Tag Archives: human-rights

Inconvenient, not Evil

Did you see the story last week about the raccoon who spent his day climbing a 25-story office building in Minnesota?

Little fellow became an internet sensation for a few hours, with millions checking in on his progress and wishing him a safe climb in perilous conditions.

In the comments sections that followed the coverage, I noticed how some thought it odd that a creature whom many think of as a filthy pest, suddenly had his own cheering section.

“Trash Panda…,”

“Vermin…,”

“Scavenger…,”

Strange choice of words, it seems to me, as we are blaming the raccoon for something the WE did. We built the cities and neighborhoods in what used to be their habitat. We killed off most of the stuff that they’d normally gather to sustain themselves, and then we get upset when they are forced to root through out trash for scraps.

That little critter in the YouTube videos wasn’t climbing a building to make a point and he wasn’t in it for the adventure. He was terrified of all the humans wandering around at street level.

Also last week, my Facebook feed lit up with posts from a friend of mine at work. He was having a problem with a mouse that had turned up in his apartment. Little critter was eating his bread and making all the standard mousey scurrying sounds as it moved to and fro.

Following along post after post, I read about the snap-traps and glue traps, all of which failed to undo a rodent of such size and cunning, that I began to wonder if NIMH weren’t missing another of its test subjects.

I surmised from the follow up posts that the critter was eventually cornered, and quite possibly bludgeoned to death.

Now, in the days leading up to the creatures demise, I must admit I was somewhat amused by the frequent and desperate nature of my friend’s posts. You’d have thought, from the tone, that his home had been taken over by a pack of angry badgers, rather than by a single rodent.

“City people,” I caught myself thinking with a wry smile.

But as this saga dragged on I began to pay more attention to the language used, in both his posts and by some of the people who left supportive comments…,

“Disgusting,”

“Filthy,”

“Vermin,”

“Evil,”

“Straight out of Hell!”

All this hate, earned for nothing more than trying to survive in a world we built.

***

The raccoon in Minnesota became an internet sensation because he was never really in anyone’s way. The mouse in the house is a different story.

I know that a lot of what I read last week was hyperbole.

That’s kinda what the internet is for.

But I can’t help but worry when I see good people equating inconvenience with evil.

And I have been seeing that kind of thing a great deal as of late.

And no, I’m not talking about rodents.

The species may vary, but the circumstances are really pretty similar.

Living beings, just trying to survive in a world we built.

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Filed under Modern Life, Nature, Philosophy, Politics

Mind your own business

Corporations are people.  That’s what they keep telling us anyway, and it’s looking more and more like they are the only “people” who count.  We’ve been told that they (the corporations) have the same right to free speech that we do, along with the right to privacy and, I am sure, a whole host of other constitutional guarantees which were previously afforded to the people, the REAL flesh and blood people.

Corporations are people, and like people, it seems that they can have religion.

And may the gods have mercy on us all.

Recently, a friend of mine from work posted a link to a letter by David Green, the CEO and Founder of the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores.  In his letter, Mr. Green bemoans the penalties which will be placed upon his corporation if they do not fully implement the new federal healthcare mandates for his employees.  In particular, Mr. Green objects to financing an employee health plan that will make various birth-control pills, including the so-called “morning after” pill available to his employees at a reduced cost.

The particular drugs he objects to can in some cases prevent a newly fertilized egg from finding purchase on the walls of the uterus on it’s way out of the body.  He calls this abortion (using the widest possible definition of the word) and states that it is against his religion.  He is perfectly entitled to his opinion, but that opinion should not trump the law.

Which is exactly what he wants.  Mr. Green believes that Hobby Lobby should be given an exemption to the law because of his religious beliefs.  In short, he doesn’t feel that he should have to provide the same healthcare options to his employees that every other company is being asked to provide and he feels that he should not be penalized for this because of his religious convictions.

The First Amendment to the Constitution provides for the separation of church and state but Hobby Lobby is not a church.  It is a business.

Oh, but Hobby Lobby, Mr. Green tells us, is a Christian business.

And just what does that mean, Christian business?

