Tuesday, March 8, 2016

"...with liberty and justice for all."

These words were meant for all Americans, not just one segment of our human population. As children in my generation and earlier, we Pledged Allegiance to the Flag every morning before our school day began. Because of the continued perceived need for the "separation of church and state", this tradition has been abandoned because of the words, "under God". Our flag continues to be revered as the United States' symbol of Liberty. It is 2016. The Pledge of Allegiance was written 124 years ago. A lot has changed since then: women won the right to vote, slavery was abolished, gay marriage was legalized, and a new gender is being considered. Planes were invented, women worked in factories, drinking booze was legalized, marijuana was recognized as having positive medical uses and that use was legalized in some states; cars were invented six years before the Pledge was created, nuclear power was created and bombs were dropped on Japan. We the People are a creative, powerful and resilient force to be reckoned with. But, in 2016, our "people" remain unequal in the eyes of our government. Our government remains controlled mostly by white men: "White men make up 31% of the population, yet they hold 65% of elected offices in the United States.

My point here is that in the last 124 years, our interpreted societal principals have grown beyond a society created and controlled mainly by white men. Women and people of color are now recognized for their contributions to the creation and prosperity of our great country. It required all of us to nurture our country's future, and allow it to thrive. Not just one segment of our society. Yet, that segment is the one that gets all the credit, even today. It's time for credit to be granted where credit is due. When credit is acknowledged, fair and equal payment for services rendered must also be granted. Equal rights and access to opportunities must be allowed for everyone. For all United States citizens! "...with Liberty and Justice for All!" I understand that we are all immigrants, except of course for the Native Americans who lived here first (0.7% of the population in 2010, including Alaskan Americans).

European white men landed here with their families and stole the land from its original inhabitants. They were uninvited immigrants who stole their right to call themselves natives.Truly? What is the difference between what happened then and what is happening now? The difference is that We the People are stronger now than the natives were then. We may be stronger, but we have no less control, and therein lies the problem. We want ultimate control over who has the right to come into this country and live here. Do you really think building a wall between us and Mexico will keep out illegal immigrants? I watched the Showtime television series, Weeds. There are tunnels...

When one tries to control anything, the less control one has. Controlling illegals coming into this country is as difficult as trying to stop humans from ingesting alcohol through Prohibition, or from ingesting illegal drugs by encouraging them to "just say no". My point is that our government is always reacting to and trying to legislate human behavior. Legislating human behavior is impossible. We are a very creative race. We will always figure out a way around a law or a rule. "Rules were made to be broken." I am not saying rules are not required in society. With so many individuals populating a piece of land, rules are required to attempt to enact some semblance of civility. Attempt is the operative word here, though. No attempt is 100% foolproof or successful. We are attempting to attain 100% success in immigration control. That goal is just impossible. What compromise can we entertain then to make population control and resource management in the United States reasonable and fair? That is the question to be debated.

We have a statue in Manhattan that is a symbol of Freedom for all immigrants. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,..", it quotes. Is this invitation no longer relevant in 2016? If so, then the statue should be taken down. But, how could we do such a thing? All our ancestors looked to it with hope for a new and better life. How is this desire different today? It is not. That is the point. We can no more build a wall to keep people out of our country than we can decimate the Statue of Liberty and what it has always stood for. We must adjust and adapt the outmoded rules of immigration, to allow for the needs of today's immigrants. Desperation causes illegals to flock across our borders. It is this desperation that should be addressed. It is a human feeling that cannot be regulated, but the circumstances of addressing it can be. At what point does a country's leadership determine the country to be "full and incapable of accepting new residents"?

Today is International Women's Day. During February, we celebrated Black History Month. Why do we the people feel the need to single out two segments of our society in this manner? In 1976, the bicentennial of the United States, President Gerald R. Ford said the country needed to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” I interpret this statement to mean, "we white men brought them here, they contributed, we ignored that contribution." The theme of International Women's Day is "Everyone - men and women - can pledge to take a concrete step to help achieve gender parity (Gender Parity Index) more quickly." This socioeconomic index measures the relative access to education of males and females.

There were about 125.9 million adult women in the United States in 2014. The number of men was 119.4 million. Whites constitute the majority of the U.S. population, with a total of about 245,532,000 or 77.7% of the population as of 2013. There are 62.6% Whites when Hispanics who describe themselves as "white" are taken out of the calculation.  Blacks constitute about 12.2%.

