Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Welcome to the Slaughterhouse: A Christian Nation?!

"If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter." George Washington

Welcome to the Slaughterhouse, America!!

By Nicholas Meyeres

One of the most common statements from the Religious Right in America is that they want this country to "return to the Christian principles on which it was founded". However, a little research into American history will show that this statement is a bald-faced lie at best. The men responsible for building the foundation of this United States had little use for Christianity, and many were even strongly opposed to it. They were men of The Enlightenment, not men of Christianity. They were mostly Deists who did not believe in the divinity of Christ or the word of the bible as being the one, true word.

Thus, there is no freedom of religion if there is also no freedom FROM religion. There are some who claim that the United States of America was founded and based on Christian faith and principles, and they would do (and have already done) everything in their power to change the actual history of this great Nation. While it is true that some of the Founding Fathers considered themselves Protestant most were likely Deist or even Unitarian, this did not mean that they forced their beliefs onto anyone like we attempt to do today. In fact, quite the opposite.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

No reference to God. No reference to Jesus. No reference to Christianity. The words "Jesus Christ, Christianity, Bible, and God" are never mentioned in the Constitution-- not once. This is simply NOT a Christian nation no matter how hard some people try to explain otherwise.

Indeed, according to Article 11 of the Treaty between Tripoli and the United States, written in 1796, “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” And, according to Phillip Schaff in his 1888 book Church and State in the United States, “Separation secures religious thought, speech, and action. Religion is voluntary and cannot be forced. The United States furnishes the first example in the history of a government deliberately depriving itself of all legislative control of religion.”

A few Christian fundamentalists today attempt to convince us to return to the "Christianity" of early America, yet according to the historian, Robert T. Handy, "No more than 10 percent-- probably less-- of Americans in 1800 were members of congregations." The Founding Fathers, as well, rarely practiced Christian orthodoxy. Although, while they supported the free exercise of any religion, they understood the dangers of religion in government.

Just as Congress removed Thomas Jefferson's words that condemned the practice of slavery in the colonies, they also altered his wording regarding equal rights. His original wording is: "All men are created equal and independent. From that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable." Congress changed that phrase, increasing its religious overtones: "All men are created equal. They are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights." But we are not governed by the Declaration of Independence-- it is an historical document, not a constitutional one. And as I have already said, "The words 'Jesus Christ, Christianity, Bible, and God' are never mentioned in the Constitution."

So, let's stop censoring or ignoring the portion of the populace (by some estimates, 20% of the population) that doesn't believe in a higher being- and who apparently know American history better than anyone else on the right. Furthermore, it shouldn't be impossible for an atheist to hold public office, but in some areas of the country it is still illegal for one to even run. Let's agree that separation of church and state does not seek to take away our religious liberties, and in fact does a great deal of good FOR religious and non-religious people alike. After all, in 1872 the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that, “The structure of our government has, for the preservation of civil liberty, rescued the temporal institutions from religious interference. On the other hand, it has secured religious liberty from the invasion of the civil authority."

When this country was founded, it's founding fathers were mostly slave owners. Women weren't allowed to hold public office nor could they even vote. Women were even forced to wear several layers of clothing, dared not even expose so much as an ankle lest she be thought of in a lesser light, and even kept their heads covered in public.

The point is, since the founding of this country, mankind has grown exponentially ethically and morally, and religion has played virtually no part in that growth. If you base your religion on the Christian Bible then it would be fair to say that you would prefer that we still had slavery today since in Leviticus God gives instruction on how slaves are property to be inherited. It is also clear that in the Bible women are absolutely less valuable than men and are not to be given equal treatment.

Examples of this are vast and numerous, including when Lot, in order to spare the angels of God from having to be sodomized by the towns men, offered instead his two virgin daughters for them to "do as ye will". So if you really want to get back to the "Christian Nation" that you believe the founding fathers meant it to be, then it would stand to reason, as a "Christian Nation" we should bring back slavery, burn "witches", repeal woman's rights, and in order to save higher beings from the degradation of public sodomy, sacrifice our very children to their boss or pay the price forever?... Or have we EVOLVED past the backward thinking that this is indeed a "Christian Nation"?

Most people don't even realize that the phrase one Nation "Under God" was not in the Pledge of Allegiance or the majority of our currency until AFTER June 14, 1954, right in the midst of the McCarthy hysteria. The reasons are obvious and glaring as to why this would occur at this time. A time that we were morally, if not literally at "war" with communism. After all, by making sure that the "godless" communists knew that we were diametrically opposite them in every way- including by convincing ourselves that our founding was that of a god-fearing "Christian" nation- we would show superiority over them and win in the day's end the world's adoration and respect.

I am not now, nor have I ever advocated the abolition of Christianity or even religion in our country. I respect any person's faith, just as I would hope you would respect my lack of it. All I ask is that people realize the truth of our founding as a nation, stop trying to fundamentally change the very fabric of our Constitution and Bill of Rights to suit their purposes and ideological bent, and leave government out of our personal everyday lives. Worship in the way you choose to, but ask not the government to join you in this exercise, or its people that choose not to, as well.

