Kaepernick, the Blind Love of Nation, and the New Racism


Most+american+picture+i+ve+ever+made+democracy+liberty+independence+justice+freedom+and+america+by+your+powers_320779_4868118Colin Kaepernick has landed in hot water and not for being a mediocre quarterback. During a pre-season game he chose not to stand during the United States National Anthem. He chose not to stand because, in his words, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour.” An almost mundane choice. He’s a pro athlete making a political point, and he’s not the first one.

Yet, his refusal to stand for a song and a piece of cloth has ignited a firestorm, met mostly with criticism. It’s hard to find anyone truly sympathetic to Kaepernick’s cause, mostly because people are either enraged by his actions or apathetic towards the man himself. The conservatives hate his lack of patriotism while the liberals are too cynical to believe he’s doing this out of sincerity (but doing it because he was bumped to second string).

Removing Kaepernick from the equation, his act of protest and people’s subsequent responses betrays two bigger issues in our nation: 1) We’re too “patriotic,” in reality we are nationalistic and (2) we hold athletes of color to a higher expectation of patriotism than we hold white athletes.

To the first point, there’s a danger when we let our national identity intersect and mold our personal identity. To a certain extent it’s nearly impossible not to let our national identity influence who we are as individuals. I am, after all, a product of America. My accent, my beliefs, my cultural participation is in many ways tied to my being an American. And I’d argue that I am a patriot. I love the idea of America, I love the idea of freedom for all, I love what this nation (on paper) stands for. But being a patriot does not mean I have to be a nationalist. A nationalist will support his country no matter what, but a patriot is willing to point out its flaws and even admit to being disappointed in his nation.

I’d contend that Kaepernick, if we excuse ourselves from cynicism, is a patriot. He loves his nation, otherwise he wouldn’t protest in the hopes of change. True hatred for America wouldn’t ask for protest, but an overthrow. True hatred of America would require apathy to its flaws. Yet, nationalism prevents us from recognizing flaws in our nation, unless we first label those flaws as “outside.” One can think of how people [erroneously] say Obama is a shame to our nation, that they can’t be proud while he’s in charge. But a nationalist says this only after first claiming Obama isn’t actually from our nation, or at least claiming that his ideas aren’t American in origin. Therefore, the shame he feels for his nation isn’t for his nation, but for what his nation is becoming. And yet, without any sense of irony, he will berate and attack anyone who would question typical patriotic icons such as the flag, the anthem, and so on. Ultimately, the nationalist isn’t so much loyal to his nation as he’s loyal to the ideology behind his vision of what the nation should be, thus anyone who violates this ideology is immediately a heretic and worthy of being purged.

Our nationalism in the United States is often best seen as “white nationalism,” mostly because anyone who is not white is automatically suspected of being anti-American for any form of protest. Often, non-whites are left having to prove that they’re Americans, especially black athletes. We see this with Kaepernick, but it wasn’t that long ago that we were criticizing other black athletes for not being American enough. And by not that long ago I mean about two to three weeks ago with Gabby Douglas. She forgot or just chose not to put her hand over her heart when the American flag was displayed. The rage was so hot that other black female Olympians were often chastised on Facebook with people confusing them with Gabby Douglas. When other white Olympians failed to do the same, there was absolutely no outcry.

Notice the verbiage used for both Douglas and Kaepernick; “how dare you not respect the flag of a country that gave you an opportunity, that gave you freedom, that gave you…” It’s difficult to not imagine a slave owner saying something similar to a slave, “How dare you not be grateful for me when I’ve given you food.” The fact is, this nation didn’t give these black athletes anything. They worked hard, they shaped their bodies and talents and pushed themselves to such a level of competition that they’ve excelled at what they do (well, relatively speaking; Kaepernick is riding the bench after all). Yet, we require that these black athletes show 100% solidarity and respect to a piece of cloth, but do not place the same standard on white athletes. We can say we do, but we don’t. That we have racial inequality in our country, that we’re not living up to our ideals as a nation, is a good reason to protest the nation. Sitting during the national anthem is a good way to protest the current reality of racial inequality in our nation.

A true patriot will always love the ideals of his country, but will recognize her flaws. This allows for a duality of respect. One patriot can see a flag and show respect, because that flag represents certain ideals and the patriot wants to respect those ideals. Another patriot can see the flag and view it as representing the current reality,  and therefore choose not to respect it. In both instances, each person is right and each person is still patriotic. Both respect and protest are signs of patriotism. Neither is right and neither is wrong. The fact is, as a nation we have some deep and troubling systemic flaws that continue the oppression entire ethnic groups. But we recognize these actions as flaws because we realize that our actions contradict our ideals, or at least we ought to recognize such a thing. Sometimes it takes a drastic protest to shine a light on our flaws. Perhaps we ought to examine the message of Kaepernick before we shoot the messenger. After all, how patriotic is it to hate someone for exercising his right to free speech? Only a nationalist could allow such cognitive dissonance.

