Posts Tagged ‘ideology

11
Apr
12

Guest Post: A Look at Partisanship and Education

I haven’t had much opportunity overall…and especially not lately…to have guest posts on the blog. However, I was recently contacted by someone with strong feelings on education in the United States, and since I don’t talk about education directly much (though I discuss several issues that intersect with it, such as race and religion), I’m happy to give her the floor. Thanks, Sofia!
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Education in America: Pulled from Two Sides
By Sofia Rasmussen

At the mercy of both state and federal governments, the American education system is caught in a game of tug of war: as liberals and conservatives gain and lose power, the education system is pulled and pushed into policies and directions consistent with the party in power.  To be fair, some controversies have proponents and opponents within each party, e.g., the controversy surrounding the credibility of online doctorate programs.  But, most controversies are party-divided.  For example, as Arizona becomes more conservative, they have passed laws and legislation that outlaws the teaching of ethnic study classes in public schools. The exact language willfully obfuscates this fact, using language such as “…advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” The intent, however, can’t be hidden behind a shield of words: the law itself reeks of vitriol and racism.

This is but one example of an education law where controversy is raised: there are many such laws throughout the United States passed every year. Many of these laws are passed in the south and southwest, where racial tensions are already high; many of these laws deal with conservative ideology, such as a debate raised over a law in Texas regarding the teaching of evolution in schools. The original law didn’t outright ban the teaching of evolution; rather, the law began by asserting that an intelligent design option be presented alongside the theory of evolution. At the time of this writing, several laws are in legislatures, or are already passed, that allow the teaching of creationism in schools.

One example is a law in Louisiana that opens the doorway for intelligent design to be taught aside creationism in schools. This law, again, is worded vaguely and willfully obfuscates its intent. Although there are quite a few laws like this on the state level, as far as controversy at the federal level goes, the examples are quite a bit fewer.

No Child Left Behind

Perhaps the greatest example of controversial education law is the passing of No Child Left Behind during the administration of George W. Bush. The law itself is quite lengthy, although the points of controversy are rather succinct: to wit, schools that demonstrate lower test scores and have students that are behind grade level on subjects such as reading, mathematics, and science, lose federal funding. This law raised the ire of thousands of liberals across America, and was lauded by their counterparts on the conservative side.

These laws are symptomatic of the problem facing education in America today: when you rely on partisan funding for your program to work, you must cater to their ideals. Ideally, the separation between education and politics would be much greater, allowing more teachers to educate our children without our ideals and political theory intervening. The reality is something completely different, something that educators everywhere are grappling with on a day to day basis: what our children can and cannot learn is dependent entirely on what the people in our legislature say. The quandary facing the educators themselves is one of personal decisions against what that legislature says: from both sides, can someone teach, impart knowledge, that they themselves do not believe? The tightrope walked by an educator is one of personal belief, sometimes faith, beliefs that can influence their decisions on what to teach to students, and what to abstain from teaching.

01
Feb
12

Of Anecdotes and Ideologues

No one loves an anecdote more than someone with a strong ideological agenda.

I mean, don’t get me wrong—most everyone likes a good anecdote. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But it’s like the lifeblood of an ideologue to have a ready collection of anecdotes to make their points and to show you that their beliefs are true and that you should agree with them and not question them. Or argue. Or point out completely obvious logical fallacies.

Whether liberal or conservative, religious or atheist, environmentalist or land baron…whatever. Stories are the key.

And that’s what anecdotes are, of course. Stories. But like folklore or fairy tales or any other story, they don’t equal truth. Truth may be in them. If they are tales of something that happened, the tale itself might be true in general terms. But tales don’t equal truth.

Yet that’s what people at the extreme end of a belief would have you believe. That’s why they whip out anecdotes like pedophiles give out candy to children to lure them into their vans.

For the conservatives, it’s so often the mythical “prosperous welfare cheat,” who in most stereotypical form is portrayed as black, female, parent to several kids, operating some under-the-radar business, driving a really nice car and living the high life in public housing while collecting food assistance, free healthcare and actual money from the government, too.

