Language Larceny

Posted in Politics, Religion, Science on March 22, 2015 by RJ Evans

ZinkFrom contributor Ronald Bruce Meyer

What is wrong with education in America? How can a high school student be so wrong about the core principles of his country that he would utter such nonsense as this: “What makes you American is not the language you speak, but the ideas you believe in”?

Those were the words of student leader Andrew Zink. Mr. Zink was in charge of the morning announcements for Pine Bush High School in Pine Bush, N.Y., on Wednesday 18 March 2015. On that morning, as part of the school’s celebration of National Foreign Language Week, an Arabic-speaking student read the Pledge of Allegiance … in Arabic. Later readings would have been in other languages, European languages to be sure, but it was the reading in Arabic that got the news media leading the uproar. Especially among cultural conservatives.

Right-wing news pundits were everywhere objecting to the phrase “one nation… under Allah”—which unaccountably leaves one Arabic word, the one that actually means “God,” untranslated. Oh, my. It’s as if conservatives really don’t like “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance! Who would have imagined? (Note to conservatives: it’s best to know what you’re talking about before criticizing it. It makes you look less foolish: kind of like criticizing a movie you haven’t watched.)

A local paper, The Times Herald-Record, reported that Pine Bush School District Superintendent Joan Carbone had “received complaints from district residents who had lost family members in Afghanistan and from Jewish parents who were equally outraged by the reading.” They do know that the official languages of Afghanistan are Pashto and Dari, not Arabic, right? And would the Jewish parents have objected to a reading in German? And how about the planned reading in Japanese: didn’t “they” attack us once?

One less hyperventilating pundit, Michael Dorstewitz of Biz Pac Review, wrote “Pine Bush administrators had it all wrong. The whole concept of the United States being a “melting pot” is that people from different countries come together, assimilate and celebrate that which binds us all—being an American. Highlighting our differences—whether by race, religion or language—only divides us as a nation.”

PledgeMultilingualTo which I say, au contraire. You cannot claim to be a melting pot if you are ignorant of its constituent parts! Do we wish to learn nothing of other peoples and languages—which so enrich our own people and language?

American Legion Post Commander Andrew Brew, perhaps forgetting that the U.S. has no official language, told reporters, “This is America, and we speak English in America.” Now, read that sentence back and consider how senseless it sounds: English is the language from England!

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser of the Islamic Forum for Democracy, suggested to Fox News that saying the pledge in Arabic might encourage “Muslim youth” to join the radical militant group ISIS. Really? Pledging allegiance to the U.S. can do that?

One wag wrote, “If English was good enough for Jesus to use to write the bible, it’s good enough for the pledge.” When one not-so-deep thinker replied, “You may have missed it but the Bible is translated to English,” the original writer remarked, “That makes it foreign. We can’t trust that foreign stuff.”

In a rush to appease, news reports say, later in the afternoon Principal Aaron Hopmayer made a school-wide announcement to explain why the pledge was read in Arabic and to apologize to those who took offense. The principal then said the pledge would only be read in English in the future—in spite of the fact that state regulations do not mandate that the pledge be recited in a specific language, only prescribing the specific words.

But it was for Andrew Zink, a mere student, to remind everyone that although he knew the reading would attract controversy, it was the right thing to do: “This is an example of how [The Pine Bush Central School District] would rather sweep an issue under the rug instead of having an open dialogue about it,” he said to MTV News. Indeed. Wouldn’t you think the purpose of school is to, you know, educate?

The Pine Bush school had also planned to let students hear the pledge in French, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish, but instead canceled its Foreign Language Week and banned Zinc from reading announcements for the rest of the year. So much for free speech. And so much for education.

As for the school apology, Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which calls itself a grassroots civil rights and advocacy group, said, “I would ask what he would be apologizing for exactly. Was his apology directed at those who have spread anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry with hostile comments about this Pledge of Allegiance? … I mean, what could be more quintessentially American than offering the Pledge of Allegiance, no matter what language it’s in?”

And in an official statement, CAIR said, “When a simple student activity designed to promote mutual understanding receives such a negative reaction, and the school in which it takes place is forced to issue a public apology, all Americans who value our nation’s history of religious and ethnic diversity should be concerned. One has to wonder if such an intolerant response would have resulted from reading the pledge in a language other than Arabic.”

Just so. And somebody correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the Pledge say “…with liberty and justice for all?” Does that mean everyone has liberty, but not the liberty to speak another language? Does that mean Arabic speakers can never be American?

And if you really object to Arabic, there’s a lot you’re going to have to give up—unless you don’t mind being hypocritical. For one thing, you’d better stop using the word zero, because that was an Arab invention. As are the “Arabic” numerals. And, come to think of it, you would have to give up saying admiral, albatross, alcove, algorithm, apricot, arsenal, artichoke, assassin, average, azimuth, azure, almanac, antimony, benzene, boron, candy, carrot, caravan, caraway, check/checkmate, cipher, coffee, crimson, damask, elixir, carafe, caliber/calipers, cork, demitasse and drub.

