Monday, June 27, 2016

Hope...Family Values...Final Segment

We started over a month ago, talking about family values...and how the "family value" people don't seem to really value families at all.

With mass shootings, stockpiles of nuclear weapons, poverty, drug wars, high rates of incarcerations and war...where is the hope for families...for all of us?

Hope can move us...Pres. Obama won on a campaign on hope "Yes, We Can!"  But,, we didn't.  It is easy to blame a divided administration and congress.  Racism played heavily into it, but the reality is that after the election, those with the hope went home and left it to politicians.

The Occupy Movement was a hopeful movement...drawing attention to the bankrupted soul of our flawed economic system.  People willing to sit and wait... but only so long, then reality set in and they went home and left it once again to the mega-banks.

We need hope to move and change things but if we don't get off our sweet tushes and do something about society's problems, there is no hope.  It's a Catch 22.

I understand this.  I go to bed every night with the hope of getting up, changing my routine and exercising this old body of mine, but morning comes and my sadness, grief, and depression sets in and I let another day go by...but I KNOW, I have to move beyond it or the body will give up whether or not each night I have hope.

I heard Michaelangelo Signorile, editor-at-large of the Huffington Post Gay Voices, respond to a question about where he found hope after the Orlando shooting.  He talked about how the LBGT movement could not let its guard down but had to keep pushing and pushing for equal rights like all citizens of the U.S.   In other words, the hope he found was in action.

It is hard to act without hope, but we have to.  We might find that in acting we give hope to others...and that hope might be catching maybe even acting like a boomerang and coming back to us. 

If we care about families, then let's not allow "family values" people the power of that title, let's claim it for ourselves and call "lies and nonsense" on what they call "family values;" and let's act.  Let's... 

  • Fight for disarmament locally and nationally;
  • Fight for the end of the war on drugs and the beginning of setting people free;
  • Fight for our troops and families worldwide by ending wars;
  • Fight for increased minimum wage and more government support of families; and   
  • Vote, lobby, write letters, hit the streets, run for office, talk to anyone and everyone who will listen;
  • End hatred and will change minds.  
Yes, We Can...only IF we work.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

100 Nuclear Bombs can End Life...Family Values Part 6

In a recent blog I mentioned a conversation between our granddaughter and her mother about learning ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate) in kindergarten to address school shootings.

ALICE reminded me of the Duck and Cover drills, we did when we were kids.  We would climb under our desks and cover our heads to protect us from - wait for it - a nuclear blast!

I remember clearly when Daddy was a chaplain at Fort Benning, GA, practicing the drills over and over in school, especially during and after the Cuban missile crisis.  Like ALICE, Duck and Cover was a stupid way of dealing with very, very serious problems.

On the 12th of June, 1982, Sarah, Tiff, Jessica, Mike and I went to New York City along with a million others to protest the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  Since the Cold War ended in the early 1990s, many stopped thinking about the horrors of the nuclear weapons and frankly, so had I.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, currently nine nations* possess 16,300 nuclear bombs.  Only 100 small bombs would cause a nuclear winter that can end life as we know it.  A massive volcano can spew ash and cause a winter of little sunlight, devastating droughts and cold temperatures but its ash would last in the atmosphere about a year.  100  nuclear bombs would cause even more serious damage and would last ten years!

Climate change predictions are frightening and horrifying but nuclear weapons?  They are even more terrifying and, unlike climate change, there is no denying it...we all know they are sitting there just waiting.

If we believe in family values, this is unacceptable...completely unacceptable.   

There is such disconnect in our society. A family member, who was a strong opponent of abortions and called himself a Right to Life advocate, also worked for Strategic Air Command.  In other words he kept the plane going in order to launch a nuclear attack if need be.  I asked him once if he ever thought of all the unborn babies that would die if a nuclear bomb was dropped (not to mention all God's creatures).  

We always hear about the deterrent of mutually assured destruction and how such-and-such nation should not have nuclear capabilities; but, the reality is that nuclear weapons have only been used twice as weapons, both times by the United States, killing 135,000 people.  

