Tuesday, September 8, 2009

To all the parents and teachers…

who chose to “shield” your children from President Obama’s speech today, you people that reacted to it, labeling it as “socialistic indoctrination” – even before hearing/reading it – you are idiots. Bonafide, 100% USDA, home-grown idiots. I feel sorry for your children for having parents like you. Your closed-mindedness, repressed racism, ignorance, and insecurity as a parent and/or educator are appalling.

If you or someone you know are one of these parents, I am not apologizing. I don’t care any longer about offending or pissing people off, because it’s utterly clear that some people are utterly incapable of intelligent political discourse. I am not pulling any punches any longer. It is absolutely absurd that our country is in such a state where people are afraid to let their kids listen to a speech from the president. A speech emphasizing the value of education and hard work. A speech encouraging resilience and being able to overcome challenges. A speech that, it seems, too many parents are afraid to give their own children.

Say what you will about political stances, but it is never a bad thing to encourage the younger generation to work hard and value their education. That’s all the president wanted to do. The fact that the conservative media at Fixed News, as well as paranoid parents and educators (and some politicians), went berserk over this without knowing the content is a testament to how stupid some Americans are, and how they seem to desire to make their kids as stupid as they are.

And you know what? Even IF the President sprinkled in some of his so-called “socialistic agenda” into his speech, it is YOUR job as a parent to elaborate your disagreement to your kids. It is YOUR job as a parent to answer your kid’s questions about politics should they have any. The fact that some parents reacted the way they did makes it evident that they are not secure enough in their parenting skills to have an honest discussion with their kids about politics.

Personally, I think some of this has to do with racism. I think that such a reaction is a direct manifestation of some people’s racist perspectives. Would these same people react the same way if the President was white? Hmm…

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A few thoughts regarding political stances…

It’s pretty self-evident that there are a myriad of political views here in America. Amongst my friends on Facebook, for example, the views range from the ultra-conservative, to the ultra-liberal, and to a completely different axis that leads to apathy and indifference (which I sometimes envy, because all the thinking I do at any given moment often drives me up the wall) and all points in between. I’m not saying any of these stances are bad; I’m just highlighting the range that exists.

What I’m really interested in at the moment is how people – in general – arrive at their particular political stances? For example, how does someone arrive at the conclusion that small government is best, or that capitalism is downright evil? Why do some people uphold the Constitution of the United States as the authority – legally and intellectually – on all things political, while some question whether it’s worth re-examining in today’s context, and possibly worth altering?

But back to the main point. I’m interested to know how people have arrived at their political stances because, at face value, I don’t believe that a lot of people can legitimately answer this question. I believe that if asked, many Americans (possibly including some politicians) would be stumped, or would stammer out some sort of pre-fabricated talking point that they got from the media. And this is not meant to insult anyone’s capability to learn and think critically, but I do think this is sorely lacking in much of the political conversation going on today.

My reasons for even wanting to ask this –very generally, of course – is all of these town-hall meetings going on lately regarding healthcare, and all the subsequent extracurricular activities going on at, or as a result of, these meetings. Unfortunately, the media isn’t helping in any way to calm these people down, so they’re gonna continue. And while I completely respect the right to free speech and assembly, I have to ask: what are these people really mad about, i.e. what’s the heart of the matter for them? Have they formed a coherent political framework in their minds? How so? And have they thought through the ramifications of their views, and taken them to their logical ends? A little bit of critical thinking never hurt anyone. I’m just sayin…

As an aside, one of my pet peeves is people being disrespectful while someone else is trying to speak, so even just seeing and hearing the cacophony at these meetings would be enough to piss me off. Constitutional rights aside, whatever happened to being respectful? As much as we sometimes get upset with politicians, there’s no need to make death threats. That, to me, is un-American; I think we’re better than that.

I’ll end with a quote from one of my favorite philosophers, Søren Kierkegaard; I think it’s somewhat apropos…

“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.”

Monday, July 13, 2009

U.S. troops: modern-day mercenaries?

