There is a problem with black culture

black-lives-matter

There is a problem with black culture.

You probably instantly assumed that I am racist because I said that – a white dude making a blanket statement that there is a problem with black culture. Here, one sentence in, is where we need to make our first differentiation.

If I say that there is a problem with black people, then that is a racist statement. It makes an assumption based on race. If I say that there is a problem with black culture, then I am condemning an idea, a viewpoint, and a mindset. There is literally nothing racist about that – it defies the very definition.

There is a problem with black culture for several reasons; however, the core problem can be boiled down to a single issue: it assumes that blacks are treated unequally if they are not treated with privilege. It denies the existence of a universal, blind standard by which everyone deserves to be treated, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, or creed. That standard is the foundation of justice and of equality. Whenever one people group demands that they be treated as above the standard, or outright denies that that standard exists, there is a significant problem which cannot be overcome as long as that viewpoint is held.

A few weeks ago I was part of a discussion on a forum at a university where I used to teach. The subject of the discussion was people of color (POC) and white privilege. The viewpoint that was almost universally held by those representing the POC stance was comprised of two positions:

  1. That people of color were institutionally repressed, and that white people couldn’t possibly tell them they weren’t because white people didn’t know what it was like to be a POC.
  2. That white privilege exists universally for all white people, and that no matter how many exceptions that were pointed out (e.g., all of the white people on the discussion board talking about how they were paying for college themselves, how they had worked since they were 13, came from poor backgrounds, et cetera), the POC were able to see white privilege in everything white people had and did, even if the white people didn’t see it themselves.

The level of intellectual dishonesty here is astounding. Here was a group of people simultaneously claiming that POC knew exactly what it was like to be white, even to the point of claiming that the white people themselves didn’t understand it, while simultaneously invalidating any white opinion because they didn’t know what it was like to be a POC. When I pointed this out, you can probably guess what the response was: I was labeled a racist.

When I inquired into the justification of how people actually came to believe this double standard, the answer was a reference to what was currently being taught on the university in social science classes. Apparently it was being taught that white people couldn’t possibly experience racism because racism, at a definitional level, could only be experienced by those who had traditionally been oppressed. The fact that all people groups have been oppressed by those of other races at some point in their history aside, this is mind-blowing. The concept of racism had been removed as an objective standard (i.e., racism is when discrimination occurs based on race) and been replaced by an entirely subjective standard (i.e., racism can only be experienced by POC at the hands of white people). One may be tempted to laugh at the sheer absurdity of this viewpoint, but you would quickly be sobered when you see tweets like this:

blm-tweet-1

blm-tweet-2

blm-tweet-3

blm-tweet-4

blm-tweet-5

blm-tweet-6

blm-tweet-8

blm-tweet-9

blm-tweet-10

blm-tweet-11

The worst part is that none of these tweets fit the current definition of racism as it is currently taught in America, even in institutions of (supposed) higher learning.

The Black Lives Matter movement has given these people a voice, and it is within this movement that we find some of the starkest examples of what is wrong with black culture. For example, watch what happens when someone proposes that Black Lives Matter in a white neighborhood, and contrast that to what happens when he holds an All Lives Matter sign in a black neighborhood.

The worst reaction he got was a dismissive, perhaps even disrespectful, laugh when he held the BLM sign in a white neighborhood. The typical reaction he got in a black neighborhood by even proposing that all lives were equal was repeatedly being physically attacked. This double standard, this denial of an objective reality, is at the heart of the problem.

Blacks have been oppressed. So have whites. So have Native Americans, and every single other race in the history of the world. To assume that systemic racism must exist because it once existed is the epitome of ignorance, and no conversation about social justice can progress until an objective standard with equal and universal standards is acknowledged.

 

Vulnerable

The response of the body and the soul are the same
To gird self with armor, to flee from the shame
The scars form without, to protect the within
I rip off the callouses, again and again

My natural instinct, not feel pain more than once
But my deepest desires are more than my wants
I will not grow dull, to a pain stricken world
A white flag of surrender, I slowly unfurl

The wisest of counsel, to remain not exposed
My invulnerable cloak feels its death throes
For I will not feel dull to the hurt all around
Mail and plate are removed and thrown to the ground

Here I stand, full exposed, and naked by choice
That the world for a moment may hear my small voice
You may be alone – I’m alone here with you
Stricken, wounded, abandoned…but now there are two

I’ve one life to live, this the life that I choose
Reaching into the tempest, that I may be you.

-Jason Crathes

Peace on Earth

The relationship between Pakistan and India is one of those classic global rivalries which is defined by hate. They absolutely despise each other. Picture the Iron Bowl, Egg Bowl, and the Civil War; Batman versus Superman; Red Sox and the Yankees – all rolled into one. It ain’t pretty. So check out what Coca-Cola did:

Did you notice the line where they said, “We have this perception that that’s the bad guy, but when they actually meet them they realize, ‘you’re just like me’”? What a profound statement.

Congress’ approval rating dropped to 11% in the past few months, and it’s been in the single digits within the past couple of years. You would think that, with those kind of numbers, the leadership in Congress would cycle out regularly; however, that’s not the case. When you take each individual politician’s election results those numbers jump substantially: “From 1990-1992, Gallup asked Americans this question eight times, with approval ratings ranging from 49% to 66% and averaging 58%. In a lone 1977 reading, 55% of Americans approved of their congressional representative.”

For example, these are recent matchups in approval ratings:

Approval ratings
Congress: 15%          Speaker of the House John Boehner: 67.2%
Congress: 15%          House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy: 74.8%
Congress: 15%          House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: 85.1%
Congress: 15%          Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid: 50.3%
Congress: 15%          Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: 60.2%

The story doesn’t change when we look at the Congressional rank and file, either – you know as well as I do that an incumbent has a significant reelection advantage over a challenger even when 85% of the country swears to hate them. Why?

Easy. Because the nation doesn’t reelect these folks – their own constituents do. Now all of a sudden the really ugly dog is YOUR really ugly dog, and now no one wants to shoot it. The opposite is equally true: when we don’t know someone it is incredibly easy to assume they’re wrong because we can deny that the face we see on TV and in the newspapers doesn’t belong to a person; we know it belongs to a human, but if we can deny that individual’s personhood then we can hate them unconditionally.

Nationwide approval rating of Nancy Pelosi’s job performance: 15%
Local approval rating of Nancy Pelosi’s job performance: the other 85%.

Coincidence? Absolutely not.

