The Patriot Is a Scarce Man

“In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, brave, hated, and scorned. When his cause succeeds however, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.” ~ Mark Twain

by David T. Bruce

dissent_fb_picYou know, I don’t often speak out in regards to what are often perceived as social injustices, but this seems like a proper time to do so, maybe because I feel so passionately about the direction I see our country taking in regards to foreign and domestic policies.

I served my country. I was a member of our military forces, and I served with pride and distinction. I served more than others, less than some, and I do not pretend to have sacrificed of myself in the same way that those in combat have. But I do feel that I have perspective.

I do not regret having served during a time when I believed that the causes that we were fighting for were just. But we are not always right. And I don’t think what we are right now. Our country is run largely by career politicians who do not give two shits about you, me, or the world we live in. We have a citizenry being brainwashed to believe that simply because we protest, we are not patriotic. We are led to believe that because we choose to protest our government, we are damning its citizens and our troops.

Personally, I have a great deal of respect for those who choose to defend our country. But I have a great deal of disrespect for a government who turns a blind eye to the fallout associated with sending our troops into conflict for causes that are essentially self-serving, without a means to defend themselves, and without a support system in place when they return home.

I have a great deal of disrespect for local, state, and federal governments who fail to see the injustices served upon citizens of our country simply because of their skin color or their choice of religion. When did it become okay for rogue officers to take the law into their own hands? When did it become okay to openly and passionately discriminate against an entire race because of the actions of a relatively small percentage of radicals? Or has it always been this way in the United States?

Do we truly believe that when calling out the behavior of one, we are condemning an entire lot? As a society, I suspect many are comfortable with the idea of deporting an entire population of Muslims because of the actions of a few. Yet we bristle when one officer is condemned, for fear of bringing shame to an entire force. It is for the sake of the majority that we must single out the one.

Frankly, I’m ashamed. And I’m angry. I’m also proud that one man recently decided to protest these injustices by protesting at least the symbol of what our country is supposed to stand for. Our soldiers serve to give everyone the right to peacefully protest in the manner that suits them, not one that suits the majority or one that the majority finds least offensive. No one has the right to tell us when and where and how we choose to protest our government. And don’t you dare tell me that I am less of a patriot because I dare to stand up to a government that is slowly but ever so surely becoming corrupt.

The historian and playwright, Howard Zinn, (who served during the second world war) said that “there is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.” Many innocent people are dying and the shame belongs to each of us. Perhaps that is why I feel I must speak out.

Just Say No to Government Bullies

by David T. Bruce

Schools across the United States have adopted anti-bullying programs, and many school districts have reported varying degrees of success in minimizing bullying in their schools. Virtually all of us have been witness to, victims of or perpetrators of bullying. And even if all schools have not found success implementing programs that curb bullying, at least awareness about bullying has been raised across the nation. For those students who may look or behave differently than their peers, there is support. This is a good thing.

However . . .

erIf a student happens to be gay or lesbian (or even perceived as such), that student is still more likely to be bullied than another student, with almost two thirds of students expressing concern for their safety in school as a result of their sexual orientation. And three fourths of teens in the LGBT community have acknowledged being bullied as a result of their sexual orientation, with little or no intervention from teachers or school districts. And while the verbal and physical bullying cited in these reports is most obvious, perhaps the most prevalent bullying is of an indirect nature.

Indirect bullying – a more covert type of bullying that often goes unseen and includes excluding people from social groups – not only prevails in our schools but in our society as well, and if we are going to eradicate bullying in our schools, we have to eliminate bullying in our society as well, starting with our government leaders.

A civil rights battle is currently being waged throughout the United States, as state governments wrestle with the social, ethical and religious implications associated with allowing LGBT couples to wed. While some government leaders have opted to bring down the barriers that prevent couples marrying regardless of sexual orientation, others choose to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples, thereby excluding them from a particular social group. To be blunt: this is bullying.