What does all this mean and what am I trying to say? We the People are a complicated race who create complicated problems that require complicated solutions. There is no single bandaid large enough to cover or fix the problems we create. We must, for once, realize and attempt to address those complicated problems and try to find the solutions (plural) that would address the majority of them, realizing that we cannot legislate human behavior. We are all of one race: the human race. Humans come is two genders, female and male. Both genders are equally required to contribute to the success of any society. Therefore, those genders deserve equal pay, equal access and equal opportunity for success. Those genders come in many colors. They believe in many different things in different ways. God has many faces and exists in many forms under many different names. Humans dress is many different ways depending on the climate they live in and the culture they created.

The bottom line of the human race, though, is that we have primal common denominators driving all of our behavior:
  1. The need for healthy food, clean water, clean air, clothing and sturdy shelter against the elements.
  2. The need to procreate and nurture.
  3. The need to be creative, express that creativity, and develop useful skills to develop our bodies, minds and spirit.
  4. The need to believe in something greater than ourselves alone.
  5. The need for community. Our race does not thrive in solipsism.
  6. The need for freedom of choice and expression.
  7. The need to protect itself, its family and its property from all aggression and perceived harm.
  8. The need to express Love: to feel loved and lovable; to be accepted and appreciated; respected.
  9. The fear of death and dying. (I believe that those who believe only in a Life beyond death do not fear it, and therefore do not fully live a happy, fulfilling life on Earth. These are the self-proclaimed martyrs of the world.)
  10. The fear of rejection and abandonment; of feeling "less than" (someone or something else). Feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness.
I believe these ten driving forces are the most powerful. I'm sure someone else could come up with others. Many of these needs cannot be legislated, and require approaches that encourage, rather than discourage; enable rather than disable. Competition is healthy, but cooperation is more effective when creating societal norms and boundaries for mutual beneficial existence on Planet Earth. Finding common ground as a human race would create prosperity for all.

I am a woman who has struggled and thrived. I have broken some rules and bent many others, while considering myself a rule follower. I have made as many positive contributions to our society as I could reasonably see fit and remain true to myself, without jeopardizing my life or that of my family. I am a nobody. But my strength, will and humor are derived from some very strong ancestral nobodys; especially the females. I didn't understand quiet strength when I was younger, but I understand and appreciate it now. I am not as quiet as my mother was, but remain in awe of the strength she embodied that is the essence of International Women's Day in my mind. Quiet strength and determination are the driving forces of many great women we celebrate and honor today. (I do understand, though, that women are not the only humans who embody these attributes.) Happy International Women's Day! With love from my heart to yours.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Where Do I Fit Politically-Speaking?

I have been spending much more time than usual watching the news lately because of the 2016 Presidential Election. I hear and see lots of anger and frustration being broadcast, but I won't get pulled into the drama. The drama being played out right now, though, has caused me to look inward and determine where I stand politically today.

As a teen, I remained consciously ignorant: I was having fun and didn't care about the Vietnam War or Watergate, other than my male friends were "over there", and I cared what happened to them. When the movie, All The President's Men came out, I realized what I missed and was embarrassed. I began to pay attention, and then became much more active and outspoken. The birth and life of my social consciousness lasted for decades, culminating in a run for local public office in my hometown of Newton, Massachusetts after attending a lecture by Geraldine Ferraro at the then Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She said that if you wanted to get involved politically, you must begin your journey at the local level. Over time, after my welcomed failed run for Ward Alderman when I realized I would have been "a lamb to the slaughter" because I am much more of a "what you see is what you get" kind of person, I changed from a leftist optimist into a centrist skeptic.

I have become convinced that when in office, Republicans and Democrats behave similarly. The rhetoric promoted during a campaign has little to do with what happens once an elected candidate gets in office. The game of politics is a much bigger system than one candidate can affect. It is a system of "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours". I saw this behavior locally, and it just exists on a grander scale federally.

While watching Chicago Fire on TV the other night, this reality was played out. A good guy fireman is encouraged to run for local political office, especially after witnessing how the incumbent Selectman misused funds the fireman helped raise for victims of a local fire. During his campaign, a heavy-weight businessman wants to support him financially, ensuring his win, if he agrees to change and create laws that benefit him and his group. A local neighborhood gang leader gets him to meet with other leaders, and they will support him if he gets a street light removed from a certain corner. "I am not the candidate you want," he tells both parties. He quickly realizes that he must learn to play the game if he wants to win and affect the kind of change that will benefit "the needs of the many over the needs of the few or the one". So, while shunning the funding of the business leaders, he agrees to try to get the streetlight removed once in office because he witnesses what the drug dealers are willing to do to secure their "corner". He says he will only do this, however, if the drug dealers agree to move their location a block or so away from the front of the school, so students can feel safe to attend. He realized the existing system was bigger than he was, and required him to play along if he was to affect greater change if elected.