There are two principles at play here: ownership and understanding. When something is ours all of a sudden it becomes unique. No parent in the history of mankind has ever acknowledged that they have an ugly baby; sure, they’ll acknowledge that ugly babies exist and they’ll even be happy to point out a few, but theirs will never be one of them. Misbehaving pets only belong to other people. Messy houses are where other people live. There’s even a Proverb that mentions how someone talks down about a product… until he buys it. Then he goes and brags about it to anyone who will listen.

This concept of ownership applies even when it’s not necessarily something cute or good. If you’ve ever taken a CPR course you know that you’re never supposed to shout “Someone call 911!” because if you do, no one will call. You’re supposed to pick someone out of the crowd, make eye contact, and point at them while saying “YOU! Call 911!” Study after study has shown that when someone knows they have personal responsibility for and ownership of the task, they’re much more likely to accomplish it – even if they don’t have a phone, they know it’s their job to find someone who does and pass off the ownership of the task to that person.

The second principle at play is understanding. Stephen Covey, in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, stated that one major objective we each should have in life is to first seek to understand, and then to be understood. When we engage with other people, cultures, and philosophies, it changes us. We begin to see things from their perspective as we seek to understand their point of view – this is why the harshest judgment always occurs in bubbles.

I’ll never forget the first time I watched We Were Soldiers and the movie was dedicated, in part, to the Vietnamese soldiers against whom the battle had been fought. That blew my mind – here were two units who were literally trying to kill each other, and in the aftermath told the story with respect and dedication for their former enemy. Why? It’s because of the shared perspective, the understanding, and even the camaraderie of having experienced that hell together.

Want peace on earth? Pursue engagement. Understand the other culture. Seek to understand their history, their culture, their religion, their geography. It’s incredibly ironic to me that neocons and liberals alike decry libertarians as isolationists when it’s the latter who are against sanctions and unjust wars, while Republicans and Democrats alike engage in relentless pursuit of policies which simply divide us. There’s a gulf of difference between “non-interventionism” (i.e., it’s not my job to walk into your house and tell you how to live your life) and “isolationism” (i.e., I don’t even know who you are and we won’t talk at all). For example, if we simply took a moment to try to understand why Iran hates us, it might drive a 180 degree change in our foreign policy.

When we finally realize that each of us owns the world just as much as the person across the globe; when we owe “them” as much understanding as “they” owe us; when we realize that individual Americans are no more and no less special than any other individuals on earth – perhaps we’ll start to see what peace on earth looks like.

Peace on earth

Peace Officers versus Law Enforcement Officers

Let me start by saying that the calling of a police officer is an honorable one. It is one which calls an individual to step in front of violence, mayhem, and disorder to protect others. It’s one which, in its most vulnerable sense, may call its proponents to lay their lives down for others. This notion is inherently honorable; in fact, Jesus (the very source of love) had this to say:

“Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Like any other manifestation of government, however, policing is simply a tool – and it’s a tool which can be used for the wrong ends. In fact, every single dictator in the history of mankind has used the tool of a police force to deny basic human rights and to oppose every single honorable possibility we just outlined. Police, like the governments they represent, have historically always eventually been used to perpetuate evil rather than good. That is a reality and a responsibility that every police officer must be aware of, lest they unwittingly allow their actions to be corrupted by the assumption that whatever they do is for good because they think of themselves as good people.

It’s the same struggle I faced every morning when I put on my military uniform – the knowledge that if I did not force myself to think, to act, and to live in a self-controlled, intentional support of the Constitution then my actions will unknowingly work against the high ideals espoused in that document – in fact, unquestioning support of our troops does more harm than good.

The mindset of the average police officer is incredibly important, then. Consider the stellar example of the Iceland police who, in 2013, killed the first man in the history of the nation’s police force. The killing was justified and, unfortunately, unavoidable. Such is the occasional nature of police work, and it’s a sad reality. However, reflect on what happened next:

“The police department has already apologized to the family of the man who died — though not necessarily because they did anything wrong.  ‘I think it’s respectful,’ Arnorsdottir (news editor at RUV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service) says, ‘because no one wants to take another person’s life.’”

Contrast that response to this:

One of the interesting things that I see stated among police officers and their family/friends frequently is the mantra that “nothing is more important than returning home safely at night.” With all due respect, no, it isn’t. If that was literally the most important thing, then police officers would be accountants. While being a police officer is hardly the most dangerous profession in America (it doesn’t even crack the top ten, and being a grounds maintenance worker is statistically more dangerous), it certainly has legitimate risk of injury and death associated with it. But police officers will (or at least, they should) tell you that the reason they do the job they do is because they believe in a greater cause; that they are doing their part to build a better community. The good cops will also tell you that, if necessary, they’re willing to sacrifice their lives in pursuit of this. If that is truly the case, then the safety of a law enforcement officer (although incredibly important), is not the most important thing. It’s secondary to an officer’s duty, which is protecting and serving the community by creating a better peace.

In fact, police officers used to be known by the moniker of “peace officers,” and now they’re known as “law enforcement officers.” The difference between these two concepts is key. The first phrase encapsulates an overall goal, an objective; it then empowers the officer to use his discretion to pursue the means necessary to achieve a better peace. Under this mantle the officer is empowered to use discretion (and occasionally may have a moral mandate) to, on occasion, not enforce the law. The law is a blind, blunt instrument and becomes good only when wielded by moral people exercising good judgment.

The latter phrase encapsulates not a goal, but a method – one which, practiced unquestionably, is both blind and dumb. Most LEOs I’ve spoken with cannot articulate the reason for many laws against victimless crimes; this doesn’t imply that they’re stupid people at all; it does imply that they’re probably just as unaware as the rest of us of how strictly enforcing tint laws or filling speeding ticket quotas creates a better peace. They can probably explain in detail how those actions fall under the category of “law enforcement,” however.

When the primary objective becomes simple law enforcement, and the most valued objective becomes an officer’s safety, you see things like this:

NYPD attempted to arrest Eric Garner for selling loose cigarettes and avoiding the tax on them. The actions demonstrated by the police officers in the video certainly fall within the realm of “law enforcement,” and the fact that at least eight officers are assisting with the arrest definitely underscores the mindset of “officer safety first,” but did what happened here serve to, in any way, create a better peace? Unfortunately no, and this is something we’re starting to see more often.

“Policing” is an action, and it is what police officers do – but that, in and of itself, doesn’t tell us anything (one can “police” the floor for trash). “Peace” is an overall goal. “Law Enforcement” is mindless use of force or the threat of force to require compliance with laws one may not be able to explain or justify, and without a moral reason and compass, power is bound to corrupt. One example would be civil asset forfeiture.

Until we demand that our police officers act as peace officers rather than law enforcement officers; until we demand an accounting of the laws they enforce; until we support them in that pursuit, we will continue to spiral downward into an abyss of compliance with laws we disagree with written by politicians we don’t know for purposes we cannot understand. And that is our fault as citizens.

