Death of Liberty

“So this is how liberty dies…with thunderous applause.”

The greatest danger often lies in the seemingly insignificant.  In the 14th Century rats and sea travel went hand in hand. It was just generally accepted as the way things were. Not worthy of a second thought…or even a thought at all. Yet, this seemingly insignificant fact of life destroyed nearly three quarters of the European population. More recently, the assassination of a relatively minor European noble, seemingly insignificant in and of itself, sparked what was known at the time as, “The war to end all wars.” Or, an upstart charismatic Austrian who had no real chance of attaining power in Germany eventually committing the single greatest atrocity in all of human history.

In other words, we often minimize the real threat to our humanity.  We laugh it off as impossible. Then, as we lay dying, wonder how the hell we got here. Time and time again, this phenomenon occurs throughout human history. Once the smoke clears, we swear we have learned our lesson. This will never happen again. Until the cycle repeats and it happens again.

The oft repeated line, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” is ironically given both great thought and routinely ignored.  We read and share Santayana’s great truth while simultaneously ignoring the warning. We see the horrors of the past and chant, “Never again,” while failing to see the symptoms and events in our own society making such atrocity possible. Thus, history repeats itself, and once again we are left wondering how the hell we got here. And yet, future generations look at the patterns and wonder how the hell we missed it. It was so blatantly apparent.

It wasn’t that no one saw the danger, but they were a small minority. It wasn’t that the majority were inherently evil. They were, in fact, just average human beings who were misled. The combination of charisma, economic disparity (real or imagined), and manufactured fear can easily lead once noble humans down the wrong path. It has happened frequently throughout history. It is happening again.

There is truth to Goodwin’s law and the reason is a simple one. Take a speech from any politician compare it to any speech of Hitler’s and you will find striking similarities. This is because there was a lot of truth behind Hitler’s rhetoric. He frequently addressed the truly dire straits that was the German economy. He correctly addressed the raw deal Germany received from the Treaty of Versailles. (It should be noted, the sanctions taken against Germany was not without good reason. But, many Germans felt screwed over by the treaty and Hitler, brilliantly, used this to his advantage.) We view Hitler as the ultimate evil.  Thus, view everything that came from him as inherently insidious.  It is much more complicated. Hitler was a very charismatic man and a gifted orator.  In fact, he was quite correct in identifying Germany’s problems. From the economy, to the lopsided treaty, to the weakness of the Weimar Republic…he was right. He was, however, grossly wrong in the cause of these problems. At the same time, he gave the people exactly what they wanted. Someone to blame.

To me, the parallels are obvious. Completely separate from Goodwin’s law.  I see and understand the faults inherent within humanity which can lead to such horror. There are serious problems in our society, and Mr. Trump accurately depicts many of them.  When people are hurting we actively search for someone to blame for our misfortunes. Humanity will rail against the uncomfortable truth That it is our own apathy, our own complacence, which is often the cause of our woes. Rather, we will cling to the ludicrous idea that a single group of people is responsible.  And when someone uses our own prejudices against us we rabidly cling to the scapegoat they offer us a way to absolve ourselves from any responsibility for the problems we face. Yesterday, it was  Jews and immigrants. Today, it is Muslims and immigrants.

To those who stand there in disbelief, who think it cannot possibly happen again.  I assure you, it CAN. And, if we are not vigilant, it will. We are on the brink, poised to make the very same mistakes we SWORE we would NEVER let happen again. When we do so, it will be because we have let our own prejudices blind us to the exact same patterns that precluded every dictator, every evil empire, whether in fiction or reality, that has ever been known to man.

For the last ten years, I have been the first to call out the often hyperbolic comparisons. I have done so because I believe it diminishes the suffering of millions of people. Betrays the memory of those lost. Because it diminishes my children’s heritage.  I can say, with one hundred percent certainty, had things turned out differently my children would NOT be here. I can say this because they are the great-grandchildren of survivors.  As it is, it is a miracle my husband was even born. For not only did his grandparents survive Hitler, but Stalin as well. Somehow, not only did they manage to survive the war, they also managed to escape Europe and reach America.  A feat far too few of Slavic descent attained. I tell you this, not to brag about the blessings I have received. But to show you how serious this is for me.  I love my children more than anything.  More than my own life. Had either of these men succeeded in their endeavors my children would quite simply not exist. So, yeah, it means something to me.  What seemed foreign and far away in my youth has become extremely personal.

I tell you this so you know, when I make these comparisons it is not just the typical hyperbolic rhetoric. These are real, accurate, and frightening comparisons I once, naïvely, thought impossible in American politics. I was wrong. I see that now, and I hope to God the rest of the nation does to. Before it is too late and we are left with our hands in the air wondering how the hell we got here.

Now, in the spirit of true honesty, I must say, in many ways, Mr. Trump is right.  He accurately addresses many key problems in our economy.  The American Working Man has been repeatedly screwed by failed policies. We allow China to pad the market and break many of the rules set down by the WTO.  Lack of tariffs, quotas, and other disincentives has led many American companies to move jobs overseas. On that, he is correct. He is also correct in stating that these issues need to be corrected.  Of course, what he won’t tell you, is solutions to these problems have been routinely shot down by Republicans in Congress under the guise of ‘Free Trade.’

However, my issues with Mr. Trump are greater than Democrat v. Republican, Liberal v. Conservative. My concern is with the far, far too many parallels that can be made between Mr. Trump and infamous leaders of the past. He is a malevolent narcissist. His proposed ‘solutions’ are not only morally wrong but blatantly unconstitutional as well.  If you ask me if I honestly thought that Trump could be a fascist dictator, my answer would have to be a terrified, yes.

In the beginning, I too, saw his campaign as too bombastic and ridiculous to be real. I too, thought his nomination was impossible.  It was a joke. Hilarious to watch the establishment scramble.  I, too, underestimated not only him, but the gullibility of humanity.  As he continued, I slowly became convinced this was indeed very real and very dangerous.  I have heard the defense of some of his more asinine statements.  The most blatant. “Sure, he said it. But he didn’t REALLY mean it.” Ladies and gentlemen, yes, he did. Even if he didn’t, can we really afford to take that risk? Because not that long ago there was another raucous upstart who, “told it like it was,” “wasn’t afraid to speak the truth,” a “man of the people who couldn’t be bought.” Trust me, when I say, it didn’t go so well.

Currently, the nominee of the Grand ‘Ole Party, is a man who not only blatantly ignores the constitution but also holds none of the principles of the party he purportedly leads. The scary thing is, many Republicans see it too.

This is a man who has not only insinuated he would order the murder of innocent women and children, but also firmly believes such and order would be followed without question. That is the trait of a dictator, not the leader of a democratic republic.

A man who feels humans deserve torture. A man for whom the ends justify the means. A man who would sink to the level of criminals and terrorists. A man who feels limited by the Geneva Convention. A man who has threatened war with Russia. A man who not only refuses to rule out the use of nuclear weapons, but actively calls out for more.  A man who has blatantly stated he will start World War III. People, this is not a leader. This is a dictator. Even in jest (I’m addressing my opponents early), none of this is OK, and from the ‘Leader of the Free World’ it would be disastrous.

A man who has promised law and order, despite the fact, such power is not in the jurisdiction of the federal government and not one of the enumerated powers the constitution allows the executive branch. Law enforcement, for the most part, is left up to states and cities. A man who promised an executive order mandating the death penalty, despite having NO legal grounds to do so. Who would obliterate the 8th Amendment to increase the pain of execution.

