I’m Not Racist?

We cannot be our own judge.

“No, I am not a racist.”

Really?

The problem with self-declared exonerations such as our president recently gave is that they’re meaningless.  (And no, I’m not saying that he or his administration is meaningless – far from it!  But, judging the meaning of the current administration is not the subject of this posting.)

Here’s the issue: statements such as “I am not racist” originate from our own point of view.  They are an expression of how we see ourselves.  And of course, we are our own heroes in the reality show that is our life.  So, no – we’re certain that we’re not racists.  We’re not misogynists.  We’re not bullies.  We’re not evil.  Those are negative words, about nasty things – everybody agrees they’re nasty, but we’re not nasty – so no, such nasty, negative, sad terms are not labels that can be applied to us.

In proclaiming our guiltlessness, we ignore that we cannot provide a valid and balanced judgment of ourselves with regards to the accusation that we are racist.  That judgment must be left up to others, to those who are the victims of racism.  Our racism (or any oppressive behavior we may exhibit) can be only identified by another, not by ourselves.  We cannot be our own judge.

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Making Guns our God

The discussion on gun control needs to be on where to draw the line – on what is in the best interests of society as a whole. Claiming that it is a matter of “personal rights guaranteed by the constitution” is a profound misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of a document that was intended from the start “to create a more perfect union” by delineating the boundaries between the responsibilities and rights of the State vs. those of the individual.

IOF-32-REV-1[Just a reminder to all: I make an effort to approve all comments regardless of the writer’s perspective.  But when it comes to contentious issues like this (where passions are strong), I recommend reviewing my comments policy before writing your response.]

I agree with the basic premise of author Mark Lockhard’s recent post on the Sojourners website entitled “Making Guns our God”:  Claiming that the best response to “the other’s” (real or imagined) possibility for violence is to have an equal or greater capacity for violence of your own is not in line with any flavor of Christian thought (thoughtless Christianity exempted). It is also futile and never ends well, as both history and recent news headlines have repeatedly shown.

But, I tend to be a bit more of a pragmatist, I think.  We will not and cannot eliminate guns from society, and while I will never own a gun myself, I realize that we as a society have to make room for those who like having and using guns for sport and personal enjoyment; as well as for those who hunt.

The gun debate is about where to draw the line when it comes to owning tools of violence. We don’t allow people to own all the atomic bombs, fighter jets, tanks, or grenade launchers they want to have – i.e., our laws already make it clear that people cannot arm themselves with whatever weapons they want. So, the claim that gun ownership must have no limits [whether based on a questionable reading of the 2nd amendment or not] is unreasonable, just as a complete ban on all gun ownership is equally unreasonable. The line is somewhere in between.

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What is a “Respectful Dialog”?

I welcome and enjoy hearing out viewpoints different from my own – and almost always learn something valuable from such discussions. But, abusive speech is never acceptable, and won’t be tolerated. It’s how the views are being communicated that is the issue, not what is being communicated.

11027993_10153228240696773_4766521774461750123_nI spend much of my time writing or posting content on the internet that is intended to educate and inform, and to encourage discussion.  These discussions often manifest themselves in the form of comment-threads with a large number of participants.  (Sadly, most of the more interesting and productive discussions occur on my Facebook page, and so aren’t visible on my WordPress sites.  I wish there were a way to replicate comments between the two!)

Every so often (especially in response to my posts on more controversial topics), I will get a hoard of what I mentally label as “Whacko Conspiracy Theorists” making a rash of comments that have little to do with what is being said, and everything to do with how they feel about what they feel the topic should be: often hijacking what had (or could have) been a productive discussion.

Such comments are a quandary for me: Yes, I want to encourage discussion.  But it is clear that many of these “Whacko Conspiracy Theorists” have no interest whatsoever in learning anything, or in developing a common ground of understanding (and a possible basis for united action on the topic at hand).

So, how does one identify those who are really “Whacko” as opposed to those who merely hold views different from my own?  It is all too easy to label any who disagree with you as “Whacko” and move on – which is what many do on both sides of the fence.  But, this is not productive.  Responding to others’ nutty comments with your own favorite flavor of nuttiness does not help the situation: it does not encourage dialog, and does not do anything to develop a common understanding.  What’s more, when you dig under the covers, you often find significant areas of agreement in terms of identifying what the basic problem is.  The disagreement usually comes with ones’ preferred solution.  We cannot hear what those areas of agreement are if we stay focused only on our disagreements.

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