The Aftermath of Hate & Terror

On Sunday morning I walked into work and immediately saw the news: 49 dead; 53 wounded at a mass shooting in Orlando that is being called a domestic terrorist attack. I felt numb and was shocked. For hours, I have sat here wondering what there is to even say.

Some words by Robert F. Kennedy came to mind from a speech he gave the night after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. “It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one – no matter where he lives or what he does – can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on.” (Full text of RFK’s speech)

Politics will, in the end, find its way into this horrible atrocity. Both sides will back into their proverbial corners and begin spouting their typical talking points. The left will start talking about more gun control and hate crimes. The right will focus on Americans needing easier access to guns to protect themselves and radical Islam. Neither of these are actual solutions and only work to prohibit further discussion. As we have seen many other times, we talk today but do nothing tomorrow.

“Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire weapons and ammunition they desire.” Robert F. Kennedy~

In truth there is no easy solution. I wish I had one to make the pain and suffering go away. But as we move forward, we must allow common sense into the discussion. Our regular talking points have been worn out and have become a burden on making any progress.

In the US we have the constitutional right to bear arms. Common sense says that there must be a solution to gun violence that will uphold our right yet not arm the entire public. I don’t really want to be a part of a society where everyone must be armed all the time in order to protect themselves.

“We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of all. We must admit in ourselves that our own children’s future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.” Robert F. Kennedy~

Our emotions are running high. They range from disbelief to sadness to anger. And though it is normal and appropriate for these feelings we must not give in to them. If we allow ourselves to follow that path of darkness then we will become no better than the gunman as anger can only lead to more hatred and to more violence.

Today, I choose to be open in my political discourse on guns and our Second Amendment right. I acknowledge that there is not a single solution or an easy one. And I choose to see the light and the good in my fellow man. It was Anne Frank that wrote,”[I]n spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

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Boston Common

The Politicizing Of Boston With Immigration Reform

It seems only fitting that I write this post today.  On April 19, 1775, the first battles of the American Revolution occurred at Lexington and Concord.  It would be the start of a long, drawn-out war with Great Britain that would officially end with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783.  This past week, the eyes of the entire nation have once again been on the city of Boston… what was generally considered the cradle of the rebellion against the British monarchy.  This time, though, it is because of act of violence that left three dead and over a hundred people injured.  Authorities do have suspects.  One of them is already deceased while the other remains at large at the time of this writing.  However, I’m not actually here to discuss the bombing or the suspects directly, but an indirect consequence that all of this is having on a different discussion that is just now taking center stage in Washington… immigration reform.

deskepticon_1How this connection is made is quite simple.  The family of the suspects is from the Russian republic of Chechnya in the Caucuses region… an area that has been fighting with the Russian government for independence.  However, both suspects were born in the country of Kyrgyzstan.  One of the brothers came to the US in 2002 while the other arrived in 2004.  Both were considered refugees from Chechnya.  The youngest of the brothers had become a permanent resident of the US in 2011.  This part of the immigration debate actually has to do with legal immigration instead of the illegal part that we so often discuss.  The Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association, Bryan Fischer, tweeted, “Part of the ‘national conversation’ about Boston should include whether we suspend Muslim immigration to the U.S. NOW.”  And liberal columnist for the The Atlanta Journal – Constitution, Cynthia Tucker, tweeted, “This smacks of the sort of terrorism that has plagued Britain, committed by legally-admitted but alienated residents. #BostonMarathon”  Though both sides of the political spectrum seem to have some agreement with this, both couldn’t be farther from the truth in this debate.

By Fischer’s own comment, we are to completely stereotype an entire group of people and forbid them from coming to this country and living as ordinary, law-abiding citizens that contribute to our country and to our society because of the actions of these two men.  Somehow, there seems to be a double standard to this on a couple of different levels.  It’s easy to find a scapegoat in this situation… to blame all Muslims and immigrants (even those that are non-Muslim) for the violent acts of these two suspects.  However, one must wonder what Mr. Fischer would say be saying if they were Christian and from somewhere in Europe.  Yes, they do exist, too.  And contrary to what Ms. Tucker tweeted, Britain’s problems haven’t always been the influx of Muslim immigrants.  It used to be the IRA (the Irish Republican Army) which was deemed a terrorist organization that bombed innocent people, and they were Christians.  So should we not let Irish people immigrate to the US… or Christians for that matter… in case they might have terrorist intentions?  I don’t see anyone speaking up in favor of this.  We tend to judge those types of immigrants on an individual basis, so why shouldn’t we do that with Muslims still?  What about Italian immigrants?  It used to be that Italian immigrants made up parts of the mafia that would go around terrorizing the cities in which they lived.  Should they be excluded from immigrating here because of past mistakes of people they have no connection with?  Again, I don’t see too many people speaking up in favor of this either.