A man who has the support of nearly all the worst people on the planet. Seriously. The sheer number of frightening endorsements should be enough to give anyone pause.

A man who quotes, and seemingly admires dictators. Who does not even try to distance himself from White Supremacists and Neo-Nazi’s.

A man whose plans are nearly all unconstitutional. Immigration. Registration of Muslims (⇐ If I have to tell you why THIS is a problem…). Banning Muslims. A man who seeks to curb the Free Press. To violate the freedoms of religion and speech. Has argued, against members of his own party, to repeal the 14th Amendment.

A man whose supporters not only threaten violence, but also carry it out. Even to those within their own party. Actions the candidate has never criticized nor condemned. But actively encourages and defends. That the most violent, racist, and cruel members of our society flock to this man is cause for concern.

He is a man who ‘jokes’ about murder. Who routinely violates equal protection laws…and has since the 1970’s. A man who refuses to admit when he is wrong. A man who ‘may have’ supported Japanese internment. Praises the ‘strength’ of the oppressive Chinese government. A man who called out to another nation to break US law (and international law) while the official Republican candidate for president. (⇐Seriously, if I have to explain this one…)

He is a man obsessed with strength. Who sees pragmatism and diplomacy as weakness. A man with a self-inflated sense of purpose. Who supports rabid nationalism and genuinely thinks that he is the ONLY solution. That he is inherently superior to all others.  Come on, this is right from ‘How to be a fascist dictator 101.’

He meets criticism with threats. Dismisses them with disgusting remarks. Has admitted that he would seek laws to punish those who spoke ill of him. (⇐ Red Flag) Mentioned his genitalia in a debate…seriously!  Who wants to replace liberal appointees with loyalists. (⇐WARNING!! Literally, Hitler’s first move people.) Please, please open up your eyes and realize this man is the single greatest threat to American Democracy that EVER existed.

“To remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all.”

― Elie Wiesel

I have a few beliefs that are unshakeable. The first is the resilience, generosity, and beauty of the human spirit. I believe we are capable of truly amazing and wonderful things. But that doesn’t mean I am blind to the faults of humanity. The darkness that lies within leading to horrors untold.

I believe in God. A creator. A great force of good in this world. A better life after this one. Not a God who ignores the evil in the world, but one who has taken a step back, allowed us to make our own mistakes. So we learn the lessons for ourselves.  I believe in a God who loves us, despite all our ills. A God who understands truth discovered is far stronger than truth that is given. A God who desperately wants us to get there. Who weeps when we fail. I believe he wept for Germany in the 1930’s. I believe he weeps for us now.

And I believe, with my whole heart, with every fiber of my being, with deepest conviction, the words written upon the single, most brilliant display of treason ever to grace the pages of human history.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I believe in this idea with a fire that cannot be extinguished. THIS is why we won the revolution. Not because of a superior army. Not because of the genius of our generals. But because an idea that once planted could not be uprooted. An idea that no war could destroy. I know that this idea has yet to be practiced in its entirety. There are those we have failed. Call me the Greater Fool, if you will, but I truly believe that this type of society is possible. I believe in the greatness of humanity. In hope.  I will cling to hope regardless of the ferocity of the storm.

My fellow Americans, we have come to a crossroads. One where we can continue our grand social experiment of equality for all. Or one where we lead from hate and fear. We have a choice, to be either on the right side of history, or the wrong one.

We need to open our eyes, and make the phrase ‘Never Again,’ mean not that it can’t happen again, to acknowledging the darkness within humanity. By making it mean it CAN happen again, BUT WE WON’T LET IT.

Our system is battered and bruised, but not broken.  We can either come together and fix the problems or we can decide it’s not worth fixing. I am not naïve as to how the system “works.” I will be voting for Hillary Clinton, because she is the Democratic Party nominee. Because I know nothing about the third party candidates. I acknowledge this is due to media bias. I agree that the two-party system needs to be dismantled and replaced with a more equal representation of our various beliefs. Yet, I know, as it stands, no third party candidate has a chance in winning a single state, let alone the election. I ask you all to consider this unfortunate truth in November. We have four years afterwards to make our elections more fair and equal.

Those who know me, know that I have never been a fan of Secretary Clinton. Despite the many disagreements I have with her, I will vote for her. I get that the status quo isn’t great. I get that many see this as a ‘lesser evil.’ I hear you. I understand. I am there with you. I too, am tired of the establishment, the lack of choice, and politicians serving their own self interests. Sick of it. I too, want change. Not by dismantling the idea, but by actually living up to it. It is a worthy goal. One I will push and strive for, for the rest of my life. But, to me, the facts are clear. Hillary Clinton does not, for all her ills, represent a clear and present danger to our constitution. Donald Trump does.

If you believe in everything Mr. Trump is selling, then by all means, vote for him. Understand that we will need to part ways. Because I will not support fear and hatred…however tacitly.  If you truly believe in everything I have spoken out against then there is nothing I can do or say to convince you otherwise. Regardless, I will continue to keep you in my prayers.

But, if you are considering a vote for Mr. Trump, merely because he has that (R) behind his name, please don’t. We need to let go of partisan politics. Let go of loyalty to party above our own interests. If that (R) is the only reason you are considering Mr. Trump, I implore you to truly consider whether this vote speaks to your conscience or against it. If your conscience will not allow you to vote for Hillary, that’s fine. I get that. Just don’t vote for Mr. Trump out of some displaced loyalty to a party that has never really had your interests at heart. (Same can be said of (D) by the way.)

If you are considering voting for Mr. Trump because you are tired of the Establishment, please, don’t be fooled. Donald Trump is very much a part of the Establishment. He cannot be bought simply because he’s the one doing the buying. Don’t be fooled into thinking that a Trump vote is anti-establishment. Open your eyes and realize, not only is he establishment, but that he represents the most insidious parts of it. If you are considering a vote for Mr. Trump as a way to “stick it to the man,” please God, don’t. Mr. Trump IS the man. If you really want to shake things up in Washington, to send a message to the politicians that we are sick and tired of their games. That their jobs are NOT guaranteed…then vote against every incumbent (R) or (D) up for reelection this November. If enough of us do it, they WILL get the message. And it has the potential to actually affect the types of changes you want. Changes we all want. For more than any Presidential election ever will.

I ask all of you to seriously consider your vote in November. To vote your conscience. To ask yourselves, if you truly believe in the constitution. And if you do, is Mr. Trump really the guy you think will uphold and defend it? These are serious times and they call for serious people. This not a joke, or a game. Who do you honestly think is the person worthy of guarding the values we hold dear? If no one, then no one is your answer.  I believe Mr. Trump to be a serious threat, not only to our Republic, but also to humanity at large.  I hope to God I am wrong. But you need to ask yourselves, is it worth the risk?