Comply or Die

My Qualifications

Donald Trump has certainly incited a firestorm during this election season. One of the most controversial stances he’s taken, at least as far as those on the moral right are concerned, are his blatantly unapologetic amoral or even immoral stances. There are a lot of things Trump has done wrong – and he’s unabashedly proud of them.

In the face of this I’ve seen multiple posts from Christian friends talking about how voting for Trump is a sin, how we should never put a sinner like this in office, how he’s completely immoral and better than that, et cetera. Many of these people proposed candidates they viewed as more moral, who didn’t have the completely checkered past of Trump. I saw this tongue-in-cheek status the other day as it popped up on my Facebook newsfeed:

Moral President

Thankfully, the person who wrote this is a guy, otherwise I wouldn’t support it (#NoBeardsForWomen). He’s also one of the most stellar folks I know, so if you recognize the quote, know this is no critique on him – but it did get me thinking: what if I were to write about my qualifications?

Long stream of consciousness aside, I can’t think of a better description than one Jeremiah already penned in Lamentations 3:

I am the man who has seen affliction
    under the rod of his wrath;
he has driven and brought me
    into darkness without any light;
surely against me he turns his hand
    again and again the whole day long.

He has made my flesh and my skin waste away;
    he has broken my bones;
he has besieged and enveloped me
    with bitterness and tribulation;
he has made me dwell in darkness
    like the dead of long ago.

He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;
    he has made my chains heavy;
though I call and cry for help,
    he shuts out my prayer;
he has blocked my ways with blocks of stones;
    he has made my paths crooked.

He is a bear lying in wait for me,
    a lion in hiding;
he turned aside my steps and tore me to pieces;
    he has made me desolate;
he bent his bow and set me
    as a target for his arrow.

He drove into my kidneys
    the arrows of his quiver;
I have become the laughingstock of all peoples,
    the object of their taunts all day long.
He has filled me with bitterness;
    he has sated me with wormwood.

He has made my teeth grind on gravel,
    and made me cower in ashes;
my soul is bereft of peace;
    I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, “My endurance has perished;
    so has my hope from the Lord.”

Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
    the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
    and is bowed down within me.

Aside and apart from the fact that I’d never consider running for President (I’d like to think that I both have a soul, and that I’d like to keep it), I don’t have any moral high ground to stand on. Unlike how Trump sees his life, I look back on mine and I see a long string of failures. I see people whose hearts I’ve broken, whose feelings I’ve crushed, whose friendships I’ve abandoned, whose loyalties I’ve betrayed. Unlike the Christians whose words I’ve read, I don’t have any flawless redeeming qualities: I’m not one who hasn’t known failure, who has escaped unscathed from the morally perilous areas of life. I’m scarred; I’m bruised; I’m utterly broken. I am one who has tried hard, again and again, and I bear the marks of my failings. When I look in the mirror I see none of the pride embodied by both Trump for his immorality and most Christians for their morality.

But in His mercy, God doesn’t let the chapter end there.

But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.

I think on the long string of “losers” God has redeemed throughout history: David, “the man after God’s own heart,” was an adulterer who murdered his best friend to cover it up. Elijah, one of only two men to never die, wanted to commit suicide. Peter, the Rock on which God built his church, abandoned Jesus in his hour of need and denied ever having met him. Paul, the greatest missionary the world has ever known and the pen God used to write half of the New Testament, was an arrogant asshole and a murderer.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you know that I usually don’t address the issue I’m writing about, so don’t confuse this post as any kind of vindication or conviction of Trump or anyone else. I’m using the issue to illustrate something else.

Pain - Tozer

Have you noticed that all of the best stories ever written have one central theme? It doesn’t matter if it’s a war story, a love story, or a drama; it could be a comedy or a tear jerker, it could be written in any of a hundred different languages; it could be set in any time period of human history – the central theme of every story worth hearing is redemption. Every story that ends in hope does so because it communicates in some way, to some degree, that in the midst of everything that makes us unlovable, we can possibly be loved. There’s something universally true about humans, and it’s that in our most base state, at our very core, we recognize the need to be redeemed.

Christianity isn’t about perfection – it’s about redemption. It isn’t about having your shit together and only then turning to God – it’s about recognizing that we’re utterly worthless in and of ourselves, that we have no redeeming qualities… but in the midst of that state bereft of worth, Jesus loved us anyway. Hebrews 4 talks about Jesus as our high priest, and it has this to say about him:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Someone once said that the epitome of humility is recognizing where we stand in relation to a perfect God. In that light, perhaps the essence of true Christianity is finding faith in neither our success in the midst of immorality (the Trump mindset) nor our success in our relative morality (the Christian mindset), but rather knowing that our broken, abandoned, worthless selves are loved and treasured so much that the one who created the universe decided that he loved us enough in our most insignificant and contemptible state to come down and die for us so we could live with him.

And it takes recognizing how broken we are to see how majestic is the love we’ve been given.

Thankfully, your ugly wife can shop at Target

Social-Pride-ABullseyeView

Last week Target announced that transgender individuals could utilize the restroom and fitting room which corresponds to their gender identity. This ignited a significant response nationwide by conservative and religious groups and individuals opposed to this; adding to the conversation, several states passed laws forbidding individuals to access restrooms of a gender they weren’t assigned at birth.

I’ll let you in on two little secrets:

  1. I’m a Christian. I think that the transgender movement is, for the most part, unnatural.
  2. Your outrage is bullshit.

I personally think that humans belong to the gender to which they are assigned at birth. Changing that is akin to changing one’s race – sure, you can change your skin tone, your culture, where you live, how you express yourself… but it doesn’t change what you were born to be. The reason that I say “for the most part” is that anyone who goes with strict gender identity is scientifically ignorant of the concept of a hermaphrodite, an individual possessing both male and female genitalia.

Caster Semenya

Caster Semenya is a South African runner who has a vagina but lacks ovaries; in their place, she was born with internal testes. After a string of significant victories conservatives claimed that she should be stripped of her titles, publicly embarrassed, and banned from future competition as a woman… despite having been born with a vagina. This is a typical conservative approach: reject the inclusion into our lives of anyone who doesn’t fit into the neat little boxes we’ve inaccurately and inconsistently created in our minds – and the easiest way to do that is to denigrate success in those who stand out.

