My Thoughts on the Tea Party.

Okay, I know I have friends that support the Tea Party platform, and I’ve been mouthing off online lately, so I think I need to clarify some things.

Yes, I disagree with some items on the Tea Party platform, but that’s the best part of democracy. The disagreement and the conversation are how we find consensus and move forward. I think it’s great that people are being mobilized and taking advantage of their rights as American citizens to protest the government and speak freely. The fact that I disagree with it doesn’t mean that I think I’m smarter, better or more righteous. I JUST DISAGREE. Try to convince me with facts and good logical argument, don’t yell at me and call me the enemy because I’m questioning your beliefs.

My biggest issue with the Tea Party leadership and the Glenn Beck-style demagogues is the use of fear-mongering and stereotypes to gain popular support. Anyone (Republican, Democrat, Liberal, Conservative, Libertarian, etc) who uses simplistic caricatures and bumper-sticker jargon to mask the complexity of the actual issues is either being deliberately dishonest or willfully ignorant.  These talking heads are more interested in scoring political points by demonizing the opposition rather than working with the greater community in order to come to functional solutions.

Politics is complicated. Money is complicated. LIFE is complicated. We’re dealing with social, economic and cultural issues that are so intensely and complexly interwoven that making the slightest change in one area can have vast, far-reaching and totally unintended consequences in another. Those who say that all of your problems can be blamed on some “other” group or pinned on one issue are trying to distract you from the real causes of the real problems. It’s hard enough to get together and solve our problems without self-centered glory hounds throwing F.U.D. (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) around to get their names in the paper.

Anyone who’s telling you that there’s a simple answer is selling something.

So, do I disagree with the Tea Party folks? Sure. But I also disagree with the Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, Libertarians, Free-Marketeers and Anarcho-Communists. What gets me worried is the substitution of blame, rhetoric and posturing for discussion, debate, consesus, compromise and action.

So look around, chances are that even your supposed enemies have a lot more in common with you than the media would like you to think. We all want to be free to live our lives, find love and happiness, to raise a family (or not), be free to say what we want, worship how we choose (or don’t), and be treated fairly as possible. We’ve all been disappointed by the world around us and we all want to find a better way to do things.

Instead of blame and anger, let’s try forgiveness and dialog.

Of course, this is coming from a godless, queer-loving, communist, libertarian, liar so what do I know?

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Speech! Speech!

In the grand tradition of homework as blog post, I offer you this. It’s the 1st draft of a speech I’m planning on giving to my “Effective Public Speaking” Class. Enjoy! (or not)

Every year it seems that some pundit is making headlines by coming out against the “War on Christmas” that’s being waged by the liberals in the government, the ACLU and the most hated of groups, the atheists. We hear them tell stories of the Ten Commandments being forcibly removed from public spaces by god hating liberals and anti-religious zealots. We hear that Christians are under assault from the mainstream liberal agenda and that the “separation of church and state” was never intended to be used this way by our God-fearing founding fathers. The “separation of church and state” was never included in the Constitution, Bill of Rights, declaration of independence or any of the founding documents of our nation. In fact, Thomas Jefferson coined the phrase in a personal letter to the Baptists of Danbury CT, it was never written into any law.

We’re in a crisis, a battle for the very soul of our nation, and the anti-Christian forces are winning the war. If the cable news anchors are to be believed, the horrors of hearing “Happy Holidays” are only the first step down the slippery slope of secularism.

The vast majority of Americans are religious, that can’t be denied. We’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu. There aren’t many agreements between those groups to be sure, indeed, there are radical differences that cannot be reconciled, so we clearly can’t create a set of laws that will address all religions, and we don’t have to; since we’re a democracy, shouldn’t it be fair that the majority of voters get to set the standard of belief in the country? The vast majority of us are Christian, so we should be a Christian nation, letting our Christian beliefs inform our policies and practices!

Before I finish that thought, there is one small detail we need to go over. What kind of Christian legislation should we push? We’re Catholic, Methodist, Episcopal, Baptist, Pentecostal, Evangelical, Lutheran, Adventist, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Presbyterian, Christian Scientist, Mennonite and Nazarene. All of these denominations have differences in doctrine and practice that at best caused their adherents to sever ties with their parent churches, and at worst have led to death, torture and atrocities on a scale almost unimaginable today.