Never mind that if such people exist, they exist in numbers far too small to make an impact on the system. I know that conservative folks, especially the rich at one end and the blue collar/pink collar ones at nearly the other end, like to believe this is a real problem. It isn’t. Sure, there are lazy people on public assistance, but they don’t live any kind of “high life.” I’ve seen too many of them through my wife’s work in social services. Most people don’t want to be on the dole. It sucks and it doesn’t get you anywhere (though it might keep you alive).

Also, what the conservatives fail to point out when they trot out their often-racist welfare cheat anecdotes is that the vast majority of people on public assistance are white. In fact, many of them are Republicans and live in states with Republican majorities.

But why let facts and real truth get in the way of a good story?

I could go into the lovely anecdotes about abortion, “curing” gay men, how African-Americans and Latinos are more dangerous than whites and things like that, but why beat a dead horse when I’ve rolled out the gold standard already? And yes, I know liberals have their own misleading anecdotes, too. But you know what? Even their most outlandish ones are way closer to the truth than the conservatives’ are. Feel free to argue with me on that if you have some good examples, but I doubt you’ll get very far with me unless you abandon logical arguments.

12
Oct
11

Never seeing the extremist in one’s self

It’s the debate and campaigning run-up to the 2012 election, so naturally you can expect more political and social ramblings from me around here, like…oh…talking about how batshit insane so many of the GOP presidential hopefuls are.

As I watch Barack Obama not really initiate much change in “politics as usual” nor really advance an even remotely progressive agenda (not that I want to see all left-wing changes, though), and consider how much he is called a totalitarian or socialist or extremist by the right-wing and all who heartily support the Tea Party and the Libertarians…well, I can’t help but laugh. Obama is about as moderate as they come, with some leftward leanings, much like George W. Bush is probably a moderate with rightward leanings (what a shame he was also kind of an idiot, and let right-wing nutjob Dick Cheney and other people on the right call so many shots, thus plunging his entire two-term administration into right-wing madness).

I mean, I almost wish a left-wing, controlling nut would rise to the presidency just so that the conservatives could see what a truly extreme liberal is. Or even a more restrained left-winger, so they could contrast and compare with our last two Democratic presidents, who were very much moderate.

Problem is these days is that the Democrats are fractured (as usual), can’t agree (as usual), can’t stand united and strong in the face of “looking bad” (as usual) and negotiate with the right so that everything they do ends up being somewhere slightly to the right of moderate anyway (as usual). At the same time, the Republicans are being driven by a relatively small but highly vocal group of people who think that helping others, preventing corporations from exploiting people and being smart about how we use natural resources are somehow evil and destroy freedom.

There really aren’t very many true liberals with any political power right now. Not enough to drive any kind of agenda, and that’s in part because they don’t get the big bucks that conservatives and moderates get from special interests. But there are a significant number of hard-core conservatives with a lot of opinions and no regard for facts, science or logic who are well-funded and can get heard and heeded quite a bit.

So, naturally, most of my ire will be aimed at the right wing. Not because I’m some radical, liberal, America-hating person (though I’ve been accused of such, merely for the sin of considering both sides and generally taking a fairly middle of the road approach with slightly leftward leanings), but because extremists scare me.

What’s most scary is that extremists don’t tend to see themselves as extreme, which always confuses me.

You see, the conservatives complain about “radical Islam” (which I put in quotes not because it doesn’t exist…because it does…but because right-wingers apply it to every damn Muslim in the world unfairly) and they often point out how such people are quick to choose violence, won’t negotiate and oppress others. Then those very same conservatives talk about how we need to solve so many of our problems with violence, they won’t ever compromise or negotiate any point, and they stamp all over people’s human rights and dignity.

Fact is, if you only advance the aims of the liberals or the conservatives, you are extreme. Period. The idea that the nation’s problems can be solved by applying all the philosophies and ideas at one end of the ideological spectrum is madness. You cannot solve complex problems with a one-size-fits-all approach.

