Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Duggar Family Cult

The picture above makes me feel sort of sick to my stomach. Seriously, I find the idea of a woman using her body as a virtual non-stop baby-birthing machine disgusting - and a man who would agree to it equally so. As much as some people tell me they are horrified by abortion, I am horrified by a couple who define themselves by their aptitude for continuous breeding. As much as some people accuse the low income clients I work with of having babies to collect a bigger welfare check (which is rarely true), I think the Duggars have made having and exploiting their children their profession.   

I don't believe you can be good parents to 20 kids. It's one thing for siblings to help out with their younger brothers and sisters but not when there are 20 of them. With that many, I believe that what you essentially do is force your other children into servitude by using them as babysitters and cooks and housekeepers and dishwashers and launderers. 

No one can give individual loving focus to so many. There simply isn't enough time and attention to go around when divided by 20. How do you home school that many children when they are all ages and all at different levels of learning? Is that simply another position assigned to the others? 

Most mothers I know would agreeably admit that they sometimes become stressed and frazzled with only four children, or only three or two, or sometimes only one. I can't even imagine what it must be like to be responsible for 20, unless as I said, you rely on the others to be responsible in your place.

Here is a Duggar recipe for: Chicken and Noodles.

  • 8 cans cream of chicken soup
  • 10 T. Mex. chicken bouillon
  • 17 c. water 
  • 1 onion chopped (or 1 T. onion powder) 
  • 4-5 bags egg noodles
  • Chunks cooked chicken (optional)
  • Pepper to taste
  1. Boil Soup, Bouillon, Water, & Onion. Boil 5 min.
  2. Add Noodles & chicken. Pepper either in pot or at table. Yummy!
Really? The chicken is optional? Go to the Duggar recipe page and you will find that meat is in short supply in most of their recipes. Of course, it is. Even families who make lots of money on reality t.v. probably can't afford the amount of meat it would take to make a dish, well, good. This recipe is called chicken and noodles but it is really just noodle soup.

I don't know too much about the Duggars. I haven't read about them because their lifestyle truly does make me sort of nauseated. I assume it is their religion that makes them what they are because what else would it be except a very harsh and fundamentalist religious denomination that would forbid contraception and believe it was a glory to God for a woman to give birth to 20 children.

How many kids the Duggars have is really none of my business. I'm not trying to stop them from living their faith, as crazy as I think it is. (I wonder if the Duggar kids will all follow in their parents' footsteps? Even if they only average ten offspring apiece, that is 200 new Duggars just in the next generation!)

What always upsets me about Christian fundamentalists (well, religious fundamentalists of any kind, for that matter) is that while they expect to have their most far-out beliefs respected, they rarely extend the same understanding to those who follow a different path.  

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Why Do Americans Like War So Much?

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I find American attitudes about war to be absolutely confounding and sometimes, it makes me wonder just how screwed up our priorities are.

We will march and protest and petition not to have to bake a freaking wedding cake for a gay person or to keep Susie, next door, from having an abortion. We will march against Obamacare. We will pooh-pooh what scientists warn about climate change because....the Bible (which, of course, we all interpret every chapter and verse perfectly - we know exactly what god meant and if you disagree, you're wrong). Sports fans get up in arms about deflated footballs or deflated racecar tires. We will go to the mat to protect our right to carry guns - anywhere, any time, anybody. We join groups and contribute dollars to rescue pets and save tigers and protect whales.

We all have particular issues that light our political fires.

Unfortunately, war doesn't seem to be one of them. We are currently at war in Iraq and Syria and Yemen... oh, not declared war. Those declared wars are over, don't you know? It's just that they didn't end simply because we said so - because other stuff came up that prevented us from following through. So, we are still fighting in Iraq and we're delaying the departure of all our troops from Afghanistan.

