Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Comment on My Last Post that Became Too Long So Now It Is a Post of its Own

That is a very ugly title, but it is the truth, so here goes.

I really didn't mean for the last post to deteriorate into a political diatribe with some ugly-ish comments. Satire, people. Satire. No, I did NOT say George Bush was pure evil, nor have I actually heard anybody say that for real, on television or otherwise. I really meant the post to be a nod to our Dear Leader and a "Go Olympics!" happy good feeling.

So, with the attitude of explaining myself and with no thought that I'll be able to keep the lid on the can of worms, here goes . . .

I think I'm to the point where "trust" when it comes to politicians is not always a very helpful designation. Even some of our "greatest" politicians have not necessarily been trustworthy. I'm not trying to say that character doesn't matter at all, and I have said all along that I believed George Bush to be a pretty nice guy, a basically moral guy, but I don't think that qualifies him to be the leader of the free world. I think President Bush has shown a shocking lack of judgment when it comes to whom HE trusts. I think that he has surrounded himself with people who have their own agendas for whatever reason. Anecdotes from really intense investigative reporting (NOT pundits on TV, Brandon) illustrate that key people in his first administration were looking for any excuse to get embroiled in Iraq. Men who preyed on American emotions after 9/11 as a means to . . . I don't know, profit? It can't really be said that they meant to secure us. If they had, wouldn't there have been a long term plan in place? But there NEVER was.

I know it is popular right now for ex-administration people to profit from selling expose pieces from their time on the inside, as is pretty typical after a president has been in office some time. It can even be argued that to do so is rather cowardly--a bit like kicking somebody when they are already down. But does anybody else find it disturbing that there are so many of these? And that what they reveal is so shocking?

The system of checks and balances was put into place to prevent any one branch of government from becoming more powerful than the others. By declaring a state of war, the current administration has circumvented a lot of laws put into place by Congress and upheld by the Supreme Court to make sure that power was not concentrated or abused. Now, if there are irregularities, it is always chalked up to war time or sensitive matters. I absolutely agree that the public cannot know everything that goes on--there is a lot of sensitive information. But I don't think doctoring EPA reports on the state of climate change with recommendations for reducing greenhouse gasses is the equivalent of a national security issue. That is all about getting elected in the mid west where they build cars and grow corn.

I think the Bush administration squandered its best opportunities--to fight a successful war in Afghanistan; to build on the worldwide sympathy the world felt for the US in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and build strong diplomatic coalitions; to improve border security and work on Bush's moderate immigration policy; to use their initial Republican majority to pass laws regarding market (partial) solutions to carbon emissions and health care; used government contracts to invest in nuclear power instead of government contracts to pump billions of dollars overseas where there is no oversight; to maintain tax levels, or at least keep some in place, to keep reducing the deficit and to fund the Afghan war; to ensure that the No Child Left Behind legislation was actually good legislation . . . In short, the vast majority of Republicans in this country in the early part of this century could have gotten behind Bush's pledged inaugural promise of "compassionate conservatism." None of the things I've said here are incompatible with Republican goals or ideals. And they would have all been very good for America.

Instead, they wanted their cake and to eat it to. Republicans slashed taxes for the wealthiest Americans, with major tax breaks to banks and oil companies to name a few, while simultaneously running our country's economy into the tank with the most expensive war ever fought. Yes, people need to take responsibility, and yes, people need to be smarter, but when the public is given the message over and over again that the government can spend as much as it wants with no consequences, then why should it be any different for the people? When people are told that to spend more money and to start more wars makes you a better patriot, how can such a government be following righteous principles regardless of their stance on marriage and abortion? When Bush said to the world "if you are not with us you are against us," he effectively said to every American: if you don't sign off on MY policy, then you are no better than a terrorist. When was this attitude ever a part of the democratic process?

I don't think people are really voting for Barack Obama (Slick's point about politicians not to be trusted is very valid), I think they are voting for anything different. John McCain's nomination proves that. So what has he done with the people's trust? He has retreated from every smart, centrist opinion he's carried over the last decade to kowtow to a group of people who are, I'm sorry to say, in the minority.