We do have a problem with racial inequality. Perhaps there are better ways to draw attention to that, but what are they? We’ve had this problem since before we were a nation and we’ve never fixed it. We attempt to sweep it under the rug like it doesn’t exist. But it does exist and it is a problem. Rather than complaining about someone protesting or the manner in which he protests, perhaps we’d be better served to listen to the message and to work to make sure our policies align with our ideals. Such an action is far more patriotic than any national anthem or pledge of allegiance.

How to be a Christian in the Era of Donald Trump


Trumpolini (1)I sat there a bit dumbfounded and debated on if I had actually heard what I thought I heard. Rep. Steve King had just said that no other “subgroup” of people – that is, non-white, non-Western people – had contributed as much to society as white people, or as he sadly tried to explain, “Western Civilization.” Such openly racist remarks by an elected official are thankfully surprising and shocking, indicating some level of progress in the right direction as a society, but at the same time aren’t entirely surprising. That’s what happens when we live in the era of Donald Trump.

Donald Trump as a politician is a racist and is fanning the flames of racism. I cannot say if he is such as an individual, considering it’s impossible to know what part of his campaign is farcical and which part represents his actual beliefs. People can argue all they want and attempt to present as much nuance as they want, but when the alt-right (read: White Supremacists) and even a former KKK member feel comfortable with Trump and feel emboldened by his message, nuance no longer matters.

Let me get this part out of the way: No Christian should vote for Donald Trump. I’m not saying who Christians should vote for, but as Christians we are to love our neighbors. If a candidate comes along who asks us to hate our neighbors, who asks us to cast suspicion on our neighbors, who asks us to feel superior to our neighbors, then we must reject that candidate. When Klansmen and white supremacists sing the praises of your candidate, and it’s done en masse by such people, perhaps it’s time to realize you have the wrong candidate. That the Republicans, a party that has feigned moral superiority for decades, are choosing a racist leader doesn’t mean one must bow before party unity. One’s soul matters far more than one’s political party.

The above being said, how do we live in a Donald Trump era? See, the issue isn’t whether Donald Trump believes half of what he spews or just does it because it gets him votes (I happen to think he doesn’t believe much of what he says). The issue is that a majority of people in a major US political party have bought into his rhetoric. Regardless of if he believes his own lies, many other people do. Many other people would love to see us kick out undocumented immigrants (as though that’s feasible or ethical), many other people would love to kick out all Muslims or ban them from entering our country, many other people actually believe there’s something “special” about being white. How do we maintain sanity and love in an era marked by craziness and hate?

We continue to do what Christians have done throughout similar ages, which is to ignore the rabble and go about our business. It’s okay to take political stances and have political beliefs, but we must never let those beliefs turn us towards hatred of people, especially oppressed people. It’s okay to argue against illegal immigration (I, for one, would not). There are legitimate arguments and concerns against it. But it’s not okay to argue or to take a stance against illegal immigrants. These are people, human beings, who by being human beings hold an absolute right to exist and partake in the best life possible. That our government has a failed policy on immigration doesn’t mean we should argue against the individuals who take advantage of the failed policy. If you see an undocumented immigrant who needs food or water, your job as a Christian is to give him food and water. If you see him being taken advantage of, your job as a Christian is to help him obtain justice.

The Christian message isn’t built on superiority, but on humility. Christianity is not a “western” religion and no culture can lay claim to it. When the western world was still sacrificing animals to pagan gods, Christians in the east were building cathedrals. Western Europe wasn’t completely Christianized until the 11th century, well over 1,000 years after the founding of Christianity. Christianity transcends our culture and, ideally, should function to shape our culture and our ideals. While I’m a proponent of what is mistakingly called Western Civilization (is it really western if it began in the Middle East, was improved by Greece, and only reached a “western” Rome nearly 2,400 years after it began?), I have no grand delusions to say that Western Civilization is better or encompasses Christianity. Rather, I understand that my culture, my beliefs, my everything, must fall under the domain of Christianity. If my political belief is an inconvenience to Christianity, then the political belief must change. If Christianity calls for me to love my neighbor and a politician calls for me to hate my neighbor, then I must abandon that politician.

Living as a Christian in the era of Trump requires us to accept the fact that we’ve lost all political influence. We cannot hitch our trailer to Donald Trump and say, “At least he’ll promote some Christian things.” No, he won’t. One who promotes hatred goes against the core of Christianity. As Christians, we must support the candidate that will best allow us to fulfill our duty – that is, who won’t create laws or create a culture that actively inhibits us – to love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. A politician that would seek to see our neighbors imprisoned, deported, or ostracized from society isn’t a politician we can support. That doesn’t say much in the way of who we should vote for, but it says quite a bit about who we should not vote for. Living in the era of Trump means we have to forgo political gain and work harder to show love to our neighbors. Failure to do so will ensure that Christianity disappears from the United States, for no political movement can save us, no political movement can protect us, only by displaying love to our neighbors can we be saved.