Most recently Utah Governor Gary Herbert has announced that he will not recognize same-sex marriages recently married in the state, even thought the U.S. Constitution affords gay couples equal protection under the law. This is not the example we should be setting for those students whom we are telling that bullying is unacceptable. How can we hope that bullying will be eliminated from schools and that students will grow to see the worth in all people, while a governor indirectly bullies a group of people because they do not fit his social, ethical and religious schema? There are enough bullies on the playground. We don’t need them in our government.

Perhaps the U.S. Can Save the World by Starting at Home

by David and Shadra Bruce

So, the issue, then, is that the Syrian government allegedly used chemical weapons against its citizens. President Obama has been quoted as saying that the use of such weapons would cross a “red line”, prompting intervention by the United States. But does it make sense for our government, or any government, to respond by taking more lives?

And seriously: The Bush vs. Obama debate is old. Who knew what and when is irrelevant. Both men allegedly had America’s best interests at heart at one time or another, and the only interests that they or our government have demonstrated is that of corporate and offshore interests. Both Bush and Obama are cut from the same cloth, and instead of renewing this debate every time a domestic or global incident occurs, it may make more sense to address the larger issue.

foreign-aid-definition-wileyGranted, a government killing its own citizens with chemical weapons is a crime. But how is killing additional people more acceptable? The true crime is that millions of people will find themselves displaced while governments engage in a global pissing contest. The true crime is that millions of dollars will be spent on killing more people (just to make a point) while simultaneously sentencing people in America to death for lack of food, shelter and health care. The money spent on global conflicts could be spent on taking care of the poor and elderly in America. This is not about Bush or Obama. This is about a government as corrupt (if not more so) as the one we broke ties with over 200 years ago.

We have spent over $4 trillion on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Instead of spending money on killing more people, what if we used this money on providing aid to Syrian refugees? What if we used a fraction of that money to affect repairs in the countries we have scarred with our search for phantom WMDs and war criminals? A more aggressive stance in terms of sanctioning governments who fund Syria may prove more affective, less deadly and less costly.

We do not need any more wars. We need to take care of the people here at home. We need to focus on strengthening the economy. We need to focus on our veterans and saving lives, not putting more soldiers in harm’s way. We need to make sure every American has access to healthcare. We need to address poverty and the growing gap between the poor and the rich. We need to humble ourselves enough to realize that we are not the country that can save the whole world any more. War – any kind of military action – is not the answer in Syria or anywhere else in the world.

Haven’t we had enough of the political and military grandstanding?

 

Credit Debt is the Enemy of Financial Health

by Shadra Bruce

Living in debt has become the norm. Credit has involved into one of the most profitable industries in the country. Credit card companies in particular prey on those who are least likely to be able to repay their debts as well as those who feel they must have what they cannot afford.

There is no doubt that accumulating credit debt is the enemy of financial health. Creditors make it possible to live above our means, spend what we don’t have, and create an illusion of wealth.

The path to true financial health begins with seeing through the illusion of credit.

  • We have to start changing the way we look at how we accumulate stuff. We must begin changing the reality of wealth in America.
  • We can’t lease BMWs when all we can afford is Hyundais
  • We can’t buy 50-inch big screen TVs with credit cards when all we can afford is 22-inch
  • We can’t charge $8,000 vacations and hope we get them paid off before we plan the next one
  • We have to change the way we live.

erCredit debt is the enemy of financial health.

The items you have hold no value because of the money you now owe (and the interest you now pay) to have them. You might have only charged $4,000 on your credit card, but if you make minimum payments on a card with 18% interest, you will end up paying $25,010 in interest – and it will take you 40 years to do so.

It is impossible to be financially healthy when you rely on credit. The steadily increasing rate of debt is part of why we were unable to survive the housing collapse and the recession.

To truly gain financial health, credit debt can’t be a part of your life. Any purchase is less inexpensive when it is done without loans or credit, avoiding the interest rates and fees. By living within your means rather than above them, you will be in a position to create financial health.