There are two issues, TWO, that largely determine how evangelical Christians vote: abortion and gay marriage. Well, heck yeah, I feel strongly about these two issues too, but I don't feel strongly enough to abandon every other thing that matters also. History is replete with examples of governments trying to legislate morality. As noble as it may be, it NEVER works. And, lets be honest, laws against abortion, amendments about defining marriage, these things will not stop people from killing the innocent. These things will not stop people from engaging in homosexual acts and fornication.

Now you can say whatever you want. And I'll try really hard to listen and learn.


Kimberly Bluestocking said...

Forgive the length of this comment - you gave me a lot to think about.

My take on George Bush is pretty similar to yours. I think he's a decent guy who wants to do what he believes is right, but I also think he shows a frightening lack of judgment, especially for someone in a position of such authority. His stark "us vs. them" approach to practically everything (whether "them" is Iran or some centrist attorney looking for a job) really troubles me.

I don't think support for Obama is entirely a knee-jerk reaction to the current administration, but I do believe that's a major factor behind his popularity. After years of disappointment, divisiveness, and cronyism, there's something inspiring about a candidate who preaches idealism and unity, who invites us to live up to our nation's legacy, not down to it. We want to believe.

That said, the moral issues you mentioned are a big hurdle for me. We'll eventually recover from bad economic policy, and even bad foreign policy, but when a country takes a step backward morally that's very difficult to correct (consider Roe vs. Wade).

And while it's true that you cannot entirely legislate morality, laws do impact people's perceptions and hence their actions. Think about polygamy. In the 1800s Mormon men and women endured huge opposition as they boldly championed polygamy as a sacred law of God, but now that it has been illegal for a century we tend to refer to it as some kooky phase we went through, with relief in our voices that it's over. A federal law that forbade preaching or practicing of that principle eventually made it easy to adopt popular opinion that it was negative instead of positive.

Similarly, if the CA Marriage Amendment doesn't pass in November, CA schools will be forced to teach that a homosexual marriage is just as valid as a heterosexual one. If kids aren't taught otherwise at home, how can that not impact their beliefs and later their actions?

Furthermore, even if laws don't automatically ensure moral living, they do make a powerful statement about what we believe as a society. Murder laws don't prevent many people from killing, but they do demonstrate that our society does not tolerate murder and will take action to oppose it. By contrast, the fact that America tolerates the killing of over a million fetuses each year is far more horrifying to me than a pointless war or a misguided administration.

Sigh . . . I still don't know who I'll vote for in November. There are so, so, so many things I like about Obama. Yet, when he opposes a handful of things that I feel are most vital for our country, those few little issues may trump everything else.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

As I've re-read my last paragraph I think I may have gone a little farther left than intended, particularly in light of the recent letter read over the pulpit about giving our means and time to support the fight against the legalization of same-sex marriage. Unfortunately, I think that our society's move toward legalization was inevitable when every state government in the country chose to recognize live-ins as defacto married partners beginning in the 80's. At least we are talking about a population of people who WANT to be married and value it is a path to a certain amount of stability.

Fighting an unjust war, to me, is just as big of a moral slippery slope as abortion, particularly where there are dozens of places worldwide where we could have chosen to sink in the quagmire of regime change; it was done in Iraq because of the "overriding national interest." (read:oil) My personal feeling is that the million fetuses (where does this number come from?) weighs pretty equally against thousands of "collateral damage" civilians, including women and children, in war torn countries. It shouldn't have to be an either or. They are just both wrong.

And if the government won't allow sex education programs, only abstinence education, then the abortions and numbers of people getting STD's, especially teenagers, will continue to rise. (Schools won't have to teach homosexuality, any more than they teach marriage now. In fact, teachers are almost always in trouble if they ever talk specifics about sexuality in any way, other than to talk about human anatomy and childbirth.)