Sure, we all have heard the arguments that those bombs stopped WWII, "saved lives" and  were "a necessary evil" , but there is also evidence that the war was ending, the bombs didn't save lives, and were unnecessary. BUT necessary or not, dropping atomic bombs was...and is...evil.

Keeping these weapons of mass destruction (so nicely referred to as "WMDs") is insane.  Having these weapons means we or someone are willing to use them.  Having them means they can be stolen.  Having them also costs lots and lots of money to try and keep them "safe" "we never have to use them."

Why do we move forth on this path of death?  Why do we not try to protect our families... truly and honestly?  Where are the  so-called common sense people?  And why do we let people who fight against nuclear disarmament call themselves "family value" people...They.  Are.  Not.

*The United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea.  Nine nations hold the life of the planet and little nations like Nicaragua in their blasting hands. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Orlando shooting..."an act of terror, an act of hate"

Listening to Pres. Obama react to the shooting in Florida and describe it as an act of terror and an act of hate brought many conflicting feelings inside of me.

The second part of his statement is the first to address "an act of hate."  In other words, an act motivated by hatred.

This bar was a center of social action and a place where people with different sexual and gender orientation than most of us could let go and be themselves...a place of fun, socialization, relaxation.  It followed Gay Pride parades all over the country and the world. 

That sanctity was shattered as bullets flew and mostly Latinos went down.

On 28th of June, 1968, in New York City the LBGT community held its first was a parade full of joy to celebrate their differences instead of anger.  Though full of joy, pride parades are also full of danger.  These are brave people.

For example: an Indiana man - not Muslim - was arrested on Sunday with guns, ammo, and explosive materials headed to the Los Angeles gay pride parade.

Hatred comes from many places...powerlessness, ignorance, fear, anger and sometimes just plain meanness.  Hate is wrong.  It is evil.  It is dangerous for all of us.  And our nation, our world, is moving toward adding more hatred to the ever growing pile of evil....a growing hatred of Muslims.

The shooting in Orlando was called "an act of terror" as well as an act of hate.  Why was this an "act of terror" when many other mass shootings are just "tragic"?  Because a U.S. born...meaning an "American"....non-religious Muslim (testified by his parents and ex-wife, whom he beat) went berserk, called 911 and pledge allegiance to ISIS (obviously for the first time) and started shooting.

I used to regularly watch Real Time with Bill Maher,"  but I have stopped because I am tired of his rant against Islam, and his blaming of religion for all things bad in the world. *

ISIS is another evil organization, but the Islamic leaders of the world have declared them heretics, not Islamic.  In fact, many Muslim scholars explain that it is the West in its continual description of ISIS as Muslim that gives them validity, despite the fact that the Islamic leaders have named them heretics.

There are horrific acts done by people, who call themselves Muslims, as there are horrific acts done by people who call themselves Christians, Jews, Hindus, etc.  There are also atheists and agnostics who have done horrible things, as have people of science...think of all the Nazi scientists.

Selfishness, myopic views, greed, power and poverty...these are the real problems and - I'll admit - religion can contribute to those evils.  When religion only exists to perpetuate itself it appeals to the lowest common denominator.

Religion must evolve or it will stagnate, festering and breeding hatred.  People of any religion have to grow up and not act as scared children, who either retreat in their own worlds and ignore what goes on around them, blame all bad things on someone else, or act like bullies. Religious leaders have to challenge the norm, call for better, and model goodness and love and peace.

Malala Yousafzai
Tawakel Karman
As much as I find that being an apologist for religion (as opposed to faith) is odd for me, I also find that those who take the best of any faith and truly live it are people I look up to, people I admire.

Whether we believe in a Deity or not, hatred has got to go.
*I always found Bill Maher conflicted, because when he interviews people of faith who love and work for justice, he is always respectful, but those...especially Christians...who do not follow the principles of Jesus, he is dismissive and condescending.  

