Friday, July 17, 2015

The Third Amendment...

Ah, the shortest blog of this series I suspect.  The Third Amendment of the United States Constitution.  Did you have to look it up when I baited at the end of the last blog?  Yea, one of the Amendments everyone knows exists but aren't really sure what it says.  Hardly anyone ever talks about it.  It's not very arguable.

"No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."

OK, so it states no military troop can be "quartered", another words living, in any house without the consent of the person who owns the home.  I would assume it would also apply to a renter, although it doesn't say that.  That little conundrum could end up in front of the Supreme Court I suppose, but most rental contracts are pretty clear that the home is the renter's home also while all terms of the rental agreement are met.

But it states "nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."  Another words.  Yes, the government can quarter troops in your home, but only during time of war as prescribed by law.  For the most part, we have never "quartered" troops by any law passed by the Federal government.  People are known to have volunteered their homes or barns in the wild west days as the troops might be moving from one place to the next.  There are documented cases of parts of homes being volunteered as quarters during the war with Mexico, mainly as officer quarters.  During the Civil War, food was quarantined and homes were forced quartered, but these were under military orders during wartime in a war zone.  Typically, enlisted were not quartered but issued tents or slept outside.  So, generally, the military that was "quartered" were officers.  These would be the only precedents set to date.

I tried to find anything else.  But the truth is that's it.  When we went overseas for the World Wars, we took homes and other buildings as bases, often without consent.  Again, war zone I suppose.  Yet, our Constitution would not apply and frankly we were busy saving people's bacons from Nazis and other oppressive forces.  In many cases, food was reimbursed and funds were disbursed for use of many of the facilities until we built make shift facilities or made former military sites usable again.

Kind of boring.  One sentence again.  Not that complicated, and to a previous point.  Anyone with an eighth grade education should be able to read it and give back the gist of what the sentence means.  If someone tells you it's very complicated, none of it is.  The Bill of Rights were written for everyone, and as such, were written simply so that everyone could understand them.

Next time, the Fourth Amendment.  This should be a favorite...aka.  Search and Seizure.  It's probably going to be a long one...the research alone is extensive...

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Second Amendment: The Right to Bear Arms

Next up, the Second Amendment.  The Right to Bear Arms is what a lot of people know it as.  It is one of the most debated laws in our country and that debate stems back to the Civil War.  Yes, actually.  Prior to the Civil War, it wasn't really debated.  The average person didn't think twice.  The pioneers needed guns to protect themselves from wild animals and predators.  The average farmer needed it to hunt food and protect the homestead.  Guns were not cheap.  Most people didn't stock pile them.  They were made by hand and took time and craftsmanship.  Sam Colt would eventually introduce mass produced revolvers (aka. hand guns) in the early 1900s, but prior to that, revolvers were only for the rich, lawmen and well, bluntly, outlaws.  A Colt revolver in 1880 sold for a $20 gold piece.  The average household income was a little over $300 a year.  So a revolver was almost a month's income for over half the population.   

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

That's not very much there. One sentence and yet, one of the most debated sentences in the history of man, let alone the United States.

"A well regulated Militia,"

Let's consider current definitions:

"Well" in front of a word implies the same thing in the past as it does now. More, extra, very.

"Regulated" currently means control by means of rules and regulations, pretty much the same as it did when it was written.

"Militia" is a military force raised from a civilian population to supplement an army during an emergency situation.

There's where the debate begins. Those four words. Many would argue that a "militia" is no longer needed or that we maintain State Militias already in the form of the National Guard. By definition of those 4 words only, that seems to be clear, right?

"...being necessary to the security of a free State,..."

There's pretty much little to no argument associated with those words specifically. The wording implies that it attaches to the previous 4 words as a descriptor. Those that would argue the National Guard is the "militia" would definitely agree on it being for the security of a free State. Of course, it does not use the plural of the word at all. Capitalized and singular means that it would refer only to one "State", the actual Nation herself. On the other side of the argument, though, here's where the debate begins. The whole point of the American Revolution was because people were forced to give up their guns by appointed military and governors of the Crown. From their point of view, the security of the a free State is not necessarily guaranteed by the National Guard. The National Guard is still part of the United States Army, and while each answers first to its State's Governor, ultimately, every member of the Guard is answerable to the President of the United States. They swear the same oath as any other military member of the United States. There are plenty of examples of facist regimes that have used the military and guards to overrun the civilian population for control and take over. So the common argument is that these troops might be turned on the civilian population and many believe that this is the concern that the Founding Fathers were addressing. Given the original grievances that were sent to King George, particularly about having to house redcoats without being reimbursed and without consent, this is probably a very viable argument.

"...the right of the people to keep and bear arms,..." 

To many that would argue against the Founding Fathers meant this only to imply a standing army or standing guards, well, this portion of the Second Amendment is a big problem and it is always the fall back in every argument for un-infringed weapons ownership. It's pretty clear that the people are us, the every day average American. It's pretty clear the right they are referring to is ours, the people's, the everyday Average Joe and Jane.

"...shall not be infringed."

And there it is. It shall not be infringed. Really simple, right?

Now here's the stickler for me. I was raised surrounded by English and Literature teachers. The commas as they are written offer a unique grammatical analysis. Going back to around 4th and 5th grade grammar, like I stated in the very first blog of this series, the Founding Fathers wanted anyone, and I do mean anyone, to be able to read and understand the basic gist and form an opinion. This particular series of words is separated as if those first three parts of the sentence are separated parts. Try to think back to when you did sentence charting in elementary school where you broke down the subject and its descriptors, the action and the result. The noun and its adjectives, the verb, and the secondary noun. Then to compound sentences. This and that. This to me, is a compound sentence with two primary subjects...because of those commas. In proper English, there should have been an "and" someone once told me. However, in old proper English this was not required. In fact conjunctions were viewed as improper when the document was written, so our need for conjunctions as our language has and continues to develop may make the argument more complex in itself.