  • Live simply
  • Live within your means
  • Barter and trade
  • Ignore marketing ploys designed to part you from your money and make you want things you don’t need
  • Work only enough to survive; thrive by volunteering, being part of your community, and encouraging sustainability
  • Get rid of the extra cars, cable subscriptions, unlimited cell phone plans, and unnecessary debt
  • Pay off your credit cards and stop using them unless you pay off immediately what you charge
  • Leave big banks and move to credit unions
  • Donate extra money to Rolling Jubilee to help others
  • Teach your children to be smart consumers and self-sufficient citizens
  • Grow as much of your own food as you possibly can

Changing the Reality of Wealth in America

by Shadra Bruce

There was a time when we thought the growth would never stop. The housing market was thriving, jobs were everywhere, and money was plentiful. Unfortunately, we forgot that the economy is cyclical, and many of us did not realize (or did not pay attention to) how precariously we were balanced on the brink of ruin.

We pushed the limits of the American Dream, convinced that we needed to own more and more, bigger and bigger.

The United States  is considered one of the richest countries in the world, but underneath that thin sheen of wealth lies a thick layer of poverty. Even those considered part of the ever-dwindling middle class often have no source of savings. The American Dream evolved from the big house and the white picket fence to a big screen television and a BMW.

We have officially reached our spending limit, and the only direction that remains is down.

It is time to wake up and see reality.

Everything happens in cycles, and we are in the midst of the biggest financial crisis that this country has experienced since the Great Depression.

As a society and as individuals, we forgot how to be frugal. We love to have, and none of what we desire was or is sustainable. Middle-class America bought more house than they could afford, and now many are stuck with homes that will never regain their value. There are difficult choices to be made.

Our resources, both natural and artificial, are exhausting themselves.

 It’s not too late.

We haven’t completely failed yet, and we still have the means to recover. The biggest change that everyone must undergo is to realize that it is not about how much you earn. You have to change your mindset, because it’s really about how much you spend.

It used to be simple to have a home, buy a car, and to buy everything that piqued your interest. Everyone had lines of credit, because we never dreamed that we wouldn’t be able to fulfill our debts. But with nothing to fall back on, things have to change.

The reality of America’s wealth is that it is incredibly superficial.

You must start by clearing away the illusions and realize that the way forward begins with being smarter with the money you have now and realizing you don’t need to have it all.

  • Live simply
  • Live within your means
  • Barter and trade
  • Ignore marketing ploys designed to part you from your money and make you want things you don’t need
  • Work only enough to survive; thrive by volunteering, being part of your community, and encouraging sustainability
  • Get rid of the extra cars, cable subscriptions, unlimited cell phone plans, and unnecessary debt
  • Pay off your credit cards and stop using them unless you pay off immediately what you charge
  • Leave big banks and move to credit unions
  • Donate extra money to Rolling Jubilee to help others
  • Teach your children to be smart consumers and self-sufficient citizens
  • Grow as much of your own food as you possibly can
 
 

 

 

Is the Right to Bear Arms Automatic?

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

by David T. Bruce

guncontrolThe Second Amendment to the United States Constitution supports the necessity of a disciplined and prepared military force as a means to protect and defend each state. To that end, the Constitution provides that people will have the right to keep and bear arms.

This right has become a mantra for firearm enthusiasts; this right has become a refrain is boisterously sounded as a defense for owning assault weapons. Our federal government has been largely elusive in terms of how our society should manage the sale of guns and the expectations of gun owners. As of the end of 2012, there are “no federal laws banning semi-automatic assault weapons, military-style .50 caliber rifles, handguns, or large capacity ammunition magazines, which can increase the potential lethality of a given firearm.”  As well, Congress has allowed assault weapon prohibitions to expire.

Our representatives continue to dodge the issue while American citizens continue to dodge bullets.

The issue of gun control cannot hinge on the Second Amendment. Each year, our love affair with guns earns firearm manufacturers over $1 billion and costs our society over 30,000 lives. In 2010 the CDC estimated that 30 homicides were committed per day with guns, and while this number is on the decline and varies based on the statistics used, this cannot be considered tolerable.

The word “change” is thrown about on both sides of the political aisle, and we are told that change is inevitable at home and in the workplace.

Rules change as we grow up. We cannot effectively throw a temper tantrum to get our way. Rules that once applied when we were two years old do not hold true when we are twenty years old; the same can be said for our nation as it grows up. The rules set down by the authors of the Constitution reflected the world in which they lived. They did not – nor could they – conceive of the world in which we live today.

