Saturday, November 2, 2013

Truth and Meaning: Friendly Fire

Truth and Meaning: Friendly Fire

As a boy, I remember hearing this phrase during the Vietnam War. My oldest brother served a tour in the Central Highlands, and I remember well events like the killings at My Lai 4. The country was in deep shock at the notion that our soldiers could act so brutally … so inhumanly. I was old enough to understand the debate about the changing nature of war, the chain of command and responsibility.

Noncombatants die. That has always been a fact of life. Throughout history, the women and children, the farmers and shepherds, the poor innocents have always paid the price for our inability to resolve conflict. The events during Vietnam, however, numbed us deeply to the notion that these victims deserve our sympathy.

Friendly fire rages all around us. Our nation drops bombs all over the world every day. We argue that drones kill terrorists and that we are justified in using this great technology. We cut food stamps for millions of children. We argue that our government must be fiscally responsible. We starve public schools, cripple organized labor, and ship jobs overseas. We argue that our economy depends on “free markets” and capitalism.

Here is what I say. If we cannot stop terrorism without murdering children, then we are no better than the terrorists ourselves. If we cannot balance a budget without making children go hungry, then we have become morally irresponsible. If we cannot support an economy without lining the pockets of selfish special interests, then we doom our public welfare to financial slavery.

How did we become so heartless? When did the unfettered purchase and possession of any firearm start to trump children’s lives? When did our pursuit of profits become a higher priority than our entire global climate? When did grandstanding and brinksmanship become the only tools in our political repertoire? When are we going to grow up and put out the friendly fires we are lighting everywhere?

If you support democracy, and you feel as I do, then the time has come to speak out. Until people of faith place moral values above conquest, people above balance sheets, and economic self determination above trickle down lies, then our nation will continue its spiral into moral decay. As citizens, we must let our voices be heard and stop listening to the corporate media spin machine. People are dying, starving, living homeless and hopeless. It is up to us to stop it.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Truth and Meaning: Putting our Podophobia into Perspective

Truth and Meaning: Putting our Podophobia into Perspective

My dad traveled quite a bit as part of his job. I remember fondly going to the airport, riding the moving walkways and collecting Avis buttons that said “We try harder” in different languages. But I most remember standing at the gate, anxiously waiting and watching for him to walk off the plane.

Those days are, of course, long gone since one now must have a boarding pass and proceed through a rigorous examination to be granted access to the gates. As someone with a pacemaker/defibrillator, I was recently reminded of the heightened concerns for security in our nation’s airports. Since I cannot pass through the standard scanning machines, I typically must endure the TSA pat down. If you have not had the experience, I imagine this examination rivals the treatment of prison inmates. Every time I travel by air, I recall our ever-expanding safety priorities and the clutch that the iron fist of irrational fear holds us in.

Well over one million people fly in the U.S. every day. And because someone tried to sneak a shoe bomb onto a plane, one million people must take off and put back on their shoes every day before approaching the gates. (In case you are curious, at 30 seconds per person, that requirement equates to almost one full year of lost person time each day). Our possessions are restricted, probed and scanned, our bodies X-rayed and fondled, all in the name of security. And the sad fact is that anyone who passed high school chemistry could still get a pretty wicked combination of explosive concoctions onto any plane in a modest carry-on bag.

Now, even if you believe this massive bureaucratic effort is worth the price, consider this. With last week’s shootings at Sparks Middle School in Nevada, there have now been 32 school shootings since the murders at Columbine High School in 1999. Thirty-two school shootings compared to one domestic shoe bombing attempt. And yet, in spite of overwhelming support among the American people, we still have no mandatory universal background checks on gun purchases and no restrictions on assault weapons or high-capacity magazine clips. Why are we more afraid of our feet than of guns?

All the American people want is common sense. Even gun owners generally support mandatory background checks. When will our legislators stop acting like petulant children and start showing some real concern for the safety of their constituents? Instead of shoes, we should be afraid for poor people losing their food stamps, veterans getting poor medical attention, and hard-working people without jobs because their employer shipped the work off to China. And we should really be afraid of our crumbling infrastructure, poorly-supported public schools and inadequate regulations on fossil fuel producers.