By proper English there would be two parts that could be broken into two sentences:

"A well regulated militia, being necessary for a free State, shall not be infringed."

"The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

A militia, just the word, implies that the Union has the right to maintain our freedoms with a group of civilian volunteers. That is the National Guard in a nutshell.

The right of the people is pretty cut and dry then also.

Unless the interpretation puts the primary focus on the "well regulated militia, being necessary".  Then the first sentence becomes the main right and the second sentence is a feeder to the first. In which case, we would call it the Freedom to have a Militia.  Another twisted view that resulted in crazed groups like the Michigan Militia (you remember the bomber of the Oklahoma Federal Building, right?), Ruby Ridge and the Branch Davidians.   I've never heard it called the Freedom to Militia, so personally, I find it hard to back up the idea that is what the Founding Fathers meant.

Now, here's a final food for thought.  The concept of gun control did not start until after the Civil War.  This is a fact.  There were rights of businesses to say that you couldn't bring you gun into their establishment and even towns.  But none of that ever started until after the Civil War.  The concept of gun control started with Jim Crow laws.  After the Civil War and Reconstruction ended, many of these laws were created to keep the freed slaves in their place.  A gun permit was needed and often former slaves were simply given whatever crazy reason the counties or cities could come up with to deny the permits.  It also allowed the racists to have public record of what weapons any one that opposed them had.  There is a very strong reason that the South is so tied with this freedom.  When you stifle a right, the opposition will raise its head.  While the initial effect of the Jim Crow laws prevented the freed slaves from owning weapons, it also meant that a lot of whites were told no for various ridiculous reasons too.  There was a case of a sheriff in Georgia who wouldn't let a man keep any of his rifles.  The story was that there was some debate between the two over a family heirloom, some rifle.  Eventually, voted into office as Sheriff, he simply made sure his distant cousin had no permits and seized all the guns, including the heirloom.

The history of gun control aside, it is difficult to decide how to view gun control.  The Founding Fathers certainly couldn't have imagined that we would create guns that could fire hundreds and hundreds of rounds per minute or automatic weapons or whatever.  Still, as anyone knows most gun owners are far more responsible with their weapons and generally are taught a stronger respect for the power of any weapon.  People who have never been around guns certainly have no use for them and probably don't see why anyone else would.  To some it just seems barbaric and still others view it as criminal only.  There's some truth to each of those, some extremism to each of them, and some place in the middle somewhere with compromise.  I have my opinion.

This whole debate started because a bunch of racists wanted to make sure that they had control of "free" people and still wanted to treat them like children, animals or just as lower and less.  Gun control is one of the last vestiges of racism.  Criminals will be criminals.  The UK has a higher murder rate per capita than the USA, and they allow no guns.  People kill with all kinds of weapons.  Gun control started with denying some people their rights for no reason and slipped through the cracks because of the vague wording of the Second Amendment.  OK, that's my opinion.  Next time, the Third Amendment....Good news, it will be a short one.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Bill of Rights: The First Amendment

Okay, I listen to people argue about certain Amendments all the time.  Yet, most of the time, they have absolutely no idea what the words of the Amendment are and they argue over and over who's right and who's wrong.  It's kind of like listening to someone argue whether the color melon and peach are different or not.  Yes, sort of and no, not really.  So in the last blog, I stated I was going to introduce the Bill of Rights, one by one, and present the definition, which for all intensive purposes means the opposing sides and how they are opposing and let Joe or Jane Layman make up their own minds.  That's called education.  We don't spoon feed "facts" as we would like them in the educating process.  We feed the minds the concepts, the opposing views and interpretations and let people make up their own minds.  The biggest problem in this country right now, in my humble opinion, is the spoon feeding process of the media, spoon feeding of incorrect history and facts and sometimes just straight out bullsh*t.  So, let me introduce you to the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States:

"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."  

Yes, that's it.  All that great debate on television, social media, all that crap that some people will tell you that it's very wordy and complicated is well, crap.  But let's break it down a little for conversation sake.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;..."

This is what most of us call the Freedom of Religion.  There have been so many arguments that this is a country founded on Christianity.  That's not there.  There are arguments that it says nothing about God.  True.  Doesn't mean that some people can't interpret it that way.  What is not open for discussion:  No laws can be created by a State or the Federal government telling us what we can or cannot worship.  We cannot close the Catholic or Mormon churches down.  Their right to worship is protected.  We cannot tell anyone that they cannot build a Synagogue or Mosque or Buddhist Temple and worship how they choose.  It is actually why Rastafarians can legally smoke pot because of their religion.  Of course, it doesn't say that they are guaranteed to work or not be arrested or cited if they do smoke it.  It is also why we are having problems with measles right now after it was declared eradicated, because some religions do not believe in vaccinations.  That last one will ultimately weigh the public good versus the First Amendment rights of the people that practice that religion.

Ultimately, these cases can and have and probably will be brought to the courts.  That is where the debate begins.  Arguments for the public good usually trump individual freedoms.  I'm pretty sure none of us want a pot smoker flying a jumbo jet if he is currently under the influence, but if the pilot hasn't smoked it in 12 or 24 hours, many of us might not see an issue with it.  We mostly don't want our children around other children that haven't been vaccinated, because we all know that kids, especially when they are younger, can bring home every new cold strain, flu virus, and they can spread stuff like wild fire.  Of course, then the argument is public safety.  The Supreme Court has ruled over and over that the good of the public does trump individual freedoms.  So there's nothing actually saying that they have to comply with vaccinations if they want to home school.  The arguments for each individual religious case will have emotional arguments and it's up to the courts, if it gets that far, to remove the emotion and determine the case based on what is said in the Constitution and the historical rulings of the past.

