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.

ONE: Famine is the real F-Word

childWe are dedicating our space to a cause worthy of attention. Thanks, Bono and ONE for making a difference.

Drought is inevitable, but famine is not. The current crisis in the Horn of Africa is the result of a tragic combination of factors that are man-made, including abnormally high food prices, lack of governance and security in Somalia, and a historic lack of investment in long-term agricultural development in the Horn. Over the past few years, we lost the political will and public support necessary to prevent the famine – and its causes. As a consequence, tens of thousands of children have died.

We have also missed the opportunity to help 200 million people from poor farming families lift themselves out of poverty. Communities in Africa can cope with droughts and natural disasters. But we need donors to put resources toward seeds, irrigation and teaching farmers new growing techniques. We need leaders to invest in early warning systems and national social safety net programs.

Congress can help keep our commitment to farmers in developing countries by fully funding Feed the Future— a life-changing USAID initiative that is investing in long-term agricultural development and could help put an end to famine for good.

Please sign our petition to Congress calling on them to fund this vital program:

http://act.one.org/sign/hungry_no_more_us

Thank you!

Occupy Wall Street – Reclaim Our Independence

Only in America Can 1% Be The Majority

by David T. Bruce

occupytogether_poster07A small group of students are responsible for launching a campaign against the practices of Wall Street and the United States government, the fiscally brutal corporate tag-team that has launched their own campaign against the poorest Americans. In an Associated Press article, the events of the past two weeks surrounding the Wall Street Protests have been summarized, giving voice to the hundreds of citizens who are taking the time to exercise their power of speech during a time when millions of Americans feel powerless to do anything else. While the Republicans and Democrats continue pointing fingers at each other and the President (regardless of who holds the office), our federal government as a whole is demonstrating to an increasing number of American citizens that their health and welfare, their life and liberty, and their happiness mean nothing.

While 14 percent of Americans are relying on the food stamp program to feed themselves, the Republican Party is proposing for the 2012 budget plan that this program should be curtailed and restructured much in the same was as they are proposing to restructure the Medicaid program. Subsidies would be eliminated, replaced by federal grants. Capitol Hill has been relentless in their less-than-bipartisan efforts to shave billions of dollars from the deficit by cutting back on “entitlement” programs from the Americans who need assistance the most.

I am not writing of the small group of Americans who indeed enjoy taking something for nothing. I am writing of the Americans who have worked hard to build a life and raise a family and now find themselves without a job, without a home, and without money for food and healthcare – primarily because of a system that favored corporate greed and Wall Street corruption that led to a broken economy.  It is appalling that the government is cutting back on programs that these people paid taxes to help support while continuing to support tax breaks and loopholes for corporations and big oil.  I am writing of the Americans that are trying to get ahead and improve their lives but are trapped in a system that almost forces people to make less or go hungry, as food prices continue to rise.

While the Associated Press suggests that a clear objective is not apparent, the rallying cry is clear enough: “Occupy Wall Street is [a] leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that we are the 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.”

This objective seems clear enough.

It is blatantly clear that the 1% does not get it – or does not want to. The objective does not need to be detailed or obtuse. The plan does not need to have a laundry list of stake holders and varied implementation strategies. The United States Constitution is the governing plan for this country, and our current government officials have spent at least the past few decades manipulating and twisting the words of the Constitution to satisfy their (im)moral, corporate, and personal agendas.

We have a right to speak out against such corruption, and the protestors on Wall Street are doing just that. We must speak out with words, with votes, and with dollars that work in support of Americans, not for a political party.

We may not be at Liberty Square with the protestors right now, but we stand firmly with them in every way, as members of the 99% who will no longer tolerate the disintegration of America over the greed, hypocrisy, and the corruption of Wall Street, Congress, and corporations.

Every year, our government asks that we donate $3 to the Presidential election campaign.  The instructions for the 1040 form specifically state that “the fund reduces candidates’ dependence on large contributions from individuals and groups.”