Monday, June 13, 2016

Protecting Our Children....Family Values Part 5

Last April, Mike and I were visiting my family in SC.  Some children came to my brother's door $10 selling raffle tickets!  $10.00?  What was the prize?  

An assault rifle.

Assault Rifle
Later Mike and I laughed and commented to each other that only in South Carolina would children be selling raffle tickets with the prize being an assault rifle to raise money for a softball team.  Our only hope was that the children were running a scam, but the reality is this was no laughing matter at all...scam or not. 

The level of weapons held by people in the United States, including the militarization of the police, is  frightening.  About one third of the population has 300 million firearms that is averages out to one firearm per man, woman and child!

Where has that gotten us? In the past 47 years, more people in the U.S. have died from gun violence than in ALL the wars dating back to the War of Independence in the 1700s!   I know!  I could not believe it either when I first read it.

The horrors do not stop there....look at these facts...just in 2015 in the United States...
  •  13,286 people were killed by firearms while 26,819 were wounded and these numbers do not include suicides.
  • There were 372 mass shootings.  A mass shooting is defined by four or more people hurt or killed which can include the shooter.  That is MORE than one mass shooting a day!!!  (Source Mass Shooting Tracker*)
  • There were 64 school shootings in 2015...more than one a week!!!  Not all resulted in injured or dead children - Thank God! - but 64 school shootings!
My stepdaughter, Jessica, wrote an excellent blog about her dialogue with her kindergartner, Charlotte, about ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate), the lock-down drill if there is an active shooter in school.

The program comes complete with a kid "friendly" book,  I'm Not Scared, I'm Prepared.  This book is about - get this -  

What.  Children.  Should.  Do.  If.  A.  Shooter. Is.  Shooting.  Up.  Your.  School.  Charlotte JUST turned 6 years old!

I cannot express the disgust, loathing, and fear this raises in me.  Why do we teach kids what to do in such a horrible situation?  Why not just get rid of the guns?

So much has been said (including by me) about mental health issues and random shootings and this is a concern, but...but...mentally ill people cannot shoot up places if they cannot get the guns and all that ammo.

Here in Nicaragua, caring for the mentally ill is not up to any modern standards.  And yet, Nicaragua is the second safest country in the Americas (second only to Canada).  There have been no shootings in schools or random places of business.  Why?

Guns are basically banned even though security guards, police, etc., have them.  Guns are also not worshiped

What are the "family values" people saying during this important election year about gun control?  

Well, a great many of them are actually gun advocates - and by the way, why do things (i.e. guns) need advocates?  

Protecting families.  Protecting our children.  These are aspects of our lives that need advocating...and....these protections are way more important than the craziness that is propagandized by the NRA, who buys off our government through their lobbyists, their campaign contributions and ads.

Let me conclude with this one last thought...many, many in our government, in the NRA, and "family value" people profess to be Christians.  I would ask them WWJD...What Would Jesus Do?  Do we really think he would arm himself to stay "safe" or buy assault rifles "to hunt"?


*Having to have a Mass Shooting Tracker says it all, does it not?

Monday, June 6, 2016

War. What is it good for? Not families. Part 4

Last week our blog was on the War on Drugs and how it effects families.  Let's now look into war, veterans, and families.

Tightly holding my 6-week-old son, Coury, I stared at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington hoping I could protect him from such horrors. I remember having two other clear thoughts...the first was "Thank God that Bob Hanafin and Bob Scott Hopkin's names are not on it."  The two Bobs were dear friends who survived the war but suffered in their lives forward with PTSD from their tours in Vietnam.

"Support our troops" is a slogan many sanction who also boast "family values."  Mostly what this means is let the troops board first on airlines, say "thank you for your service," or other meaningless gestures.

4,486 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq.  
2,234 died in Afghanistan.  
1 million soldiers were wounded in both of these wars.  
In other words these numbers represent members of families and these families suffer.

$6 TRILLION was/and still being spent on these wars.  Money that could bolster the economy and support families in the United States.

