Culture of Death

gun violence in movies

If we Americans are completely honest with ourselves, we’d know and admit without relish or doubt that our culture is a culture of death.

Why do I call American culture a culture of death?  Well, it’s what I’ve observed in many venues:  news media, movies, video games, mass shootings, school shootings, disregard of the unborn and elderly, lack of healthcare for everyone, our foreign policy, and profits before people.  This is a huge issue, but I’d like to touch on a few of these as best as I can.

But first, I want to share the bumper sticker on a car my husband and I saw on the way to the grocery store.  It read:  Fight Crime.  Shoot Back.  <– This is a perfect example to show it is the epitome of the mindset, generally viewed by those able to look outside the “American lens,” and see objectively, I believe, the American culture.

School Shootings/Mass Shootings

We all know school shootings have increased over the past fifty years. I, like all my fellow American citizens, struggle to understand why this is happening so much, and what can be done about it.  Something has changed to cause these mass killings to have multiplied greatly in the past several decades.  A few elements people have discussed and that I think contribute to this and make up our culture of death follow.

Mental Illness

Some people have said it’s mental illness of shooters that are the root cause of the mass shootings in our society.  Of course, it’s logical to come to the conclusion that if a person decides to spray hundreds of bullets through the halls and classrooms of schools or other public buildings that there are probably psychological problems going on with the child/person.  But were there no people with mental health problems one hundred years ago?  A couple of centuries ago?  Did mental health disorders pop up one century and grow from there?  I don’t think so.  There have always been humans that have suffered debilitating mental illnesses.

In the past decade or two, our younger generation has been suffering specifically from anxiety and depression, and rises in autism and other related illnesses are a tragic fact.  Why are these mental illnesses growing?

There are some factors such as heavy involvement in social media and family issues with regards to anxiety and depression in our young adults.  But how are these illnesses linked to violent behavior and actions of school/mass shooters?

I think what’s important to point out is that in the article, “The Myth That Mental Illness Causes Mass Shootings,” it says “research over the last 30 years has consistently shown that diagnosable mental illnesses does not underlie most gun violence,” and “only one percent of the population is psychopathic.” Of course, what about those not diagnosed?  I don’t know, but according to this article, mental health problems are a very small contributing factor in mass shootings.  So, what else is going on here?

Gun Problems

Is it access to guns?  The parents of the teen/child who shoots up a school were lax in locking their gun cabinet?  Failed to teach their children gun safety?  Perhaps it’s the issue of the types of guns being used…those that shoot out hundreds of ammunition in a few seconds time.  Yes, I agree that’s a problem.  The subject of bump stocks that can be attached to a gun and turn it into an alternate automatic weapon has been brought up by the public as a real concern.  Certainly, I agree with banning these types of accessories to guns and assault weapons.  They don’t belong in civilian homes and are absolutely inhumane for hunting purposes.  But aside from these types of semi-automatic, or the ones that nearly become or do become automatic weapons with some tweaking and adding to these guns, guns have been around since the pilgrims stepped onto American soil several centuries ago.  Sure, they were single-shot rifles/muskets and such, but I don’t recall reading in our early history of people randomly shooting up a theater, school, or any other public building in nearly epidemic proportions in the first few centuries of our American existence.

Capital Punishment

How about the message of terminating a person’s life if he/she committed a murder or murders?  I’ve touched on this in a previous blog post, but it is relevant to this subject.  This, too, shows the element of death as a way to punish people who have committed horrible crimes.  The death penalty has existed since America’s inception.  For all the proud claims made by some Americans about this country being founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs and values, an eye for an eye ideology is not a Christian tenet.

My dad was an Air Force lawyer and judge for thirty years.  When I was a teen, out of curiosity without any real solid opinion on this issue, I asked my dad if the death penalty deters people from wanting to commit a murder.  I will tell you that my always supported the death penalty, and still in his honest response (he’s always been an honest man with great integrity) was “No, it doesn’t.”  I’ve never forgotten that.

Where’s the Mercy?

There’s an element of mercy missing in many corners of our society, whether it be the death penalty, abortion, caring for the elderly, healthcare, poverty, treating people with mental illness, or helping those with drug addictions.  Mercy is absent, generally speaking in the culture as a collective whole.  Of course, you can find mercy and goodness in individual Americans, but that information seems to not be the one that permeates the air waves or reaches globally, or is shown in the graphically-violent movies in the United States.  There are many reasons why I don’t agree with capital punishment–the wrong person is put to death; killing someone who’s murdered someone doesn’t bring back the person who was murdered, and it cuts the criminal’s chance for repentance. Incarceration is sufficient (although, we need to abolish private prisons for profit).

Entertainment Industry

So, now we segue into the entertainment industry’s production of graphic, violent movies and video games.  Are these to blame for the increase in school shootings (and mass shootings?)  There has been mixed data on how violent video games and films affect kids and teens, but a majority of the studies thus far in this infant research do show that graphic violence in video games affect children and some teens that may cause them to act aggressive to others, and they become desensitized to the pain of others.  A University of Alabama study on the effects of violent video games and film said that the violent behavior of the persons after watching these violent films/video games stayed with them for some time, and didn’t just disappear after seeing the movie/video game.  The comments from this study conclude with cautioning parents “that immature and/or aggressive children should not have access to violent films.” That statement is one that all psychologists agree with (according to my son who did his research paper on this subject matter last semester).

Continuing on this subject matter, the American Psychological Association’s earlier studies (2003) match the above findings, in the increased aggressive behavior from playing violent video games. It stated, “Myth: There are no studies linking violent video game play to serious aggression. Facts: High levels of violent video game exposure have been linked to delinquency, fighting at school and during free play periods, and violent criminal behavior (e.g., self-reported assault, robbery).”

Of course, people will report that there are other scientific studies that don’t show concrete facts on the overall effects of violent film and video games on people, but it is incontrovertible that children and teens are affected by these.

From a personal point of view, I do not see the purpose of these violent, gory video games (or movies).  They contribute nothing positive or healthy to our society.  Of course, I know I’ll get pushback on that, and I expect it.  But it’s just how I see this.  I did not allow my sons to play or watch violent games or movies throughout their childhood and early teens.  Even in their teens, they don’t play “M” games or watch R-rated movies, unless the movie isn’t centered on gratuitous violence, but there is a valid, non-gory reason for it, and there is mercy and redemption involved in the storyline. To speak frankly, our movies and video games are both a promoter and reflection of our death-centered culture.

