Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Response to the Statement "Obama is a Muslim and a Communist Trying to Kill America" Scrawled on a Bathroom Wall

Hello, I am Richard Ball. I wasn't going to start a blog, even though my wife has at least 8, but I have been rambling quite a lot in short sentences on Twitter and Facebook a lot lately, and the scrawling I saw on the wall of the men's room in Home Depot made me want to share quite a bit, so I started one.

I'll reveal more about myself as I rant.

So, on the wall of the men's room at Home Depot, someone had written "Obama is a muslim and a communist who wants to destroy America get a clue people." (The lack of capitalization is the way they wrote it.) And in the same handwriting was "Investigate the Fed." This has the obvious fingerprints of a Tea Partier.

Now as far as the Tea Party, I have been struggling with them since their inception a few years ago, and have continuously attacked and apologized to the right. I will publish my apologies later. I apologized for getting so bent out of shape about them, and raising my blood pressure. The reality is that they have been very damaging, and so my apologies did not allow me to rethink my position very long.

"Obama is a Muslim..." has been sort of a rallying cry for Tea Party members. I have two problems with this: the first is that it is a total lie made only to discredit him, and is used in a hateful way probably as a way to really try to say "Obama is a n..." (insert n-word.) He is not Muslim. My second problem with this statement is so what if he was a Muslim? Islam is for many people an admirable and peaceful faith shared by a billion people, some of whom are radicals and terrorists; the same way some Christians are radicals and terrorists.

When people resort to such name-calling, the message I get really is that a person does not agree with someone else's point-of-view, but rather than put any effort into trying to understand either the other person's view or their own point-of-view, they will just use and name or tell a lie.

This, very sadly, seems to be the very basis of the Tea Party - lies and hatred. They have shown a strong tendency to pull ideas, statistics, anything out of thin air, and then say it enough times that people who are too lazy to think for themselves believe them. They are reinforced by the fact that there are an awful lot of people who are unable to think for themselves.

If anyone would like to have a discussion with me about Mr. Obama's (or anyone else's) views. I would gladly engage in that discussion if the person can tell me, specifically, what views, ideas, or actions they dislike. I support President Obama, but do not agree with everything. I am much father left than he is, and I also realize that a person who is as far on either extreme has no business serving in public office. That should be the realm of moderates and compromisers. The Tea Party are far too extreme to have a position that affects other people's lives.

I know a few things about politics. I grew up in a very political family. My mother is a political scientist and Social Studies Teacher by training. I worked in the embassy in Moscow (when it was the USSR) for two years. I studied politics and history in college. My degrees are actually in Music, Art and Education, but as part of the restructuring of education by No Child Left Behind (a law I have a lot more to say about later,) I took an exam in a few areas:

No Child Left Behind in legislation rooted in the idea that teachers and educational institutions are not trustworthy. As restructuring, teachers had to be "highly qualified" in all the areas they teach - that not a bad idea - but they did not believe that degrees were proof enough, so, like the students, teachers had to take high stakes tests. I took the Social Studies test to prove I had the equivalent of a college degree's understanding of the Social Studies, and I scored almost 100% in the areas of Government, Economics and Geography. I scored very well in all the other areas, too. I am "highly qualified" in 9 academic areas, which is almost mandatory to be a Special Education Teacher these days, and that is fine. I get paid the same as people highly qualified in one area, but that is OK. Anyway, just to demonstrate that I have an understanding of what I am saying, and that my criticisms of the right wing are rooted in some sort of reality.

The Tea Party has put forth the simplified idea that the government budget is like a family's checkbook, and that citizens can't overspend, so why can the government?

A better analogy is: The government is like a company that in order to keep moving has to periodically spend money to retrain, retool and expand. Companies call this "investment," and any of the huge corporations being defended by the nearly brain-dead Tea Partiers have been through this process. The old saying in business is "you have to spend money to make money." That is a simplified analogy, too, but is more closely related to the government than a family - although families also borrow money to get educate their members, buy houses, work on their houses and start businesses, too. Furthermore, our entire economic system is based on the idea of borrowing money and paying interest. (I do have some problems with this, since the end result is to slowly funnel the money from the bottom to the top... but it is the basis of our economy.)

