Tuesday, October 21, 2008

In preparing my next political post (which is about abortion) I'm in the process of reading a lecture given by Stanely Hauerwas (professor of Ethics at Duke) in 1990 to the North Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.  This is indirectly related to the topic of abortion and was a quote I just had to share.  He's addressing Christian ethics in general here and how, as Christians, we cannot think in terms of "Americana Inalienable Rights" because that doesn't fit with our Christian ethics: 

Christians, to be more specific, do not believe that we have a right to do with our bodies whatever we want. We do not believe that we have a right to our bodies because when we are baptized we become members of one another; then we can tell one another what it is that we should, and should not, do with our bodies. I had a colleague at the University of Notre Dame who taught Judaica. He was Jewish and always said that any religion that does not tell you what to do with your genitals and pots and pans cannot be interesting. That is exactly true. In the church we tell you what you can and cannot do with your genitals. They are not your own. They are not private. That means that you cannot commit adultery. If you do, you are no longer a member of "us." Of course pots and pans are equally important.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wish I could say that I'd typed out all my Obama thoughts -- sorry to bring you in here on your RS feeds for something far less important.  

So Sarah and I ordered a backpack from Sierra Trading Post for our trip to Argentina in two weeks (WooWoo!) - it came in and we decided it was a bit too small.  So I called to return/exchange.  It has been A LONG, LONG time since I've dealt with a company that was as helpful and nice on the phone as Sierra Trading Post.  I didn't even go to a robo-voice.  My call was immediately picked up by a real person... taken care of, free shipping, and they're sending out the replacement item before the return even gets there.  If anyone ever needs to order outdoor equipment I HIGHLY recommend them (as do my parents who have used them for a long time). 

P.S. Thanks to Jeff, Lyric, Kelli, Kelsi, Darci and Mom for the comments on the previous post.  More is coming I promise!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

So last week my sister Darci asked me to email her an explanation on why I am voting for Obama (and why I wouldn’t vote for McCain).  I didn’t anticipate writing so much, but it has turned into a short book… and I’m not finished.  A few of you have asked to read it.  Here is the first section.  I’ll post the second of two in a few days.

Ok Darc,

Here’s my rundown on why I’m going to be voting for Barack Obama – but now that I’m sorting this all out in written form, I’m realizing that it had not occurred to me how much I’d need to type.  Similarly, you probably didn’t anticipate the can of worms you’d be opening when you asked.  But it’s pretty important to me that people (you, namely) know that I’ve thought this through and that it’s not just a trendy decision. 

I’m going to organize this from big picture issues to specific policies; primarily because that’s how I got to know the candidate.  And I’m not going to send this all at once because that’s just too much. So hopefully section by section will be more palatable. 

My first run in with Senator Obama was in 2004, when Barack spoke at the Democratic National Convention.  Sarah and I were trying to decide how to vote; we weren’t fans of Bush, but we didn’t really have much reason to like Kerry either, and we were trying to get a better feel for what was going on.  I found that the rhetoric Obama used seemed more biblical to me than much of the policy being spouted by the other side (Sorry, “spouted” gives away my bias).   I’m going to copy a few sections that were meaningful to me.  You can also watch it on youtube.  Here’s the first section: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWynt87PaJ0

“If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for their prescription and having to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandparent.

If there's an Arab-American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.

It is that fundamental belief -- it is that fundamental belief -- “I am my brother's keeper, I am my sisters' keeper” -- that makes this country work.

Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes.

Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America.

There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America.

The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states.

We coach little league in the blue states and, yes, we've got some gay friends in the red states.

There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq, and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.

We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism, or do we participate in a politics of hope?

John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope. I'm not talking about blind optimism here, the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don't think about it, or health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it.

That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about something more substantial. It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too.

Hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty, the audacity of hope: In the end, that is God's greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation, a belief in things not seen, a belief that there are better days ahead.

I believe that we can give our middle class relief and provide working families with a road to opportunity.

