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A Slice of Conformity

Posted by Doug White under Political

“BIGOT!”

“RACIST!!!”

“HOMOPHOBE!!”

“TRANSPHOBIC JERK!!!”

I am nearing on almost a half-century of life on this planet, and I have heard those four sentences above used more in public conversations on political issues in the last six years than I have in the previous forty. Not necessarily directed towards me, but just shouted from the rooftops from people who are simply not willing to accept that people have a differing opinion than themselves. They know that these sentences are “red-flags” and will cause people to hesitate, guilty or not, on any discussion on the issues of the day. In other words, the overuse of these sentences has taken away their meaning.

This has been another interesting week in our country’s battle towards one social perspective over another. We had a state create a law that was supposed to allow people to have the right to go to court to fight over whether or not they’ve been asked to violate their religious beliefs or not. It’s the same law that is enacted in nineteen other states and is a federal law as well – one signed by President Bill Clinton. Some famous people – including one I admire, George Takei from Star Trek – have argued it’s not the same law. I’ve read their arguments and I simply don’t agree.

So for a week, the left freaked out. There were boycotts, bans being put into place by other states to prevent government travel to this state and other various activities. And it appeared to have worked. The state changed their law.

My opinion on the law is complicated. I believe wholeheartedly that a person of any faith should have the right to not be forced to participate in an activity they have religious objections to. This includes not being forced to provide an insurance benefit that violates your religious faith. It includes not being forced to open up your home for a reception for a same sex marriage – even if you do so for heterosexual marriage events. And it includes not baking a cake for a same sex marriage too.

But on the flip side, I think you’re a hypocrite if you do this and don’t follow that through completely with all aspects of your faith. If you believe same sex marriage is a sin and don’t want to participate in the marriage with your business, fine. But if you then make a cake for a couple who are in their second or third marriage – you’re a hypocrite. If you make a cake for a couple who had sex before marriage – you’re a hypocrite. If you don’t want to provide contraception for your business because it violates your beliefs – great. But if you then personally use any form of birth control for your family planning activities with your spouse – then you are a hypocrite.

Here’s the thing though – YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO BE A HYPOCRITE. I may not like it, I may not do business with you, but you can be hypocritical to your hearts content. We should not be passing laws to prevent you from being this way.

And that’s where I have my issues with the left. The left don’t just want the businesses to make the cakes or provide the reception hall or the birth control. The left want you to believe EXACTLY AS THEY DO. You are no longer allowed to have a religious belief that goes against what they believe. Everything is open, everything is ok and you, my friends, are no longer allowed to be otherwise.

Or else, we’ll call you those names up above. We’ll show you. That’s how they think.

I used to think the issue of abortion will someday divide this country. And it may, it’s still a pretty sensitive subject. This issue though, I now firmly believe it will split this country in two. There’s simply no way to resolve this and keep the peace. A majority of the right want to go back fifty years where people who were gay hid in the shadows. The majority of the left want everyone to not have any religious objections to anything they do and they want to force those who do believe otherwise to either change their minds, or be the ones who hide in the shadows.

And I, as a newly Independent person politically, who is leaning more and more Libertarian everyday is sitting here thinking, “Is there no middle ground? Is there no way for everyone to exist and believe what they want and live their lives as they want? Must everyone conform, either left or right, to a set of beliefs? Is that the country we really want?”

This really struck a cord for me this week, when a reporter went out of her way to find that ONE business who would openly say they wouldn’t cater a same-sex marriage. The business was a pizza business – and I’m sure they get tons of requests to cater weddings, because a wedding isn’t a wedding without pepperoni stains on your wedding dress.

Let’s not even stop and think about the fact that this reporter only focused on Christian owners. Let’s not consider that there are reports of Muslim businesses who do provide service for marriage events but won’t for same-sex marriage. Let’s not focus on businesses, like one’s in Colorado who refused to bake a cake that had anti-gay tones to it. All that is ok, right? Let’s only spew our hate towards Christians…right?

Imagine this reporter’s elation when she found this one business who said this. “Finally! I can show the world how racist, bigoted, transphobic, homophobic Canadian bacon is on a slice, once and for all!” I can almost imagine her rubbing her hands in glee over this.

And it had what I am sure was her desired effect. A business that did NOTHING wrong, received so many death threats they had to shut down their business in one day. Woohoo! Way to go liberals! Are you proud? You brought down the livelihood of a family because they don’t conform to the way of the left! Good for you!

Well, no, that didn’t appear to happen, after all. A growing majority of people who have simply just had enough of this nonsense, donated to a fund-raising effort started for this business and gave them over $800,000 dollars in just a few days. I donated too, only $10, but I wanted to make a stand against what I truly believe is evil behavior on the behalf of those who feel anyone who disagrees with them must be destroyed.