The Freedom of Religion, the Freedom to be free from persecution just because we worship differently was so important, it was added first and foremost.  Whether we agree with someone else's religion, whether we understand it, everyone is allowed their religious beliefs.  It doesn't say "Christianity" specifically.  The vague wording creates an umbrella that means everyone, every religion, are covered.  A Nation founded "under God", well, not debatable, right?  Well, maybe.  Maybe not.  Ben Franklin was a notorious womanizer and had a reputation for speaking out against organized religion too.  So, even that can be debated.  Regardless, we are a Nation of any and all religions, including the right to not believe in any religion at all.  The rest is all up for debate.

"...or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;..."

Freedom of Speech.  Look how simply it was written.  I mean really.  Very, very simple.  No one can "abridge" our rights of Freedom of Speech.  Or, right, that pesky "for the public good" thing.  Like I stated earlier, we're not going there, yet.  Just suffice to say, get up on your soap box all you want.  Short of inciting crimes, bam, you are good.  Freedom of the Press.  Same deal.  But over the years, the Freedom of the Press has been limited, but not by much.  The courts almost always side on the cautionary side when it comes to both Freedom of Speech and Press because it's not very debatable as a whole.  Simpler words have not been written; even a young child can grasp the overall meaning of the words as they were written over 200 years ago.

 "...or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,..."

The right to assemble.  Hate groups love this one.  Both sides.  Ironically, ever noticed that hate groups always have a side and an opposing side?  The rest of us have varying degrees of gray areas, but not hate groups.  There must be a "right" side and a "left" side, a "right" or "wrong", a "yes" or "no", a this way or the highway.  Life is not that simple, but how do we address that overly simplified view of the world?  I mean seriously, there have always been opposing views.  This is not a unique thing to the last 20 years or 50 years.  But how do we get out there and share our views, our opinions or even make sure that someone knows that we are boycotting?  There wasn't an internet just 30 years ago.  So the right to assemble and discuss was considered paramount to the growth of a new Nation.  The tricky word here is "peaceably".  Basically, rioting is not "peaceable" in any way, shape or form.  Doesn't take a rocket scientist to recognize that is definitely not "protected".  However, this is not the easiest right to enforce and is one of the easiest to be taken away just by saying the gathering wasn't "peaceful".  Thus why this particular right continues to be debated.  Just think, even in the late 1800s many suffragettes met in secret because public assembly, peaceful public assembly, could land them in jail.  Peaceful gatherings during the 1960s that were against the Vietnam War were often turned into a full scale gassing, arrests and even beatings.  Often when opposing views converge, the word peaceful goes running out the door faster than a jet breaking the sound barrier.

"...and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."  

Petition.  There are several ways to "petition" the Government.  The most obvious is the simple definition of "petition"--get a ground roots, signed petition going and get a massive amount of people, legal age, voting age, American citizens to sign, right?  No, not just legal age, not just voting age and no, not just American citizens.  Railroad workers in the early 1800s tried to get redress for their working conditions and they were primarily Irish and Chinese immigrants.  The Government has long recognized the immigrants in this country and honestly had a hard time back then identifying "illegal" versus "legal", so historically, we allow anyone in this country to petition the United States Government for redress.  Petition doesn't just mean by petition either, as in the example provided, it can mean via the court system with a lawsuit brought in front of a judge, that eventually could end up in front of the Supreme Court.  We can petition Congress, the President, the Court system for redress of our grievances.  It all depends upon what we want redress for.  This is often one of the statements that is used when the Government is not doing what one group wants and they talk about not recognizing the Government.  The idiot who blew up the Oklahoma Federal Building believed that the United States Government was not addressing his grievances, but he made no real effort to petition.  Saying that you're not paying your taxes is not an official petition.  In fact, it's not a petition at all.  Continuing to pay your taxes and going to your State or your Congressional leadership with petition for redress well it all sounds so easy.  But anyone that has ever tried to navigate the bureaucracy of State or Federal governments knows this can be very, very frustrating.  And worse yet, the redress may not result in the end outcome that was being petitioned for.  That can be shot down.  Still, so many people don't understand what redress is, and worse yet, they don't know how to petition anymore.  The petition for the legalization of the vote for women was almost 100 years in the making.  At least 3 generations fought for it before it came to fruition.  So the great debate, can we fix the "system"? Can redress be provided quickly?  Which redresses are right and which are frivolous?  There in lies the real debates.

Basically when it comes to debating the First Amendment of the United States, the wording is super simple.  We are never actually debating what it says or even what it's basic interpretation means.  We are debating how we think it should be applied.  Don't tell someone that they are wrong because their interpretation is different than yours.  Recognize that each interpretation is debatable, until the Supreme Court says it's not.  And eventually, even the same debate may be overturned by a different Supreme Court.  Prior to the Civil War, the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment did not apply to certain people.  The Freedom to Assemble and Speech were only applicable to some Americans, not all.  Eventually, they ruled this was ridiculous.  Same Supreme Court, different Justices, different times.  Thus why often the words "living document" are used when describing the Constitution.  It lives in our times, just as it lived in past times.  It lives without changing with the changing times.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Constitution and its Amendments