So yes, scientifically speaking, anyone who denies the concept of transgender individuals who must choose which gender they identify as is simply ignorant. I will also point out that there’s the distinct possibility that there are physical and psychological realities we do not fully understand, and as we explore science further our concept of what gender is may further develop. I’m simply saying that we need to keep an open mind, and religion and conservatism have a multi-millennial track record of being on the wrong side of science on a number of things, including the world being round, the earth revolving around the sun, not all ugly old women being witches, et cetera. Keeping an open mind is an essential part of moving forward in life. This includes both sides, meaning that true hermaphrodites are extremely rare, and from what I’ve personally seen the vast majority of transgender people I’ve interacted with are not truly transgender, but are rather struggling with some pretty intense and long-term psychological wounds which impact how they see themselves.

There are also a significant number of people who engage in attention-seeking behavior without any legitimate underlying issue just to make themselves feel important. This likely includes a fair number of the supposedly transgender crowd. It certainly includes people and groups like the American Family Association, which brings us to my second point.

Like most posts on this blog, the issue is not really the issue here; the issue at hand (Target’s inclusivity when it comes to bathroom access) is merely a vehicle by which to examine what I’d like to discuss. Show me 200 people who are outraged by what Target has done and I’ll show you 199 morons. The people who are upset are concerned about the possibility of sexual predators, children being molested, and men accessing women’s bathrooms. I’ve heard the complaints, I’ve listened to the arguments, and I understand where you’re coming from. Here are a couple of thoughts to consider.

If you’re truly concerned about the possibility of perverts in your midst, then you should realize a few things:

  • 82% of rapes are committed by non-strangers.
  • 50% of all rapes are committed within 1 mile of the home.
  • 7% of all rapes occur at school, 13% take place at the home of a friend or neighbor.
  • According to a 2004 study prepared for the US Dept of Education, nearly 9.6% of students are targets of sexual misconduct sometime during their school career.

When was the last time you vetted your family and close friends for their sexual history? Do you keep your kids from sleeping over at other people’s houses because of the distinct possibility they could be molested? Have you researched each educator at your child or grandchild’s school to ensure there’s no history of sexual abuse? Have you researched your local elementary and middle school’s policies to ensure that no sexual misconduct occurs?

If the answer to those questions is silence, then realize how completely absurd are your complaints about what Target is doing. You have a litany of tools and resources available to address what are far more real dangers in the lives of those you care about and pretend to be offended for, but you’re likely not utilizing any of them.

You should also realize that Target didn’t change anything with this announcement, so if you’re this upset because you’re now simply aware of something that was already happening, you should thank Target for educating you, and you should feel completely ashamed that an issue which is apparently so important to you is one you were either too apathetic, too ignorant, or too stupid to educate yourself on beforehand. Transgender individuals were already using these restrooms. If you didn’t know it, it’s either because it’s an issue that truly didn’t affect you, or you were already letting your granddaughter go into a public restroom and you weren’t taking any steps to protect her before – and you should feel distinct shame at your irresponsibility (this is not a tongue in cheek statement).

The conservative organization Faith Driven Consumer has proposed a “buycott” for WalMart, meaning that in addition to avoiding Target one actually intentionally shops at WalMart. This isn’t because WalMart intentionally pursues different policies in this area (WalMart has had nondiscrimination policies in place protecting its trans employees, and their rights to use the bathrooms of the gender they identify with, in place since 2011), but rather because WalMart hasn’t released a public statement on this issue yet. This is akin to a child putting their hands over their eyes and thinking that they’re invisible because they can’t see you – i.e., what the AFA, Faith Driven Consumer, and other conservative religious groups are proposing is distinctly naïve to the point of being asinine.

Conservatives and religious people who have signed the American Family Association’s boycott should first take a step back and realize how laughably absurd their tacit endorsement of the AFA is. The AFA is the origin point of a long string of failed boycotts and public relations stunts, many of them completely ridiculous. For example, AFA publishes an annual retailer “Naughty or Nice” list, downgrading retailers to “Naughty” and recommending shoppers avoid them if they don’t use the word “Christmas” enough. The distinctly non-Christian origins of Christmas and (if you want to get legalistic) distinctly anti-Christian connotations of Christmas notwithstanding, AFA’s entire charade is downright petty. Possibly the most revealing aspect of AFA’s Naughty or Nice list is the fact that the “Nicest” store listed is AFA’s own online store… meaning that the entire list appears to be a marketing gimmick meant to drive retail traffic and profits to the AFA itself.

AFA Naughty or Nice

An example specific to the absurdity of this particular AFA boycott is the distinct reality of its nature as both unscientific and completely devoid of accountability. For example, the list of people who have signed the petition is hidden – there’s no accountability for whether these are real people who have signed it, or whether they ever shopped at Target to begin with. ThinkProgress completed a test where they signed the petition three times using the names “I disagree With this,” “I really think this is stupid,” and “This isn’t A real email.” The only requirement to sign the petition was that a different email address be entered each time, but it didn’t even have to be a functioning or legitimate email address. While AFA celebrates a million signatures on the pledge, realize that the majority of these are quite possibly fake, repeats, or (most likely) people who never shopped at Target to begin with.

Finally, realize that the “outrage” over Target’s announcement isn’t outrage… it’s “faux-rage.” Target knows what every other large company in America knows: outrage by religious conservatives lasts only until something else offensive comes along. Remember all the outrage over Joseph Kony and the Kony 2012 movement? What ended up happening there? What about all of the Facebook profile pictures changed to show solidarity with Christians persecuted by ISIS? ISIS is still around, and they’re still doing the same things to Christians they did then… but all of those Facebook profile pics have disappeared. Now we have a bathroom issue which doesn’t actually matter, and in another couple of weeks the conservative version of a Kardashian nude selfie will come out and everyone will be up in arms about something else.

Squirrel

The last thing I’ll say is this: what would you prefer happen? There are some seriously ugly women out there (let’s be honest); women who are straight, who were born women, and who are simply and distinctly not very feminine. Do you want Target employees to pat down your wife to ensure she is sufficiently female? Would you prefer one of Target’s managers strip search your teenage daughter who is tomboyish and a bit delayed on the breast development to ensure she isn’t a horny teenage boy sneaking into the women’s room? Would you like the Target store manager to mandate cavity checks of anyone who (in their subjective opinion) is too ugly, masculine, or butch to likely have a real vagina? In all seriousness, what do you want to happen? And what is the cost?

Child molestation and rape are serious issues; one could make a legitimate argument that there are none more serious. However, if your child is going to be molested it won’t be by a stranger – it will be by someone you know. It won’t happen at Target – it will happen within one mile of your home, school, or place of worship. If you’re simply upset that you’re now aware of what is, in all reality, a non-issue; that you were made aware by an organization which has engaged in boycotts against retailers in order to drive sales to its own online store; or that you’re literally doing nothing to protect against what are actually legitimate threats against children (e.g., sex offenders or cops who abuse their authority to rape others), then understand that you are, in all honesty, an idiot. Realize that when you call your local Target to pitch a fit about something that truly doesn’t matter while ignoring all the things that do, you’re probably just laughed at when you hang up – and you deserve to be.

