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I'm a single Mormon Democrat, an NPR & BBC news junkie, a dog lover, opera buff, bookavore, migraineur, knows just enough about technology to be a danger to myself, fan of James Bond and Godzilla. 

Micah 6:8; D&C 11:20 

"do justly, walk humbly, judge righteously."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Truth, Justice and the American Way

When I was a kid, I used to watch the old Superman series with  George Reeves. At the end of the opening credits, we were always told he fought for "truth, justice, and the American Way." More and more these days, I reflect back on this. I know it may sound trite or cheesy, but it really does some up my personal and public belief.

I believe that everything I believe in can be summed up in those three subheadings. Whether it is my political leanings or my faith, it really comes down to that. Lately, I have gone a lot of tweets from both sides of the spectrum and it has started to really amaze me. I seem to be sort of in the middle. Although, I do vote Democratic and have consistently since the first George W Bush election - I seem to lean to both sides and not really match the profile of each.

So, I get messages from the right claiming I am a godless, socialist/communist who wants to take away America's god given freedoms. On the left, I am deluded and crazy for belonging to a cult (religion). This really is not helpful. I know that it is hard but I believe that we should try to limit our criticisms to the issues. 

For example, the cases of Ann Romney and Michelle Obama. I see horrible criticisms of both. Some of the accusations are incredibly mean-spirited. 

These ladies are standing by their husbands and supporting them. As well, as raising children, in an atmosphere of political campaigns. They really deserve our respect. Even the politicians themselves, deserve a small amount of generosity. Their politics may not meet your standards, you may consider there positions as morally bankrupt, but that is not excuse for bringing a man's personal faith into it. Or criticizing how he was raised. 

I can't count how many times our President was accused of being a closet Muslim. I don't believe that. He has expounded his faith many times. But, even if he was, so what? I don't remember what part of the Constitution says which religion disqualifies you for the position. Same with Governor Romney. He's a Mormon - so am I! - but it is irrelevant. 

On my walk today after getting several downright filthy attacks on my faith, I realized that how I chose my faith and how I express it publicly comes down to Truth and Justice (and the American Way). That is also how I pick my political stands. It was practically a revelation. When I came to this thought (which nearly distracted me from my audiobook), I realized just how true that was. 

For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.  (Luke 8:17)

Truth and knowledge are very important to me. In manners of faith and religion, one of the reasons I like my church is that they encourage their members to actively seek truth and knowledge. Education is highly encouraged and I would bet that the average person in my congregation has at least a Bachelor's Degree. They spend a lot of time on scripture study. I don't feel I am being indoctrinated and no one is forcing me to obey the Word of Wisdom (no caffeine, no alcohol, etc.), no one forces me to believe that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, no one is forcing me to do temple work or wear the so-called "magic underwear."

I have great respect for investigative journalists like ProPublica and organizations like The Innocence Project and Human Rights Watch. They are very important. As former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis stated "sunlight is the best disinfectant." I support organizations that try to expose the truth. Only if we have as many facts as possible can we make the appropriate decision. 

This is why I try to use as many different sources to get information and facts. I generally dislike pundit shows like you see on MSNBC or Fox News. I generally just want the news. Maybe some discussion or analysis by the reporters, with maybe some interviews of experts, analysts, or officials. This is why I like NPRBBCPBS NewshourFrance 24On Point with Tom AshbrookThe Diane Rehm ShowAl Jazeera English, and Democracy Now!

I am also a constant reader. I have become attached to my Kindle and my library card. 

I am a big believer that reading makes a better human being. The more a person reads, the more I trust them. Too much these days the Right tells us that books are bad, that smart people are "elitist," that education destroys faith. Education and knowledge and the search for the truth can only help society, not destroy it. 

Remember, the worst regimes are those that restrict their society's access to books. Think the Nazis, the Soviet Union, today's Iran, North Korea, China, etc. 

The Lord is known by his justice; the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands. 
Psalms  9:16

This pretty much explains my philosophy and my religion. Many atheists and agnostics ask me why I go to church, why I believe. Would God send a tornado to kill families? Would God allow such atrocities? Or they bring up how ridiculous the Creation story is or how I can reconcile the Word of God with scientific discoveries. 

My epiphany today showed me that my belief in God and his Son, Jesus Christ all comes down to Justice. I firmly believe that there must be justice for this world. I cannot accept that people like Hitler, Stalin, and - in today's world - Assad will not be punished for their crimes in this world. I believe that the Bible is - at its core - about justice. 

I may have trouble answering people with quotes from the General Authorities or from the Scriptures. But I am firm in my belief. I know that the Redeemer lives. I know that the Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God. I know that this is the one true Church. I bear this testimony in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Another great quote is from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes: "It is every man's business to see justice done," or as the British statesman and philosopher said, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

This is a good description of my personal political stand. Whether it be human rights, gay marriage, social justice, environmental justice, etc, it all comes down to Justice. 

Many people say that social justice is one step to communism. There are others that say that the only way for justice is socialism. They are both wrong. Social justice means giving everyone the chance to be a productive member of society. I believe that we all have right to have access to equal health care. We all have the right to shelter and access to the basic requirements for a productive life. We all have equal rights under the law. We are all the same. We are all children of God. He does not judge us by our appearance, we are judged by our actions. 

Additionally, I think we need economic justice. That does not mean I am against capitalism. I remember once when I was taking Sociology 101 at Columbia Basin College in 1980's, my instructor gave us a proposal. We could either get individual grades or we could get a communal grade. He would average all the scores and give us each all the same grade. I was violently against this. I didn't want my grade - and by extension my GPA - dependent on people that in all likelihood wouldn't even show up. Only one person in the entire glass wanted to try.

But, this does not mean that every kind of social or economic justice is equal to giving up freedom. Many people seem to think this. To me, it means that all of us are responsible for our actions. If what we do harms us or the society, they should have to be punished and/or provide reparations. Think of all that was done in the last couple of years by greed. Yet, most of the people (firms) that participated in the system that nearly destroyed our economy suffered no fines for this.

Think of this in terms of justice. If you had done something comparable, you would be held liable. Additionally, if it weren't powerful corporations? What if it were small businesses? People that destroy people's lives with Ponzi schemes are prosecuted, why not these businesses? Also, the Supreme Court says corporations/companies are people. Doesn't that mean that companies like BP and Massey Mining should be prosecuted for what they have done?

Do you remember Schoolhouse Rock? I do. I loved it. Conjunction Junction, I Am A Bill, they even had one on the Revolution. My image of America, the American Dream, and the American Way is shaped by that I learned in school. I'm sure it's that way for many people. What is amazing is with all the people I went to school with - I don't think two people came away with the same idea about what America is and what its values are. What I took away from school, I believe, has shaped my political beliefs today. I am not the same political creature that I was back then. But, I like to think that our ethics and creeds should be a living thing. It should evolve and grow by incorporating new evidence and information and change with the times and circumstances.

Some basics that I still carry with me:

  • the melting pot - the fact that our country only got better with immigration and even depended on it
  • checks and balances - our government only really works when no one branch of the government has more than any other.
  • all equal under the law
Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Think about it. 

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