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Archive for March, 2012

11The old phrase goes that you often don’t appreciate something until it is gone. Right now, this is exactly how I am feeling. This year my wife and I are leaving Costa Rica to teach/study either in the U.S. or another international school. I have loved my four years in Costa Rica, but I am now realizing all the possibilities I may have ignored.

For example, this past weekend, I decided to climb the mountain in my town. I just started walking up from our house until I reached the very top. For some reason, in my three years of living at the same house, I have never taken the time to climb the mountain. However, as I am leaving I am realizing the natural beauty around me that I have often taken for granted. I have also decided to eat as many of the cheap, exotic, and abundant fruits that I can before I leave. How foolish has it been for me to pay for a 6 dollar box of cereal, when I have an abundance of bananas, papayas, pineapples, and other tropical fruit to choose from.

How often do we do this? It takes us realizing that something dramatic is going to change in our life for us to actually appreciate what is around us. This is probably why many cancer survivors or other people who have had a close brush with death say that would not take back the experience if they could. The sense of loss made them appreciate the friends, family, and life all around them. It is unfortunate that as humans we often need this sense of loss to gain appreciation.

How much of our life do we savor everyday? How many great adventures or opportunities have we passed up because we think we have forever to do them? We were never guaranteed another day, yet we live our lives thinking that we have forever to live out our dreams. The reality is that we do not. This time as we are getting ready to leave Costa Rica has reminded me of that. As I look around me at this beautiful country with all the life it has to give, I am much more appreciative. It is my prayer that I can live with those open eyes through my life and refuse to take the beauty and grace around me for granted.

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12The Supreme Court of the U.S. was set up for one reason- to defend the Constitution, not to make, confirm, or reject laws they disagree with out of personal political ideology. However, recently, judges on both sides of the bench, conservatives and liberals, have decided to become legislatures and activists. This undermines our whole system of democracy.

The real sad fact is that policies that clearly do violate the constitution are not touched, issues such as indefinite detention, warrantless wiretapping, and the denial of the right to due process. Instead the judges are busying making their laws, whether it is more left leaning rulings such as Roe vs. Wade or more conservative rulings such as Citizens United. At the end of the day, whatever you view is on abortion, gay marriage, campaign finance, health care or a whole range of issues, it should be up the people to decide those issues not a highly ideological and partisan group of nine individuals.

As the current health care law is brought to the Supreme Court, and the Court once again looks to become activist legislators, the people of the country need to stand up and say that enough is enough. If people do not like the health care legislation, then elect people to overturn it. Our whole country should not suffer because of the decisions of nine individuals, especially when the majority of them seem to be more concerned with protecting the interests of the wealthy and corporations than the Constitution.

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We know if there is a war with Iran, many soldiers on both sides will lose their lives, and thousands upon thousands of citizens will lose their lives, homes, and health. However, some people are going to become filthy rich, and these are the people pushing for a war.

Oil speculators and defense contractors are some of the groups looking to make a killing on another war. While the nations goes further in debt, funds are cut for the poor and needy, public education is defunded, and our society collapses due to the expense of war, the greedy and wealthy will be lining their pockets laughing at our stupidity. War makes money for many, which is certainly one of the main reasons, some would argue the only reason, that war is even waged.

It becomes even more disturbing when you realize that those who are going to become even filthier rich in the next war are buying out congress. Defense contractors have so many members of congress bought out, and many former military personnel go to work for these companies when they get out of the military. It is almost amusing watching the news and seeing how former military officials, who are now spokespeople for the defense contractors (men such as former defense secretary, William Cohen) are the ones speaking out on cable news about the dangerous “threat of Iran”.

It should be something that outrages us. Already wealthy men are going to become even wealthier at the expense of the young soldiers of our nation and other nations, and the hundreds of thousands or even millions of civilians who may die. The old Proverb rings true, “the love of money is the root of all evil.”

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“They were always fighting for something the bastards and if anyone dared say the hell with fighting it’s all the same each war is like the other and nobody gets any good out of it why they hollered coward. If they weren’t fighting for liberty they were fighting for independence or democracy or freedom or decency or honor or their native land or something else that didn’t mean anything. The war was to make the world safe for democracy for the little countries for everybody. If the war was over now then the world must be all safe for democracy. Was it? And what kind of democracy? And how much? And whose?”

So wrote Dalton Trumbo in his famous anti-war book, Jonny Get Your Gun. The famous book was written after the horrible events of World War I. Before the war, many had forgotten how atrocious war really was, and many countries haphazardly entered the war without any real reason. After the war, those who fought realized that war was hell; it was something that should be avoided at all cost.

It seems that in many ways, we are living in the same era as those who were so quick and foolish to rush into the First World War. We have forgotten the horror of war. For one, most of so are removed from the actual conflict that we do not even have to worry about it. Foreign Middle Eastern civilians and unfortunate U.S. soldiers will have to experience the conflict, but not the average western citizen. So many support whatever new war effort because they see war as something heroic, purifying, or even righteous. They have never lived through war, so they have no problem supporting another one. They have forgotten the atrocities, evil, suffering, pain, and death that war brings both to those who it is inflicted on and those who are inflicting it, to both the victims and perpetrators.