Please.

Candidates do not just depend on these contributions. They thrive on them, and the companies and groups that make these large contributions thrive on the support that their candidate gives to their cause.

Our federal government, led by either party, has done little or nothing for us over the past few decades – and little or nothing to change what is broken within the system. What little they have done has been to further their own interests and that of the major companies that have been filling and continue to fill the coffers of our elected representatives.

If any taxpayer is at all compelled to check the box that allows candidates to have any more money, please give the money to Occupy Wall Street or similar movements. Give $3 to a homeless person. Help feed a neighbor. Those people are the Americans that are fighting for the rights of all Americans, and they do so without massive contributions or media attention.

Take heed, Wall Street. Someday – perhaps soon – American citizens will have nothing left to lose and will gleefully sit by and watch while your economic empire crumbles.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. – Declaration of Independence

Fighting for Peace Will Win the War on Terror

by David and Shadra Bruce

As we approach the date that marks ten years since the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on the United States, we are frequently reminded of the events surrounding the attacks.  The images that were dispatched on news stations for days and weeks afterward are once again being reposted and replayed on news stations and across the Internet.  We are reminded once again of that which many of us in all likelihood have tried to forget or have at least tucked away safely in the recesses of our unconsciousness.  Yet if anything contributes to future attacks on our country, it is this casual ability to escape reality that dooms us to imminent tragedy.

We can help ourselves prevent another similar disaster by remembering that the world in which we live is one that is not just a single vision but a blend of many diverse opinions and visions of what life means. Embracing all of these visions may not be the answer, but making an attempt to accept them might be the only way to truly heal from – and prevent a recurrence of – the events of September 11, 2001.  This does not at all imply that we must forgive and forget, but in order to truly heal from within, we must let go of hate for the benefit of ourselves as individuals.  Remembering does not mean we must revenge.

We heal inside and benefit from the understanding that extremism – in the name of any faith – corrupts the foundation and the chief intent of a belief structure.  Instead of waging war against other cultures and other faiths, determining by force who is right and who is wrong, we can opt to wage a war of peace that allows for the possibility that all of us may be right, that each of our visions demonstrates a measure of truth.

We do not profess to personally know what the truth is, if indeed there is one truth. Nor can we begin to imagine the horror of the events portrayed on the television, when compared with the horror which was truly experienced by those that survived the attacks.  We have felt the fear and the anger that most (if not all) Americans felt at the time of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  We will not pretend to put ourselves in their shoes.  Few of us will realize or even imagine what they suffered through to survive.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 have become a platform for others in their bid for political office. Yet the events of 9/11 and those victims and survivors of that tragedy are not the foundation for political gain. These events are not indicative of what any one official did or did not do to prevent the attacks or to facilitate recovery. The tragedy of 9/11 is symbolic of our perception of the world and our place in the global community.

While we mourn the dead, we must also take the time to cherish the living and to recognize the impact these events had on those who did not perish in the attacks.  So much time and energy is forfeited for those who are lost to us.  We as a people are not altruistic.  We do not grieve for their loss; we grieve for our own.  Some of us grieve because we were witness to the tragedy and must repeatedly relive the horrific events in our consciousness.

The story of Artie Van Why represents the tragedy that survivors endure as a result of the attacks of 9/11/2001.  Those who lost their lives are free; those that survived remain victims of terror.  Perhaps we can better serve the memory of those people who lost their lives by saving those who lived through the tragedy.  Perhaps we can help heal ourselves in this way, allowing the anger and sorrow to find expression in positive ways.

Rather than pay tribute to those who have lost their lives by seeking vengeance and taking yet more lives, we can pay tribute to those that lost their lives in the attacks of 9/11 by changing how we live today, by realizing the importance of living for today and for our future, as opposed to living in yesterday.

We tend to do that when we mourn: live in yesterday. Absolutely, we must remember those we have lost; we should not sacrifice today, however, in that remembrance, for sacrifice has already been made.

