Archive for the ‘My moral code’ Category

Moral authority should be a primary Presidential trait. The Economist has rightly called our president out for not having the balls to take a moral stance against evil.

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I read this morning that nearly half of the American people believe it is acceptable to use torture if it yields actionable information. I find this utterly abhorrent.

For you 50% I pray that you don't know the definition of torture.

Many or you who fall into this category call yourselves "Christian" and I ask you this: Would Jesus – "Mr. turn the other cheek" – ever condone imposing excruciating, unspeakably horrible, unending pain on another human being? Would Jesus ever say there is a proper time to connect a woman's labia to electric current or to deny sleep to a prisoner between sessions of waterboarding? If you answer "yes" then I suggest you find a way to unbaptize yourself because your view of Jesus is clearly different from Jesus' view of Jesus.

Some of you may not call yourself Christian – or even religious – and I want to speak to you also.

Can you not at least consider a moral code that respects the right to exist of every member of our species? Can you not acknowledge each human as worthy of being left without unspeakable pain? Can you not imagine yourself drowning, being slammed against walls repeatedly, having your genitals mutilated, being kept awake for days on end, being stoned to death, having your fingernails pulled out, and realize that such unspeakable acts inflict pain of which you cannot even conceive – and that a worldview that condones such acts in not even human?!?!

I hate terrorists as much as any American. I love America at least as much as most of you. I even waver in my support – and lack thereof – of the death penalty when I hear of the horrors that we humans can inflict in others. I want those who harm others to be punished. But there is a line beyond which nothing can pass – no moral system, no twisted ethics, no religion, no belief system – and that line is the purposeful infliction of excruciating pain – physical, mental, or emotional.

When half of our country is willing to cross that line then we are perhaps a state no better than the Islamic one called ISIL This can't possibly be the case. The greatest experiment in a society of liberty can't possibly have degraded to the level of one that accepts torture and denies the sacredness of the Geneva Conventions.

If you really believe that torture is acceptable then I beg you to reconsider. We have taken steps backward but surely not so far back as barbarism!!!

I stand with the Coptic Christian community and I encourage them to fight to survive the horror of ISIS which (if I believed in Satan) I’d call Satan incarnate. 

Don’t take the words “turn the other cheek” too seriously. Fight for your community however you need too.  Every human life is sacred but some are more precious than others. (Hint: if you shoot Christians just because they aren’t Muslims then you fall squarely into the NON-precious category and I’d say you are fair game.)

Remember Copts, you have the right to your beliefs so long as they don’t harm others. Let no one take them from you; especially those who embody evil. They hate you and Jesus might tell you not to hate them back. But, it’s okay NOT TO DIE at the hands of zealots. Remember, the proper translation of the commandment is “thou shalt not murder” NOT “thou shalt not kill”. If you are going to die, die defending your humanity. Don’t Die of complacency.

As one of the world’s small remaining community of Jews, I stand with you. You are not alone.

By the time that we American Jews begin our commemoration of the Shoah, the first round of the 2017 French Presidential election will be over.

That is significant.

At the very moment that we are praying that the horror of the Holocaust will never again befall our people, the moment when we hear from the few remaining survivors of the Nazi death camps, it’s likely that Marine Le Pen – the daughter of an avowed anti-Semite who is the farthest of the French far right – will receive sufficient public support to make it to the final round.

The French racist hyper-Nationalism which puts Ms. Le Pen into this position is not unique.

As we pray that such a horror will never befall our people again, many of us pray that such atrocities will never befall ANYONE again. But, as we do so, our American President is hell bent on beginning to build a wall on our southern border before he reaches his 100th day in office. Our American President sends congratulatory messages to dictators who’s people stupidly grant their leader additional powers. Our American President was elected on the specific promise to turn away refugees just like our country disgracefully did to European refugees who’s return trip sent them right into the National Socialist gas chambers.

But it does not end with Le Pen and Trump.

Throughout Europe there is a rising tide of Antisemitism. Around the world, Antisemitism is weakly disguised as anti-Zionism. America is immersed in Islamophobia. Radical Islam perpetuates the myth that even Muslims have insurmountable divisions that can only be solved through mass murder. The UK would rather leave the European Union than to embrace diversity. And an insane child is leading North Korea toward World War III.

In other words, every year I quote Robert Nozick and every year I come closer to believing his statement that the Holocaust may have demonstrated that our species is indeed unworthy of survival. I can’t bring myself to embrace that, though, and here’s why:

I believe that humans are no more than the latest round of primates. I believe that we are not really all that special. But, I also believe that we have been given, by God or by chance (who knows?), the unique capacity to reason and, as far as we know, a uniquely sophisticated linguistic ability. Together this is a powerful toolkit. With it, we have the ability to change our destiny.