I believe we can provide jobs for the jobless, homes to the homeless, and reclaim young people in cities across America from violence and despair.

I believe that we have a righteous wind at our backs, and that as we stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices and meet the challenges that face us…"

The primary element of the speech that I found so compelling, was Barack’s concern for the things that, I believe, worried Christ the most: the poor, the widow, the orphan – people who can’t afford health insurance, people on the fringes, the marginalized.  But the other very important tone of his message was that he didn’t picture a country divided. I think, that coming from a home like ours – a home and upbringing that I treasure, one that had very specific conservative elements, some of which I feel differently about now – that meant a TON to me.  I wanted to find someone as a leader who could do the proverbial “reach across the aisle” to both sides.  Someone who could hold both sides in tension… because I feel like most of the time, when I see people disagree (on politics, religion, whatever), they are just filled with vitriol and aggression.   He really seemed to believe that things didn’t have to be so segregated. 

So, then I watched Zel Miller, the Keynote Speaker for the Republican National Convention.  It could not have been more day-and-night different (divisive and laced with latent anger): 

Today, at the same time young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrats' manic obsession to bring down our commander in chief… Time after time in our history, in the face of great danger, Democrats and Republicans worked together to ensure that freedom would not falter.

But not today.

Motivated more by partisan politics than by national security, today's Democratic leaders see America as an occupier, not a liberator.”

Watch the first part here if you want: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_t_9d8L70U

I don’t need to pick these two speeches apart.  You can watch either/both if you want.  But the main point is that they were opposites, in almost every way.   And I just totally felt that one made more sense (both politically and spiritually) to me. 

Ok, so that’s the beginning. 

Then I went out and bought Obama’s two books: The Audacity of Hope and Letters from My Father. 

As I read, especially with The Audacity of Hope, I found more and more about how this guy saw politics and the general socio-political climate in America – and how I agreed with him.  

(One funny, quick side note.  In that section from Obama’s keynote I copied, you’ll notice the piece about “spin masters and negative ad peddlers” – as I was just watching the Obama keynote on Youtube, an ad for John McCain came up in the banner and listed all of the times Obama said “I agree with Senator McCain” during that first debate last week.  I had heard they were going to do that – but I’d hoped they wouldn’t just because I think it’s so manipulative and underhanded.  I WANT a senator who is willing to debate with someone and say, “Look, I understand where you’re coming from, and we agree on ABC – however, where we differ is XYZ, and this is why I believe XYZ to be true.”  THAT to me is less bull-headed, more thoughtful, and a thousand times better!  But they use it as a negative ad against him.  Arg!)

So to take that side note and tie it into The Audacity Of Hope – as I read that book, I continued to hear a man talk about a belief system he has wherein we are called by God and Country to take care of one another.  And I read that he didn’t believe we needed to attack each other so aggressively when we disagreed.  He spent quite a bit of time addressing the ways that we need to be better about seeing other people – even those we may disagree with - as good people, with good intentions; and that this would help solve how ugly our political climate has become.  

But at the time of reading this, I didn’t have a way of determining if Barack was capable of putting this into practice.  For all I knew, he could talk a big game about empathy for other people’s worldviews, but when the rubber meets the road – and it’s time to win a campaign - maybe he would go for the throat, just like any other politician. 

Here’s one of my favorite sections from Audacity: 

"It's not a question we ask ourselves enough, I think; as a country, we seem to be suffering from an empathy deficit. We wouldn't tolerate schools that don't teach, that are chronically underfunded and understaffed and under-inspired, if we thought that the children in them were like our children. It's hard to imagine the CEO of a company giving himself a multimillion dollar bonus while cutting health-care coverage for his workers if he thought they were in some sense his equals. And it's safe to assume that those in power would think longer and harder about launching a war if they envisioned their own sons and daughters in harms way.

I believe a stronger sense of empathy would tilt the balance of our current politics in favor of those people who are struggling in this society. After all, if they are like us, then their struggles are our own. If we fail to help, we diminish ourselves.