We cannot defeat terrorism with war and counter-terrorism, with anger and vengeance, with politics and gesturing. We must learn to look ahead with wisdom while cherishing the memories of the souls who have passed away and have moved on. We must seek peaceful coexistence and acceptance. Only in this way can we defeat terrorism.

For those that did not survive the attacks on 9/11, may they rest in peace;

for those that did survive, may we all find a way to live in peace.

The Rise of the American KGB?

statue_of_libertyAt the base of the Statue of Liberty, these words are carved in stone: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teaming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” It was this welcoming, open-door policy that made America the land that dreams were made of. There was no gatekeeper at Ellis Island who said, “Oh, we didn’t really mean that. Your skin is too dark. You have too many kids. You think differently than we do. Your religion is wrong.”

welcome-to-arizona
Source: insanepics.blogspot.com

But now we live in a society in which the state of Arizona can pass a law that allows any state or public official, including law enforcement, to request proof of citizenship from anyone they suspect of being an illegal alien. How frightening is it that we are regressing at such a pace and that so many fundamental rights that embodied the spirit of America are being systematically chipped away? The only way a public official or peace officer can suspect someone, at face value, of being an illegal alien is because of skin color. This law is discriminatory and targeted at specific populations.

Georgia (It is easy to get confused, but we are referring to the state  within North America in this example, not the country that was formerly part of the USSR) followed suit and passed a nearly identical law that gives a ridiculous amount of power to police officers to question any person about their right to be there based solely on racial profiling.  While we were born in America, as were our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, Shadra has dark hair and exotic enough looks that she would fear being a target should she happen to travel in Arizona or Georgia.

The current legislation by Arizona and Georgia suggests that in comparison the potential exists for citizens of the European Union to have more freedom to get around in their home countries, where the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights mandates that “profiling will be considered as discriminatory (and therefore unlawful) where police powers are exercised in relation to individuals and the only or main reason for this is their race, ethnicity or religion.”

This is the United States, and immigration and identification requirements should be addressed on a national level. We or no one else should have to carry a birth certificate to travel through Arizona or Georgia, and we or no one else should have to worry that our children might be targeted because of the color of their hair, the color of their skin, or what religious artifacts they wear.

And if we are empowering peace officers to determine whether or not someone should reside here, what’s next: Laws that prevent us from speaking out against the government or a majority religion? Will we someday have to show that we have been baptized into an acceptable religion?

According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, when the KGB started in what was the USSR, they were “responsible for foreign intelligence, domestic counterintelligence, technical intelligence, protection of the political leadership, and the security of the country’s frontiers.”  They evolved, however, conducting “most of its activities domestically, on Soviet soil and against Soviet citizens.”

With the growing fear of terrorism and the threat to entitlement benefits, the perceived duty to place blame or eliminate probable causes blinds us to the truth that we do not take to heart that all people are created equally.  Like the Communist administrations we condemned years ago for crimes against citizens, we tread dangerous ground when we propose that officials may essentially interrogate someone walking on the street with no more reason than a suspicion that someone may not have the right to be an American based solely on the way they look.

Memorial Day Means More Than Just Beer & Barbecue

by David and Shadra Bruce

memorial-dayMemorial Day is often marked as the launch of the summer travel season. Plenty of people are traveling (even with gas prices as high as they are) and sales of beer and potato chips give a little boost to the economy. But today is about more than backyard barbecues and three-day weekends. We mark this day on the calendar as a tribute to men and women who have served and sacrificed for our country. It is important to us that we take a moment to remind our kids why we take time away from school and work.

Memorial Day was created to pay tribute to those who have fought and died for these liberties, and it gives us an opportunity to remind our children and ourselves of why the United States is the country that it is. Citizens are encouraged to visit memorials and cemeteries, display the U.S. and POW/MIA flags, and pledge aid to disabled veterans.