As far as voting goes . . . if you really look at the record, McCain and Obama aren't a lot different on these two issues. Obama has very carefully not said anything, even indicating in a few places that the moral majority might be better to go with on the gay marriage issue, and he supports state laws regulating abortion, if not abolishing it. McCain has basically done the same.

And when I think of government regulation of essentially moral issues, I tend to think more about Prohibition. There is probably no law ever passed in this country that gave the mafia as great a foothold as prohibition. Oh, except the laws against drug use. Though I agree that sometimes a country has to pass a law to make a statement.

Hm . . . what to do? Does the government continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars attempting to pass and police moral laws (not to mention the lawsuits that always follow), or do they route the money into avenues that people CAN agree on?

Scully said...

Can I just say AMEN! I hate that abortion and gay marriage are completely hijacking any political discourse in this country? There are quite a few issues that are much more urgent and much more necessary to this nation's survival but are receiving short shrift because of so-called 'litmus tests.'

Kimberly Bluestocking said...

Scully makes a good point - while I think moral issues are important, I'm sure there are lots of conservative politicians who just rely on them to drum up votes instead of addressing a lot of other important issues.

Kimberly Bluestocking said...

P.S. The "million fetuses" figure came from a website I looked up. I've heard similar numbers elsewhere.

Slyck and Slim said...

I'm having to use my brain too much on this one. I just want everyone to hold hands and smile and be nice. I'm either a utopian or a hippie. :)

Courtney said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yankee Girl said...

The part that I find so disheartening is what could have been accomplished had Bush surrounded himself with better men and women.

Yankee Girl said...

Oh and just for the record, I do think Bush is smart and articulate and religiously moral and have defended him on those points to lots and lots of people.

Dickey said...

I have been missing all the excitement...All I can think of at the moment is that my mom has Bush toilet paper in her bathroom.

Sterling Petersen said...

I've lost a lot of sleep this week keeping my opinion to myself for fear of offending dear family members. But in the interest of my health and keeping my job, I've convinced myself that our relationship is strong enough and you are mature enough to take it. So here's my contribution to the 'can of worms'.

ScienceTeacherMommy said:
“Fighting an unjust war, to me, is just as big of a moral slippery slope as abortion, particularly where there are dozens of places worldwide where we could have chosen to sink in the quagmire of regime change; it was done in Iraq because of the "overriding national interest." (read:oil)”

Your above statement is disgusting to me. If you’ve ever read the Iraq War Resolution, I encourage you to review it. If you haven’t, I don’t know how you can make such a horrible accusation against your patria without being more informed? This document I refer to is what President Bush sent to Congress to secure the people’s support for the Iraq war. Congress voted with a large majority to give the President the people’s support for the war based on this document. It lists twenty-something reasons to justify the war. Not a single one of them mentions oil or profit, directly or indirectly. Every justification listed – every single one of them – is as valid today as it was in the fall of 2002. For an American to accuse the country of starting this war for oil or profit she would have to either be ignorant of the document or intentionally ignore it. To simply ignore these legitimate, documented, provable justifications for the war in favor of a false, un-provable, conspiracy theory about oil is unfair. If there were any proof that the Iraq war was started for oil it would be a fair criticism. (Anecdotal evidence as a result of intense investigation is still way short of proof). To argue that the justifications listed in the Resolution, though true, don’t justify the war would be fair and patriotic. But to ignore them in place of such a horrible, ugly accusation is unfair to the great country that is the United States of America. It’s unfair to the people and Her Representatives who voted for the war with sincere, good intentions. It’s unfair to the thirty-something other countries who supported and helped us in the Iraq war. It’s unfair to the brave soldiers who gave their lives or limbs in bravery thinking that they were fighting for noble causes, having witnessed firsthand the blessings of those causes. Blessings like the Iraqis’ freedom from Saddam Hussein’s oppression, tyranny, murder, torture, terror, and genocide. Blessings like religious freedom, security, democracy. And the blessing of the American people’s security in knowing that the Iraq war was drawing thousands of radical Jihadists to fight us there, thus keeping them from attacking us or our allies at home. Include if you want, the collateral blessing of securing that 5% of the world's oil reserves remains available to the fungible world market. I have no problem with fair and honest dissent about America’s involvement in the Iraq war. But to dismiss Her valiant and noble intentions altogether in place of such a simplistic, baseless accusation as starting a war for oil is deeply offensive to me as an American.