"The fact is, they [mercenaries] have no other attraction or reason for keeping the field than a trifle of stipend..." - Machiavelli, The Prince, Ch. 12

I’m a big fan of The Prince by Machiavelli; I think it’s definitely a must-read for everyone even remotely interested in politics (and it’s a fairly short read as well). The above-mentioned quote comes from a chapter in which Machiavelli discusses the ways a ruler goes about defending his territory. Machiavelli puts forth the options of 1) using one's own army, 2) using mercenaries, or 3) a combination of the two. A mercenary is defined as the following by dictionary.com:

1. working or acting merely for money or other reward; venal.

2. hired to serve in a foreign army, guerrilla organization, etc.

With Machiavelli's quote and the first definition (since the second definition is irrelevant to this discussion ) in mind, I ask the following: are there some (emphasis on some) members of the United States Armed Forces who are, essentially, modern-day mercenaries?

Let me say this: US troops (especially the ones who have been, or are currently, deployed to war zones) display such courage, loyalty and selflessness that the label of "mercenary" seems blatantly disrespectful (which I don't mean to be by any means) if taken merely at face value. For many people the discussion stops here, because for them to even speculate that US troops are mercenaries is a big slap in the face to those who have given their lives serving this country.

Fair enough. But here’s the million-dollar question: why do most people in this day and age join the military to begin with? Is a sense of patriotism the prime motivating factor for enlisting? For some (like the late Pat Tillman), yes, but I would speculate that this does not ring true for quite a few, or perhaps even for the majority. A steady income, the possibility of travel, educational opportunities, medical benefits, financial perks (such as reduced interest rates for loans, student loans being paid off or deferred, etc) and the like are more than likely the main reasons for people joining the military. I know they were mine and I have no shame admitting it, because I know that I would have never joined if there weren't any perks to joining the military besides the steady pay and at least 4 years of job security (barring any court-martials or early discharge, of course). Many would probably echo my sentiments.

So, with all this on the table, does that make me - and other military folks who, like me, joined up primarily because of the perks - a mercenary? I'm really not sure. One the one hand, I would fight for this country if needed, and there is no way I'd ever jump ship to another country's military, or illegally assist another country's military (or militia or non-state actor), no matter how much they offered me; my services are for sale, but only to one buyer.

On the other hand, if the military reduced base pay or threatened to remove perks such as the G.I. Bill or other educational opportunities, there's no way I'd stay in longer than my current contract or, if I wasn't already enlisted, there'd be no way I'd enlist to begin with. I certainly didn't join for the base salary alone; my last job paid way better than the military. But it didn't offer a G.I. Bill, travel opportunities, or tuition assistance to get my master's degree even without using the G.I. Bill.

Serving in the military is first and foremost a job, and our modern-day society dictates that having a job means one is compensated monetarily. Being a soldier in and of itself requires payment, so that negates the idea that a soldier is a mercenary simply because he gets paid. But when some members of the US military (myself included) join mainly for the perks, at what point (if any) do they cross the line from being a soldier into being a mercenary?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sometimes you need to burn a bridge…

instead of trying to repair one.

Earlier today, I made a quiet decision that, in hindsight, was a long time coming: I cut ties with someone who I thought was one of my best friends. I’m not going to name names, or get into the details of the why, but it was basically predicated upon a gradual and eventual loss of mutual respect. Or, at the very least, I lost all respect for this individual.

And you can’t have much of an acquaintanceship, let alone a friendship, without respect.

The thing that’s strange for me is that I feel good about it. I don’t feel regret. I don’t feel sad. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but I just don’t have the time, energy or willingness to try to fix friendships that are falling apart at the foundational level. Life’s too short to cling to pent up animosity and what not. The blame can be distributed depending upon the perspective, I suppose. It is what it is.

So, sometimes you need to burn a bridge instead of trying to repair one. This is one of those situations for me, and I don’t think I did the wrong thing.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

As an addition to my previous blog entry…

This video clip is from the movie “Booty Call” (fair warning: it’s not one of Jamie Foxx’s finest moments) that pretty much captures the essence of the Religious Right’s hypocrisy. Props to the late, great Bernie Mac (he plays a judge in the movie).