If I owned a business, I would provide birth control for my employees. If I owned a business that made cakes, I’d make a cake for a same-sex wedding – even though my religious beliefs teach that it is a sin. There’s a lot of sin in the world, and taking a stand in this way, makes no sense to me. If homosexuality is a sin, it’s not up to me to do anything about it. God will handle it. I have enough sin of my own to deal with.

That is me, though. If a business owner has a religious belief that prevents them from serving me, I’m ok with that. I will take my business elsewhere.

You cannot build enough laws in the world to prevent hypocrisy. You cannot build enough laws in the world to force conformity. And why do you wish to? Are you that sure that everything those in power believe is what you believe? Do we want a country of automatons? Just marching around with the same thoughts and belief systems?

My country made me sad this weekend. Both sides made me sad. I expect better.

Absolute Freedom

Posted by Doug White under Political

I was a bit of a mouthy kid. If you ask my parents, they’ll probably tell you I was a LOT mouthy. I have a tendency to speak before thinking that still gets me even today as a 45 year old man.

As a kid though, it wouldn’t be uncommon for me to retaliate to any punishment that was given to me by my parents by yelling back, “It’s a free country! I have freedom of speech, ya know!”

Of course, obnoxious as I was, I was absolutely correct. I had the inherent right to say whatever was on my mind. My parents, as my caretakers, and as those God entrusted to instill some discipline in this young brat He’d sent their way, had the right to enact whatever punishment they saw fit for when I exerted that right and overstepped their boundaries.

Within reason, of course. After all, I was never hurt and it goes without saying, I was never killed.

Just how far does our “free speech” right go? Is it absolute? In this ever growing politically correct society, can America claim that we give each and every one of our citizens the right to speak their mind as they see fit?

This topic has been one of global attention lately. The murders of the individuals at the Charlie Hebdo magazine have brought this subject to the forefront in a grim and troubling way. If you aren’t aware of what Charlie Hebdo is – and if that’s the case, what rock have you been under? – they are a satirical magazine in Paris, France. They are apparently well know for poking fun at different people and/or religious organizations.

Just last week, over a dozen people were senselessly gunned down by people who were outraged over their cartoons about Islam and Mohammed. After all, nothing says you are a “Man of Faith” by emptying bullets into the body of another human being because they insulted your Creator.

Before I go to much further, let me take a minute and opine over the cartoons this organization has done in the past. They are offensive and quite frankly disgusting. It will forever be a mystery to me why people must insult the faith of another individual. I will never, ever understand that need to be that way.

I also will never understand the desire to kill those who do it.

I do not practice the Muslim faith. I am a Christian. I can’t fully grasp how much something like this insults someone who practices that faith. But, I’ve heard people call my God, “Sky-Daddy”. I’ve seen crosses put into jars of urine and called “art”. I’ve heard people call Christian’s delusional or suffering from a mental illness.

There is a nutjob who has written a book to this effect entitled, “The God Delusion”. Of course, this same nutjob thinks that you should kill your baby before it’s born, if it’s born with Down Syndrome. This speaks volumes to me about just what type of person he is.

We have a comedian – and I use this term loosely – named Bill Maher – who spends most of his time bad-mouthing all faiths. Again, this is a man who years ago on a national talk-show tried to excuse pedophilia as not as bad as being beat up. (http://reformclub.blogspot.com/2005/05/craig-ferguson-drops-bill-maher-on.html) Again, gives you great insight as to what kind of guy he is.

This Christmas, Neil deGrasse Tyson, the left’s idea of the smartest man on Earth, spent the day mocking those who celebrate Christmas. Nothing makes you sound so smart as saying, “You know what Jews call today? Thursday.” No kidding, sir. You know what most people call Mothers Day? Sunday.

These are rather mild cases of people who insult Christianity on a daily basis. I find these people quite offensive. I don’t buy their books, or watch their shows, but I do hear about them from time to time. My hope is people will wise up to their nastiness and they’ll eventually wither away.

No matter how offensive they get though, I have heard of no one who wishes to kill them. These people have the right to say whatever they want. I have the right to call them jerks and losers – and they are.

If we are to truly have the freedom of speech that we wish to have in this country, we must give these people the right to speak whatever they wish. We must allow those who want to dip crosses in urine the right to do so. We must allow people to mock Islam.

This doesn’t mean that we have to provide them with an audience. Free speech can have consequences. I have the right to call someone a jerk. If that person is my boss, they have a right to fire me. They don’t have the right to kill me.

