Monday, November 14, 2011

Protest and Consume

This poem was written as a response to the Occupy Movements all around the world.  Specifically, it was prompted by a video I saw in which two girls are denied the ability to close their accounts with Bank of America because they could not be "consumers and protesters simultaneously."

The video can be found here

Protest and Consume

You say I can’t protest and consume at the same time
Well then please don’t produce
and politicize simultaneously
You erroneously walk the same line.
Your policies and decisions that shape the fallacies of elections
don’t reflect the protection I am supposed to have
over votes cast and counted honestly.
Promise me, if you say I can’t protest while I shop, then stop
using your corporate weight to throw bars around our fates.
We want upward movement, upward with the movement.

Our third world countries wonder where all those shoes went?
they just had em there, sewed them with their own hands,
shipped out of the sweat shop they’re on the feet of an American grand-standing
his Jordans through hallways for his friends….
And we wonder why corporate greed never ends…
Who wrote those Christmas bonus checks
that make me sick when I hear the numbers?
Who is out there handing you money
while the poor get poorer and the rich get number?
Or more numb.  To be grammatically correct.
But who cares about correctness when you’re talking about this mess that infects the shopping malls and consumer culture’s restlessness.

I heard the other day that families in the Congo live on piles of trash. 
Not trash exactly, but computers that have crashed. 
The old hollow frames of monitors and processors,
they strip the gold from motherboards to eek out a living,
while we just go on buying without giving a rats ass for the shitty life they lead.
And how does oppression just continue?
When it seems so many people want to tell you
how angry they are about it; sometimes they even want to shout it at occupy protests all around the world that
“WE ARE the 99 percent.  And we represent
the change that we want to see made
at the highest levels of the corporate leadership game.”

Who pays those CEO’s at the top? I know I don’t.
My salary’s too low to fit on their totem pole. 
Who could possibly be giving them all that money?
It’s actually not funny.  Especially when the answer is as clear as cash.
WE write the checks that make us vomit at the flat screen television sets.
WE pay the Wall Street workers that don’t work and make us so upset.
We dole it out one dollar at time with our Coca Cola cans and our Starbucks frappes.
The politicizing goes both directions
in these financially charged elections. 
Each dollar we spend is a vote cast for status quo
and things will never go any differently
 until we require of each other
to vote wisely with each dollar.

The richest 1 percent; they don’t have all the money. 
They have the 99 wrapped around their finger. 
They line us up and tell us lies about the popularity
that will linger around us like an cloud
if we only buy their products then we will be proud.
to live in a country with freedom of choice,
where they can feed us with noise,
enough advertising to drown out the truth
that we should be emphasizing:
The money only trickles up because that is the way you and I spend it.
And as we have spent it so we have chosen to send it
right into the hands of those that we blame. 
Greed it seems has a new name.
Look into the mirror and it couldn’t be more clear,
that you and I might protest for change,
but the way we spend our money says we want things to stay the same.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rob Bell and the New McCarthyism

Recent headlines have indicated worldviews clashing in our nation’s capital (well, all headlines pretty much indicate clashing worldviews, but I am speaking about some specific declarations).  If you have not heard, Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has brought some issues before our representatives.  He is concerned about Islam; specifically, its increasingly radical nature in America. 

While this discussion is certainly merited based upon the possibility of a so-called “home-grown” threat from radical American Muslims, King has come under some criticism for singling out the Muslim community.  The political Left has labeled it “New McCarthyism” and a “witch-hunt.”  Fears abound that it may cause a spread of Islamopobia amongst citizens, possibly resulting in violence to Muslims themselves.

While the Muslim community faces these recent events, the Christian community is discussing the release of Pastor Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins; A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived

Rob Bell has also faced criticism for his book, but this coming from the Religious Right.  In his book, Bell discusses Christian eschatological issues as they should apply to non-believers, and apparently, opens the doors of redemption a bit too wide for most Christians’ comfort.

While seemingly unrelated, it seems to me that American Christians can see the thread here between the political and religious existence of these two stories.  We are faced with an interesting question: How do we approach the “religious other,” especially when their political rights are not so “other”?

Bell’s more universalistic perspective softens attitudes between different religions.  Something about the stance of “Hey, you’re ok with my God and Savior, spend eternity with us,” presented to another faith disarms conflict and also encourages cooperation.