Thankfully Target is open-minded enough that your wife and daughters can shop in peace without being strip searched or cavity checked to ensure they’re sufficiently female to use the restroom. However, if you’d like that to change, I’m sure you can find someone you already know who is very interested in examining your underage daughter nude in the privacy of your own home. In fact, it may already be happening while you’re on the phone with Target.

When Church & Porn Are The Same

Church Pornography

Several years ago I attended a seminar hosted by the church we were attending at the time; the seminar was taught by an organization known as XXXChurch. XXXChurch is an organization committed to combating pornography addiction, and during the course of the weekend they shared some startling statistics regarding children, teens, and their exposure to pornography. For example, in 1986 the largest age of pornography users was boys aged 12-17, and that by the age of 15 92% of boys had looked at or read Playboy. Since then the internet has revolutionized how porn is delivered into the consumer’s life and has gone almost entirely digital; these days, 85% of teens who access porn do so via the internet.

One of the major points that XXXChurch demonstrated was that if you want long-term success in any industry, what you have to do is market to kids – and the porn industry is specifically doing this. It shouldn’t come as any surprise; the same approach was proven years back when the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (owner of the Camel cigarette brand) was shown to be specifically marketing to children:

“In one 1973 memo that foreshadowed Joe Camel, an R.J. Reynolds official wrote, “In view of the need to reverse the preference for Marlboros among younger smokers, I wonder whether comic strip-type copy might get a much higher readership among younger people than any other type of copy.” A 1976 company document warned, “Evidence is now available to indicate that the 14-to-18- year-old group is an increasing segment of the smoking population. RJR-T must soon establish a successful new brand in this market if our position in the industry is to be maintained over the long term.” And another memo read, “To ensure increased and longer-term growth for Camel Filter, the brand must increase its share penetration among the 14-24 age group which have a new set of more liberal values and which represent tomorrow’s cigarette business.”

This led to the launch of the Joe Camel marketing campaign in 1988; by 1993 Camel’s share of the youth market had jumped to 13.3% from a mere 2.4% just a few years earlier. Studies published in 1991 in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that Joe Camel was nearly as recognizable to 6-year-olds as Mickey Mouse and that Joe Camel ads “are far more successful at marketing Camel cigarettes to children than to adults.”

Marketing to children is not limited to the “sinful” industries, however – it’s a phenomenon spread across the entire economy. In 1983 companies in America spent $100 million marketing to children; by 2007 they were spending more than $17 billion. This is something everyone is doing.

So why is marketing to children so essential to effective business? Simple: conditioning. Children are incredibly impressionable, and if you can convince a child that something is “normal” and make it part of their childhood then the chances of them repeating the behavior or activity throughout their lives skyrockets. Investing in marketing to children has an exponential effect in two different ways:

  1. If you create a customer out of a child you have a much longer customer lifespan than if you create a customer out of an adult.
  2. You have to spend far fewer dollars convincing a child that something is normal when they haven’t developed the context, the worldview, or the experience to know they have a choice. Adults know they have choices, so you have to actually convince them that they’re making the right choice rather than simply give them a snappy marketing campaign.

In other words, marketing to children is a win because they’re gullible, and if you can convince them to engage in a certain activity you can often win them over for life.

And the church has embraced this approach in spades.

The last time I went to church the pastor’s sermon revolved largely around the preparation for Vacation Bible School; he shared the following statistics: nearly 80% of people in our churches today decided to follow Jesus before age 18. 50% of them decided to follow Jesus before age 12. The conclusion he drew from this was that the way forward in redeeming America was to market to children, conditioning them early in life (before they realize that they have options) to believe that Christianity is the only way forward and they need to be zealously evangelistic.

From a marketing perspective his conclusions are correct: reaching children at a young age is going to guarantee repeat “customers” throughout life. However, from a spiritual perspective, this should give us serious pause. Let’s look at this from the other perspective: does this mean that the primary message of the American church simply doesn’t appeal to people who haven’t been conditioned or coerced to believe this is normal?

Churchgoers love to cite verses like Matthew 19:14 when “Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”” Granted, Jesus loves children, and any normal person appreciates the innocence, the beauty, the purity, and the passion embodied in these little people. But Jesus never engaged in a children’s ministry – Jesus’ message was actually able to fundamentally transform a jaded, legalistic society more rooted in wrongly-expressed religious burnout than America has ever experienced… and he did it by ministering to adults.

American adults don’t look to Christianity because we don’t have needs, questions, or gaping holes of loneliness needing healing; Americans don’t look to Christianity because the church simply doesn’t offer answers. I read the news regularly; I’m used to being exposed to problems and solutions beyond my scope of impact. I’ve been thoroughly exposed to global and even galactic issues that span time periods beyond my lifetime; I’m used to seeing macro issues which impact me and I really don’t have any say in, so when I hear stories like the global flood and Noah’s ark, God making the sun stand still in the sky, and stars magically appearing in the sky to guide someone – well, it’s easy for me to shrug off. “OK,” I think. “I could see that. Moving on…”

The church has invested in sharing a big God, a God who is so awe-inspiring that we can’t conceptualize him and we need to simply be overwhelmed with wonder like a noob taking his first hit from a bong. But that isn’t the God I need, and that isn’t the God Jesus came to preach.

I need a tiny God. I need a God who cares enough about me that he actually knows all of the details of my life (Luke 12:7). I need to know there’s a God who speaks, not in galactic shouts, but in a still, small voice as he reaches into the very depths of my loneliness (1 Kings 19:11-12). I need to hear that there’s a God whose primary mission is redemption, whose primary motivation is love, and who reaches out to me seeking not a subject, but a friend (John 15:15).

Adults exist in a whirlwind of pain, suffering, loneliness, depression, anxiety, and fear. Suicide rates per 100,000 American individuals increase, on average, every single year. We are so desperately in need of a small God who reaches into our lives with such complete empathy that our first introduction to him should be the acknowledgement that he is the one sitting beside us weeping when everyone else has abandoned us… and instead, the church tells a story about a man getting swallowed by a fish, as if that has any application in my life.

