As a former Eagle Boy Scout and Scout leader, I'm on the Boy Scout mailing list. I have taken every opportunity to express my dislike for the anti-gay policy of the organization. Today, I got a link to a by-invitation-only survey on the matter. It was written in a non-biased way allowing people to express opinions without leading or emotional undercurrents. Besides the check boxes and rating scales, there were a couple questions seeking narrative response. I've copied the questions and my answers below.

What is your greatest concern if the policy remains in place and openly gay youth and adults are prohibited from joining Scouting? (Please be specific.)

Such a policy is not just a generality, but affects real specific kids by judging them and practicing the defacto punishment of exclusion. It not only hurts the youngsters but it teaches others that discrimination is acceptable. The social culture is changing. Even though the exclusion may have made sense decades ago, it is rapidly changing and will continue to do so. In this environment, if the Boy Scouts continue to drag behind they will become increasingly anachronistic among organizations. Certainly there will always be some who will object. Just like racial integration used to be deemed acceptable, people changed... not by waiting until everyone came along but by upholding principles of equality. There are still racists in the world and there will still be homophobes. Leadership is looking to the future and principle, not cowering in fear of backlash.

What is your greatest concern if the policy is changed to allow charter organizations to make their own decisions to admit openly gay Scouts and leaders? (Please be specific.)

The fact is that young people are learning to be accepting of gay people in much greater numbers than older people. Any such policy will be driven by the needs of the adults and the sponsors, not by the needs of the youth. Once that is enacted, there will be a bifurcation of the nature of scouting and those retrenched in the past will be increasingly resistance to change. While the change needs to be made sensitively it must be done as a whole. Consider if a particular organization decided to reject a youngster for being a racial minority? Or a Muslim? Or not holding specific religious beliefs of the sponsor? Can we say that rights are negotiable? Do rights change on the whims and opinions of whoever is in charge? Is it up to majority rule vote? If it's a right, it's a right for all.

A friend of mine passed along an email that asserted pride in accepting all sorts of bad names for being a patriotic guy. I thought it my duty to clarify the definitions. Sent text in bold. My responses in standard.


I'm a what?............... 


    I'm a RACIST for criticizing Obama. No, you aren’t a racist for criticizing Obama. Unless you criticize Obama for things that you wouldn’t criticize a white guy for. There may be other reasons you are a racist, but not simply for criticizing Obama.


    I'm a TERRORIST because I believe in my 2nd Amendment Rights. No, you aren’t a terrorist for believing in your 2nd Amendment rights, but you are if you threaten people who support reasonable controls for public safety.


    I'm a TEA-BAGGER for supporting the Constitution. You are only a Tea-bagger if that’s what you want to call yourself not realizing that it’s a street term for a sexual act and you can’t spell constitution.


    I'm a THREAT TO NATIONAL SECURITY because I refuse to shut up. No, you aren’t a threat to national security because you refuse to shut up. You may be an ignorant paranoid bore, but not a threat.


   I'm a TROUBLEMAKER for asking unanswered questions. No, you are not a trouble maker for asking unanswered questions. Unless the questions are actually answered but you are too lazy to look it up.


   I'm a BIRTHER for questioning the lack of documentation of the Commander In Chief. Well, yes, that is what we call people who refuse to acknowledge the fact that the actual long-form birth certificate has been released. If that still gets your knickers in a bunch while failing to care about the fact that John McCain was born in a foreign country and his birth certificate actually proves that, then you may be a racist. (See point one)


   I'm a TRAITOR for blowing the whistle on my corrupt government. No you are not a traitor for blowing the whistle on a corrupt government when you actually realize that much corruption comes from being bought off by billionaires and corporations and that you blow your whistle at those who are most opposed to holding these corporations accountable. On the other hand, if you only found your whistle starting in January, 2009, then it is possible you may be a racist (see point one)


   I'm a CONSPIRACY THEORIST for presenting documented facts. You aren’t a conspiracy theorist for presenting documented facts. You are only a conspiracy theorist when you only choose to pay attention to “facts” that doggedly pursue some worn-out conspiracy and you don’t question the source of these “documented facts”.


   I'm ANTI-AMERICAN for supporting Constitutionalists. No you aren’t anti-American for supporting constitutionalists… as long as those constitutionalists actually understand what the constitution says and that it creates a society of laws where constitutional application and interpretation is not simply left to any blowhard who has an ax to grind.


   I'm a RELIGIOUS FANATIC for believing Jesus Christ died for my sins.  No, you are not a religious fanatic for believing Jesus Christ died for your sins. You are only a fanatic if you shove these beliefs down other people’s throats and don’t take the first amendment as seriously as you do the second amendment.


