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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: January 2005

Friday, January 28, 2005

Sponge Bob Gaypants?

Sponge Bob Squarepants has become the latest target of the Christian Right? I listened to this news on the Today Show with disbelief. As the report unfolded, it became abundantly clear that Sponge Bob was not the primary target of the Christian Right; the real ‘villain’ was an organization called the We Are Family Foundation. The foundation was created shortly after the events of September 11, 2001 to promote tolerance. Nile Rodgers, the founder of this foundation was interviewed on the Today Show puzzled about why anyone would object to his message but believed his organization was confused with a gay rights organization with a similar sounding name (I discovered that World Net Daily made the same error but corrected the mistake). Even though that may be the case, Christian organizations such as Dr. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family find the WAFF tolerance pledge offensive because it supposedly promotes homosexuality. You be the judge:

Tolerance is a personal decision that comes from a belief that every person is a treasure. I believe that America’s diversity is its strength. I also recognize that ignorance, insensitivity and bigotry can turn that diversity into a source of prejudice and discrimination.

To help keep diversity a wellspring of strength and make America a better place for all, I pledge to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own.

Every person is a treasure even gay people? We can’t have that! Respect others who have a different sexual identity from my own? Not my children! They must learn to be intolerant of those who do not believe my version of the Christian faith!

Is this your message Dr. Dobson? How about you Dr. Laura? Reverend Farwell? Pat Roberson? I know you all have a difficult time understanding this but this country is a FREE country and it does not just belong to you! Believe it or not some of us believe that tolerance for others is a moral and good thing and morals are not the express property of the Christian Right. Being tolerant does not mean you have to agree with those beliefs different from your own. You are the very people who cry ‘persecution’ by the media. Why do you think this is? Is it at all possible that this persecution is a backlash against you for pushing your beliefs on the rest of us through public policy? You really give Christians a bad name and some of your brethren are certainly not pleased!

So where does Sponge Bob fit into all of this? The WAFF made a music video featuring Sponge Bob, Sesame Street, Barney the Dinosaur, the Teletubbies (Reverend Farwell already outed Tinkie-Winke several years ago), and an assortment of other characters kids love. The song that goes with the video is the song ‘We Are Family;’ the popular characters dance and sing along. The video is being distributed to elementary schools across the country. The video itself doesn’t seem to be the problem other than the fact that WAFF is behind it.

For some reason, some people think that the idea of tolerance is politically correct. Maybe it is, I don’t know. What I do know is that intolerance is the cause of the vast majority of the past and present wars and injustices. Some Muslims are intolerant of the Jews, Christians, non-theists, and other ‘infidels’. Some Christians are intolerant of those who believe anything other than their faith. These are only a couple of examples.

The intolerance itself is not the problem in a free society; it’s the actions that follow the intolerance. We all know the history of the Jim Crow South, the killing of Mathew Sheppard, and the school teacher who was put on trial, John Scopes, for teaching evolution. All of these were results of intolerance. Intolerance continues to plague our culture. The military’s intolerance of gays in the military has cost valuable resources in the war on terror. The military desperately needs individuals who can speak Arabic; however, some of these highly valued individuals are being discharged because of a personal lifestyle choice.

In a free society, tolerance is crucial because with a free society there is always a diversity of opinions. Tolerance is perhaps the greatest challenge for all of us. WAFF is doing a great service by educating children while they are young. Until everyone learns how to respect each others differences, the dream of ‘liberty and justice for all’ will remain only a dream.
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Friday, January 21, 2005

Is the World's Freedom the Responsibility of the United States?

In his second inaugural address, President Bush stated: “The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.” On this point, I couldn’t agree more. But is it the responsibility of the USA to spread freedom around the globe?

There are places in the world that are a threat to our freedoms, and those regimes should be dealt with; not because we want to free people in foreign lands, but to preserve our freedoms at home. I support both the war in Afghanistan and Iraq because both are in our strategic best interest in defeating terrorism. The President was correct in advocating that freedom is the best way to ultimately achieve peace; countries which are self-governed don’t tend to attack each other. Everything he said about the virtues of free societies is true. My concern is how does he intend to make this happen? Tyrants don’t tend to let go of their power willingly.