Also Arabic? Garble, gauze, gazelle, gerbil, ghoul, giraffe, harem, hashish, henna, hookah, hummus, jar, jasmine, (mint) julep, jumper (clothing), garbage, guitar, hazard, lacquer, lemon, lime, lute, macramé, magazine, mattress, mohair, monsoon, mummy, muslin, lilac, macabre, mask, masquerade, massage, mizzen-mast, mortise and nadir.

And, of course: orange, ream (paper), rook (chess), safari, safflower, saffron, sash (ribbon), scarlet, sequin, serendipity, sheikh, sherbet, sofa, sorbet, spinach, sugar, sultan, sumac, Swahili, syrup, racket (tennis), soda, sodium, tahini, talc, talisman, tamarind, tangerine, tare (weight), tariff, tarragon, tuna, typhoon, vizier and zenith.

Had enough? Here’s a thought: why not give up the Pledge? It’s either a loyalty oath or a secular prayer: But either way, patriots don’t need it and traitors won’t heed it.

If that’s not possible, then you’d better give up alcohol. That’s an Arabic word, too.

The Confederacy Lives – Shame on You Oklahoma!

Posted in Politics, Religion with tags , , , , , , on March 9, 2015 by RJ Evans

For those Oklahoma legislators who’ve been living in the dream world of American Exceptionalism…

TulsaRaceRiot-1921

 

“Oklahoma! Where the bigotry comes sweeping down the plain!” – RJ Evans –

 

 

Members of the University of Oklahoma fraternity chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon were captured on video chanting a blatantly racist tome while on a bus traveling to a formal event celebrating the fraternities’ Founding Day. The chant’s lyrics?

“There will never be a nigger SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he can never sign with me.”

SAE was founded at the University of Alabama 5 years prior to the Civil War. “The fraternity had fewer than 400 members when the Civil War began. Of those, 369 went to war for the Confederate States and seven for the Union Army…” according to the fraternity website.

Oklahoma is already known nationally for outrageous acts of racism and bigotry. Just take a trip back to the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. And there’s plenty of contemporary ignorance and stupidity rearing its ugly head when it comes to Oklahoma’s legislative body. Actors like Senator James Inhofe (Senator Snowball), Representative Sally Kern, Governor Mary Fallin, and a whole host of others, regularly find their way into the national news over some idiotic thing they did or said. But, I think their lunacy truly underscores and explains the mentality of these SAE fraternity bigots. Sure, Oklahoma legislators aren’t directly to blame for this particular piece of dung, but they are the representatives elected by a lot of people that teach their Oklahoma children to be racist bigots. Bigots beget bigots, and then elect bigots. But is it really surprising that this happened in Oklahoma? Is it really that much of a surprise?

Sure. Not everyone in Oklahoma is a bigot. I live here. I migrated to Oklahoma 18 years ago. The folks I call friends are far from being bigoted. I’m also pretty certain there are thousands of other Oklahomans that don’t have a bigoted bone in their body. But, this is still Oklahoma after all. It’s the belt buckle of the bible belt, the western edge of the Old South. In the 21st century the Confederacy still lives and breathes in Oklahoma. It never left. It hides behind the smiling faces of southern charm and hospitality. It festers, seethes and winces, under the authority of a black U.S. President. It slowly grows under the direction of a redder than red political and religious banner.

I’ve seen the bigotry and racism firsthand. It shows up when my outward appearance puts life-time locals at ease. My tattoo sleeved arms, my whiteness, being a biker… It’s then that Oklahoma born racist bigotry can be seen at its whitest and brightest… and stupidest. I’ve heard the words of deep-seated racism and bigotry, the total ignorance, the hatred. It wreaks from their pores. I’ve also seen the reactions to my displeasure with their bigotry. I can read it like a cheap novel. They’re the same reactions I saw when I was in 6th grade in Las Vegas, Nevada during the early 70’s when desegregation became the law of the land. I saw it on my parent’s faces, and their friend’s faces, when I was bussed to the north side of town to attend school with black children. I can recite a bigoted racist’s hidden inner dialogue word for word because the words were screamed at me at Central High School in St. Paul, Minnesota my junior and senior years. “Nigger lover!” I know the bigotry and racism. I know it well from the standpoint of a high school senior who had a black girlfriend and was told by my mother, “I don’t want that nigger in my house!”

I will repeat… Not everyone in Oklahoma is a racist bigot, and the University of Oklahoma doesn’t teach bigotry and racism. I can’t make that any clearer. But, the racist, bigoted families of Oklahoma do teach it! And, it is they who bear the responsibility for turning their children into racist bigots. And they’re responsible for breeding a legislature that pushes radical bigoted agendas in hopes that the Confederacy will somehow rise from the ashes of defeat, allowing their white Jesus to reign supreme. Don’t believe me? Ask any Oklahoma Republican legislator what diversity means to them. You’re bound to get an earful.

