Saturday, June 20, 2015

Why we hate

I have very little to do in this post surgical immobile and drugged up state. This took a very long time to write and I hope it's coherent.

The media has their panties in a bunch over what to call the shooter.  Is he a terrorist, a thug, mentally ill, racist... I say, yes to all of those. But if we are looking at the most descriptive name, it would seem "white supremecy extremist" should do the trick.

Not that it matters! These kinds of issues - what label we use, that he got apprehended peacefully, that the Confederate flag still flies over some building in SC - pale in comparison to the real issues that need deep and meaningful conversations. In this case: what is truly at the root of racism.

To really understand this, we need to go deeper than why some white Americans hate black Americans. The real question is why does anyone hate anyone? And the answer is not all that complex. Once understood, we can plot a path forward, and be realistic in our expectations.

So why do we hate? We hate what we fear, and we all fear things that are dangerously different. I do. You do. We all do.

The reality is that for a very long time people from other races were considered dangerously different. This reality is not new. We have a long history as a species of anyone-not-like-me being considered dangerous and as a result, feared and hated. Think about every war ever fought. Think about every border ever establish, every wall ever constructed. All to keep people of sameness away from something or someone who is "other".

There are two reasons for this in my worldview.

The first is because it helps a lot when it comes to survival. It is a natural instinct bred in us. By natural I do not mean we were designed that way, only that it is now a part of our nature.

In the opening of Genesis, the bible talks about the "good" version of human life. Man and animal living in harmony. Enter the fall; killing starts. Killing (danger) leads to fear, fear leads to hate. Whether that's a literal thing 6000 years ago or just a word picture of how things got this way is irrelevant. Today we fear things that are dangerous and we hate what we fear.

In Isaiah (11:6), when the perfect is restored, the bible says "wolf will lay down with lamb." Why is that imagery used, because right now the wolf would eat the lamb. Perfection means no more danger; no more fear. Fear is gone in a restored humanity.

If your not of the bible believing type, just look at natural selection. Same theory. Fear keeps us alive. So fearful species survive to make more fearful versions of themselves. We fear otherness in our core being. All of us. What we fear we inevitably hate. 

This leads to a ton of other ideologies like:
-We are better then them
-We need to control them
-They are not as valuable as we are
-We need to protect ourselves from them
-We should concour, enslave, or annihilate them because they are lesser than us

You get the idea.  This is our history as a species from early tribal wars to the Roman empire through the crusades to Hitler and the Islamic terrorists of today. It's ingrained in our makeup. It's who we are.

I am not saying on one hand, that there is no such thing as a just war, or on the other that we cannot or should not change. I'm only detailing the question of why - why do we hate. We hate what we fear, we fear what we consider dangerous, and we (as a species) have considered people from other races dangerous.

Knowledge is what brings us the ability to realize that skin tone is meaningless and that we are truly the same, but we as a species still fear what is dangerous and different. The majority of us in recent history have moved past the idea that other people are dangerous, but we still respond to danger the same way. Just go to the zoo and remove the cages. You will have fear of the lion walking up to you. Some people, like this individual still have the idea that people of other races are dangerous. Therefore racism continues.

The second reason in my world view is related to the first, but it is far more spiritually grounded and it speaks to why we seem slow to change... why people like this individual still exist. 

Of course if you are a naturalist, then we have nothing but our own will to try to undo millions of years of evolutionary process. It can't happen like it does in the Croods - one generation shaking off this great fear. We need to establish that fear of other people is not a hindrance to survival before we begin to see that tendency replaced with the opposite - that loving people leads to longer life. This will take a very long time and we should expect there to be remnants of the old model during the transition. In fact, if evolution is the only force at work, this should take generations upon generations to work through.

I do not believe that evolution is the only force at work. In fact, I believe the progress we have seen in destroying these long held ideals is evidence of something greater at work.