From a Christian spiritual point of view, what our eyes take in affects our souls.  If we take in good things, it brings joy and light to our souls.  If we take in violent things (since this is the subject matter of this blog post), it darkens our souls.  If we continue to pile on the viewing of such matter, along with other dark things, the darkness can overcome us, where the Light is not able to flicker, and then we are in bondage to the darkness, and it’s not a good place to be.

Foreign Policy

A little bit more on the gun issue because it ties into our foreign policy.  There are many Americans on one side of the gun debate that would like a ban on assault rifles/weapons and stricter gun laws, and then there is a small group of citizens who want all guns banned.  As I said, this is a very small number.  You would think it was a large number or majority the way people’s views are twisted all across social media.  In any case, I’ve thought about this issue. I fall in between.  I agree with banning bump stocks and having stricter gun laws but believe people should be able to have guns to protect themselves in case of home break ins and such.

So, I imagined the scenario of all guns being banned from the public.  Now, of course, I know that criminals will always get them through the black market, etc., but not even going down that path, let’s just say, the guns are removed, and they aren’t present in the society.  Wouldn’t it be extremely HYPOCRITICAL of the United States?

I mean, think about it.  Here’s a country’s entertainment industry laden with shoot ’em up movies, and in many cases in today’s movies, the lines of who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy are blurred. There’s no shortage of bloody video games. Our government’s leaders and intelligence community with the help of our military topple other countries’ elected leaders and replace them with horrid dictators, turning the countries into chaotic, desolate death pools, with millions of people killed and injured and their towns leveled. And then the most glaring component–America’s top, number one position in guns manufacturing and selling to other countries so we can help them obliterate vast amounts of people (have you been following the heartbreaking devastation in Yemen?).  That is the epitome of hypocrisy in my book.

Does that mean I don’t think something should be done about the guns?  Of course not.  But what can we do that would make sense and not be hypocritical?

The Solution?

Well, it seems the answer is that we’d have to have a total overhaul of our culture’s death mindset and transform it to a life one. I do find it quite ironic that our culture of death that is seen throughout the electronic venues at the same time is afraid of death and does everything it can to avoid it through changes in how we bury our loved ones and finding ways to constantly increase our life expectancy so we don’t meet death too soon, but that’s a subject for another post.

Therefore, in order to change our mindset from death/darkness to life/light, it would entail:

In the foreign policy area:  putting an immediate end to committing regime change in other countries (which I’d think would be illegal acts) and stopping the selling of arms to other countries, especially ones that aren’t friendly.  We need to stop the wars for profit, the prisons for profit.  Basically stop worshiping money and the never-ending desire for perpetual profits above the welfare of our own people.

On the entertainment front:  scaling back graphic violence in video games and movies. The classic movies were able to show war scenes (The Great Escape is an excellent example) and Hitchcock did well in his thrillers without explicit gore and mayhem.

Guns:  ban bump stocks and remove loop holes in gun laws (among other things).

Incorporating mercy and respect for life:  possess true and honest and respectful discourse and reconciliation tools in conflicts.

More access and treatment for people with mental health problems.  Mental health facilities for convicts diagnosed with a mental illness instead of prison.  Drug treatment programs for addicts that have been arrested for possessing drugs, instead of prison.

And since these are all my personal opinions, God is much better to worship than money, greed, lust, envy, pride, anger, etc. In order for us to be healthy all around, it requires an attentiveness to not only our mental and physical state, but also our spiritual state.  All must be worked on to find harmony, growth, and peace.

Looking Ahead

At this point, I’m not feeling too optimistic in seeing our culture changing. But the younger generation does show some spark of interest in wanting to uproot a portion of this sick culture of death.  Will they succeed?  I hope and pray so for our children and the generations after.

 

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The More We Know, the Smarter We Become?

library from 1800s

 

It seems only natural that the more information we read and learn about, the more knowledge and intelligence we should obtain. The various new inventions by people with entrepreneurial spirits display the amazing abilities possible through the faculties of our minds. Fresh scientific discoveries open up a wide range of advancements in the medical fields and astronomy. We can look at historical records and documents over the centuries and see human progress. Through literature, the bountiful volumes of different styles, literary theories, and genres shine a light through the window of our past societies. Unending news articles that blanket our newsfeeds in social media and on our televisions increasingly expose all the global events that provide us with understanding certain regions of the world and their cultures.

Indeed, there is the thread of progress woven throughout our historical existence, but there is also a regression. A regression in the way we write, speak, and how we interpret historical texts once we have ascertained the knowledge of whatever era we are studying, as well as what classic literature we are reading. I admit that I am a bit of a grammar and literary snob. When reading online news articles, the typos and incorrect grammar usages irritate me because it distracts me from what the article is trying to address. The errors in news articles online nowadays are astounding. I don’t recall encountering this many twenty or thirty years ago.

grammar nazi magnifying glass over book

Perhaps I’m a privileged fussbudget, but I think it has to do with my upbringing and the several English classes I took while attending business college in my early twenties.  It transformed me into what I am today.  I’m no expert or perfect, but I try very hard to proofread and edit my writings thoroughly before submitting them for school papers, or here on my blog.  It’s possible grammar and English skills aren’t as important anymore. Unfortunately, I have read some articles that say just that. But having read over comments on websites on this subject matter, I am both relieved and saddened.  In the quora.com website, a photographer and comic book writer explained how the editing process has changed over time.  In the earlier years of newspaper publications, the reporter’s story would be reviewed by the reporter himself/herself and edited by three other people:  the desk editor, copy desk, and head editor.  Because of financial issues, this method has been scaled down, and it leaves the reporter to do his or her own editing, which obviously has led to errors.  I was encouraged to see that he and another writer echo my sentiments.  On the same website, a journalist of thirty years said, “It isn’t just online. Print newspapers are getting worse too. Just this afternoon I cringed yet again at the use of ‘principle’ where ‘principal’ was correct. That’s one I see constantly – nobody seems to know the difference any more. And this was in The Globe and Mail, the best newspaper in Canada” (quora.com).