As so many in the U.S. public blindly support another horrific war with Iran, a war that could be much bigger and far reaching than our previous wars with Afghanistan or Iraq, we should at least contemplate the horrors of war. Are we really willing to so nonchalantly enter another deadly conflict?

Simon Weil says it so perfectly,

“War perverts and destroys you. It pushes you closer and closer to your own annihilation—spiritual, emotional and finally physical. It destroys the continuity of life, tearing apart all systems—economic, social, environmental and political—that sustain us as human beings.”

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If you haven’t seen the news, you will in the next day or so. The main film maker of KONY 2012 was hospitalized for what seems to be a serious mental breakdown. After reading a few stories, it is shocking to see the comments that are many are making, mocking and insulting Jason Russell. Many automatically assume that he is on crack cocaine or crystal meth or at the minimum that he brought it on himself.

A part of us loves to see when people fall. There seems to be some sick voyeuristic pleasure in it for many. Perhaps it makes many feel better about their own lives. However, it is saddening. I do not know if Russell and the makers of Invisible Children’s strategies on stopping on child soldiers are the best or wisest, but I do believe that they did have good intentions. You can argue with them about their message or their methods or even how exactly they run their finances, but it is very dangerous to accuse their motivations.

Mental illness seems to still be something that people feel privileged to make fun of and mock. You wouldn’t see anyone mocking a patient with cancer or a heart disease, however, when people have a mental breakdown, it is often made out to be that they are a bad or irresponsible person.

Those with mental illness are not freaks to be made fun of; they are children of God who should be loved, protected, and cared for. In our country, many of them are simply thrown out to the streets and are forced to live a life of homelessness. Hopefully, this episode with awaken people to realize that mental illness is something that we are all susceptible at some point in our life, and we need to create a society where people who do fall unto hard times are cared for and loved.

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Do we really believe what Jesus said when he said we should love our enemies? That we should bless those who curse us? That we should not return evil for evil, but instead return evil with good? It amazes me that so many of those who claim the name of Christianity are the first to call out for war against whatever the new national enemy may be. They might call themselves Biblical literalists or fundamentalists, but they certainly have not taken Jesus seriously with what he said on the Sermon the Mount?

So, what do these teachings of Jesus mean? Are they just nice sayings to work out family rough patches? Do they have no application to real struggle and violence in the world? If the teachings of Jesus are worthless on a grand scale, they are pretty insignificant on a personal scale. If it is morally justified to create a pre-emptive war and kill hundreds of thousands of people in the name of stopping a “hypothetical threat” then all the teachings of Jesus about loving our enemy, about how those who live by the sword will die by the sword, and turning the other cheek are pretty much worthless, and the teachings of Jesus should be abandoned.

So many in the Christian community have focused their social and political attention on issues that Jesus never even addressed like birth control, abortion, and gay marriage. While I am not saying that none of these issues are important, what I am saying is that the actual teachings of Jesus on violence, peace, and revenge are ignored. We are ready to go to another war with a Bible in hand justifying our actions. However, the teachings of Jesus are nicely brushed aside so that we can justify killing others to “defend” ourselves. Let’s take the teachings of Jesus and actually apply them to the way we treat our enemies. If Christians fail to do so, they are denying the faith they claim to follow. Even for those outside the Christian faith, Jesus’s teachings about peace, love for enemies, and the futility of revenge is the only path to follow to get us out of this crazy cycle of war.

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Do you remember what you were doing when the attacks on Iraq began in 2003? I remember that I was at my friend’s house with my eyes glued to the TV monitor. If there is one way to get people to start watching the news, it is a war. Farmville, quirky youtube videos, or that latest novel seem pretty irrelevant when a new war is beginning.

Drumming up war is great business for media outlets. Even if a war doesn’t take place, they will drive people to watch their stations anyways in the anticipation that there could be a war. If people are glued to the news stations it means more money from advertisers. From the media perspective it is a win-win situation; however, for the country and the world for that matter, it is a pretty deadly game to be playing. They already helped solidify people against the war in Iraq, and they have come close to doing the same against Iran. I was actually watching a little CNN the other day, and it said that in some polls almost 60% of the public favor military action against Iran if they are developing nuclear weapons. I was enraged by this type of statistic; has the media really been that thorough in brainwashing the American public?

The media has been positive of getting us out of some conflicts once the excitement from the war dies down. They were instrumental in turning the American public against the Vietnam War. However, while they might not favor staying in a country for long (because no one really is watching the news after 10 years of occupation), they are more than willing to start another conflict. The news media loves new wars because it creates news, which in turn drives up their popularity and cash flow. It is great deal for them, but not so much for the hundreds of thousands that will die and the nations that will be left in ruin.

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