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One of my favorite bits in the Bible is in Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. He uses the metaphor of a body to describe the community of the faithful. And I would argue that this theme–even when not always in the same language–is pervasive in the Jewish and Christian canons.

Each body part tends to think it’s the only one that matters and has a hard time seeing past its own ways of looking at and interacting with the world. Or, um, that’s the way the eyeball would say it. The eye wants everyone to think and act like an eye. The reality is that we’d look (damn, there’s that bias again) pretty ridiculous and be completely dysfunctional if we were all just eyeballs. Or ears. And even the lowly sphincter, toenail or intestinal villus is important–vital even.

I have rarely felt that folks fully comprehended the truth and profundity of either the passage or broader analogy or the depth and breadth of its proper application, let alone the extent to which most of our behavior belies it.

That we should fight against discrimination in all of its forms–gender, race, religion, culture, sexual orientation, disability, age, etc.–should go without saying. And yet it must be said.

Too many operate under the illusion, for instance, that we live in some kinda of “post-racial” society. However sincerely they might believe it and however much I wish they were right, I know that they are wrong. And the most telling rebuttal is the experience of racial minorities. One need look no further than the morning news to see bigotry rampant–in everyday life, in popular culture, in public policy.

Discrimination–including both extreme manifestations such as apartheid (which exist in essence in parts of this country), hate crimes, genocide, blatant economic and political oppression and lesser but still dangerous forms such as hiring, social and consumer biases and bigoted speech–is in itself an issue of justice and social responsibility. It is, in other words, a moral imperative.

So-called “affirmative action” policies may or may not be situationally effective and their inclusion in specific solutions would therefore be conditional. Deliberately, proactively–indeed, aggressively–attacking the problem is not. Action is necessary and it must be targeted and strategic. Simply ignoring the problem, thinking wishful thoughts against it or even rhetorically opposing it won’t make it go away.

As with any issue of this enormity and importance, action most be taken individually and collectively. The solution must be part of how we live but it must also be institutionalized both in corporate and governmental policy.

But my point extends beyond issues of discrimination, oppression, inequality of opportunity and disenfranchisement. Returning to the body metaphor, overcoming bigotry and xenophobia and practicing inclusion are acts of enlightened self-interest. We are stronger, smarter, more effective, more whole–indeed we can only be complete and we can only ever hope to overcome our challenges and achieve our potential–to the extent that we not only tolerate and respect, but seek out and embrace diversity.

The principle of diversity applies to religion. While we may in some sense be called a “Christian” nation, those who cling to that identity must acknowledge that “Christians” themselves fundamentally and broadly disagree about both core values and practice. More importantly, what has allowed this nation to survive and thrive is not an arbitrary “Christian” dogma but pluralism and an appropriate separation of Church and State.

Religious freedom does not mean–as some seem to think it does–that I have a right to impose my personal religious convictions on others–either to compel or restrict their behavior. As a person of faith–yea, as a person of passions and conviction–I cannot separate my beliefs and religious values from my public and political participation, but as a citizen, I must exercise and express those values in a way that respects the beliefs and values others.

To be clear, we are stronger as a nation in part because of our cultural, philosophical and religious heterogeneity.

The principle of diversity applies not only domestically but to our engagement internationally. Our foreign policy must fully respect not only the humanity but the cultural legitimacy of both our allies and those we label as “enemies.” Of course we shouldn’t embrace what is immoral or amoral, but we should be circumspect enough to recognize that many times these judgments are wholly subjective and that often it is our behavior and/or the behavior of our allies that is repugnant.

Being American doesn’t make us right. Being American doesn’t elevate us above or excuse us from accountability to the rest of humanity or to the court of nations.

Our foreign policy should be free of imperialism and it must not subordinate the rights and interests of other states. We should be cooperative participants in the international community and guardians of the ideals that unite, protect and advance all of our planet’s citizens.

Much of the greatness of our identity is that we are a nation of many peoples and that our cultural and intellectual inheritance is international, global and encompassing.