Author, Merrill Perlman, from cnn.com supports these men’s comments, saying, “People reading newspapers and news sites can empathize. They’re seeing lots of typos, as well as errors of grammar, fact, and logic — many more than they would have seen before news organizations decided that they did not need so many copy editors. No other job classification has suffered so many losses as the news business downsizes (except, perhaps, for classified ad takers, who have been craigsdelisted).”

Could this problem in any way be resolved in the future?  Honestly, it looks rather bleak, but I hope my pessimism is proven wrong.

You’ve probably noticed the assortment of rich vocabulary and detail in the classic novels of past centuries, as well as personal letters from known authors and historical figures, dwarf most modern works today. Why is that? Have we become too simplistic? Is it the fault of the computer and cell phone age? Has texting shortened our attention span for complete, fuller text and longer sentences? Incidentally, I learned in my linguistic language class that the current vernacular and texting is just the newest way of speaking and communicating. I’m sure we all can see that and know language changes slowly over time, but is it truly for the better? I wonder.

texting slang

With respect to historical documents, sources, etc., I’ve discovered there is a tendency for many people, especially younger people of college age, to analyze historical people and events through their twenty-first century perspectives, which is called presentism. I mentioned this in a previous blog post. Instead of viewing the persons in their era, in the culture of their time, and their overall writings, sayings, and actions, some people perceive them from a modern viewpoint, and in doing so, judge these historical figures unfairly, and at times, inaccurately. I feel this application has become more intense and common in the past several years. As of late, our Founding Fathers and now Civil War figures have been placed under the analytical lens of the modern mindset. A black and white view rarely works in understanding people before our era.

founding fathers

Because I am a university student, I see this fairly often and can understand it to a certain degree. We know history is written and dominated by the victors and can gloss over past atrocities or negative portions of history to shed the best light possible on the winners. But, of course, the people that came to America in the first century or two (and the centuries since then!) were human beings — which means, in my Orthodox Christian beliefs, imperfect, broken human beings, due to the Fall.  Therefore, in judging people’s actions from eras before ours, I believe we should look at the whole of the person. What did he/she say, what did he/she do in history, how did he/she treat others – family, friends, enemies? If they showed mercy, respect, and integrity overall in their lives, then perhaps it would be decent of us to consider them to have been good people who did the best with what they knew and had in the culture in which they lived.  Aside from true dictators and murderers that have speckled the map of human existence since the beginning of time that obviously should be judged more harshly, I don’t believe my method is something bizarre or outrageous.

Interpreting literature naturally has a plethora of viewpoints. I wouldn’t expect otherwise. Multiple perspectives on a piece of literature are amazing! But there is a problem if the reader dismisses or ignores the cultural and historical period in which an author lives and writes his/her story. In addition, if the reader ignores or overlooks the intentions or reasons why the author wrote the story at that particular time, a problem can arise.  An example of this is what I witnessed in my Shakespeare class. In Shakespeare’s time, only men were allowed to perform on stage, and the relationships between an artist/writer/poet and his patron was special. William Shakespeare wrote Twelfth Night for the festival of Epiphany – the twelfth and last night of the Christmas holiday celebrations. In this festival in England at the time, a person is chosen to be the Lord of Misrule for this period of the festival, in which the traditional roles of the people are relaxed, and the world is turned upside down, as it is often described.  For example, the royalty dress as peasants while the peasants dress as royalty, and the men dress as women while women dress as men.

lord of misrule epiphany

In the play, Twelfth Night, the main character, Viola, with her twin brother and the captain of the ship are shipwrecked. Viola believes her brother, Sebastian, has drowned. Without a father or brother to care for her, which was the custom in England at the time – the females were cared for by their fathers, brothers, or husbands – Viola dresses up in her brother’s clothes, calls herself Cesario, and obtains a job as a page boy for the Duke Orsino. The duke is in love with Olivia, a noblewoman. Viola falls in love with the duke, and Olivia falls in love with Viola/Cesario. Amidst this is Malvolio, Olivia’s servant, who is in love with her and believes he is socially higher than his current station in life.  A nasty forged letter written by the maid in cahoots with Sir Toby, Olivia’s drunken, rowdy uncle, encourages Malvolio’s delusions.  The maid writes the letter pretending it to be from Olivia, surreptitiously saying she is in love with Malvolio.  Eventually, he becomes more bold by acting as if he is of higher class than a simple servant, and in confronting Olivia with the letter, finds out from her that she did not write it.  Malvolio is made a fool and at the end of the play, leaves in despair.

A few students in class saw the relationships of Olivia and Cesario/Viola and Duke Orsino as transgender or homosexual.  If one is following the history of the era, the play written for the Epiphany festival, and the outcome of the play, it seems that all of that would have to be ignored and one would have to put on the lens of our modern era – twenty-first century – to come to that conclusion. Viola knew how to entice Olivia into considering the Duke because Viola, being a woman herself, knew what flowery sayings  work in attracting a woman’s interest. The duke fell in love with Viola because of her soft, kind, feminine side. The duke was confused, yes, but the natural attraction of male to female was felt, I believe, between the duke and Viola. Sebastian, Viola’s brother, comes back from the dead, and because they look so much alike, Olivia thinks Sebastian is Cesario. In the end, Viola reveals who she is, and Sebastian explains who he is, which opens the door for the love to flourish between the two couples: Viola and Duke Orsino and Sebastian and Olivia. Hence, at the end of the play, just like at midnight on the twelfth night (Epiphany) of the twelve days of Christmas, people remove their costumes and go back to their regular lives.  Shakespeare’s play teaches us that relationships are strengthened through clarity and honesty and not through disguise or delusion.

I think it’s paramount to consider the historical period and culture of the people we study before passing judgments on their actions and written words. In addition, writing novels, plays, short stories, poems, et. al. are considered part of the arts — it is art!  Let us strive to make our art as grammatically correct, profound, and beautiful as possible!

girl writing painting

 

 

Works Cited

“Why are so many online articles laced with typos and poor grammar?”  Quora.com.  https://www.quora.com/Why-are-so-many-online-articles-laced-with-typos-and-poor-grammar

Perlman, Merrill.  “Why ‘Amercia’ needs copy editors.”  cnn.com, 1 June 2012.   http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/01/opinion/perlman-romney-needs-editor/index.html.

