A Place For Everyone

puzzle

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
~ Charles Dickens

It’s been awhile now, but there were a number of years where I blogged anonymously,  just because I felt the need to do so.  I wasn’t ready to share all of my questions, doubts, and contrary opinions with the people I cared about.  Also, I struggled for a long time with wanting to make the stuff I wrote seem more academic. I am no good at that. I’ve had so many brilliant friends who do that well. It didn’t occur to me for awhile that maybe something else was needed.

It’s easy to get into a circle of great people with similar ideas and momentarily forget that you are still very diverse.  Clearly there are important things that bind us together, but we still reach and interact with others in different ways. We are unique.

I’m saying that to remind us that even among the people we like best, we have many different gifts and insights to bring to the table. Now expand that to all of the people we don’t know, and even the ones we currently don’t like. Just because we don’t see eye to eye with them, doesn’t mean they don’t have a part to play. Just because we think they are focusing on ridiculous things, doesn’t mean they may not end up bringing some well needed insight. You can focus all of your time and attention on the paint job and detailing of your car, but if you don’t have an experienced mechanic to fix what’s under the hood, all you have is a pretty thing that doesn’t go anywhere.

Liberty lovers, I am talking to you. If we truly want to expand the ideas of liberty, we have to engage with people in a different way than what we see all over social media. We need to stand out. Maybe less doom and gloom. It is true, there are some really difficult people out there, and you might be thinking; they are never going to see reason. However, I’d like to remind you that many of us were there once. Maybe if we were a bit more encouraging to people, they would be drawn to the sound of our voices.  There is a way for us to challenge while still showing respect. We should be thankful for the dialog – for the people who bother to engage, even if they are obnoxious. Who knows what might bring them around, and what great assets they might become.

I think we have all been in a new work situation where someone either showed kindness and respect to us, or was incredibly condescending and rude. That immediately has an effect on how we see that place of business and our role there. So how do we want to be perceived? This is something we all have to decide for ourselves. I have learned to embrace my role as the non-academic and pour more energy into things that I am naturally good at, like editing and being an encourager. I know my hard working friends just need a pep talk sometimes – and I can do that, no matter how I am feeling. My gifts feed the community.  After all, is liberty just about us, or is it about ALL of us?

 

Action Speaks Louder Than Words

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In my last couple of blog entries, I mentioned, or at least alluded to the power and/or responsibility of the individual. I think a lot about that these days, and about what might be asked of me.

Of late I’ve re-evaluated decisions I’ve made over the past few months.  A couple of things stood out. Oh, they would probably be considered really small to anyone else, but they impacted me because those were the times when I chose to disregard the quiet voice of my conscience. And, there were consequences, even if no one felt them but me.

Being a person of faith, I directly equate that little voice with the divine. Regardless of what you believe, however, we all have that voice inside, and sometimes it is just a whisper.  Following it sometimes means not doing something I want in the moment, or, potentially having to do something I find uncomfortable. In any case, let’s face it, we all give it the cold shoulder sometimes. On the aforementioned occasions, that is just what I did. I’ve been here before, of course, and I’ve learned that once I ignore my conscience, it becomes easier to do it every time thereafter, until sometimes, in certain areas, I have completely blocked it out.

I’ve been asking myself how this might affect me in the long run, when it comes to the really tough decisions.

Last week there was this interview with retired army General Wesley Clark, in which he showed support for internment camps for radicalized Americans. This certainly isn’t the first time the topic has arisen of late, the way having been paved by the 2012 NDAA. Increasingly, those who fail to follow the mainstream, supporters of limited government, Constitutionalists, among others, are being labeled as radical. So you have to ask yourself, who is going to decide what radicalized means, exactly?

This is only an example of what I’m talking about, but I know a lot of people who fall under these categories. So what happens when the government comes nosing around about people – even ones I don’t like? Do I keep writing when writing gets you in trouble? Or, with the increasing problem of police brutality, what happens if I witness something? Will I stand there? Would I put myself on the line? It’s easy to say yes, not having faced such things. But, have I conditioned myself to only do the things that I don’t find uncomfortable? Or, Have I conditioned myself to do what is right, even the little things, regardless of personal cost.