The church loves to condemn pornography as an empty substitute for authentic sexuality; as a vapid expression of the warm, selfless, vulnerable embrace of two partners who have willingly surrendered themselves to each other’s love. What the church doesn’t realize is that it has the responsibility of being the purveyor of the most authentic relationship ever created; that it is the guardian of the source of healing, the answers for all of life’s questions, that it holds the key to the door of absolute empathy, selfless love, redemption and reconciliation for the ugliest of all of us… and it’s investing all it has in macaroni crafts to condition people too young to have an option that Jesus is in fact the way, the truth, and the life.

If you have a message worth hearing, adults will listen. If you live a life of redemption, reconciliation, and the type of self-sacrificing love that constantly gives of yourself to heal and help others, adults will respond. If you commit yourself to knowing the Jesus who, instead of coming on the clouds on a supernatural throne of wonder and commanding the allegiance of all of mankind, chose to humble himself to become a penniless servant in whom no beauty was found, who convinced people not from a position of power, authority, conditioning, or coercion, but from the matchless presence of absolute empathy and love as he relentlessly pursues us for the sake of reconciliation and companionship… well, that’s the stuff changing the world is made of.

Pornography is the empty, vapid manifestation of what is the most vulnerable expression of humanity – and the church is to the soul what pornography is to the body.

Forget the church. Find out who Jesus is.

Why You Should Consider Shooting A Cop

Lady Justice

quis custodiet ipsos custodies?

Recently there’s been quite the uproar surrounding gun rights, public shootings, and President Obama’s declared intention to do everything that he can via executive order to keep everyone safe from gun violence. In the midst of what has devolved into a battle of rhetoric, memes, and emotionally charged allegations (often lacking in substance) from all sides, a group of heavily armed men took over a federal building in Oregon to protest what they consider federal overreach and blatant abuse of several ranchers.

Among the more conservative and fundamentalist right wing advocates of gun rights there has been a noticeable trend: to identify that the true purpose of the Second Amendment had nothing to do with gun rights and even self-protection was a secondary concern. The primary aim of the Second Amendment was to preserve freedom by presenting a government with an armed populace that was such an inherent threat that robbing citizens of freedom was simply not an option. This is an accurate statement, and is immediately apparent from even a cursory review of the writings of the Founding Fathers.

“What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms.”
– Thomas Jefferson

“To disarm the people…[i]s the most effectual way to enslave them.”
– George Mason

“The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.”
– Joseph Story

“If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government… The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms…”
– Alexander Hamilton

“As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the article in their right to keep and bear their private arms.”
– Tench Coxe

To argue that the crafters of our Constitution (who had just birthed our country in armed revolt against their own government) disdained the idea of armed rebellion is simply ignorant. However, it’s easy to spout rhetoric and share memes on social media, but what about when the metal meets the meat? Let’s follow this line of thinking through to its logical conclusion; let’s fast-forward to when Skynet sends a Terminator back in time and, instead of going after John Connor, he decides to become President and kickstart all of our worst authoritarian nightmares. What happens then?

Wars are never fought against lawmakers; they are always fought against law enforcers. During the Revolutionary War King George wasn’t on the front lines dumping powder and ball down a muzzleloader or leading bayonet charges – the soldiers who were engaged in policing action, enforcing his rule against lawbreakers were. When Pol Pot slaughtered millions in the Khmer Rouge he didn’t walk around whacking people with his own personal machete – he got his law enforcement and military to do it.

You see, when a government turns to tyranny its citizens don’t fight against the people writing the laws; the people who are actually lined up in the crosshairs are law enforcement and military. These are the people who will be shot at. To simplify the argument down to its most concrete applications, when someone contends that the Second Amendment is ultimately to preserve the right of the people to violently resist their own government, if necessary, what they’re truly saying is that the Second Amendment gives them the ability to shoot law enforcement when unjust laws are being enforced.

The fascinating aspect of this unfolding American drama is that the same people who are simultaneously screaming most loudly that American citizens should maintain both the capability (via gun ownership) and the willingness (via the recognition that the Second Amendment exists to threaten a tyrannical government) to shoot law enforcement are the same people condemning police accountability groups from activities as innocuous as recording law enforcement in the course of their normal duties.

If the ultimate ends to which we’re willing to go is actually pointing a gun at law enforcement and using it, why the incredible resistance to pointing a camera at them?

The answer is simple: a misunderstanding of the concept of freedom.

“Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.”
– Thomas Paine

“Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
– The Declaration of Independence

Democratically elected governments have no inherent power except that which its citizens decide to surrender to it. Government, by its very nature, controls and restricts freedoms. Done correctly and rarely, this can actually serve to increase liberties (think how much more easily we can travel because of simple traffic laws); done incorrectly, legitimate freedoms are restricted. Losses of freedom do not happen quickly, but gradually. Bit by bit, freedoms are lost, often in the nebulous (and often fruitless) pursuit of safety. We surrender essential liberties to the government because allowing normal citizens to have them is too scary; the government takes those surrendered liberties and makes laws about them; then those hired as law enforcement go out and make sure the law is followed – and suddenly we wake up to freedoms we once enjoyed ourselves being enforced for us without our consent.

Consider this clip from V for Vendetta, and I want you to specifically listen for two things: first, who was to blame for surrendering freedoms to a government that turned to tyranny? Second, who was charged with enforcing that tyranny?

Contrary to what you may have inferred when you read the title of this post, I’m not proposing that anyone shoots a cop. However, if you are advocating for the defense of the Second Amendment you’re advocating that citizens maintain both the capability and the willingness to do just that, and that’s why you should consider shooting a cop very, very seriously before you simply spout off in defense of the Second Amendment. It’s weighty stuff.

Laws are useless without enforcement. Tyrants have no power without those willing to enforce their rule. Government accountability begins (and to some degree, ends) with ensuring that those enforcing the law understand freedom, respect the citizens they hold power over, and take seriously the sacred trust and balancing act of maintain freedom while preserving safety. It isn’t an easy thing to do, which is why citizens need to hold the thin blue line accountable. Accountability starts with observation, proceeds through an objective standard (remember that Lady Justice is blind for a reason), and ends with repercussions that give no favors for what clothing you wear, position you hold, or status you maintain. I’ve written previously about the world cops have created, but in truth the blame lies with us, the citizens. Specifically, those most to blame are the ones who have stood by and blindly protected the thin blue line as if they were above reproach while entire departments have been corrupted; those who have condemned measures of accountability as “inconvenient” or “disrespectful.”

Protecting freedom requires accountability of those who hold the power to strip your freedoms from you. If you condemn pointing a camera at police, realize that you will never have the courage to point a gun at them. Regardless of how many “don’t tread on me” pieces of clothing and paraphernalia you have, you will simply be incidental to the outcome. All governments eventually turn to tyranny – such is one of the lessons of history. The Second Amendment will eventually be needed for its true purpose. However, if we want to stave off that day for as long as possible we must create a strong culture of holding anyone with any government power to account for their actions – which starts with those carrying guns to enforce the will of the government.