But the death toll does not stop when or if these people come home.  21% of all U.S. domestic violence is perpetrated on family members by combat veterans.  To put that in perspective only 13.4% of the men are veterans, 1.4% of women are veterans and these are not just combat veterans these are all veterans but 21% of the violence at home is caused by combat veterans.

Divorce rates have increased by 42% among marriages including veterans.  8.6% of the homeless population  are veterans...49,933 people our government sent to war.  18% more soldiers committed suicide since 2001 than died in the wars. 

Support our troops? Even Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, and John McCain want to fund programs to support the troops after they return.  2,996 people died on 11th September 2001, most of them civilians, and as a nation we decided war was the answer to that tragedy.

My questions are: Why don't we figure out how better to deal with conflicts than sending soldiers in to do terrible things? How about we actually BE  family value people and vote against warmongers?  Why don't we keep these families intact in their homes?

In Washington, my second thought looking at that long, black wall of names of dead children as I held my son, was "I wonder how long that wall would be if we listed all the Vietnamese that also died in that war...I bet it would go on and on and on."

So far I have only mentioned statistics involving our own troops, but as a family member of the world and as a follower of the one who taught us to love and pray for our enemies, I would be remiss not to note the families in Iraq and Afghanistan that are torn asunder. 

There are no concrete numbers of Iraqi and Afghani civilians who have died...the numbers range from 210,000 to over a million deaths of civilians since 2001.  BUT even the lowest number of 210,000 is a hundred times more innocents  who died than those who died on September 11th.  A hundred times!

When...WHEN do we become true family values people and start saving families?  Wars are bad for families.  Wars are bad for the fabric of our society. It is time to be creative and look for other alternatives for our troops, their families, the innocent people caught in a mess they did not create and their families.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

War on Drugs is a war on families Part 3

Last week we wrote about the high numbers of incarcerated people in the United States and what that means for families.  This week let's look at drugs and the War on Drugs which is why so many are in jail.

Drugs of all sorts can put great strain on families even tear them apart.  I know.  I have experienced what illegal drug addiction can do to a family.  I also know what alcoholism does to children and to spouses and to parents.  I know what prescription drug addiction does to families.  And I watched my brother die because of tobacco addiction and Mike lost his brother to a drunk driver. 

Of all of these addictions mentioned above, only one sends people to jail just for using.  Richard Nixon was the one who started this so-called War on Drugs.  How effective has it been in reducing drug use?

As you can see from this chart...not a thing.

But the cost is high...too high.  Look at the money....Federal, state, local levels are spending $500/second on this non-effective "war".  Money better spent on rehab, medical treatments, and support of families.

We have already mentioned last blog on the cost of prisons, society, and families not to mention the people we cage up.

Let's also look at the costs on families in the Americas.   Remember all those children fleeing Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala and seeking refuge in the United States?  They were fleeing corrupt governments that are led by people who make money from drugs.  They were fleeing gangs that have sprung up around the drug trafficking trade trying to get drugs into the U.S. 

Cartels have blossomed in Mexico and terrorize their own people.  Guns and weapons of all kinds are proliferate.   Parents lose their children to gangs pulling kids in whether the kids want to or not.  

And when the Central American coalition met to just discuss the possibilities of legalizing drugs in their own sovereign nations in hopes of reducing the violence, the U.S. frowned upon it which means danger for small countries if they disagree with the powerful empire.

This insidious "war" needs to stop.  It is doing only harm to families in the U.S. and families throughout the Americas.  How can we be so blind to the pain of others and for what reason?  No good one that I can see.  All I see are governments using drug money to line pockets or implement "dark acts of terror", people getting rich off of the backs of the poor, and violence, violence, violence.

Come on "family value" people, time to end this war and support families.
I need to add, Nicaragua is the second safest countries in the Americas (2nd only to Canada).  Nicaragua's children were not fleeing gangs,  cartels and death squads, Nicaragua was accepting immigrant children.