Archive for the ‘Political Statements’ Category

The Freedom of the Press   Leave a comment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

–The First Amendment (ratified in 1791) to the Constitution of the United States

++++++++++++++++++++++++

It is frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write.

–Donald Trump, October 12, 2017

++++++++++++++++++++++++

Donald Trump, who puts the bully in bully pulpit, is frankly disgusting.  The First Amendment is a crown jewel in the crown of freedom.  Freedom of the press is an American as the First Amendment.  The fact that certain news stories are not flattering or politically helpful does not strip them of their status as protected speech under the freedom of the press.  If one does not approve of a certain story that is neither libelous nor slanderous, so be it; one should suck it up, so to speak.

Here I stand.  I can and will do no other.  The First Amendment matters that much to me.  It should matter that much to all Americans.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 12, 2017 COMMON ERA

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Advertisements

Those Who Oppose Free Speech Are On the Wrong Side of History.   Leave a comment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

–The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (Ratified in 1791)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

As I wrote in a recent post, freedoms–not even of speech–are absolute.  For example, I have no constitutionally protected right to commit slander or libel, much less to incite violence via my speech or any other form of expression.  Those exceptions leave much room for peaceful expression of protest, however.  Thank God for that!  I embrace the nonviolent expression of protest, whether by carrying a sign, kneeling, writing a letter to the editor, publishing a weblog post, or speaking in public, among other options.  My opinion of the content of that protest is irrelevant to my affirmation of the right to make it.  I therefore decry the condemnation of such protests.  After all, life together in a free society entails much mutual forbearance.

I affirm freedom, for I rejoice that those who disagree with me strongly have the right to make points that offend me.   They have that right for the same reason I have the right to make my points peaceably.  Enumerate me, O reader, among the partisans on the side of freedom of expression.  If I do not want to hear that free speech, I usually have that option; I can be somewhere else more often than not.  I do not, however, scream and shout.  Sometimes audiences are captive, due to policies such as mandatory attendance, however.  Whether one’s attendance is mandatory or voluntary, some form of non-disruptive protest is fine with me, regardless of the point of view thereof.

Those who oppose free speech are on the wrong side of history and of the First Amendment.

Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker (in office 1957-1963) exemplified the toleration of diverse perspectives.  He knew what he believed and made vigorous defenses of those positions.  He debated points of various policies with political adversaries, whom he acknowledged as being loyal Canadians.  Diefenbaker also gave his country its own version of the Bill of Rights–albeit by an act of Parliament.  That measure stood until 1982, when the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, not subject to repeal by Parliament, superseded it during the administration of Pierre Elliott Trudeau (in office 1968-1979, 1979-1984).

Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

  • (a) freedom of conscience and religion;

  • (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

  • (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and

  • (d) freedom of association.

–Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982)

The right to express oneself peaceably is sacred.  More people should affirm it unconditionally.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 26, 2017 COMMON ERA

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Protected Speech   1 comment

Or, Away with Jingoism

Nonviolent expression–especially protest–is a form of speech the Constitution of the United States protects.  I rejoice for that fact.  Yes, freedom of speech is finite; it does not apply to slander, libel, and any (private) attempt to incite violence, for example.  (On the other hand, during World War I, when the federal government was inciting violence as a policy, some pacifists and socialists went to prison for attempting to cite nonviolence.  That was an abuse of federal power.)  I grasp the reasonable limits–mainly public health and safety–on freedoms.  I may not drive legally on the wrong side of the road, for example.  Professional athletes kneeling during the national anthem do not transgress any constitutional lines, however.  Those who choose to engage in that form of protest are within their rights to do so and should face no penalties, regardless of what the President of the United States and the Secretary of the Treasury think.  Besides, the republic is strong enough to survive some athletes kneeling during the national anthem.  Furthermore, one should cease and desist from making nationalism an idol.

I stand, as a matter of high principle, on the proposition that life in a free society requires a plethora of mutual forbearance from all of us.  To recognize the freedom of those with whom we agree to protest, speak, or write is easy, but how eager are we to extend that license to those whose opinions offend us?  As I tell my students, the test of whether one affirms freedom is whether one extends it to those with whom one disagrees.  This test catches many people on both the left and the right; I stand in the middle and remain intellectually honest.  I note that many people (regardless of their policy positions on a host of issues) who identify themselves as champions of freedom seem quite eager to deny the freedom of peaceful expression to those with whom they disagree, or at least to advocate penalties for that peaceful free speech.  This is rank hypocrisy.  Anyone who does so is therefore, by definition, a hypocrite.  I refuse to make any statement to the contrary.

Here I stand.  I can do no other.  I will do no other.  Besides, dissent is frequently among the highest forms of patriotism.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 24, 2017 COMMON ERA

Deplorables   1 comment

Then [Jesus] called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand:  it not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.”

–Matthew 15:10-11, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

+++++++++++++++++++++++

If Jesus were speaking today, he would include websites and social media in that statement.