Drawing moral equivalence between abortion or gay marriage and the Iraq war is a slippery slope indeed. If “thousands in collateral damage” make a war immoral, than wouldn’t every war be immoral? Isn’t every war immoral anyway, by nature? Yet it would be easy to justify the morality of many wars, in spite of all of war’s evil and ugliness, by remembering what was fought for and gained; or what would have been lost through passivity and appeasement. Would it have been more moral to let the Iraqi people continue to suffer and die under Saddam instead of having an opportunity at freedom? Would it have been more moral to allow Hitler to complete his objectives? Would it have been more moral to allow the South to secede and continue the practice of slavery? Was the Revolutionary war necessary in order to fertilize the Restoration? What about the wars waged by God’s peoples of the Book of Mormon times against their enemies by just men, even Prophets,including preemptive strikes?

I’m not one of those who thinks the Lord cares whether we are Republican or Democrat. It seems wrong to try to align the principles of the Gospel with one party or the other. But I also can’t help but notice that the key issues of today’s politics are becoming more and more moral issues. And I can’t brush aside the fact that Senator Obama disagrees with the Church on these issues, and not passively. He actively seeks to protect abortion rights for any and all reasons, including not having his daughters or any other woman “be punished with a baby” if they make a mistake. Including allowing aborted fetuses who are accidentally born alive and viable to be terminated in order to protect the rights of the mother who didn’t want the baby. He voted in favor of these rights for women as a state senator and he stood by his vote in his book “The Audacity of Hope”. He would appoint judges who would help him insure those rights for women. He actively opposes a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage. And I can’t help but notice; the Church has an official policy against abortion, an official policy against gay marriage, and a statement from the pulpit by President Hinckley expressing his personal support for the Iraq war.

Please accept this as my ignorant opinion that is in no way meant to be personal towards you or anyone else; just my two cents worth of the discussion.

With sincere love and respect for you,

Plantboy’s brother

P.S. When you listed the beneficiaries of Bush's tax cuts, you forgot to include your own family. As a mother of three, you receive a $1500 per child tax credit and a $1000 per child tax rebate as part of these tax cuts. In truth, the Bush tax cuts were across the board; every family with a tax liability had their tax rate reduced and even families with no tax liability received credits and rebates that could result in receiving a bigger refund than was actually paid in.

P.S.S. You guys did an awesome job with the Reunion. Thanks again for all you hard work and hassle. We had a great time and made great memories; the highlight of our year, really.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

Wow. Sterling. Thanks for your thoughts. Well thought-out and sincere. I agree with you on several points. I'll just share a few thoughts here. (Hopefully a few, but you know how I love to talk.) I thought your description of Saddam Hussein's regime was very accurate. What it hard for me to understand is why a war in Iraq, specifically? Particularly when we were already fighting a difficult (and justifiable) war in Afghanistan? The Iraq war is one of the few cases in American history where Americans have been the agressors in putting together the coalition and invading. And part of that resolution HAS fallen apart--the case for nuclear weapons was based on false intelligence. Heck, Colin Powell left the administration over it. The resolution also linked Iraq with terrorist activity, with the clear implication to the American people that Al Queda was operating there. They weren't. Al Queda is religious; Saddam Hussein was the worst Muslim on the block and didn't pretend otherwise. He didn't condemn their actions of 9/11, certainly, but he had nothing to do with the planning of it.

I remember feeling really uneasy about the war in the days leading up to the big congressional vote. Then President Bush stood on national television and told his countrymen that Iraq was close to nuclear capability. I turned to Plantboy and said, "Okay, I'm sold." That one issue for me did it. I know a lot of people who feel that way. But within months of Bush's shocking and ill-advised "mission accomplished" speech, it was clear that the hinge argument for many Americans--the purchase of yellow cake in Africa--was false intelligence which skipped the established vetting process and went straight to Dick Cheney's office where it was then sent to the president.