Shame on you Oklahoma! Shame on Oklahomans who breed bigotry and racism into their children!

Holy Trinity of Madness – Three Messengers, Two Gods, One Goal

Posted in Politics, Religion, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 9, 2015 by RJ Evans

isis-executioners-throw-two-men-charged-homosexuality-roof-mosuliraqThree messengers, two gods, one goal: Purge the earth of homosexuals. Let’s meet the three messengers…

Coming to us from the Middle East, god’s reigning World Messenger Champion, a truly brutal regime of torture, murder, and mayhem against the enemies of god… Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Recently ISIS claimed a decisive victory over homosexuality when they dispatched, with impunity, men who were suspected of being homosexuals. Tossed from the roof of a building, hands tied behind their backs, the victims met their fate when they impacted the concrete sidewalk many stories below.

Next… Coming to us from the United States and the State of Oklahoma’s House of Representatives… God’s current Midwest Division Messenger Champion, a truly bigoted, hateful, self-righteous warrior against the enemies of god… Rep. Sally Kern (R) of District 84. Sally’s ambitious agenda for god is a bit tamer than that of the reigning World Messenger Champion, but she’s certainly not discouraged. Recently, Sally introduced 3 bills to the State Legislature. House Bill 1599 – “Preservation and Sovereignty of Marriage Act”, House Bill 1598 – “Freedom to Obtain Conversion Therapy Act”, and House Bill 1597 – A bill that would give businesses the right to discriminate against homosexuals. While Sally is far from challenging the current World Champion ISIS, she’s honing her skill set and could be a genuine contender for the championship belt in the future.

Last, but not least… Coming to us from the United States and Huntington Beach, California… He’s the new Western Division Messenger Champion, and a serious contender for god’s World Messenger Championship belt… Attorney, Matt McLaughlin. Matt recently took the title in a decisive victory over the 2008 champ, Prop 8, by submitting a ballot initiative titled the “Sodomite Suppression Act”. The act calls for summary execution of homosexuals:

“Seeing that it is better that offenders should die rather than that all of us should be killed by God’s just wrath against us for the folly of tolerating-wickedness in our midst, the People of California wisely command, in the fear of God, that any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.”

One Goal, Two Gods

As I read the articles and news posts about this Holy Trinity of Madness, I wasn’t surprised by the similarities between them as much as I was by the methods of execution. ISIS gets right to the point. Murder. Rep. Sally Kern, on the other hand, intimately massages the fears of the proletariat, and the legislative system, slowly manipulating the populace’s taste for vengeance. Then there’s the outlier Matt McLaughlin. Matt pushes a straight forward, no-holds-barred dictum, direct from the pages of “The Fundamentalist’s Guide to a Self-Righteous, Sanctimonious World View” (Bible) and proposes the “final solution”. In the end, the goal is the same. Purge the world of homosexuality. How the goal is accomplished is arguing semantics and blustering of hypocrisy. While the messengers will agree that homosexuality must be purged from the earth, how to get to that point is severely overshadowed by a fact that all three continue to ignore. Heterosexuals give birth to homosexuals.

Fundamentalism, regardless of the religion, is never a matter of degrees. It either is or isn’t. In the case of homosexuality, both the Quran and the Bible are explicit. Neither accepts it as a natural part of human sexuality, both consider it to be an abomination, and both prescribe the same penalty. Death. But, there are a host of other directives from the gods that go unenforced. In the case of christianity: shellfish, tattoos, burning of bulls in the streets… And my favorite, keeping the Sabbath. Anyway, back to homosexuals… One Goal, Two Gods. As for the Messengers…

Three Messengers

The messengers play a key role in the execution of the prescribed penalty for homosexuality, and the prescribed penalty is dependent on the current social and political climate of the culture that the message is delivered. In the western world, a little thing called democracy and the rule of law stands in the way. While “Freedom and Liberty for All” is just a catch phrase for fundamentalist ideologues, it actually means what it says in the eyes of the law. Well, at least most of the time.

Rep. Sally Kern (R)Rep. Sally Kern (R) of Oklahoma is a fundamentalist ideologue. Elected to represent her particular district, Sally’s goal of eradicating homosexuality is tempered by the fact that, while Oklahoma is a haven for bigotry and hate, it’s still a part of the United States and beholden to the Constitution. So, for Sally to deliver god’s message that homosexuality must be eradicated, she has to create an environment of fear through deception. Once the fear is firmly entrenched, she can then introduce legislation that assuages the fears of her constituency. Little by little, Sally slowly and methodically massages the electorate and the system, raising the level of fear each time, and introducing even more drastic legislative solutions to calm the fear.  She can’t challenge ISIS for the title –at least right now—because the democratic republic stands in her way. Is it possible that Sally embraces and approves of the way ISIS handles homosexuals? Given the theocratic nature of her political and social ideology, I’d be surprised if she didn’t secretly envision that solution. When the goal is the same, the method of achieving that goal is only a matter of how much fortitude one has to see it through.