The author of the scrawl also referred to Mr. Obama as a Communist. Prior to this, the Republicans used the term "Socialist" toward him as a slander. Obama is a centrist. he is a blue-dog conserva-dem, who is closely aligned to the Republican view, although he supports revenues to actually pay for things.

So, what is wrong with Socialism? I would consider myself a Socialist. The member of congress I most closely agree with on a regular basis is Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed Socialist. Karl Marx, on whose ideas socialism is based, is the most influential economist in the world. I have spent a lot of time in Europe, and have experienced the standard of living they have in the wealthy, heavily Socialist countries there. I have also lived under the Soviet version of Communism, and saw what a catrastrophe that was. But in countries like England and France and the Scandinavian countries, people pay large amounts of their salaries in taxes, and are rewarded with health care, retirement, vacation time, child care, some subsidies for housing, and so on. These are the things that bankrupt American citizens. Should American families really live one accident away from bankruptcy?

I have also lived in Capitalist America, where children go to bed hungry at night, seniors can't pay the bills and people live paycheck to paycheck, hoping they don't have to go to the hospital. (Hear my bleeding heart?)

I saw a show on CNN last week, where they were complaining that the poor aren't really so poor, and 98% of the poor have luxury items like refrigerators, and that it's really only about 2% of children who go to bed hungry, and that's hardly any! Gulp! Since when is having fresh food a luxury, and why is there even one child going hungry in the US? And 2% of 380,000,000 is almost 8,000,000!!!

Al Gore said on Keith Olbermann's show (and I realize Olbermann is about as left as me, and that that is not representative of the wishes of most Americans...) that people needed to organize against the radical right. I read a print version of the article, and the comments at the bottom were horrifying: Most people completely disregarded the message of the article, and wrote a bunch of insults, basically teasing him about claiming to create the internet, and creating the myth of "global warming." Again, Tea Party tactics - name calling, reacting to the person and not the message (by the way, thoroughly research the history of the internet, and see how involved the Vice President was in getting funding for and pushing forth the idea of computer communication for citizens, based on the military model - and anyone who isn't noticing that about 80% of what is on Twitter and Facebook are complaints about the strange weather - OK, I admit to pulling that statistic out of my rear end, but it is a lot...) So the people criticizing the former VP were not reacting at all to his idea, but were just personally attacking him (I also have some criticisms of him, but approach them as issues.) There were no comments reading things like "Mr. Gore, I believe the US is on a better economic track than it was prior to the Tea Party takeover," and so forth. Just personal assaults.

I carry a copy of The Constitution with me. It is now on my phone, as my tattered, paper copy is hardly readable. I consult it whenever people make reference to it, as is frequently done by the Tea Party. I do not ascribe to a fundamentalist, literal interpretation of it, and realize it was written over 200 years ago, and is subject to the changing times and to amendment. The Tea Partiers are fond of saying that The Constitution says that it is illegal to tax - but it actually does, in four separate places, give the government the charge of collecting taxes. They love the Second Amendment, but cite only the first clause, leaving off the part about the well regulated militia. They have strange interpretations about how it does not call for a separation of church and state, although "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" clearly means that to anyone with any intellect. Michele Bachmann was fond of telling people not to comply with the US Census, because it was not in the Constitution. It is. They love to wrap themselves in a document they misquote and do not understand.

So, in finally closing, I do not necessarily agree with very many of the things I read on the wall of the men's room, but this comment pushed some buttons. People need to think for themselves. Without thoughtful people, a Democracy can simply not work. The Tea Partiers don't mention, probably because they don't know, that the founding fathers they love so much were leary about the idea of Democracy, because they were concerned that the general public would not be smart enough to make good decisions. (This, infact, a main reason for the public education system, that the Tea Partiers so despise...) They are showing this assertion to be true.

As much as I may sound angry at them, I realize that they are merely ignorant and misguided, but to allow the country to suffer because we have handed the reigns to the ignorant and misguided is a serious error.

The country must be run by the tolerant, who can embrace all of us, despite our differences, and where the debate is about substance, not name-calling, and where the scrawling on bathroom walls is not as intelligent as the rantings of our "leaders."

(Oh, and furthermore, in the future I will likely write about how I view politics as a sport, and nothing is real anyway...)

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