We forget some times that good and evil are battling. This is not passive and it is not based on our physical actions alone.  We have an enemy of our souls who is actively seeking to destroy us. He looks for people with bad ideas and actively works to continue, strengthen, and perpetuate those terrible ideas. He breeds fear and he encourages those destructive fears trying with all his might (and he is strong) to make things like Wednesday night, or 12/14 happen.

However, good is also battling, and I believe we are winning. We have access to more and better information then we ever have. We understand why our skin tones differ. We understand why people differ in personality and character. We need to be careful to not lose our ability to think for ourselves because of easily accessible knowledge, but in general these kinds of ideas (extremism, racism, etc) are being removed from society and replaced by love for one another. This may be happening slower than we would like, but it's happening overnight in humanity's terms, and it's undoing a really long time's worth of conditioning.

We know we are winning because for every one person who the enemy gets to the point of  this extremism, there are a million good souls capable in theory of the same savagery, yet willing to love, care, and give instead.

When these events happen we should be saddened, and challenged to double down on our commitment to end these ideals, but we have no right to be shocked by it. We are built from the same stuff. It's what we have done to each other for ages.

Since we know that fear is the root, we should ask ourselves what things generate fear of people? What things continue to reinforce an us vs them mentality?

Does that thing you post on facebook reinforce our differences or celebrate our sameness?

Does the news anchor asking if a black senator is impacted differently then a person from another race help the cause of unity or just reinforce division?

Do you add to the 'people who are different are dangerous' dialog? Do you call tea partyers tea baggers, or democrats demoncrats, just because you disagree with them? I know I have. I must stop.

What I've seen of the Charleston community is 99% good. People praying together. People giving. People worshiping. Yet the news keeps asking divisive leading questions. At one point Megan Kelly was stopped by Tim Scott saying that he was not dwelling on those negative items, she commended him for that, but turned around and asked the same abhorrent questions a minute later.  It's repulsive. If you want the biggest problem slowing our progress, look to the main stream media. Social media is often no better.

Another thing we need to address is the stigmas around mental illness. We all understand mental illness to be dangerous, but danger with knowledge and wisdom does not need to be feared. Why? The same reason we don't need to fear other skin colors. We are the same. Every one of us has the same capability of a destructive mental state.

Mental illness (be it purely chemical, or spiritually influenced -both can happen) is real and as a society we need to find ways to both increase mental health, and detect and correct for mental illness. My problem with our current measures are they only address the physical side (drugs and therapy). There is a group of wonderful Christian counselors who do what they can during therapy, but they are often tied by the law or corporate policy to not address the spiritual side when it is obvious that is what's needed. Those who can  (like those in specifically Christian practices) have successes, and I'd like to see that studied more clearly.

But we need to invest in reducing the stigmas and finding real solutions to increasing mental health. That does not need to happen from a place of fear.

These are areas we can move forward in, but I want to close by reiterating... it is painful to see another reminder that we are not finished removing racism, but we should be so encouraged by the response of Chucktowniens. In the battle, good is winning. We have not won, and we should not be surprised when evil is seen. Double down on love, community, unity, and restoration. Avoid adding to the division, even in small ways.

Be #CharlestonStrong

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Welfare... an idea

I was recently commenting about limitations on food stamps. I have been thinking a lot about this topic and feel that I just needed to put pen to paper as it were.

The welfare system is broken. We are unfortunately left with trying to fix a symptom of the welfare system instead of correcting the problem. You see, the discussion is on limiting the items someone on food stamps can purchase. The problem is that there are people on food stamps wasting that money; junk food on one extreme; steak and lobsters on the other. Folks buying these types of items are either taking advantage of the situation or are in a mentally unwise state. So like all government solutions, more regulations is the only answer: Limit the things someone can buy on food stamps.

But that does not feel right. It’s just more government control.

As a good libertarian leaning right winger, I want government out of the process. The Christian in me agrees with the spirit of the left wanting to help people in need. At times, the right of center folks forget the realities of hurting people. It’s convenient to complain of government spending and ignore the very real needs of people when your job is solid and you can make ends meet. We get a bad rap on this topic because we tend to do so.

At the same time, the left will use this as an advantage saying that those who are against welfare don’t care about poor people who are hurting. This is simply not true. It’s good rhetoric, but it’s ultimately fallacious.

People are generally good and want to help others. There is a powerful force in most of us to do good for others. Depending on different world views, that is based on various items, but it does not matter. In spite of the ugly selfish side of humanity, there is a stronger side that cares for others. That side may not have the same way of drawing viewers to the 24 hour news cycle, but it is by far the majority of people. Just look at the outpouring of generosity in the face of disaster or tragedy. We all want to help people in need. The question is how best to accomplish that with as little waste and unhealthy enabling.

A good democratic friend said to me one time, welfare is just me helping you out when times get rough. My reply, “No, that’s charity.”

In fact, welfare is charity with a nice government cut taken off the top for “processing.” We have plenty of charitable organizations in this country that are already being funded by people who see the good work that a charitable organization does, and funds its mission.

So if I were president, this would be my solution.

Create a food bank fund type for existing non-profit organizations. Every person filing their taxes can donate some dollar amount (perhaps $100 for an individual or $150 for a family) into the food bank fund for a full tax credit. In other words, you are going to send that $100 to the government anyway. You can optionally redirect those funds to a fund managed by the non-profit organization of your choice. 100% of the funds donated must be used for feeding the poor in that community within 12 months. Anything left over goes to the government. There will be no preacher salaries paid out of the money. If you need funds to run your church or community center you raise them another way. Every dollar must be used directly to feed or clothe the poor.

The beauty of this solution is it respects both points of view. If you want government to manage those funds, you simply do nothing. If you want to get involved personally with your charitable giving, then you do so. Then we run some data analysis to see if the food banks are better stocked or if the homeless are able to get food in areas where people are donating. We can look at people on assistance and see if the needs are being met through the system. If 10% of the population takes advantage of it, then the plan is killed. If 50-75% of people take advantage of it, then I believe we would see food banks overflowing with food and necessities because there is no government overhead.

If it works it has the ability to wean our society off the government’s teat one social program at a time. It retrains our people to give regularly which is good for the human spirit.  It also leverages the large network of charitable non-profits this country has and allows us to ultimately get rid of another government program that is full of abuse. Most of all it allows for the human touch. When a welfare worker issues an EBT card that can be used anywhere for anything, there is no community built; there are no human souls impacted by that transaction outside of the important fulfillment of a real need. However, when a person admits they need help, and asks a local food bank or a church for food, they get a person coming along side of them. They get moral support as well as nutritional support. They often find a family able to connect them with work or training programs.

And more importantly, the people giving get to see people in need. They get to see the realities of the 
situations people are in. There is compassion instead of annoyance. There is humility instead of pride. There is gratitude for what we have and generosity toward those who have not. Every mouth that is fed is also feeding the soul of both the giver and receiver.

I’d like your vote…

I’m Dwayne Boulden and I approve this message.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Lunch at the diner

Today I walked into the local diner for lunch. Being mindful of such things, I immediately noticed the guy at the end of the bar with a 9mm Glock on his hip.  He was not in uniform, but did have his badge next to the gun. 

Immediately I felt happy to know a cop was there in case anything went down, not that I assume that will happen, or live in fear, but simply as a matter of factual recognition. My co-worker and I sat down next to him leaving the obligatory We're-not-with-him space at the bar. I did not really think twice until I saw another person, in plain clothes approach our weapon carrying neighbor. A second; and third openly carried firearm, this time by an attractive young lady in a pants suit and gentleman in a golf shirt; their badges the only indicator that they were law enforcement. At this point, I took a quick look around to take a better inventory of my surroundings. This is important because as a citizen who carry's a gun with me every day, I have to stay mindful that officers can sometimes react poorly to cries of "a guy with a gun" so I take a quick nonchalant check on my shirt to make sure I am covered completely.  I am. As I looked around though, I notice two more officers, another lady and another guy in a t-shirt and jeans (who had the most built shoulders of anyone I have ever seen) openly carrying their weapons in normal everyday clothes.  

Five semi automatic firearms in a diner that seats 25 people. More importantly, I look over and see families. I see kids 6 year olds, 10 year olds with their moms out for a play date perhaps. I see people, moms and dads and business men and servers completely comfortable surrounded by weapons for the sole reason that those weapons are wielded by someone that although they look like normal citizens has a badge.

Recently during the Newtown Starbuck's situation an overly emotional editor for a local paper attempted (and in many ways succeeded) to elicit negative response toward gun owners by painting a picture. It went something like, "Image you are sitting in Starbuck's with your kids, when ARMED people walk in!" Is that not exactly what happened in my diner today? People with kids and people with guns in the same room, eating the same greasy food, drinking the same average coffee.

See the people who do not understand the gun culture imagine that if law abiding citizens take to regularly carrying guns then the result would be a bunch of crazy gun owners walking in to a coffee shop with camo outfits, face painted with green and black stripes waving a Gadsden flag, or maybe even a guy in a ghillie suit, holding their weapons out shoving their weapon down your throat literally or figuratively. Its just not like that. Why? Because I am that guy. I walked in with my firearm on my hip. If those armed officers were not there today, there still would have been people with kids and (at least one) person with a gun sitting together in the same diner. You may not have seen it, you may not have known, but there I was, weapon holstered quietly concealed eating my lunch. 

This is a scene that plays out all over the place. People with guns in our everyday life. However, because they are mostly concealed society has forgotten they are there. As generations pass, less people carry because its not visible. Out of sight out of mind. When a person stops a tragedy, they are called a hero, but quietly and with no regard for what they used. When a person succeeds in committing a crime however, their weapon is what is demonized.

I'm circling here because there is a point. Lets go back to the officers in the diner. If guns are evil and need to be removed from our society, then officers should conceal their weapons. We adults would know they are there as a necessary evil, but kids should not even know they exist. If on the other hand guns only take on the character of those wielding them, then why leave open gun carry to criminals and cops. why should a business man, or a mom out shopping with her kids not also be seen regularly to be carrying. The gun is there either way. Enough people carry on a regular basis that in any situation where more than 20 people are around, there is likely a gun. Why should our society not want to see firearms being associated to responsible citizens as opposed to only seeing them in the hands of criminals and cops, or worse, as depicted by Hollywood. It would seem we are not showing our true colors. 

There is a growing movement around the country, including here in CT, that where it is legal to openly carry a firearm, law abiding people are doing just that. Many prefer to carry concealed from a tactical point of view, but are carry openly to raise awareness. The next time you are out and see someone with a gun on their hip take a look. If you don't see a badge, don't worry. Its legal, good and right. If you want, feel free to ask the person about it. I'm sure they would be open to discussing. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

4 Temperaments

The Four Temperaments takes the traditional psychological categories and adds spiritual insights. As a protestant, I don't agree with all the theology here, but this has been amazing to reflect on (something as a Sanguine I am terrible at doing).  If you have ever thought a DISC profile was helpful, this will knock your socks off.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Atlas Shrugged

"You have reached the blind alley of the treason you committed when you agreed that you had no right to exist. Once, you believed it was "only a compromise": you conceded it was evil to live for yourself, but moral to live for the sake of your children. Then you conceded that it was selfish to live for your children, but moral to live for your community. Then you conceded that it was selfish to live for your community, but moral to live for your country. Now, you are letting this greatest of countries be devoured by any scum from any corner of the earth, while you concede that it is selfish to live for your country and that your moral duty is to live for the globe. A man who has no right to life, has no right to values and will not keep them." -John Galt

Having spent 6 months reading this monster of a book, I find it only fitting to convey a few takeaways. If you have not read it, it is incredibly difficult to sum up an 1,100 page book. To try would be foolish. Take the below comments as thoughts and ideas as you read.

The plight of the industrialist has not changed. 
Modern society leans too often toward marginalizing the affects of the real game changers.  The men who built this country, the men who truly innovated, names like Rockefeller and Westinghouse, John Pierce and Barney Oliver... we pretend to think that we now deserve inherently the fruits of their invention as if we could have thought of it ourselves, or worse, that their innovations are now meaningless because they have been copied so often or enhanced through iterative improvement.

We must restore a sense of value in ones work. When an individual provides value to millions, or provides a lot of value to a few, they should reap the rewards of that value.  It is only fair for a successful person to be successful financially.  Too many people live under the false notion that their need dictates what they should be paid, either by an employer or by welfare. For a company or community or nation to be successful, people must add more value than they take.  For ever person who fails to do so, another must add that person's value without taking it.  Would that we would return to that ideology.

Our morality of selflessness
"I swear-by my life and my love of it-that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."

Ms. Rand is unapologetic in her lack of appreciation for selflessness. It is not an altogether undesirable position.  Is not the cry against the "greedy corporations" or "evil wall street" that they are living for their own sakes at the expense of other men? Can you simply add the second clause, nor ask another man to live for mine,  and make selfish ambition work?  Alternatively, is the total and utter pursuit of selflessness found in many religious circles really godliness?

One need only look to the critics of John Piper's Christian hedonism to find a visceral reaction against the idea that allowing yourself to be self-serving is evil. However, his position is not without support from some of the greats. CS Lewis writes: If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and to earnestly hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I suggest that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. 

I believe that in either case the root evil is found in the idea of allowing or expecting another person to live for your benefit. To combat this evil, Ayn Rand proposes a society where you live fully and only for your own benefit and so long as you expect everyone else to be doing the same it will all work out.  I would propose that a less radical solution is possible, and far more realistic.  If every man would take the position that while still refusing to ask another man to live for their sake, they pursue adding more value than they need and consuming less than they make so that if they should succeed they are in a position materially and mentally to assist others and if they should fail, that another might show the same charity they were willing to give.

This moral code is consistent both with the selflessness required to avoid hedonism and fulfill our communal obligations to those less fortunate while acknowledging that the pursuit of our own good is right and honorable.

It would be easy to normalize this book into the political landscape of today, but doing so would not do the work justice. The complexity of Ayn Rand's pure capitalism approach is unrealistic, and while I would love to think that it could work, it won't. The libertarian in me would love to have the freedom to do whatever I wanted. However, its obvious that people are going to take advantage of others both by accepting what is unearned, or earning more than they should via others.  Short of a catastrophic meltdown akin to the book's version of events, human greed and lust for power will be an ever present force by which we need to have some measure of control and regulation. The only way to change that is through a return to love and respect for other individuals.  The best way I know to do that is a return to true godliness (not what we see in most of the Christian community today). No political ideology will change the root problem of man's evil.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Gun Control, Demystified

Or, We are more together than apart

With so much hate and divisiveness being used in this debate, my goal rooted in love, is to point out a few observations, hopefully build a framework for real dialog, and challenge each side to come together.

All gun control laws can be grouped into one of three categories. Laws that punish criminals, laws that attempt to limit criminals’ access to guns, and laws that attempt to limit everyone’s access to guns. (There is a fourth, laws that track all guns. This is a non-issue as no one has made any real headway in trying this, so we will leave it out of this discussion.)

The first, laws that punish criminals, is obvious. We have laws on the books for sentencing law breakers with time in prison, even the death penalty in some places.  The very basis for our criminal justice system is rooted in the idea that corrective discipline is normal and works.  It works as a deterrent to crime, and as a corrective system for those who have committed crime. The effectiveness of this model is outside of the scope of this discussion, but generally this is an area where people are in agreement. We want “easy wins” where we can make “real change” with "bi-partisan support"; this is where we can have it. Enforce and make stricter gun crime punishments.

The second, laws that stop criminals from getting guns, there is also large support from both sides. While I am disappointed at the NRA for not backing proposals in this category like universal background checks, etc., I am not surprised.  The NRA is a lobbying group, and you would expect them to take the far position.  However, more and more pro-gunners are following their lead and buying into this position of “give up nothing!” "I can sell my gun to anyone I want" just does not work today. As gun owners we need to recognize that we have a crime problem, and that we have a responsibility to limit access to criminals.

The last, laws that limit everyone’s guns, is where the majority of the division is happening.   On this topic, we are polarized.  Laws in this group include the so-called assault weapons ban, and the high capacity magazine ban.  The problem with these laws is that they are actually limiting the rights of law-abiding citizens.  Now those rights are limited all the time, and there is precedent to do so, but the negative reaction from the gun community is based on the idea that we see no real benefit to society as a result of these changes. I have discussed this at length, so I do not want to do so here.

The problem is that all of these topics are getting lumped into one big group of “upcoming gun control laws” and because we do not have the proper framework to discuss them, we fall into all or nothing discussions.

Instead, lets work to understand each proposed law.  Classify each in one of these categories. Universal background checks are not at all designed to limit law-abiding citizens access to guns, therefore we should support them.  Those who support banning certain guns need to understand that you are squarely in the third section which has dangers, and yelling about it wont help. If law abiding citizens are going to give up more of their rights, there needs to be a solid discussion on the benefits of doing so before you will convince anyone.  Educate yourself. Its hard for the gun community to take seriously calls to ban “assault weapons” when you still think they are “spraying bullets into a crowd.” Even better, show some measure of respect for the people that actually have knowledge of the topic. Their, our, opinion should matter to you because we own these devices, and we understand them. Recognize that this is and will be the hardest aspect of these types of proposals, and you should expect pushback. Ignoring that pushback puts you no better than the change nothing crowd.

If we come together, we can gain real traction on the first and second groups of laws.  If we have open and healthy discussions on the third, there may be some compromises that can be reached.   However, if we continue to argue from opposing viewpoints with all or nothing positions, we are no longer on the same team fighting for the same goal. We have instead embraced us versus them, battling each other, instead of crime.

Friday, January 25, 2013

On guns, God, love and hate.

Nothing is so clearly and poignantly evil than the murder of innocent lives.  Evil is rooted in hate. Hatred of self, hatred of others when fully realized leads to the most deplorable of evil acts.  Perhaps this is at the heart of the apostle’s letter when he says, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” or in Jesus’ equating of murder to hatred in the sermon on the mount. 

The idea that at the root of murder is hate stands as a warning to us all.  When we allow ourselves to be filled with hate, we succumb to the evilest passions of our being.  To hate is to reject God and the message of our common depravity instead embracing our supposed goodness over the object of our hatred.  Hatred is the very antithesis to God, because God is love.

The recent communal discussion on guns and the role they play in our society has taken a significant turn toward hatred. With time passing farther away from the latest tragedy many pro-gun individuals feel free to express this hatred through mockery or disdain for anything or anyone who would ‘take our guns away.’ Similarly, still impassioned by the heinousness of this crime others are calling people lunatics, or wishing people rot in hell who simply believe their rights are being taken away. This too is rooted in the same hatred. 

It’s easy to hate. It’s our natural stance because we are evil. The sad irony is that the church who has supposedly been set free from evil control is leading the charge from both sides. 

Instead, choose Love.  Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your father in heaven. If you love only those who love you what reward is in that?  Everyone does that. Its time for us to recognize that we must love one another in spite of our differences. We must realize that people are in different places, and have different ideas.  We must remove the idea that we are better then anyone else.

I can foresee the supposed hypocrisy in this statement. Am I not saying the same thing; that I am somehow better than those that have chosen to hate. I am not. I have done the same things. I have enjoyed the quiet ridicule of those who have no idea the difference between a M-16 and an AR-15. I have, at times, allowed the idea that because I may know more than others on this topic, I am somehow better then they are. However, I am not the standard, God is. His rule, his morality is the standard, and I am consistently trying to reject those ideas and replace them with love. That love may not lead to my changing my opinion on a topic, but it aught to change the way I interact with another person who holds a different idea. I have seen very little love. 

We are a deeply divided people, which means the light that shines from our choosing love instead of hate will shine brighter than ever.