Mr. Green says that he runs his business on Christian principals, that he closes his stores in the early evening so that his employees have more time with their families and that he keeps his stores closed on Sunday so that his employees may enjoy a “day of rest”.  Nothing wrong with those principals, to be sure.

Walk into one of his stores and you will be confronted by aisle after aisle of knick-knacks and “home decor accents”.  As you browse, pick one up and turn it over, you will very likely find a ‘Made in China’ stamp on the bottom.  The truth is, Mr. Green buys millions of tons of mass-produced trinkets and supplies produced in the Peoples Republic of China.  So, his Christian principals would seem to include doing business with one of the worst human-rights abusers on the planet, a country which only just ended its official policy calling for late-term abortions.

Is hypocrisy a Christian principal?

Christian Rights?!  Do Christians suddenly have rights that the rest of us don't?  When did that happen?

Christian Rights?! Do Christians suddenly have rights that the rest of us don’t? When did that happen?

In his letter Mr. Green says…,

“We believe people are more important than the bottom line and that honoring God is more important than turning a profit.”

And yet he is ready to take the government to court to protect that bottom line against penalties which he would not be subject to if he were willing to give his employees the freedom to follow their own moral compass instead of the one he has charted for them.

He seems unwilling to “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s” and just a tad too anxious to confuse his place of business with a house of worship.

And still I wonder, what is it about a business that makes it Christian?

Many business seem to label themselves as such, but do they sell goods and services which are specifically Christian in nature?

Some do.  Christian bookstores are in ready supply.

What about those what don’t sell exclusively Christian goods?  How is a Christian retailer (or a plumber or dentist for that matter) different from any other?

The boss is a Christian, sure, but with over 200 million Christians living un the United States one has to assume most of the businesses here are owned by Christians.  So what else is there to distinguish them?

Are their employees expected to be Christian?

Are their customers?

Is promoting one’s business as “Christian” just good advertising schtick (playing up to a ready-made customer base) or should it be seen as a warning label (heretics need not apply)?  Or, is it maybe a little of both.

It certainly seems that way to me and I must admit that I prefer not to frequent so-called Christian businesses.  If a corporation is going out of it’s way to link itself to a message that is antithetical to my beliefs, why should I want to support that message by giving them my money?  Frankly, it makes me feel unwelcome and I don’t like to go where I’m not wanted.

And so…,

As much as I used to enjoy their sausage and egg biscuit sandwich, I will continue to avoid Chick-fil-a for as long as they continue to fund rabidly anti-gay religious groups.  I have many homosexual friends and I care more for their rights than I do eating overpriced chicken sandwiches.

And I really do not need Whataburger to inform me via window decal, that we are “One Nation Under God”.  I have it on good authority that we, as a nation, worship many gods and are guaranteed the right to do so in our most precious founding documents.

In-N-Out Burger will no doubt continue to hide biblical passages on their packaging and drinking cups, but I won’t be there to read them.

Come to think of it, my choice to not patronize Christian businesses is likely to make me healthier not just spiritually but physically as well.  Thanks guys!

Certain fast food establishments want you to to be thinking about God.  Maybe they think that if you keep eating there you will be meeting him soon.

Certain fast food establishments want you to to be thinking about God. Maybe they think that if you keep eating there you will be meeting him soon.

I have long refused to step foot inside a Wal-Mart and adding Hobby Lobby to the list of big-box retailers I refuse to patronize, will do me no great hardship.  I only regret that I’ve spent so much money there on art supplies in years past.

Mr. Green wants the government to mind it’s own business and let him run his company the way he wants.  Unfortunately for him, part of the ‘business’ of government, happens to be ensuring the equal rights of workers, which in this case, means granting them equal access to affordable healthcare – even if that healthcare includes drugs and procedures with which Mr. Green and his fellow Christians take exception.

Mr. Green would do better to mind his own business and let his employees make their own decisions about their healthcare choices.

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Filed under Culture, Modern Life, Politics, Proselytizing, Religion

Who Are You?

It seems like a simple question, but I dare you to answer it.

Did you answer with your name?  Is that who you are?  Because with a few exceptions, that name was picked out for you and is the least likely thing to say anything about who you really are?

Are you defined by your familial relationships: parent, child, brother, cousin, aunt?  Or could it be that your friendships and romantic entanglements will sufficiently outline your identity?