The same applies to attorney Matt McLaughlin. His message is dripping with fortitude. Matt appears to support the ISIS methodology for eradicating homosexuality. He gets right to the point. But, once again, Matt is forced to work within a democracy and the rule of law. Therefore, his proposal has to be entered into the record and given consideration by the electorate. Of course, Matt doesn’t hide his intentions and goes right for the throat. He plays immediately upon the fear of god from the get-go:

“…offenders should die rather than that all of us should be killed by God’s just wrath against us for the folly of tolerating-wickedness in our midst…”

California-Ballot-Initiative-to-Kill-GaysThis, by far, is the boldest attempt at inducing fear in the electorate. It’s a straight up, no bull, god’s gonna kick our asses if we don’t kill these deviant bastards now vote on it, proposition! Matt’s not a politician, so he doesn’t have to worry about massaging the system like Sally does. And it’s clear from his proposal that he’d likely buy front row tickets to an ISIS event. To Matt, an ISIS event might be the equivalent of the Super Bowl. What baffles me though is that he’s an attorney. Maybe he thought all those classes dealing with the Constitution were just electives? Or, maybe he’s a corporate lawyer? I can only speculate.

Holy Trinity of Madness

Some of you will likely say that I’m comparing apples to oranges, that I am unfairly comparing Rep. Sally Kern and attorney Matt McLaughlin to the monstrosity that is ISIS. Really? All three seek the same goal. All three are working toward achieving that goal. They all agree that homosexuality is an abomination. The ONLY difference between them is the particular political and social system that binds them. The only thing that stands in the way of Rep. Sally Kern and attorney Matt McLaughlin, that keeps them from accomplishing the goal, is a democratic republic and the United States Constitution. Given enough latitude, and enough time to ramp up the fear, both of these zealots, along with many others like them in places of power, could conceivably succeed in having reason thrown off a roof. Once reason has hit the concrete and splattered across the rule of law, the crowd will gather, the stones will be handed out, the Holy Trinity of Madness will be united in their success, and they will have the power to force the world into total chaos. Praise god and pass the ammunition anyone?

#CrusaderWager Is A Sucker’s Bet

Posted in Uncategorized on February 18, 2015 by David 2

(The following is the Brutally Honest column for the week of 2/16/15 by David 2.  This article is re-posted with permission.)

#CrusaderWager Is A Sucker’s Bet
– by David 2

So Atlanta’s newer overpaid talking head has a challenge for people who don’t follow in lock-step with the conservative/neo-conservative script about Islam and violence.

Michael Graham is supposedly “sick and tired” about hearing people say that extremism itself is wrong and that it’s not just limited to Islamic extremism. He doesn’t want to hear that retort anymore. He doesn’t want to hear the truth. He only wants to regurgitate the same fascistic script about how “only Islam” has a problem with violence and how “only Islam” has radical extremists that want to do harm to America. Never mind the Christian extremists that have done harm in the recent past. Never mind the Coptic Christians in Egypt that give as good as they get in terms of extremist outrage. Never mind the conflicts between Hindus and Muslims in the border areas between Pakistan and India. Never mind any of that… it’s “only Islam” that matters in his mind. “Only Islam”.

Of course, Mister Graham is slick. He’s quick to quantify his “only Islam” assertion to events after 9/11. “Only Islam” in the Twenty-first Century. “Only Islam” in recent years. “Only Islam” in 2015. Never mind anything that happened before 9/11 that would stain any other religious beliefs, especially Christianity. “Only Islam” matters in his mind, and “only Islam” is what he pompously believes should be the only thing up for discussion. “Only Islam”.

Or as the late-great George Orwell would put it “We’ve always been at war with Middle Eastasia.”

So Mister Graham has this challenge called “#CrusaderWager”. Yes, it’s a “hashtag”… because, you know, propaganda has to be hip and current for it to be effective. It’s not just about regurgitation. Why do you think it’s called “TWIT-ter”?

Here’s the deal, should you agree to the mission: you agree to put aside $1 for every instance of Islamic violence in 2015. Meanwhile, Mister Graham would put aside $100 for every instance of violence carried out by any other religion in 2015. The “winner” is the person who has to set aside less money in 2015. If you win, Mister Graham donates his pot to the charity of your choice. If he wins, you have to give your pot to the Salvation Army. (After all, where do you think the “Crusader” part of the “wager” comes from?)

Mister Graham thinks that this will shut his critics up. And, believe me, there is a part of me that would love to take him up on that challenge simply on the thought that if I would win, he’d have to give his hundreds to the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

There’s just one problem with this “masterpiece” of a “wager”.

There’s no chance in hell that you could ever prevail.

And it’s not because he’s “right”. It’s because he knows something that the vast majority doesn’t.

Have you ever heard the media describe someone as a “Christian Terrorist”?

Go ahead and think about it. Go back to all of the acts of terror in the 90’s here in the US done by non-Muslims. All of the shootings and bombings, including the Olympic Park bombing of 1996. Have any of those been declared acts of “Christian terrorism”?