When do black lives matter? or, Dear Fellow White People


In the span of 48 hours, two horrific police killings of black men were captured on camera. 
Rinse. Repeat. 
While details are still forthcoming, specifically the one from Baton Rogue, the situation in Minnesota appears to be nothing more than an impromptu execution. And for the umpteenth time in so many years, we’re left questioning what can be done to stop police violence. It is quite the worthy question and certainly we need a way to stop the killing of unarmed people, especially black men, without compromising the safety of police officers. But for all the rage, the one culprit we don’t want to point to as the cause of these killings is ourselves (white people).
Now I don’t mean we’re personally responsible or that we personally enacted laws that led to such incidents. I’m not even suggesting tacit support of such unfortunate events. Instead, I’m referring to a system that we’ve inherited that, even if we didn’t create it, we are its beneficiaries. Our grandparents may not have benefited from it, but in 2016 we do. 
When my great-grandfather came over from Kiev in 1912, he wasn’t white. That is to say, he had white skin, blue eyes, and probably couldn’t get a tan if he wanted to, but he wasn’t *white.* He was a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe, a Jew and a Slav. In 1912 that didn’t qualify him to be white. For those of Irish ancestry, the Irish immigrants weren’t white in the 1800s, neither were the Italians. Instead, such races with light skin were brought into the “white” category for various reasons. They were white, but weren’t *white.* All that to say that while my great-grandfather and grandfather didn’t benefit from any system of privilege, by the time I came onto the scene in 1983, I was a beneficiary of a system made for white people. Somewhere between 1912 and 1983, Russian Jews found a way into the white system, as did all those from Eastern Europe, Italians, and the Irish (save for over in the United Kingdom). 
In the modern era, I typically have little to fear when stopped by a police officer (though in New York, unless one is wealthy it’s always good to carry a bit of fear with the NYPD). I also have some form of upward mobility ahead as of me. I work hard, promote myself, and I can move up. If my career stalls, I can go pursue a graduate degree almost anywhere in the world. The fact is, I’m a white American male and while not rich or powerful, I have the world before me. 
The same cannot be said for my brothers and sisters of darker skin. The upbringing of my white niece and nephew is significantly and profoundly different from that of my black friends with children, even those who are middle class. Essentially, we’re raising an entire generation of African Americans to obey the police no matter what, to “accept their role” in society, to dress a certain way, to speak a certain way, to act a certain way. Decades removed from codified segregation and a century removed from slavery, we’ve still made little in the way of progress from a cultural and sociological point of view. The mentality we attempted to instill into slaves is eerily similar to the mentality we attempt to instill into their free descendants. 
So, what do we mean when we say black lives matter? If our utterance of that phrase ends with the intention of stopping police brutality, then we have a very limited vision of equality. We shouldn’t have to fight against police brutality in a free society, especially for any particular race. The right to remain unmolested by law enforcement when innocent is a given, built into our constitution. Fighting for an end to police brutality, especially for black men, isn’t so much a fight for racial justice as it is just a fight for common sense and liberty. 
No, when we say black lives matter we must mean more than, “stop killing black men.” We have to mean more, or we’re merely speaking empty words. When 1 in 3 black children are born and raised in poverty (compared to 1 in 4 Hispanic children or 1 in 10 white children), when there’s study after study showing that African Americans face an uphill battle in obtaining a job and/or education, when there’s proof that upward mobility is almost non-existent in black communities, when all evidence points to the system of Jim Crow still very much alive and active – not a specter haunting us, but a living being behind the scenes and psyche of our leaders and ourselves – we must demand change. When we say black lives matter we must look beyond police brutality cases and peer deep into a system that denies equality to an entire race of people simply because of the color of their skin. 
And we who are the beneficiaries of a system meant to protect white people, we who unintentionally benefit from such a system, are in the best position to eradicate such a system. The Civil Rights movement gained momentum and made the gains it did when white people stood with their black brothers and sisters and said, “enough is enough.” It was pressure from white people, those who benefited from segregation, that helped tilt the battle towards the side of justice. It’s not that we’re the heroes or that we need to save anyone, merely that we benefit from a system of oppression and are therefore in the best position to overturn it. The oppressed can only eradicate oppression through violence; but the oppressors, in peace, can choose to stop oppressing. 
This is not some “white guilt,” nor am I “cuckholded” as the vile and racist alt-right would claim. We owe it to our black brothers and sisters to work for change. Not merely because they’re human or because oppression is a cancer that always spreads to other races, but because we are family. We have a moral obligation to other humans to ensure they receive justice. Not for any utilitarian purposes, but merely because it’s right in its own right. Shall we deny them justice? Shall we deny a good work? Or will we finally rise up and say no more? Will we finally pursue what is right and good? The answer to that question is important, because lives depend on it, especially black lives. 

Why Economic Justice Matters: This Machine is Worker Owned (Part 4)


IMG_0039As we’ve seen thus far, the income inequality in the United States (and really, worldwide) is an issue that is leading to stagnating and destructive economic results. One possible solution is to cap the ratio between CEO pay and worker pay. There is, however, another alternative.