We are not Germany in the 1930’s. We are far better off, and our situation is not as dire as some would have you believe.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. –Edmund Burke

World War II and the Holocaust did not occur because Germany was rife with evil people. They were just people. People who were scared, hurt, and tired. People just looking for an ease to their suffering. The majority of those who voted for Hitler and the Nazi’s were not voting for the massive genocide that followed. It was never their intent. But the intentions of an action mean very little when the result is so catastrophic. Would you so eagerly accept the apologies of someone who voted for the Nazi’s if they said they didn’t mean for it to happen? Does the fact it was never their ‘intent,’ in any way, diminish the horrors of that era? The evil unleashed upon the world? You know it doesn’t. It doesn’t change anything. Doesn’t help anything. Whether you believe the Germans were evil or fools, it doesn’t change what happened. Nor does it make it more acceptable. I urge you all to keep that in mind come November. A vote for hate is a vote for hate, regardless of how noble your intentions may be.  Fifty years from now, I don’t want America to look back with regret on what we unleashed upon the world. I cannot support a vote for Mr. Trump. Not because I am an American with American ideals. Not because I am a Christian. But because I am human, because I am a citizen of this world, and because I have the firm belief in the goodness humanity is capable of.

 

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

― Elie Wiesel

Oh, Indiana.

There is a lot of talk going on lately about the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and with good reason. Some support it, some don’t…and many seem to be confused as to what it is and why it’s a big deal. The confusion needs to go. My problems with the Indiana law are two-fold. First, my religious freedom is already protected by the first amendment to the US constitution and by my state’s (and Indiana’s) constitution as well. I fail to see why we need a special law saying we have the right to religious freedom when that issue was solved with the Bill of Rights. Along with this issue, goes another one (a big one for me), and that is the inherent hypocrisy of those who support the law. Now, those that know me should know that nothing gets my goat more than hypocrisy. To quote Denzel (Remember the Titans- great flick, but I digress): I may be a mean old cuss but I am the same mean old cuss to everyone. I like consistency if you don’t support something for someone else then you can’t claim to have a right to it or a need for it.

So, where is the hypocrisy, you ask? I am glad that you did (even if you didn’t we are going to pretend that you did, so go with it). See, my biggest issue is that many of the laws proponents argue that the LGBT community is not asking for equality, but for ‘special rights.’ They hold the idea that people already have the right to marry who they wish, but LGBTers want ‘special rights’ just for them. I don’t hold to this opinion (I find it highly flawed, offensive, and discriminatory) but if you do, so be it. But if you do, yet you support the Indiana law, you are by definition, a hypocrite. As I already mentioned, religious freedom is already protected, the proponents of the Indiana law do not want religious freedom (which they have all had since birth) but they want ‘special rights’ they claim are within the mandates of their religion. Rights that may possibly violate other state and federal statutes.

We have anti-discrimination laws for a reason. We shouldn’t have to have them, but we do because people generally suck. These laws do not harm anyone nor do they violate the first amendment. See, like with all rights, there is a limit to what you can do with that. We have freedom of speech, but we can still be prosecuted for telling lies (libel), mis-truths (slander), or any speech that causes or threatens active harm (threats of violence, or screaming fire in a crowded theater.) These limits are not stifling our freedoms, but, rather protecting them…for everybody. The same holds true for religious freedom. Your religious freedom ends at the point where someone is exposed to undue harm. Hence, why stoning or human sacrifice (or sacrifice of any kind, generally speaking) are still illegal. This is the reason that, despite many religions supporting and/or promoting it, polygamy is still illegal in many states, because it has shown to come with a lack of consent and harm to individuals (sometimes underage)…see: Colorado City.
In fact, the argument over religious freedom is hardly anything new. SCOTUS has decided this issue many times over, and reached the same (ish) conclusion every time. The exception being the Hobby Lobby case…well, sort of. The big religious freedom case was US v. Lee. An Amish man made the argument that as we was spiritually opposed to social security, he shouldn’t have the pay the employer required contribution on behalf of his non-Amish employees. SCOTUS basically said, uh-unh, doesn’t work that way. Well, actually they said: When followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity. In other words, when you open a business you make a ‘choice.’ No one says you are required to do so, and no one is forcing you to open a business against your will…you choose to do that. As such, in making that choice, you agree to follow any and all laws and regulations that apply to that business. There are laws on the books that state you are not allowed to discriminate against someone in your business, these laws are unfortunately necessary and are around for a reason. They protect those to whom others wish to place an, undue burden. That’s the language used in the Hobby Lobby case, too, but wrongfully applied.

See, if the government can show that a law fulfills a fundamental need, is in the public good, (or shows compelling interest) and doesn’t place an undue burden upon others then that law is not in violation of anyone’s religious rights. For example, the state can require vaccinations (oh, if only they would) because they can prove that it is a compelling interest (i.e. Vaccinations save lives, improve community health and cost far less than the treatment of said diseases.) The government can prove that required vaccinations to keep a public healthy, is the least restrictive method of doing so. In the Hobby Lobby case, the court again used this compelling interest/undue burden requirement. Where it dropped the ball was here. See, the decision stated that the government did prove that requiring employers to give health coverage (and that, that coverage cover contraception) was in a compelling interest (side note: in stating this the court has already decided for the ACA). Where the government failed, according to the court, was to prove that such a requirement was the least restrictive method of obtaining their goals…and thus, violated the owner’s ‘strongly held religious beliefs.’ But where the courts failed is that they forgot that Hobby Lobby would then place that ‘burden’ on a third party…the employees. (Yes, this is all the fault of the Hobby Lobby case…way to go for unintended consequences).
The Indiana law would allow businesses to refuse service to individuals based on their ‘strongly held religious beliefs.’ (Since, you know, corporations are people now and have religious freedom). This, however, places an undue burden on consumers (discrimination). The law essentially forces others to comply with another’s ‘strongly held religious beliefs,’ which is, in all actuality, unconstitutional. How can this go wrong? Say some one has a ‘strongly held religious belief’ that black people are unclean and thus refuses to serve them in their establishment. Many would agree (I hope) that this is a false belief and that allowing a business to carry out this plan is wrong. But that is exactly what the law allows to be done to the LGBT community. How much longer before they refuse to hire certain group of people? The Indiana law, and the Hobby Lobby decision, places the ‘rights’ of a business above the rights of the individual. This is why I have a problem with both the new law, and the decision. Your religion does not give you the right to discriminate against people. (If you want a more professional opinion, one of lawyers and such, with all the legal mumbo jumbo click here)

Hey, SCOTUS, Thanks For Nothing

The Hobby Lobby ruling is a slap in the face to all human beings, especially those who proclaim to be a part of a religion. The reason why is this: SCOUTS just gave a non-living entity the same rights and privileges afforded to me and all other human beings BY GOD. God did not give these rights to tigers, rocks, treesor businesses but solely to HUMANS. By giving these non-living legal entities the same rights and privileges afforded to humans SCOUTS has effectively demeaned the entire human race. We, especially those of us of faith, should be appalled and offended by this ruling. Faith, and thus the exercise of religion, is a gift given to us by God… it is not something that can be granted by a court of man. For those who would argue towards the owners religious freedomthis is not about that, they are free to exercise their religion as they see fit. This is about the corporation of Hobby Lobby. The owners made the CHOICE to incorporate their business making it a SEPARATE entity from themselves. This was never about the owners paying for anything, but for the separate legal non-living entity of the corporation complying with legislation. What SCOTUS has done is given rights to a non-living entity above the rights of actual human beings. SCOTUS has taken the gifts, given solely to the human race, by God, to a non-living entity created solely by man. Congratulations, I hope you are happy.

A Heinous Violation

The past several weeks have been flooded with ‘violations’ of constitutional rights.  In fact, the past year has shown that a vast number of people have no idea what the constitution is, what it says, what it means and its general purpose.  Not to mention who it does and who it doesn’t apply to.  I am here to correct a few misconceptions.

