The Divided States of America

by David T. Bruce

No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

~ John Donne

broken-u-sTraveling from Bath, New York to Seaside, Oregon and back again, exploring many points on the map in between, our family had the opportunity to discover the diversity of the United States. The spectacular shifting landscape was a constant reminder that Americans enjoy a variety of terrain: prairie, grassland, mountains and coastline. As we made our way to our destination points, my wife and I frequently prompted our children to set aside their music and their reading, directing their attention to the passing scenery. While Yellowstone National Park’s geysers and hot springs, Mount Rushmore, and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis are alluring and obvious tourist attractions, the uncluttered, panoramic scenery that is America is equally stunning.

Our primary motivation for launching this partial tour of the United States was to visit friends and family from whom we have been separated for several years. However, the variety of people we met and the communities we passed by or visited along the way were as notable as the landscapes and the monuments of the country. Most of the people we encountered were friendly, making us feel welcome in their communities. There were also a small number of people who were quick to judge us because of where we were from, treating us rather offensively.

Part of what I tried to understand is that a bias preceded us based upon where we lived: New York State. At the same time, the oftentimes pervasive judgments hurt. We were trying to make friends across the country. We were trying to share a part of ourselves in the hopes that others would do likewise. Apparently, the social and political gaps that exist in our country are wide enough that bridging them is tricky.

In addition to those preconceptions we encountered, separating one community and one state from the next were billboards and other assorted signs that pronounced (or denounced) a particular faith, political party or leader. These public notices were not offensive, but they were suggestive in their proclamation that deviating from the given belief structure was inadvisable, or at least something to be kept hush-hush.

Coming into an election year, it occurred to me why we as a nation are so divided at the polls. What was evident from one part of the country to the next was the impression that each state or community was an island onto itself. Pride in ones self and in ones community is certainly commendable. I think we all have pride in where our respective families and cultures are rooted demographically and historically. The danger lies in cultivating a social environment rooted in self-importance.

Our nation has become one in which it is not enough to have the right to live as we want to live. We have become a nation in which many of us seek to stifle virtually any word, image or idea that is remotely opposing to a given vision of what may be defined as the truth. Political correctness has somehow become an expectation. Voicing new ideas or contrasting opinions has become at least something considered unethical, if not immoral or deviant.

I would like to think that our family has left those we met with a warm feeling and a positive impression of people that call New York State their home. We certainly enjoyed visiting the home states of others, finding that we have more in common than not with people across the country. Perhaps this election year, we may all benefit by focusing on those commonalities, without placing emphasis on what makes us different. We as a people are becoming too divided, and we are being diminished as a result.

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.

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.

Why Abortion Must Remain Legal and Accessible

by David and Shadra Bruce

Mike Pence is anti-womenWe have put our support behind continuing to fund Planned Parenthood, and behind defeating H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” Regardless of anyone’s personal views on abortion, we remain firmly on the side of not having Congress legislate morality or interfere with a woman’s right to control her own body and her own life, and that is really what this bill and many of the others the Republican led House is pushing. We support the organization Stop the War on Women.

While the Republicans have removed the components from the bill (for now) that redefine rape [due to the enormous backlash] and back-pedaled on defunding Planned Parenthood, the Republicans are systematically making calculated moves to negate women’s rights by several decades. The only reason they are attacking Planned Parenthood because of 3% of their services are related to abortions and too many people are blindly repeating the rhetoric without even thinking about what this could mean to women’s rights, equality, and body control.

We are pleased to present this guest post that talks specifically to this issue.

Guest Contributor Corey Nasman

I’ll support Planned Parenthood especially because they offer that 3% service. There are plenty of situations where people are perfectly responsible but contraception is not perfect. There are also many situations involving rape where pregnancy is a result and NO woman should be forced to carry the child of the attacker. Even in cases where people are not safe, no one should be sentenced to something they aren’t ready for.

I know of too many situations where fetuses were kept and the lack of freedom to choose (mainly from overly zealous religious families or domineering boyfriends) resulted in women’s lives being, essentially ruined. Once the sperm leaves a man’s body he relinquishes his rights to anything resulting from it, so I am a firm believer that this is a fundamental right for a woman and what I see happening in this country saddens me.

People have become obsessive and crazed over so many things that don’t concern them. If people focused more on themselves, this would be a much happier country to live in. Unfortunately, far too many take it upon themselves to dictate what is right and wrong for the whole of society based purely on a religious basis and that just isn’t fair. No one searches for understanding. I challenge you to find one woman who is happy to consider an abortion. Most are probably scared to death, but the alternative is worse regardless of circumstances. And worst yet is that a woman who does have an abortion will more than likely be labeled as careless/irresponsible/slut/murderer for the decision. Yet the guy who knocks someone up is a ‘stud’.

When you sit back and think about the difference between being a man and a woman and it’s f’ed up how men are put on pedestals and women get totally screwed, yet again, when it comes to law making, work environment, pay, etc…

In most work places if a man and a woman gave the exact same sales pitch I guarantee the man’s will be given more validity simply for the reason that he is a man. Though nothing I’ve said, as a man, will amount to a hill of beans to anyone else, I would urgently ask men to reconsider what right they have to tell a woman what she can/cannot do with her body. Boys, we already make 25-30% more than the ladies, isn’t it time we give them a break? Unless one is against women working too… If one isn’t, will one get in the picket line to get them equal pay? It may seem that I’ve gone off on a tangent, but trust me, it’s all very deeply intertwined and the way things are looking, the future doesn’t seem to bright if we continue on current trends.