 

Worker-owned and operated co-ops, where workers own actual equity in the company and vote on management and executives, have proven to be quite successful worldwide. The best example is the Mondragon Institute where workers vote on their wages, vote on who their managers are, vote on who gets to be CEO, vote on the pay of the CEO, and all worker-owners have a share in the profits generated by the co-op. There are, of course, other examples out there.

 

The overall point is that we need a system where workers benefit from their labor. Under our current system workers are merely parts to an overall machine. They are not individuals, they are not important, they do not matter; a factory worker quits one day and is replaced the next, much like if a cog were to break, it would be removed and replaced. There is a dehumanizing aspect to our labor, which is why we pay substandard wages for that labor. Corporations release a constant stream of emails to employees about the corporate success, about how much profit the corporation has earned, about how much the stock has increased, and expect the workers to actually care. But why should they care? The corporation has increased profits off the backs of the workers, profits the workers will not enjoy (though executives will). Why should the workers care?

 

To take the modern system further, even in a system where workers get a small share of the profits, they have no say in how the company functions. While corporations use empty terms like “team members” and tell workers that their feedback is important, the fact is that even if 98% of the workers thought something was a bad idea, the corporation would do it if they saw a chance for a profit. The ever increasing desire to impress stock owners and drive up stock value – sometimes by creating short term gains at the cost of long term consequences – has crashed many companies and continues to harm our economy.

 

So, if setting ratios isn’t your thing, perhaps this is: Worker Ownership. Worker ownership is exactly what it sounds like, where the workers own the corporation. The only equity holders in the firm are those who have not only invested their money into the company, but have also invested their labor into the company. In such an economy, there would be two types of worker-owned companies:

 

Family business/co-ops – small, family run businesses are without a doubt essential to any local economy. A local economy built on family-owned businesses typically has a sustainable economy. One can imagine what would happen in poorer communities, whether urban or rural, if there was more economic development for local businesses. Of course, some family-owned businesses need a support system. This is where co-ops would work in lieu of corporations. The co-op would be composed of different farmers, different distribution companies, and different grocers. They would all work together to provide produce throughout the region (or nation) and could even work with other co-ops around the country to exchange produce. In the co-op, the different businesses within the co-op would all have a vote and a voice on how the co-op would function. Rather than having someone in New York decide what works best for farmers and grocers in North Carolina (as might happen with a major corporation), the business owners and farmers in North Carolina would be able to give a stronger voice for what policies work best in their area.

 

Think of a co-op as a type of confederacy, where there is a union and all the different organizations work together, but all are also at the same time autonomous. All contribute to the profit of the co-op and receive profit dividends from the co-op, but can also act independent of the co-op when it comes to their own store policies.

 

Worker-owned corporations – the family-owned business can only go so far. While I’ll get my food from a mom and pop store, I wouldn’t want that same place making my car. When it comes to cars, major construction ventures, making commercial airliners, and the like, businesses are necessarily large. There are certain endeavors that simply require a large corporation. A small business or even a collection of businesses (co-op) isn’t sufficient or efficient for certain industries. In instances such as these, corporations would be massive, but owned by the workers. Rather than being abstract, let’s use Ford as an example:

 

Imagine tomorrow that Ford was sold entirely to its workers. This would mean that all management and executives would be voted on by the workers. All profits would be distributed to the workers. The company could never move jobs overseas because worker-owners aren’t going to move their own jobs. There’d be no need for unions because the workers couldn’t go on strike against themselves. They’d vote on what wages should be for each position, on their own wages, and so on. It’s a form of direct democracy in the workplace, or democracy on a small-scale (the only place where democracy works best).

 

How both of the above solve for income inequality is that for the majority of workers – not everyone could become a worker-owner, especially at a younger age – would have the right to vote on their own salary as well as the salary of the CEO. If the workers decided to let the CEO earn at a 200:1 ratio, then that’s their choice. It wasn’t forced on them. But more than likely, the CEO pay would be much closer to a manageable rate. Productivity would increase as well due to the simple fact that an increase in profits would be shared amongst the workers. Thus, if workers wanted a bigger bonus each quarter, they’d push harder to increase the profits for that quarter. By actually seeing the fruits of their labor they’d work harder to see bigger fruits.

 

The benefits of this system are as follows:

 

  • Income inequality is no longer an issue. When most workers are also owners, they choose the income that occurs. For family-owned businesses the issue of a wage is no longer an issue.
  • Their jobs would be secure. Worker-owners won’t outsource their own jobs, they won’t lay themselves off to increase profits, they won’t recruit cheaper labor from a foreign nation to drive down wages, and so on. They’ll continue to innovate and improve because when the company succeed, their checkbooks will feel it.
  • They’ll be far more environmentally conscious. Part of the reason these companies have no issue polluting or destroying the environment in rural areas is because the executives and upper management don’t have to live in those rural areas. Worker-owned companies, however, would have owners who live in the local areas, who have to drink the water, who have to breath the air, and have to live with the consequences of their environmental impacts. While none of this promises complete environmental safety and we would still need regulations, environmental disasters or practices harmful to the local environment are less likely to occur because the workers don’t want to see their families harmed.

