Tuesday, June 16, 2015

About those Gays and Blacks and Women and Immigrants and ...

It occurred to me that the US is going through a number of changes in popular culture.  It isn't all because of the changed culture caused by electing a Black US president.  Obama is a powerful voice for change, I agree, but, if the momentum for change had not been swinging towards this direction it would never have happened. Gay marriage was not an easy fight, but it has recently been gaining victories and is now in the Supreme Court where a final decision can be made.  More than gay rights, transgender people have been recognized as having a status, and whatever a person's gender, orientation, or beliefs, it seems that the US is becoming more and more secular in its values, and by that I mean, following the writing of the constitution rather than the bible.  This isn't good or bad, in my opinion.  I am a Christian*, but I recognize that 1) there are many different brands of Christian, 2) our country has laws, rights, and values that are codified to allow freedom of expression, and belief, and 3) we do not live in a theocracy.  So, I think the answer is, if you do not like the government, or the government's decision, you have a right to protest, or a right to vote and try to change those decisions.

I consider myself to be a Monarchist so, despite people wishing to know my voting record, it won't do you any good to know.  I choose a candidate by his moral standing in my mind.  And if you need any hints, this will confuse you too, I've voted 3rd party, GOP, and Democrats in almost equal numbers in the presidential elections since 1984.  I just don't find the answer in people on earth to run this country. 

The world might be quickly moving towards a governments in countries of secular western civilization versus those in Africa and the Middle East that are religious theocracies.  The culture clash is ongoing.  And the culture clash ongoing is one that will be very hard to solve.  It is about how Americans see their country too, the secular humanists versus the bible toting religionists.  Where it ends up I don't know, but you can see it in society.  Political correct speech causes people on either side of the spectrum to shout down anyone who has offended one side or the other.  This has led to a culture of bruised feelings and hyper sensitivity. 

 A prime example of the divided culture in America was the movie American Sniper.  I know dozens of people who saw it and their appreciation of it played out directly vis-a-vis their political party or cultural view.  People who were/are Republicans, Conservatives, Rural, and Religious loved it, and Democrats, Liberals, Urbanites, and less Religious or Atheist and Agnostics hated it.  Despite the movie itself being of extremely high quality, AS A MOVIE, the people criticizing it took it task for being factually sloppy.  The movie itself didn't suggest it was moment by moment exact facts, but the point is, the movie was a very clear marker between people in this culture.

One of my all time baseball heroes was a player who I never was able to see play.  Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, and made an enormous impact in sports, but also, in society.  He wasn't chosen as the first black man to do so because he was docile and gentle towards whites, he was chosen because he was made of courage and steel.  He was a warrior for what is right, in the end.  Segregation is often considered a choice, but it isn't.  If segregation is a choice then why is there areas of intense economic inequity followed by generational poverty it is wrong.  Robinson was heroic, and, he stood up when many others would have wilted.

In 1990 my wife and I visited family on the West coast of the US and Canada.  We had the good fortune to meet up with some friends who we weren't related to, and we were invited to their home, where a set of grandparents were.  A discussion arose about baseball and how that grandparents team was "Full of Darkies" and "They might be stupid but they can run those bases"... I had never, ever encountered a person who was so openly racist, and, frankly, so stupid.  To see it in full bloom, and it was, this man was in his 90s, so clearly he had felt this way a very long time, it was ugly.  I was changed from someone who was not racist, to a person who hated racism.

Michael Sam announced to the public that he was gay before the NFL Draft.  He was thought to have been a prime draft pick by some scouts of talent, less so by others.  He ended up being picked in the final round of the draft.  His stats in the pre-draft combine didn't help his cause in being drafted higher.  Some football analysts and scouts suggested his gay orientation would be a distraction, or a problem in the locker room.  Others suggested he had been drafted so low because he was thought to saying he was gay as a game of chicken, almost telling the NFL that he was go so that if he was drafted low, he had an excuse for it.  It really doesn't matter in the end.  If he'd been great, the gay aspect of his life would be downplayed.  As it was, he wasn't great.  And at this moment he seems to not be going forward in his football career.  I think it took a great deal of courage for Sam to tell people he was gay.  And it took more courage to do so prior to the draft.  I don't, however, see his announcement of being gay as being as enormous a moment as when Jackie Robinson entered MLB, or the first gay marriage took place, legally recognized.

I think that change is good, and diversity is great.  But I do think that there are an enormous number of people who you'd think would be tolerant and interested in free speech, who are absolutely opposed to it.  They prefer no challenges to their dogma, and refuse to allow discussion if they can cut it off immediately.  I understand that different groups have different goals.  But when society changes it is healthy usually.  When a society or nation refuses to change, despite the changes happening, the laws do not reflect the change, and the society cannot respond to challenges.  When something is so stiff as to be unable to bend, it will break.  Diversity brings more answers to the question at hand, so, we should welcome the opportunity to have more answers, rather than focus on the many different new questions being asked.

Which brings me to the final point... Immigration. I've lived briefly in Texas, and Arizona.  I've seen what different cultures do when they meet.  And I have come to the conclusion that most people want the same things for themselves and for their families, not all, but absolutely most.  But, while I think that is the truth, it is not the truth to say we should liberalize our policy towards immigration, or that we should allow all of those who have illegally entered and worked in the US to stay in the US.  The American dream of safety and happiness for the family, a dream to succeed, a dream to be fulfilled in your endeavors outside of work, are all good things.  But the reason they exist is because there have been many generations working to achieve it.  To give away all of the benefits might sound lovely, but you do not succeed as a society by not following your own rules.  There are a great number of hard working people who legally immigrated.  And I've read what they've said about the current issues, and basically I agree, which is, allow people to apply, be generous with the opportunity to try, but do not let an unlimited number get citizenship, nor do not let citizenship come without any cost or effort.  A best friend told me that her mother was a legal, that she spent years learning English, and that she has her citizenship certificate on her dresser, so that every morning she sees it as she goes off to do the things she does in her day.  It is a matter of pride.  That to me sounds like a very good thing.

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*As a Christian I get asked by a number of people who I think are going out to play devil's advocate, do I believe that gay people are sinners going to hell.  My typical response is that everyone is a sinner, except for the one major exception in Jesus Christ, and that sinners are all hellbound according to the rulebook.  But I don't think I am going to go that way here.  I believe that the bible is vital to my life as a Christian.  And this is an area that I do not understand or believe.  In the past people who had diseases that made them crippled were said to be plagued by demons.  In the present we use medicine.  So my answer is I don't know, I am inclined to say I believe in God, but I believe I am called to love my neighbor.  So I refuse to judge in an area I am confused by.  And that is all I can do.

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