The two of us love any excuse to celebrate, and we do enjoy the time we spend with friends and family on these days; however, those have served and given their lives are to be honored, and we don’t want that to be overshadowed by the fun. We don’t preach to the kids about the day, but we feel that their knowledge of why we have Memorial Day is very important. We talk to the kids and tell them why the day is significant; our hope is to fill them with pride and an understanding of our nation’s history. Our children, and we as a family, enjoy the holidays we celebrate as well as a multitude of privileges. We travel, we enjoy the outdoors, we enjoy music and movies, we laugh, and we play. Easily, we could forget why we have these privileges, and many of us do.

Debates rage worldwide regarding the actions of the United States over the past decade. As well, our kids are aware of our ongoing frustration with the political climate in this country as some of our rights begin to feel infringed upon. We teach our children that it is okay to question and express concern. Our right to debate this (or any) issue is as important, if not more important, than the debate itself. We teach the children that they are free to disagree with our government’s actions and that the power they have as citizens is in the right to assemble and the right to vote.

Regardless of how we feel about the actions of our government, we teach the kids that those that have enlisted with any branch of the military are fighting for them; they are fighting for us; they are fighting for their country. The soldier’s place is not necessarily to debate; their place is to defend. Many have lost their lives doing so. This is the point we try to make with our kids on Memorial Day.

Politics do not have a place in our home on Memorial Day. In our minds and in our hearts, this day is for those that have fought and died for everyone in the United States, regardless of politics or religion. This is not the day to debate just or unjust causes. This is not the day to debate government policies. This is the day to celebrate our nation and our heroes. More so, this is the day to remember . . .

Coexistence Requires a Leap of Faith

by David T. Bruce

btn_peace_relig_symbls_275Recently, my wife’s sister decided to compel her school-age children to regularly attend church, and she wrote about this new practice and the motivation for doing so on the blog they host together. It was a bit of a revelation in itself; neither my wife nor her sister ever attended church as children. When I first read this article, I brought my own bias that renounces organized religions and the implication that if a person or a culture does not subscribe to the idea of a singular faith, then that person is of questionable character. After reading this article to its conclusion, I found my bias to be unfounded.

Faith by definition suggests that we believe in something without substantial proof that it is real. Spirituality asks us to submit to the possibility that what defines mankind is not necessarily of a physical nature. These two concepts are frequently used in tandem to imply that the only way to understand their meaning is by being of a particular faith or being spiritual; in other words, a person must be religious and go to church to understand.

Exploring faith and spirituality is laudable, and the journey is always a personal one. Society in general, however, places emphasis on organized religion. If a person does not go to church, that person is typically considered godless and immoral. As Tiana discusses in her article, we do need to give direction to and instill faith in our children. This does not necessarily have to happen under a steeple. If this works for the individual or the family unit, no one has the right to speak against them. Of course, being a part of the majority, the choice of the individual to attend a church typically goes uncontested. Those that opt to worship in their own way or choose not to worship at all are sometimes silently and often publicly condemned by society – sometimes by those same people who claim the cloak of faith and spirituality.

None of us are immune to religious prejudice. We may giggle in regards to a particular idiosyncrasy of a given faith we find absurd. Many of us, me included, did more than raise an eyebrow in respect to the recent announcement of the end of the world. If we take a critical look at ourselves, however, it’s easy to see that our approach to the fringe sector of society that embraces Rapture is no more productive than when the majority of society perceives atheists as sacrilegious. What harm would come to pass if each of us let one another live by the principles of their faiths, stipulating that we do not go out of our way to injure one another?

Above all else, I have faith in the belief that all of us as individuals inherently love our families and neighbors. I have faith that we emotionally and physically cringe when others are hurt. Reflexively, we want to help when people are suffering due to acts of violence or as a result of a natural disaster. The awareness of the difference between good and evil is intrinsic among all cultures.