 

Of course, between the ratio system and the worker-owned system, there are some common themes.

Why Millennials Want Bernie Sanders or, How America Could Have Stopped Socialism


N6YQRW1Bernie Sanders offers free stuff and makes socialism look cool. After all, all the rad kids are down with Democratic-Socialism. I hear tons of 20-somethings are totally dressing as the late Michael Harrington (a famous Democratic-Socialist thinker for you squares out there) this Halloween. What these young whippersnappers need to remember and learn is that they’re not entitled to anything and there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Just because they can #FeelTheBern for free and legal marijuana and Xboxes doesn’t mean socialism suddenly makes sense.

Of course, when we remove ourselves from the rhetoric of Baby Boomers and even Generation X (the last generation to have a shot at the American Dream), the support for Bernie Sanders among millennials does make sense, even if it’s misguided. What people fail to understand is that the world for someone who is 20-something years old isn’t the same world for a 20-something year old 20, 30, or 40 years ago. 40 years ago students could work a full time job at minimum wage and pay for a college education while also paying for rent at an apartment. Back then minimum wage was $2.30 an hour, or about $9 by today’s standards. That’d earn a minimum wage worker $4,784 (give or take) for the year. Going to school full time would have run a tab of about $2,600, or half their income. So even for those who couldn’t squeeze that full amount, a small loan could take care of their education and, even in a worst case scenario, they’d be able to pay it back relatively quickly after graduation. Of course, earning a college education back in 1976 would have guaranteed a middle class job with a middle class income. And the average rent in a big city ran around $220.

Compare that to today’s standards. If a student works full time while going to college at minimum wage, she’ll earn $15,080 a year (give or take). The average four-year degree at a public institution will run $17,500 a year, which is more than her income. Also, the average rent in a big city has jumped to well over $1,500 a month (assuming she’s not in government housing). And all this for a degree that won’t necessarily guarantee a much higher income. And I know, we can say, “Well go get a trade school degree,” aside from ignoring implicit idea of creating a servant class, trade degrees are very susceptible to new technological advances or even market saturation: If everyone has a trade degree, then the value of having a trade degree drops. The overall point is that the economy today for those entering college, leaving college, or who have been out of college since 2000 is in a dire situation.

What’s more is that there’s no hope for millennials. The trend we’re seeing in the economy right now is that as Baby Boomers retire, rather than younger people taking the vacant positions, the positions are either being eliminated, rolled into another position, or shipped overseas. Even those lucky few who do get to take the positions are typically treated to significantly lower wages than their predecessor, because of “experience.” While not typical in all situations – especially in upper management – it’s very true for the average worker. Ideally, as Baby Boomers retire it should create a job vacuum, which would naturally increase wages and decrease unemployment and underemployment. But instead, we’re seeing absolutely no increase in wages or progress for those under the age of 30.

What the above means is as follows: As Baby Boomers retire, the younger generations are not inheriting better jobs and better wages. In fact, already we’re at a point where the majority of Americans are no longer in the middle class. Since 2000, even though Baby Boomers have begun to retire, we’ve seen no real progress in wages and no high demand to fill those jobs. That means over the next 10-15 years, as the last of the Baby Boomers begin to enter into retirement, we’ll watch the complete disappearance of the middle class. People will either be rich, or they’ll struggle. There will be no one who just lives comfortably, who while not rich or wealthy, can still put money into savings and retirement. What that also means is that in the next 10-15 years, the US tax-base is going to shrink considerably. Even if we taxed the top 10% income earners at a 90% rate – which is almost too heavy a burden for most people even in the top 10% of income earners –  that still wouldn’t be enough to fund our government. Historically in the 20th century the United States was able to grow, create highways, run mostly efficient projects because of the large US tax-base. After all, it’s better to collect hundreds to thousands of dollars from hundreds of millions of people than millions of dollars from hundreds to thousands of people.

As it is, we’re looking at a situation where within 20 years the United States is going to struggle to pay for some pretty basic things. Already we’re watching our infrastructure completely crumble because there’s not enough revenue being pumped into necessary projects. Many police departments are underfunded, leading to legalized corruption in civil forfeiture. In the states, most schools – especially low-income schools – are significantly underfunded. Imagine how these things will work 20 years from now. Most government money will likely go to wealthy areas of the country, while the rest of the country is ignored or remains underfunded. As it is, 1 out of 5 Americans is on some form of government assistance, or welfare to use the pejorative term (medicaid, SNAP, housing assistance, Supplemental Security Income, and Temporary Assistance). You can’t just mismanage funds to get on those programs as they’re based on your income, not how you use your income. That means21% of the country earns somewhere around or below the poverty rate. When compared to other industrialized nations, it’s pathetic. If we increase the number to include social security, veterans’ benefits, unemployment, and other social services, that number increases to 49%.

