Is Empathy the Antidote to Violence?

When acts such as the Sandy Hook school shooting occur, it is natural for there to be strong reaction from across society. Even when one argues that a violent culture breeds more violence, it is easy to forget that a churlish response peppered with epithets will not be the oil that calms the seas. That is why I was so proud of my own son, Brian Todd, for putting forth some rational thoughts on a thoroughly irrational day.

“The politicization of this tragedy is exemplary of what we believe and what we believe in as a society. People should stop worrying about who they believe or who the believe in and start worrying about what they’re being taught or what they’re teaching someone else. People argue about how much more important their beliefs are than another’s in reaction to somebody valuing his beliefs more than the children he killed. Perhaps I’m the only one that sees the disgusting hypocrisy of this tragedy. The reaction to the tragedy just becomes fuel for the next tragedy.

Selfishness, egotism, ignorance and wrath are the root of the problem. People who put more value in what they believe than they do another person’s life are the problem. People that think their belief system is more important than somebody else’s are the problem. People who punish out of anger, which teaches the next generation to punish out of anger, create this problem. Tragedies like this will only cease when people stop believing their reality is more important than somebody else’s. Continue reading Is Empathy the Antidote to Violence?

George McGovern (1922 – 2012)

From secrecy and deception in high places; come home, America

From military spending so wasteful that it weakens our nation; come home, America.

From the entrenchment of special privileges in tax favoritism; from the . . . → Read More: George McGovern (1922 – 2012)

White House Denies Iran Cyberattack Leaks

The White House responded in its strongest terms yet that they had no participation in leaking information on the Iranian cyber attack. Press Secretary Jay Carney said yesterday “Any suggestion that the White House has leaked sensitive information for political purposes has no basis in fact and has been denied by the authors themselves, as one of the authors of the New York Times story on Obama’s counterterrorism record said, ‘The notion that the White House prompted the story or controlled our reporting and writing is absurd.’”

This continues the political firestorm that was set in motion by the recent New York Times article about the cyber program developed over the course of the last 18 months, as was stated in the initial article. Anonymous sources included “current and former American, European and Israeli officials”, who refused to be identified due to the “highly classified” nature of the program. Continue reading White House Denies Iran Cyberattack Leaks

Stop American Censorship

http://americancensorship.org/

Happy Birthday to Us!

Today marks one year since this blog went live (the DFP forum celebrated its first birthday on December 1).

My thanks to our contributors, the site administrators and our readers!

In God We Trust

A couple of weeks ago the Congress of the United States once again ratified the country’s motto In God We Trust. On the surface I had no problem with that, since the name and image of God is left free to interpretation. But I wondered for a moment if that quick ratification was also because the interpretation of the motto itself by the Senators and Representatives was unfortunately also extremely diverse, one group agreeing to the image of a benevolent God who had been watching over us all since the country was founded, the other group looking at the motto as one more testament to the rightness of their drive toward a Christian-dominated government.

Religious fundamentalism has been raising its ugly head in this country since the end of the World War II, and has grown into a massively destructive threat in today’s politics, with the Republicans so hell-bent on forcing their ideology into the elections and, should they win, into government, totally disregarding the intent of our country’s founders to keep a clear separation between Church and State.

Sometimes it doesn’t seem that man is made in God’s image as much as God seems to be made in man’s, unless of course God is a fickle, warring maniac when power and territory are up for grabs. There have been no communities from earliest history on that didn’t have some religion or religions cementing them together or ripping them asunder. And most of our growth intellectually as well as territorially had religious seeds that occasionally pushed us more rapidly forward or adversely dragged us down into years of darkness.

Cultures with many gods, goddesses and temples seemed to survive better than those with one controlling ideology. The Greeks, for instance, lasted a long time, though internal battles happened frequently. The Egyptians also had multiple deities (Bester–Osiris–Isis–Horus–etc.) and lasted a long time under the rule of the pharaohs. Rome too had many gods and goddesses, and their religion seemed more a measure of a person’s scruples than anything else. It also lasted a long time, eventually adapting to the Christian concept of “One God,” as did Greece and most of the Nordic and Celtic areas. And the Eastern nations such as Japan had a wide tapestry of spiritual traditions and religions.