Freedoms go both ways. If a person claims that a woman can’t be raped, people must have a right to decide he’s a moron and not vote for him. (http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/todd_akin_women_cant_get_pregnant_from_legitimate_rape_20120820) If a woman on a TV show says the rapist Roman Polanski wasn’t really trying to “rape-rape” someone, people have to have the right to say what a moron she is and not watch the idiotic show that pays her wages. (http://jezebel.com/5369395/whoopi-on-roman-polanski-it-wasnt-rape-rape)

No one is allowed to kill either person, no matter how stupid what they said was.

You can scream “Fire” in a crowded theater, despite what people say about that all the time. The consequences of doing so are that you get arrested for doing so, because you’ve put someone in harm’s way.

No one has the right to kill you for doing so.

While your freedom to speak your mind is absolute, it is not without consequence. Other people have rights too.

Now that we’ve established that no one has the right to kill others for what they say, let’s explore what the current Catholic Pope has to say about it shall we? (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/charlie-hebdo-pope-francis-says-those-who-ridicule-others-religions-should-expect-a-punch-9980192.html)

I am amazed that a man that many in the Catholic faith think is one step away from God Himself just said that physical violence is an expectation when you mock one’s faith. Seriously?

Quite frankly, the Pope is wrong. A person may lash out violently for what you say, but he has no right to do so. If you’re God is so sensitive that he’s calling you to harm others for cartoons or slights against him, than he’s no God at all. My God can take the insults. After all, He’s been doing so for thousands of years.

A lot of this blog has been about faith and people’s right to mock someone else’s faith. Many people have stood up in defense of Charlie Hebdo – myself included. Let me ask you some questions though.

      1. Do you believe the freedom of speech entitles someone to insult another’s race? Gender? Lifestyle?
      2. Do you believe that creating ‘Hate Speech’ laws are wrong?
      3. Do you believe in the right of others to own or produce offensive speech, such as pornography? (Keeping in mind, I’m speaking about something where the people involved are able to consent and willingly do so.)

If you said no to any of those questions, you are not a defender of free speech. Period. Freedom of speech must be absolute. Or it is simply NOT free speech.

Just Bob

Posted by Doug White under Personal

Veteran’s Day was this week and it was another good day to reflect on my time in the service so long ago. Nowadays, there are a lot of businesses who offer various specials to honor Veteran’s Day and this year was no exception. I always feel a touch guilty when I take advantage of those specials as I only served for four years – more than 20 years ago – and even then I never fought in a war. I don’t feel like I really deserve the same praise as people like my father do, because they fought and sacrificed in ways I’ll never be able to properly imagine.

But, I am honored by the things people say and do for me. This year was a little more emotional for me though. The reason why has to do with a man who I served with so long ago.

In my blogging and various writings, I’ve mentioned him before but not in super great detail. His name was Robert Bowens (or Bob) and he was one of the first Marines I met once I was assigned to my first duty station, Camp LeJeune, North Carolina.

I had come to Camp LeJeune from Camp Johnson, North Carolina, which is not very far at all. I had gone to Camp Johnson to be trained in my position as Administrative Clerk. After I completed my training I was then ordered to go to Camp LeJeune and serve in the Headquarters Battalion of 2nd Marine Division.

I was understandably nervous my first day there. I’d been through a lot already since joining the Marines. I’d survived Boot Camp which even now, twenty-six years later still serves as one of the toughest things I’d ever done. Then I went to admin school and essentially learned a trade. And now, I was going to be finally doing the job for real.

But, I was still 18. I didn’t feel like an adult. I felt like a little kid in big kid’s clothing. I was sure I would look that way to everyone too.

When I walked into the office where I would serve, Bob was one of the first people I met, like I mentioned before. I didn’t know him as Bob at the time, he was Sgt. Bowens to me. Despite the fact that there was a significant difference in rank, he put me at ease almost right away.

Sgt. Bowens was one of the friendliest, most affable Marines I’d ever met in my few short months of being a Marine. I can still hear his laugh today and it makes me smile. He welcomed me to the office and put me in front of the desk where I’d be working.

As silly as it may sound, I had a pretty visible reaction to having a desk. It made me feel really grown up. Which I know now is probably pretty ridiculous. Sgt. Bowens took it in stride, he didn’t make me feel stupid at all.

Time progressed but within a short period of time, things changed drastically for me. I was moved into a different position and would be working as an administrative assistant for the Naval chaplain of 2nd Marine Division.

This meant, I wouldn’t be working with Sgt. Bowens anymore but we all lived in the same barracks and so I saw him often. We quickly became friends. Another friend of mine, Herb Middlemass hung out with us as well, as did a friend of Bob’s, Dan (or Don? I can’t remember anymore.) Rose.