We’re heading towards a nation that, within 10-15 years, more people will be taking money from the government than putting money into the government. Not because they’re lazy, not because they’re “moochers,” but because that’s how we’ve set up our economy to function. Such a government simply isn’t sustainable, so cuts will be made, meaning benefits will be cut. That always leads to unrest and can harm a nation.

So the above is exactly what millennials have to look forward to. And along comes a crazy-eyed, wild-haired, tough-talking guy pointing to other nations using Democratic-Socialism, pointing out how it’s succeeding, pointing out how it works, pointing to a brighter future, and you wonder why millennials are drawn to him? I know enough about the Nordic system to know that what Sanders says it is and what it actually is are two different things. I know enough to know that his plans are really a bastardized version of the Nordic system. And I know enough to know that his plans, while significantly flawed, are still better than our current system. The dark future that awaits us is why millennials are willing to look at Sanders and hold out hope. Personally, I like what Sanders offers and will probably vote for him, not out of hope, but out of, “Well, our current path leads to doom and some of his ideas have worked elsewhere, so let’s try it.”

What’s worse is that all of this could have been prevented. A person who earns a livable wage, who can save up money, who has good healthcare, who has a secure retirement plan, and who knows that they’ll continue to be promoted and advanced with hard work doesn’t want to pay higher taxes, doesn’t want multiple government programs to solve for poverty, and doesn’t want socialism. It’s why Baby Boomers – who have spent most of their lives in the middle class – are so opposed to Bernie Sanders. It’s why millennials – who will never be in the middle class – like Sanders. Not because he’s cool, different, or hip, but because he sees the problem and offers a solution. But if the problem didn’t exist, then they wouldn’t need Sanders’ solution. The problem does exist, and it’s caused by greed.

Contra Gordon Gecko, greed is no good. Greed is a cancer, but worse than cancer. Cancer is random and not celebrated, so everyone fights it. Greed, however, is intentional, chosen, and celebrated, so it spreads and consumed everything in its path. Millennials don’t care that millionaires exist or that corporations have made massive profits; what they care about is that these profits haven’t been dispersed to the people who earned them, the workers.

US-corporate-profits-after-tax-1990-to-2013 (1)

US corporate profits after tax have increased dramatically since the early 90s. But when we look at income…

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Income has failed to match corporate profits. Which, to a certain extent, who cares if a CEO earns millions of dollars a year? I certainly don’t. If I can pay for the necessary things in life and lead a comfortable middle class lifestyle, not worry about my future, know that one day I can retire, why do I care that the CEO makes millions? But when his millions come at the expense of my paycheck? Well, now I care.

See, millennials don’t care that there are rich people, what they care about is that greed has essentially collapsed our society and economy. We’re just waiting on the other shoe to drop from 2008. If you want to know why millennials are turning to a self-avowed socialist, it’s not because they actually want socialism so much as it is they hate greed and what greed has done to our system. Greed is a horrible thing, a destroyer, and it’s causing the collapse of our nation.

Millennials, right or wrong, support Sanders because no one has supported millennials. Because we’ve allowed greed to run rampant, because we’ve celebrated greed, because we’ve created a system where the greediest people reap all the rewards, we’re looking at the decomposing flesh of what could have been a great nation. Greed is killing our nation and the masses are growing restless. This can either be settled through the wealthy giving up their greed and sharing their wealth voluntarily (ideal situation), or it can be given up through a political revolution by electing a far-left candidate (not ideal). Or, if the political revolution is stopped, one can only wonder when people will become so desperate that they’re willing to take to the streets in massive protests and riots (really not ideal). We came close in 2008, so it’s not difficult to imagine another shake up causing a more violent response.

So stop with the belief that millennials want free stuff. They don’t care about stuff. They just want a future. And if the wealthy business owners and CEOs don’t see fit to give them that future, they’ll vote for anyone who can promise it to them.

The Walsh Awakens: Matt Walsh Stares into the Trump and the Trump Stares Back


trump sewer.jpg

Matt Walsh stares into the abyss, only to find Donald Trump staring back

Friedrich Nietzsche is one of my favorite philosophers. Not because I agree with him – I find his views to be quite dangerous – but because he’s so absurd, so willing to take his thoughts to their conclusions, and there’s that perverse part of me that enjoys watching a crazy man shout in the streets. Nietzsche is to philosophy what Gary Busey is to television; both have staying power even though no one really knows why, both pump out Tweets (or “sayings” for Nietzsche, but they were Tweets before Twitter) that look deep, but are just asinine, yet I’ll be damned if it’s not the most entertaining thing you’ll see.

Which brings me to a very famous and oft misunderstood quote by Nietzsche:

“He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster.

And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.”

The point being, the longer you fight against a thing, the more likely you are to become that thing (or like it) or realize you already are like that thing. We sometimes hate something not because we’re actually opposed to it, but because it exposes us for what we are.