I'm always amazed at how many Americans think they "know" so much about the Constitution and the Amendments, particularly the Bill of Rights, but really have never even read the document.  They may barely remember bits and pieces from their US History and US Government classes in high school.  A semester here and a semester there are hardly quantifiable, let alone make any of us "experts" in the Constitution and its Amendments.  Yet on Facebook and other social media outlets, there are often some little blurbage in nice Powerpoint slides that makes Joe Layman on his or her soapbox the "expert".  So I got to thinking.  I'm no expert either, but I had a unique raising.  I grew up in a family full of debate.  The first things that I got to hear debate on were the most important documents that this country has, and that includes the Constitution and many of the Amendments.  I'm a layman, just like anyone else. I have no business being appointed to the Supreme Court to judge the legalese of so many of the convoluted laws now.  However, in all those debates growing up, and even in school, I was taught, learned that the Constitution was as simply worded as possible so that all Americans could understand the basic foundation of this Nation.  That simple wording is often a point of contention, varying interpretations of the exact same sentences.  Thank God the Founding Fathers even created the Supreme Court  as the final say.  (We won't go into the fact that it was fashioned after a different court or that even the other two branches were fashioned after the "good" things that they picked and chose from other governmental systems.  We might in another blog.)  But, back on point, the Constitution and the Amendments are worded simply for two reasons:  One, so the simple man could understand the basic gist.  Two, so that it could grow, shift, and move with changing times.

That's it in a nutshell.  For all intensive purposes, you can stop here, but I'm going to elaborate a little bit on that whole debate thing and try to get people to understand that it's okay to have varying opinions.  It actually is designed that way on purpose.  Most teachers did teach that part in school, assuming that they were not trying to make sure that all their students shared their opinions.  My mother's family was full of teachers.  It was considered a great tragedy when we came upon a teacher that was teaching their point of view rather than facts.  It is and was an unfortunate situation because if a child or teenager's family was not actually on top of this education and what it was lacking so many grew up with what they were spoon fed, correct or not.  The power that we give teachers is amazing--probably a good thing that a lot of them used to only worry about wanting to be home in the summers than pushing their own opinions on the next generation.

I was going to start with the Constitution itself, but most people are less interested in how the branches are laid out.  It is sufficient for them to understand that laws are made by the Legislative branch, basically Congress.  The Executive branch's powers were as a check on the Legislation with the power of veto and the power to represent the Nation to the world.  The Judicial branch, with the buck stopping  at the Supreme Court, was to be the final check on the other two.  As most of us  recognize just by watching it, this process can be utterly time consuming albeit frustrating--especially when the Judicial branch doesn't agree with our interpretation of what is or isn't happening.  Still, the Judicial branch, particularly the Supreme Court is uniquely situated.  Wise about legalese and interpreting it and basically made up of individuals that have varying and sometimes very opposing points of view on how they interpret the Constitution, the Amendments and the legalese of laws.  Probably the biggest travesty of the modern era is that laws are no longer written so that a common layman can even start to understand, let alone give an opinion based on that understanding.  No, now we need 50 different people to explain it to us 50 different ways and even then we cannot be sure that their personalized view of the bills or laws are even accurate enough for us to base our opinions on.  If that was one thing I could change with the wave of wand, that would be it.  All laws must be as the Founding Fathers meant  for them to be written--so that the basic education would afford the ability to understand the wording even if not able to agree on the implementation.

So it is just that.  Implementation is what we argue about.  Interpreting what something says leads us to believe one way or another or even some other way is the best way to be implemented.  The Supreme Court ultimately makes this final decision.  Sometimes, they make this decision by just refusing to hear a case.  Every case, well with very, very rare exception, starts in the lower courts.  If the Supreme Court agrees in whole with the lower court's decision, a case will not even be heard by them.  Simple.  The lower court's decision is now the "Law of the Land".  The fact is when the Supreme Court hears a case, they--all nine of them, have a varied view and want to hear it.  Sometimes, I suspect that it is because some cases are just to high profile to let a lower court's decision be the final word, but that's a whole different blog.

See what I mean.  I've just touched the tip of the tip of the tip of a huge iceberg.  I haven't even gotten into the great debate of various interpretations and I've already written 4 paragraphs.  So, maybe the Constitution is going to be a lot to cover.  A lot, a lot.  The Amendments are their own nightmare after.  And all of this was written so Average Joe and Jane should be able to read it, get the gist, and with only what used to be the equivalent of an 8th grade education.  Yes, really.  Thank you Yale, Harvard, and so many of the lawyers over the last century especially for making it so much more and more complicated.  Shame, really.  How can a government by the people, of the people and for the people operate when the majority of the "people" have no idea what the hell was written in that latest, confounded, legalese, 2000 plus page crap called a bill???  I have my opinion there too.  But that's not this blog.  I'll get up on that soap box eventually.  The Founding Fathers wanted it simple.  It used to be fairly simple.  Confusing the people was never the intent.

So I've covered the very, very basic layout of the Federal government.  One that isn't too debatable, because well, yes, the Constitution itself is pretty simple on the subject.  However, the laws that get through and then sometimes get contested, well, that's where all the complexity of the Constitution and the Amendments comes from.  I'm not going to present one interpretation in the following blogs.  I'm going to present the wording of each of the Bill of Rights with a layman interpretation and the very, very opposing ends of some of those Amendments.  Hopefully in the process, each of my readers will walk away with their own opinion, not mine, not necessarily not mine.  Just their own.  And most importantly, realize that we still live in the Greatest Nation in the World.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Tired of hearing it yet....can I get an Amen?!?!?

So I'm a little tired of hearing it  Aren't we all?  OK.  To be blunt.  I'm pretty sure those of us that are sick of hearing about it are all sick of it because it's those idiots that we would most classify as racist that won't let it go.  Really.  We all know there are still some inequities in the United States.  One of my best friends and I sat at Carowinds and a young boy, probably about 10 to 12 years old, asked his mother if he could buy a toy rifle with his "report card money".   We commented how great of a son these parents had raised when she looked at him, shook her head and said unequivocally "no".  He turned around, no whining, no stomping his feet, not a sign of disrespect, and put the toy gun away.  Of course, eventually it occurred to her and I that his mother and father wanted no part of it because of the potential risk.  They were a nice middle class black family with a daughter and three boys.  The fact it even occurred to us at all is probably a lot about the Missouri shooting.  But the truth is, geez, where has our society come and how far do we have to go.  I've been blessed with blonde children in spite of my dark hair and olive skin.  Worrying over some racist hasn't really been a problem in my life since I was like 7.  Yet, this whole flag thing has definitely reminded me that I'm sick of racism.