We spent a lot of time doing what most young people do, in college or in the military. We partied. A lot. I’m not sure how I feel about that now, a lot of time has passed, but it’s what we did. The Marines worked us hard, but when we were off, we partied hard.

It wasn’t too long before Bob had gotten out of the Marines, but still would come to the base and hang out with us from time to time. This is when I learned something about Bob that I hadn’t expected. He was gay.

Keep in mind, that this was in the late 1980’s. Things were WAY different than they are now. This was prior to the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ times of the Clinton years and so what this meant is that Bob had to keep his homosexuality a secret while he was in the Marine Corp or he would have been dishonorably discharged.

As far as how I felt about it? I didn’t really have a strong reaction to it one way or another. He was gay. I was not. I’ve been taught from my faith that homosexuality is a sin but I’ve also been taught that it’s not my place to judge. I’m not perfect at that, but with Bob, I just really didn’t care. He was Bob. He was my friend.

But, I worried about Bob. He had other problems in his life that I could see were having an affect on him. He drank too much. Way, way too much. He also had some issues with drugs. I was pretty young and I just simply didn’t have the experience or maturity to help him with that, if he’d even wanted my help.

It didn’t help that I also drank. I didn’t drink at the level he did, but I did drink and so that meant that when we were together, we were usually partying. My 21st birthday party was no exception.

We had rented out a cabana at the beach at Camp LeJeune and had invited everybody I knew and several more that I didn’t. People were coming into this party all night long, it’s a wonder someone didn’t get arrested as things got a bit rowdy. Truth be told though, I think the Marines has an expectation of rowdiness with their soldiers, so who knows.

Anyway, the next day it was just my core group of friends, which included Herb and Bob and a few others. Bob had been drinking all morning and had decided to go to the main part of the beach. He’d walked into one of the buildings and upstairs to where they were playing “The Electric Slide”, a song that was pretty popular at the time. I had followed him.

I am a pretty bad dancer and even with the song having a specific way to dance to it, I looked pretty stupid. I stopped and watched him instead. Bob had issues, but one thing he could do is dance. I remember smiling, thinking how happy he looked, just being Bob.

After awhile we had gone downstairs and I lost track of Bob for a second. When I turned around, I found him surrounded by several Recon Marines. They looked threatening and Bob looked mad. “Aw, crap!” I thought running to him.

These Marines had correctly determined that Bob was gay, more than likely by the way he was dancing. They were saying things to him that I won’t repeat here and he was responding back in kind. I grabbed his arm, “Bob, dude, let’s go.” I tried to tell him.

One of the Recon Marines looked at me and said, “Don’t touch him, you might get something!”

I don’t remember what I said that day. Probably something like “He’s my friend, leave him alone!” Who knows. All I know was he made me mad, I yelled something at him and I thankfully survived. Recon Marines are not known for their weaknesses.

Not long after that, I received orders for Okinawa and I left Camp LeJeune for the last time. I wrote Bob some and when I got out of the Marines, I even spoke to him a couple times on the phone.

Unfortunately, as often happens, I lost contact with him. I’d tried to look him up several times but couldn’t find him.

As the internet grew in popularity and use, I would occasionally plug his name into a search and see if I could find him. I never had any success. I had a bad feeling he might not be alive, but I could never find out one way or another.

That is until about two weeks ago. I’d been thinking about him again and I plugged his name into Google once more. I found an obituary for a Robert Lyndell Bowens of Newport News, VA. He had died after fighting a long illness at a friend of his home, whose last name was Rose. He served in the Marines during the time that my friend Bob did.

It was him. I know this. I knew Bob was from Newport News, his friend’s last name was Rose, just like Sgt. Rose from the Marines and it showed that this Robert served in the Marines too. It’s him.

The problem? He died 18 years ago. That hit me harder than anything. He died four years after I got out of the Marines and I didn’t know. I had not gotten a chance to mourn him.

How do you mourn someone who’s been dead almost two decades? Someone I know told me that for me he hasn’t been dead for 18 years, he’s been dead for 2 weeks. That may be why it’s hitting me so hard.

I don’t know what would have happened if I’d kept in touch with him. He struggled with so much in his life. I’m not sure I was ever smart enough to help him with any of it. And sometimes, people just don’t want to be helped.

All I know was that this man took a fresh-faced kid from the Midwest and welcomed him into a scary part of his life. He became my friend when I needed one. I will always think of him with great fondness. I wish I had been with him at the end.

I was friends with Robert Lyndell Bowens. His life, as tough as it might have been, mattered. He mattered to me. And I will miss him.