No matter how many guns you own, irrespective of how many Second Amendment rallies you attend, regardless of your life membership with the NRA, if you do not hold police accountable now for the laws they enforce then you will never have the courage to utilize your Second Amendment rights when that dreaded day you predict actually comes. Maintaining freedom requires fighting for it, and if you’re incapable of doing that peacefully you will never be able to do it violently.

Voltaire Free Fools

 

Rousseau slavery

 

We Need To Stop Talking About Chattanooga

Last week four marines and one sailor were fatally shot at a recruiting center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In the hours and days that followed many decried the seeming foolishness of the policies making our servicemen and women “sitting ducks” by generally forbidding them from being armed on duty. If you will, allow me a moment to elaborate on why I’m not so sure that arming our troops stateside is the right thing to do and honestly, why it’s a distraction and we need to quit talking about it.

First, a little about me. I grew up as a military brat until my dad retired in Mississippi where I spent my teenage years hunting, fishing, and shooting in the rural Deep South. I’m intimately familiar with the workings of all manner of firearms. I’m licensed to carry a concealed weapon in 35 states and exercise that right regularly. I’m currently serving on active duty with the US Air Force, I’ve qualified as an Expert in small arms marksmanship, and am stationed at an ROTC unit on a university four hours from the nearest base – i.e., the position I’m in is exactly the position that is the subject of pretty intense discussion at the moment. However, I am (by far) the exception, not the rule when it comes to small arms familiarity.

It is necessary to understand that although the American public refers to us as the “Armed Forces” very few of us are ever armed and, honestly, most soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are uncomfortable with allowing most of the military any access to arms, and for good reason. The vast majority of US military troops are not well trained on any small arm, nor do they spend much time preparing for any kind of individual combat.

The ratio of combat to support troops in the military is known as the “Tooth to Tail Ratio,” or T3R. In 2005 at the height of Iraq combat operations the US Army was comprised of only 11% actual combat troops; the other 89% of the Army was comprised of various support elements. That figure drops even further in the Air Force and the Navy, where the projection of combat power is generally accomplished almost exclusively without the use of small arms. There is a legitimate, statistically-backed reason why many military personnel state they wouldn’t trust 90% of the military with a weapon – that reason is simple: the US military itself generally doesn’t trust 90% of its personnel with a weapon.

In fact, there’s a hierarchy within the military that few outside of its ranks are fully aware of: the brotherly tendency to disparage anyone within our ranks who is less qualified than ourselves – this is done in a joking manner, but there’s generally always a hint of truth behind the jokes. Marines were described by their 29th Commandant with these words: “Every Marine is, first and foremost, a rifleman. All other conditions are secondary.” Even marines, however, typically denigrate non-combat marines as “POGs,” or, “Persons Other than Grunts” who are less than qualified to engage in combat, even though they’re also marines. (Yes, I know the acronym doesn’t technically work because there’s an additional word in there, but what do you expect from Marines? I mean, their very name is an acronym that reveals a lot about them [Muscles Are Required, Intelligence – Not Essential].)

See what I did there?

The point is this: most military personnel are uncomfortable with a policy that would allow other military personnel access to arms at work; I can’t tell you the number of conversations I’ve had with other troops who have repeatedly reiterated this position. After the shooting in Chattanooga many in the military took matters into their own hands and more than a few decided to carry their private weapons into work. It took less than 12 hours from the dust settling in Chattanooga for a Navy recruiter to shoot himself in the leg. This is generally why military commanders are reticent, if not outright opposed, to allowing the average troop to be armed.

The average US military member is capable and equipped to play a part in the organizational projection of force. The flip side to that fact is that the average US military member is not qualified, in any way, to handle small arms. This is why military commanders don’t want military personnel armed, and since they have the ability to enforce this (to some degree, at least), don’t expect those policies to change anytime soon. (As an aside, please quit blaming President Obama for this policy; I’ve seen more than a few people do this and it’s just plain ignorant. He had nothing to do with this policy.)

However, the inability of most military members to capably handle small arms really isn’t the point in question – it’s just additional information. The point in question here is two-fold:

  1. Are we actually allowing terrorism to win?
  2. Is the issue of arming troops a distraction from much bigger issues?

First, the purpose of terrorism is to drive policy change through fear; it’s to make us reactive, not proactive. Are we succumbing to this pressure? Or are we making the decisions we need to based on their own merits? If we react out of fear, we’ve lost. Already, the US Army has issued guidance to its recruiters to view American citizens exercising their Second Amendment rights as security threats. This is not the message we want to send, nor is it a concept we should be comfortable with. The American public is not the enemy. American citizens could certainly do harm to our military – but that is not primarily a military problem. It is primarily a law enforcement problem. We cannot allow fear to dictate our actions.

The deaths of five service members is certainly reason to mourn. It is not, however, reason to become unglued. It is not reason to panic.

It seems that we’re becoming more reactionary as a society and this is something we absolutely must guard against. A single incident (or even a series of isolated incidents over multiple years) should not automatically drive policy changes. What’s worse is that even addressing these issues distracts from much more poignant threats, such as veteran suicide rates. Five veterans lost their lives last Thursday, which is terribly sad – but did you know that 22 veterans committed suicide that day, and no one said a word? On average a veteran commits suicide every 65 minutes. If we’re talking about threats, why aren’t we dealing with this? The equivalent of 9/11 happens among our veterans three times a year and we’re not even talking about it. More veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have died by their own hands than from the enemy’s. What should that tell us?

Veteran Suicide 1

The sum total of extremist Islam terrorism does not and cannot pose the threat that our own system poses to our veterans. Until we’ve decreased that threat, panicking and demanding DoD-wide reforms because five men lost their lives in a single incident is premature and inappropriate.

Veteran Suicide 4

Our troops are overtasked, undermanned, and lacking support from what many are seeing as a systemic trend of toxic leadership within the military. Our threats are coming from within and no end or relief is in sight. We transition veterans from a broken DoD to a worse VA – and we’ve killed more of ourselves than we lost in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Veteran Suicide 3

I’m a huge supporter of the Second Amendment, but if you want to make a difference in the lives of veterans, please put aside this entire issue and focus on actually making a difference. The “threat” posed by Muslim extremists is both overstated (we lost more active duty members to traffic accidents last year than these types of attacks) and a distraction from what is a genocide by comparison. We need to quit talking about Chattanooga… and start talking about something else.

Veteran Suicide 2

Let’s Get Rid of This Racist Flag!

