Governor Walker’s budget has everyone up in arms. Some in applauding in support and others in teeth gnashing disdain. The jury, or legislator, is still out so people generally need to take a breath and contact their legislators about the specific issues. One of the issues struck home and I am deeply concerned Wisconsin citizens are unaware of how incredibly pernicious it is. Removing the Voucher Cap.
Giving students and parents the freedom to find the best education seems great. Generally I agree and support parent’s right to choose the best education for their kids. The problem comes when vouchers comprised of state money go to Christian schools. This loophole circumventing separation of church and state would be bad enough but having attended a church school from 4th to 10th grade education gave me uncomfortable insight.
I attended an Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) school in the northern part of the state. By in large I have fond memories of my time there, but it left me woefully unprepared for the real world. Both socially and educationally. ACE is a Biblically based education system where “Students are taught to see life from God’s point of view.” On its face this seems good or at least benign, but this is a fundamentalist Biblical view.
Science: When I transferred to a public school my junior year I was pathetically educated in actual science. ACE denies evolution, solar fusion, and litany of other well established scientific facts. Instead it teaches Young Earth Creationism (YEC). While I could stomach Intelligent Design, YEC is idiotically contradictory to everything we know about the natural world. It also sorely misrepresents the 2nd law of thermodynamics to prop up the YEC world view.
History: ACE spends an enormous amount of time on Biblical history. Most scholars admit the Bible, while an incredible document, is far from a reliable source regarding the history of the region. Students are taught the Biblical accounts of the people groups of the region are fact. Meaning students learned the Great Flood, Plagues of Egypt, and wandering of the Hebrews among many other myths were absolute fact. The crusades are also painted in glowing colors and all other world religions and people groups are demeaned if even mentioned. It also heartily foists the idea America is a Christian nation, when in reality the fore fathers intentionally created a secular government having just defeated a largely theocratic one.
Social Development: ACE is incredibly harmful in preparing young people to move and live in this world. Dating, dancing, secular music, etc were directly against the rules. Students at my school had to sign a contract stating they would not engage in any of these on threat of expulsion. A child can be expelled for listening to Taylor swift. Needless to say it leaves kids unable to relate to their contemporaries. There’s even a “six-inch-rule” stating members of the opposite gender can not come closer than six inches to each other. Not to say no one breaks the rules, but when hugging feels dirty, you can bet there will be some residual damage.
All other religions and cultures are demonized, literally. ACE pushed misogyny, homophobia, and racism both in curriculum and interaction. All students are prepared to be missionaries or pastors with little attention to other occupations. Misogyny is backed up with both comics in the work packets and scripture scattered throughout. Same goes with homophobia, including this passage in one of the work books:
“Some people mistakenly believe that an individual is born a homosexual and his attraction to those of the same sex is normal. Because extensive tests have shown that there is no biological difference between homosexuals and others, these tests seem to prove that homosexuality is a learned behaviour. The Bible teaches that homosexuality is sin. In Old Testament times, God commanded that homosexuals be put to death. Since God never commanded death for normal or acceptable actions, it is as unreasonable to say that homosexuality is normal as it is to say that murder or stealing is normal.” Science 1107, p. 10.
As to racism, ACE loosely states Apartheid wasn’t entirely bad for the blacks of South Africa.They also portray three segregated church schools comprised of white, black, and Asians in the comics throughout the work books. As of 1998 they cleaned up their act a little, but a hint of racism in a curriculum should send up red flags no matter you religion.
Time spent on actual education: Every morning students must say the pledge of allegiance to the American flag, the Christian flag, and the Bible. Then a scripture reading. Then a Pastor lead devotion during which all students must take notes. Finally students can get to the “education” portion of the day. We spent large amount of time memorizing scripture. I have a plaque stating I memorized the entire Book of John. At my school the students also did the janitorial work at the end of the day.
Not everything was bad. Students learn to be well groomed adhering to a strict dress code. They are trained to be sociable leaders comfortable with public speaking and singing. Due to the smaller class sizes not much gets missed and students are pushed into plays, sports, and choirs they may have otherwise opted out.
