Archive for category politics

Childlike Thinking

I saw this cartoon today that depicts two little girls standing next to a scale. One warns the other, “Don’t step on it. . .  It makes you cry.” It’s also here:

It started me thinking about how children often view the world differently from the way adults do. I thought of a similar cartoon one could make with more of a political lesson. Imagine Barack Obama delivering a speech where two ittle boys are in the audience. One says to the other, “I think people don’t like him because his ears are too big.”

The irony is that the truth is more bizarre than this cute fiction. Why do people really hate Obama? Because he’s a Muslim intent on remaking the U.S. as an Islamic theocracy? Because he’s a socialist who wants to destroy every business? Because he wasn’t actually born in this country so he doesn’t deserve to be its president? Because he wants to drive every medical doctor into the poorhouse? Because he’s not white enough? Because he’s not black enough? Now stop and reflect on the ideas you have just considered. Are these ideas objectively better than hating a person because he has big ears? At least the assertion that he has big ears can likely be verified as true. I think it’s worse to hate someone for something that he isn’t than to hate him for something he is.

So many people in the punditocracy are so set in their ways that it seems they haven’t changed their ideas about ANYTHING in the last 15 years. And that scares me. It should scare more of us. Especially when you realize that fifteen years ago it was 1996. If you wore a shirt from 1996, people would snicker. If you carried around a cell phone from 1996, people would really start laughing. Why do we give people a pass for spouting ideas from 1996?

I guess I’m a liberal although the more I listen to Lewis Black the more I think I should get my head examined if I even dream of identifying with either the left or the right. But being a liberal, if that’s what I am, doesn’t mean I believe change is always good. Certainly there are ideas that can stand the test of time. For instance, the idea that a woman should get a college education. Or the idea that no one should be turned away from a hospital because he cannot pay the bill.

Often we assume that people are maturing when really they are just aging. Aging is certain. You cannot avoid becoming older. But maturing implies growth and development. And honestly, when I listen to what some people are saying or what some writers are typing, I see a marked lack of growth.

To bring this post back to where it started, I think I need to take young children as my role models. Not the tantrums or the lack of impulse control, but the freshness of perspective and the flexibility to learn. I love that a 5-year old girl will tell me what she dreamed about last night. I love that a child can repeat a foreign word with pitch-perfect accuracy. I cherish the spirit of the Kindergartener who can embrace a new friend  with total trust and a complete lack of suspicion. And that is childlike thinking.


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Rally for Peace in Iraq

A rally for peace in Iraq should be a perfect place for a Muslim.  Muslims believe in peace. Muslims have been protesting war in Iraq since the beginning of the first Gulf War.

But if Al-Qaeda kills 58 Christians in an Iraqi church, the situation changes.

There was a sizeable, heated rally today in Chicago in response to the massacre of parishioners at Our Lady of Deliverance Syriac Catholic Church on 10/31/2010.  I went to show that Muslims do not support terrorism.

I carried a sign that said, “An Attack on Your Church Is An Attack on My Mosque.” I could divide the reactions I encountered into three groups. One group was puzzled. They figured from my sign and my beard that I’m Muslim. They couldn’t understand why a Muslim would be at this rally. The second group was grateful. People thanked me for being there. The third group was angry.

Liberal artisan that I am, I can see validity in all three perspectives. If you do not know very much about Muslims, you might be puzzled to see them at a rally for peace. But if you know most Muslims love peace and justice, you will welcome them when they stand up for peace. However, if you see all Muslims as part of one terrorist conspiracy, then you might harbor some hatred for them.

No one likes to be hated. It’s definitely not much fun, unless I guess, you happen to be the devil.  It’s especially weird to be hated at an event where people are shouting, “Stop the killing! Stop the hate!” But it builds character and I could use some more.


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Death and Torture

I. First, a joke.

Two explorers land on a remote island. It’s lush, green, and temperate. Suddenly, a group of natives surrounds them. They seize one of the explorers but the other manages to get away. They communicate to him that he must make a terrible choice, “Death or Unngg?”

Confused by this new word, the explorer is unsure of what to do. But he reasons that Unngg, whatever it is, must not be worse than death. So he chooses Unngg.

The natives strip him of his clothes and make him lie naked on the beach. They leave. They come back with huge, muscular pink tongues of some giant animal. Then they proceed to beat the explorer over and over again with the tongues. He cries out in horrible yelps of pain. After what seems like several hours, they stop and let him go.

Soon afterwards, the natives seize the second explorer. Again they ask, “Death or Unngg?” The first explorer, sore and beaten, calls out to him, “Choose death! Unngg is worse than you can imagine.”

Reluctantly, yet feeling prudent, the second explorer says, “Death.” The natives reply, “Right. Death by Unngg!”

II. Cruel and Unusual Punishment

The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbids “cruel and unusual punishment.” But what is meant by “cruel and unusual punishment”?

Forms of torture like crucifixion and stoning might strike some as cruel and unusual. Whipping might qualify as cruel.

Some might say capital punishment, in any form, is cruel and unusual. In fact, quite a few excellent legal minds have tried to challenge capital punishment based on the Eighth Amendment.

One reason why such challenges have largely failed is that the historical context of the Constitution makes it apparent that the Framers did not intend to outlaw executions. At the time, many so-called “civilized” nations executed criminals.

But is it objectively reasonable to say killing is acceptable but torturing is unacceptable? Put another way, is there such a thing as a fate worse than death?

If one were to argue torture is worth than execution, maybe this would serve as support. Say a man dies on Feb. 10. Now let’s take the same man and say he is executed on Feb. 5. What has the execution accomplished? All it has done is accelerate the inevitable.