What frustrates me with Obama’s presidency isn’t that he isn’t liberal enough. What bugs me is (1) he has been willing to give too much away to the right wing, with no consideration for the people who elected him wanting some leftward shifts after eight years of Bush and (2) that the Republican Party will absolutely not work with even the most moderate and sometimes right-leaning policies the president puts forth because they would rather the country burn than to let him advance any successful agenda or earn a second term. Granted, that second one isn’t Obama’s fault, but it’s still a frustration related to his term thus far in office.

If your views are held to by only around half the population (or less), and you try to enforce them for the whole population without any kind of adjustment or balance, you are an extremist.

If you only look out for the rights of workers, and never consider the value of capitalism and allowing it some room, you are extremist. If you think corporations should never be accountable for their bad decisions because they’re “too big to fail” and you think they should be allowed to treat workers and the environment however they will, you are extremist.

If you think that in a nation of agnostics, atheists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Wiccans, Buddhists (and many more) that you should be able to apply Christian value to all and do it through the force of law, you are extremist. If you think it is your duty to erase religion or marginalize it in such a diverse society, you are also extremist.

If you think no criminal ever deserves harsh punishment, you are extremist, as are those who think that anyone put in prison deserves to be there and perhaps die there, even when evidence comes to light that suggests the contrary.

Seeing only the black and white and choosing one color or the other is extremist. There is almost no decision worth making in society that doesn’t involve a whole lot of gray and require compromise to be fair. If you don’t agree with that, guess what? You’re an extremist.

And you should have no place in public policy-making.

03
Nov
10

What Is In Their Tea, Anyway?

I know the mid-term elections are over, but this is the best breakdown I’ve seen of the Tea Party and all the Republicans who passively co-sign their “ideals” and let them run rampant, so it deserves to be shared even post-election.

By the way, before anyone mentions crazy liberals, let’s remember that the Democrats actually remain a largely centrist party and the whack-jobs on the left don’t drive the direction of the Dems nor end up getting such a voice in party policy. So far, the Dems know how to contain their crazies, while the GOP elevates theirs to star status.

24
Sep
10

Takes One to Know One?

So, on the way back home with Little Girl Blue today, after a morning of doctor’s office visiting and donut gathering, I see a bumper sticker on a car in front of me that reads as follows:

Liberalism is a mental disorder

Now, I can pretty much assume that the driver was a conservative, and not simply a moderate, based on two pieces of evidence:

First, there is no “Conservatism is a mental disorder” sticker to balance it.

Second, there was a National Rifle Association bumper sticker on the car, too.

From this, I can also infer something else.

The driver lacks critical thinking skills. Which is why the Tea Party is so successfully pulling the Republican Party to the extreme right and dangerous ideological territory, because the Tea Party seems to have the most motivated and energetic extremists in the United States right now.

So, why am I slamming the person’s critical thinking skills based on the bumper sticker? Why am I assuming the person isn’t a moderate or close to moderate?

Simple.

Most things are on a spectrum. Liberal is one end; conservative is the other.

Just like obsessive hoarding and filthiness is on one end and excessive cleanliness and germ phobias is on the other. Both are mental illnesses. It’s the people in the middle who are more balanced and less troubled and able to function in the real world effectively.

So, by the same token, if liberalism is a mental illness, its counterpart on the other end is also a form of mental illness.

But why use one’s brain or look at the world in a balanced way when it feels so much better to be an extremist?

22
Mar
10

Obama, Christian Love & Teabag Insanity

First, as a fairly liberal/progressive Democrat, let me say one thing to everyone out there who’s losing his or her frickin’ sanity over President Barack Obama, healthcare reform, or anything else related to Democrats:

Shut up and deal with it.

I’m not saying you can’t disagree or debate, but enough with threatening to kill the sitting president, claiming that he’s instituting Socialism, and all that other bullshit.