And the mentioning of Gary Busey brings me to another point…Donald Trump. Trump, much like Ron Burgundy, is kind of a big deal, especially if you ask him. He’s the bull and the United States is his china shop. What ought to worry most people is that Donald Trump, as of January 2016, has a legitimate chance to become the next president of the United States. One conservative who is worried, shockingly enough, is shock jock Blaze columnist Matt Walsh.

Walsh is baffled (BAFFLED!) that evangelical Christians could possibly support Donald Trump as president. Walsh appropriately points out that Trump is the antithesis of Christian values. I happen to agree with Walsh here as Trump’s positions do contradict everything within Christianity. Of course, that’s not what Walsh meant. Walsh, instead, points to Trump’s personal life and the fact that he’s apparently not “God-fearing” as the reason he’s anti-Trump. In other words, Walsh’s problems are with the guy’s behavior and not his beliefs, and that’s a problem.

It’s inconsistent for Walsh to actually take a stand against Trump because the two are almost eye-to-eye on the policy level. Donald Trump wants to deport all illegal immigrants and ban them from entering the country, just as Matt Walsh wants to deport all illegal immigrants. Donald Trump wants to stop the refugees from entering the country, just like Matt Walsh wants to stop them.  Donald Trump wants to stop political correctness by speaking “truth,” which, as you guessed, Matt Walsh wants to stop political correctness by speaking “truth.” Donald Trump likes a low minimum wage, as does Matt Walsh. Both agree that we don’t have a police abuse problem in America, and that African Americans aren’t suffering from it, but rather that the African American community is the problem (of course, without putting it in those terms).

And the list really does go on. I tried to find one major area of major disagreement and I came up with nothing. If you take the person of Donald Trump out of the equation and just look at the issues, then Donald Trump is the ideal candidate for Matt Walsh. So why isn’t Walsh wanting to #TrumpTheVote? Because he doesn’t like Trump as a person and he can’t understand why people, evangelical Christians, his readers, like Trump so much.

What Matt Walsh doesn’t realize, or perhaps he realizes and fears, is that Donald J. Trump is the personification of Matt Walsh’s – and by extension the far right’s – beliefs, and they don’t like what they see. After all, he accurately calls Trump “Godless,” and even an atheist would have to agree that Trump is pretty godless. Or, to quote Matt Walsh,

I know this will not resonate with atheists, but for us God-fearing folk it is extraordinarily obvious and irrefutable that we ought to only vote for other God-fearing folk. John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” I think it goes without saying that if the governed ought to be moral and religious, certainly the governors ought to be the same, and arguably more so.

That brings me to Donald Trump. I’ve tried to talk sense into Trump fans a thousand different ways and to no avail. It is a mob mentality driving Trump-mania, and mobs are famously difficult to reason with.

There is no use in trying to appeal to them as one group, anyway. Many elements comprise the Trump base, and most of them have values and principles that are completely antithetical to what any real conservative believes. But in the middle of this bizzare [sic] Trumpling potpourri are, apparently, Christians. Perhaps a vast number of them.

Ignoring the idea that not a single president has ever been “God-fearing” (how does one fear God, but not enough to free one’s slaves?), all of this argues against the person of Donald Trump, but not the policies of Donald Trump. But other than the fact that Donald Trump is a disgusting excuse for a human being, what policy differences does he supposedly have with Trump? What values and principles does Trump have that are antithetical to conservatives, but still somehow leads to (allegedly) conservative policy beliefs? How can two antithetical – that is, contradictory – beliefs result in the same policy decisions across the board? It’s one thing to have some overlap (Bernie Sanders, who begins from a non-Christian belief, still holds some policy decisions that overlap old Christian political beliefs), but to have a 1:1 match goes beyond a bit of overlap.

While Communism is the logical conclusion of Capitalism, at their core the two are antithetical, meaning that at a policy level one will have to give way to the other. Christianity and atheism are antithetical beliefs, meaning that if one derives one’s political beliefs from one’s metaphysical beliefs, there will be some differences in the political beliefs. Higher order beliefs will always impact lower order beliefs, meaning anything contradictory at a higher order will lead to contradictory policy beliefs (if consistency exists).

While Matt Walsh serves as a good whipping boy, the fact is there are many evangelical Christians who hold the same policy beliefs as Trump, but are somehow baffled by Trump’s success and abhor him as a person. In essence, they’ve stared into the abyss and found Donald Trump staring back. They’re left with some very unsettling conclusions:

  1. If a godless man such as Donald Trump comes to the same policy beliefs that they, the God-fearing evangelical conservatives have, then perhaps Trump isn’t godless, or perhaps being God-fearing doesn’t really matter in picking the “right” policy. Apparently one can be God-fearing, godless, or anything in between and still come to the correct conclusions in terms of policies
  2. If a godless man such as Donald Trumps holds the same policy beliefs as God-fearing evangelical conservatives, then maybe those policy beliefs don’t actually stem from a Christ-centered belief structure

Either option isn’t fun.