Likewise, (and I have not data for this) it seems like it might be just a teeny bit easier to disrespect, ignore, or even discriminate against other religious groups if you think, “Well, they just haven’t got a ticket into paradise.  They’re not ok with my God.”

Maybe Bell’s book scares some Christians not because it creates a breakdown in doctrine, but that his perspective might require a more wholesome embrace to those non-believers this side of eternity.

And maybe King’s political crusade scares some Liberals not because it represents a breakdown in equality and justice, but more because it begs the real issue of a needed investigation into dangers in our society.

In the end, it may seem we must declare that we should work to give respect and dignity to those within our political arena, regardless of religious beliefs.  We must also declare that no matter what eternal judgments I may have about a certain ideology or religious belief, those perspectives can be no excuse to treat others badly in this life. 

Who really knows if Muslims will join Christians in eternity?  Or if Christians will join Muslims?  Or if Americans will join Palestinians?  Regardless of what we believe our holy texts tell us about these eschatological questions, the answers should not shape how we treat our fellow man.  Eternity or not, Muslim or Christian, American or Somalian, a living human deserves love and respect within or without our religious and political borders.

Monday, November 29, 2010

WikiLeaks for Conscience

Every news source in America has been reporting recently on the emergence of government documents on WikiLeaks, a whistle-blowing site compiling classified documents from the Afgan and Iraqi wars.  This weeks post on WikiLeaks represents the largest single “leak” of foreign affairs documents in the history of the modern world. 

The documents cover topics ranging from simple correspondence between foreign affairs officials to personal insults on the capability and habits of world leaders.  Most news sources have deemed the release an “embarrassment” to the foreign executives of the United States government.

Government officials claim that it is a disgrace to media and completely unhelpful.  Other leaders, like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, claim the leak is a purposeful propaganda release by the United States government itself.

One thing is for sure: most people aren’t happy.  But does our happiness (or lack thereof) about an event tell us anything about the helpfulness of said event?

It is clear that the leaks have caused headaches for world leaders and newspeople alike.  Just looking at the amount of time and energy our own government officials have put into trying to minimize the damage will tell anyone that the leak has caused unproductive activity in those offices. 

And those offices are lashing back.  They are upholding the perspective that the leak of such documents puts American soldiers, international civilians and even diplomatic staff in danger. 

But maybe in our despair over embarrassment and leak of sensitive information, a lesson can be learned.  We remember old adages like; “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” And the fact that at any given time, somewhere, someone is listening.

It might do us all well to remember that no matter our position in life, community, or government, our words are powerful.  They affect our relationships and experiences in major ways.  In fact, some of the embarrassed diplomatic officials work everyday in the realm of international communication where they are aware that what they say and how they act could have powerful repercussions.  Maybe it is time that we are reminded of that; maybe it is time that we become more conscious of our messages, no matter who we think may or may not be listening.

For me, (and I hope for many others) this WikiLeak will serve as a wake-up call; not as a call to crack down on cyber-legislation, nor as a call to strengthen our cyber-security.  Rather, let this event be a call for all of us to keep track of what we are saying about those around us.  As we sift through the muck and pick-up the pieces of this detonated international relations bomb that is WikiLeaks, let’s make sure that what we are saying is helpful.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Texas School Board Proposes Textbook Ban

Texas State school board proposes a ban on "pro-Islamic" and "anti-Christian" textbooks.  If you read the story, you will find that they feel too much of the book is spent on Muslim heritage, and not enough on Christian heritage.

In fact, the author of the proposal, Mr. Randy Rives, says that Muslim conquest is sugar-coated while the Crusades are painted brutally in some texts.

Seriously?  Are we really going to act like two year olds?  Pointing the finger saying "Well, Johnny was the one who threw the cat out the window!"  While Johnny says, "Bobby came up with the whole idea!"

Why don't we just admit that religions have been used for terrible violent things on both sides and not get into keeping score.

Also, these are books read by American students.  Part of the reason they DON'T NEED equal time spent discussing Christian history is that there are 3 churches right down the street from where they read the textbook.  We have accessibility to Christian culture, we don't necessarily have it to Muslim culture.

Next thing you know, we will have a ban on math books that spend too much time discussing Arab based Algebra and not enough time talking about  Western Anglo-Saxon Calculus.