But that does not mean that those who are struggling - or those of us who claim to speak for those who are struggling - are thereby freed from trying to understand the perspectives of those who are better off. Black leaders need to appreciate the legitimate fears that may cause some whites to resist affirmative action. Union representatives can't afford not to understand the competitive pressures their employers may be under. I am obligated to try and see the world through George Bush's eyes, no matter how much I may disagree with him. That's what empathy does - it calls us all to task, the conservative and the liberal, the powerful and the powerless, the oppressed and the oppressor. We are all shaken out of our complacency. We are all forced beyond our limited vision."

SO, does he put this into practice?  I feel like in the last year, I have seen NUMEROUS examples of how Obama is NOT willing to succumb to dirty politics.  He has been attacked by both Clinton’s camp and McCain’s camp, and yet he sticks to what I read.  I watched the debates during the Democratic primaries, and here is a section I transcribed. 

Democratic Debate in Ohio

The debate opened with Brian Williams presenting both a clip of Hilary giving an angry press conference about a Health Care mailing Obama did, and a photograph that was leaked on the internet of Obama in native garb from a country he was visiting (that news companies like Fox News have used to propagate the lie that Barack is a “secret Muslim”).  The blog site said that the photo came from Hilary’s camp.  It was a very strong opening opportunity for conflict/ between the candidates.  Hilary responded about the mailing and talked about health care, then Williams asked about the photo.

Brian Williams to Senator Clinton: “…Can you say, unequivocally, that it did not (come from your camp)?”

Sen. Clinton: “Well, so far as I know it did not.  And I certainly know nothing about it, and have made it clear that that’s not the kind of behavior that I condone or expect from the people who work in my campaign…”

Brian Williams: “Senator Obama, your response.”

Sen. Obama: “Well, first of all, I take Senator Clinton at her word.  That she knew nothing about the photos.  So I think that’s something we can set aside.  I do want to focus on the issue of health care, because Senator Clinton has suggested that the flier that we put out, that the mailing we put out, was inaccurate.  Now keep in mind that I’ve consistently said that I think Senator Clinton’s got a good health care plan.  I think I have a good healthcare plan.  I think mine is better.  But I’ve said that 95% of our healthcare plan is similar.  I have endured, over the course of this campaign, repeated negative mail from Senator Clinton, in Iowa, in Nevada, and other places, suggesting that I want to leave 15 million people out.  According to Senator Clinton, that is accurate.  I dispute it, and I think it is inaccurate.  On the other hand, I don’t fault Senator Clinton for wanting to point out what she thinks is an advantage to her plan.”

I feel like that is the first time I’ve ever heard a politician essentially say “Look, I respect this person, and I think that they believe their way of doing ______ is the best way.  I cordially disagree – I think my way is better for the country.”  Not only was this important to me because of the principle, but also because Barack followed through on what he believed in! Years prior to this debate, he wrote about doing politics this way, and it was SO refreshing to me to see someone do exactly what he said he’d do.  

So that’s the general basis for why I was drawn toward Sen. Obama as a presidential candidate.  In the next couple of days, I’m going to write out my thoughts on specific issues: How the US is viewed throughout the world, the economy, race issues, abortion, gay rights, and healthcare.   Then in the last segment, I’ll explain why I would be concerned about McCain/Palin being elected. 

One last thing: There have been a number of times in my life when I’ve been made to feel by someone else that their way of thinking was the only way. It’s the belittling tone that is present in any form of fundamentalism (not just religious or political – just any kind of fundamentalism) because it insinuates that anyone who disagrees is unintelligent or unfaithful or illogical.  I want to make sure you know that you are TOTALLY free to disagree with me on this stuff, and do it openly.  I don’t want you to feel like my opinions corner you at all. 

Ok, so that’s all for now (6 pages single spaces is enough I think). 

Thanks for asking me to do this!