Abortion is not a flippant decision or topic. The need to control women NEEDS to stop. Services provided by organizations such as planned parenthood are ABSOLUTELY necessary in this country and if a situation occurs that results in an unwanted pregnancy, and it doesn’t directly involve you or your partner, I would urge you to not take away someone else’s freedom for the sake of your own beliefs and values. And please think twice before labeling someone who has gone through an abortion. Until one has literally walked in their shoes with the same set of worries and fears in their minds, one has no right to judge. There is a serious and ever-growing need of empathy in this country.

If you are interested in contributing to Ethical Revolutionist, please contact Dave and Shadra Bruce at daveandshadra@yahoo.com

America – A Dream to Some, A Nightmare to Others

by David T. Bruce

dc-3My family and I just returned to our small village after spending four days visiting Washington D.C.  During our visit, we enjoyed the exhibits of a few Smithsonian museums, and we toured the obligatory streets and malls of the district in which resided the various presidential monuments and federal buildings, to include the Capitol and the White House.

Admittedly, I felt a sense of awe as we entered the District of Columbia via the George Washington Memorial Parkway and saw the Washington Monument behind a screen of haze and setting sun.

During our stay, I rekindled fond memories of the Apollo lunar program, satisfied the child within by exploring decades-old pop culture artifacts, and explored the history of the area that is our nation’s capital.

As a parent, I patted myself on the back for fostering the development of my children, introducing them to a history they had only skimmed in a text book or glimpsed in a Hollywood movie.  At the same time, as a citizen, I became more cynical as each day passed.

While the architecture is beautiful, the streets are clean and well cared for, and the transportation system is exceptional, I became increasingly sensitive to the disparity between what the District of Columbia represented versus what the reality of America is for the better share of the population of this country. While our family toured a region of America symbolic of freedom and democracy, our Representatives and Senators, perpetually embroiled in a debate over how to spend tax payer dollars, were gridlocked to the point in which the government is at risk of being shut down.

As I conclude this writing, the two disparate halves of our government have somehow come to a consensus that allowed for the budget to be passed and the federal government to continue doing business. Of highest concern, however, are those items that contributed to the heated debate: budget cuts that most affected elderly, disabled, and low-income Americans.  At the same time I and my family contribute tourist dollars to the District of Columbia economy, as our elected representatives and their families enjoyed the luxury of private schools, exceptional transportation, and an environment in which money is obviously no object, at least half of our nations representatives had the impudence to propose cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and Planned Parenthood programs, directly affecting those who have little or no means to help themselves.

While the federal government proposes that funds be cut from the budget that, funds that support the elderly, disabled, and low-income citizens of America, and as the federal government proposes that states and the private industry (entities who are already in financial distress and have shown themselves to be incapable of providing adequate, affordable services) take over programs for the same, our government has exhibited little or no concern for these that have, as I say, no means to help themselves.  Those representatives that have raised their hand in support of such measure should be ashamed.

As an American and a father, I too feel shame, as I lead my children around a part of American they should be proud of.  Instead, these monuments and museums become mere shadows of what was and what could have been.  Today, there is to evident truth that all citizens are created equal.  Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are for those fortunate enough to be young, healthy, and God-fearing.  As a nation, we must come to grips with the reality that we will not survive as a nation divided.  At some point in time, we must all realize that “live and let live” means we must embrace our neighbors and offer a helping hand regardless of where they come from or where they are born.  Our government must begin to set the example by cutting the budget for everyone, by living within their means (as families do across the country), and by showing compassion for those who do not enjoy a fraction of the American dream that they do.  If America can spend in excess of $100 billion per year to take away lives in Afghanistan and Iraq, then perhaps they can spend at least that amount to help promote the health and welfare of America’s elderly, disabled, and low-income families.  The American dream is becoming a nightmare for many.

Religion Does Not Equal Morality

I am troubled by that kind of willingness to pass judgment based solely on religious differences.

by Shadra Bruce

love-1221444_1280Our daughter is a college student and a part-time employee at a fast food restaurant. While at work the other day, she and a co-worker somehow got on the subject of religion. My daughter is an atheist. She does not believe in any god; she does not go to church. When one of her co-workers heard this, he confronted her and told her that her choice was wrong, that one had to be religious in order to be moral.

We have raised our children to have open minds and to be tolerant of others no matter what kind of belief system they have. We have taught them that they need to make good choices, be honest, and treat others kindly—not because their god demands it, but because that is what human beings do. While we have not raised them with a specific religion, we have encouraged them to explore all religions and to choose a path that is most meaningful to them, and we support whatever path they choose to follow as long as they are truthful to themselves and others and treat people with decency.

Kira may not always consider herself an atheist. She is only 19. She has a lot of life experience yet to gain. Luckily, her co-worker is also young. Hopefully he will learn that people are more than their faith.

The hypocrisy of this situation is that the message of Jesus was one of tolerance. My daughter is not immoral. She does not treat people badly or judge them for having a different set of beliefs than her own. She treats people with kindness, making friends easily and helping others in times of need.

I am troubled by that kind of willingness to pass judgment based solely on religious differences.  I believe that this willingness to judge those who are different from ourselves is what has brought us to the point of warring against each other instead of treating each other like global neighbors. Regardless of individual belief, we are all one society of human beings, sharing one small planet.