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Monday, August 29, 2016

Land of the Free and the Home of the Knave


An open letter Colin Kaepernick:

The US was founded on the principles of freedom, liberty and equal opportunity for all. Unfortunately, at the time of the founding, the "all" of that statement referred to Landed, White, Anglo-Saxon, mostly Christian Men.

While I hardly support slavery, it's hard to totally blame the founding fathers for it. Many of them (like Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, for example) were staunchly against slavery, while others (like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson) were born into the system and didn't quite see a way out of it.

In the 19th Century, when civil rights (even if that's not what they called it) were being sought, women, who weren't in the "all" group either, fought more for abolition of slavery. It was only after slavery was abolished that women actually began fighting for rights for themselves.

Nowadays, here in the 21st Century, things have changed for the better. Educational opportunities are available (and becoming more available) to descendants of former slaves and former suffragettes. While things are by no means equal (rich people of any stripe often have an upper hand in all things), things have improved and continue to improve.

This country, while, hardly perfect, is one of the best countries in the world when it comes to equality of opportunity for all ethnicities, all religions, both genders, and all sexual orientations. We're not perfect. No one is. But if you go to many countries in Africa, Asia and even Europe, you may find that equality of opportunity is non-existent. Women, Gays, Jews, Christians, and often Blacks, are treated at best as second class citizens, at worst, evil beings who deserve death.

I've always thought that the US would do better from a philosophical perspective if our national anthem were either "G-d Bless America" (though this might be an issue for Atheists) or "America the Beautiful" (I lean more toward the latter). I'm not happy that our National Anthem is war-centered. But now, with an enemy that respects strength, I'm having second thoughts about that.

You, Mr. Kaepernick, are what is best in this nation. As a biracial American, you can unite all Americans behind not only "The Star Spangled Banner" but "Lift Every Voice and Sing", popularly knows as the Black National Anthem. It's a beautiful piece, Mr. Kaepernick. It's not a divisive song, rather it is a uniting song. Just the title is unifying -- Lift EVERY Voice.
  • Lift every voice and sing
  • 'Til earth and heaven ring,
  • Ring with the harmonies of Liberty See all the lyrics here
The Harmonies of Liberty are for all. And if you were to use your influence to get "Lift Every Voice and Sing" along with "The Star Spangled Banner", it would encourage everyone to stand for both as we Jews stand for both "The Star Spangled Banner" and "Hatikvah" (the Hope, the National Anthem of Israel and, to some degree, the Anthem of all Jews in the post-Israeli-Statehood years).

If you're going to focus on the negative, Mr. Kaepernick, if you're going to concentrate on the inequalities that haven't yet been corrected, rather than how far our country has come and how much better it is to live in the US than so many other countries, that is divisive. It's sort of hard to take you terribly seriously (about how the US is oppressing Blacks) when you are making more money in a year than I have made in my entire life. It's hard to take you terribly seriously when you get paid for playing a game. Perhaps you feel guilty that you are making so much money for playing a game when there are so many children in our country who only get school lunches for food each day and live in slums where drive-by shootings are de rigueur. If so, why not put your money where your tush (that tush that's sitting during the national anthem) is? By sitting, you are not just dissing the US, you are dissing your teammates. You are dissing every American who has worked hard to get where (s)he is in life. You are also dissing every person who really is oppressed, every little girl who gets her genitals cut off or gets married off to a 50 year old pediphile. You are dissing every Black African sold into slavery in the Muslim world. You are dissing every young woman kidnapped by Boko Haram and sold into marriage to an older man and every Afghani boy who is molested by an older man (who was molested by an older man when he was a boy).

Think about it. If you want to make the world a better place, take out your checkbook, mentor a poor American child, petition legislators to play both anthems and change laws. Use your influence to improve the world, not to be divisive. And I, for one, would stand with you.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Is Freedom of Speech Dead?

 I am starting to get the feeling that "freedom of speech" is eroding. What words are we allowed to use, according to the gods of "political correctness"? Can I say "I'm bidding 2 spades" if I'm playing bridge? Can I use the word "boy" when referring to my great-nephew, who is almost 7? Can I use the word "thug" when referring to petty criminals and felons? 

I looked up the word "thug", just to check for myself if there is any reason anyone should feel that the word itself is racist. It isn't, at least not against African Americans (Indians may have an issue with it, but I digress). This is the definition I found online:

THəɡ/noun1.a violent person, especially a criminal.

2.historicala member of a religious organization of robbers and assassins in India. Devotees of the goddess Kali, the Thugs waylaid and strangled their victims, usually travelers, in a ritually prescribed manner. They were suppressed by the British in the 1830s.

So why was a weatherman from Dallas, who was just expressing his feelings (with which I happen to agree, to some extent) forced to resign? I'm still trying to figure that one out myself.

I know there is a difference between Free Speech and Hate Speech. There is nothing in the comment, "The DNC parading the mothers of slain thugs on their stage has made me furious" that points to the race or ethnicity of the people on stage or to their late progeny. To be honest, I have an issue with the DNC "parading the mothers of slain" whatever "on their stage". I also have an issue with people putting so much energy into complaining that criminals who were resisting arrest or trying to kill police officers were shot. I know there are some times that police officers shoot people for the wrong reason. But too many people are jumping every time an African American is shot by a police officer (of whatever ethnicity). I have yet to hear a "hue and cry" over non-African Americans shot by police or police officers shot by suspects (of whatever ethnicity). Why is that? Is a shooting always a "bad" shooting if a police office shoots an African-American but not a "bad" shooting when the police officer shoots a non-African-American? Are all African-Americans non-criminals and all non-African-Americans criminals? 

When a person (of any ethnicity) commits a crime, that person knows (s)he doesn't want to be caught. That person also knows that (s)he might be shot or otherwise physically restrained by a police officer if they run or attack the police or resist arrest. That is as it should be, in my humble opinion. 

Why, also, do these shootings or other perpetrator deaths make the headlines but the police who risk their lives to save others get buried on page 27 of the newspaper? 

This is not to say that I think police officers are saints. It just means that I believe that police officers cannot properly protect us, themselves and their partners if every time they are dealing with a perpetrator they have to think about what the headlines and the "PC Police" will say. 

This brings us back to "Freedom of Speech". Is it eroding? Why is the "PC Police" so quick to accuse others of racism but just as quick to call Israel apartheid, to call Zionism (the desire of Jews to have our homeland) racism, to call Jews horrible names, condemn terrorism against Gentiles in Europe but condone (and, often applaud) terrorism in Israel or against Jews in Europe? Why do Jewish students on the campuses of American universities get yelled down or threatened just for being Jews and even more so if they express their support of Israel? Why was Phyllis Chesler, a feminist who I've been following since my Mom was in college (in her late 30s) and I was in my teens, forced to hide her feelings about Israel from "friends" and colleagues?  It's Israel's fault, the lovers of "Political Correctness" claim. It's all the fault of the one country in the region where Freedom of Speech is law, the one country where gays and women and non-Muslims are respected, not "honor" killed. Before you start condemning a weatherman in Dallas, check your own prejudices. Clean up your own "house" before you criticize (nay, excoriate) others. And let Freedom and the Bill of Rights guide you.