Is it not possible that “arms” may refer to bows and arrows, knives and spears, as well as muskets?

Is it reasonable to expect that each of us has the right to own a semi-automatic or automatic weapon?

Do we put our own lives and the lives of our families and neighbors at risk by clinging to this expectation?

Many people argue as to why the Second Amendment was drafted and worded the way it was. Unfortunately, none of us were there, and it seems that the best way to interpret the intent of this particular right is to apply it to modern times.

Can we, in good conscience, argue that the founding fathers of our nation could foresee the availability and proliferation of modern weaponry?

Do we need arms for reasons other than providing food for our families and protecting our homes?

I am not suggesting that our rights should be taken away; I am suggesting that there are some rights that we do not have to begin with.

Preserving our rights is paramount, and any discussion related to reinterpreting, modifying or amending our amendments guarantees to raise eyebrows and cause frustrations on all sides of the issue. By lumping all guns together under one amendment, however, we invite disaster.

Forget statistics; look at the facts.

We do not need semi-automatic and automatic weapons in our homes and in our neighborhoods.

We need a well regulated militia; we do not need mercenaries.

We have the right to keep and bear arms; we do not have the right to define “arms” as we see fit.

The Second Amendment is not at risk; human lives are.

For a variety of interpretations and a broader perspective about the Second Amendment debate, take time to read this interesting examination and analysis of the Second Amendment, authored by Professor Eugene Volokh.

Image source: WorldMeets.Us

Through Which Lenses Do You See This Small World?

by Shadra L. Bruce

ethicalrevolutionist_thelensthroughwhichyouseetheworldWhen I wake up each morning, I am blind until I grope for my glasses and get them on my face. Then everything sharpens into focus. In much the same manner, the way we look at the world around us is skewed by the lenses we wear to see it. If our lenses are colored with personal history, religion, or indoctrinated culture, it is impossible to see things clearly…we see them through thick lenses that skew reality.

None of us can be perfectly free from the skew of our personal lenses; we all have prejudice or bias. I have a very personal bias that I have a difficult time overcoming regarding Mormons. Personal experience has colored my perception; my father’s family is Mormon, but my father is not. He was at certain points in life quite vocal about his rejection of the faith, and my mother  even more so.

Then we moved to Idaho.

For those who believe Utah is the Mormon capital of the world, I truly believe that Idaho (at least in the 1980s when I was in school) was worse. The first question I was asked as a new and frightened 5th-grader at the elementary school I was enrolled in was, “What Ward are you in?”

I didn’t know what a Ward was, which of course made it clear that I was not Mormon. Being non-Mormon in Idaho in the ’80s was in many ways a hellish experience. Non-Mormons were often ostracized, not just by the students but by the Mormon teachers and counselors. We were a tiny minority.

My experience going to school in a predominantly Mormon society has colored my perspective. It’s a lens I have a difficult time shedding, even though many of my own Mormon family members have shown that it is not always that way. My uncle and my grandma are devout Mormons. My uncle has served as a Bishop and as a youth leader. He is strong in his faith, yet he never judges me or my family for our different beliefs; he welcomes us into his home; he treats my children with love.

Does my experience with Mormons color my view of Mitt Romney? I’m sure it does, and probably unfairly so. I wish I could peel off that particular lens to have a clearer view of the man and his potential as a leader. I am working to do that, and recognize in hindsight the many Mormon kids I went to school with who were nothing but kind and friendly.

But I also realize that the color of Obama’s skin has created a lens through which many see him as well, and I wish that they, too, could remove that lens and see him without it.

Our country, it seems, is confined by the lenses through which we see the world. None of us have been willing to look with open and clear eyes at the issues, recognize the need for compromise, and do what is best for the country as a whole. Whether liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, Christian or Muslim, or something else entirely, we all need to take a step back, remove our respective lenses and see the commonality among us. Regardless of our individual paradigms, we are all parents who care about our kids, kids who love our parents, sisters and brothers and aunts and uncles, and above all HUMAN BEINGS.