While watching the debates, I also realized that I don't know what each political party stands for anymore. I hear the rhetoric, but what is the party line of each? I decided to find out and see where I stand. Here is what I discovered. I found a site that did a comparison of four political parties of my choosing: Democratic, Republican, Libertarian and Green. I will outline what I agree with in each:

Ideals and Philosophy: (D) Promotion of community and social responsibility. (R) Belief in a limited government. (L) Promotion of individual liberty in personal and economic affairs, avoidance of intervention in other nations' affairs, and free trade and migration. (G) Belief in grassroots democracy. Promotion of environmentalism, non-hierarchical participatory democracy, social justice, respect for diversity, peace, and nonviolence.

Issues (support only): (D,L,G) No abortion restrictions. (R) Capital punishment. (R,L) No Civilian Gun Control [Me: Law-abiding citizens should be allowed to have guns. I do take issue with the need for automatic weapons in a civilized society though.] (L,G) Drug liberalization. (R) Immigration Restrictions. (D,L,G) Legalization of Same-Sex Marriages. (D,L,G) Limiting Private Financing of Campaigns. In truth, I'm not sure how I feel about this one. Campaigning in this day and age is very expensive. I don't see us going back to knocking on individual doors in a federal or state campaign, for example. Logistically, candidates knocking on doors is only viable at the local level. I did it and lost six pounds! (L,G) Non-interventionist foreign policy. I do not believe we should be the "world police", but I do believe we should intervene in cases of genocide, aka, Nazi Germany. That said, I also believe we should never "go it" alone. We should solicit collaborators from other countries to join us in any foreign campaign we believe is necessary for the preservation of the human majority of innocents victimized by warring aggressors. (D,G) Progressive Taxation. I believe the system of percentile taxing based on "taxable" income is a good one, but loopholes should be limited to allow fairness across the board. I believe tax credits are necessary, and tax breaks encourage good will. But, loopholes allowing those who can afford high-powered lawyers to find ways to allow some to not pay taxes is just wrong, and should be eliminated. Taxes to fund society are necessary. The question is: how much do we really need to fund our society? Who is asking that question? There is no "free ride" in my book, and nobody gets everything they want in life. Not in real life anyway. (D,G) Universal government health care. I am split on this one. I have not been the recipient of the Euro-style of universal health care, so I cannot speak to the benefits or the liabilities of that system. I do know that when a person without health insurance goes to a hospital emergency room, that person is treated anyway. Who pays the bill for this? We do in increased insurance premiums across the board. I would rather pay for what I know than what I don't know. That said, premiums and deductibles should be affordable, and good medical access should be fair for all. The cost of medical care has increased exponentially. What is the cause of this? And, I know that now that I am on Medicare, it takes longer to get a needed test than if I had the insurance policy I had when I was working. This situation is just not right.

I'll stop here, but I encourage you to go to the site I linked above. The site details each party's stance in detail and is worth the read. Find out where you stand.

Where does this leave me at the polling booth? I am a "butter over guns" gal. I believe in the power of non-violence, aka, the philosophies of Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King. But I learned how to shoot a gun, and would use it if I had to defend my home and family. I believe in accepting personal responsibility for word, action and deed. I believe everyone should invest in their own life at some level. There should be no "free ride". The cost of living should be fair and affordable for all. Equal opportunities must be available to everyone. The cost of education should be reduced and/or made affordable to provide fair and equal access for everyone who wants one, especially a higher education. Public Schools cost too much, and are no longer adequately providing a good education for our children to allow them to compete for high-quality jobs later on, or use their brain and God-given talents/skills in creative ways. Charter Schools should be privately funded with access to special government grants, like any other special interest group/organization/institution.

I believe that as a human race on this planet, we should be finding common ground to ensure we all thrive, survive and have a healthy home to pass onto future generations. There are enough resources available to take care of everyone. If those resources were fairly distributed, no one would feel deprived or lacking. Without deprivation, there would be no need for greed, selfishness or aggression. I believe in the mantra, "Think Locally, Act Globally."