“Twelfth Night.”  Religiousfacts.com.   http://www.religionfacts.com/twelfth-night

 

 

 

Has the Battle Over Confederate Monuments Caused More Division or Just Exposed What Already Exists?

removal of Lee statue

 

In continuing the matter of the removal of Confederate monuments, there were more comments from my friends who participated in my interviewing process that couldn’t be squeezed into my previous blog that should and needs to be shared. Following this, I’d like to ponder the effects of the removal of these monuments on us Americans.

To start out, Tony, who does not favor the removal of all the Confederate monuments, states, “I think if we try and erase the story of a people, we discredit both the good and the bad that came from the culture.” He then added, “I think this is largely a battle between extremists on both ends of the political spectrum and that if this objective is achieved, it will not be the end of anything. It will likely serve to further polarize our political discourse and fail to bring about healing and growth.”

Candice echoed Tony’s response, saying, “Extremists on both sides are pushing triggers all over the place. The media is feeding the extremism, and people are pushed more and more to take a stance.”

Concerned over more divisions, Kelly says, “I hate what is going on. It really saddens me. This is a problem that we all are experiencing and not because I am white or I am black. It’s we as a people, and only we can stop it.”

Tim’s comments on the issue of removing the monuments were similar to Tony’s, saying, “It is all part of our story as Americans, good, bad, and ugly. We should own all of it.”

Concetta sees the removal of monuments as opening a pandora’s box in causing further strife, remarking, “Unfortunately, you can’t erase history. If you begin, where do you stop?” and proceeded to mention Washington and other Founding Fathers who owned slaves.

washington owned slaves

In contrast, Tina illustrated her position by saying, “I think our country’s ‘life’ is much like our own. We all have a past that we hopefully grow and learn from – evolve. And with each passing day, we kind of connect the dots. On our own journey, we fall and get back up over and over again, but sometimes, years later, we’ll be stumbling with something…something emotional, etc., and we realize it’s this floating piece from the past that we thought we sorted out, but here it is. So we sit with it, face it, fix it, and move forward. To me, that’s what these statues are. We’ve had a long journey with bigotry in the country, and we’ve come a long way, but we still have things to unpack to get to the place of resolve.”

Lee also sees the removal of the monuments as a progressive step in the direction of eliminating bigotry and racism, saying, “Here in Phoenix, our mayor, Greg Stanton, has been working to change the names of several streets, such as Squaw Valley Road, Robert E. Lee Street, etc. It’s all part of the same drive to be sensitive to other cultures and stop the racial slurs and bigotry of the past. Monuments are in the same category.”

Looking at this issue and our history, Gabriel says, “We were a nation built upon theft, white supremacy, and idolatry, so our unwillingness to wrestle with our history keeps us repeating the same mistakes since we do not address our foundations never being made about seeing all ethnic groups as equal.  It is connected to the history of things like ‘The Doctrine of Discovery,’ which other religious groups brought over to the Americas long before the Puritans, and it has also manifested itself in regards to other parts of history.  We have multiple groups still feeling the impact of colonialism and eradication of their culture, like the American Indians, and to address what we have done would go against the myth of our culture being about U.S. exceptionalism and being a nation never for harm in the ways that we say other nations are.”

These responses show two sides on how to resolve this issue:

  1. In order for us to heal, we must press forward, not backwards, and not cause more divisions that are drummed up by the fringes of our society.
  2. In order to heal, we must face our past, expose the wrongs done by the people before us, and make tangible steps to right those wrongs.

How do we reconcile our different visions on this to reach a middle ground that unites us all?

As Confederate monuments throughout the country have and are beginning to come down and are moved to a museum or in a holding place until the cities’ authorities decide what to do with them, new Confederate monuments are rising up in Georgia and Alabama.

In Georgia, resident John Culpepper, founder of the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, unveiled a statue back in 2007 of a Confederate soldier that sits in the Chickamauga battlefield. He plans to continue preserving these and other such memorabilia that he believes are part of his heritage. He is upset with both the KKK and those people calling for the ejection of monuments across America that have vandalized them. He believes both groups have and are doing damage to his Southern heritage (Grinberg).

new conf monument at chikamauga park

In Crenshaw County, Alabama, a new monument has been erected and placed in the Confederate Veterans Memorial Park that owner David Coggins says is for remembering those who fought and lost their lives in the Civil War. He believes all of our forefathers should be remembered, including the Southern ones (WVTM 13).

In my previous blog, I wrote my opinions rather generally on the removal of these monuments. To clarify what I said in support of the removal of the monuments, I meant ones proven to be produced by white supremacists, and I don’t think Confederate monuments belong at state government buildings. It is my belief that Confederate monuments in military parks/battlefields, cemeteries, and, of course, museums belong there.

Incidentally, I do wonder why statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are/were in New York’s Bronx Community College’s Hall of Fame for Great Americans. Why would a Northern state have statues of Generals Lee and Jackson, and especially in one of their community college’s “Hall of Fame for Great Americans” (Suerth)? I did extensive studying of the Civil War in my late teens and early to mid twenties, and from what I read at that time, Lee in particular garnered the respect of both Northern and Southern officers during the war. However, I don’t think this acknowledgement spread to the Northern civilians. In any case, the men that established the Hall of Fame for Great Americans at Bronx Community College included Lee (and later Jackson) in their choices of great Americans, along with Franklin and Lincoln. Maybe it was out of an effort for reconciliation in the beginning, as there was pressure years later from groups like the United Daughters of the Confederacy to add Jackson.  Nevertheless, The busts of both Lee and Jackson are being removed from the community college’s Hall of Fame.  Furthermore, it’s interesting to note that statues of General Lee and seven other well-known men from the Confederacy are present in the U.S. Capitol. What will be done with those statues?

Perhaps the collaborative efforts of local cities’ citizenry and museums will bring about a fair outcome to this contentious issue. There’s always hope for a better and brighter tomorrow.

peace dove gold

 

Works Cited

Ginberg, Emanuella. “New Confederate monuments are going up and these are the people behind them.” CNN.com, 23 August 2017. http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/18/us/new-confederate-monuments/index.html

Bowery Boys. “Robert E. Lee in the Hall of Fame? There were concerns even back in 1900.” Boweryboyshistory.com, 17 August 2017. http://www.boweryboyshistory.com/2017/08/robert-e-lee-hall-fame-concerns-even-back-1900.html

Ford, Matt. “The Statues of Unliberty.” The Atlantic.  https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/confederate-statues-congress/536760/

**The original article from NBC News on the statues in the U.S. Capitol has been taken down.

Suerth, Jessica. “Here are the Confederate memorials that will be removed after Charlottesville.” CNN.com, 23 August 2017. http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/15/us/confederate-memorial-removal-us-trnd/index.html

WVTM 13. “New Confederate monuments going up in Crenshaw County, Alabama.” WVTM13.com, 23 August 2017. http://www.wvtm13.com/article/new-confederate-monument-going-up-in-crenshaw-county-alabama/12065990

All interviews were conducted via PM and/or email August 19-23, 2017.