Disney has been warning us for decades: “It’s a SMALL world.” And the only way we’re going to get along in it is by making the choice to be not just tolerant of our differences but to embrace the diversity that makes all of us stronger.

We Shouldn’t Have To Buy Our Freedom

by Shadra L. Bruce

ethicalrevolutionist_buyfreedomThis country builds its values on freedom, but the only people who are free are the ones who give the “system” the finger and literally follow their own agenda. The only freedom we have as Americans is that we get to pick who tells us what to do. Let me explain.

The American dream: get an education, get married, buy a house, build a good career, have kids, buy toys, retire comfortably. And everything in this country is set up to support that dream, to funnel us as zombie-like slaves into corporate servitude, to encourage and enforce (and reinforce) reigning social values, by offering tax breaks for getting married and having kids, to entrap us with promises that if we just work hard enough, we too can be rich (all the while offering a mind numbingly below-par, over-priced education to ensure that we stay as sheep-like as possible).

What if you don’t want to live in the American rut? Everything – every law and societal attitude – attempts to force you into a lifestyle indistinguishable from anyone else’s: stay in one place, work at one job, and raise your kids to become the same mindless robots you become, kids who will ultimately believe in and reinforce the same system.

Imagine living in a society where the Earth is still appreciated, where people appreciate and respect each other, and where a person is truly free. People work to meet their needs and wants; that used to be about 8 hours a week. Now it’s 40-60, or more. We work, we eat, we sleep and we try to squeeze in a little fun.

Does that seem wrong to anyone else?

I think things really need to change. Peaceful revolution. Whether we evolve into small, self-sufficient, self-governing communities, or simply wipe the political slate clean and choose our representatives from among real people and not wealthy, out-of-touch imbeciles, I don’t know.

I understand why others look at Americans and think we are pigs. A good majority of us are greedy, gluttonous and hard-hearted; overweight, undereducated and lazy. We’re materialistic and demanding, and we all want something for nothing.

And it’s never our fault.

And yet, this is the only country where the potential for improvement is so possible. It has the POTENTIAL to be fantastic. I love being an American. The ideas America were based on are glorious. But politics corrupts men – hell, politics corrupts the Boy Scouts of America. And instead of a country of the people, for the people, and by the people, we have a country of political pigs getting rich off our growing poverty.

It disgusts me that in a country of freedom that touts itself as the greatest country in the world, children starve, people graduate from high school without being able to read and we can’t live peacefully with people of different cultures and beliefs.

How far down the wrong path are we willing to go before we make the effort to change? Who cares if children starve, if crime does pay, if politicians are greedy, lying, pigs? Most of us have it easy – and actually contribute to the greed with our materialistic demands – so why would we want it to change? Just don’t mess with our evening TV programming, OK?

Listen to your heart, your gut, and your brain – whatever part of your body you trust in an emergency. Listen to it. You should hear sadness, the lost soul, the warning that you’re on the wrong path. You feel the danger of doomsday (and not in any biblical sense).

Right now, we worry about the wrong things and don’t care about the important ones. Who cares who is having sex with whom? It doesn’t matter when we’re all going to get screwed by the government and by the freedom rhetoric. You want to be free? It IS possible.

You know what traps us all? Credit. Because we all want more than we can afford, we extend and overextend to the breaking point. On paper, we might look like the asset column is running ahead of the debt column, but it simply isn’t so. But there is comfort and security in the rut, and that’s why we’re stuck. Until enough people are willing to see past their own big screen TVs to see true reality, nothing will change.

Modern-Day Pirates

Modern-Day Pirates

by David T. Bruce

We no longer hear because we no longer listen.
We no longer see because we no longer look.
We no longer wonder because we no longer care.
Deaf and blind are we.

Driven by greed,
we plunder for wealth.
we have lost much more than we have gained.
The true riches of life will not be found at the supermarket or in a mall.
Perhaps it is better to be dirt poor than filthy rich.

Behind a child’s eyes is the wonder of living,
the grandeur of being.
Capture that state!
Not another plot of land,
not another concrete possession,
not another way of life!

Value that which is yours by birth,
not that which you have bargained or looted for.
Of all the treasures we may covet,
our souls – our essence – are our most precious jewels.