I support the rights of people to believe what they like and teach their children in kind, but not a single red cent of state or federal tax money should go to these schools. Not to mention these schools are part of a tax exempt church. Please contact your legislators and demand vouchers do not cross into the coffers of fundamentalists. This is a very slippery slope and bad science, homophobia, misogyny, racism, and intolerance should never ever be state funded.
Drive fast. Take chances. Thanks for reading.
This is a cursory glance on the issue. If you want to fact check or read up on anything here please go to: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/leavingfundamentalism/accelerated-christian-education/ and http://www.aceministries.com/
Stop comparing our time to “1984”. Every time someone says drones, Google, Facebook, NSA, Amazon, so on stop saying “Big Brother is watching us.” Every time you hear about AT&T and Verizon letting our numbers out stop claiming totalitarian state. Our world is not even a shadow of the horrors conjured from the Orwellian imagination.
Telescreen VS Television
In 1984 the telescreen is in every citizen’s room with optionless consent. It blasts only what the dictatorial government wants, typically cover-up propaganda droning on about the grace, wisdom, and victories of the party. It watches every citizen not allowing a corner to dress in private. Every morning the telescreen forces the prole out of bed to exercise. It constantly reminds people Big Brother is watching lest they even consider stepping out of line. Conversely, TV’s are in our homes by ready and eager purchase. We strive to have large sound systems and huge screens. Our smart TV’s have cameras, however we are more than welcome to permanently cover them. Even if we don’t, we have more to fear from citizen hackers and con artists than the government. We choose our variety of propaganda. MSNBC or FOX. PBS or MTV. We choose what we want to influence our world view. Personally selected propaganda is entertainment. The TV is a form of lounging and never made us exercise or get out of bed. Most of the entertainment we choose are people living extravagantly, outside the law, and utterly without limit. Not the other way around. The TV and telescreen are completely opposite in purpose and function.
In 1984 the party takes an enormous amount of interest in children restricting who can have them, when, and how many. Once of age they’re inducted into the Junior Spies. From then on parents live in fear of their spawn. Children rule the house as their parent’s kowtow to their whims and tantrums hoping not to “disappear”. More often than not the children are able to report something causing their parent’s demise. In our world we can breed totally recklessly and without means or forethought, if we so choose. Parent’s dictate the level of involvement and control they exert (as much as is possible with children) and while the government surely takes some interest in churning out functional citizens so as the GDP doesn’t sink too low, many kids are left to whims of their various cultures. The idea of parent’s living in fear of their children is frankly ridiculous.
1984, written before computers as we know them, uses inventive and complex mechanisms to watch and control its populace. Microphones and cameras hidden everywhere. Public transport is the only means of conveyance and the party’s helicopters whir through the sky keeping the proles in line. I concede drones are watching us and there are many cameras on ATM’s and buildings, but we the citizens carry cameras and own UAVs on a massive level. We speed about in our very own cars, captains of our personal routes and destinations. We are far more responsible for the watching of our fellows than the government. We buy GoPROs and IPhones rabidly. By the cart load. Upload our images with utter impatience and tweet our every thought with reckless abandon. The amount of content collected by our personally purchased devices, uploaded on billed data plans, and hosted on pages we create far outweighs what Orwell ever conceived.
Unspeak/Newspeak is one of the most brilliant and original of 1984‘s psychological controls. Orwell surmised if you controlled one’s ability to express one’s self you limit the ability of the structures and ideas that person can formulate. The party systematically did away with language forcing people to cater to the latest version of Newspeak without exception. In our world the government pays teachers to ensure we all speak and share a common language. They teach it far more fully than most of us ever use it. We are the ones who created “ain’t”, “I seen”, and “on fleek”. We take the full and rich tapestry of etymology and language structure and shorten to “BRB”, “ROFL”, and “WTF”. Not arguing the against the merits of short hand, but clearly we create and use unspeak much to the chagrin of the government paid English teacher.