The President went on to make promises to those who currently are oppressed: “All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.”

Does this signal a change in U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Iran, China, The Sudan and other places where there is tyranny? Does this necessarily mean the U.S. will use military force in some of these places or does it simply mean we will continue to offer our moral support (lip service) for these people?

These countries are only a few which deny freedom to their citizens; he couldn’t possibly mean we should liberate them all. Saudi Arabia and China are both out of the question for economic reasons. The energy policy of this country depends too much on foreign oil; Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest sources of oil (and terrorism). If the U.S. stopped trading with China because of its human rights violations, the U.S. economy would collapse and the rest of the world’s economy would soon follow.

What about Iran and North Korea? A strong case could be made that both of these governments should fall but any suggestion of going to war in either of these places would be an extremely hard sell, even to those of us who supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a practical matter, Iraq should be taken care of first. If Iraq and Afghanistan are successful in setting up self rule, in theory Iran’s people will fight for their own freedom because they will want to experience freedom themselves. Whether this happens or not will be very instructive to this administration and future administrations. North Korea, perhaps the most dangerous of the remaining axis of evil, will also be a huge challenge. Much of the criticism by some was that North Korea was a bigger threat than Iraq. If the biggest rationale for going to war with Iraq was WMD, these critics may have had a point. Saddam did however use WMD in the past on the Kurds, what would have stopped him from using WMD on us if he was able to acquire some?

What about the Sudan and countless other tyrannical regimes? Is President Bush planning on following the neocon philosophy of liberating the entire planet with the U.S. military? If people yearn for freedom, at some point they have to fight for it themselves. As much as I would like to believe as the president does, tyranny will not be wiped out anytime soon. The fight against oppression is as old as civilization itself. The best way to advance freedom is to be an example to the world. Though the United States is a free country, there is plenty of room for improvement. The quest for liberty starts at home.
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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Generosity With Other People’s Money

Once again the United States has come to the aid of people in desperate need of assistance; the tsunami disaster is only the latest example. Once again the United States is criticized by foreign diplomats for not contributing enough to help those who need the help. After all, the United States is the wealthiest country in the world therefore; the United States owes more to the relief effort. The sad truth is that not only are these comments coming from the socialist ideologues of Europe and the United Nations, but also from pundits and politicians on the Left and the Right in this country.

The actual amount the U.S. government should contribute to help the victims of the tsunami is $0. For those of you who do not subscribe to the Libertarian philosophy this may sound very cruel and harsh. The reason the U.S. government should not give foreign aid is because it isn’t the governments to give in the first place! Taking money from one person to give to another person, no matter how virtuous the cause, is wrong.

The government has no constitutional authority to spend taxes for any reason other than what is enumerated to the government in Article I Section 8. The wise men who wrote the constitution understood how governments could be generous with other people’s money; when spending someone else’s money, being generous is easy. The government is like a spoiled rich child who takes his parent’s wealth for granted. The child wrecks his new BMW and buys another one with his parent’s money. As a result, the child has no appreciation for the value, the hard work his parents had to put in to earn the money. Let’s suppose the spoiled child wants to do something good with his parent’s money such as feed a couple of hundred hungry people. Though he seems more virtuous in this scenario, the fact remains: it is easier to be generous with his parent’s money. If the parents decide to make their child earn his own money and he still wants to help feed the hungry, he is truly a generous person and the money he spends has value attached to it.

The government is our spoiled child that we have failed to discipline. We have allowed and even asked our child to spend our money for us on things that we (the private sector) could better provide for ourselves. In spite of the fact that the government is contributing our money to the relief efforts in Asia, Americans are willingly giving more. The American people are the most generous people on the earth, contributing over $1 billion beyond what the government has taken from us. This should be applauded; Americans should give to the less fortunate and have proven to do so with little or no convincing. When the government takes from its citizens in the name of charity and virtue, the government is still the thief, not only stealing the citizen's money, but also the joy in helping his common man.
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