Now here's the thing.  If at any time you've even remotely blamed another race for anything wrong as you perceive it, well you might not like this, but yes, you are a racist.  If it's the (white) man's fault, then you are blaming someone else for your issues.  If, as I recently read in a rant on Facebook, you have ever blamed all the minorities in this country for the end of our country, our way of life, regardless of which minority you happen to be blaming, then you are acting like a racist.  If you've used racial slurs, I don't care which ones or what color you happen to be, then yes.  Yes, you are a racist.

The problem is we all know that we can be that shallow and stereotype at a moment's notice.  We all know that race baiting is one of the favorite things of the news channels we watch and we all, well almost all, recognize the behavior as unacceptable.  There are plenty of organizations, both public and private, that want to use race baiting as a way to boost their sales, their ratings or just for their own amusement.  And those idiots don't even include those that actually genuinely believe there is a some kind of race war they are trying to create.  Those that are hoping for a race war are thrilled when those greedy *ssholes are just lining their pockets at the expense of us accepting each other as human beings.  I mean really CNN, CBS, FOX, NBC, et ales, there aren't enough issues in the world to worry about other than making money on race baiting?!?!  Let's suffice to say human greed seems to trump peace every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Where does that leave us?  The average American?  Well, I'm not sure.  I've read a lot of false and/or fake history over the last few weeks.  I don't care.  The fact is that if you have to make stuff up to win an argument you've already lost.  There's no arguing that South Carolina never had that flag before 1962.  There's very little doubt that it was in response to the desegregation of the South.  There's little doubt that South Carolina was not happy about Virginia trying to incorporate that flag into the CSA flag, so it's not really a part of SC history until 1962.  All of that just makes it offensive that anyone would argue it's history for SC.  It's only history is tied to desegregation and well, we won't even bother calling it poop at this point.  Smells like poop, looks like poop, well, probably poop.

But so many people have forgotten what this country was like in the 1970s.  I know we have changed, grown and evolved.  I love my country.  But I remember watching Miss America in the 70s with my grandmother who told me that particular year that it was a great thing--a representative of the United States.  The same grandmother who told me I was American as American could be.  And yet every last one of the contestants was blonde--even Miss Alaska, Miss Hawaii and Miss Puerto Rico.  Really?!?!?  I pointed out this discrepancy to my Grams.  How is America, the United States of America, this Great Melting Pot and there wasn't a single non-blonde?  There was no other discussion and it was one of the only times Grams and I did not watch the whole Miss America pageant.  As Donald Trump ran his mouth this week, I was reminded.  As friends over the last couple of weeks have used the N word extremely liberally as they defend a flag that isn't even a South Carolina flag, I have been reminded.  You simply cannot claim to not be racist and use racial slurs.  This is likewise with the few minority friends that I have.  You simply cannot blame all Euro-Americans (aka. whites) and use terms like "the man" and other equally obnoxious terms and deny they are racially motivated.

What do we do?  We have made such leaps and bounds as a country.  All I can say is stop arguing over crap.  Stop letting people who want us to stereotype because they are shallow and horrible lead any of us astray.  Is it easy to shake off our friends when they are wrong?  Our own background when we know it's not how we were raised or even if we were raised that way?  No.  It's not.  But is up to us.  We need to unite.  How?  Stop buying the hype.  We are genuinely smarter than that.  We are all capable and God, or whatever God you believe in, never meant for us to hate each other or stereotype each other so horribly.  End Racism.  End Race Baiting.    

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

It's a silly little flag. And the wrong one.

The "Confederate" Flag is such big news after a disturbed young man committed mass murder, there is just no way to ignore it.  Here in South Carolina, there are so many people wanting to keep the flag where it's at.  I'm not even sure why.  It's not the Confederate Flag.  It's the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, the unit of General Lee.  It's not the flag for South Carolina.  It's not the Battle Flag of the Army of South Carolina.  Of course, it's just a flag when it comes right down to it.  But as we all know, the flag of any country or state or ideal can take on a life of its own.  "Don't Tread on Me" is a flag that sparks all kinds of American pride and reminds us of our fight for our Independence.  The snake cut into 13 pieces representing the divided we fall and together we were tired of unfair treatment comes into many people's minds when they hear those words even if they don't know the history behind the it or even the details of the flag.  For many, the Virginia Battle Flag has become a symbol of heritage, but for many it has also become a dark reminder of the oppression of two centuries now gone by.  We don't need to debate either of those opinions.  That is what the opinions are.