Religious differences are unlike any other type of belief. There is no arguing with a faith-based position. If you don’t think I can juggle, there’s and easy way for me to prove it. If you think that a single-payer health care system is the best use of our resources, we can use logic, economic studies and small-scale experiments to test the validity and wisdom of that course of action. If I think gravity is the result of a curvature of space-time, there are experiments we can run to test that theory.

On the other hand, If you think that homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to marry because your holy texts say so, there is no argument I can make to persuade you out of it, no experiment result that you’ll accept. For many, the old adage of “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” still rings true. For all of its benefits, religion is a conversation ender, a consensus killer.

So where does that leave our Christian nation? Cursed by our rock-solid faith to divisive discourse? No, the founding fathers discovered a new way, a noble experiment, tried for the first time in history. In our constitution, they created a list of rights that were granted to all citizens of this country, rights that are inviolate, sacrosanct and central to the core of our civilization. Recognizing both the importance of religion, and its potential to undermine and open society, the very first sentence of the very first Amendment of the Constitution, the first right mentioned in the bill of rights, reads as follows: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

They understood something we have forgotten. The bloody revolutions and usurpations of Catholic Kings vs. Protestant Princes were fresh in their memories. They came from a culture that was shaped by the violence, enmity and oppression born of religious zealotry tied to political power. At worst, if I came out to you right now and said I was an Atheist, I could expect some of you to distrust me, and according the University of Minnesota’s recent research, I could give up any hope of a political career. As unfair as this is, it is a testament to the success of our grand experiment. In the days before our secular society, and even today in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, I would be put to death simply for being an Apostate and leaving the faith of my fathers for another faith, being an Atheist would simply be unthinkable.

So they created a system where the government would have no powers to make any religious law, and more importantly, would not prohibit anyone from practicing any religion. This is the part of the 1st amendment that so many people gloss over. The “establishment clause” is the ultimate live and let live statement. It is not an indictment of religion, or a ban. It is a protection, a guarantee that no matter who is in charge, no matter what religious group has the majority, NO ONE has the right to prevent you from believing what you want and worshipping how you will. For those few of us with no religious beliefs, or whose beliefs are in the minority, it gives us safe harbor and refuge from the potential storms of religious intolerance. For the rest, it gives the right to practice as they see fit, with no fear of other religious groups crying “heretic” or worse, bringing up charges of blasphemy.

The protection offered by the first amendment goes both ways. You do not have to submit to the religious beliefs of others, but in turn, you have no right to impose your doctrines on them. The fairest way to insure this is the establishment of a “Wall of separation between church and state”. At this point you’re saying, wait, Scott, didn’t you just say that Jefferson wrote that in a letter? That it was never made into law? Wasn’t the country founded by Christians anyways? Don’t we have a history and a culture of being Christian regardless of the specific language of the Constitution? All of that is true, but before I end let me share three more thoughts with you:

One: Jefferson was never able to get the “separation” language into law, but he fully intended the Danbury letter to be public and more importantly, what we would now call a “position paper”. Here’s the full text of the “separation” paragraph: “Believing that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their Legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State

Two: To those who are still insistent that our founders intended this to be a Christian nation, I’ll offer this piece of evidence: One of the first acts of congress was a trade treaty, the “Treaty of Tripoli”. We don’t have time for details, but Article 11 is germane to the discussion: “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

Three: Search the entire constitution, as long as you want and you will not find the words Christian, God, and/or Jesus. They are simply not part of our most important document.

Taking all of that into account, I think one of the greatest tragedies of our modern political world is that those who should be the most arduous defenders of the protections offered by the 1st amendment are those who argue most vociferously against it.

The first amendment and the secular society that it spawned are not the enemy of religion, they are the strongest protection and defense we have for our right to practice our faith or to live without it.

Separation is not negation.

Thank you.

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Mostly Magic: The Sequel!

