American American

Monday 4 July 2011

It’s July 4, y’all, the day we celebrate the creation of these (wonderful) United States of American in 1776 with the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, and I’m back blogging with a vengeance!

I’m not going to pretend the U.S. doesn’t have some pretty great things going for it; if you check out the kind of overt oppression happening the last few months in Libya, Syria, and Yemen, I think all of us citizens of the U S of A can all be thankful to live where we do.

But, if you know me or have read my blog in the past, you know I like to get critical.  And I figure what better day than this one, a day we think with inflated egos just how great and awesome we are, to look a little deeper at some of the ways I think we’re getting it wrong:

Economic Disparity: If you ask me, this is from where all the problems stem. We’re a country where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and with a system where those with money are in power or paying to get their friends into power (see below), the cycle will continue. A few infographics (Inequality, Stupid; 15 Facts) and this amazing article, “Who Rules America,” tell the story pretty well, but the basic idea is that the top 1% of Americans has as much money and wealth as the bottom 90%, a group that itself is fairly stratified. Thus, the $1 you and I might spend on a meal means Oprah gets to spend $90. Does that seem right to you?

“Free” Speech: In the past few years, the Supreme Court has basically determined that the right to free speech means the right to as much speech as you’re willing and able to pay for. This means that should I run for office, I can choose to forgo getting in bed with corporations and wealthy individuals and stay true to my ideals, but if someone else is well-financed, they can pretty much drown out me and my voice. Basically, free speech doesn’t mean equal amounts of speech, and in this game, if you have money, you win and get to make the rules that help you get more money, though this has been true for awhile, it’s just become even moreso as of late.

Health Care: I’m guessing I don’t have to inform you that we still don’t have universal health care.  Yes, there was a bill passed that requires everyone to purchase health care, I’m aware, but universal health care this is not.  Instead, what this does is create an even a larger pool of participants for private insurance companies to reap more money and profits from the estimated 50+ million without insurance.  And with Medicare and Medicaid on the ropes, those who would lose such benefits would now also be required to “buy” insurance, again putting money in the hands of private companies.  Why is health care not something we feel is a human right, afforded to everyone, like a high school education?

Education: While we’re on the topic of universal rights, can we discuss the horrific state of the education system of this country?  In Chicago, the high school graduation rate in 2010 was only 56% (an improvement from 1999′s 47%, but still a travesty).  Big cities across the country have similar stories.  A lot of this, again, comes back to money.  With all the states of which I’m aware using property taxes to fund education, this means more money is spent on education in wealthy areas than poor areas.  And if you have money and don’t like your school system, you either move or simply send your kids to a private school.  If we truly valued education the way we give it lip service, we’d fund it as such.

Competitive Eating: If anything is representative of the excess that has become this country, it’s the event held on Coney Island each July 4: Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.  This year’s winner, Joey Chestnut, ate 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes (and of course the 20 or so other contestants ate a lot, too).  Yet there are still families heading to soup kitchens and food pantries because they have nothing to eat.  What drives something like this?  Well, this year’s event was (again) broadcast live on ESPN, with Pepto-Bismol as a top sponsor.  I’m going to guess advertising money.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I don’t have time today to write about issues of housing, transportation, Social Security, unemployment, prisons and criminal (in)justice, war and foreign policy, and many others — I want to enjoy my day off, too!

But as we celebrate today and in days to come, let’s not be complacent with the current ways of our country. We still live in a democracy, which means power to the people if we choose to claim it.

I leave you with a great op-art piece with a humorous look at our nation’s not-always-so-pleasant-looking history: Like It or Unfriend It

(The title of this blog post is meant to be read as an adjective followed by a noun.  The second “American,” the noun, is meant to signify that I, being someone living in the U.S., would colloquially be called an American.  In the first word, the adjective, I am affirming my belief that to act in an American way is to challenge the status quo and to work to make  a better country for everyone — EVERYONE — and that’s what I believe I try to do, and hopefully this blog is just one such example.)

(Oh, and why not a throwback to a post I wrote in September 2007, too: economic oppression)


just take a look

Saturday 3 October 2009

Hopefully I’ll soon not have to spend my extra time looking for a job and be able to post more regularly on here.  Until then, I’ll continue to try and do a little bit when possible.

Today, I want to show you some seriously disturbing video from the West Bank of a night of home raids in a town know for its weekly demonstrations against the Israeli Wall, 16 September 2009.  The description from the second video is below.  Total viewing time of both videos is about 15 minutes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jy1qOMJXk5A&

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aqy7uyVKYMA&

Shortly after 1:30am, Israeli forces invaded Bil’in again. They raided the house of Abdullah Mahmoud Aburahma in an attempt to arrest him. However, he was not home at the time. Palestinian and international activists intervened by jumping over the wall into the garden since the soldiers had shut the gate closed. Some international activists were threatened with arrest unless they move back. The soldiers had sealed off the house while operating inside. They forced open two doors breaking the locks and destroying the doors. They trashed several rooms and beat Mohammed Khatib who had come to the rescue of Abdullah’s family. He was taken to hospital in Ramallah for treatment and returned to the village later.

Military reinforcement arrived in five Jeeps. Outside the house, one Palestinian activist, Emad Burnat, who was filming, was pushed to the ground. One soldier also broke his camera. Hamde Aburahma and other Palestinian journalists were threatened with arrest unless they stop filming. They hit Ashraf Aburahma, another activist, with the gun injuring his right hand.