Since I became a relatively politically aware human being, and as the son of a devout anti-abortion, Catholic, Union-card carrying electrician (who also votes Democrat like me), I have had to suffer through the depredations of Ronald Reagan, Bush #1 and Bush #2 (I was too young during the Ford and Carter years to really grasp enough politics to care).

That’s 20 damn years I’ve suffered Republicans. The best years for our nation economically happened under Clinton, who could have stood to be a little less moderate at times and a little more left leaning, but at least he mostly got things right in terms of being a human and treating the citizenry who weren’t rich with some kind of compassion.

That’s 20 years of Republican rule I’ve lived under, and 8 years of Democratic rule. It’s time for you right-wing, conservative, war-mongering, wealth-chasing, poor-bashing, bigoted asses who pine for the days of Ronnie and Dubya to sit down and take a long, deep breath.

You’ve had plenty of time, and mostly, all you’ve done is cut the legs out from under the poor and working class, cut loose the mentally ill on the public, raped the school system, sent American jobs overseas, and rewarded corporations for screwing over their employees.

You’ve had 20 years of my politically aware life. You owe me at least another 7 years, if not 11, to make up for it before you get your shot again.

I didn’t scream at Reagan or either Bush. I didn’t threaten them. I bided my time and suffered and sweated, and now it’s my damned time.

Get it?

The nation doesn’t belong to Republicans. It belongs to Americans. But too many Americans handed it over like it was the GOP’s playground alone.

Take a rest, calm down, and tend to your homes, and let the sitting administration do its job, just like I let three of the last four do theirs to my detriment.

Second thing I want to say:

When did we lose (or rather, YOU lose, and I’m still speaking to the rapid GOP supporters, especially those whom they most screw over…the working class Republicans, who must be the most masochistic group of people on Earth) the ability to have polite discourse? When did it become appropriate to call for militias to take D.C. back for the people? Or to put a bullet in Obama’s head? Had any Democrat, liberal or other left-leaning group or individual done that during the GOP administrations, you’d be calling for their blood and calling them un-American and unpatriotic.

Be patriotic, and respect your damn president. At least half the nation disagrees with you right now, probably more than that, and you need to sit your asses down until you can debate sensibly.

Especially you Bible thumpers (and I love me some Jesus too, mind you). Even if you think Obama is persecuting you, Jesus told us to love those who persecute us, and he never advocated armed rebellion against sitting governments. Nor did he call for killing anyone. Jesus would be ashamed of every damn Teabag Party/teabagger out there.

That is all.

05
Nov
08

Bill White vs. the Progressives

captain-americaFor a while, earlier in the campaigning season a guy named “Bill White” (or so he says) started posted a lot around Deus Ex Malcontent. A self-professed lover of God, Toby Keith, the United States and NASCAR, “Bill” would warn those of us regulars around there of the evils that our progressive ways might wreak upon the nation.

If you’re wondering why I keep putting quotes around “Bill,” don’t worry, that will be the last time. You see, Bill (who has a blog called Bill White Saves America) is almost certainly a parody. At least a 90% chance, I think, that he’s progressive himself and simply doing a brilliant job of playing a GOP-faithful-guy for laughs. The stuff he says is just over the top enough or just off-kilter enough that I can’t believe he’s for real. In one of his earliest comments at the DXM blog, he mentioned his love of his F-150 truck. To which a regular at DXM who also suspected Bill was a parody joked that a real GOP supporter in the working class would have an F-350. To which Bill responded, “I’m a fiscal conservative.”

I say all this because after a hiatus of four months, I think, Bill came back to DXM recently. He’s been referring to the rest of us there a lot as secular progressives or, more often as SPs. I’m glad to have him back posting. It’s funny stuff to me.

But it got me thinking: A lot of Republican faithfuls, and certainly all the neocons and other fringe types, do have a negative view of the so-called secular progressives, who supposedly want to ban religion, encourage abortion and same-sex marriage and strip rich people of all their wealth and hand it out to losers.

Now, the thing about how they rail against the SPs is that one of the other complaints is that SPs—being secularly minded, of course—are either agnostic or atheist in most cases. It makes me wonder, how am I viewed by these same people?