First, as I pointed out, it is not South Carolina's Battle Flag, aka. The Sovereignty Flag or Seccession Flag.  So using the Virginia flag to honor South Carolina Civil War veterans is kind of like honoring Army Airborne veterans with The Air Force Academy flag.  It's really not about heritage unless we're in Virginia, because the true heritage is represented by a totally different flag.  That being stated, it is a flag that the Ku Klux Klan used quite freely as a symbol of white authority and black oppression.  It is a symbol that has even been further embraced by the Neo-Nazis of the entire planet of white supremacy.  It's offensive to so many people.  It's not the flag's fault, but once that bell was rung, there is no unringing it.  When I have friends that insist it's about heritage, I cringe.  I know they think it is, but it isn't.  They've lived with that story most if not all of their lives.  It was a story that South Carolina perpetuated by writing their own history books for their schools.  I never quite understood why.  Of course, those school books were written when the Klan ruled.  They were still being used just a decade ago.  Everything before the Civil War was great; everything after was great.  And the Civil War was the War of Northern Aggression.  The Civil War was about States' Rights.  Well, yes, but it was about one single state right--slavery.  Of course, since only 10% of the whites owned slaves in the South and the same owned all the newspapers of the time, it's not hard to see how easily the actual slave owners could convince the masses otherwise.  There was no Virginia Battle Flag so prominently displayed initially after the War.  It wasn't until the 1920s that most of the Confederate memorials even displayed that particular flag.  South Carolina was even a little miffed during the 4 years of the Confederacy because they had been the first to succeed from the Union.  Why would Virginia's flag be on the Confederacy flag?   There were several iterations of the Confederacy Flag during those years and many of the suggested had the Virginia Battle Flag incorporated using Richmond as the justification.  South Carolina was appalled because they had been the first to secede from the Union.  They were insulted, but all that history has been lost.  All that is left is a systemic attempt to intimidate and create a sub-culture of acceptance of white supremacy united under a flag that some people have just accepted as a Southern thing.

OK, so flag aside.  Racism is not a Southern thing.  I have very vivid memories growing up all over this country of racists all over the place.  Ohio, Michigan, California, Georgia, New York, New Jersey, Florida.  I served in the United States Navy with people I would classify as racists from all those states and from Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, pretty much name the state.  The Ku Klux Klan may have held on to power in the South for the better portion of a century, but the original "million man" march was the organized and walked down the same road up to Capitol Hill in the 1920s.  Yes.  Klan was prevalent all over the United States then.  There were branches of the Klan all over this country and they were considered perfectly acceptable.  People didn't rent to "coloreds".  As I've said before, my grandparents rented exclusively to blacks.  My grandmother was often chastised by her friends.  She started calling them blacks because that was what she was told by one that they preferred.  Her friends chastised her for even caring.  White Northerners moved out of neighborhoods with just as much racism and hatred if a black family bought or rented there.  They made threatening phone calls and burned crosses.  There were race riots in the United States in the 1960s in Southern California, Detroit, Chicago, the Bay Area, not just the Deep South.  All the people pointing fingers at the little state of South Carolina need to take a long, and I mean LONG, look in the mirror of their own history.  My father and mother were threatened in Detroit and Toledo and in towns all along the Pennsylvania Turnpike when they would travel.  Those that think that they've come so far need only to see the race riots in Missouri recently to know that it is not a Deep South problem.  It is an all over the United States thing.

In no way am I advocating keeping the Virginia Battle Flag over any Confederate dead or memorials, unless veterans of the Northern Virginia Army during the Civil War.  I think it is a travesty that manipulative organizations or organization skewed the meaning of one flag to create a symbol of oppression.  And make no mistake, Robert E. Lee himself would be mortified.  He was the original general that Lincoln offered the position to lead the Union Army to get SC back in line.  He considered it, even after Virginia split over the whole thing--creating West Virginia even.  Finally, he responded that he could not in good conscience go against his state.  Would he have lead the Union Army if Virginia had chosen a different course of action?  We will never know.  If it had been the case, it would most likely be the South Carolina Battle Flag which would be a racist symbol today.  Of course, bless us, it is not.  It is truly an emblem of the men who died for a cause that they believed in whether it was or wasn't misguided.  It is the flag that should be flown over all SC Civil War memorials.  Those memorials should also include the United States flag.  Ultimately, the goal might have been to save the Union or leave the Union, but the secession proved two things:  A nation for the people by the people will not perish from the Earth and for all our differences we are all Americans.

As far as the racist question, the Virginia Battle Flag didn't choose to be the emblem it became, but ultimately, no emblem has ever chosen itself.  The ramifications that it was the chosen emblem are not its fault, but it has come to represent a bitter past that while it flies reminds us that too many people haven't learned from the past.  I remember pictures of lynchings that my grandmother had clipped.  That Virginia Battle Flag there.  The Civil War was over.  We had fought two World Wars that had really nothing to do with us for freedom.  The flag became the emblem of the quiet ugly war hidden behind sheets that was taking place day in and day out for some people in this country.  Not just in the Deep South.  EVERYWHERE.  The 1960s Civil Rights movement focused on the South because it was the place where the racist rhetoric was more out in the open, but I remember the blacks riding in the back of the bus in Ohio and California.  Not by choice, but because it was easier than arguing the point and eventually as some kind of badge of honor.  Regardless, it was everywhere.  Every state.  Point the finger at South Carolina all any of you like.  Look at how you view the areas in your own city or state that are a majority of minorities, a majority of blacks.  Look at how realtors still steer people in many areas to where they will be "socially acceptable".  These are real issues because some of you still look at anyone other than white moving into your neighborhood as a travesty or "there goes the neighborhood".

Sure that can be the case I guess, but it becomes the proverbial chicken and egg right?  Did the neighborhood go downhill because one black family moved in or because everyone that was living there bailed at a lower price before "there went the neighborhood":?  I don't know the answer.  I'm not researching it because I don't care.  I really don't.  I'm just as bad as other people saying I don't care and I'm not going to research it because I really don't care.  If a black engineer moves into my neighborhood with his middle class kids, I'm not going to care.  I'm going to completely freak out if it's a pregnant single woman with 5 kids  and 6 baby daddies collecting welfare, regardless of color.

What I care about is that the wounds that torment this country and how we get viewed by other countries.  We are so young in the grand scheme of things, just over a couple centuries.  How we react to this symbol, regardless of what we would like to think of it representing, speaks volumes about who we are, how far we have come and far how we have to go.  I'm praying that our country starts acknowledging that every state still has issues and that this emblem is the least of the problem.  I'm also hoping that South Carolinians lead this charge.  The Virginia Battle Flag is not representative of the men who fought for South Carolina.  It is very representative of a silent war against minorities.  While its removal from any place is only a tiny gesture compared to the bigger problem, it is taking off the tip of the iceberg and putting the focus back on the real problem.  We still have some racial issues to overcome.  A silly flag that the men of South Carolina did not fight for should not be one of them.