And as much as people would like to infuse the debate on immigration reform into the Boston Marathon bombings… thus politicizing it, these same people are still forgetting about American citizens (people that are born here as US citizens) that commit acts of terrorism.  We are turning a blind eye to this part of the conversation.  If we are to deny an entire group of people legal immigration status because of the action of two people, should we not stereotype our own citizens with the same levels of hatred?  The Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 were bombed by Eric Robert Rudolph.  He was an American… not an immigrant.  He belonged to the Christian Identity movement which is a militant, racist, and anti-Semitic organization.  Though not an immigrant, should his acts be held against other Christians?  What about Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing?  Should white men not be allowed to rent moving trucks because of the horrible act this man committed?  In both of these questions, any rational person that is not speaking with absolute fear would answer ‘no.’

WRD - refugeeThe problem with stereotyping a group of people is that it is only done out of fear and has no place in rational, logical discussions.  Fischer went on to tweet later in the day, “I think we can safely say that Rubio’s amnesty plan is DOA. And should be. Time to tighten, not loosen, immigration policy.”  So again, his thought process is that the violent and hateful acts should also be placed on other legal immigrants just because they are immigrants.  I would also hazard a bet that he also speaks out heavily on illegal immigration.  The problem with that is that we can’t deal with illegal immigration unless we deal with the broken legal immigration system.  And by tightening it to the point to where he’d possibly be satisfied, it would probably only exacerbate the illegal immigration situation.  In this particular instance, you can’t have it both ways.   And he also forgets one tidbit of additional information… that these two suspects were refugees.  The US has a different set of policies when it comes to refugees from war-torn areas than just people wanting to immigrate to our country.  Should we be stopping all refugees from entering our country?  While the Bosnian War raged on during the 1990s, the US took in thousands of Bosnian refugees.  I live in a city where many of these refugees have settled.  They are peaceful, law-abiding people that have worked hard to be a part of our society.  Since coming here, they have opened up new “mom and pop” businesses and have worked to add their culture to our own.  If a couple of them had been bad seeds in the way that the two suspects in Boston have been, does that mean we should have stopped allowing them to come into our country?  Absolutely not.  And what about the ones that were already here?  Would we have kicked them out, or would they be allowed to stay?  The problem with stereotyping as I am seeing done, as it is being injected into the immigration debate, is that it doesn’t hold up in an actual rational debate.  When people start speaking (or tweeting) this utter-nonsense, it just shows that they are afraid.  Terrorism lives on fear… but it can’t win when there is courage.  And one of the best things I saw that day in Boston was the courage of those who rushed toward the scene to help those who needed it the most.  We must always be diligent, but we must not give in to fear.  Terrorism can’t win so long as there is courage to combat the fear, and stereotypes can’t win so long as there is logical, rational thought to defeat it.

UPDATE:
The second suspect is now in police custody.  Keep in mind, he is still considered a suspect.  Under the US Constitution, he is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.  The task now falls onto the state to get him convicted.

LINKS:
Point-Scoring on Immigration – Slate
Questions from Boston – POLITICO

Don’t Say It

It’s my second entry in less than a week to rant on my home state of Missouri.  Once again, I find it absolutely incredible that our legislators would waste time with this particular issue when they complain that we aren’t creating jobs quickly enough.  Let’s put two and two together here.  This time, though, this issue is more near and dear to my heart, so I cannot afford to sit back quietly.  Not this time.  Something must be said… especially for those that have no voice.

The legislation in question is House Bill 2051 (HB2051… otherwise known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill) and is sponsored by Representative Steve Cookson, with the backing of both the current Speaker, Steven Tilley and the Speaker-Elect, Tim Jones.  HB2051 has been referred to the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, and isn’t on the calendar for the committee as of yet.  But that doesn’t make it any less dangerous.  The legislation has to deal with the LGBT community… and even more importantly, it has to do with LGBT youth.  And at a time when LGBT suicides seem to be running rampant, this particular legislation does not help.  The text of it is short, but it reaches far beyond.