Admittedly, the clusters of gods were not without their hassles, their grievances more human in nature than godly, such as the jealousy that seemed to be the major cause of the Trojan War, and pride, and of course petulance rivaling that of spoiled children. But it was the “One God” concept, once it took over the governing power of a country, thereby creating a theocracy, that had the ruling group speaking in absolutes, as if they were in a direct line from God. Add that to the dogma of the one religion and you had the most dangerous of worlds, in which those in charge inevitably oppressed any and all of those weaker than they were. Whenever one religion became that powerful, Christianity or otherwise, oppression and tyranny quickly followed with the most dreadful consequences. Holocausts and genocide happened all over the globe and all down the centuries, man killing man, killing women, killing children, all in the name of that glorious “One God.”

Using the Roman Catholic Church to illustrate the inevitable, when the Romans turned from their early gods and goddesses to the “One God” concept, the church and the government came under the powerful rule of the culturally dogmatic Christians and as far as possible from the Christians, known as Heretics, who were the real followers of the pacifistic, idealized Christ. In 1232 the Inquisition began when it became too difficult to persuade the Heretics to stop spreading their ideas of voluntary poverty and no ownership of property, and their peaceful tolerance toward the life choices of anyone else. The Romans first tortured and then burned anyone suspected of harboring any doubt in their concept of Christianity or the right of the Roman Catholic Church to rule with its fiery fist; 100,000 to 2 million Heretics were killed.

During that same time period, the Church also had a long run of witch burnings, witches being primarily the women who were the midwives and those who used herbs to cure the wretched poor who had no other recourse to healing. Between 7 and 9 million women were tortured and burned or beheaded, and the rest of the women enslaved to the domination of the men.

The eight major Crusades dedicated to driving the Muslims out of the Holy Land lasted over 174 years. Their armies were most probably made up of illiterates who knew nothing about Christ other than what their Pope and local priest wanted them to know. They ravaged the towns and castles along the way, butchering every man, woman and child, because God willed it!

And in today’s world the right wing fundamentalists are using their dogmatic cultural and religious clout to con the less informed voters into accepting policies in their God’s name, policies that would be far from their best interests, and would give rebirth to a new wave of serfdom and slavery and Dominionism. Continue reading In God We Trust

On the Open Letter to that 53% Guy and the RW Disconnect

In the picture, you’re holding up a sheet of paper that says:

I am a former Marine.
I work two jobs.
I don’t have health insurance.
I worked 60-70 hours a week for 8 years to pay my way through college.
I haven’t had 4 consecutive days off in over 4 years.
But I don’t blame Wall Street.
Suck it up you whiners.
I am the 53%.
God bless the USA!

That’s a lot of work for so little return. Why is that something to be proud of? The only difference between that and slavery is… not that much, other than the time period and the race of the man in the photo. If hard work was all there was to it, we wouldn’t have this economic mess. Everyone would be a millionaire or some level of rich, and there would be no poor people, except for the formerly idle rich, because they didn’t work for it, it was just handed to them.

We all know that isn’t true. The system doesn’t work like that.

The term “53%” comes from the premise that 53% of Americans pay income tax, versus the 47% that don’t. “We are the 53 percent” was originally the brainchild of Erick Erickson, founder of RedState.com. The website appears to be the standard conserva-blah-blah-blah.

According to the Washington Post, actually 23% of Americans don’t pay income taxes because their incomes are too low. Another 23% of Americans don’t pay federal income taxes mostly because of tax breaks given to the elderly, low-income working families, government welfare recipients, and students. So the percentage appears to be factually correct, but it looks like the facts stop there.