First and foremost it is important to understand that the constitution (and the included Bill of Rights) does not, in any way, shape, or form, give us any rights at all.  Zero.  The rights enumerated in the constitution are natural rights.  These are things that we have a right to simply because we exist.  It has nothing to do with being an American but more so with simply being human.

When the documents were created there was a huge debate about enumerating our human rights.  Jefferson was against doing so because he felt that it would have two consequences.  One, that people would come to believe that it was the document that provided the rights and to only a select group of people (i.e. citizens).  Two, if a ‘right’ didn’t make the document then it must not exist.  In other words, Jefferson was concerned that future generations would suffer because something wasn’t written down. Wise man.

So, why were some of the founders concerned about people assuming the document gave those rights? Because that would negate the purpose of the constitution.  See, the constitution does not apply to you, or me, or any one person (or corporation) on the planet.  It applies ONLY to the federal government.  The constitution is a list of rules and regulations for the government to follow…nothing more.

This is why Phil Robertson being suspended for something he said was not a violation of his ‘constitutional rights.’ First, let’s just ignore the fact that the constitution doesn’t give rights.  And, to save my sanity, let’s skip over the vast number of politicians who fail to understand the constitution.  For now, let’s just go over what the  first amendment is, what it means and who it applies to.

The first amendment actually enumerates a number of rights but let’s start with freedom of speech.  The founders believed that you had the natural right to speak your mind without fear of persecution from the government.  The last bit is the essential part.  The belief was that any human being should be able to say, “King George sucks,” without risking imprisonment.  The amendment gives you nothing.  It does not protect you from criticism.  It does not protect you from repercussions from the public…such as, losing your job.  So, what does it do?  The first amendment tells the federal government that it cannot make any laws restricting the speech of its citizens.  That’s it.  All it does is prevent the government from persecuting, imprisoning and executing citizens for saying something (the primary purpose was to allow citizens to speak out against the government).

That being said, the amendment is not all inclusive.  Thus, the government does have the power to restrict certain kinds of speech.  These include things like revealing state secrets, yelling fire in a crowded room, slander, libel and threats against human life and wellbeing.  Hence, why it is illegal to threaten to kill or hurt someone.  So, the first amendment protects you from the government if you want to call the President a ‘lying, cheating n—’…or even if you want to tell him to go ‘f— himself.’ However, cross the line and say, “I’m going to kill that lying, cheating n—,’ and you risk being investigated by the government.  And, in doing so, the government is NOT violating your rights.

So, do we understand now, that only the federal government can violate the first amendment?  If you call your boss an asshole, he can fire you.  This does not violate your rights.  If you say the President’s economic policy sucks and as a result you are arrested…that is a violation of your rights.  See the difference?

Actions have consequences.  Nothing in the constitution protects you from consequence.  Accepting that your actions have consequences is part of being an adult.  Making the choice to say or do something means accepting the consequences that may arise from said action.  Saying something and then whining or complaining because what you said or did got you fired or ridiculed is childish and stupid.  Vocal disagreement (and in some cases, public shaming…though I don’t always agree with this tactic) are the consequences of speaking your opinion.  This is not a violation of your rights.  Claiming such is extremely childish and you should probably grow up a little.

While we are on this subject, I am going to quickly address a pet peeve of mine.  So, let’s just say we are debating free speech and religion.  You think this means that Mr. Robertson’s rights were violated.  I disagree.  You then proceed to tell me that we are a Christian nation.  That the first amendment protects you from providing birth control, seeing gay people be married and gives you the right to say whatever you damn well please.  I disagree.  You cannot follow up with ANY of these arguments: “Well the gays need to stop being so sensitive and just shut the hell up,” or “That’s the way it is and if you don’t like it, get the hell out.” Reason: The argument puts holes in your own logic so large I could drive a mid-90’s hummer through it.  If you say, ‘God hates f—,’ and I tell you that you are wrong, you believe I am violating your rights.  However, you then telling me to shut up and get out, by your own logic, is you violating my rights.  (That is not, in reality, the case but if you do believe that the amendment protects you from criticism then such a comeback is logically impossible.)  These arguments do nothing for your cause.  All they do is show the world that you are one giant hypocrite.

You are telling the world that only things you agree with are valid and any form of disagreement you see as a potential threat to your sad, pathetic and isolated worldview…and thus it must be a violation of your rights.  By telling someone to leave if they don’t like it you are telling the world that you are a bigot because you only want people who think and speak like you to be an American.  You may be a perfectly nice person but these arguments make you appear to be nothing more than a hypocritical, bigoted asshole.

The fact that we can debate our differences in a public forum is awesome.  It is one of the greatest aspects of our society.  The debate.  Do you have any idea how many countries would imprison us for doing so? The fact that Americans disagree on issues and debate them is not only one of the greatest thing about this country but also the very reason we have progressed as far as we have.  The debate is the reason we don’t have slaves, women can vote and that we have civil rights.  All thanks to debate.

You know who wants a country full of people who only share their views and opinions…despots.  Now, I am not saying that you are a despot.  What I am saying is that all despots want to suppress the ideas, opinions and beliefs of those that differ from their own.  Now, if that is the type of country you are looking for I can give you hundreds of examples throughout the annals of history as to why that is a bad idea.

I don’t think that is what you really want but that is what your words imply.  This is why people don’t take you seriously.  I am not saying that you have to agree with my opinions and beliefs…just accept the fact that I can have a differing opinion and we can still occupy the same country.  If you disagree with me, debate me.  Please.  Tell me why you disagree.  Don’t just tell me I am wrong and walk away.  We cannot possibly solve our problems that way and we have a lot of serious problems to solve.

Wow, ok.  So this post kind of got away from me.  We will stop there for now but I promise we will continue to discuss constitutional issues and the intents of the founders throughout the year.

Syria

    So, Syria.  First of all let’s take a few of the more idiotic arguments off the table.  No, you cannot claim hypocrisy for possible US involvement because the US turned a blind eye to Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons in the 1980’s.  Why, you ask?  Because it’s not the same people making the decisions.

              
 

If you haven’t noticed, the people in charge of our government change rather frequently.  Ok, so maybe not Congress, but the Presidency changes at least every 4 years or at most every 8 years.  To compare what this administration has done to what a completely different administration did in the past is naive at best, asinine at worst.  In short, drones are on the table; US taking Iraq’s side in their war with Iran is not. Different players at the table change the game.

              
 

Drones. Gotcha. Yeah, the policy surrounding drones stinks.  Kind of hypocritical, I will give you that.  Except, drones never targeted an entire civilian neighborhood.  Civilians killed are collateral damage, not the target.  War is messy. Fact is, there is no way to avoid civilian casualties in any war, regardless of weaponry used. Should we have done a lot of things? Probably not, but drones are, unfortunately (though there is some debate), a legal weapon of the world.  Sarin gas is not. The use of chemical weapons against civilians violates international law.  So far, US drone usage has not.  At least, to our knowledge.

              
 

Second, the argument we shouldn’t get involved because one rebel soldier ate the heart of a Syrian government soldier.  Disgusting, yes.  War crime, yes. But here’s the thing, you cannot denigrate an entire rebel force for the actions of one guy.  If that were acceptable our military would be screwed.  To have the delusion that you can fight a war ‘civilly’ is beyond ridiculous. War crimes and crimes against humanity occur in any war.  Most likely perpetrated by both sides. The trick—and it’s not easy, clean, or nice—is to find the less evil of the two (or three, or four).  It sucks.  Sometimes it really, really sucks. It may even weigh heavily on the conscience.  And sometimes it should.  This is why we teamed up with Stalin.  Does that leave a nasty taste in your mouth?  It should.  Welcome to war, where nothing is black and white.