Confederate Battle Flag

The history of the United States hasn’t always been pretty. Years ago a small group of rebels banded together and seceded from their nation and attempted to form a new country. Why did they do this? Well, at least in part, they did it to protect their economic interests, the greatest portion of which was embodied in the institution of slavery. Sure, there were other reasons, but we’d have to be kidding ourselves if we didn’t realize how significantly slavery played into the conflict.

At that time the national government hadn’t formally outlawed slavery but everyone knew it was coming. It had already formed abolition societies north of the states which primarily relied on slavery for agriculture and industry; the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court had stated his opinion that “as soon as the Negro comes here, he becomes free. One may be a servant here, but not a slave.” Four years before the rebellion actually occurred, somewhere between ten and fourteen thousand slaves had been emancipated en masse in the north. It didn’t take a genius to see the writing on the wall.

There were several flags used by the states which had seceded in the south during that conflict, but all of them have since come to represent (at best) independence, freedom, and free thinking; others associate these flags with a belligerent arrogance, a know-it-all attitude, and being a “rebel without a cause.” On the worst end of the spectrum, this flag has become associated with oppression of people who aren’t like us, the suppression of rights, and the threat of violence if others dare engage in the actions we flauntingly engage in. I, for one, am sick of the hypocrisy and mixed messages. I think it’s time for a change. I demand that we change the symbol that has, in many places in the world, come to symbolize oppression and hatred. Let’s pull down this flag and exchange it for something new!

American Flag 1776

Oh, wait. You thought I was talking about something different? I was talking about the American rebellion against the British in 1776. What did you think I was talking about? I just added that picture at the top because I thought it was a pretty design…

Like anything else in life, there are two sides to this issue. On one side stand the people who are offended by what they think the American or Confederate flags stand for and insist that they have a right to not be offended by a piece of cloth. On the other side stand people who insist that their associations with the flag(s) are the correct ones and the flag should continue to be posted in a place of honor because of the honorable connotations it has or once had. So which side is right?

It’s simple: they both are.

Symbols are powerful things; like anything else, they can be perverted. They can come to mean different things to different people. For some, the cross is a picture of hope in the midst of desperate circumstances:

9-11 Cross

For others, the cross can be a symbol of hatred and oppression:

Burning Cross

It would be absolutely ignorant of us to assume that the cross didn’t mean either of those things to different groups of people in different circumstances. So why do we do the same with flags? Why do we ignorantly assume that the American flag isn’t legitimately hated in other countries because of our oft-arrogant, foolish, and idiotic interventions? Why do we so simply assign the Confederate flag a place of honor or hatred and eschew all other connotations?

Flags are applications of principles. So what are the principles at work here?

First, we need to understand that the long-argued debate of “slavery versus states’ rights” is a logical fallacy: a false dilemma. The Confederacy was formed over exercising the rights of states, the specific application of which was protecting the institution of slavery against any intervention by Northern states. The simple answer is “both.” To continue to argue that it was one or the other is to throw out half of history simply because of cognitive dissonance, and that’s downright ignorant. I understand that each side wants to make a noble, right versus wrong, clean slate of it, but history is never clean.

Second, we need to understand that symbols are the property of those who actively use them to symbolize the actions and activities that are most often associated with them. To Confederate flag activists, I would say this: if your first reaction when you see a member of the KKK holding the flag while burning a cross isn’t to vehemently condemn the action, then you should realize that you are passively participating in someone remaking a symbol you love into something others hate. If your actions in promoting the honorable associations you have with the battle flag pale in comparison to hate groups who use the flag to oppress others, then you should understand that the symbolism you love is being lost. If you want to preserve the honorable associations with the Confederate battle flag, it is your responsibility to constantly remake that image and those associations. If you don’t do that, you’ve lost the battle. Someone has stolen your symbol.

To the other side I would say this: currently there seems to be a competition to see who can appear most outraged with a symbol of our past. This is a politically correct bandwagon used by some to attempt to paint the North as abolitionist saviors who all despised the institution of slavery and saw blacks as equals to whites. Such is simply not the case, and engaging in historical revisionism for the sake of political expediency is an extremely slippery slope which should not be taken lightly.

Stephen Covey, in 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, wrote this: “First seek to understand, then to be understood.” If you view the Confederate flag as only a symbol of states’ rights, individual freedom, and independence – you’re wrong. If you view the Confederate flag as only a symbol of oppression, racism, and hatred – you’re incorrect. If you can’t understand both sides of the argument and only then make an educated argument, then please understand that your opinion is ignorant, uneducated, and of no more value than the folks on the other side of the line you gladly mock.

So what do we do with the Confederate battle flag now? I don’t know. It’s a tough question. I will say this: if we can agree to change the US flag to honor the feelings of those who see it as imperialistic in nature; or change the Alabama and Florida flags which contain the St. Andrews cross (the primary design symbol inherent in the Confederate flag); or the flag of the state of Hawaii because it contains an imperial British design which was used to oppress peoples the world over; well, then I can see the principle equally at work – respect for all who have been oppressed. If not, then I think we may have a problem. What does that problem look like?

Well, for starters it looks like Amazon and eBay banning the sale of Confederate flag merchandise, but allowing KKK and White Pride items to still be sold. No, no political correctness here; no grandstanding for the purpose of a bottom line rather than actual respect.
Amazon KKK
It also includes movements like this where people are demanding that monuments to historical figures come down; for example, Robert E. Lee, who personally stood against slavery and freed all of his slaves when he had a chance. This is an ironic contrast to Abraham Lincoln whose plan was to ship all of the blacks off to Liberia after the War was over in order to keep them from contaminating white America. There’s certainly no cognitive dissonance or self-defeating, politically correct ideology at work here.

You see, when we change history to make us feel better, nobody wins, and we start a slippery slope which may eventually lead to activities like the Taliban blasting archaeological treasures apart because they consider them offensive. If we’re proposing destroying Stone Mountain, how is that different from what the Taliban did to the Bamiyan Buddha? How have we become more tolerant than the Taliban?

So for those who support the Confederate flag, here’s my challenge: remake it into the image you want it to be. You should be more concerned with white people doing something you think is incorrect with it than black people demanding it be taken down; if you’re not, you’ve lost your cause.

To those who argue that the Confederate flag should be banned, here’s my challenge: realize that the road to tolerance is a two-way street. Asking people to tolerate things they dislike for the sake of more freedom for all is a principle, and it involves some uncomfortable applications.

To all: jumping on an emotional bandwagon without carefully and respectfully listening to evidence, facts, and the opinion of the other side is ignorant, intolerant, and against everything we’re supposed to stand for as a nation. Consider your actions and words carefully as you discuss this issue.