousin has a trust fund he can cash in and do whatever he wants. Another is able to go to a bank, and with his parents as co-signers, he can get barely enough money to get his business off the ground. But the third cousin, even though he has worked hard through his youth and excelled at college, his parents are unable to help him (We don’t state why because it doesn’t matter why. That has nothing to do with him, it has to do with his parents.) He is unable to get a loan because he has no credit history.

What should the grandparents of these three cousins do? Say the grandparents are not well off. They have some money saved up, but would be in dire straits if they loaned the money and never got it back.

If they loan the money to the cousin who needs it the most, he will be able to get his business off the ground and prosper, but it is a risk. If they divide the money between the three cousins, the wealthy cousin wouldn’t be able to do much with such a small amount, and the poor cousin would not have enough to meet his business’ basic starting costs. The in-between cousin might be happy, thinking it was fair, and he could use the money to make some small improvement to his business.

Should the grandparents give the three cousins any money?

Which cousin should get the money?

Does it matter why the parents…the in between generation…were prosperous or not?

Does it matter whether the “poor” cousin is poor because his father was killed by a drunk driver and his mother confined to a wheelchair by that same drunk driver… or whether they’re poor because every pay day they went out to a bingo parlor and gambled until they barely had any grocery money left?

Does it matter whether the “rich” cousin is rich because his mother sold her self-built and highly successful dot-com at just the right time and made a ton of money…or whether they’re rich because his mother married a wealthy man twice her age and never had to work a day in her life?

How do you define who deserves to get money?

How do you decide who is supposed to provide this money?

And don’t get me started about why those kids in the picture are peeking over a fence to watch the ballgame instead of buying a ticket and going inside to sit on the uncomfortable concrete cheap seats.

In Mourning

Published December 14, 2012 by sojournerdoug

God In SchoolsEveryone is reacting differently to today’s tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. Anger, sadness, grief, outrage… of course all these emotions are going to surface whether we knew the victims personally, or whether we were far away. I’ve talked to Kat, and she still isn’t sure whether any of the victims are connected to their church. I think they’re about 45 minutes away… it’s likely that someone in their church knows someone from Newtown.

In the midst of outrage, some people are sticking feet into mouths and swallowing whole. We should not respond to violence with violence. We should not take this as a cue to debate controversial laws. We shouldn’t point fingers and look for someone to blame; the gunman is dead.

One popular meme I’ve seen really makes me angry. It says “Dear God, why do you allow so much violence in our schools?” and has God answering “Because I’m not allowed in schools.”

No.

First of all, this implies that God “allows” violence. It is an atheist misconception that Christians believe God controls everything. No. God didn’t “take” your grandmother from you when she died. He didn’t “allow” war and tragedy and disaster to happen. You’re confusing God with a fiction writer. Writers do things to their characters in order to create a story that people will want to read, and people love reading about train wrecks.

Secondly, it implies that God is off in a corner petulantly saying “since you won’t allow me in the school, I’ll let horrible things happen there.” Some versions imply God is a gentleman who doesn’t go where he’s not invited.

NO! Good frickin’ grief people! Again, you’re assigning human attributes to God. To GOD. God is not human, God is great and vast and surpasses all human understanding. God is all knowing and infinitely loving.

God did not turn his back on a horrid, devastating event simply because it happened in a school. If you want to debate prayer in schools or gun laws or the importance of mental health care, do it somewhere else. This is a time for people to come together in love to comfort each other.

Everything I Needed to Know

Published December 4, 2012 by sojournerdoug

ona-flagI helped out in the Kindergarten class this Sunday. It was enlightening. Alongside the usual first-Sunday-in-advent lessons, the kids learned that just because Justin hit Suze doesn’t mean Suze can hit Justin back.

Suze was mad, but she and the other kids seemed to understand.

I’d like to take this opportunity to spread this lesson to the world in general, or if that’s too much to ask, at least to social media. I’ve been seeing a lot of posts lately that, instead of simply saying “Hooray for our side” they actively seek to ridicule someone else’s religion, political ideals, or any other number of things that separate us, yet shouldn’t.

Not cool.

I know that many Republicans have been insulted by Democrats. Many Democrats have been insulted by Republicans. I’ve seen men post misogynistic things about women, and I’ve seen women post condescending things about men. The list goes on.

Let’s take Suze’s example and expand it. Say Justin hits Suze, so she turns around and slaps Dalton and Ian. Her reasoning is that all boys are mean, so she’s justified in hitting them.

It’s pretty easy for most people to understand how wrong this is, and yet adults do it all the time.

Let’s see if we can get this off to a good start…

If you were, at any point in your life, hurt or insulted by a man because you are a woman, then on behalf of all men, I apologize.