Monday, June 22, 2015

"Be polite, but you don't have to make conversation."

Over the years, I've noticed that some people will lie about the most mundane things.  Not that it's my business or anyone else's business if someone wants to maintain their privacy.  If it's not hurting anyone, the privacy one keeps should be defined by them.  Not everyone compartmentalizes like I do.  I simply only allow what I feel comfortable with out.  I'll tell you all kinds of things about myself that seem like I'm an open book.  Yet, those that know me really well know that there is a lot of stuff I hold back.  When I had surgery, I didn't really tell anyone.  Not even my boys.  I just don't like the idea of worrying a lot of people.  I didn't tell anyone that knew about it too much either.  I honestly preferred not to think about it too much.  What little I did tell was usually minimizing it because I preferred to think of it as small rather than large.  Still, even if I thought it was none of someone's business, aka. I didn't think my business is any of their business, I was as gracious as could be and gave a generic answer that was still truthful.

When someone lies, if it's not hurting anyone, then it is arguably acceptable.  I'm not a proponent of this argument.  If someone lies, they are still lying and most probably in a black and white world, liars.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm not advocating lying about anything.  Personally, I think telling someone to mind their own business is far more effective in getting someone to mind their own business.  While they might bitch that you were rude to them, the truth is they will never ask you again.  You will not have to answer their prying questions where you didn't want them going in the first place.  However, not everyone has enough self confidence to tell another person to mind their own business.  I had a friend once say she didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings by telling them it was none of their business.  That was about 20 years ago.  Now, if it's none of their business, she'll tell them quite readily.  It's probably a female thing to some degree.  Men don't talk about "uncomfortable" things normally, and they don't generally ask other men about how they are feeling.  Men generally allow other men to "share" only at their own comfort level.  Women, though, have a tendency to be a little more nosey and thereby create the "need" (let's call it that) to lie.  At that point, it's kind of like the proverbial chicken and egg.  Who initiated the lie?  The person who kept asking more than the other person wanted to share or the person who just gave an answer that they thought would be easier than saying "mind your own business"?  While I'll admit over the years, "mind your own business" hasn't always made me a favorite of the busy bodies; it has definitely spared me having to be their "best buddy".  Busy bodies always want to know someone else's business.  The less they know the better.  But from my humble observations, the people that lie and just give answers to provide answers, while being politer, end up with the busy body gossiping about them behind their back, wittingly and unwittingly spreading inaccuracies, and of course, coming back for more and more.  I'm not advocating my way of just telling them it's not their business.  They'll barely talk to me.  Not a bad thing though from my point of view.  Saves a lot of wasted breath.  If you want to lie to those types, don't complain that they come back and bug you for more information.  That's what they're going to do, and by lying to appease them, you simply feed them and they're need to be where they are not wanted.

Compartmentalizing is something a lot of people do.  Mostly men.  Men have many faces that they let show depending upon the situation.  If you're a woman, watch them if you don't believe me.  Men are different with their group of friends, with the people they work with, with people they like and don't like, with family and with you.  It would seem very incongruent, but since most men are this way, we simply dub it as being male.  Women used to be told that we were to portray the same person all the time.  The forced congeniality forced women to make concessions on how we approach each other and the world.  It also put us in the position where some felt like they had to be nice at all costs--they make movies like "Mean Girls" because to some degree we are groomed to stab the crap out of each other all while smiling to each other's faces.  Generally, men don't bother with this.  There is a rigidity when men don't like each other but have to interact.  It's not that they like everyone of the guys they know.  It's that they will just shrug it off without bothering to say anything.  Often, women that hate each other appear to be the best of friends even when everyone in the room knows they can't stand each other.  There's a clear separation for men of friends and acquaintances although these look the same in some situations.  Men do not spur an acquaintance as long as there is no reason to do so.  Women can be cold and callous to an acquaintance because we tend to be leary of anyone who has not proven themselves.  Why?  Because we often tell too much about ourselves because we feel the need to respond to someone who we genuinely feel it's not their business but we provide answers anyway.  The natural reflex then is to  be on guard whenever anyone new surfaces.  Men, the majority anyway, have this one right.  Don't share your business with anyone unless you're comfortable with it.  They shouldn't be asking unless you're sharing in the first place, and there's no reason to lie to them or share if you don't want to.  Tell them you'd rather not talk about it.  Voila.  It may seem rude, but in reality it's rude that anyone should cross boundaries that they do not share that comradary with you.  Telling them to mind their own business in a nice way is not rude just because you're a woman.  It's not rude if you're a man.  It's reminding someone to respect your boundaries.  It is defining those compartments of who you share what with.  It's your life and no one should cross those boundaries without your approval.  You shouldn't have to lie because they don't respect boundaries.  