Think about the Anthrax threats of 2001 committed by people like Clayton Lee Waggoner. Even though President George W. Bush himself said that “anyone who sends Anthrax is a terrorist, and anyone who sends an Anthrax threat in the mail is a terrorist”, has anyone in the media or the federal government consider Waggoner to be a “Christian Terrorist”? No, of course not!

Shoot up a women’s clinic, and you’re considered an “Anti-Abortion Protestor” or a “Pro-Life Extremist”, not a “Christian Terrorist”. Even if you got your “marching orders” from a self-appointed Christian minister with a degree from “Ordained-dot-God” and said “Praise Jesus” as you pulled the trigger and then quoted scripture as you left, the media will never, ever, ever, ever declare you to be a “Christian Terrorist”.

Consider this: two men walk into two separate workplaces and commit the same horrific acts. One man says “Praise Jesus” as he does his bloody deeds, while the other says “Allah Akbar”. Would these both count as acts of terrorism?

No, they wouldn’t. Because while the “Allah Akbar” murderer would be instantly branded a terrorist, the “Praise Jesus” murderer would be written off as a “lone nut-case”.

How about the parent that quotes Scripture to justify killing their child versus one that quotes the Quran? Again, the Quran-quoting “honor killing” parent would count as part of that religious violence, while the Bible-quoting parent would again be declared a “lone nut-case”.

That doesn’t really help out in the “wager”, does it?

And that, I believe, is the point.

Let’s get brutally honest here… I firmly believe that the so-called “#CrusaderWager” is a sucker’s bet. Despite having a seemingly huge radio of 100-to-1 in your favor, there is no real way that you can prevail against Mister Graham’s assertion simply because there is this ongoing double-standard that negates violence committed by Christians and other religions and highlights those committed by Muslims.

Imagine what would happen if one of the TV stations – never mind a network news program or cable news channel – dared called acts of Christian terrorism for what they are like they do for acts of Muslim terrorism. That station would be besieged by angry phone calls and letters from every church group out there, from every old lady with a crucifix and rosary clutched in their hands, from every C-Street office and political action committee from the Catholic League to the American Family Association, and from every politician owned by C-Street. They would be told in no uncertain terms that the acts of Christian terrorists are “not those of true Christians”, and that “no true Christian would ever support or condone actions of violence”… even when there are biblical passages from both the Old and New Testament that say otherwise. They would be badgered into supporting the lie that “no true Christian” can do what Muslim extremists have done.

This ongoing double-standard is what fuels the continual diatribe by people like Mister Graham in their fallacious assertion that “only Islam” has a problem with violence. It not only conceals the past sins of those of other faiths, it also encourages even more Islamic extremism. We come off as pompous and hypocritical, which only inflame those that know our actual history. “Do as we say, not as we have done,” is the message we give. To borrow from the New Testament, we try to remove the plank from the eyes of our neighbors, while ignoring the whole woodshed that has been long nestled in our own eyes.

Oh there is a chance that Mister Graham could lose, but it’s extremely slight. If the Coptic Christians in Egypt are riled up enough, or if the tift between India and Pakistan heats up again, or if some religious group here in America decides to go nuclear over the film release of “Fifty Shades of Grey”, maybe then they will do enough damage to make Mister Graham lose. But it would take a lot. And it would also take the media identifying these incidents for what they are, which I doubt would happen.

Of course if there are no takers in Mister Graham’s “wager” – and I do hope that is the case – he will use that as his assertion that he is somehow “right”, and his associates and myrmidons will follow suit. “Take the challenge,” they will demand. “Prove him wrong. Put up or shut up.”

They can go to hell and take their rigged games with them. Their terms are not acceptable and they will not prevail in shutting people up who will remind them of the actual truth and of reality. They will only result in having two separate enemies against them instead of “only Islam”.

Hate Crimes and Atheist Murders

Posted in Politics, Religion on February 16, 2015 by RJ Evans

Chapel Hill Murder VictimsFrom contributor Ronald Bruce Meyer

News reports say that just after 5 p.m., on Tuesday, February 10, a 46-year-old white male, upset over improper parking by his neighbors, went to one of their Chapel Hill, NC, apartments and murdered the three people inside. Or, anyway, that’s the way the news media should have reported it. But, journalism being what it is today, never mind the factual narrative: the victims were Muslim, so it must have been a “hate crime.” The suspect described himself in his Facebook profile as a “gun-toting liberal” and an “anti-theist,” who vehemently condemned all forms of religion. And despite neighbors also saying “he hated everyone equally,” but that “He’s argued with a lot of people. Parking was a big issue,” the media went with the “hate crime” angle.

The family and supporters of the victims, not to mention the news media and the FBI, seem to want this triple murder labeled a “hate crime,” because of the religion of its victims—as badly as those who knew the shooter want suppositions about his motivations to be based on his “equal opportunity anger” toward his fellow apartment complex residents for their annoying parking habits.