If you were, at any point in your life, hurt or insulted by an Independent voter because you are a Republican or Democrat, then on behalf of all Independent voters, I apologize.

If you were, at any point in your life, hurt or insulted by a homosexual person because you are straight, then on behalf of all homosexuals, I apologize.

If you were, at any point in your life, hurt or insulted by a Christian because you were anything but, then on behalf on all Christians, I apologize.

If you were, at any point in your life, hurt or insulted by a tall person because you are short, then on behalf of all tall people, I apologize.

If you were, at any point in your life, hurt or insulted by a sleep deprived over-caffeinated young professional, then on behalf of all sleep deprived over-caffeinated young professionals, I apologize.

To quote the great Wil Wheaton: “Don’t be a dick.” To that I would add “Don’t be an asshat” and “Don’t drink and facebook.”

If Suze can handle it, so can you.

(Oh, and for those wondering, yes, Justin did make a sincere apology to Suze and appropriate follow-up with his parents.)

Unloving

Published August 3, 2012 by sojournerdoug

I’m sorry Julie. I know we agreed to stay away from political stuff on this blog, but I just can’t let this go any longer.

I am a man, but I am not defined by my gender.

I am a Christian, but I am not defined by my faith.

I am homosexual, but I am not defined by my orientation.

I can quote almost every line Marvin the Robot uttered in any incarnation of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but that doesn’t define me either.

I take pride in the fact that my friends are from a wide array of backgrounds and beliefs. If my friends list was limited to openly gay Christian men who love cheesy British SciFi (Hmmm… wait… let me think about that a minute…) ANYWAY it would a much shorter list. I have friends who are Atheists, spiritual, religious, non-religious, straight, gay, undecided and uncaring.

In my day to day life, most of my person-to-person contact takes place within the Christian community. Not just any community, but an Open and Affirming church with several, not many, but several, homosexual or bisexual members. We disagree on second amendment rights, premarital sex, and just how closely we should follow the Lectionary, but really, we’re on the same page for most of what life throws at us. And when we’re not, we’re nice to each other. We respect each other. We don’t call each other names.

The world wide web, however, is a completely different story. Not only do I have thousands of contacts, but they’re far more diverse. Sometimes, I jump into the fray when I read something that irritates me, but often I just look the other way.

On August 1, I was doing a lot of looking the other way.

The fast-food chicken restaurant whom shall not be named experienced a surge of support from Christians and conservatives in response to the GLBT community’s (true) assertion that the chain supports anti-GLBT groups. As in, the founder donates a lot of money to make sure that GLBT citizens will continue to be denied the human rights they deserve.

Why did I not jump into the fray?

Because I love these people.

Mrs. S. whose life is spent caring for her aging mother, two kids with physical handicaps as well as two other very energetic kids. She’s an inspiration in many ways, such a loving and caring person. But there it was on her facebook wall… her grinning son (whom I know just got out of the hospital for one procedure and will soon go in for something else) proudly holding up bags from the afore-un-mentioned restaurant.

19yo P. who has always upheld a strong sense of morality in the face of some pretty harsh stuff that’s been thrown at him. He’s put himself out there time and time again to support the oppressed and forgotten. I’ve never heard him speak out against gay rights, but there it was. His status simply stated where he was eating that night. He never mentioned why he was eating there, but as he’s not the type to idly mention his dinner plans, so it was clear what his stance was.

Sgt. A. who proudly served our country in the U.S. Navy for fifteen years. He lost 90% of his hearing during his last tour, so he relies heavily on social media for human interaction. He always has a kind word for every single person who posts about pain or loss, even those people who are pathetically vague and repetitive about their emotional distress, he always has a comforting or encouraging comment. He posted a picture of himself and his wife in line for their local packed-to-capacity restaurant.

Mrs. R. who, as far as I know, has lived for more than eighty years without even knowing what the term “homosexual” means. She’s the sweetest lady, really, very active in her church and community in spite of at least two hip surgeries and the loss of not just one, but two husbands. Actually, after seeing her tagged in another friend’s photo, I’m still not sure she really knew what was going on. I think she simply believed it was “The Christian Thing To Do.”