              
 

Third argument, 100,000 people are already dead but a chemical weapon hits and now we care? Mmmkay, it’s really not that simple.  The moment Assad turned the military on his people the world spoke.  For the last two years, actions against Syria have been brought to the UN.  You know, the guys that actually are the world police.  Of course, Russia and China have blocked every idea that came to the table.  So, basically, we have spent two years trying to do the right thing through the UN.  Didn’t work. Now, banned weapons have been used against a civilian population.  Game changed.  Rules changed.

              
 

Why?  Because now dictators around the world are watching and waiting.  Wondering if the world will allow Assad the use of these weapons.  To do so would be a tragic apathy.  To do nothing before was simply allowing a country to have a civil war.  And the US cannot interject itself into every internal conflict.  That is the UN’s job. However, if the US and decades of screwed up foreign policy continue to allow Syria to go unpunished that sends a message to the world that these weapons are okay to use.  That they will be tolerated. By taking no action we essentially are giving our silent approval.  Trust me, this is not the message we want to send to certain people (*cough*North Korea*cough*).  To understand why the US is in this crazy ass position in the first place,  you have to examine the last 80 years or so of foreign policy.  That is a post of its own.

              
 

Sucks, right?  Welcome to war and foreign policy.  No matter what you do you are going to get royally screwed.  You just need to predict which action or non-action will be judged less harshly by history.  You know, so you don’t screw the guy that comes 30 years after you.

              
 

—It is not hypocritical for me to ask you not to view the US as a single entity rather than by each administration when the majority of the world views us as a single entity.  Just because others view us as a single entity doesn’t mean we can do it too.  Like how we shouldn’t judge Putin for things Stalin did.  We need to learn from history, not punish people for it.—

              
 

So, shit happened.  US is placed in a position where it needs to respond (not the ‘red line’ thing, any President would have used the same language).  President differs to Congress and people lose their freaking minds. Look, I know it’s been awhile since a President went to Congress for permission before an attack, but this is how it is supposed to work.  Trust me, this does not make the President weak. This is not him trying to get Congress to cover his ass.  This is not about shifting blame.  This is the President actually doing his job.  Shocking, I know.  I know we are all used to the type of President who shoots first and then asks questions later but in reality this is how it should happen.  Knee jerk reactions are what have caused most of our problems so I find it refreshing that this President is taking the time to make this decision with the appropriate gravitas and involving all the necessary people.

              
 

Funny thing, those that make the claim that going through Congress makes the President look weak, soon follow with, “Who the hell does he think he is? Thinking he has the authority to act without Congress.” *facepalm headdesk* Okay, seriously, pick a side.  You cannot claim Obama is weak for differing to Congress, then claim that Obama is a dictator for saying he has the authority to act without Congress.  It is either one or the other.  You cannot be pissed about both.

              
 

According to the Constitution, as it was originally intended (that’s for you Tea Party people, who are hypocritically outraged at this point), the President must seek authority from Congress before declaring war. The Constitution did originally read that only Congress had the power to make war.  That was changed in 1787 to ‘declare war’ so that the President could respond to immediate threats. The reason for that is quite simple. In the 1700’s, it took a long time to get places.  The idea is that, for example, should Canada attack while Congress is not in session, the President can do what needs to be done until Congress gets around to voting. And it was commonly thought that should such an event occur Congress would then be obligated to vote to continue military actions. Granted, a few things have changed from this original intent.

 

 

The War Powers Act of 1941 gave the President immense power regarding war.  At the time it was necessary due to the scale of the conflict we had found ourselves in (WWII).  However, that law still stands today and has led to a few issues here or there.  Like Korea and Vietnam.  Use of the War Powers Act, or at least a very loose reading of such act (see R. Nixon), then led to the War Powers Resolution in 1973.  This allowed the President only 60 days of warfare without Congressional approval and required the President to make written reports to Congress. Then, we have legal precedent, or rather non-judicial (see Reagan, Bush (41), Clinton, Bush (43)…just to name a few).  No President has ever been seriously questioned about violating the War Powers Clause (that’s the actual reading of the Constitution). We might have, once, if it hadn’t been for this stupid little thing called Presidential Pardon (again see R. Nixon).  As for the others it has never been brought up.  And despite popular belief Bush (43) and Cheney have not been pardoned…nor have they ever been charged with any crime. Though to be fair, every President since Nixon could have been charged with a crime had we been following the actual text of the Constitution.  

 

Finally, a little thing called the AUMF.  Authorized Use of Military Force.  If you don’t know what this is then you haven’t been paying attention. Google it.  Now. Specifically the AUMF against terrorists passed on Sep. 14, 2001.  Yeah, that one is a doozy. These things make Obama correct in saying that he has the authority to act.  ‘Cuz he kind of does.  And yes, that does suck.  Instead of doing so, however, he did what, technically, every guy before him should have done, and went to Congress.  So, basically, it boils down to this.  The guy you lambasted for the last years, claiming his disregard for the Constitution, claiming his outright subversion of the Constitution, are pissed because he followed the Constitution.  Oh for …no, deep breaths, rant later.

           
 

Last argument, opposing Assad is treason because then we would be supporting Al Qaeda.  ARGH!!!!! Is anyone paying attention?  First of all, you and your enemy can have the same enemy and not support each other.  Just because you dislike the same guy doesn’t make you friends or buddies.  Kind of like how disliking the Yankees doesn’t necessarily make you a Mets fan.

              
 

That, however, is beside the point.  For those of you only paying attention to what you hear on TV, there are 3 factions in this war.  Assad’s forces, which we know are bad.  The Free Syrian Army, the people—citizens—fighting against Assad for their freedoms, of which, we know, some are bad.  Then there is Al Qaeda.  These assholes just kind of showed up.  Fairly typical of a terrorist organization to take advantage of a situation.  The FSA is not Al Qaeda.  Al Qaeda doesn’t give a shit about the Syrian people or who runs Syria.  They saw an opportunity to give themselves a foothold in Syria (yeah, that would be bad for us…but strategically advantageous for them).  Basically they saw an opportunity to gain more power and they jumped at it.

              
 

Yes, there have been times where FSA and Al Qaeda have fought side-by-side against Assad. (Of course, there are times when the FSA has also fought outright against Al Qaeda as well) Here’s the thing though.  When somebody is shooting at you, you’re not paying that much attention to the guys not shooting at you.  Nor, in the heat of battle, are you going to care that much if the guy trying to kill the guy trying to kill you is from Al Qaeda.  That will be sorted out later, right now, you are distracted by trying not to die.  Beyond that, just because you fought alongside someone doesn’t mean you agree with them on everything.

              
 

In WWII, our soldiers fighting alongside Russian soldiers did not mean a shared belief system.  The US and Britain teaming up with Stalin was not an endorsement of his beliefs.  Was our partnership with Stalin wrong? Not exactly, but it wasn’t really right either.  Stalin was an ass.  Hitler was an ass. Hitler was trying to kill us, Stalin was trying to kill Hitler.  Not pretty, but war makes strange bedfellows.  Stalin was a dictatorial, murderous asshole.  But, at least he wasn’t trying to take over the world.  Sadly, we needed him to stop the asshole that was.  Sucks.  Again, welcome to war.