 

 

How Much Impact Do Confederate Monuments Have on America’s Conscience?

conf. monument in shreveport la

Last week, I engaged in a conversation about Confederate monuments and statues in a Facebook group for which I am a member. In reading their responses and comments, I realized I had assumed that the reason why Confederate monuments were made was solely for the admiration of whatever honorable deed the people from those cities in the South believed that person performed. It came about in that conversation a news story about the motive of some of the people who asked to have many of those monuments erected. Gary Shapiro of The New York Times writes of the statues that were erected on a Richmond, Virginia, street called Monument Avenue that “they were erected 35 to 50 years after the war. Records show that they were meant to legitimize and dignify the white supremacist regime that had taken hold of Virginia.” Conversely, I had read a couple of news stories in which a family member of a Confederate soldier and veterans groups had requested statues erected in memory of them, but it doesn’t seem to be the majority on why these monuments/statues were created.

This article and the heated discussions blanketing social media prompted me to look into this more deeply. On Facebook, I decided to ask my friends questions about this subject matter. Ultimately, I ended up with 17 participants, the majority of which are white. I did make an effort to reach out to my friends of color, but I’m afraid their schedules didn’t align with my window of taking interviews. Nevertheless, I carried out my interviews to gain knowledge on people’s perspectives of Confederate monuments. My friends appreciated this venue of mine to share their thoughts and feelings without arguments and debates. I believe their comments were insightful and their suggestions helpful on how to bridge the racial divisions still simmering under the surface that once every few years bubbles over.

The chart below shows the interviewees’ responses to one of my questions. The interviewees’ names for the purpose of addressing them in this article are: Kelly, Concetta, Candice, Jill, Tim, Richard, Joni, Lee, Gabriel, George, Amy, Nicholas, Melissa, Tina, Jennifer, Julian, and Tony.

corrected monument chart

Jennifer from New York, who wanted all Confederate monuments to be removed from public places explained, “They are honoring those who showed the USA no honor. Therefore, they do not belong on public property.”

North Carolinian, Kelly, did not want any of the monuments removed. She said, “I think this is just going to divide us more than we already are. That’s like segregating our history.”

Candice from Florida concurred with Kelly in not removing the Confederate monuments, saying, “For me, it boils down to the fact that there’s nothing in the Constitution that ensures we will be protected from offense. Rather than try and assume what it feels like to be a descendant of slaves, I can try to explain my stance from a personal viewpoint. I lived through the Vietnam era. As a child, I suffered abuse at the hands of a recently returned veteran of that war. That era holds painful memories for me. Many things can trigger those memories, including memorials to those veterans, yet, I would never demand to have those memories removed to protect my feelings.

History shapes us, forms us, and influences how we react to or view things. We can’t simply erase those things that are painful or ugly. When I see or hear something that reminds me of those painful spots, I may feel hurt, or sad, but mostly I compare those times to where I am now and try to see my strength and how far I’ve come. From another non personal perspective, I see people out protesting and all of a sudden having problems with statues or memorials of which they’ve never before given a second thought before someone in the media sector somewhere told them they should. Like Pavlov’s dogs, someone rang a bell and now all the puppies are salivating. So, while I feel empathy and understanding for the few people who honestly do have sincere emotional reactions, I feel most people are simply reacting to the bell.”

Kelly also took a very personal view of what it means to her having the monuments removed, saying, “I am feeling quite offended, not because of color, but you are wanting to change “my” history – the history where I was born and raised. Everyone deserves his/her own history. I don’t want to take away what Martin Luther King did or said, but don’t take away my ancestors. I think what Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad did was fascinating and should be spoken of proudly, but what Grant and Lee did should also be celebrated.”

Kelly and Candice’s answers, especially Kelly’s, in my belief, shows her identity is tied to her subculture within the American culture, and therefore, she may feel her identity and ties to her family history are being stripped away from her.  A more extreme example of this happened to African Americans and Native Americans, and it was a horrendous part of our country’s past.  The last thing we want to do is put anybody through that again.  There has to be a compromise that works for all of us.

The majority of the interviewees, as shown in the chart above, want the Confederate monuments in public places removed and put in a museum. George, a retired military veteran, and Tim from Mississippi included battlefields as well. On the subject of battlefields, George said, “They contribute to the historical aspect/significance of them.”

Tina from New York views these figures etched in the stone of monuments as being put on a pedestal in the literal sense. She believes the statues should be moved to a museum “where the whole story can be presented.” She continued explaining her reasons for the removal of the monuments by saying, “I don’t really think people understand how people of color feel about this. It isn’t just a statue, it’s again just representing everything that never seems to be important enough to fix. I just want people of color to feel like they matter as much as I feel I do.”

Arizona resident, Lee, also spoke on the feelings of people of color saying, “How would you like to see statues of someone who murdered your ancestors in the town park?” She went on to say, “It impacts us in every way, but most of us don’t realize it because we are unaware of the daily lives of others outside our own small circles. But for black people, race underlies every single thing in life, pretty much without exception. Every encounter, every situation outside their safety zone (homes, churches, etc.) is a reminder of their history in one way or another. Sounds extreme? I think most black people would agree with me, and I’ve talked to so many who feel exactly this way.”

Conversely, Gabriel, a person of color who lives in Georgia, shared his perspective saying, “I do not believe all Confederate monuments should be removed, but I do believe others should be added in to give a more full scope of history. I also believe some of the monuments placed up are not really reflective of the history in the Confederacy since others (like Newton Knight or the many who were lynched for rebelling) are often left out of the picture – and this leaves the concept of “The Lost Cause” of the South strong where others do not see how multifaceted the South was.” He adds that there are many people who “see how the North and South were both symbols of white supremacy/corruption and others within it were left behind on both sides.”

newton knight pic for blog

When asked what the removal of the monuments will achieve and do for racial relations, Concetta said, “Many races are calling for the removal. If statues are removed, it’s not going to dissolve hate groups. If a person is inclined to hate an entire race of people, removal of a statue isn’t going to change that.”