Christians have seemingly ignored the warnings of Francis Schaeffer, who rather than being the cause of the Religious Right (a famous, but absurdly inaccurate belief) actually warned against the rise of the Religious Right. In both A Christian Manifesto and The Great Evangelical Disaster, Schaeffer warns Christians to never become allies with the political process or political parties, to always act as co-belligerents on areas of agreement. Schaeffer was, of course, referencing the issue of abortion, arguing that Christians shouldn’t ally with Republicans in fighting abortion, but should instead stand as co-belligerents on this one issue.

Instead, today we have a form of Christianity that is almost entirely a co-opted wing of the Republican Party. Rather than evangelicals influencing Republicans, the conservatives, or the far right, we have the far right influencing evangelicals (and even some Catholics and Orthodox). Of course, not all conservative evangelicals are enamored with Trump and unlike Matt Walsh, they can stand against Trump with consistency. Dr. Russell Moore has not really argued against the person of Trump, so much as he’s argued against the ideas and policies of Trump, something Matt Walsh and other far right conservatives cannot do without a hint of irony.

Ultimately, to play off the idea of Russell Moore, conservative evangelicals have adopted a golden calf (not that liberal evangelicals are any better). But that golden calf isn’t Donald Trump, it’s the heartless and godless beliefs that are behind Trump. The anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-refugee, pro-nationalistic, pro-authoritarianism beliefs are not Christian and have never been Christian. While Christians have co-opted the world’s beliefs, they’ve done so by damaging the Gospel, not enhancing it. The golden calf in modern America, for conservatives, is conservatism itself. It’s the modern conservatism that comes with an implicit “America First” belief. It’s a political belief that looks to the nation before looking to the world or, more importantly, looking to Christ.

Christianity is a global religion with global ramifications. As a Christian I am called to help all, regardless of the consequences. In the far right there are caveats or complete blocks to who I can help. Donald Trump isn’t a compatible candidate because his personal life is a cesspool of human waste; he’s not a compatible candidate because his beliefs and policies attack the very heart of the Gospel. If your beliefs align with his, even if you hate him, perhaps rather than condemning the darkness of Trump’s heart it’s best to gaze into the abyss of your own. But be warned, the abyss might gaze back.

On Refugees and Justice


Source: The Independent

Source: The Independent

“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” – Ezekiel 16:49

How fickle and mutable is the public opinion concerning refugees and those in need. Just a few short months ago, the world stood witness to the body of a little boy, given up by the sea as his family attempted to flee a horrible situation. The sentiment towards helping refugees grew and the Western world seemed willing to spring into action. Faced with one of the greatest crises since WWII and with an enemy just as evil as the Third Reich, the Western world looked ready to unite and help those looking for a life away from constant danger.

And then Paris happened.

Suddenly, nations closed their borders, people abruptly lost their compassion, and the United States – historically a beacon for the sick, the tired, the poor – had 27 governors overstep their authority and say they wouldn’t allow refugees into their states. Never mind that of all the known attackers, every single one (with exception to one) was a French national, not a refugee. Of the one where little is known, he used a fake Syrian passport, meaning we don’t know his status, but most likely wasn’t a refugee.

But fear never lets facts get in the way.

Prudence requires an increase in screenings, in doing all we can to weed out potential terrorists as well as help refugees acclimate to the United States (so as to prevent disruption, resentment, and a reason to join a terrorist group). Justice requires us to seek a way to permanently fix this situation so the refugees can return home without worry of losing their lives. But mercy requires us to bring them away from danger and to a land of relative peace and safety.

Taking in refugees certainly is a complicated matter. After all, the average refugee will undergo some form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (especially for those who came from areas of heavy fighting), has lost family members, and is coming to a part of the world with an entirely different culture, climate, language, and majority religion. Such a scenario will naturally breed a tense situation that, if not handled properly, could cause problems. If we add to it that representatives of local governments (such as governors) are openly hostile to refugees, we have a volatile situation.

As with most things in life, love can overcome hate. It’s amazing how far a smile, simple directions, or just learning how to say “hello” in someone’s language will go. It’s the government’s job to vet the refugees and find places for them to live, but it’s up to us to make them feel welcome. People who feel welcome, who feel like guests or, even better, feel like neighbors are less likely to radicalize or listen to fundamentalists. Imagine the refugee who comes to the US or who is even turned away from the US, with the words of ISIS coming to mind; “They will reject you, they will mistreat you, only under an Islamic Caliphate can you find true happiness and freedom.” Such words begin to ring true when we actually do mistreat and reject refugees. If, however, we welcome them, treat them as neighbors, and do what we can to love them, then the words of ISIS ring hollow and false.

The future of these refugees really does fall on how we, as a community, treat them. If we are open and welcoming then chances are we will gain great citizens and neighbors. If we instead make the mistake of so many before us and reject them, then we will have nothing but trouble in our future.