Perhaps you are defined by your job?  Does what you do for a living explain you?  Or maybe it’s your hobbies and interests that we should be looking at, the things you do to escape from the day-to-day grind of existence.

Is it your political or religious affiliations that delineate you from those around you?  Are you a Libertarian or a Socialist?  Do you believe in the Hebrew God, the Resurrection of Jesus, the Blessed State of Nirvana, the Majesty of Zeus or do you eschew belief in that which you can not see and touch.  Are these beliefs enough to set you apart from your fellows?

Now let me ask you one more question.  Why is it important?

Why are we so fixated on our special and unique individuality?  We strive so hard to be different from everyone else, to have our own things and the freedom to decide every little thing for ourselves but what does it gain us in the grand scheme of things?

 

For most of human history the concept of personal identity was subordinate to the place we held in society and the universe around us.  Ancient societies were composed of collective groups which functioned as a whole.  Today we may call them tribes or clans but structurally they were groupings of people who functioned as an interconnected unit.  The individual was there to support the tribe.  He or she may have been a hunter or a shaman, warrior or storyteller.  The point is that each person had a role to play and each role was important because, for the tribe to function, everyone had to be doing his or her part.  Identity was a function of the place you held within the tribe.

Expanding this idea outward, the tribe as a whole, held a place and function within the natural world.  Most (what we arrogantly call) primitive societies understood themselves to be an important part of the physical and spiritual landscape around them.  It was important that the tribe fulfill its role in the proper time and manner, to guarantee its own survival and discharge its duties to the land.

The gods were known to be a tribe of their own, with power and responsibilities greater than those of mortal men.  The local tribe was a physical reflection of this divine configuration and each of these tribes (gods and men) depended upon the other to accomplish its goals.  As an individual, you knew that if you failed your tribe, you endangered not only the survival of the family unit but the natural and spiritual order as well.

Setting aside simple tribal society and looking at the far more expansive Roman Empire, we can see that there was little change to this way of thinking.  Although the shear size of Roman civilization reduced the importance of any particular tribe or family within the state, a Citizen of Rome was understood to be a functioning part of an ordered society.  The standing of a citizen within the social hierarchy was integral to the success of the greater society and a benefit to the gods themselves.  Citizenship gave the Roman many individual rights that other men and women did not enjoy, but these rights came with certain expectations and obligations that guaranteed security and well being for all.

This all started to change as monotheist beliefs began to seep into the fabric of the Roman world.  As Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, the goals of the individual citizen began to shift and the social fabric of society was turned on it’s head.  Instead of a family or a tribe of gods to emulate, there was now only a single, rather self absorbed, deity to mimic.  The importance of having a place within the tribe was diminished as personal salvation became the ultimate spiritual goal.

In a world that was going to end at any moment, only to be replaced by an eternal existence without pain or hardship, the immediate needs of the tribe became less vital.  Our place in the now became an afterthought, replaced by our place in the world to come and a growing fixation on our own narrow wants.

Today we find ourselves living in the sum product of that revolution.  We are a rapacious consumer society where the primary focus of each individual appears to be on their own selfish ends.  We have been called “The Me Generation” but the truth is we are just the latest of a long line of “Me Generations” stretching back to that moment our ancestors decided to abandon the gods of their fathers in exchange for the empty promise of an everlasting life.

Who are you?

Look at the world around you for a moment.  Pull your attention away from your computer screen, and your smart phone and all the little toys and games you use to distract you from the universe outside and ask yourself if you really like the world you see.  If the answer is “yes” well good for you!  I appreciate your reading this far and you are welcome to keep going, but this next bit really isn’t for you.

If, like me, you do not like a lot of what you see, then you have the answer to the question I’ve been asking.  The world is a mirror to the self.  Who we are is what we see out there looking back at us.  It’s not a very pretty sight.

Now I don’t want you to get the wrong idea here!  This is not just a spiel about becoming involved in the political process or protesting injustice a’la the Occupy movement (although those are both great ways to contribute toward change).  I am not against individual rights and freedoms, both of which are things to be cherished and fought for.  This is about living your beliefs, not just for yourself but for the world around you.

