07 November, 2008

Statement of Beliefs

Letter sent to my Republican cousin:
I agree with two major points you make:

(1) The Republican Party, as we know it, is at a crossroads

(2) We need to get out of Iraq

I think the best way to have this discussion is to start with a statement of my values; on the surface, they may seem antithetical to a lot of things that you believe deeply. In reality, however, I think that there always exists common ground caused by our common human experience. So, with that, I hope not to offend.

I came to become an atheist early in life. I came to this conclusion, this momentous conclusion, as a reaction to discussing God with my grandmother, your grand-aunt, Mildred Neill.

I was unable to reconcile the assertation that God loves all children (but judges adults), and the contradiction that God could not accept or love bi-racial children.

I understand this is not a modern or mainstream interpretation of Christianity, but a product of my grandmother growing up in the Deep South during the 1920s or 1930s.

However, it piqued my curiosity about religion and it seeded doubt in me that I was never able to shake.

That said, I respect and admire the good that religious institutions are capable of, and I envy the comfort that faith gives a great many people.

I spent many an hour trying to convince my friends of faith that they were wrong, and as many hours listening to them trying to convince me that I was wrong. I learned that sometimes you just have to agree to disagree.

But, if anyone says I am immoral, I will take great offence. I believe in and try to practice honesty, charity, justice and fairness in my daily life. And I hope that if there were an afterlife, Grandma Neill would approve.

That said, that I don't believe in a life after this one makes my every decision and action all the more crucial. The stakes are for me higher, having only one shot to get it right.

Therefor, it is ironic that I place a high premium on adherence to what could be considered values that echo the Gospel of Matthew:

* each and everyone of us is lucky to be alive
* we owe a debt to one another
* every person has a responsibility to lift up their peers and neighbors
* peace is the highest goal humanity can aspire to
* forgiveness is a virtue
* humility is a virtue
* every day is a struggle against our worse nature

Religions, governments, societies, communities and families are all organizational units whose structure exists in order to keep our lesser, baser instincts in check. None are perfect organs for keeping perfect order, and from time to time the pendulum of greed and selfishness versus community and charity swings back and forth and dances around the center, but can never reach it.

Like you, I have an idealized version of what being a Democrat represents. I am often let down by the failings of the Democratic party.

Like you, my political identity is a result of lifelong indoctrination.

My father's mother, Mildred Neill, worked as a labor activist and married a strike-breaker. Her first husband gave his life to the Labor Movement; he was shot dead right in front of her.

My father's father, who I never did meet, was also a labor activist.

To me, the Labor Movement is every bit as important as the Civil Rights movements for African Americans, and Sufferage for women. And now, the rights of our homosexual citizens are as important to me.

I believe that all people should be protected by government and law, because that is the purpose of law and of government.

I believe that 9/11 was not an act of war but an act of hate, and a crime. I believe that each person accused in that crime deserves the same rights you or I enjoy in a court of law.

I believe that a government that keeps secrets from its citizens, that spies on its citizens and then arbitrarily removes the rights of its citizens is fatally flawed. I believe such a government is exactly the kind of government our founding father's faught and died against.

I believe that buying a Ford Explorer made in Mexico and placing a "I Support The Troops" magnet on it while sending money to Saudi Arabia at the gas pump is an act of treason. American's should have made that car, it should be a low or no-fossil fuel vehicle, and the best way to support the troops is to demand that they not be sent out on an illegal, pre-emptive war.

I also believe we should have mandatory service requirements for all Americans; maybe we won't be so eager to go to war when the children of privilege risk being drafted.

So, that's a start.

Look forward to hearing back from you!