The house of Abdullah’s brother, Khaled Aburahma, was raided as well, which traumatized his children that were pulled brutally out of their sleep. The invading forces said that until they find Abdullah, the entire neighborhood was theirs. They searched every room and trashed one room downstairs next to the store. They stole Palestinian flags, banners and posters used during demonstrations, and then left the house.

The invading forces exited the village around 3am without any victims.

Abdullah Aburahma called all the Human Rights organizations worldwide to help stopping the night raids in Bil’in, and to support the demonstrations against the occupation which is a legal activity


breaking the silence

Thursday 8 January 2009

You only need to look at the size of the words “peace” and “Palestine” in the tags section on the right side of my weblog to realize that these two topics are very important to me.  However, you’ll also recognize that since Israeli bombing attacks on Gaza began on the morning of 27 December, and even when the ground attacks of Gaza began on 3 January, I haven’t written about the issue.  It’s not that I don’t care, as I surely do, but when there are no easy answers or quick sound bites to capture my feelings of support or disgust, it’s hard to really know what to write or share, what stories to underline and which to gloss over.

When there is nothing but gray, no good side to get behind, what do you do?  I am always on the side of peace, nonaggression, and nonviolence, and from the looks of it, neither Hamas (currently in charge of the Gazan Palestinians) nor the Israeli government are a good fit for someone like myself to get behind and support.  Even the UN is lacking in this conflict.  So what do you do?  Do you say nothing?  That’s what I’ve resigned to do so far, and it’s allowed me time to think things over a bit and decide what I want and need to say.

When you get down to it, it’s a bit of a “which came first” scenario, in my mind, and a recognition that violence comes in many forms.  However, the “which came first” scenario is a way in which people seek to place blame, and really, there is plenty of blame to go around.  I’ve heard, in various ways, “Can you blame the Israelis for fighting back when a group is launching rockets into its communities?”  I guess I can understand their reasoning, but can’t I still “blame” them?  In either case, it’s not something I believe in.

And, unfortunately, I think that the questions Israel (and it’s supporters) are asking overshadow some of the other questions that need to be thought about, too:
“If your country/area were blockaded, walled and fenced in like a jail, unable to receive necessary supplies of food and medicine, wouldn’t you seek some kind of way to gain attention to change that?” (A question from the Hamas point of view)
“If you saw another country being oppressed in the ways of the previous question, would you look the other way and do nothing, and (in some cases) maybe even continue to support the oppressor(s)?  Or would you take substantial steps to deal with the oppressor, maybe by either setting up sanctions or withdrawing the support that allows for such oppression in the first place?”  (Questions the U.S. and other countries, and their citizens, need to be asking)

It’s hard to be in a position where you can’t really support a tangible entity in a situation, which is kind of what I feel in this current Gaza/Israel conflict.  There are certainly those now calling for a cease fire, which is great in the short term, but we need much more than that.  How does one really support peace and reconciliation when no one involved (at least the large entities that seem to hold the power to truly make a difference) appears to truly want it themselves?  I guess that’s the question I, and many like myself, continue to ask ourselves.


letting the questions fade away

Sunday 16 November 2008

“We are called to act with jutice,
we are called to love tenderly,
we are called to serve one another,
to walk humbly with God.”

– David Hass (paraphrase of Micah 6:8)

Over the past month or so, I’ve been asked and asking myself questions about some of the particulars regarding my faith and faith in general.  Some have been small in magnitude, but others much greater, like, “Do you believe in an afterlife?” or “Is there a ‘god’ that created everything?”  Many times I try to duck these questions, especially when I’m asking them to myself, but if they come from someone else, it’s a bit more of a challenge.

Recently I was asked a tough question in a group discussion, and it’s one that I usually answer to myself, “It really doesn’t matter,” but this wasn’t sufficient for those collected, so I decided to verbalize the “if I have to say something” answer I usually refrain from in an attempt to avoid going deeper into what that means for me and my faith.  After I got it out, it was OK, because what I said was only the truth of what I feel deep down, an opportunity to be honest with myself in a way I usually avoid.

In the past few days, since verbalizing that uncomfortable answer, I’ve been contemplating what exactly it means that some of my personal beliefs might conflict with some seemingly significant (doctrinal?) pieces of the faith I claim when I call myself a Christian.  Am I really fooling myself and others?  Calling myself “Lutheran” anymore is probably a stretch and likely now more of a cultural connection for me than anything, but Christian?  Is that no longer true, too?

But singing the words from Micah 6:8 (above) this morning at a Christian (though non-Lutheran) service, I was reminded again that while there may be questions out there I answer differently than others who consider themselves Christian, and which might cause certain other Christians, if they knew my answers, to tell me I’m not, in fact, one of them, that doesn’t matter to me.

For me, being a Christian is all about following Christ, and following Christ to me means living a life full of love and grace, of kindness and hospitality, of justice and peace.  Does any of that have to do with being “saved” or believing God created the earth in a certain number of days or even believing in a “tangible” afterlife where people or souls or spirits or whatever spend eternity?

My “philosophy,” as someone termed it in a question to me last month, is simply one thing: love.  I believe following Christ — him bing for you the “Risen Lord” or just another great guy — is about the love.  I may not answer some questions of faith in a way you might expect or agree with, but I believe that following love and seeking, as much as is humanly possible, to be love is what makes me as much a Christian as those who sat humbly at Jesus’ feet, listening to His teachings and going forth to do likewise.

So instead of letting the questions I may answer “wrongly” or not have the answers to get in the way, I hold firm in that which I do know — God is Love, Christ is Love, and by putting Love above all other things, I truly am following The Way.

Peace and love as you discern how The Way might be calling you, too.


take a look

Thursday 1 May 2008

From Newsweek: the strangulation of the West Bank


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