I used to be a news junkie.  In the middle and late 1980s, I could recognize the names of most of the United States Senators.  In 2015 and 2016, however, I began to choose being sane over being thoroughly informed.  I also decided to tend to my spiritual life more; certain public figures were bad for it, increasing exponentially my use of profanities (in private, under my breath, of course).  I did not grow up using that kind of language routinely.

I have been monitoring the news during the last few days and becoming more horrified with each passing day.  The news stories from Charlottesville, Virginia, and now from Spain have not ceased to develop, but I have collected enough information to make a few informed and moral statements.

Racism is a sin, one that I learned by societal osmosis.  Fortunately, my parents raised me well, to reject racism.

Whenever the sin of racism raises its ugly head in my thoughts (which is to say, often), I reject it and take it to God in confessional mode.  I make no excuses for racism in myself or anyone else.  Related to that ethic, I reject all biases directed at people–on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, national origin, ethnicity, gender, et cetera.  Each of us bears the image of God, and therefore carries inherent dignity.  This is a morally consistent position, regardless of the mixed political labels attached to it.

Furthermore, I condemn almost all violence, for most of it is unnecessary and morally wrong.  I do understand defense of oneself and others, however.  Human nature is flawed and the world is imperfect, after all.  Certainly I condemn the violence of the racist thugs at Charlottesville last Saturday and the terrorists in Spain yesterday.  I do so without any hesitation and backtracking.  The political causes differ, but the problem of violent radicalization is the same.  The reality of the killing and injuring of innocent people is also consistent, as is the use of vehicles as deadly weapons.

Contrary to the unscripted words of the increasingly politically isolated inhabitant of the White House, he who has professed to care about getting facts straight then who, in the wake of the attacks in Spain, has tweeted a lie about General John J. Pershing killing Muslims with bullets dipped in the blood of pigs, there was no moral equivalence between Klansmen and neo-Nazis on one side and anti-racist protesters on the other.  One of the chants of the violent racists at Charlottesville was

The Jews will not replace us.

How could there, in Trump’s words, have been

very fine people

on both sides?  This week Trump seems to have prompted many prominent Republicans in Congress to do what I had thought impossible:  grow spines.  True, based on news reports, the Vice President, based on his public comments, seems to remain an invertebrate, but the list of prominent Republican vertebrates grows longer with each passing day.

I propose a simple test for one’s denunciations of neo-Nazis and Klansmen, the sort of people who chant

The Jews will not replace us.

The condemnation must be unequivocal and focused.  Klansmen and neo-Nazis must hear it and find in it no reason to agree with any of it or take comfort in it.  None of this describes Trump’s unscripted remarks, the ones that preceded his scripted remarks, the ones he retracted.

Trump could have averted this Charlottesville-related political firestorm easily.  All he had to do was make an unequivocal statement condemning Klansmen, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacists as well as their violence then be consistent.  But he did not do that.  He has also blamed others for the mess he made for himself.  Trump has also been more eager to condemn journalists (calling them enemies) and CEOs with social consciences (accusing them of grandstanding) than Klansmen and neo-Nazis.

Everything is wrong with this picture.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/08/18/deplorables/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

In Praise of Mere Decency   2 comments

Human depravity is not an article of faith for me.  No, it is a documented and proven reality.  Faith comes into play in the absence of confirmation or contradiction by standard means of human knowledge.  For evidence of human depravity one need to look no further than the comments sections of many websites.  Between those who post incendiary and insulting material for the purpose of stirring the pot, so to speak, and those who mean it I find many reasons for grave concern about human nature.

In contrast I praise mere decency.  One should do x because it is the morally correct course of action, not because one seeks a reward for it.  I praise the simple act of striving to live according to the Golden Rule, regardless of one’s situation and station in life.  The operative status is that of a human being with a pulse.  I extol the virtues of mere decency, regardless of whether one is a neighbor, a teacher, a student, an employee, a coworker, a boss, a private citizen, or a potentate.  I praise decency wherever it is present.  I condemn the absence of decency wherever that is a reality.  This is a matter of principle for me, as I seek, by grace, to be more decent than I am.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 2, 2017 COMMON ERA

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/08/18/in-praise-of-mere-decency/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

Regarding Voting and Futility   Leave a comment

Above:  Flag of the State of Georgia, Modeled after the Confederate First National Flag, Banner of a Treasonous Cause, Whose Cornerstone was Chattel Slavery, Allegedly Commanded by God

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Of Political Futility and the Right to Complain

I seek to be an informed voter.  I seek out information about candidates and their policy positions.  I also study a sample ballot days before I vote.  If I can find audio or video of a debate, I pay attention.  Some of the time all the candidates disappoint me, as in the case of the races for the Board of Education in Laurens County, Georgia, in 2004.  I recall that none of the candidates, based on how they constructed sentences and conjugated verbs, sounded properly educated.