Back to our scowly-faced friend above, I wonder if he enlisted to help defend the rights of the super-wealthy to send jobs offshore and reap the benefits while hard-working Americans get laid off. Is he one of the “free-market libertarians” who are gonna be rich in the next few weeks, and wants everything deregulated? Does he really not blame Wall St. in spite of the evidence to the contrary? Does he think that the government and those “long-haired liberal hippies” want to take his money and just give it to “those undeserving people” (i.e. marginalized groups, the poor, etc.), but he doesn’t mind if the super-rich don’t pay any taxes? Remember, he’s gonna be rich in the next couple of weeks. Wink, wink!

I see this as the RW disconnect. He can’t have it both ways. He can’t be both proud of working insane hours and then complain he hasn’t had a vacation in years. He can’t be for business deregulation, and then be mad because deregulation hurts him. He votes for the GOP and Teabaggers because “he hates the liberal whiners,” then complains when they take the programs he likes away. Continue reading On the Open Letter to that 53% Guy and the RW Disconnect

Herman Cain Doesn’t Get It, and Neither do a Lot of Other Men

Another shoe has now dropped in the Herman Cain sexual harassment saga, thanks to the revelations of Sharon Bialek at a news conference yesterday morning. According to Ms. Bialek, Mr. Cain put his hand up her skirt, and tried to force her head down into her crotch. This action crosses the line from harassment to assault.

Mr. Cain’s reaction was a rather angry, incoherent e-mail in which he called the accusations of sexual harassment “nonsense” and claims that the media is setting him up.

Um, Mr. Cain? If these allegations by Ms. Bialek and the other three women are true (and I am thinking that they are), the only person who set you up is you. You are the one who said and did things to women that they didn’t like. You are the one who acted inappropriately. You are the one who put yourself in this position. Stop yelling at everybody else, and do what you told others to do: look in the mirror.

That being said, what I really wanted to talk about is what underlies all of this: sexual harassment and sexual assault are real. They happen all the time. Whether it be an unwanted remark or out-and-out rape, they happen, perpetrated by men who think that they have the right to say anything they want, touch any woman they want, do whatever they want with her, and if that woman doesn’t like it, well, there must be something wrong with her. She must have been asking for it. She was dressed in a provocative way. She was leading him on. She was sending signals. She was asking for it!

I’ve got news for you, Mr. Cain and any other male out there who has been guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault. She was not asking for it! You were foisting it upon her because you thought you could. Because you thought it was your right. Because you have no respect for women as human beings. Because you think that women are objects, property, chattel, etc., that that gives you the right to act out your fantasies, your desires, your power trips. Continue reading Herman Cain Doesn’t Get It, and Neither do a Lot of Other Men

A Quick Look at Occupy Toronto

As the third-largest financial center in North America (after New York and Chicago) Toronto was destined to be a foreign beachhead for the Occupy movement.

The Toronto protest, which began in mid-October, is headquartered in St. James Park, adjacent to the city’s Anglican cathedral and about a third of a mile east of Bay Street, Toronto’s counterpart to Wall Street. I recently spent an afternoon downtown, managing to miss the action that day, which included a morning gathering at a nearby university campus and an afternoon march in the financial district, but I did spend some time at the park, listening to the discussions, soaking up the scene and getting some photographs.

Probably anxious to avoid a repeat of their disastrous mishandling of the G20 Summit protests in 2010, the police kept their presence low-key. A group of bicycle-mounted cops passed me in the heart of the financial district, while a few others were stationed near the park but seemed to spend most of their time shooting the breeze with each other:

The weather was overcast but benign enough. Just in time for the colder days of November, the occupiers this week received three large and expensive yurts from organized labor, including the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. Things were decidedly more downscale the day I visited:

Although the sanitary arrangements seemed superior to those in some other Occupy cities:

The park’s gazebo has become a de-facto town hall:

Continue reading A Quick Look at Occupy Toronto

Nonviolent Protests Can Initiate Positive Change

While the ongoing OccupyWallStreet protest may not ultimately end up effecting change and may indeed be labeled a “failure” when all is said and done, let’s not forget that mass non-violent protest has produced many successful outcomes . . . → Read More: Nonviolent Protests Can Initiate Positive Change