Because the alleged shooter condemned all religions and claimed membership in an atheist group, pundits are already claiming this is a “wake-up call for atheists” and evidence of a dark side to atheism. Presented most forcefully by staff writer Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig in a Wednesday piece for The New Republic (2/11/15), this charge demands some reply because I have a dog in this fight.

So there you have it: a “hate crime” perpetrated by an atheist. I’m going to grant you the second point and then tell you why the first one troubles me.

Atheists, like me, typically spread their messages via blogging, books, lectures and videos, rather than bullets. But OK, let’s forego the “No True Scotsman” argument—the excuse that religionists use to distance themselves from their co-religionists when they misbehave—and agree, as I do, that the Chapel Hill shooter is a radical, militant atheist. So what? Did his group, “Atheists for Equality,” give him directions to kill Muslims? Did the pope of atheism preach a crusade against Muslims? Do the atheist scriptures contain commands to kill all believers? I’m going out on a limb here, but I think the answer to all these questions is no for atheism: These are actually common characteristics of religions. No popes, no scriptures: The only thing atheists have in common is disbelief in gods.

HateCrimes cartoonNow to the problem of “hate crimes.” The Muslim community in the U.S. has been marginalized and victimized in the past, but by no means more than similar communities in other Western countries: recall the Charlie Hebdo attacks, in which nobody even mentioned “hate crime” because the victims were white. You see, a hate crime is a crime motivated by enmity or animus against a protected class—and white, straight males are never a protected class. This means the U.S. Constitution’s “equal protection of the laws” has been tossed under the bus of political correctness—although it appears North Carolina never got the memo: they have no “hate crimes” statute. I predict that the pressure on law enforcement to declare this triple murder a “hate crime” will be unendurable.

I am troubled by the very concept of “hate crimes” (aka bias crimes) and the enhanced penalties they bring. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have “hate crimes” laws. Federal law can be used to punish crimes committed on the basis of a person’s race, religion, nation origin or other group membership—and this was expanded in 2009 to include perceived gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability. So it seems clear that “hate crimes” laws offer preferred protection to certain groups over others.

This troubles me for several reasons.

Designating a crime a “hate crime,” when it is already a punishable crime, gives the government the power to define protected and unprotected classes. It causes groups to feel persecuted by one another. It perverts the law into protecting groups rather than individuals. It fools people into believing our legislators are being tough on crime, when in fact they are manipulating identity politics. What is worse, it transforms violent crimes into thought crimes.

Michigan Democratic Congressman John Conyers, who was House Judiciary Committee Chairman from 2007 to 2011, put it this way, saying “hate crimes” “constitute an assault not against the victim, but against our communities and against the very foundation of Democracy.” But since it is not the victim but the state that prosecutes, isn’t every crime a crime against the community? And if the standard for justice is the thought or motivation behind the act, isn’t every crime a hate crime?

I know there appears to be this magic bullet that will kill all my arguments against “hate crimes” laws: what about the different degrees of murder? There has always been a difference in punishment between pre-meditated murder and random killing, even if the victim ends up dead in either case. But the traditional levels of culpability are (1) negligent, (2) reckless, (3) knowing and (4) purposeful. These categories describe the level of legal guilt for a crime, not the thought behind the crime.

This is the most troubling consequence of “hate crimes” laws: they trouble the concept of free speech: They lead inevitably to groups applying to have their critics silenced; that is, they lead to “hate speech” laws. This is especially true of certain Christian groups in the U.S. who believe, despite their overwhelming majority, that they are being persecuted when they see their privileged position threatened by equality. How is religious tolerance advanced by making crimes against one religious adherent more serious than crimes against another? And do we really want our government reaching into our minds when meting out punishment? Really? I think Westerners tried that once before: it was called the Dark Ages.

Sure, the punishment should fit the crime, but don’t we Americans trust our own legal system? Sure, the Chapel Hill murderer should be punished for his crime—for his crime, not for his thought. “Hate crimes” laws make us believe, and the news media to report, that our fellow citizens cannot be trusted with freedom of thought.

That’s why I’m having trouble getting my head around how treating one group better than another group can make us all equal. George Orwell warned against making certain words mean their exact opposite in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). But he said it explicitly four years earlier in Animal Farm (1945): “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Consider this: If those three Muslim students had been murdered by other Muslims, would it still have been a “hate crime”?

Murder, Hate Crime, Atheist

Posted in Politics, Religion on February 13, 2015 by RJ Evans

n-MUSLIM-FAMILY-MURDERED-large300Three young people were murdered in Chapel Hill, NC recently.  They were college students and muslim. The killer is openly Atheist and anti-theist. The victims’ families, in their understandable grief, are calling the murders a “hate crime”, a trumped-up, politically correct charge that takes an already heinous crime and attempts to amplify it. In this case, they are trying to turn Atheism and anti-theism into the motivation for the crime.  But, the facts tell a different story.