I take the responsibility of voting seriously.  Yet I do not harbor any delusion that my vote matters most of the time.  The reality of politics in Georgia (statewide and in the case of the Congressional district in which I reside) means that my vote is irrelevant most of the time.  The gerrymandering of Athens-Clarke County means that my votes for candidates for the state Senate and House of Representatives mean nothing.  (Aside:  I oppose gerrymandering at all times and places; the practice depresses voting and discourages political moderation and legislative bipartisanship.)  With regard to presidential elections, the combination of the Electoral College and the reality of politics in Georgia means that I might as well not vote for a slate of electors, although I do.  My vote, I know, is futile.  My vote is usually meaningless when there is a political contest.  Much of the time, however, candidates run unopposed.  Nobody’s vote matters then.

Writing and calling my elected representatives in Washington, D.C., is likewise futile.  I know this from experience; a brick wall would be more responsive than the staffers who write the non-responses I receive.  I recall receiving only one genuine response from Congressional staffers as long as I have been writing and calling Senators and Congressman.  I remember that, some years ago, I contacted an office of Senator Zell Miller and wrote that his position on a major national issue was contrary to the ethics of Jesus of Nazareth.  I also recall that a staffer called me at home and asked if I wanted to add to my statement; I did not, I remember.  I do, however, give credit where it is due; such a call is not a canned non-response.

I continue to vote.  For now, at least, it gives me the right to complain legitimately, if nothing else.

I favor a vigorous republic (which is what we have, not a democracy; read the Constitution of the United States) with an engaged, well-informed populace, the end of nakedly partisan efforts to suppress voting, the dedication to recognizing objective reality, and the reality of real political contests as the rule.  That sentence, alas, does not describe political reality in the United States of America in 2017.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 2, 2017 COMMON ERA

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Unfortunate Triumph of Ignorance and Emotionalism   Leave a comment

Above:  The Beginning of the Declaration of Independence 

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Or, Why We Should Not Fail to Recognize the Text of the Declaration of Independence, Especially on July 4

In 1988 National Public Radio (NPR) began its annual tradition of reading the Declaration of Independence on the air on the morning of each July 4.  For years I, as a student of American history, have anticipated the orchestra of voices, each speaker reading a segment of the complete text of that great document.  This year NPR tweeted the full text of the Declaration of Independence in 113 tweets, giving rise to an unfortunate Twitter storm.  There were bitter complaints that NPR was, among other offenses, calling for the violent overthrow of the federal government and daring to (gasp!) criticize Donald Trump, as if criticizing those in authority is unpatriotic and un-American.  (Tsk:  Dissenters founded this country.)  Many angry Twitter uses had to eat crow the following day.

 A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

–From the Declaration of Independence

This incident leads me to some troubling thoughts.  It confirms me in my low opinion of human nature (trust in the faithfulness of God, as Martin Luther said) and illustrates the fact that one negative use of social media is to expose the degree to which one is an overly emotional and poorly informed person.  People out themselves voluntarily and unwittingly as individuals who should study more deeply, or at all.  I recall hearing that my grandfather Taylor, who died in 1976,  said that it was better to have a reputation as a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.  If social media had existed in his time, I am certain, he would have added clauses about posting and sharing.  All of us who are or have been on social media are guilty of some unfortunate acts of posting, sharing, and/or liking, especially with regard to factually inaccurate posts.  I am.  I am also a former used of social media.  It is something best avoided, except for official purposes, at least in my case; I might permit it to take up too much of my time otherwise.

…whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

–From the Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence is a document of which many Americans have superficial knowledge at best.  Many (including some of my students) conflate it with the Constitution, which, of course, a few years younger.  So if one is already worked up emotionally and coming from a certain defensive political perspective while reading a disembodied criticism of George III (Parliament, actually, British Parliamentary supremacy dates to the Glorious Revolution of 1688), one might interpret it as a criticism of Donald Trump or a call for the overthrow of the government.  (George III, by the way, was a loving husband and a kind father-in-law.)  My knowledge of the document is greater than that of such poorly informed Twitter users, for I teach the document not quite line-by-line in U.S. History I survey courses.  The Declaration of Independence is a foundational document, one that schools should teach well and that inquisitiveness should compel one to explore on one’s own.  I do not blame schools and teachers completely though, for, although I teach the document thoroughly, some of my students still manage to confuse it for the Constitution and Thomas Jefferson for James Madison, the Father of the Constitution.  At some point students are responsible for their own ignorance.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

–From the Declaration of Independence

By the way, is not July 4 a wonderful day to read the full text of the Declaration of Independence?  When one thinks about how much many of the signers of the document sacrificed for idealism and country, one should stand in awe of them.

If NPR retweets the Declaration of Independence again next July 4, it will probably meet with a similar reception, unfortunately.  Ignorance and emotionalism seem never to die.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2017 COMMON ERA