We can use those tools to accelerate our demise as Kim Jong Un is want to do. But we could also delay it by thousands of generations, perhaps even permanently change its course. But to do the latter takes the courage to fight the forces of hatred, misogyny, xenophobia, and fear-mongering through which everything “other” becomes a tool for evil dictatorial “leaders” to take control of our societies. To turn toward good we need only use our reason and our communicative capacity to help enough others to realize that we can, indeed we must, turn away from evil.

And so, as we approach Yom haShoah 2017, my hope is that all of my coreligionists will use our commemoration of the past to rededicate ourselves to the realization that the past can and will repeat itself if we are not each individually a force for change.

I am the grandson of Russian immigrants. My father’s parents came to America in the very early 20th century. They were Jewish and the main reason they came was to escape and Antisemitism. 

Grandma and grandpa came from a place where, as a minority, they were hated – to a place whose founding principles were equality and liberty – well, at least for white folk. All that they, and others like them,  wanted was a chance to make a life not mired in hatred. Grandpa’s first way of earning a living was to own gumball machines.

So, I give a danm about others partly because I am just rwo generations removed from immigrants; immigrants who embraced America’s dream –  and I am proud of that. 

The American dream is eroding now; eroding at an unprecidented rate; leaving in it’s wake both sadness and disdain for anyone who’s not a gun-toting rich white Christian. Most horrific is that this is happening in a part of the world where every gun-toting rich white Christian is an immigrant! 

What has this to do with Passover? Easy. 

On Passover one of the greatest mitzvot is to welcome strangers into your home. This is because, just like the gun-toting rich white Christians were in America, we were once strangers in the land of Egypt. We embrace “strangers” because we WERE strangers. Not only that, if we let liberty continue to erode, we could become them once again. 

It happened in Russia. It happened in Germany. If you think it won’t happen in America the I beg you to open your eyes and polish up your critical thinking skills. Because… it is.

On Passover especially, we don’t build wall; we open doors. We don’t exclude strangers; we embrace them. We don’t detest diversity; we embrace it. 

This must happen for everyone, every day. Only then will we open the door and will Elijah stay for longer than just a swig of bad wine. Only then will Eliahu ha navi hearld the messianic age. Or, for we who do not believe in all the theology, only then will people stop treating each other like shit and embrace dignity and love.
This Passover I urge you to RESIST hate and embrace all humanity. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan “Mr. Trump, tear down (the plans for) this wall”.

Hag Pesach Someach!

Dear Mr. President. 

I know you are doing exactly what your supporters want. They are happy to see you “doing what you said”. I will admit, that is a rare trait and I know why your supporters approve. I, personally, don’t approve – but the magic of American polity is that I don’t have to. 

There is something else magical about the American political system. That is its built in infrastructure of checks and balances. As you do all the things that you promised your supporters, I urge you to remember that this system is not only critical but it is, to paraphrase you, exactly the unique attribute that “makes America great”. If you want to “make America great again” then the you should strengthen, not weaken, our system.

Please remember that there are 3 branches of government. The whole purpose of that is to have these crucial pillars of checks and balances. 
Understand that the position you hold is only one of the 3 pillars. As you pursue the will of your supporters, you must not forget the other 2 pillars. 

Your power is expressly limited and that is on purpose. Perhaps the pillar most associated with these checks and balances is our independent judiciary. I urge you to remember two things.

First – You are a president not a king.

Second – Just because a Judge does not agree with you does not make him a “so called Judge”. 

Please learn to deal with the rest of our government with professionalism and respect. You are but one of 3 EQUAL branches. In fact, if you read the constitution you will find that yours is the most limited branch of all. 

Our Declaration of Independence freed us from the rule of a king. Our Articles of Confederation tried, but failed, to loosely bind us. Our Constitution came into being to truly unite the people of this land in a way that created a single federal government but not a single governing body. It is a work, however flawed, of genius. But, it only works with 3 equal branches and a politically independent judiciary. Let it work.

I know how easy it is to want to be the king but, we the people don’t want a king. You won an election. Now govern according to the rules.

Please give it some thought and let me know if you want me to send you one of my Cato pocket constitutions. I’m happy to share.

Your citizen,

Steve

Because of the insanity going on in the United States right now it seems an opportune time to step back and consider what really matters. Our country does not now seem well disposed to people who need our help. We are turning away from immigrants, away from the homeless, and away from compassion. It seems like a good time to share the next chapter of my Faces of Need Photo Essay. I’d like to do that now.

Recall that “Faces of Need – Portland” is an ongoing project that I started at the end 2015. It’s purpose it two-fold. First, it brings attention to the humanity and dignity of every Oregonian. Second, it reminds us that even in a land as blessed as Oregon the problem of hunger continues unabated.

I hope you find power in these images and that they remind you – as I’ve said before – that every human being is a unique and wonderful creation, worthy of love, respect, dignity, shelter, sustenance, and compassion.

Peace, love, and light y’all,

Steve

 

Faces of Need: A Photo Essay (Part 2)

By: Steven Craig Bilow

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