We are an immigrant nation. Indiscriminately locking down our borders or tolerating a subordinate, essentially slave class of disenfranchised laborers is inconsistent with our national achievements and the nobility of our ideals and aspirations; and it is a tragic waste of the costly lessons of our national history.

Our immigration policy must be merciful and rational and it must recognize the contributions of our undocumented residents and acknowledge and accept our responsibility to humanity beyond our circumscribed–geographically or otherwise–borders. The pathway to citizenship must be open and not unduly arduous. Our treatment of immigrants–documented or otherwise–has to respect their human rights and their basic human needs.

Again, a humane immigration policy is enlightened self-interest, appreciating and facilitating the continued infusion of vitality, innovation and productivity from our newest residents, workers and citizens.

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Money, like Time, strikes me as an over-rated, arbitrary, grossly erroneous, frequently disastrous quantification of things that quite often might otherwise be holy. Money–whether intrinsically or just practically doesn’t really matter–reduces “value” to a number and renders all things fungible.

I’m not altogether convinced that it’s ultimately helpful, though I acknowledge that it works after a fashion. I’m not at all convinced that it’s good, let alone necessary.

So, yaknow, just a warning, that’s the kind of guy you’re dealing with.

I don’t find myself particularly “entrepreneurial” and past a point I don’t find the mechanisms of capitalism especially motivational. Even where it works, it too often feels dirty. I don’t mean that to be offensive; that’s just how it feels to me. Maybe I’m doing something wrong.

I admit that I like stuff–indeed, I like my stuff–and I’m a bit of a consumer. At this point in my life, I’ve come to realize that I might have difficulty transitioning to a system without private property; I’m not proud of that but I readily confess that it’s true. Moreover I do well enough as a capitalist; maybe better than I deserve. That being said: though I tend to be a passionate guy, there’s little in the Free Market that gets me positively hot and bothered (and, yeah, there are many things elsewhere that do).

What’s more, I know plenty of folks who work exceptionally hard and are incredibly smart but the Free Market is not their friend. It’s no good telling me that they’re not the right kind of smart, because that’s my point exactly. Capitalism favors a few forms of intelligence and effort and is either indifferent or disrespectful toward most others. We take that for granted and make all sorts of rationalizations for it. But it’s not right. Even a man like Warren Buffet admits as much (I didn’t need Warren to point out the obvious though I appreciate that he did).

I don’t have to accept it and I won’t.

I’ve seen no evidence that persuades me that the Market on its own distributes wealth equitably or that a supposedly “freer” market would do better. By no means do I believe that people are paid what they’re worth or that we’ve any hope of achieving such a fantasy with laissez faire capitalism.

It probably goes without saying but just in case it’s not obvious: I think trickle-down economics is madness.

I should clarify that I know and respect several legitimate entrepreneurs. Many of them are among the finest folks I know. And to a great extent their character is proportional to their success. We need people like them and I’m thankful that they’re my friends. But frankly I feel that much of their talent is wasted in the convolutions of a pointless game.

I’m not an economist. It’s something I considered studying way back when I was just a lad, but I leaned another direction.

I’m not an economist but it seems to me that Capitalism is mostly broke. I’m not suggesting that it has no value or that we should completely abandon it. And even if we should, I’m not sure within what time frame or by what method we could.

I certainly don’t advocate Stalinist or Maoist communism. And, though some will surely disagree, I’m not a big fan of statism.

All that to say that the word “socialist” doesn’t bother me. Its usage does. It’s overused and misused with wild abandon by demagogues, ignorant mobs, parrots, xenophobes and alarmists. It’s overused especially by folks whose view of the world fits comfortably within a scarily narrow bandwidth. Which is not to say–I feel compelled to clarify–that one can’t or shouldn’t use the word or that one can’t be intelligent and do so. Hell, intelligent people misuse and overuse all of the time ;-p–and of course they also use rightly.

I’m not so much offended if you call me a socialist, because in my heart I might be closer to that than to any other easy economic label. I don’t so much like facile labels but I recognize their inevitability.