Mrs. Blue and I, for lack of any better term, think of ourselves as progressive evangelists. It’s a legitimate label that others have used. And I think, do the people who get annoyed at SPs find me better, worse or equally as “bad” as the secular progressives?

Am I “better” because I do believe in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and the need to hand yourself over to Christ?

Am I “worse” because I am seen as a traitor to God (though few things could be farther from the truth) and do they see me not only as some kind of Judas or “antichrist” but perhaps even assume I have negated my salvation? Or seen as someone who is both godless and unpatriotic?

Or am I “just as bad” as the SPs?

It’s not that I care, really. I’ll continue to be me and serve God in the way I have been led to serve regardless. I’m just a little curious.

Oh, and welcome back, Bill White. Please don’t leave us again.

18
Apr
08

What really separates us

*Sigh* Well, the Spirit moved me to find some images that might potentially be useful for running with my next post on speaking in tongues…but sadly, once again, I have been moved in a direction other than writing that post today.

Today, I want to get us clear of what I think is one of the most ignorant comments about any religion, Christianity included: Religion is responsible for most of the atrocities that have ever been committed.

You get a lot of variations on this theme. People say that religion has precipitated more wars than anything else. That abuses in society have often been justified with religion. Or they say that religion does more to divide us than to bring us together.

While this sounds really cathartic to say, especially if you’re an atheist or an agnostic who really, really dislikes organized religion (and hey, I have my own beefs with a lot of churches and denominations)…it really isn’t true.

Religion isn’t the problem.

People are the problem.

If we were to remove religion from the picture, do you seriously think we’d all just get along? That’s a very Pollyanna-ish and naive view of the world and of human nature. Sure, a lot of wars were waged around religious issues. But do you think the believers en masse wanted to go fight other religious believers? No, it was the people in charge, the leaders of society, who made that choice. And most of the time, the motivations are not to glorify God (or a god or goddess) but rather to achieve their own ends.

Power. Influence. Hoping to impress God for selfish reasons. Money. Land. Love. Lust.

Those are the motivators. Not religion.

Religion divides us no more than do race or culture. Eliminating religion won’t eliminate racism. People can use religious text (often out of context) to justify their racism, but they don’t feel racism because of their religious beliefs. Feelings of cultural or political superiority can be justified or bolstered with religion, but they don’t come from a religious source. They come from pride. From arrogance. From pettiness.

I would argue that democracy and capitalism have both been using as rallying cries for a lot of abuses against individuals, nations and the planet. For that matter, communist beliefs (being both political and economic) have been used the same way.

Six million Jews were slaughtered in the Holocaust not because of religion (not even over them practicing a religion that wasn’t in favor) but because they were scapegoats for an economic downturn and because Hitler thought his people were genetically superior.

The Crusades were not about lifting up God or even fighting for him, but about forming or expanding or maintaining power and/or empires. The Inquisition was not about religion but about control.

People can and will twist any philosophy, economic system or political movement when they think it is necessary to achieve their own agenda—whether it’s a personal agenda, societal agenda or both. Blaming religion for any ills of the world is wrong.

It’s a form of discrimination and a diseased form of elitism that is every bit as bad as that spouted by any pompous ass who waves around a cross or crescent or six-pointed star. Because you can just as easily replace that religious symbol with a flag.

(Miz Pink, where are you? I think I need you to post something soon so that I will get out of here for a day or so and finally finish talking about speaking in tongues…)

16
Apr
08

God doesn’t do wings

OK, I’m sure the header for today’s post has folks confused already. Doesn’t God have a whole Host of angels with wings? Or am I saying God is against fried chicken wings?  No, no. I just have something very important to impart to you. Something profound. Pay attention now.

Angels have two wings.

(Crickets chirp in the background. Many heads are scratched. A tumbleweed rolls by.)

Well, I could have confused you more by asking “What is the sound of one hand clapping.” Instead, I have stated the obvious. Angels don’t have one wing; they have a pair.

So what?