Because of this disaster, there is now a country who may be a legitimate threat to OUR national security--Iran--but America has lost its credibility for building international coalitions and gathering good intelligence. Now our resources may be spread too thin to deal appropriately with a threat there.

I think that any responsible government, before asking its sons and daughters to give their lives for a cause, needs to clearly lay out some things: yes, reasons for going to war. But also, what is the end goal? What are you working for before you come home? Is your enemy clear? What about your allies? How will the war be paid for so that our soldiers have all the resources they need? (We enjoy by far the lowest tax rates right now of ANY American war time society ever.) What is the reconstruction plan so that we are not re-fighting this war a generation from now? (i.e WWI and WWII) If the war is long, is there a plan to prevent soldiers from serving multiple, consecutive tours of duty? And when they come home, what will be done to provide for the mental and physcial health issues that are so prevalent in this promising generation of young people? No, I do not in any way dishonor their sacrifice; it seems that the people who best survive their war-time experience are those who feel, personally, that their sacrifice was worth it. I hope they all do.

No, Sterling, I am not against fighting wars, but just like in the later chapters of Alma, if our country is rotting from the inside out (and I don't just mean the government), then how can we possibly expect to defend our borders? Remember back in the 80's when we prayed all the time at church, at home, personal prayers, etc. that the countries of the world without the gospel would recieve it, that the leaders would soften their hearts and allow the gospel to be preached? By the mid-90's, all of the former Soviet bloc countries had missionaries. What happened to those prayers? I hear people pray occasionally for the troops, and I think that is wonderful, but how often do we hear people pray for the terrorists? For the disillusioned kids joining terrorist cells to find identity and worth? For boys and girls too poor to attend a school where they might learn about agency and make real choices? For the gospel to be preached in the Middle East? In China? Iran? North Korea? There was such a feeling in this country in the days following 9/11: the solidarity borne of a country in mouring and at prayer for the first time in decades. As soon as talk of war was whispered and circulated, the feeling evaporated in a cloud of argument and revenge. In the 1976 June Ensign, in the middle of several articles devoted to the founding of our country, President Kimball chose to write his message about idolatry. He wrote, "In spite of our delight in defining ourselves as modern, and our tendency to think we possess a sophistication that no people in the past ever had—in spite of these things, we are, on the whole, an idolatrous people—a condition most repugnant to the Lord.

"We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel—ships, planes, missiles, fortifications—and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become antienemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching:

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:44–45.)

We forget that if we are righteous the Lord will either not suffer our enemies to come upon us—and this is the special promise to the inhabitants of the land of the Americas (see 2 Ne. 1:7)—or he will fight our battles for us (Ex. 14:14; D&C 98:37, to name only two references of many). This he is able to do, for as he said at the time of his betrayal, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53.) We can imagine what fearsome soldiers they would be. King Jehoshaphat and his people were delivered by such a troop (see 2 Chr. 20), and when Elisha’s life was threatened, he comforted his servant by saying, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (2 Kgs. 6:16). The Lord then opened the eyes of the servant, “And he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” (2 Kgs. 6:17.)

"What are we to fear when the Lord is with us? Can we not take the Lord at his word and exercise a particle of faith in him?"

But the real lesson in all of this is for me. As I re-read this incredible talk by President Kimball, he minces no words as he talks about the evils of homosexuality, fornication, murder and "all that is like unto it." To compare war to abortion in which one is relatively better, morally, is really the wrong exercise entirely. Better, then, to ask, how can I help make a world in which neither or these conditions is a fact? For all of the talk, talk, talk here, the reality is that I can only change myself if my heart is in the wrong place.

What is your wife's blog address again: I lost it when I changed over all my pictures, etc. a few months ago.

And, yes, the reunion was fun. I'm so glad to hear that it was a yearly highlight. I'm starting to feel like you guys--the more kids you get, the harder and harder it is to get to go anywhere. Every day away is a great blessing.