170.370. Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, no instruction, material, or extracurricular activity sponsored by a public school that discusses sexual orientation other than in scientific instruction concerning human reproduction shall be provided in any public school.

My first question is how is this even legal?  How is it not a violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution?  The government does not have the right to tell us what we can and cannot talk about, and it can’t make up laws that do.  What’s next?  Are they going to tell us what we can think about?  I could see a private school doing something of this nature, but for the public schools that are supported by taxpayer dollars… again, this cannot be even close to legal.  This is another case of the Republicans in the state of Missouri trying to demote part of its population to second-class citizens because they’re afraid of the “homosexual agenda.”  But this is a bunch of BS.  Legislation such as HB2051 is nothing short than a “hear no evil, see no evil” approach.  The Republicans in the state legislature believe that if the youth can’t talk about their homosexual tendencies/feelings, then they won’t give in to them.  They won’t be encouraged.  Unfortunately, the majority of the people that support legislation like this don’t know what they are talking about.  Someone either is or isn’t gay.  It doesn’t matter if it’s encouraged or not.  It is already something that is inside them.  No amount of legislation by the government (any government) will make that go away.  All it will end up doing is isolating a vital, productive, and creative part of our overall community.

Our youth will be the most adversely affected by such legislation as it is targeting them and the schools they go to.  Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs will be prohibited, and faculty and administrators will be forbidden to talk about anything dealing with sexual orientation… even if a student needs someone to talk to about it or even if a student is reporting a case of bullying.  Growing up, I was often teased throughout school.  Not for being gay but for basically being more of the nerdy type.  I know how it can make one feel.  Sometimes, I young person just needs someone to sit and listen… and to care.  And as we grow into young adults and starts dealing with more “adult-type” of situations, we need those people more and more.  We are often very careful about who we confide in, as well.  We want to make sure that it is a person that we can lean on.  For some, that particular person is a teacher.  And if this bill is put into law, that teacher won’t even be able to help even if he/she is the only person that kid or young adult feels like he/she can talk to.  It is just shameful.  And it hurts me to my core that our young people are made to feel more alone and more isolated at a time in their lives when they should be embraced and loved.

Missouri is not the first state to attempt a “Don’t Say Gay” bill.  The state of Tennessee voted several times last year on a similar bill, but it drew national ridicule that even came from the state’s Republican Governor.  The Tennessee bill eventually failed… though the state is trying again this year with an identical bill.  And now the state of Missouri is trying.  Apparently, the dumbasses who thought this thing up didn’t think this through very much.  Are they trying to prove that they are more conservative that the Republicans in Tennessee?  Is there a special prize at the end for them?  Well maybe on that last one… re-election by the same crazy voters that allow them to do dumbass things like this.  Again, it’s these same Republican legislators that say that we have fallen behind in creating jobs… that new businesses and new people are not moving to the state.  Yet, they can’t seem to make the correlation that it’s stupid stuff like this that makes Missouri a less-desirable place to live.  People tend not to want to live in a state that is trying to revert itself back to the 1850s (or even the 1950s).  This is the 21st century, and again, the people in Jefferson City need to pull their head out of their asses long enough to actually see the real world.  I know it might seem scary to them at first, but it will subside.

The consequences of such a bill needs to be thought through.  We’re isolating our youth.  We are isolating a part of our community.  Is that really a wise thing to do.  Regardless of our religious beliefs (and yes, I am a Christian), no one deserves treatment like this.  The legislators in Missouri need to realize this first and foremost.  They do not have the right to tell us how to live our lives, nor do they have the right to tell us what type of people we should be.  We are all different and unique, and we should all be embraced.  Even though I have been quite harsh on the legislators in this entry, I am trying my best to go after their actions. Afterall, hate only begets more hate.  I don’t mind when people think differently, it’s just when they act upon those thoughts and try to make others feel inferior… or in this case, feel like second-class citizens and that something is wrong with them.  The LGBT youth are simply amazing, and I think quite brave for all they have to endure at such a young age.  The bullying must stop… not only within our schools but from our government, too.  And if want a state that attracts businesses and new people, then we must stop writing BS legislation like this that makes people believe that Missouri is an ass-backwards state.  Let us move forward.  Let us work together to build a state that embraces everyone instead of isolating.  And let us work together to teach our youth to be good citizens and to be proud of who they are.  I think the youth of our state could teach some of the Missouri legislators a few lessons.  Afterall, to love thy neighbor means to embrace and accept them.