I am a little offended when you call Democrats who are clearly not socialists “socialists” (a grammatical note that I’m sure will be lost on most: I did not say “Democrats, who are not socialists,” even though I think most Democrats, particularly our president, are not) both because I think it completely misrepresents them and, as many have been forced to point out over the last four years (as a result of all of that overuse, donchaknow), because it’s a bit of an insult to the actual Socialists and a trivialization of socialism proper.

I don’t honestly know the solution for our economic woes or for the economic injustice endemic to, well, most every modern culture. I think we’re stuck with capitalism for the foreseeable future–at least for my lifetime (and I do see that it has its benefits, though I honestly feel little urge to enumerate them, given the ubiquity, loudness and persistence, on both sides of the aisle and in the media, of those who will do that for me). But at the very least I’m convinced that it needs to be well-regulated–far better than it is or has been.

Welfare capitalism is certainly not the worst we could do.

I’m quite comfortable sidestepping capitalism completely when necessary.

What I particularly don’t tolerate well is this notion that Capitalism is some godlike primary force to whom we owe obeisance and whose principles are inviolable.

My inclination is to say that the Market and the profit motive should be subordinate and subservient to everything of value. I think in fact that that’s what good men and women who call themselves capitalists do but then when it comes to policy they too often confuse the servant with its master. Values such as honesty and integrity, the pursuit of excellence, the desire to do good and make a difference in the world–these are all things, thank God, that I sometimes find working in the Free Market, but I don’t see that they are especially at home there. And, on the other hand, I see several less noble impulses that are.

We have a social responsibility. I am my brother’s keeper.

We need each other. We have a moral obligation to one another.

Government is one of the ways that we exercise that mutual responsibility.

I can agree that Government–in general and in each specific instance–is flawed, corrupt, inadequate, inefficient. But so is every other human institution or system–including any organization, business or corporation, including the Free Market itself, including the Church. I would argue that government–depending of course on the specific context–can be more effective, more representative, more just than any and all of these other institutions. Yes, sometimes it is less effective.

I don’t think that Government is the Answer or Savior. But I don’t think it’s the Enemy. At least it doesn’t have to be. We as a nation, acting through the agency of our government have accomplished a great many good and significant things. I think it both foolish and irresponsible to abandon that effort, least of all to suggest–as many on the Right have done–dismantling, crippling or inhibiting one of our most powerful means to the common good. Even our financial success can be largely attributed to the political environment that allowed it. We are great not in spite of government, but to a large degree because of it.

To be very clear, I do not believe (and see little evidence for and much to the contrary of) the assertion that the Private Sector or the “Free” Market is intrinsically able to overcome the challenges we face better than or without a larger framework of cooperation.

Each institution is subject to its own unique weaknesses and each has its own strengths. I don’t suggest subverting or eradicating any of them, but I am emphatically opposed to tendencies I see in our society to lean on Capitalism, Commerce, Privatization as the panacea for everything that ails us. That capitalism exploits the selfish urge is perhaps its genius, but that urge is also its great weakness and what profoundly limits and distorts it’s progress toward the good.

Perhaps just as importantly, each man or woman acting on his or her own is intrinsically inferior to our acting together.

Individualism is one of the most lethal and insidious cancerous lies infecting our contemporary culture, especially Conservatism and especially the Church.

That’s certainly not to deny the absolute requirement of individual responsibility or the vital necessity of protecting individual liberties. Indeed one of the things that I believe our particular form of government is relatively (v. Business, v. the Market, v. Church, v. anarchy) well-equipped to do is to secure the rights of individuals and minorities and to prevent a tyranny of the masses or a reduction of all its citizens to a bland anonymity.

It is imperative that we protect the variously vulnerable members of our society against oppression and reckless indifference or abuse that they might otherwise suffer whether by racial animus, individual prejudice, emotionalism, consumerism, greed, dogma, ignorance, etc.

Moreover anyone who lacks food, shelter, education, healthcare, justice, economic opportunity, access to culture, represents our moral failure as a species.