Tim agreed, simply replying, “Nothing, none.”

Nicholas agreed with Concetta and Tim, saying, “What good will removing the monuments do? It’s about what’s in a person’s heart.” Candice echoed this.

Jennifer would like to replace the monuments with “USA veterans first and foremost. They gave their lives to preserve our nation.”

Jill could see the long-term effects, saying, “It will take decades, maybe even a generation or two, but without tangible symbols glorifying the leaders of a racist and treasonous rebellion, there will be less and less to legitimize white supremacists and a clearer path to better race relations.”

Julian said she hoped the moving of the monuments out of public places would unite us.

Both Gabriel and Jill suggested erecting other monuments that were more accurate and showed the unknown good people living during the Civil War.

harriet tubman statue

Finally, in asking what could be done to bridge the racial divisions in our country, many spoke of the importance of education and loving everyone. On this, Joni replied, “If there was more love, understanding, and compassion, we would indeed be the United States we could be proud of. Sadly, we’re not. We’re more a work in progress when so many just care about themselves and ‘their own.’ We need our leaders to show love, understanding, and compassion, too. Egos don’t allow that, unfortunately…”

Tony, Gabriel, Amy and others spoke of the importance of getting to know people of other races and backgrounds and learning from them. They see that as a way to overcome assumptions, stereotypes, and fears of people different from one’s own race.

In wrapping up my interviews, I’d like to share Jill and Tina’s ideas on forging better race relations, as they have similar takes on a portion of this subject matter.

In response to this question, Jill told me we need to get “white people to listen to issues of race without a knee-jerk, defensive reaction — for white people to understand that people of color experience life in this country differently than they do. And for black Americans to approach the discussion of race with the understanding that many white people live in ignorance about what minorities endure on a daily basis and have some patience while trying to educate them.”

Tina concurred in the responsibility of white people to understand better the perspectives of people of color saying, “I think we need to make a better effort as white people to make sure everyone else knows they matter. Men need to do this for women, too. You can’t really come to the table, so to speak, when you don’t feel like you matter equally.” She continued by likening race relations to a marriage, explaining, “I find it emotionally similar. Both people want to get along, both feel the other doesn’t understand them, both want to feel equal in the partnership, and like they matter.”

b&w handshake for blog

Having gained awareness and knowledge from my interviews and research on this subject, I think there are two crucial elements from my viewpoint: (1) the purpose and message of the monuments, and (2) how we see our country’s history.

Per The New York Times article above, as well as several other articles circulating the web about the subject of Confederate monuments, the majority of these monuments in question were erected decades after the Civil War and not for the purpose of admiring or remembering those lives lost or for whatever noble deeds for which the person became known. If we are going to be honest with ourselves, the great Founding Fathers of our country and those larger-than-life trailblazers that followed in their footsteps were all flawed human beings, as we all are. We can look back on our history and see the sordid, messy, and dark events that happened and know that when writing the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson meant equality for white men, not women or colored people, otherwise, there wouldn’t have been women’s suffrage or the Civil Right movements.  If we wanted to split that up even more, we could include the social classes.

Historians have often been accused of presentism in their judging and examining people from eras before their own. It is very hard for historians not to fall into this trap. Presentism is the judging and interpreting of an event or person(s) in history using the mindset/lens of their modern era, or in our case, the twenty-first century.   We can be rather harsh on those that came to this country fleeing England’s monarchal rule, religious persecutions, etc., to form a country centered on individual freedom and justice for all.   We can be skeptical and judge them sharply because we are centuries outside of that time period and have mindsets that have surpassed the mistakes and cruelties of their era. Therefore, we can clearly see the wrongdoings of many of our first leaders and those that followed. We are fully aware of the flaws of those early Americans, but we all have faults and learn along the way.  It was how Western culture and countries operated and lived. Certainly, we can and should condemn the heinous acts of slavery and genocide committed by our fellow early Americans and onward, but I believe we also have to look at those people at the time in which they lived that weren’t directly involved in or in total support of the killing of native people or the harsh and inhumane practices of slave trade and ownership of slaves. Right or wrong, the latter’s  behavior and actions were considered the “normal” way of life at that time.

Incidentally, one such person who matches the description of people in that era whose behavior was both good and bad I learned about was a Confederate general who I hadn’t heard of until yesterday. His name was William Mahone.  Why is that name not familiar? It turns out he was one leader erased from the South’s records and conscience. Mahone was indeed a slaveowner, supporter of secession (which Lee wasn’t), etc., but after the war, his actions proved he became a different man, or perhaps it was always there in him but was lost in the culture of his time and the heat of war. As Janet Dailey from the Huffington Post writes, “Mahone organized and led the most successful interracial political alliance in the post-emancipation.” As a senator of Virginia, he created the Readjuster’s Party, which was “a black-majority party” that “legitimated and promoted African American citizenship and political power by supporting black suffrage, office-holding, and jury service.” It was something “previously unseen in Virginia, and unmatched anywhere else in the nineteenth-century South” (Dailey). Eventually, this party lost power in 1883 because of a campaign run by Democrats that executed “violence, electoral fraud, and appeals to white solidarity” (Dailey). As a result, the progressive policies that Mahone and the Readjuster’s Party had managed to enact were abolished and Mahone was treated as a “demagogic race traitor” (Dailey). It seems those souls (however many) in the South that were trying to do good things after the war were marginalized or simply stricken from history’s known record. Would the course in the South and the whole nation’s history have been altered if these people and their achievements for the positive had been able to flourish? I think it is important to share these stories for our own knowledge and awareness.

w mahone conf general for blog

Although I lack the feeling of complete admiration for our Founding Fathers, I recognize the good deeds that they and others that followed them have done. Concetta pointed this out, saying, “Washington owned slaves, and their quarters are prominently displayed at Mt. Vernon.  He’s the father of the country.”  Thus, just as I can recognize Washington’s noble deeds, I recognize Generals Grant and Lee’s honorable actions toward their soldiers in the Civil War and Lee’s efforts towards reconciliation and positive progress after the war.  Of course, it’s good and of vital importance that the North won the war. It’s a given this win chartered Americans onto the correct path towards better treatment of our fellow human beings. We recognize the history’s periods of darkness and wish to move on in a positive direction to more light. I think America has done that slowly through several growing pains and continues to.

eagle and flag for blog

Therefore, I believe there can be resolution and progress on how to deal with these monuments/statues. I think they should be removed from the public squares, city government buildings et al., and put in Civil War museums, which should include a wing on African American early history of enduring and suffering through slavery.  I believe monuments should also be at battlefields for the sole purpose of identifying visually the leaders and on what side they fought. Ironically, it was Robert E. Lee who advised against erecting monuments of him or anyone else from the Confederacy. He believed in not keeping open “the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered” (Desjardins). It appears Lee had good foresight. If this advice had been heeded and others that were making positive changes had been allowed to proceed fully and freely, perhaps our progression away from resentment and “open sores” would have led to more encompassing healing in America.