Every single thing we do contributes positively or negatively to the world around us.  From the products we buy to the food we eat and the way in which we get ourselves from point A to point B, it is all reflected in the universe around us.  The way we live our lives has a direct effect on people, places and events far beyond our vision.

Were your clothes stitched together in a sweatshop?  Is your lawn green at the expense of drinking water downstream?  Did your chicken sandwich fund a hate group?  Will the chemicals in those AA batteries you tossed into the trash leech into the soil?  Will children go without medical care because you don’t like the government taking your money?  Do you know the answers to those questions?  Do you care?

To know thyself is to know your influence on the world around you.

If you say that you support local businesses, maybe you should embody that support by frequenting them instead of Wal-Mart and Amazon.  If you like fresh foods, find a farmers market instead of buying food out of season that has been shipped halfway across the world and pumped full of preservatives.

“Be the change you want to make,” is not a cliché, it’s the reality of the world we live in and it always has been.

If you are thinking that one person can’t possibly make a difference, you are exactly right.  Yet, what one person can’t do, a community can.  We just have to make the effort to do it together.  We must expand our focus beyond our narrow little selves and re-join the tribe of humanity.  In short, lets start giving a damn about each other for a change!

The question is not who you are but who we can be.

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Filed under Culture, Modern Life, Politics, Traditions

The Maternal Divine

Here in the United States, on the second Sunday in May, we celebrate Mothers Day.  In the days leading up to the holiday we will see touching stories of motherhood permeate the news cycle while the shareholders of Hallmark and FTD wait in breathless anticipation of the last big sales bump they will see before the long dull summer season takes hold.  And then, come next Monday, it will all be over.  We’ll go right back to hearing about “Welfare Mothers” and “Anchor Babies” and the “War on Women” as if nothing had ever happened.

It would seem that, as a culture, we love the idea of motherhood, but are ambivalent about the actual mothers.

Confused?

You shouldn’t be.

It’s right there in the dominant mythology of the culture.

You know, the one where the universe was created by a single male deity, who produced the first woman as an afterthought and then inflicted the “pain of childbirth” upon her as a punishment for her sin.  Seriously ladies, you never had a chance.

If it is any consolation, at least you find yourselves in good company.

For most of human history we have revered both gods and goddesses.  Among my own Celtic ancestors the goddesses were known to be healers, teachers, lovers and warriors.  Many were manifest in the land itself, among the rivers, fields and mountains.  Their names are still well remembered in those places.

…but Dana, that was called the Mother of the Gods, was beyond them all. – Lady Gregory

The gods of Ireland are called the Túatha Dé Danann, which roughly translates as “The People/Tribe of the Goddess Danu.”  Very little is remembered today of the Goddess Danu beyond her name and the knowledge that she was the wellspring of divinity within the Irish pantheon.  We who honor her and her children do so because it is obvious to us that the central creative principle of existence is contained within the balance of the maternal and the paternal (the interaction of Yin and Yang if looked at from an Eastern perspective).  Danu is but one god among many yet the life-giving fertility she embodies is the axis upon which the natural world turns.

Some would argue that today we live in a very different world from that of our ancestors and have grown beyond a belief in goddesses.  If so, then why have the goddesses not gone away?  They are everywhere!  Their statues adorn the tops of courthouses across this land.  We place their images on our state seals and in our courtrooms.  We have not forgotten that the goddesses are part of the land, or did you never wonder why our nation is referred to as a “Her” and not an “it”?

We have never truly forgotten the power of the maternal.  That knowledge has simply been misplaced and our modern society has spun wildly out of balance as a result.  We live in a time when the miracle of childbirth (divine and otherwise) has become a weapon in religious and political debates and an inconvenient distraction from the argument that men are superior to women.  Motherhood is trivialized because it steals attention and power away from the paternal ideal of a centralized authority.

My suggestion then, is that we do a better job of recognizing the power and importance of motherhood and the creative principle within our daily lives.  Let us find the balance in our society that we seem to have lost.  Why should we restrict to the second Sunday in May something we should be living daily?

In the meantime, send your mom a card anyway.  Until we get things back on track she’ll appreciate the thought.

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Filed under Culture, Mythology, Religion