Friday, March 19, 2010

The Vote and The Painted Soccer Ball

Still going in circles over the Democratic leadership's efforts to garner enough votes to pass the health care reform bill? By hook or by crook? Oh yeah. We all are.

The assessment in today's New York Times is that there will be enough votes to pass the bill. What's troubling to me about this is that the conversation appears to have turned. We are no longer collecting the most votes we can get based on the merits of the bill, just the bare minimum. The reasoning? Democrats are determining which members of Congress can be absolved of the responsibility to vote for the bill since it's expected to be the kiss of death during mid-term campaigns. Really?

So during the era-defining legislative battle of their lifetimes, our congressmen and women are standing firm and tall, carrying the mantle of justice forward with dignity and a sense of historical perspective, propelling the democracy into a new period of greater health (pun in tended) and sustainability, right? Uh, no. They're slouching and shuffling their feet, flailing, grinning creepily in front of microphones, and edging away from what they consider to be political quicksand. 'Honor and duty be damned. If you can get it done without me, please do, so I can keep my job.' Classy.

So I'm walking the kids to school today and my son sees an old soccer ball along the side of a building.

"Oooh! Soccer ball!! Can I go get it?"
"No," I tell him.
"Why not?" with puppy eyes.
"It's not yours,"
"But Maaaaamiiiii. You can tell nobody wants it," he pleads.
"Forget it. Not yours. Plus we're running late," I reply in standard Mom 'quit it' voice.
"But Maaaaaammmm. I'll go quick!" the volley.
"No," I say. "And why would you want it? You already have soccer balls," I remind him.
Slowing down, digging in, "It's a good one."
"No, Sam. And it's filthy."
"I can wash it," he offers cheerily.
"We're not washing it. And it's pink for crissakes. Why would you want a pink ball?" I march on.
"I could paint it!"

I smiled at my boy. Every obstacle had a path around, over or under. There was no deterring. He wanted that ball and he was going to challenge and overcome every objection. He is nine, after all.

Now, you and I both know that painting a soccer ball is ridiculous. It wouldn't work, first of all, and even if it did, it wouldn't last. I could have told my son that and he would have either been completely defeated or he would have kept up with a barrage of new arguments for his position.

This scene plays out on a much larger scale when it comes to health care. Some of us think its a great idea. Others, not so much. Our history tells of other occasions when this has been the case.

Famously, a few starving, ill-equipped farmers thought they could beat back the British army to take over a whole country. Sounds - what's the word - familiar? No, the word I'm looking for is ridiculous. It sounds ridiculous. Except it turns out they could and they did. However improbable, some of the most unlikely things in history turned out to be some of the greatest things that ever happened. Funny thing is, cowardice did not play a helpful role in this little battle for justice. It didn't help at all.

So having reached the tipping point in the arguments for and against this major reform of health care in the United States, some are arguing against and some persist forward. I'm tired of hearing how one political party is simply using tactics and maneuvers to get things done - all of which the other side has done plenty of times. I'm equally tired of this party or that serving not as real representatives of the people, but as sycophants, retreating or allowing others to retreat from truth and fairness in order to save individual asses. It's all shameful and embarrassing.

Our representatives need to give voice to the truth, however they see it, and then suck up the consequences no matter what they may be. And they need to hear you telling them to do so. Call your congressional representatives and tell them to do good for good's sake, and reassure them that we're willing to stand together to take the hit on the off chance we're doing something phenomenal. Tell them to have a sense of morality so that keeping their own jobs is secondary - at least - to protecting the people. Tell them to be Americans in the action sense of that word. For the love of Pete, tell them to stop being such cowards!

And for the record, I'm taking that darn ball home and painting it a flaming bright blue, just to show faith in the notion that we can instead of that we can't. I may be ridiculous, but I'm no coward.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

It's Complicated. Or is it?

Opened up the big, family-sized can of worms this week asking an open question about the Holocaust and some rumor that Muslims were protesting its inclusion in curricula in Europe. Apparently there have been some pretty well-known Muslim leaders who've proclaimed that it never happened. The Holocaust, that is. Never happened. Right then. Fries with your crazy?

So when I got this note about Muslims being 'offended' by the inclusion of false historical data in classrooms and their attempts to have references to the Holocaust removed from school books, I kind of figured it wasn't true. Even so, I was intrigued. It was the total lack of sense in the message that made me think it might be real. I put a question out to some friends to see what people knew about it. And, boy, did I get answers. I am a Cubs fan and I've been to some of the cross-town games so I know a heated exchange when I'm the instigator... er... when I'm in the middle of one. Now, as in those instances, the particulars of the argument didn't matter as much as the tone, the energy, the conviction, the aerodynamics of a Bud Light... no... wait...

I'll admit I'm not super invested in the Middle East thing. I've read some books, had some pretty interesting conversations, kept abreast of basics - but I'm no expert. The truth is if you asked me to pare it down to its simplest terms (and those of you who know me have already heard this from me), I'd say there was enough crazy to go around. There is no greater good coming from the existing policies, nor has any come from policies prior. Clearly, still, there is no peace.

That said, Muslims are not re-writing history for European schools to eliminate the Holocaust. Also, the Holocaust happened. Those are the simple truths.
The more complicated ones sound a little like this, to me at least: Jews are still in pain over what happened. The entire world betrayed them, whether by act or omission, for a long period, and they are still suffering the effects. They do not trust. With reason, they do not trust.

Their Muslim brothers have become the 'evil-doers' du jour. The violence of some against others has been broadcast on every channel, in every language, in high definition, for years now. This loud, brazen campaign dressed in the colors of faith, has forced peaceful people to defend their manner of intimacy with God, as if it were perverse rather than pure. The world allows it, in some cases rises and applauds it. One could argue the world is once again betraying a people and creating - nay - soliciting, begging mistrust.

Both sides - and all who defend in their names - seek answers.

Who among them is the evil one? Who is the more holy, the more deserving of God's grace? Neither. They all sin. And they are all blessed. Knowing this could give each the peace they so desperately desire. Instead, they are distracted from truth, driven by their pain instead of healed by their faiths.

As a Christian, I have been taught that the call to respond to sin does not require one to respond in kind. Instead, a call to the devil is an invitation to turn to God and find His strength to carry on His work. I believe this is true for all people, across all faiths. I believe it is not so necessary to force another to submit to my truth as it is to live my own life of faith.

And what of evil? What of my enemy? My enemy is not my brother. Whether his faith is not my own is irrelevant. My enemy is the devil that calls me to hurt my brother in the name of my God. I keep a respectful distance from this devil, knowing he is there, but choosing to allow him his business as I tend to mine. And when I am called to defend my faith, my right to exist in my faith, the history of my people, I do not do so with armaments, but with arms - extended, reaching.

I cannot touch you with my truth if I do not reach out, after all, can I?