Works Cited

Dailey, Janet. “The Confederate General Who Was Erased.” Huffington Post, 21 August 2017. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-confederate-general-who-was-erased-from-history_us_599b3747e4b06a788a2af43e

“Daughter of Civil War soldier takes on the fight to save Confederate monuments.”  Women in the World.  The New York Times, 10 July 2017.  http://nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2017/07/10/daughter-of-civil-war-soldier-takes-on-the-fight-to-save-confederate-monuments/

Desjardins, Lisa. “Robert E. Lee opposed Confederate monuments.” PBS Newshour, 15 August 2017. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/robert-e-lee-opposed-confederate-monuments/

Hall, Peter, Patrick Sheehan and Michelle Merlin.  “Historians see options for Confederate statues.”  The Morning Call, 15 August 2017.  http://www.mcall.com/news/local/allentown/mc-nws-allentown-confederate-statues-history-20170815-story.html

Shapiro, Gary. “The Meaning of Our ‘Monuments’.” The New York Times, 15 May 2017.

All interviews were conducted by PM or email August 19-22, 2017.

Peeling Away the Layers of Ignorance and Embedded Racism From My Heart and Mind

peeling away the ignorance and racism

When I decided to go back to school in 2014, it was triggered by homeschooling my sons for two years while living in Massachusetts while my husband was going to graduate school at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. I had initially thought I’d like to major in psychology, but while registering for online college at Southern New Hampshire University, I found there was a BA in English Creative Writing…something I’ve had an interest in from my pre-teens, teens, and through my mid twenties. This passion for writing faded to the back of my mind when I got married and had children. My focus, rightly so, was on my marriage and children, but I’d not lost the desire to write again over those nearly two decades, so when I saw this degree and the classes required, I quickly told my advisor I wanted to switch my major to English Creative Writing in October 2014. Currently, I am still a student and will finish up my degree in late 2018 or early 2019, depending on whether I take off a term next summer for a family vacation or not (mostly likely, I will).

woman writing in notebook

I started writing again in September 2014. I’d started writing a story loosely based on my early life (my early twenties), and in doing so, because of writing third person and working in the mind of the main character in her struggles with heartache, naiveté, selfishness, and extreme passions to the point of obsessive behavior for a few years, I learned much about myself and could see outside myself objectively and realized I was just as much to blame for the problems in my romantic relationships as the man/men. This first epiphany actually brought me peace of mind, strength, closure, and a sense of catharsis.

finding peace

My first class for general education required courses was History 1865 to the present out of the three selected classes available. This class opened my mind and heart, and I learned a lot that I didn’t through primary and secondary school either because I was bored and ignored what was being taught or these details were not elucidated in my history classes. I had studied the Civil War in my late teens out of great interest in the mini-series, North and South, reading the book of the same name by John Jakes, and eventually reading true historical volumes on the Civil War. I knew about the evils of slavery, but also good people from both the North and the South, because rarely is anything involving people, events, relationships, and history entirely black and white. I knew about lynchings and the KKK. I knew generally about Martin Luther King, Jr., but he wasn’t somebody discussed in great detail or admiration in my home growing up, just in passing. I knew even less about Malcolm X. But I did learn a lot about these two men and what true evils were going on, especially between the decades of the 1930s through the 1960s and early 1970s in the American South in regards to the oppression and deadly actions towards people of color through this class, and it made me sick and still does. While taking this course, I watched a few documentaries on my own out of pure interest and wanting to learn more on certain cases or events that weren’t detailed enough for me in the history e-textbook. The best two documentaries I watched were Eyes on the Prize:  America’s Civil Rights Years 1954-1965 and White Like Me.

eyes on the prize pic
Eyes on the Prize trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rg5QBLtPVc

white like me pic

White Like Me trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESbFwsZLCe4

Both were colossal eye openers for me. The attitudes of the white college kids questioned in the documentary White Like Me turned out to be what I had been thinking subconsciously the past couple of decades. I realized this by searching my heart and mind and through introspection. It is true. We white people do not have a clue what or how other people live or encounter on a regular basis. Of course, nobody really knows totally how other people live because they have grown up differently in different backgrounds, ethnicity, class, etc., but all I knew was that I could relate to these white college students that had no idea about how they’ve had it easy in some aspects of their lives and how we think about people of color compared with our own race. I was guilty of that and still have to monitor myself because it’s like Tim Wise points out in the documentary, it’s so embedded in our culture that even people of color think whites are superior to them, generally speaking. This is really sad and horrible how conditioned we are within our society and that it is instilled in our subconscious.

Parting the Waters

These documentaries prompted me to read the book Parting the Waters – first of a series of three books on the history of the Civil Rights Movement in Martin Luther King’s years. I finished this over 900-page book last month. It was excellent and very thorough and a fair and objective compilation of history at that time. I plan to get the next book in the next couple of weeks. I want to continue learning this and the plight of the Native Americans through colonization and genocide in this country that was either whitewashed when I was in school or I was told biased views from the side of the colonizers without regard to those native people we were lied to, oppressed, and many killed off. It is because for years and years, I’ve had an interest in history that I want to read more and learn more on this.