One of the most glaring motifs of 1984 is sexual repression and monitoring. Winston, the main character, is almost immediately painted as sexually frustrated. The first mention of copulation between Winston and his former wife is awkward, forced, and highly unpleasant. It is portrayed as “disgusting” and “a political act”. Julia, Winston’s later love interest, is wearing an anti-sex sash when she is introduced. While this sash proves to be farce everyone is dressed in drab formless garb utterly unstimulated by each other due to self denial propagated through fear of the thought police. Conversely our culture oozes sexuality. From beer to flowers to rice, sex sells. We strive for perfect bodies in rooms full of windows or mirrors. We strut about shirtless in spandex. We design clubs around the mating rituals of grinding and twerking. Our celebrities sing about ass and abs. We have HiDef porn on our phones. The government rarely attempts to publicly meddle in our parade of curves, sweat, and gyrations. We are sexually liberated to a fever pitch every Saturday night if we so choose.
Its only fair to grant many of our freedoms are growing tenuous and under threat. We are watched, data collected, and subjugated through debt. However it is ridiculous to compare it to a totalitarian state, especially the nightmare of Orwell’s imagination. We take the pictures. We upload the video. We supply Google, Facebook, and Twitter with our families names. Our place of work. Our place of birth. Favorite movies, books, and music. Our phone numbers, addresses, hopes and dreams. We pay Verizon and AT&T to collect data on us for the use of their services. We know they are doing it. We know every picture we post and Tweet sent is in the cloud. We click “I agree to terms and conditions” without a second though. We want all our stuff out there. They are more than happy to accommodate for a fee. So the next time you think Big Brother is watching you, it’s only because you said “Look at me! Look at me!” Please stop comparing our world to Oceania. It’s foolish. Rather, remain vigilant so we never know that terrible existence.
Drive fast. Take chances. Thanks for reading.
Atheists, agnostics, skeptics, freethinkers, brothers, and sisters. I’m leveling a charge in this new year. Too often we are accused for anger and pride. Too often those charges are level and fair. In the following I hope to clear the air and distill some truth.
First let’s define where we stand.
Atheism: the lack of belief in god(s), nothing more or less. By definition no central text, rule set, or dogma. Despite this, non-belief is always polarizing in religious culture and perceived as the antithesis of the religions it avoids. We unfortunately are defined by what each religion views as its polar opposite.
Bertrand Russell wisely said if someone cares to be a skeptic they should suspend judgment in lieu of evidence. Atheism at its core is just that, but we have found our public voice and we are trying it out. Like a new vegetarian or environmentalist we are over zealous. We speak loudly without all the facts and limited understanding. It’s only natural, but I worry if we don’t learn tact and understanding the movement will end before it even started.
This New Atheism is a natural and a useful reaction to years of repression, ostracization, and execution. To this day atheists lose jobs, community, and in many parts of the world, lives, when we come out of the closet. The worldview of the militant atheist, often justifiably, attributes the worst of the world to religion. Presidents can say atheists are unpatriotic in speeches. States leave atheophobic clauses in their constitutions. Alienation in our courts, our pledges, our money. We watch women’s rights languish, gay rights trampled, education embroiled in idiotic quagmire, human rights stuck in bronze age thinking. All this points to a slimy trail oozing behind religion.
Given the litany of crimes, why wouldn’t society rush to our embrace?
Whether its visions of hell fire or the fear of losing Christmas, culture seems to think atheism is the end of hope. It is after all, “damning”. People think atheism is a choice. The lifestyle of the contrarian. Atheists supposedly want to destroy community. They are assholes getting bent out of shape after you say bless you. Atheism is hated not because people love god but because it’s perceived to destroy society’s glue. Atheists tell believers their churches are hollow, their Christmas tree and Easter hams are pagan, their cross is a torture device, and their beliefs toxic. We speak to them as though they have poured through the Bible and found every sinister nook and cranny. We take away the Pastor at a wedding. We take away the Sunday potluck. We take away heaven. We take away mystery. We argue against theology, books, and ideas. They are arguing for their marriage, their children, they family, their way of life. In essence they hate us for repressing who they are. We have every right to be pissed off for inequality and misunderstanding. If that’s true, then why are we surprised when they react the same way?
You atheists who never believed and find yourself saying, “I don’t understand how they think…” stop after that sentence. If you haven’t believed you can’t understand. Asking questions will get you much closer to goals than berating and belittling. Those of us who lost are faith are often hurt and angry about the loss of family, community, and being lied to. While we may be justified in our pain, we are not justified in lashing out and to be fair believers thought they were doing a good thing. They had our best in mind.