   I'm a WAR MONGER because I support the Troops. No, you are not a war monger because you support the troops. You are a war monger if you send these troops out to die for unsound political reasons.


   I'm a HOMOPHOBE because I believe in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman.  No, you aren’t a homophobe because you believe in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. There is nothing that can happen to rob you of the sanctity of your marriage if you truly believe that this sanctity is between you and God. However, you should realize that within your lifetime the legal definition of marriage will include gay marriage and that will be a matter of defining constitutional rights rather than government intrusion into the definition of sanctity.


   I'm a GREEDY CAPITALIST because I believe that you are not entitled to what I have earned.  I’m sure you don’t make nearly enough to be called a greedy capitalist. In fact capitalism has not much to do with wage earning. Being a greedy capitalist is a matter of having a lot of money (capital) and having the luxury of using it to make even more money without actually working as hard as you do. Then of course, the greedy capitalist’s earnings are taxed at a lower level than your hard earned wage income. In fact, they have so much money that they spend a lot of it to convince you that you and they are just the same.


   I'm a SEPARATIST because I oppose Illegal Immigration and Sharia Law. Well, that’s kinda strange because being a separatist, opposing illegal immigration and opposing Sharia Law are such totally different things. It is a stretch to make the connection. First, there is hardly anyone who actually WANTS illegal immigration. The problem is figuring out what will actually and practically fix it. The fear of Sharia Law is sold to you by those conspiracy theorists who scare the crap out of you with distorted and untrue information and ignores the fact that there are plenty of lawyers ready to raise a constitutional challenge to anything real that happens. (See conspiracy theorist point above) And the separatists? Those are the folks who used to tell me to “love it or leave it" if I criticized the government... only they weren’t intending for me to take part of the country with me.



  Yep, GUILTY, and PROUD OF IT!! What's your point?  Well, my point is, if you REALLY want to be guilty of all that you’re going to have to spend a little time getting your definitions straight.



Marty's post this morning got me to thinking about something that has been on my mind lately. I’ve thought about the silliness that has been noted on the web about Bill O’Reilly’s lame attempts to “prove” the existence of God by claiming “mysteries” about the tides or why the moon or sun got there.

I think people who have to prove God exists are only mocking their own claim to faith. Doesn’t “proof” set aside the need for faith? Is not faith a voluntary submission to that which cannot be proved?

It is my understanding that faith is impossible without doubt. Doubt is that which sets faith apart. A parrot can seem to have faith if taught the words to say.

To me, my faith is what is left after doubt sheds the garbage. It is when I am confronted with a sense of the holy that challenges my doubt and takes my breath away. That doesn’t happen often. It may only happen once. At that point, I have the choice to turn it away or to accept it as an element of faith.

I have been fortunate in my life to have many moments of the “peace that passes understanding”. It is rare any more that I have such intense moments. I don’t consider it necessary. I have chosen it... not because I must, but because I may.

At its core, objects of faith defy explanation or description. Yet, we yearn to share. We feel pressed to understand and to explain… even to ourselves if to no one else. That’s where religion comes from. It is an attempt to explain the unexplainable; to pass on that which is fundamentally impossible to pass on.

I have no need for dogma. Nevertheless, I choose to call myself a Christian. Why? I left Christianity at a time in my life when doubt had turned it away. I gradually, over a long time, started collecting pieces of the language of faith I had learned to help me learn and advance In faith… not because I must, but because I may. My language of faith is not the same thing as my actual faith. It simply points in the direction. It gives me a way to share with my fellow faith travelers.

Of course, there are those who are confounded by my form of Christianity. These are the people who hold so tightly to the dogma they have been taught, they have become mere parrots, ignorant of the faith that lives in the same home as doubt… the faith that lives in the same home as science and learning… the faith that is not required for my salvation but held gently by my choice.

Today, I responded to a request for support for President Obama's push for health care reform. They asked for a statement of my health care story. Here's my comment:

Several years ago, I was an administrator in a mental health program. I am also a mental health consumer. In my position, I was advocating for mental health parity. There was much political fighting in the legislature. Our agency’s health care provider solicited my support as administrator for killing the mental health parity bill, telling false scare stories about why I should support THEM. We finally got a watered down “compromise”. Because the “minimum” standards in the bill were less than my coverage to date, I was informed by the insurance company that our coverage was being reduced because of “requirements” of state law. Another lie, but it cost me and my family hundreds of dollars a year.