It was around 2010-2012 that I started to realize people I became friends with on the internet are not cardboard cutouts with opposing political views. First, he/she is a person.  Seeing the person as a fellow human being is most vital as that is how a Christian, an Orthodox Christian in my case, should treat others. Whatever the person’s likes or dislikes, political views, etc. should be lower on the totem poll of what connects me to my fellow human beings who are all made in His Image. Mutual kindness, empathy, and truthfulness, like in any relationship no matter the type, is what is most important to me.

hands clasping

Lastly, through my classes in anthropology, psychology, history, world literature, and literary theory, I’ve discovered, acknowledge, and recognize the realities of the treatment of women in Western and Eastern cultures of the world. I was never a feminist and because I was indifferent to women’s struggles and fights for equality, other than I agreed in equal pay for women, I was complicit out of ignorance and apathy, to the objectification of women and the silencing of their voices (not speaking for the extreme views) that were legitimate and accurate historically.

women's rights for equal pay sign

Since I switched from a worldly political viewpoint to a spiritual Christian one back in 2009/2010, I see all of these things I’ve mentioned. I started to wonder why white people seem to almost exclusively be the race who has had the power for the majority of the existence of humanity. My son once told me about two months ago that he hated being white because of all the bad acts committed by them, but I told him he shouldn’t hate being white. Not all white people in our history have been cruel and drunk on power and oppressed other people. I continued by telling him that God created us and we should be grateful and thankful. We just need to show the Light of Christ to all by showing kindness, empathy, and love to all.  He agreed.

james baldwin not your negro

I had watched a documentary recently with James Baldwin called I am Not Your Negro, and he had said it was up to the white people to change the tide through eliminating fear and thus hate and racism. From what I’ve watched and read, many white people are afraid of losing power and of colored people “taking over” our country. At this point, not only good education is needed, but also with the tensions going on between whites and blacks, a real need for true sit down, honest discussions are crucial to have some type of starting point to connect and heal. Until this is done in a real sense, the ignorance, hate, and violence will continue.

It’s true that knowledge is power.  Discovering and unveiling my prejudices, ignorance, and embedded racism helped me to work on changing my mind and heart.  I hope whoever reads my blog searches their hearts and minds and if they find something very negative like I did, they work toward eradicating these thoughts.  There’s much more for me to learn, and I’m in it for the long haul. May God have mercy on us all and grant us strength and peace.

love your neighbor as yourself

 

Life Issues

 

eden

 

In our society, when the topic of life comes up, especially during election years, such as this one, many people immediately think of the pro-life movement. Those folks that are pro-life tend to vote for candidates that are also pro-life, and those folks who are pro-choice usually vote for candidates that share their view on this issue, but what are the life issues? Is believing that life starts at conception and that a human being in the womb is a cherished soul the only aspect of life in our country and in the world? This perception seems to be commonplace.

When we think of all the problems, struggles, concerns in the world, should we not extend the belief in the value of life to more than children inside the womb? Let’s break down different topics that are popular in our political arena that I would define as actual life issues:

The Environment

We hear in the news that there are many conservatives and republicans, but not all, who do not believe in climate change, nor have a strong sense of responsibility given to us by God to tend to the earth He has provided us. But I disagree. Do I believe that the Earth has cycles of hot and cold through its existence and will continue to? Yes. Do I believe that all of what happens on Earth is just Earth being Earth? No, I do not. There are actions we as humans take that contribute negatively to the health of our environment, such as polluting of soil, air, water, and destroying forests and habitats for the animals. Recycling much of our trash has helped lessen pollution and saves energy. The efforts for other forms of energy, such as wind and solar, as well as the creation of hybrid and electric cars, are admirable, but we are decades behind in this area.  The heated debate on GMOs and their pesticides is important to the health of animals and people. We have learned certain pesticides are killing off our bee population, which is detrimental to our food supply, as well as the pesticides that are contaminating our soil and ground water. These concerns are, indeed, life issues and matter greatly.

Capital Punishment

It has been said over the years that our country is based on Judeo-Christian values. Considering the law of an eye for an eye came from the Jewish tradition in the Old Testament, maybe this belief is true because our society/culture is a culture that is embedded in this idea of punishment having to be equal to the heinous act done by the perpetrator. Our country’s perspective and values are not of life, but of death. There is this viewpoint among many in our country that we just throw the person in jail and forget about him/her. How many times have we heard “lock them up and throw away the key” when it has to do with people who murder? They are no longer humans to many of us; hence, the death penalty is considered just and right. People who are suspected terrorists, whether foreign or U.S. citizens, are taken out by our government’s drone program with no arrest, no trial, nothing. We are a country that is for death, not life.

Endless, Unnecessary Wars

Creating wars for resources and arms deals are about death, not life. Toppling leaders in other countries destroys the lives of those people living in those countries, for which we have no regard for those people’s cultures because we are either arrogant and don’t care, or ignorant and don’t care to learn. This is also connected to the environment, where the destruction of towns and lands causes catastrophic effects on people’s ability to have access to clean water, food, and needed medical care. This is a life issue, and our leaders have chosen death.

Poverty

The United States is the richest country in the world, but we have high numbers of people living in poverty. According to a study in 2014, 16 million children live in families whose incomes are considered below the poverty level the federal government has established. Lack of access to healthy, nutritional food and healthcare, the daily stresses of living without basic needs, struggling to pay bills, and facing violence in their neighborhoods, leads to shorter life spans. In an economy that takes the hard-earned wages of the middle class workers and gives them to the top 1% of the wealthiest people in the country, shows greed supersedes the value of a person’s well being and life. Since the billionaires are not putting the majority of their monies back into the economy and also sending their jobs overseas, very little growth or job creation happens. This growth happens through the middle class and their small businesses and spending money. We’ve truly become the epitome of Darwin’s belief of survival of the fittest.

The Value of a Person

The foundation of our culture is based on the killing of our young in the womb, that then progresses through difficult paths of climbing out of poverty for a good chunk of our society, environmental apathy, wars, locking up our young and adults who have done a criminal act, with little interest in their lives after they are behind bars, and in some cases, injecting them with poison, in a supposed gesture of humane treatment. The last years of our life cycle in America many times consists of discarding our elderly into nursing homes, in many cases because families struggle to afford the medical care needed to take care of their loved ones.  In some other cases, people see these elderly individuals are no longer a productive part of our society and have lost their identity as valued human beings.

How much respect and value do we have for life?  Shouldn’t we work to change this through pressing our government for improved programs, such as healthcare for all people and decent education for all people, and shouldn’t our government stop the outsourcing of American citizens’ jobs?  Shouldn’t we care for God’s creation?  Shouldn’t we care about LIFE?  We should ask ourselves these questions.