I try to remind myself that the things I do when no one is looking, matter. Not because I care what most people think, but because I am always conditioning my own self to be something. The question is what? Who do I want to be, and how do I make that a reality, rather than just words on a page? Words may have power, but actions are where the rubber meets the road.

 

I Am Not A Nationalist – Part 2

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“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”
― Rudyard Kipling

Nationalism is never humble. Like a mob, it has no real conscience. Only the individual has a conscience, and even then you have to fight for it.

Nationalism tells us that we are better than everyone else. We should be proud of our glorious empire. We are morally superior. It is especially insidious because it starts out by just making us feel good about ourselves. Celebratory, and unified with one another. It creeps in unrecognized. But countless horrors have been its product.

It is still incredible to me how many Americans will look you straight in the eye, and justify the “unintended” drone bombing of children in Yemen. Iraq. Afghanistan. Syria. They will do this while sitting in church. They won’t even realize that they believe we are superior to others. Oh, it might make them uncomfortable, but they will tell themselves what the government and media have been telling them for years; “They hate us for our freedom. They want to kill us. We’re keeping ourselves safe. The world needs us.” They will feel a slight disgust with the few people that have contrary views. I know it, because once I was them.

We could all use a little enlightenment now and then.

Individuals, you know, are the real sung and unsung heroes of the past. Take the Jewish holocaust for example. You’ve heard the names… Oskar Schindler, Corrie Ten Boom, Raoul Wallenberg, Irena Sendler. A multitude of others that we’ll never know. They hid Jews in their homes, they forged passports, they did all manner of things that put their own lives, and the lives of their families at risk. Because they weren’t superior, they cared. They exercised conscience instead of stifling it. Maintained humility. I bet they felt alone, and scared. What were the majority of other people doing at the same time?  Sieg Heil.

I’ve heard Niemoller’s quote so many times, that it has almost lost meaning. Inevitably it is shared by those who are waiting for some “obvious” conflict that they’ll need to resist. You know, like a train full of humans going down the track to that place with the smoke coming out. Because of course they would never let that happen. But it never starts out that way. Then, as always, it started out much less obviously to most. I think it started with a little celebratory flag waving.

I Am Not A Nationalist – Part 1

nationalism

In response to an article shared with me today, I happened to mention to a friend that I am not a huge fan of Memorial Day. Our brief conversation birthed this blog entry.

I have started to detest flag waving. It seems like such a harmless little thing, but to me it is a representation of how completely indoctrinated we all are. Every spring my town holds an armed services torchlight parade. I have traditionally always gone to the parade with my family. This year I just couldn’t do it. You stand and clap when the various branches go by, the veterans of foreign wars, etc. But the family members of recently fallen also go by, with their big memorial pictures of loved ones – mostly very young – that they have lost.

And that group just keeps getting bigger.

I was really impacted, last year, by how big that group was. And while they were walking by, I was thinking that those young servicemen/women are always told they are “fighting for their country,” and how we are told – and tell ourselves – that they are “fighting for our freedom.” And it’s all a load of crap. If they were, actually, fighting for their country, then the fact that we have not gone to war constitutionally since WWII, would matter. The fact that war has been a huge tool to expand the already out-of-control executive branch, would matter. The usurpation of rights, and the heavy hand of government that falls ever harder while they are deployed, would matter.

If military personnel were fighting these many wars for our freedom, then there should be more freedom! Not so much less! It’s not the case. I wonder, do they know? Do they care that each conflict that takes their lives, also subverts our own rule of law? Maybe they are figuring it out, and that’s part of why the suicide rate amongst returning military is scandalous. That and the fact that nobody wants to think about their potential troubles once they are home, parades or no. Many are loved though, and so nobody wants to say the truth: most of them are dying for nothing good. Fodder for our increasingly careless government. I will grieve for them in my heart, but don’t ask me to wave a flag with the crowd. There is nothing here to celebrate.