Over the years, we’ve been pushed into higher costs and lower coverage. Our medications have gone from reasonable co-pay to a slight discount on market pricing. We accept this because that’s the only way we can keep up with the rising insurance costs. We have no choice but bad or worse.  I am only thankful that our jobs are such that we are able to take care of ourselves without descending into bankruptcy or poverty… yet.

The problem is that the fragmentation of our system, while claiming that we have “choice”, is just an on-going scam to divide and conquer the consumer. What I fear now, is that the compromises ahead of us will be called “socialism” while the power of the insurance companies remains unabated; that they will actually find a way to make matters worse for consumers as they did with my mental health care.

While I admire the president’s criteria, my greatest fear is that it isn’t strong enough. We desperately need single payer (National Universal Health Care) but I’d at least settle for a public managed option like Medicare buy-in. The insurance companies fear that and will fight it with a two edged sword:  what they can’t win by fear-mongering, they will dilute with concessions and promises that will go away when the pressure is off.

Please, Mr. President, don’t sell us out. Lead and encourage the Congress to give us a public funded option for health care. Anything less will squander the power of the moment. At a time when we need real change, anything less will be undone before the ink on the bill is dry.


INHALE (From Facebook): "The chief evil of socialism is not that it steals the rich man's money; rather it's that it steals the poor man's ambition."

EXHALE: (My response):

Sometimes Socialism and Capitalism are terms bandied around without a sense of clarity. Some people seem to take elements of Socialism to mean extreme Socialism and likewise for Capitalism.

It seems to me that extreme Capitalism would mean something like no barriers, no limitations, just expect that the market will exercise all the control needed. I would hope that most who support Capitalism would agree that history shows that there must be some ground rules or it is like the game of Monopoly... in the end, one person wins and everyone else is out of business. Or, in the real world, it's possible for people with power and money to soil the nest before the market can respond.


Of course, the same can be said for Socialism. If one takes every hint of public support or public ownership to be the same as Socialism in the extreme, of course one would expect that freedom and ambition would be suffering.

As a Progressive Liberal, I can see as well as anyone, the extremes of Socialism. I can also see the extremes of Capitalism. It is true that my world view is more toward the left than yours. However, unless you are a Capitalist extremist, our argument is not one of absolutes but of degree.

I spent 30 years of my life working with people disabled by mental illness. For the early years, we would see the "risks" of working as too great and we would work to discourage ambition to prevent relapse. Of course, we didn't state it that way, but looking back, that's what I saw. In the mid 1980, I saw an alternative that led to the development of Cirrus House now thriving in downtown Scottsbluff. It has always been clear that survival of disabled people without supports would be impossible and lead to lifetime hospitalization, the extreme of losing freedom and certainly extremely expensive to our Capitalist society. I learned, however, that there are ways to encourage ambition and hope, in such a way to allow people to work and grow. Of course, many still require some level of public support, if not monetary, at least  programmatic... and I do mean the types of programs that would NOT be possible without public support.

I am also aware that strict government ownership is not the best way to do things. When Panhandle Mental Health Center was started as a purely government operation, I always felt it was, while a good place, dragged down by what I called "government thinking". In recent years, there has been more balance as there is private competition with the government supported services and market driven forces to affect the system.

These days, some toss around the term Socialism as some sort of deadly sin. It is said that "Creeping Socialism" is something we must fight to avoid communist dictatorship. The fact is, in my opinion, that life is about moderation of extremes... life is about balance. Of course, the extremes help define the range, but it is disingenuous to suggest that one side is good and the other is extreme.

In my observation, we are reaping the pain and ruin of our present financial system. In the past decades, I believe we have veered dangerously toward the extreme of Capitalism. The gap between rich and poor has widened exponentially and the middle class is suffering. People of the middle class are being egged on by money and leadership of the big corporations to fear big government. Now, corporations are ruled to be "persons" and may have even more capacity to buy the big government we are taught to fear.

I just finished reading "The Big Burn" about the time in the early 1900's when Teddy Roosevelt attempted to create a sense of public ownership of land. At the time, that was a concept that people couldn't grasp. The trend was for big corporations to see that every tree every acre of land in the country was for the making of capital. While there remains an important discussion about the balance between public lands and private use, it is clear to me that without Roosevelt to introduce and implement this new idea to the public that there IS a common-wealth to be protected, the beauty of our nation would be unrecognizable today for what it would have been.

I, too, appreciate Nat's introduction of the topic. I hope we can engage in a discussion of balance and degree rather than getting bound up in fear of one extreme without acknowledgment of the other.