“Homosexuality, is regarded as shameful by barbarians and by those who live under despotic governments just as philosophy is regarded as shameful by them, because it is apparently not in the interest of such rulers to have great ideas engendered in their subjects, or powerful friendships or passionate love-all of which homosexuality is particularly apt to produce.”  Plato~

INFORMATION:
If you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide, please call 1-866-4-U-Trevor (1-866-488-7386).  You can also click on the link for The Trevor Project.

For those living in the state of Missouri wishing to contact their Representative regarding HB2051, please click Here for the directory.

PREVIOUS ENTRY:
From The Shadows

From The Shadows

“Hope is the dream of a soul awake.”  French Proverb~

I have thought over this blog entry for the past several days and even still, I cannot come up with the proper words on how to start this.  It honestly breaks my heart to even think about this.  But as it seems to continually surface in the news, I feel like I need to speak up… to lend my voice with those of my community so that the light might shine again for those that find themselves stuck in the shadows.

Behind the smiles and the friendships and the everyday lives is the pain and the suffering of someone’s soul.  Despite their outward appearance, they find themselves slipping farther and farther away and feeling as if there is no way out… no where to turn for help.  They might be young; they might be middle-aged; or they might be elderly.  It is defined not by any age or race or religion, but it usually ends in the same result… someone with no hope left just giving up.

Whether we know the individual or not, whether it makes headline news or not, it still affects those of us that are left behind.  We wonder how and why.  We look for absolution, though it never comes.  We carry the burden in our hearts and hope that there is no more.

We live in a changing time.  Though LGBT-rights have been making progress over the past several years, there is still much to be done.  For those that have gone before, we keep their memories in our hearts as we move forward.  For those of us that have lived through it, we know that it gets better.  We know that there are places to turn to when we need that helping hand… whether it be a family member, a personal friend, or an organization within the bigger community.  All we ask is that before things get so bad, that one seeks out help and guidance.  There is nothing wrong in admitting that help is needed.  Even I, at one point in my life, needed that crutch, and it helped me get through some dark days.  That crutch was that light that I needed to get me to emerge from the shadows.  And there is a light for all of us.  We just must take the time and not be afraid to reach out for it.

Amongst our changing world, there is plenty of hate, violence, and bullying.  It can seem as though that’s all our culture is.  But there is plenty of love, kindness, and hope that exists out there, as well.  Sometimes, we just have to look a little harder to find it.  No matter who you are… no matter of age, race, religion, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc… there is someone out there that cares about you, and they might not even know you.  It can be hard to turn off all the negativity that exist within life, but it can be done.

Albert Einstein once said, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, and hope for tomorrow.”  Even if yesterday was horrible and today is no better, there is always hope for a shining light tomorrow.  Regardless of what life throws at you, you have the ability to overcome.  All one must do is plant his/her feet firmly on the ground and march forward.  Suicide is never an option and should never be considered as such.  There is much more to live for, and we all have a reason for being here.  Let us stop the hate and the bullying.  Let us reform our culture to be one of positive energy instead of negative.  Let us build people up instead of always tearing them down.  Let us remember that we are all someone’s father or mother, brother or sister, son or daughter, aunt or uncle or cousin, husband or wife, friend or foe.  No one deserves such harsh treatment that they wish to make an early exit from our realm.  Mind your words and your actions for they do have consequences that might not be considered.  Let us together end the suicides that are plaguing our community, and let everyone know, no matter where they are, that there are those of us out here that care about them and will help get them through whatever dark time they are currently in until they can once again emerge from the shadows.  No one is ever alone.  No one is ever alone.

For those that have already fallen, we will never forget them.  For those of us that remain, we must do better to make sure no one else follows them.  We must be willing to stand up and say “We Care!” and reach out to those that need us.  I am proud to stand up and say that “I Care!”.  The bigger question is, do you?  And if you are one that needs that helping hand, do you have the courage to seek that crutch that you need so that you can stand up with us?  I know that within your heart, you do.  So reach out today for your community is here to help you.

INFORMATION:
If you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide, please call 1-866-4-U-Trevor (1-866-488-7386).  You can also click on the link for The Trevor Project.  There are people there that are willing to listen and to help.  You can also look up your closest LGBT Center.  Remember, you are loved… whether you know it or not… and you can get through this.

“He who has health, has hope.  And he who has hope, has everything.” Proverb~

In Memory of Those that have Fallen…
Let there be light so there are no more shadows.

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