              
 

Unlike the US in WWII, however, the FSA has not welcomed Al Qaeda with open arms.  They are skeptical of Al Qaeda’s stake in this war and don’t trust them to just walk away when it is all over.  In fact, the FSA had repeatedly said that Al Qaeda has hijacked their revolution.  So, then, why haven’t they done anything about it?  Because they are a little busy fighting the other guy.  A good rule of thumb is when someone is trying to kill you, you don’t go out of your way to make someone else want to kill you.  Better to focus on one fight at time.

              
 

So, what’s left? Syria.  That’s it, forget the rest, it is horseshit.  Do we act or don’t we? First, the threat of action has made one very large difference.  Russia has revised its position, saying if proof of the attack by Assad could be made it would support a UN military strike.  (Psst. For those of you critiquing the President about a lack of secrecy toward said attack…it’s not stupid and careless if this is the outcome you wanted).  I don’t pretend to know the reason behind what the President said and what intel was released.  But if I wanted Russia to cave, this is exactly what I would have done.  To tell the truth, I was waiting for Russia to come out with such a statement since the President made his initial statement.  It’s all very simple if you understand two things.  Putin may be a lot of things, but he is not stupid.  Thus he knows, the last thing Russia needs is another 40 year pissing match with the US.  If that was the intent, then it was a hell of a bluff.  If that wasn’t the intent then a) you got lucky and b) you need to tone down the rhetoric.

           
 

Russia caving is a big thing. For two years, Russia has essentially cockblocked any diplomatic action against Syria.  Within the span of a week we saw Russia go from no way in hell, to we will support a strike if you can prove it, to let’s just get Assad to give us his weapons. Basically, Russia is now on board to do what the rest of the UN has wanted to do for two freaking years.  Now, the UN can act without worrying about being blocked by Russia.  And if Russia doesn’t block odds are good China won’t block either.  Should this happen, there will be no attack on Assad (unless he really screws this up) and any action (diplomatic or military) will be UN sanctioned and supported (i.e. financials, lest you think I am being redundant).  Thus, the US doesn’t have to go it alone in saying chemical weapons will not be tolerated.  So, we get to act on something we need to act on and yet not be seen as the cowboy assholes, because we did it the right way.  Isn’t foreign policy fun?

 

    
 

 

    

A Modest Proposal: The Scary Part

To me the most disturbing part of Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal is not eating babies. Sadly, the most frightening part is that 237 years after Swift penned his pamphlet we still haven’t found a way to deal with the issue of poverty. More so than that, we are fighting the exact same ideas that have proven time and again they don’t work. Swift’s work is not only powerful within the context of 18th Century Ireland but to 21st Century United States as well. In fact, Swift’s pamphlet is so relevant to modern American politics that it is frightening.

A report came out recently that US citizens living abroad are giving up their citizenship in anticipation of a tax hike. One of Swift’s actual proposals included taxing absentees. Currently, the US does tax its absentee citizens but as with the rest of the tax code it is full of loopholes. Many will argue against a citizen paying US taxes when they are not living and working in the US. Here’s the thing. If you maintain a US citizenship, even if you have spent the past 20 years living in Switzerland, you have the right to vote in US elections. So, a person doesn’t live in the US, doesn’t work in the US, doesn’t contribute to the community and economy of the US, and doesn’t want to pay US taxes, but they want to vote in our elections. I get it. You are, technically, a citizen. But how can you have a voice in what happens in a country you do not reside in? Just to be clear, these absentee taxes do not apply to those in the US military nor do they apply to our ambassadors and embassy staff around the world. They still pay taxes, but they only pay US taxes because they work for the US and are paid by the US.

Naturally, there are those who object to the taxation of absentee citizens. The objection is ‘forcing’ an absentee citizen to pay US taxes on money earned in a foreign country when they already pay taxes to that foreign country. However, corporations and private citizens have taken advantage of the tax rates of other nations to avoid paying US taxes. Millions are shuffled overseas and out of our economy each year. A US corporation, located in China, believes that since they pay Chinese taxes they shouldn’t have to pay US taxes. The American CEO of that corporation believes that since he pays Chinese taxes he shouldn’t pay US taxes. And the US allowed that to happen.

The problem is these corporations and individuals want the benefits of being a US citizen without actually having to be included in the system. They want to avoid our taxes and regulations, including human rights issues, yet still be able to vote in our elections. It shouldn’t work that way. If you want the benefit of being a US corporation you should have to pay US taxes. If you don’t want to pay taxes in two countries, perhaps you should consider bringing your ‘American’ business to America. Problem solved.

Sadly, a good portion of Americans don’t feel this way. They have been led to believe that it is an unfair policy and that liberals are just trying to punish those who make money and create jobs. The problem is, those jobs are not jobs for Americans and they do nothing to help our economy or unemployment. They aid another country. Perhaps it is a punishment of sorts. But if it is a punishment then it is because of the greed that causes CEO’s to move factories overseas. Taking jobs away from Americans because China’s government allows them to pay employees $0.35 an hour. It is a punishment for moving factories overseas to avoid EPA regulations that protect our environment. Essentially, it is this; if you don’t want to follow our laws, don’t want to employ Americans because we demand a livable wage, if you want to have what is essentially slave labor for your workforce, we are going to make you pay for it. This is not the government going after ‘job creators,’ but the government going after those trying to avoid our laws.

And this, though on a smaller scale, is what Swift was referring to when he talked about “taxing our absentees at five shillings a pound.” Though in 1729 it was more about absent land owners charging outrageous rents on their properties and then living in England to avoid paying Irish taxes. See, these corporations (and even a few citizens) want to make American money but not pay American taxes. This is not a boon to our economy but a drain. By avoiding these taxes corporations are essentially taking revenue away from our government. Revenue that could be used to pay down our national debt and repair our roads and bridges. Revenue that could be used to pay our armed services what they are worth.

Speaking of manufacturing, another point of Swift’s was that “of using neither cloaths, nor houshold furniture, except what is of our own growth and manufacture: Of utterly rejecting the materials and instruments that promote foreign luxury.” Swift’s argument was an economic one and it is an argument that we have been having in the US for the last 40 years. No longer does America produce goods such as furniture, clothing, computer components, automobiles, tools…the list could go on. Instead those jobs have been shipped overseas and we are now importing the goods we used to make. Once upon a time, items were proudly stamped ‘Made in the USA.’ Good luck finding that now. Odds are, the majority of what you own was produced in a third world country halfway across the globe.

Clothing is imported from Pakistan, China, Taiwan, India, Bangladesh, Israel, and about a dozen other countries in-between. That shirt you are wearing probably came from Asia. Right now, the United States is responsible for 21% of the world’s imports on clothing. Let’s break that down. Of all the clothing exports, from all over the world, the United States buys 21%. Stop and think about how many jobs it would create to cut our imports in half and make clothes right here. Imagine the boost to our economy. Why are we not making our own clothes?