It’s my way of pointing out that God doesn’t do politics. With every passing year, it seems that people talk more and more about the left wing vs. the right wing. The liberals vs. the conservatives. Pro-choice vs. pro-life. And often they try to bring God or Jesus into the mix to support the validity of their views. But neither God nor His angels nor Jesus are left-wing or right-wing. They are both.

Or, far more likely, they are neither.

Liberal Christians who find various parts of the Bible a bit icky (like policies against homosexuality, the notion that men are at the top of the spiritual hierarchy, etc.) like to point out that Jesus was love and like to suggest that Christ just went and overturned all that God had ever said and made it all about love. This isn’t Woodstock in the ’60s, folks. Jesus was a very dutiful Jew. He affirmed what his Father had established. But he helped to show us that God was love, even in the midst of all the rules and the sometimes retributive nature of the Almighty.

Conservative Christians like to focus on the wrath and damnation a lot and point out that we are all a bunch of lousy sinners and that we need our human laws to reflect God’s laws. Which would be fine, I suppose, if everyone was Christian. Which they aren’t. Let’s remember that Jesus told us to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. In other words, the Bible has always recognized that sometimes (in fact, most of the time) people are under human rule that doesn’t always reflect God’s ideals and doesn’t always call for the same things as God does. The population is pretty diverse religiously (not that you’d know if you just looked at the elected U.S. officials in national offices and a lot of them in state offices…they’re pretty white and Judeo-Christian overall), and that means that making the nation’s law be that of God’s law is both unlikely to occur and probably a bad idea.

God is not a conservative. He is God. He made the universe and He made the rules, all the way from the physics of how things exist and work to the rules of behavior we humans should follow. He is a parent, and the rules of good parents are not about politics but about protecting us and shaping us into the best that we can be.

Jesus is not a liberal. He is God’s faithful son. He included people that the traditional religious leaders rejected not because he was a left-wing hippie with miraculous powers but because God has always loved all of us. He just cannot save us from ourselves, because the essence of free will is that we choose to embrace God or to separate ourselves from Him. Jesus was a human with divine nature, and thus able to bridge the divide between God and man.

And lest we forget the third part of the organization, the Holy Spirit is not a moderate. (He also isn’t Casper the Friendly Ghost. Just because we say “Holy Ghost” doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit is running around saying “Boo!”) The Holy Spirit is the aspect of God that indwells within us and allows us to be reunited with His spirit as we become born again through Jesus the Christ. That may seem like some moderate-style politics, but since God ain’t part of any political party or ideological wing, and neither is Jesus, why would the Holy Spirit pick political sides?

I personally think politics would move a lot smoother if the left wing and right wing would both shut the hell up and start working on what’s important for the people instead of for their own agendas. And the Christian faith could do a lot better by simply making compassion the No. 1 priority and showing people the light that shines from people who truly live for God and have Jesus as their Lord and Savior. I cringe to see politics in the pulpit. I despise seeing religious leaders try to sway politicians to craft laws that will support religious policies. I know that a true separation of church and state isn’t possible. But I also know that a merging of them, while theoretically possible, is just plain wrong.

Jesus will return to establish a new kingdom and a new Heaven and Earth. When that happens, we won’t need government most likely. I sure hope not anyway.

But until that day, let’s keep some perspective as to when we need to be political and when we need to be spiritual, and let’s not pollute one with the other. And when we are political or when we take on activist roles, let’s remember that the Heavenly Host isn’t left wing or right wing. And frankly, we’d probably be better off if more of us didn’t try to be one or the other.

Anything with just one wing tends to fall out of the sky, you know. And that fall can be long and hard. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if the ideologues were the only ones getting hurt. But people who stray too far to one wing or the other have a tendency to survive a lot of their falls.

Sadly, it’s usually because their fall was cushioned by a whole lot of other people who were crushed beneath their ideological weight.

(Yes, I know I keep promising that follow-up to my “Tongues Tied” post about a week ago. How about tomorrow? I think. Maybe.)




Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley

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