This faith in the good of man is what we should bring to our children and those around us. This faith is what we must foster. Whether we choose to adopt a religious practice or frequent a church to foster this inherent sense of compassion is, as I say, a personal choice. In the end, how we choose to communicate this sense of compassion does not matter, as all religious faiths ultimately seek and speak to this common moral value.

Whether a person is an atheist, agnostic, or of a Jewish, Christian, Hindu, or Muslim faith (or a denominational fragment thereof) is, on a global scale, insignificant. What our hearts and minds commit to in terms of our inherent love for one another is what binds us together culturally and spiritually. We can affirm this faith by attending church if we choose, but a daily belief in and understanding of other forms of belief and other ways of exploring spirituality is paramount in realizing what it truly means to coexist.

We must all explore our faiths in the way that each of us finds most agreeable, while letting others do the same – even, and perhaps especially, when their ways differ radically from ours.

We can instill this same sense of compassion and understanding in our children, and this is a journey we can all embark on and benefit from. We do not need to force our religious principles upon others, for we are all on the same journey. Not one of us is spiritually better than another, and if there is an end, we will all meet whatever, wherever and whenever that end may be.

History of Nuclear Weaponry Has Us Glowing – with Anger

by Shadra Bruce

nuclearIf the US had spent half as much money taking care of its people as it did developing and testing weaponry, we wouldn’t be worried about debt ceilings and deficits and poverty right now. This is sad. Perhaps Star Trek has it right – we aren’t going to learn anything until we blow ourselves sky high and have to start over from some small camp in Minnesota.

Make Every Day an International Day of Compassion

by David T. Bruce

Image courtest of Baby Boomer Yearbook
Image courtest of Baby Boomer Yearbook

Inspired by Dr. Patch Adams, today has been set aside for bloggers to unite for compassion, with the hope of eclipsing the pervasive global violence that has become a staple of our collective cultures.  Following in the footsteps of the Dalai Lama, the impetus for this movement is to encourage each person to show compassion for another.  The Dalai Lama said that “true compassion is not just an emotional response but a firm commitment founded on reason.”  He also said that “our prime purpose in this life is to help others, and if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”  If we are to learn anything from this movement, it should be that if we embrace this sentiment, we can all show compassion, at least passively.

Much of the momentum behind the writing in Ethical Revolutionist is a response against the aforementioned violence that is most often justified by religious or corporate dogma.  Our various cultures (the United States included) strike or condemn in the name of God (or other deity); we colonize other lands under the guise of guardian; we extract and extort from one another to acquire various resources.  These are not compassionate behaviors.

Without argument, our society has been wronged.  We have been unfairly attacked and judged.  We have responded accordingly, understandably with a combined measure of arrogance and dignity.  I do not suggest that we should turn the other cheek, nor should any society that has been unjustly mistreated.  Justice demands to be served, and honor needs to be satisfied.  Such is our nature.  At the same time, we must choose at some point to embrace other cultures, setting aside our differences, allowing others to live their lives as they choose.  And if we cannot embrace them, at least we should not deface them.  This is compassion.

If we cannot walk outside of our homes and help one person with an act of compassion for whatever reason, we can choose to not hurt a person.  This is compassion.  “If you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”  Yes, we are currently locked in a dogmatic, moralistic confrontation with various political and societal constituents of the Middle East.  At one point, however, do either of our cultures or both of our cultures make the choice to leave the other to live as they choose, keeping our opinions and our ways of lives to ourselves?  When and how do we decide to stop? Such a choice is a show of compassion.  We will truly follow in the footsteps of Dr. Patch Adams and the Dalai Lama when we choose every day, not just today, to at least not hate if we cannot love.

The late Leo Buscaglia, a professor at the University of Southern California, once said:

I believe that you can control your destiny, that you can be what you want to be.  You can also stop and say, No, I won’t do it, I won’t behave his way any more.  I’m lonely and I need people around me, maybe I have to change my methods of behaving and then you do it.

We cannot control the destiny of another; we can only control our own destiny.  Compassion starts with each of us.  Today is a good day to start.