The clip is from 1:32 to 3:38; watch the rest at your own risk.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Christians vs Pharisees

One of the big topics of the day was the aftermath of Nevada Senator John Ensign’s admission of an affair with the wife of one of his staffers. This sort of thing doesn’t surprise me anymore, and I’m apt to believe that this more than likely happens quite often amongst our political representatives at every level. 

But this is what pisses me off about this particular situation:

First, Senator Ensign publically and emphatically called for President Clinton to resign during the height of his scandal with Monica Lewinsky. Can someone say “hubris”?

Second, as noted in the first article, Senator Ensign was one of the toughest critics of former Senator Larry Craig during his own sex scandal in a Minneapolis restroom, calling for Craig to resign (which he ultimately did). According to Ensign:

“I wouldn’t put myself, hopefully, in that kind of position, but if I was in a position like that, that’s what I would do.”

Third, Ensign was an active member of Promise Keepers, a Christian organization aimed at making men more “godly.”

This is just another testament to the moral hypocrisy that seems prevalent within the Conservative ranks. Ensign is a walking, living, breathing representation of all that is wrong with modern-day Conservatism in America; an inflated sense of moral superiority without any sort of legitimate foundation to base it on. He ought to take his own advice and resign, because he has zero credibility left as far as I’m concerned (and as far as his constituency ought to be concerned).

Now, I’m not saying that Liberals aren’t hypocritical about things; they are, and I’ll be happy to discuss that. However, the problem is that many Conservatives are of the belief that they have “moral authority” (aka “Biblical Inerrancy”) on their side. A lot of Conservatives talk about morality and what not, browbeat and judge those people that they don’t feel are up to par, and then turn around and go against their own principles.

I already know the response - “Human beings aren’t perfect; they’re sinful, and are bound to fail.” Yeah, I guess. But riddle me this: why play the “God is merciful” card in situations like this, and then Bible-thump when it comes to gay marriage and abortion? Why wasn’t there an outcry when a man gets shot at church, even if he performed abortions? Why preach fire-and-brimstone unless it has to do with the glaring hypocrisy of one of your own?

It makes me absolutely sick to my stomach to hear any sort of argument on the grounds of “Christian” principles, and to me such arguments spit in the face of any sort of intellectual honesty. People like John Ensign aren’t Christians; they’re modern-day Pharisees. Maybe if there were more Christians and less Pharisees among Conservatives (especially at the top), I – and many other people – may take you and your principles a little bit more seriously.

Bottom line: if you’re going to make the claim to be a Christian, take your own principles seriously. Jesus gave you all a heads-up about this – take the log out of your eye before you take out the specks in someone else’s eye? Ring any bells? Obviously it didn’t ring any bells for John Ensign; maybe Promise Keepers ought to emphasize that a little bit more, rather than creating a sense of moral superiority in its followers.

“By their fruits you will easily recognize them. Do men gather grapes from thorns, or figs from brambles?” – Matthew 7:16

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Trying to find a balance


I don’t know how people have the energy to do anything after a full day of work; when I get off of work, I am absolutely drained. As soon as I sit in my car after leaving my office, the last thing I want to do is…anything. I cringe if I need to pick up groceries, or if I need to get a haircut, or anything with any semblance of effort. When I get to my apartment, I suddenly sink into a state of laziness; it’s a struggle for me to even muster the energy to make dinner, and I often just order pizza or something along those lines.

As I’m chillin’ out, I turn on the news and get pissed off about whatever issue is going on. I think, “I should write about it.” But then I don’t. And those of you that know me get just how into politics and political discussion I am; I almost never pass up an opportunity to talk politics. This is just how drained I am, and I really don’t know how to avoid this post-workday state of mind.