But was this “The Christian Thing To Do?” (insert facepalm here) No. Matthew Paul Turner sums it up nicely in yesterday’s blog post Five Reasons the Church Failed Yesterday  In case you have trouble loading it (several friends have mentioned that they couldn’t get to the site because it went viral so fast it crashed) I’ll summarize his five points:

  1. Yesterday’s campaign, while I don’t think it should be considered or called “hate,” neither can it be called love.
  2. People felt hate and we ignored that.
  3. By rallying behind CFA, Christians put an issue above people.
  4. Once again, the mass actions of Christians built another wall of distrust between the Church and the GLBTQ communities.
  5. Yesterday’s hoopla surrounding CFA did nothing to prove that Christians don’t hate gay people. Oh I know that most Christians will say, “I don’t hate gay people!!”…

Really, I hope you’ll click the link and read his post. It’s all about loving people. Even when they’re being hard to love.

Of course, the backlash from these posts of perfectly nice, lovable (although tragically flawed) people was harsh. Some of the counter-posts merely “tsk-tsk’d” the restaurant’s patrons. Others were far more inflammatory and cruel. It’s the kind of thing that just escalates, as each side exaggerates the other’s shortcomings, and misquotes with the sole purpose of inflaming the opposition.

Sally Ride

Published July 24, 2012 by sojournerdoug

Yesterday the world lost a great person. Sally Ride passed away after battling pancreatic cancer for 17 years. Here is the obituary as it appeared on the Sally Ride Science website:

Sally Ride died peacefully on July 23rd, 2012 after a courageous 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Sally lived her life to the fullest, with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, joy, and love. Her integrity was absolute; her spirit was immeasurable; her approach to life was fearless.

Sally was a physicist, the first American woman to fly in space, a science writer, and the president and CEO of Sally Ride Science. She had the rare ability to understand the essence of things and to inspire those around her to join her pursuits.

Sally’s historic flight into space captured the nation’s imagination and made her a household name. She became a symbol of the ability of women to break barriers and a hero to generations of adventurous young girls. After retiring from NASA, Sally used her high profile to champion a cause she believed in passionately—inspiring young people, especially girls, to stick with their interest in science, to become scientifically literate, and to consider pursuing careers in science and engineering.

In addition to Tam O’Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years, Sally is survived by her mother, Joyce; her sister, Bear; her niece, Caitlin, and nephew, Whitney; her staff of 40 at Sally Ride Science; and many friends and colleagues around the country.

I was only one year old when Dr. Ride blasted into space for the first time, becoming the first American woman in space. My love for everything astronomical was inspired not just by her, but by generations of scientists, engineers, and astronauts. I even earned a Bachelor’s in Aerospace Engineering. I still look up to our astronauts today, not just NASA but those from other nations as well. Besides being real heroes who train and sacrifice and get to actually live and work in space, many of them continue to inspire humanity and give back to the community in many ways. Sally Ride had Sally Ride Science™ , an “innovative science education company dedicated to supporting girls’ and boys’ interests in science, math and technology.” Ron Garan and a handful of other Bloggernauts have Fragile Oasis, whose vision is stated thusly: “Guided by the unique orbital perspective of men and women who live and work in Space, our vision is for Fragile Oasis to be a vehicle that helps people and organizations collaborate and develop synergy toward overcoming the challenges facing humanity on Earth.”

Long story short: astronauts are good people.

On Sally Ride’s website, there are links to facebook, twitter, and various relevant sciency-stuff. On her biography, there is a link on the right for those who wish to donate to the Sally Ride Pancreatic Cancer Initiative.

Nowhere on the website or biography does it say “And she was a lesbian.”

According to her sister, Bear, Sally was a very private person. Only those close to her knew that she had cancer. Only those close to her knew she was gay. Many news articles reporting her passing did not mention the fact at all. This article from CNN takes its cue from Dr. Ride’s website and only mentions “Ride is survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy, her mother, her sister and other family members.”

I think it is wonderful for the GLBTQ community to be able to point to such an inspirational person as Sally Ride and say “And she was one of us!” However Dr. Ride herself was very private about her sexual orientation. I respect that, and I think the rest of the world should as well. This article from The Huffington Post describes a reaction that, frankly, disgusts me.

Mitt Romney, Republican, Presidential Candidate etc. tweeted the following:

Sally Ride ranks among the greatest of pioneers. I count myself among the millions of Americans she inspired with her travels to space.

Does that offend me? No! Why should it? It doesn’t matter what you or I think about Mitt Romney or Republicans or billionaire politicians in general. That was a perfectly respectful, decent, and I believe sincere sentiment. Yet some people seem to think that any person who has a reputation for quashing GLBT rights has no business speaking in regards to a GLBT person at all.

Sally Ride had no desire to become a spokesperson for gay rights. She wanted the attention to be on her work encouraging children to study and enjoy math and science. She wanted to keep her personal life quietly private.

That is what we are striving for. Not to triumph in some loud and obnoxious way, but to be unnoticeable, indiscernible from all the heterosexual couples who are, indeed, just quietly living their lives.