That's all I ask. That's all our framers ever asked. That's all our Constitution asks of you. After all, this is not a "Christian Nation", it is a CONSTITUTIONAL one!

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Welcome to the Slaughterhouse: W.hat W.ould W.onder W.oman D.o?

"If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter." George Washington
Welcome to the Slaughterhouse, America!!

By Nicholas Meyeres

Every once in a while a person comes along that sets the collective minds and hearts of everyday people on fire with pure inspiration and thoughts of a better world through their very actions and words and deeds. If only more people were like them, what a wonderful world we would live in. Take for instance this:

“What would Jesus do”? Now, it’s pretty well known that I am not a very religious person at all and would never be caught dead wearing this tacky piece of Christian kitsch around my wrist, but it’s the thought that counts in this instance. After all, to aspire to be better than you already are is a very noble act, indeed. Sometimes we just need guidance and physical reminders from other people and things to live in the best way possible ourselves.

Besides, from every account we have heard, this was a man who could lead you by example whether you’re a Christian or not- or for that matter, whether you even believe him to be the actual son of God or not. A rebel who fought persecution and "big government" without ever brandishing so much as a closed fist against those who would harm him or the ones he loved. Someone who preached love and kindness and tolerance and duty above all else. Someone who said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” In essence, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That can’t be all that bad of a way to live your life.

After all, the "Golden Rule" is a rule for all of us to hunger for in this day and age. I know I would do good to follow that advice more often than not in my everyday life- we all could. Therefore, it’s no wonder why Jesus Christ is a hero to so many people- Christian or not- and why they choose to live their lives by his words, and his actions, and his deeds. After all, whether half of what was said about him was fact or fiction (or somewhere in between), it goes without saying that even if he wasn’t the man we believe him to be- that isn’t the most important thing. Even if some or all of what was said about him was embellished or even a flat out lie, and the words weren’t even his own- does it really matter in the day’s end if it encourages people to be better people in their own personal everyday lives?

We all need heroes, after all. In a world like this. Today of all days- we need heroes. Fact or fictional.

Take for instance, one of my personal heroes: Wonder Woman.

Yes, we all know she is a completely fictional creation, but does it really even matter? We can all learn something from the heroism and heroics that is Wonder Woman. WWWWD? "What would Wonder Woman do?"

This woman, created at a time when women didn’t dare step foot out of the kitchen, let alone any closer than no more than 4 feet behind their husbands- stood toe to toe with villains of every shape and size that some men wouldn’t even fight for fear of being beat to very inches of their lives. This woman, front and center in the heat of battle, with her head held high- fighting (not behind), but right along side the likes of Superman and Batman and the Justice Society of America. This woman, who could fight the most powerful man on Earth to a standstill, and on a good day- even kick his ass!... all without the use of kryptonite.

Wonder Woman wasn’t just a hero for women, but for men, and children, and anyone else who is thought of as lesser by virtue of who they are- but yet, who overcame it despite the overwhelming odds stacked against them. A hero who is tough as nails, but drop dead gorgeous, too! Someone who didn’t let the fact that she was a warrior stop her from being feminine without being a feminist. Someone who was a born fighter by her very birthright who used violence always as a last option, and rather preferred to stand for peace in "man’s world of war". Someone who recognized the greatness of our country even though she was not a born or natural citizen of America. An Ambassador. Someone who admired the United States and her ideals so much that she donned the colors of our flag and the very symbol of our freedom on her breastplate.

This is a woman who used- not a sword, or a gun, or even a rock to throw at her adversaries- but instead, a bright and shining golden lasso to subdue her enemies, if not enlighten them, as well. A symbol of hope to compel them to truth, justice and to simply be better people. An Amazon Princess who only fought when she needed to fight. A person so steeped in myth, and honor, and history who fought her very nature to be the person she needed to be in our world today. She was more than a fighter- she was a survivor! A person who knew that she was more than the person she was born to be, or the person she had become over these many years- but, she was the person she CHOSE to be... and that person was a hero!

That’s inspiration right there. That’s someone to be more like if you ask me. Someone whose head is always held high, and who never allows any man or woman to force her to be lesser than who she knows in her heart she isn't.

We could all do worse than have fictional heroes like Wonder Woman, or even Jesus Christ to aspire to be more like. We could have no heroes at all.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Welcome to the Slaughterhouse: Kindness, censorship, the 1st Amendment and me!

"If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter." George Washington
Welcome to the Slaughterhouse, America!!

By Nicholas Meyeres

Recently, according to Publishers Weekly, NewSouth Books' upcoming edition of Mark Twain's masterpiece "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" will remove all instances of the "n" word… and when I say “n” word I don’t mean “nachos”.

But the real question is, “why”?

Some people would likely point to the hurtful nature and origin of the term, and the intent of its use, but isn’t it still historical in context, and shouldn’t we always endeavor to make history as accurate as possible? Besides, don’t we have the “right“ to say it if we want to? After all, do we look to censor our public school history books, as well; or for that matter our bibles, holy books, and dictionaries because they also contain words and concepts that some people may find offensive?

Perhaps it is the context of the word, or who wrote them.