The solution isn’t to show them they are wrong, foolish, and delusional. No one learns from someone they hate. No. We must show a better way. Rather than destroy their society, we need to present them a better one. One of inclusiveness, community, reason, and altruism. We need to develop systems to replace the ones we condemn. Religion supplies charity, community, and hope for so many. They will never listen until we fill the vacuum. Let us show them the rituals families bond over are available without faith. Speak to them in terms they understand. Show hope is better based in reason. Kindness for kindness sake. Forgiveness for forgiveness sake. We need to be grassroots in our communities. Atheistic hubris is toxic. We need to stop claiming to know more than is possible to know and be unflinching in what we can know. We need to show them love in community. Friends, we need to ask questions before supplying the answers.
Join a Sunday Assembly. Work with secular charities. Bring families together for beautiful secular weddings. Bring families together for infant secular dedications. Read their holy text through their eyes rather than one of contempt. Choose battles based on universal merit. Give them purpose and hope by living hopeful and purposeful lives. Be patient.
Drive fast. Take chances. Thanks for reading.
Tis the season for political reasoning and toting your vote to the poll. Losing my fellow Americans in the title alone? I can feel your despair. From not understanding our over complicated system to having zero faith in the value of the vote, the candidates, even the accurate vote count. I feel you. I am right there too.
I take a breath and look at the planet spinning through space and time. Given our time we have a nearly unbearable onus and invaluable privilege. Let me make the case.
Brief history of voting in America:
So in 1776 (Or there abouts) when the U.S. of A. kicked some and became a Congressional Republic. Only men who own land can vote. Skip merrily through the next 150 years (or there abouts) of slavery, civil war, intercontinental rail road, slaughter of the indigenous and the buffalo, taming the West, protecting Yosemite, inventing the light bulb, producing Mark Twain and the airplane, we arrive in 1919… (or there abouts). Most men, black, some Asians (the right came and went here and there), and Native Americans who served in the military can vote. Then, in1920, women finally get the vote. Think about that. Less than 100 years ago women couldn’t vote in our country. For everyone voting has been a hard won dominion and blood spackled right.
Dissatisfaction with our country isn’t lost on me. The lack of voting indicates why Americans polled have fear, frustration, and malaise about the their country today. Our congress recently dropped below 9% approval rating. We approve polygamy and neo-Nazis more. We are crushed by debt, our police force is constantly in the media for shootings, we are at war, wonder about the NSA in our devices and struggle to raise our GDP. I am elated to be a American, but no longer sure I am proud to be a American.
It cost most people in the history of this country a lot so we can vote. What effect does it really have?
I find myself thinking about my vote in terms of the Presidential Election. In that case, yes. I do feel like my vote is insignificantly insignificant. However our leader in chief, while enormously consequential to this country, is the head of the country and our House and Senate the neck. Our local governments the arms; we are torso, legs, and feet.
Interestingly we show up the most to least statically valuable vote. The presidential vote. Voting for a senator, a rep, a judge, a DA, a local sheriff, or school boards carries far more weight. They are responsible for our highways, bridges, and parks, educators of our children, protectors of us and our homes, our health and retirement, and adjudicate justice when someone violates any of these. Yes, the president is way outside most of our world. Don’t worry about D.C. Our school board memebers, assembly, and mayors are the next leaders of the free world. We led the world in production innovation, space exploration, progressive thinking, and compromise for the good of many. We accomplish our greatest feats under duress. We are best when pressed. America is pressed. Take back our counties, towns, cities, and burbs. We are the locomotion and heartbeat of this counrty. We can put it back to our use by engaging. Let us be great again. Let us demand more of our immediate government. Let us vote.
Google the word “vote”. That’s all you need to get started.
Drive fast. Take chances. Thanks for reading.
Now that our fair and balanced media (I’m looking at you too liberal media) whipped us into a fear frenzy about Ebola in America it has fallen to me, one of the best read, most respected, dashingly handsome, and most humble of writers, to give an honest assessment of the situation.