Now, I don’t do hard labor or anything like that. I sit in a room with no windows, and spend the day dealing with IT issues. The phone rings constantly, to the point that I’m starting to have nightmares about the particular sound of the ringing of the office phones. 90% of the calls aren’t big deals per se, but due to the fact that my office specifically provides IT support to higher-level Air Force officers, every issue is a big deal. Most of these calls come from the higher-level officers’ executive officers, known in Air Force terminology as “execs,” and their desire to look good for their boss turns a number of them into unreasonable, scheming robots.

I don’t mean to bitch about my job; I realize that it could be worse (like working at my last office, the dreaded Help Desk *shudders*), and I have been the benefactor of certain perks, i.e. getting to do some extensive travelling this past year. Plus, my co-workers and supervisors are pretty cool and we try to laugh as much as possible throughout the workday. All things considered, it’s not as bad of a job as I make it sound (except for the part about the unreasonable execs - that shit is real) and I’ve learned a lot regarding IT in this job.

My struggle is trying to find a balance where I don’t come home completely drained, and where I don’t stay late everyday doing something that can wait until tomorrow, but also where I don’t go completely lax a-la Peter in “Office Space.” I think it’s possible – or at least I hope it is. A lot of other people are able to have a bunch of energy after work, and I envy that. I want it for myself. I definitely think it’s all psychological for me, and I need to change my mentality in order for me to not feel burnt out. But how? I’m strugglin’

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ahmadinejad won in a landslide? BS.

So perhaps you’ve been paying attention to the news regarding the results of the Iranian election. I think it’s safe to say that the world consensus is that the election was rigged. That’s what I think, given an 80% voter turnout in the Iranian election, and also the fact that there are rumors that Ahmadinejad's rival is in danger.

Of course, just the very controversy of this election throws a wrench into the foreign policy plans of President Obama. While I support the need for direct dialogue with Iran (hell, even the United States and the USSR had direct talks throughout the Cold War), the problem arises in whether or not the Obama administration will respect the legitimacy of the Iranian election results.

As such, the Iranian people have taken to the streets in protest. That has to mean something, right? Perhaps this is a tipping point for Iran…

Saturday, June 13, 2009

So this is my blog...

and I figure I'll have more energy and willingness to keep this up rather than posting notes on Facebook all the time (which I'll still do, of course). I've attempted to start blogs in the past (and I wrote like crazy on my Myspace blog - which I barely ever log into now by the way), but I've always given up after a while, for whatever reason - boredom, laziness, getting sick of second-guessing everything I posted. This time, I'll try to break through all that and broadcast my thought and opinions to all of you - unfiltered, uncensored, unapologetic - and not worry about whether or not you're all gonna feel it. Some of you will, some of you won't - it is what it is. I'd like to believe that my friendships and kinships are strong enough to withstand differences of opinion in regards to politics, religion, pop culture, sports, etc. We all are who we are for a reason, and we've arrived at our current positions in a very unique manner.

I use the term "position" rather than "conclusion" because I believe my points of view are always going to change in some varying degree or another. To me, there's always something to be learned, or a point of view to be considered. At the same time, I'm not afraid to challenge a point of view, and I welcome challenges to mine; that's how we learn and progress as people. The philosopher G.W.F. Hegel brought about the concept of "dialectic," where one idea (a thesis) is met by a counter-idea (an antithesis), and the two clash and conflict and eventually merge into a new idea (a synthesis). The synthesis, then, becomes a new thesis and the process repeats itself. That's how I like to view my process of education and self-awareness, as dialectical and ever-evolving.

So hopefully this will be the first post of many, and hopefully it'll get me back in the swing of things as far as writing is concerned. I used to write so much more when I was in college, and the year or so afterwards until I joined the Air Force. Has the Air Force made me worse as a writer? I don't think so, but it's definitely made it a lot less enjoyable with regards to the working hours and such. Frankly, I miss being a pissed-off college student; it just sparked something in me that made me want to write all the time. Now I'm slowly becoming a pissed-off Airman; maybe this will do the same thing.

Anyways, I'm still in uniform after working a 10 hour shift on a Saturday, so I'm going to change and enjoy my one day weekend. In the meanwhile, I'll have thoughts and ideas brewing to share with everyone.