The reason is the myth of ‘free trade.’ ‘Free trade’ is a trade policy that doesn’t apply tariffs to imports, subsidies to exports, or require quotas. Essentially, a regulation free trade policy. See, a few believe that unrestricted trade creates jobs and makes money, which it does. For a select few. ‘Free trade’ is the reason behind all the policies that allow our manufacturing jobs overseas. In fact, ‘free trade’ encourages this move. Manufacturing jobs created the middle class and ‘free trade’ destroyed it. Many of these other nations have trade restrictions. That means other nations limit what they buy from us but we buy from them as much as we want. This is supposedly ‘free trade.’ We import more than we export and also import more than we make. This is why our debt is so high. And the only people that benefit are those that control those trade routes. Say you run an import/export business. The last thing you want is a tariff (tax) on the thing you bring into the country. You also don’t want quotas, restrictions limiting how much you can import. These things cost you money. In the ‘free trade’ economy you are rolling in the dough. But the guy that used to make mother boards for Apple gets screwed because now Apple doesn’t have to pay an import tariff on goods it manufactures in other countries. So, not only does Apple get to reap the benefits of an unregulated employment market but they also get to avoid a number of taxes doing so.

Restrictions are not socialist nor are they communist. They are simply good business. If you create a business that buys more than it sells you won’t be in business very long. Yet that is exactly what we have done to our country in the interest of ‘free trade.’ We have increased our imports to the point that they are not only costing jobs but becoming a burden to our economy as well. Sadly, this is exactly the economic point Swift was making in 1729; “of putting a spirit of honesty, industry, and skill into our shop-keepers, who, if a resolution could now be taken to buy only our native goods, would immediately unite to cheat and exact upon us in the price, the measure, and the goodness, nor could ever yet be brought to make one fair proposal of just dealing, though often and earnestly invited to it.” Basically, he is stating that corporations will look to cheat you in any way they can. In 1729, Swift argued to regulate business and trade in order to boost the economy and 237 years later many are still fooled that ‘trickle-down,’ ‘free trade’ economics works. That, my dears, is what we call a tragedy.

Along with Swift’s economical solutions he also presented a few social ones as well. “Of quitting our animosities and factions, nor acting any longer like the Jews, who were murdering one another at the very moment their city was taken.” This is probably the most important and most relevant of Swift’s proposals to today’s environment. We need to stop fighting among ourselves. Like today, in Ireland 1729 there were two factions of politics. Like today, those two factions did more fighting then problem solving. Swift cautioned that continuous infighting would weaken the nation, leaving it open not only to attack but also occupation. Swift was giving a historical lesson, pointing to the 70 CE sacking (and desecration) of Jerusalem and saying, “Look, this has happened before.” Given the tensions of Catholics and Protestants in Ireland to this day I am going to assume the advice was not heeded. But Swift was right. Fighting amongst ourselves: democrat/republican, liberal/conservative, Christian/agnostic weakens us as a nation. It leaves us open to attack from our enemies who want, more than anything, for us to be divided amongst ourselves. The reason why is simple. An America united is nearly impossible to beat. When we worked together (like we did during WWII) we not only helped defeat an oppressive regime, but we also created new goods and technologies that expanded the quality of life and prosperity throughout the world. That isn’t happening anymore and it should be.

The fact that I can even look at a 237 year old document and make valid comparisons to our society and political climate proves we have some work to do. We have tried the ‘trickle down’ way, let’s see what happens if we tried it Swift’s way. Just once. Our faults as human beings, as a collective society, are the reasons that classic works should be taught. They show us a picture of the past that we can compare to our own and say, “Something isn’t right.” It may have been written two centuries ago, but A Modest Proposal proves that humans really don’t change all that much. Sure we have better technology and figured out slavery is a bad thing (something that only took us about 8000 years to figure out), but there are places where we are still lacking. Holding an economic perspective from the 18th Century is one of them. Works like Swift’s need to be taught in the hopes that a generation will come along that will understand the flaws of the past and seek to keep them from becoming flaws of the future. If politicians of today want to solve America’s economic and employment woes they need look no further than to a document that predates even our own constitution. Sad, but true.

Swift teaches a lesson that can stand the test of time because it is universal. Treat people with kindness and respect, have sympathy for their plight, and do what you can to care for them lest someone comes along and thinks it is okay to eat their babies. After all, it’s not like they are real people. Extreme, yes, but sometimes people need to be slapped upside the head with a notion so utterly appalling that they begin to rethink their viewpoint.

Just think, if Swift’s ideas had been applied to US racial tensions, how many people would not have been murdered simply for the color of their skin because someone, somewhere thought it was ok. After all, it’s not like they were human. Or more recently, would victims like Matthew Shepard still be with us had someone, somewhere not thought it was ok to kill a gay man…because it’s not like he was human.

Swift’s essay is brilliantly satiric and at times hilarious in its irony. Yet it is also a morose tale about human behavior. How cruel it is and how little it changes. A Modest Proposal is relevant today not because politics sucks, but because humans still have a tendency to hate and dehumanize what they don’t understand. What is different. In America, a country of immigrants, a country full of, ‘other’ Swift’s lesson is one that is vital to our survival as a society.

I do not think this means, what you think it means.

I am a pretty smart cookie. I always did well in school. Graduated with a 3.5 GPA and from K-12 got primarily A’s and B’s. I have always been an advanced reader, finishing my 1st Grade year reading at a 6th Grade level. Now, I am not saying that to brag but to make a point. Despite all of that, and an IQ hovering around 120, I was so woefully unprepared for college it is not even funny. Though I always loved lit and writing classes, and almost always received A’s, I was nowhere near prepared to do college level analysis and writing after graduating high school. I was lucky. I managed to pick up all the skills I was lacking and adapt to college life. Many do not.

I was an assistant to a professor in college. I saw the work of incoming students. Sad to say, incoming freshman weren’t getting better. They were getting worse. I have known graduates who could not write a complete sentence, did not know that Pearl Harbor was more than just a Ben Affleck movie, and could not add or subtract without using their fingers. I will admit, I am guilty of the last one.

Once upon a time the United States was number one in education; now that honor belongs to South Korea. Sadly, we don’t even fall into the top ten. In an effort to boost our nation’s education, which will help make us a stronger global competitor, a thing called Common Core has been enacted in the majority of the states. Naturally, it has its opponents. As per usual these opponents lead the charge with half-truths or outright lies to bolster fear and gain more supporters. Fact is, there is no logical reason to oppose Common Core education.

First of all, unlike many opponents claim, Common Core (CC) is not a curriculum. It is simply a set of standards to be met. Well, what does that mean exactly? It means that while CC sets the standard, teachers and districts still set the curriculum. For example, my son is going to be in the second grade. According to CC’s literary guidelines, by the end of the year my son should be able to: read and comprehend literature, including stories and poetry, in the grades 2–3 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range. All CC does is tell schools that by the end of 2nd grade my son should not only be able to read but also understand texts meant for 2nd or 3rd graders. His teacher, school, and district will decide how to make sure that goal is met. Nowhere in the CC does it ever tell a teacher how they have to teach. Unfortunately, many are misled to believe otherwise.

Secondly, opponents take the fact that CC focuses more on critical thinking and less rote learning as dictating teaching methods. I find this objection to be hysterical. Partly because one of the objections is that CC is an indoctrination from the Federal level. Yes, teaching kids to think critically—giving them the skills to make up their own minds and form their own opinions—is indoctrination. Telling kids exactly what they have to remember—how they have to think—is not. Right. I also have this ocean front property in NW Iowa that I would like to sell you.