No one seems to remember, but this isn’t the first time Ebola (named after the river commonly known as the Zaire) has visited the U.S. In 1990 (the virus was classified in 1976) some monkeys from the Philippines infected four people in Virginia and you guessed it, Texas. I’m starting to get the apocalypse sub culture there. None of them died, however it should be noted all infections occurred in quarantined facilities. Very different from today’s situation. That being said, since 1976 6,200 deaths have resulted from all Ebola infections world wide. While a tragic number let’s all take a deep breath and put it in perspective.
The CDC’s final death data (“Death Data” sounds like a doomy prog metal band) for 2010 goes like this:
Number of deaths in the U.S. 2010: 2,515,458
Infant Mortality rate: 6.07 deaths per 1,000 live births (meaning you have a better chance of dying being born than getting Ebola, and yet you are still here)
Percentages following are all deaths attributed to Ebola compared to listed cause. I remind you these death rates are for one year and one country, while the percentage represents all deaths caused by Ebola in the entire world over 42 years by comparison.
Heart disease: 596,577 (1.03926232489687%)
Cancer: 576,691 (1.075099143215344%)
Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 142,943 (4.337393226670771%)
Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 128,932 (4.808736388173611%)
Accidents (unintentional injuries): 126,438 (4.903589110868568%)
Alzheimer’s disease: 84,974 (7.296349471603078%)
Diabetes: 73,831 (8.397556581923581%)
Influenza and Pneumonia: 53,826 (11.518596960576673%)
Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 45,591 (13.599175275821981%)
Intentional self-harm (suicide): 39,518 (15.689053089731262%)
So what do these numbers mean? I’m no mathematician but they speak pretty loud. Settle the f*** down. You have a better chance of dying by slipping in the shower, eating a cheese burger, or getting too much sun, in a single year than dying from Ebola in nearly a half century. Hell, you have a better chance of killing yourself on purpose than getting Ebola.
We do need to take this outbreak seriously and prep our hospitals. More importantly, if we are going to care so much about the spread, we need to send doctors, aid, and infrastructure to West Africa. If you express any concern about the disease, the U.S. and your personal well being should barely cross your mind.
Keep in mind if is on the news, it is the exception, not the rule. Not the norm. People aren’t interested in consistent truths, otherwise their would be a story about heroine deaths, homeless deaths, and overweight related deaths every day.
If you want to work yourself into a frenzy about preventable American deaths pick one actually threatening us. You should be more afraid of your car than Ebola.
Drive fast. Take chances. Thanks for reading.
All info in this article is from the CDC website and my personal calculations.
Today I turn 30 and from what people tell me I am supposed to feel a certain way about it. I get the sense people think 30 is when the party is over. The freedom of youth has sung its last swan song. From what I can tell people think this because they have their careers and families started. Their path is set. They have made their beds and now it’s off to sleep in them. Good on you. I commend all you who have planned your life out. I, to date, have not. I have no 401k, no insurance, no family of my own, no retirement plan, no career, and no degree. I don’t even own a car. What I do have is wealth of experience. I have been a server, a bartender, a farm hand, a grocer, a radio personality, a cab driver, a minister, and a vagabond. I have been elected into leadership roles and asked to leave organizations I help form. I have been a lowly door knocker and the Vice President of a company. I have lost people; causes ranging from heroine to religion. I have met people from all walks of life and became friends with the most unexpected characters. I have skied Alaska, jumped out of an airplane, and ridden a bicycle 1,500 miles cross country in a month. I have loved and been loved.