But torture is different. Let’s say a man is tortured as a prisoner of war. He endures whippings, beatings, and unspeakable horrors for years. Somehow he escapes. But he is a changed man. He feels that the person he was died in that camp. Now he lives, but he lives with deep physical, mental, and emotional scars.

But looking at the other side, humans can be very resilient. It is quite possible for a victim of torture to recover and live a meaningful, fulfilling life. But it is not possible for a victim of execution to recover.

What do you think?

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The Hero

His entrance on to the world stage seemed more appropriate for a superhero than for a modern president. A passenger jet crashed en route to Damascus from Baghdad. He saved 144 passengers from the fiery wreckage. Because of him, there were no casualties. The funny thing is that no one recalled him being on the plane. CNN, Fox News, Al Jazeera, and the BBC all hailed him as a hero.

Curious journalists tried to dig into his past, but they came away with more questions than answers. Where did he come from? Who were his parents? He quickly became a media darling and deftly answered many queries, but became oddly reticent when asked about his past.

He had a handsome face with sharp features, strong cheekbones and an angular nose. He had a scar across his forehead that looked like a lightning bolt or a slash mark. His eyes are pistachio green with streaks of gold. He lost an eye due to a traumatic childhood injury. Doctors genetically engineered an eye for him that perfectly matches the other eye. He has curly auburn hair that goes down to his shoulders, giving him a bit of rock-star style.

His political career represented a rapid ascent to power. He ran for mayor of Damascus soon after the plane crash. Soon he was in the Syrian parliament. Within a few years, he was President of Syria. Journalists and pundits were quick to applaud him one of the most dynamic leaders in the modern history of the Middle East.

When a student at Al-Azhar University asked Sheikh Musa bin Zaytuni about him, this is what the eminent Sheikh had to say:
“How can you be so blind? Don’t you see the signs? He came on the way between Iraq and Syria. One of his eyes is artificial, so he is one-eyed. The scar on his forehead described as a slash is really an Arabic triliteral – K F R. His hair is twisted. He is a charismatic leader. He seems to perform miracles.
In Hebrew, he is called Armilus, in Arabic, Dajjal, and in English – ANTI-CHRIST. He is a plague on humanity and only the Son of Mary can defeat him.”


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health care reform is constitutional

Yes Virginia, health care reform is constitutional. It’s not just me saying so. Dean Erwin Chemerinsky of the University of California-Irvine School of Law says so. He is the author of Constitutional Law, a textbook used at a number of law schools around the country including DePaul. He has also authored over one hundred law review articles.

You can read his article here: It’s a quick yet vitally important read. While only two pages long, it effectively quashes the main challenges to the constitutionality of health care reform.

His main points are that health care falls under the broad umbrella of interstate commerce and that there is no right to not have insurance. While health care may not be the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of commerce, the power of Congress to regulate commerce includes a vast spectrum of activities that significantly impact interstate commerce. These activities include dining at a restaurant, staying at a hotel, growing medical marijuana, et al.  It’s not hard to see how health care affects commerce. Sick workers miss days of labor. People spend billions of dollars on drugs manufactured domestically and abroad.  Choosing to become a doctor is a significant economic decision and requires one to spend thousands of dollars on school and delaying one’s entry into the work force. Also, there is no right not to have insurance. States require drivers to have car insurance, so why not require people to have health insurance too. Of course, if one really does not want to buy car insurance, one can choose not to drive. If one really does not want to buy health insurance, what’s the alternative? Suicide? Or move to a country that doesn’t require health insurance, I suppose.

So conservatives who are really upset about health care reform – those are your alternatives – leave this country one way or another.

But seriously, health care reform really helps everyone. No reform comes without a cost, but in the long we will save money, and much more importantly, we will save lives.


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4th amendment? What 4th amendment?

The Obama administration recently renewed the PATRIOT Act. You may think you know what the PATRIOT Act says. But do you know about National Security Letters? The FBI can issue a letter asking authorities to turn over your medical records, bank records, phone records, even records of your use of the internet. The FBI can do this without probable cause or judicial oversight. The person turning over the records cannot discuss this with anyone.

Watch this video from The Young Turks. For more detail, do a wikipedia search on “national security letter” or simply click this link.


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Re: Former President George W. Bush

Revisiting the topic of my last post, I need to make some clarifications. First, despite the title of the post, I do not think George W. Bush is the worst president elected by any democratic nation in the annals of human history. Perhaps someday I will write a post in which I select the most awful president of all time, explaining why I find that president to be particularly odious, but that was not the purpose of the last post. Also, I know that is easy to mock our former President and I normally do not take cheap shots at sitting targets.

All I was trying to say with the last post is that I see a significant difference in the attitude toward the Constitution of President George W. Bush and the attitude of Barack H. Obama. Also, I think it is quite alarming for a U.S. President to refer to the U.S. Constitution in the insulting language that Bush allegedly used. To be fair, one should say “allegedly” because it is possible that someone misquoted him. It would serve the agenda of a certain political party to assert that he said what he allegedly said. His words may have been edited, re-cast, re-imagined, or even wholly invented by his political enemies to demean him. Also, maybe Bush said those words in a context that do not connote a complete disrespect for the Supreme Law of the Land. However, I am inclined to believe that he did, in fact, say what he allegedly said, for at least two reasons. First, within the context of a discussion of the PATRIOT Act, it seems likely that someone would raise the issue of constitutionality and it also seems likely that President Bush would denounce such a concern. Second, it is wholly consistent with the Bush presidency and the Bush persona as I understand them, to say things that are a) poorly thought out and b) deeply disturbing to people with respect for the American presidency. If any of my readers are fervent supporters of President Bush, they should feel totally comfortable disagreeing with me, and I will gladly post their opinions here.

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