Coming this Sunday:

Our second attempt at bringing new magic to Worcester. Come to The Q and support live entertainment and local business:

http://worcesterite.com/forums/general/2010/2/24/magic-weirdness-and-coffee-mostly-magic-returns-q-sunday

find us on Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=446340090284

Hope to see you there!

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My Dream Job

Here’s my homework for my Speech class tonight. Enjoy:

My Dream Job.

That’s a doozy, isn’t it? It’s supposed to be an easy question right? Figure out what you like doing, or at the very least, what you’re good at doing and do that, but for money. My problem is 2-fold. 1) Right now, my dream job is the one that pays the mortgage and keeps the kids fed. 2) I’ve never really known what I like to do.

Now I’m not talking about the general ennui that seems to affect so many people of my generation. The cynicism and boredom that has us thinking “everything worthwhile has been done before, so why should I bother trying anything?” That’s bullshit. The world is huge and amazing and full of questions to be asked, problems to be solved, fun to be had and wonder to be created. You get one life, and to waste it by not even trying is the height of self-absorption. Sorry, I’ll get off the soapbox now.

My problem is that I like too many things. The world is just awesome, and there are so many things to try, so many opportunities one could miss. I’ve tried so many different jobs, trying to find one that paid the bills and gave me the opportunity to do something interesting. Starting from the age of 16 on I’ve been a: Dishwasher, Line Cook, McDonald’s register monkey, Poster and Art framer, office supplies salesman, and a PC repair tech. I’ve worked in a print shop, I’ve been the head cook at a conference center, a rock climbing instructor, maintenance guy, recreation director and program director at a summer camp. I’ve packed and shipped exotic flowers and I’ve been a tool operator, delivery driver, Quality Control and ISO 9001 auditor at a glass fab plant. I’ve been a forklift operator at at lumberyard, a bartender, computer chip manufacturer, and now I’m a waiter and a part-time magician.

I’ve been payed to play on the beach and then help kids to shatter their self-imposed limits. I’ve stacked lumber in -20 below temperatures and cursed everything about New England then driven tour buses up and down the coast of Maine marveling at the natural beauty of its beaches and the engineering marvels of its lighthouses.

I’ve done it all to the best of my ability and been pretty good at most of it. I can see myself doing almost any of these things again. So lack of skill isn’t really a limiting factor.

If anything my problem is that I want to do too much. I want to learn how to do everything, to face new challenges, to try and find my limits, and once I’ve done that, I love to share it with other people. I took fencing for fun a few years ago, and all I could do (all I still do) was tell everyone around me how fantastic it was and try to get as many people interested as I could. I’m excited about learning new things, and even more excited about sharing them with others. The closest I’ve come is working at camp. I used to joke that I’d have to keep 4 changes of clothes in my office because at any moment I could be called to go under a building and fix a leaky toilet, teach a canoeing class in the salt marsh, make a country-style breakfast for 150 guests who suddenly decided they wanted meals after all, spend the day re-writing the staff manual or having a business lunch with the board of directors. It was stressful and chaotic and hectic and wonderful, but but it really doesn’t translate well into the Monster.com job search.

But even camp wasn’t quite right. (Maybe once we know each other better I’ll tell you why. 🙂 After all these experiences, I’m ashamed to admit that I’m no closer to answering this question than I was in high school. I started college as a double major, Physics and English, hoping that after a while some path would become clear. It didn’t, so I joined the working world and tried to find an answer out there. I didn’t. Now I have a life I never dreamed of, one with a wonderful wife and two beautiful kids. My time to just dither around with dead-end jobs is over. The pressure’s on. I’ve got to find that dream job and fast, so that Zoe and Orion have a childhood better than mine and a future brighter that I could have imagined for myself.

So now I’m here, at Assumption, hoping that this time I’ll be able to finish my education, and in doing so, find the answer I’ve been looking for. So for now, I’ll have to leave you with this: My dream job is one that pays the bills well enough and long enough for me to figure out what my dream job is.

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Rare Exports

The true story of Santa Claus.

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The Muppets: Bohemian Rhapsody [1080p]

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Dezrah Writes Love On His Arms

Here’s what I did instead of a blog today:

Please share.

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