The Facts

First, the killer is known to have a history of anger issues regarding the parking situation in the complex where he resides. Secondly, someone at the complex called for a meeting to discuss the man’s attitude and demeanor over the parking issue. The killer complained a lot about parking and had many cars towed away. When asked if she thought the murders had anything to do with religion, Samantha Maness, a resident of the complex was quoted on News & Observer as saying he showed “equal opportunity anger”. Third, and not surprisingly, the killer’s Facebook page contains posts critical of religion. But there’s nothing that would indicate a propensity to commit violent acts against religious people. He writes of christianity, “If you plan to be enjoying heaven while multitudes are tortured … then you are as much a sociopath as the god that you worship,” and he describes religion in general as, “the world’s most successful pyramid scam.”

The Fallacies

This case is still unfolding as I write. There will be more to come I’m sure. What is evident right now is that this crime was indeed motivated by hate. It was hatred of people parking where the killer felt they shouldn’t be parking. And, even if this Atheist/anti-theist had been motivated by hate for religion, or religious people, this crime would be no more criminally vile than it is.

I’ve written about “hate crimes” before. And so has my good friend and blog contributor, Ronald Bruce Meyer (aka John Mill). “Hate Crime” is a fallacy. It’s a wave of the politically correct magic wand, creating a mind crime out of forethought to elevate the real crime to monumental status. It’s about trying to establish preferential treatment for a particular group in the eyes of the law, and/or an effort to silence criticism of that group. In this case, the victims happen to be muslim. But, even though muslims have been discriminated against in this country to one degree or another… To call this a “hate crime” is simply pandering to the politically correct. It’s murder. Plain and simple. Good people (by all accounts) were murdered by a guy who just happens to be Atheist/anti-theist, and whose real problem is anger management. Consider this… What group of people are best suited for media medallions and special treatment in the eyes of the law in order to soothe the cries of persecution by criticism, or to clear the conscience of those who feel perpetually guilty for everything: “Hate Crime” against muslims or “Hate Crime” against people who illegally park? Which one gets your attention? What reads better? What sells television and radio ad time better?

Silence!

In light of this terrible tragedy, the talk has inevitably turned to freedom of speech and the right to express ideas and opinions. In this case, it’s an opportunity for the religious to try to suppress and/or silence non-believers. The religious have always taken the position that criticism, mockery, satire, or anything that shows their religion in a less-than-flattering light, should be off-limits. Now, a murderer, who happens to be Atheist/anti-theist and is extremely critical of religion, has become religion’s poster-child for what they think a non-believer is. Immoral. Murderous. Evil. They will put anyone who criticizes them on parade, and point straight to this heinous crime and say. “See! I told you they were evil!” But, they really need to be careful about that. Their hypocrisy will always reveal their lies.

Passing The Buck

I’ve written about crimes committed by christians and muslims on this blog in the past. The one thing I have repeatedly stressed is that both religions make use of an unwritten, but tried and true, excuse for crimes committed by the faithful in their gods’ name. “They’re really not a true ________________”   Fill in the blank with christian or muslim and all is forgotten. It’s an excuse that absolves the particular religion from all manner of crimes and atrocities, even though a lot of these crimes and atrocities are written directives in their holy books. They are quick to pass the buck. Interestingly, a christian or muslim is probably reading this right now and is frothing at the mouth, waiting for me to use their excuse for this atrocious crime. Well, the buck stops with… The killer who happens to be a non-believer. Unlike christianity or islam, Atheism doesn’t have a holy book with directives to commit murder. Atheism doesn’t have a supreme deity. And when someone who happens to be a non-believer commits a crime they, and they alone, are responsible for their actions and must bear the consequences. Atheism has nothing to apologize for when it comes to these murders. Atheism is simply a lack of belief.

So where’s my moral compass on this tragedy? If you don’t already know by now…

Equality In Death

Posted in Politics, Religion, Science on February 10, 2015 by RJ Evans

2263909-death_skull_bones_image_31001“Now, don’t hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky. It slips away, and all your money won’t another minute buy…” Dust In The Wind – Kansas (1977)

The song played on the Craig car stereo system I’d installed in my 1969 Chevy Malibu. In between the rattles of everything loose, the rusted body panels threatening to abandon the vehicle, and the drone of my straight-through Thrush mufflers, my 16-year-old mind listened intensely to each and every verse. There weren’t many. But, they spoke to me. Somehow, I understood. It’s only in death that everything and everyone are finally equal.

There are too many people throughout the world that think they, or their particular tribe, are better than everyone else. Most are subtle in their self-righteousness, while others are outright belligerent and even violent. When it comes to race, politics, religion, or any other tribal mentality, deluded notions of superiority always weasel their way into the dialogue, dividing humanity and creating a cavern of festering bigotry. From generation to generation, the cavern is replenished with ideological dung, and those who tend to this pile of composted bigotry take great pride in their accomplishment. The true master, of course, of this composting process is religion.