So what do I have to show for this? A rich and full life, and if you’ll permit me, I’d like to extend to you what I have (l)earned. Feel free to hum the beat of that ’98 hit “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen).”*
Study history. It truly is amazing how cyclical we are and that can bring peace in a chaotic world. Wait tables for at least a year. It will make you a kinder person. Floss. Daily. Revel in the things people mock you for. It takes their power away. Cultivate good spatial awareness. Being aware of your space is courteous to others and in the extreme, may save your life. Don’t watch shows about things you can easily do. Pawn shops, bakeries, restaurants, and kitchens are hiring. Watch cartoons. Read the classics. Look up words when you don’t know the definition. Don’t listen only to pop radio. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid of new technology. Learn about it. Be aware of new legislation. Know who your senators and representatives are. Vote with your dollar. Don’t shop at Walmart. Don’t be afraid to take control. Don’t complain. Problem solve. If it’s on the news, it is the exception not the norm. Don’t pretend to be an expert about subjects in which you are not. Talk about religion and politics but do your best to be impersonal and without bias. Kill and process an animal with your own hands, cook and eat it. You will understand food intimately. Be prepared to defend logically the least of your opinions. Be prepared to change your mind on even your closest and deepest held positions when presented with new information. Be incredulous. Don’t claim to know the unknowable. Cultivate patience. Learn and practice to be a good conversationalist. Realize the universe does not care about you. Marvel in this: it is amazing how many random things came together over 14 billion years so you could be sitting here reading this. People of faith are good despite their religion, not the other way around. Morality and religion are not synonymous. Choose to do what is right because you know what is right in your gut. Occasionally, break the law. Practice civil disobedience. Carry a flask when going to shows; it leaves money to buy merchandise. Never complain about a cover charge for live music. Tip more than you should. It will make that person’s day and cost you a couple extra bucks. Pick trash up. Hold people accountable. Forgive. Be what you want out of others, daily. Work hard for reward. Give without expectation of reciprocation. Make educated guesses. Take reasonable risks. Test your limits by breaking them from time to time. Get bad habits if only to exercise will power in breaking them. Love. Truly sacrifice you on the altar of others whenever you can muster. Love more.
30 a is weird place to be. I feel I have just enough experience to start in on life. Fast food now comes with an intestinal price. The dating world has the loud ticking of a biological clock. I am caught among “youth is wasted on the young” and “wisdom and affluence is wasted on the old.” My friends are either getting face down drunk on a Wednesday or having babies. To me 30 is liberating. I have enough experience to know what I want and enough time to pursue it. I will forever be as young as I feel (which will likely be younger than I am) and then I will be dead, but that is a long way off. I plan to soak up this marvelous world for years and years to come. To all you who have been part of my journey, my most heart felt thanks. It has been grand thus far.
Drive fast. Take chances. Thanks for reading.
*intentionally dating myself.
Tom and Jim are two old friends getting together for coffee at a local, rundown-but-you’ve-been-there-a-hundred-times-so-it-doesn’t-bother-you diner, and Jim has had a quandary about his life. He probes Tom for insight. “Tom, Do you think we control our lives?” Tom thought for a moment, looking into his coffee as though it had the answers Jim sought. Finally, looking up with a quiet satisfaction on his face he replied in question. “Why did you get up this morning?” Jim, knowing his friend had what he was looking for, patiently answered, “Because my alarm woke me.” Still prodding further Tom asked, “What did you do after you awoke?” Jim sipped his coffee and said matter-a-factly “Went to work.” Tom continued in his interrogation while rearranging the condiments, “And why did you go to work?” Jim squinted at his friend in reasonable puzzlement. “To support my family of course.” Tom, apparently satisfied or bored with the condiments, lit a cigarette and after exhaling asks, “And why are you here now?” Jim stops tapping the table (something Tom hates by the way) and darkens, as he believes to comprehend, “I see what you are driving at. My alarm controls my sleep, my family controls my responsibilities, and you, my dear friend, control my time. Is that your point, that I am not in control? That I am merely a pawn whose actions are dictated by the driving forces in my life?” Tom breaks into a full smile at his friend’s discomfort and incorrect deduction. “No. Think about it Jim. Who set the alarm? Who got married and had children? Who drove here, sat down, and ordered? You did. You are in everyday control of your life. I wouldn’t smile too quickly because you have no one to blame if you fuck it up. Never feel pity for yourself, and never believe there is nothing you can do about your situation for even your mood is your choice.” Jim sits back in the booth to reflect. He looks at Tom with a slight scowl, “You couldn’t lie just once to make feel better could you?” Tom, intent on his engineering work of art consisting of two forks, a toothpick and a salt shaker creating a monolithic pyramid answers without looking up, “You could stop asking.”
Drive fast. Take chances. Thanks for reading.