I’ve wrestled for a while with whether I should go all political here. I mean, yaknow, I could lose my one faithful reader.

In the end I decided that this is who I am.

What I don’t want is for this to degenerate into one of those idiotic flame wars. So I’m enabling comment approval. I’ll probably approve your comment even if it is stupid. If I don’t, I encourage you to write your own damned blog and post a link here.

The following started as a status update on Facebook. It’s too long. I’m posting something FB digestible there and on Twitter with a link to here. There are several references to occurrences on FB but nothing overly specific, and the gist easily stands alone. Here then:

So maybe I’ve been a little obnoxious lately. I’ll grant at the very least that I’ve been vocal.

I’m not going to issue a blanket apology, because that would be neither honest nor productive, but I readily admit that I’ve said a few things (or at least said some things in a way that) I regret. I do apologize for any time I have strayed from the truth or said something gratuitously hurtful.

“Gratuitously hurtful” sounds a little overqualified, but I’m of the opinion that change is a painful process and I hope to be a catalyst for change; as such, I kinda want to cause some pain. Think of me as that asshole trainer who you know really likes you even though he pushes you in ways that you don’t think he should. Yeah, that’s maybe a bit self-aggrandizing but it’s more a statement of aspiration than belief.

I care about politics. I was thinking about it yesterday as I was driving with my honey. Just at that moment I saw someone with a Dallas Cowboys bumper sticker and I thought of all of the excesses people go to for their favorite sports teams and all of the noise they make about those teams (sometimes even more about the ones they despise) . . . or cute little kitties . . . or TV shows . . . or mediocre pop music . . . or wornout sayings that used to be clever turned into shoddy looking graphics, etc. Anyway, I feel alright talking about politics.

A few folks I respect have recently confronted me about my partisan posts. While I might disagree with them about various particulars, I want them to know that I’m listening thoughtfully and praying. And for the most part I agree with their concerns–if not necessarily how they apply to me. ;-p Even in that I’m willing to admit that I might be wrong.

I vet the things that I post on my timeline (less so but to some degree still with things that I “like”) and I pretty much stand by them without qualification. If I make a mistake I think I’m willing to own it. In my defense I usually find that I have gone to some pains to say things precisely and that precision is completely ignored for a quick and sloppy misinterpretation. To my discredit, that’s just the way language works and I maybe need to get over it. I make a point of being honest and I try to be fair but I am unapologetic about being partisan. I’m not going to promise to stop or cut back, but I’m going to try to slow down a little.

A couple of recent remarks about “sound bites” have motivated me to do something I’d been thinking of for quite a while.

So much of our conversations about politics amount to talking past each other as we twist the facts to conform to our preconceptions. I admit that I’ve done that. Of course like everyone I like to think that my biases naturally flow from the facts.

Another thing we do is assume agreement over the values behind our political choices. While I like to believe that we’re ultimately all on the same team, I’m increasingly convinced that we’re not all on the same page or even in the same play book.

Here’s what I want to do. Instead of arguing over “Truth,” factoids, sound bites, lies, accusations and innuendo, I’d like to try to articulate as clearly as I can what motivates my peculiar political enthusiasms, loyalties and inclinations. Since this is more of an internal, reflective sort of thing, I’m mostly going to try to avoid proof-texting or citing statistics, editorials or news articles, etc. I believe that my values fit nicely with the facts, with the texts that I consider holy, with sound reasoning. But as I said, that’s everyone’s bias. And it’s far too easy to lose sight of one in the process of uncovering the other. I’d rather try to be clear about the motivating values and get to arguing over the “facts” or even establishing sources later.

As I said, this is something I’ve thought of doing for a long time. Part of what’s kept me back was a desire to be complete, accurate and compelling. Screw all that. I’m just gonna start doing this. I’ll ramble. I’ll miss some things. I’ll misrepresent myself.

I would love to have your help. There’s a kind of help I’d rather not have, but I’m having a hard time putting my finger on it. For the sake of this exercise, I’ll try to be blunt in letting you know when you do it. Someone is sure to.

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