Anatomy of Equality

Take a moment and Google up a human anatomy chart. Notice that there are no separate charts for Negro, Caucasian, Spanish, Asian, Middle Eastern, etc. There are no separate charts for Republican, Tea Party, Independent, Democrat, Socialist, etc. There are no separate charts for christians, muslims, jews, buddhists, etc. There’s just one chart for everyone. On that chart you will find muscles, bones, blood vessels, nerves, kidney, liver, lungs, heart, a brain… The human body is composed of pieces and parts that are the same from human to human. Now Google up photos of people that have died violently in car accidents, airplane crashes, war… Even though the method of the violent death may differ from situation to situation, the visual results are no different from the road kill you see on the highway. Animals are made up of biological pieces and parts just like humans. Because humans are animals. Humans are biological and subject to the laws of nature. Our level of so-called “intelligence”, touted to be superior to other animals, doesn’t disqualify us from the reality of death.

Religion wants us to believe that we can be disqualified from death, that the biological aspect of human existence is merely a container for our essence/soul/spirit. That’s why it pushes an afterlife. This afterlife is a form of immortality that requires the total separation of brain activity from the rest of the body’s biological functions. This is a feat of mental gymnastics that only religion is capable of performing effectively, with 10’s across the board. And, this belief is so destructive in nature that it is literally responsible for the premature deaths of hundreds of millions of people throughout human history. This deluded mindset also breeds a hostile tribal mentality that discourages living life to its fullest under threat of everlasting torment and pain, and the condemnation of anyone who attempts to separate themselves from the religious dogma.

Body/Mind – Death Doesn’t Care

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard religious folks talk about their existence in terms of separate body/mind. They insist that who they are is separate from what they are. They refer to this thing as separate from the physical processes of the body, and claim it to be their “soul” or “spirit”. There has been a great deal of debate on this subject, both in science and religion. But, it doesn’t take a scientist or a preacher to render a logical conclusion. You are you because of biological processes taking place in your brain, which is a part of your body and cannot exist without it. Period. Those processes are affected by everything your brain absorbs through your five senses and the nutrition required to power it. Input/Processing/Output. What you eat, the pills you take, the liquids you drink, the air you breathe, the things you see, hear, touch and smell… They all play a part in making you you. You can argue all you want that consciousness is extremely complicated (I’m certain it is), or that a deity bestowed it upon you (a bunch of bullshit in the face of what science has learned so far), but if you take a reasoned and practical look at the subject, you can’t ignore this fact: You can’t remember anything before you were born, and you can’t because you didn’t exist. And what is death? Non-existence.

We’ve all been non-existent. So, for all practical purposes we’ve been dead before. I’ve already heard the standard retort for death many times, “Well… You don’t know and I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out when we get there.” This declaration is nothing more than a spiritual placebo for the person who makes it. The fact is that everyone knows what death has in store for them. Non-existence. And, it’s our future of non-existence that pushes many ordinary human beings to manufacture all sorts of delusions in an effort to belay their fears of it. In the end (literally), death doesn’t care.

Nothing?

A former friend of mine (his choice) once argued that he couldn’t imagine living in nothing. Of course, he was assuming that he would be aware of what nothing was and that he could somehow experience it. I found this very amusing. Living in nothing? Really?! When there is truly nothing, there’s nothing to experience nothing with. For a lot of people this might seem really confusing. Let me give you an easy example. Do you remember the last time you slept through the night so soundly that when you woke up it was as if you’d just gone to bed even though many hours had passed? You didn’t remember dreaming, or anything about what transpired while you were asleep. Welcome to a simple form of nothing. Your brain gave you nothing. You weren’t aware of anything. Sure, your brain was still doing its thing, but your conscious mind was nothing. Shut down. Zip. Nada. No memories, no recollection of anything. Nothing. Any input from your senses was highly filtered or discarded. A form of nothing manifested through a lack of memories.

Nothing is many times regarded as a concept that can be experienced. But, this is false. Our brain requires reference points. Past and present. If we don’t have memory, our experience is only relative to the very moment we receive input from the senses. The brain must have data input and memory capacity in order to provide an experience.  If you can’t recall something – as far as your brain is concerned – nothing happened. And if nothing happened, then you don’t have an experience to reference. So, you get up, turn on the television or radio, or make a phone call… You have to find out what happened while you were in nothing, so you have something to take the place of nothing.

Now that you’ve had a chance to rattle your brain with something about nothing…

Equality In Death

Death is inevitable. How we die is irrelevant. How we live is important and is something that must be addressed. We must ask ourselves some hard questions. We are supposed to be “intelligent” biological beings. But what does it say about our so-called “intelligence” when we only find equality in death? Why do we waste our very limited and precious time separating ourselves from one another over dogmas that we won’t remember and won’t have any effect on us when we’re dead? We won’t exist. We won’t know we’re non-existent. There will be no you or me. There will be nothing. Our politics, our religions, our colors, our tribes will be irrelevant because we will be irrelevant.  Wouldn’t it be better for us as living beings to do something about finding equality while we are alive, and enjoying it because we can experience it?

Equality in death, just so many particles of dust in the wind.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 171 other followers

%d bloggers like this: