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.

Big Oil Subsidies Squeeze the Middle Class

by David T. Bruce

oil_earthIn a recent Congressional debate, the majority of Republicans argued that the five largest oil companies were entitled to a $2 billion annual subsidy to offset the $35 billion they earned (?) in the first quarter of 2011.  One particular senator sarcastically stated that making money in America must now be unacceptable, specifically targeting the Democrats’ proposal to eliminate these subsidies.

According to a recent article in The Washington Times, wages in America are up 1.7%, whereas the rate of inflation is up 2%.  Statistically, households with the lowest income in the United States spend approximately twice as much on food, relatively speaking, as households with the highest income.  Obviously, the dramatic increase in the cost of fuel limits the spending power of the average American.  It is estimated that the tax cuts recently approved by Congress will be absorbed by the increased cost of gasoline.  Yes, apparently making money in America is indeed no longer acceptable . . . unless you live and work on Capitol Hill or unless you are a CEO or COO of the aforementioned oil companies.

Recent polls show that public opinion in favor of Congress is significantly low.  According to recent Gallup polls, Congress has achieved an approval rating as low as 13% over the past year.  If this is indeed the case, then perhaps as a society, we should consider placing more emphasis on the state representatives we elect and less emphasis on the executive office that is often provided with speed bumps and road blocks by the opposing party anyway.  We must give careful consideration and close scrutiny to those people we elect at the state level, who are charged to represent the interest of their constituents.  Right now, many representatives seem to represent only the interests of the oil companies (and other major industries) and by extension their own individual interests, forsaking the interests of those that elected them to office. For example: the only three Democrats to side with the Republicans in the Oil Subsidy vote were from Louisiana, Nebraska, and Alaska, all big oil states.

The greater majority of the voting public has not made a substantial living in years.  While our government bails out the banking industry and subsidizes the oil industry, that which is left of the middle class struggles daily to raise a family and support their communities, as they slowly merge with the lower class.  How can the majority of Republicans dare to compare the plight of the average American with that of the incomparable benefits that the corporate giants enjoy with the blessings of Congress?

In fairness to Congress, we as a society share a measure of responsibility in creating this dependence on fuel.  Many Americans insist on the value of SUVs, 4X4 pickup trucks, and similar gas-guzzling automotive apparatuses.  We are not sending the message that we care about fuel consumption, fuel waste, or the environment.  We continue to put money into the coffers of the oil industry instead of alternative energy sources.  We continue to pursue off-shore drilling instead of cultivating wind farms or solar power.  We can respond to the oil companies by supporting alternate energy options, and we can respond to our representatives by sending them home.  Maybe then they will understand what it really means to not make money in America.

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.

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

An Unrealistic Vision of Reality

by David T. Bruce

911As on the day that al-Qaeda terrorists took over 3,000 lives, my heart today – the day that Osama Bin Laden, the founder and leader of the al-Qaeda was assassinated in response to these attacks – goes out to the family members who mourned the loss of those they were close to.  Maybe today they will find some peace of mind, some peace within.  I truly hope they do.  For the rest of us, I worry.

Those families who lost loved ones sought justice, at least in an honorable sense.  I struggle within myself as to what the rest of us America sought.  Is our pride so easily wounded?  Our response to the successful attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (and the failed attack on the White House) was a knee-jerk reaction.  Up until the terrorist attacks on our country, we lived behind a veil, submersing ourselves in “reality” shows, living a fantasy funded by credit and caprice.  Al-Qaeda opened our eyes to true reality.  This reality, however, is not one that can be turned off or pre-empted.

While we can enjoy a measure of success and comfort in at least incapacitating the Al-Qaeda by permanently removing Bin Laden as the head of the terrorist organization, we are foolish to believe that we have stopped al-Qaeda or any other extremist group.  Like the multi-headed Hydra, a new leader for al-Qaeda will replace Bin Laden, and the cycle of events pitting one ideology against another will begin anew.

We must ask ourselves “what have we gained by assassinating Bin Laden?”  Outside the Capitol, citizens chanted “USA, USA,” reacting to the news they had heard about the death of Bin Laden.  How is this different from the throngs of people in the Middle East who cheered at the collapse of the World Trade Center towers?  Do our different ideologies, religions, skin color, or clothes make us all that different?  We are all still human, and the taking of any life diminishes us as humans.  The celebration of taking a life strips us of our souls.

Hypocritically, to some extent, I do feel a sense of relief that this chapter has come to an end.  Almost ten years to the day that Americans were reminded that they were a part of a larger community, we may enjoy some closure.  At the same time, I feel a sense of apprehension that we will again become complacent, retreating into our “reality.”  Will we learn from this chain of events?

The al-Qaeda will not turn the other cheek, and their convictions will carry them into the future.  We must adapt to this reality, not necessarily fighting a war that we cannot win by conventional means, but instead living cautiously, with our eyes wide open instead of wide shut.  We do not need to remain on the offensive to remain safe; we do have to safeguard our home by adopting a lifestyle and strategy that deters future terrorist attacks.  We have Guard and Reserve units who may best serve their country at home, not in the Middle East.  By conducting ourselves proactively instead of reactively, we stand the best chance of winning the war against terrorism every day.