The CC website does nothing but give educators an idea as to where kids should be at the completion of a grade. Now, Iowa’s Literacy Standard does give examples of texts but does not, in any way, insist that these texts must be used. But, there are probably those who consider it offensive that one of the example texts is “The Black Stallion.” It’s not like I ever read that in grade school. How dare we require our graduating youth to: Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses)? My goodness, requiring teens to understand how their government works and how the law is applied is just un-American. And even suggesting that one of the texts applicable to seniors is Common Sense by Thomas Paine is just plain indoctrination and socialism. I mean, it’s not like the pamphlet was vital to our Revolution or anything. (Paine made the argument for self-government in January of 1776. Many historians believe that this helped gain support for the Revolution. It also laid the groundwork for the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.)

I get it. Federal government is bad. It shouldn’t tell us what to do. The states should decide what to teach. Except, CC was created, in part, by the National Governors Association. From the very beginning states were involved. States get to decide to follow the standards or not. They get to decide how to teach the standards, should they decide to follow them. They get to tweak the standards as they see fit. For example, while not included in the CC, Iowa’s literary standard involves being able to successfully debate a topic. Minnesota was free to make the decision to implement the literary standards while not implementing the math standards. No state is penalized for not following the CC 100%.

A few opponents claim that CC is a broad federal overreach. That the Federal government is using grant money as a bribe to implement these changes and cutting funding to states who don’t choose to implement CC. Not true. Yes, the competitive Race to the Top grants requires states to adopt standards. But what the detractors fail to mention is that states could choose to adopt CC or a different career and college readiness curriculum. So, basically, the only requirement is that you make sure all of your student’s graduate High School ready for the real world. What does amount to the Federal government using grant money as a bribe is No Child Left Behind. You know, the federal law that restricts funding for schools who perform poorly on yearly aptitude tests. I am certain that is the law you are thinking of. .

Many point to CC as being a failure already since the states of New York and Georgia have already begun testing on CC and both states experienced a significant drop in test scores as a result. Of course, few seem to realize that this was expected. See, when you test high school students who began their education under NCLB and switch to something like CC, which requires more from the students, these students are not going to score as well on the tests. There are a number of reasons for that. First, CC is based on the principal that a good foundation in knowing and understanding concepts is essential for education. Kids taking the tests now, who are in high school, have not had this foundational background. Instead, they had an education system based around arbitrary scores on a test. A test states were allowed to write. Many of these states, lowered the standards of these tests to make it appear as if the students knew more than they did. Students are scoring lower because the tests are harder. They needed to be harder. In a few years, when elementary and middle school students grow to take these high school tests the scores will be more reflective of how CC works.

The problem now is that many of these kids began with a dumbed down overly simplistic form of education and are now required to undergo a more intense education. You know, one that actually teaches them stuff. Just stop and think for a moment. If our education system was fine, if our students were learning what they should be learning, the harder tests shouldn’t have been a problem. This is stuff they should already know. Stuff kids all around the world already know. We have fallen behind and it is time to catch up. After NCLB, Missouri’s test scores improved but they admitted that they lowered standards. What does this teach our children? That the test is so important we will make it easier so you can pass instead of actually teaching you what you need to know.

Some have accused the CC to be a form of data mining. Here’s the thing, the data is already being collected and has been collected for a while. See, this is another thing NCLB did. Schools needed to report test scores, progress reports, and teacher qualifications. These things impacted school funding. The school, itself, was made responsible for how an individual child performed on a test. Many have accused CC of being a one size fits all approach, yet Iowa guidelines clearly give plenty of flexibility regarding differently abled students. Students who are disabled in some way are not held to the exact same requirements as an average child. Teachers are allowed to read test questions and communicate with disabled students during testing as is most beneficial to the child’s individual needs. CC does not eliminate or effect the Individualized Education Plan. Once again, you must be thinking of NCLB.

No Child Left Behind, an actual law whereas Common Core is just a suggestion, mandated that all students be proficient at grade level. That was a one size fits all approach if there ever was one. The reason I say that is because by all students they really meant all students. I was a TA in a room for level 3 special education. For those not familiar with the codification, that means my students were severely to profoundly mentally disabled. The average mental age of my students was around 2 years of age though the average physical age was around 15. Despite this, my students were required, by law, to be taught grade level math, science and reading. That means we were required to essentially teach a 2yo, eighth grade level science. More importantly, if such students failed to perform funding to the schools was cut. So if you want to talk about a stupid, one size fits all, education program it should be this one. NCLB left no room for Special Education to be Special Education. Students in Special Ed have to take the same tests, the same way, in the same amount of time as average children. Teachers were not allowed to read questions out loud to blind students nor give differently abled students the help they needed to complete the tests. Common Core corrects this grossly discriminatory mistake. NCLB assumed that 100% proficiency could be attained because all students had the capability of being proficient. What NCLB failed to realize was that if this is true then there would be no need for Special Education. I cannot speak for all the states because I have only read the requirements for mine, but Iowa’s Common Core Standards address and fix this problem that NCLB left behind.

Those who care about their child’s education and the fate of this nation should support Common Core. The reason? Because a child going to school in rural Iowa should have the same education as a child in Manhattan. Now, I am not saying all the same opportunities (Iowa students would have a hard time taking AP courses through Columbia), nor the same technology (no way is a school in NW Iowa going to have cable internet) but what each child should have is a basic understanding of core principles. Right now, this is not happening. Though we compare states to education every year we are not giving an accurate picture because none of the standards are the same. If standards are different across state lines, county lines or district lines how do we know which schools are really performing and which ones are not? I actually, figured this out once. If I had gone to school in a nearby district I would have graduated High School with a 3.8 GPA. But it wouldn’t have been because I learned more. It would have been because the grading scale was more lenient. All those 90%s that I had received that were B’s in my High School were A’s in the other one. I still got the same percentage, learned the same amount…yet in one district I got a better grade.

We have become a global society. In order for the US to compete globally for future generations our education system must change. Right now, among 34 industrialized nations, we are 14th in literacy, 17th in science and 25th in math. Where we once had the number one spot in the world with the percentage of young people with degrees we are now number 10. Common Core standards are based on the standards of other nations. Thus, they are harder. As it sits Poland outperforms the US in education. Thus, turning all those ‘dumb Pollack’ jokes into ‘dumb American’ jokes. Doesn’t feel so hot, does it? Common Core challenges our students. It makes them work harder and gives them the potential to learn what they need to compete in a global market. There is nothing evil about making our children work harder in school. In fact, it benefits them in the long run as they will be able to find better jobs. This, in turn, helps our economy. Plus, we really should want to be number 1 again.

The loudest argument being indoctrination I feel the need to cover it again. In no way is CC indoctrination. Let me say that again, CC IS NOT INDOCTRIATION. How do I know that? Because CC teaches kids to think critically. You can’t indoctrinate the youth and teach them to think for themselves. Doesn’t work. Soviet Russia had an indoctrination form of education. There, students were not only told what they should know (much of it being outright lies) but also what they should think about what they should know. CC does not tell you what to think it teaches you how. Big difference. Indoctrination would be more like requiring Science classes around the nation to teach that evolution is merely a theory made up by atheist scientists and that God really created the earth in just 7, 24 hour, days. Yeah, see what I did there. If CC dictated what was to be taught and how it was to be taught the opponents would have a point. As it stands, they do not. CC is nothing more than a set of standards saying a child should be able to do this by the end of 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. Grade. How that goal is met is left entirely up to the states, districts and individual teachers. It sets a national standard that evens the playing field of education across the 50 states. It helps to guarantee that Iowa can be just as competitive as New York when it comes to education. It gives all children the opportunity for the same education as everyone else. What the hell is wrong with that?