Frankly, those people that don't respect boundaries tend to be the most annoying of all.  I used to have a friend that would say she was "fine" and then be upset behind your back that you weren't more worried about her.  Oh for God's sake, say what you mean and mean what you say.  If someone asks you how you are doing, you lie because you don't want them in your business, then you give the same answer to your friends.  How are your friends supposed to know the difference?  The problem with this woman was everything was a lie most of the time.  Manipulation.  She didn't want even her own friends to be friends.  Control.  Amazingly, she thought she was super smart, a well rounded smart.  Her lies though once your got to know her, even if you didn't know her if you were intelligent enough to recognize it, were extremely transparent.  This same woman accused me of being a liar, once.  It was quite humorous, because guys that I had known for some amount of time, put her in her place.  As anyone that knows me even fairly well will tell you, I might be too honest sometimes.  I've been working on that.  I don't see honesty as a bad thing, and too honest is pretty much a compliment.  However, some people are not worth the breath that you would waste calling them on their bullsh*t.  Not that men cannot be liars.  But men tend to be simpler about what they lie about.  Women, prestige and money.  They will lie about having any of those three and they will lie to get those three if they happen to be the type to lie in the first place.  That's it.  Prestige can be power and control.  Some will backstab a coworker if it means saving their own neck or a promotion.  Some will lie about women that spurned them or how many women they've had.  They'll pretend to have more money than they actually have.  But in general, the men that are liars tend to lie about things that are related to those 3 things and the rest of the men have little to no respect for them.  Yet, they'll be polite--not nice, but polite.  People that will lie about other people's boundaries, ie. a man who lies about how many women he's slept with, has no boundaries themselves--or very, very little.  Boundaries are what set us apart from animals.  We don't need a fence to keep us from chasing cars or to be fixed in order to not act like a Tom Cat going after any female cat in heat.  We set our boundaries for ourselves, and in many cases, have only ourselves to blame when other people cross them.

Don't get me wrong.  The boundaries we set should not keep people out.  Talking about ourselves is how we emotionally connect ourselves to others, but there are golden rules that really help us to connect with others.  One is open up to people where we can.  Honest, straight forward, truth.  I had a friend who after her mother died complained they had never been that close.  Over the years, she would lament that they didn't have a "close" relationship.  Of course, she lied to her mother regularly.  Lying to someone creates distance.  It's one more thing that each time we lie that we are hiding about ourselves.  I had a friend that was gay when I was in college.  At family holidays, I was often his "date".  His father was completely adverse to homosexuality.  Eventually, he told his family and had no contact with his parents and siblings for decades.  Yet, he admitted that he felt a huge weight lifted off of him and he became more accepting of his father.  It didn't matter that it wasn't returned.  What mattered was his mind was clear.  He had been honest regardless of the consequences.  "The truth shall set you free."  It was that way with my friend who's mother died.  Her biggest lament eventually was that it was too late to just tell her mother the truth.  She'll never know now how her mother would have reacted to the truths that she hid, but she will also never part with that weight.  There's part of it she carries with her to this day.  Honesty may not get the result we want.  But carrying a weight on ourselves without trusting others is crushing.  Which brings me to two.  Often we lie to others because we want others to accept us.  We are dishonest with ourselves.  Looking at the mirror every day and pretending who we are or aren't isn't changing who we actually are or aren't.  I'm sure that Caitlyn Jenner felt that way for over 50 years, but most of us aren't lying to such an extremity.  I don't know if most people think about it, but often the lies that we tell ourselves are the worst of all.  Finally, the only other thing that I can advise is listen.  I've noticed that because I can talk a lot some people assume that means I'm not listening.  Yet, when I'm silent and listening they don't notice.  I used to assume that was because of my strong voice--it resonates and carries.  Then I started to notice how often people would say to me that they couldn't remember telling me something or even that I remembered them telling me.  Of course, I remember.  If someone opens up to you with honesty, they may only be thinking of you as a sounding board, but that gift, even from a complete stranger, is priceless.  There aren't many people that a lot of people are honest with.  I seem to always get the most honest deep felt words that people share about themselves.  But it took me a long time to realize why.  I don't repeat what they tell me.  That's the final golden word.  Even when someone shares with you, it doesn't mean it is yours to share.  It means be appreciative that they shared a piece of themselves with you at all.  I know people that always share with me because they know I'm not sharing with someone else.  While some of them, I could do without because the 4 golden rules that I express here are not their rules.  They will gossip about anything I would share with them, but what they tell me is theirs not mine, even though they would not respect the same boundary.  Honest expression is a gift in both directions.  While it may be a little frustrating at times to realize those that share with you are not those that you should share with, appreciate when someone is honest.  It's a breath of very fresh air in world muddied with more lies, mostly lies.  When's the last time you believed anything a politician said?

The world is full of dishonesty.  It's almost become a completely acceptable behavior.  We almost expect everyone to be lying and the liars, a dead giveaway that they are liars, is they tell you someone is lying about something that you know is true.  We're not talking about inaccuracies.  Not everyone remembers every minute detail.  We're talking about straight up dishonesty.  There are so many lies that we listen to everyday, politicians, the media, et cetera, that are half or less truths meant to manipulate us into thinking one way or another, that we don't even second guess it anymore in a lot of cases.  The sad repercussion of this?  That everyday people that lie to manipulate and control us often get a pass too.  We've become inoculated to the behavior.  All because it was not nice enough to simply ask someone to mind their own business.  Winston Churchill said "A lie will travel around the world twice while the truth is still getting its boots on."  Every lie that we allow someone to tell or even tell ourselves rather than giving prying noses a quick closed door takes on a life of its own.  And, we have no one to blame but ourselves in those cases.  I'm not saying that they need to be cussed out every time you catch one.  I'm simply advocating telling them only truths and telling them when it's none of their business.  And if you catch them, call them on it if it's about someone else or even yourself.  Grams used to say "Be polite, but you don't have to make conversation."  You can still be gracious or even just ignore them when suitable without having to pretend to like or even enjoy their company.  Jealous people will pretend to be polite and curse you behind your back.  Why even try to talk to people like that?  They are being dishonest with others and themselves and they didn't respect your boundaries.  Politicians that you catch in lies don't respect boundaries.  But we define those boundaries.  Stand up for yourself with a little old fashioned honesty.  A little honesty here and there could eventually make the world a more honest place.  Even politicians.  It's time to try a little trickle up theory.