If you think that, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Mark Twain was very precise in his verbiage- he knew EXACTLY what he was saying, and more importantly, he knew WHY he was saying it. He used the word because it made people uncomfortable to use it even back then, and frankly, it was simply commonplace to use the term at that point in history. Therefore, he used it to be historically AND intellectually truthful. After all, sometimes harsh language is the only thing some people understand in order to start any kind of dialog at all.

So, having said that, was Twain a racist for the use of the word over 200 times in the novel, or was it something more? After all, it does SEEM a little bit excessive by our standards today.

A little known history that was just uncovered at Yale University found that he paid for at least one black person to attend that University’s Law School and for another black person to attend a southern university to become a minister. That clearly isn’t the actions of a racist if you ask me.

In fact, I think there are very few folks (at least in America today) that are TRUE racists at all. There are some, yes, but I think you have to look very hard to find those individuals who aren't simply "soft bigots" or just being ironic. I think we all agree that racism at it’s core is a very, very ugly thing, and I am sure we would know it if we really saw it in action today.

Still, I was approached with the notion that this will actually allow the book back into school libraries because (as most people already know) “Huck Finn” is one of the most banned books around right now. If this happens, will it increase readership and availability into the hands of children everywhere to be able to enjoy the same story that I grew up with? Or, is it an attempt to pacify a small minority of people who think they know what’s best for us all, and who want to change what we know as “true history”? If it is the former, great! But, I am not so sure that it is.

Honestly, I can't personally see any other motivation other than the unnecessary censorship of a brilliant piece of literature myself. But, then again, censorship is one of my (seemingly many) hot button issues these days. And as Voltaire put it, “I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it?”

Or, for that matter, like our 1st President of the United States of America said, "If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter."

And that is how I live my life.

Sure, you may not live your life as such, but I do. And if there is a choice between censoring history because a few people are made uncomfortable by some of its content, or allowing it to be available to those who choose to seek it out, untarnished… well, I know which side of the debate I fall on. My personal opinion is, rather than shielding people from the truth and from history, we should allow them access to untainted accounts (whether it be from a history book or a great American novel like “Huck Finn”) to determine for themselves what life truly was like.

Of course, I may be blinded by the blatant censorship of one of my very favorite books, by my very favorite author of all time.

… But, now to the important part: The United States Constitution. The Constitution does protect the freedom of speech of every citizen, and even of non-citizens, that is true — but only from restriction by Congress (and, by virtue of the 14th Amendment and state legislatures, as well). But does that mean it is all-encompassing? Not quite- there are plenty of other places where you could speak but where speech can and often is suppressed.

For example, freedom of speech can be restricted in a work place. Employers (right or wrong) can restrict your right to speak in the office about politics, about religion, about legal issues, even about “Desperate Housewives” if they choose to. The same restrictions that apply to the government do not apply to private persons, employers, or establishments for the most part. For that matter, the government could not prohibit the sale of any newspaper lest it breech the freedom of the press clause- however, no newsstand MUST carry every paper against its owners' wishes.

And then, of course there’s libel, defamation of character, and yelling “bomb!” in a crowded New York City airport. Some forms of speech just simply are not allowed- even in America.

In other words, the 1st Amendment applies to the Federal Government DICTATING how we think and talk to each other, but not how WE think and talk to each other. It also does not dictate which religion we endorse or do not endorse as a Nation. Congress has no authority over us in that regard, but we do have the ability to create local and state laws as individuals and employers if we see fit to do so with the overall understanding that the Constitution ultimately has the final say in the day’s end. After all, we are a land based on constitutional law, not politically correct, religious or personal interpretation of the law.

Having said that, NewSouth Books' does have the "right" to change Twain's masterpiece because this work was published before January 1, 1923, and is thus in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago. But the question is, "should they change it?" That is a question that could (and likely will) be debated for many years to come.

Either way, I will say this much- because we are all individuals who have had different experiences over the course of our own lifetimes, we see many things (obviously) much different from one another- for better or worse. My good AND my bad experiences have shaped my world view today- just like I am sure yours did you, and hers did her, and his did his, and anyone else's did theirs.

It's true, I can't walk in your shoes and I don't know what you've been through in life- but, frankly, I’m not so sure I even want to know, either- I have enough of my own bad experiences to live with. I am simply as honest as I can be- I can empathize, but that's about it. Likewise, some of my experiences would seem foreign to you because you wouldn't know how to react if they happened in your life.

Still, having said all of that, I also feel that it doesn't even truly matter if we completely understand one another in this life- all that matters is that we don't kill each other, or intentionally harm one other BECAUSE we're different. Besides, even though I am a product of what my experiences have made me- I am also who I am today because it is who I CHOOSE to be, not who I’ve become.

After all, we all have a thin skin about something even though we try all day long to tell ourselves and each other otherwise. When it’s all said and done, what is most important is the old adage of being true to yourself. That's all there really is, and that's all that ever really matters.

… So, after all of that, do we have the “right” or even the duty to censor ourselves, each other, or history because some people’s experiences allow for a more amplified feeling that they are offended by what we do or what we say to them because of that thin skin? That answer, at least, is a simple one for me: “Fuck no, nigga’!”

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