These extensions of our wars have been going on for months. They might be ruled unconstitutional if anyone cared enough to test that theory - since Congress hasn't approved them and President Obama is still operating under an order given to George Bush oh-so-many years ago, completely out-of-date, which at any rate, doesn't include Syria or technically, ISIS. And it's not the president hasn't asked Congress to weigh in. He'd like their back up for what he's doing but evidently, they just don't think it is important enough to spend their time on what with, you know, giving the big banks another chance to bankrupt the country on the taxpayer's dime and putting more onerous restrictions on abortion and cutting food stamps and, oh, yeah, vacations. Strange that they are so fervently jealous of their privilege about having a say in the negotiations with Iran but actual wars that we are engaged in right now, who cares?

Now, Iran, yes, there is a war that does pique Congress' interest....we're not at war with Iran now but the Republicans, and even some Democrats, would like to be. They are totally scornful of the president's silly little attempts to peacefully prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. No, they say, the only answer is war. The war-mongers who were wrong about every single prediction they made about Iraq are especially vocal about this line of thinking. "Bomb, bomb, bomb," says John Bolton and Dick Cheney and the rest of the Iraq War crew. And oddly enough, the media, that so-called liberal lamestream media, quotes them as if they still had a shred of credibility.

But it is the people themselves who interest me. According to a poll by the Christian Science Monitor, two-thirds of Republicans support bombing Iran while 38 percent of Democrats do.

I wish the poll had asked people how they conceived of this happening. We go in, we bomb, Iran's nuclear capability is destroyed, we dust off our hands and come home? End of story?

Do we really think it would be that easy? Do we really not believe there would be long-term consequences?

That is actually what we did think about Iraq, isn't it? We'd go in and topple Saddam, we'd show them how democracy works and they'd be so happy. We'd go off and leave a peaceful, democratic Iraq behind.

But that isn't what happened. Iran and Iraq had been roughly equal spheres of influence in the Middle East, each keeping the other in check. Saddam was actually the preferable dictator from our point of view, being secular rather than rabidly Islamic. So what we did was totally destabilize that part of the world and soon Al Qaida sprang up to fill the void and when we decimated Al Qaida's leadership, the even more barbarous and bloodthirsty ISIS took its place. Do we truly believe the best way to win friends and influence people in the Middle East is to bomb yet another Islamic country, seeing as how that tactic has been such a dismal failure in the past?

We went into Afghanistan to get bin Laden and Al Qaida but we decided to stick around, why, because we thought Al Qaida would reconstitute itself or because, what the hell, let's kill off the Taliban while we're already here? Except the Taliban isn't killed and probably never will be.

And what gets me the  most about all of this is that, while we'll protest and vote and sign petitions and posts comments on Facebook for all kinds of less-than-intense issues, we allow our representatives to send our husbands and mothers and sisters and brothers and children off to fight a war, and perhaps die, or return with a life-altering injury, with what amounts to a political shrug of our collective shoulders.

We don't ask if it will be worth the lives of our loved ones. We don't ask what the end game is. We don't ask our leaders how we will know when we've won. We don't ask about the economic costs and whether the price is worth what else we'll will have to give up as a society. We don't ask whether, if these wars are so critical, we shouldn't put our hearts where our mouths are and re-institute the draft and make everyone sacrifice for the cause instead of sending the same soldiers over and over. We don't ask if maybe we should double what we spend on veteran's health to insure that every one of our wounded warriors get proper care when they come home.

Nope, every damn time the politicians yell "charge", a significant number of us pick up our flags and holler in militaristic agreement. Then we go back to watching football games while our kids gear up to go to war.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

When Rights and Freedoms Conflict

Because of all the attention my state of Indiana has received over its recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, I've asked myself what  I believe about freedom - religious or otherwise. How do we decide who prevails when beliefs collide? What tests do we devise to determine whether beliefs are "sincere"? Are some beliefs inherently more righteous than others?

Start with the very foundation of our liberty: "all men are created equal". That should be the bedrock of America's principles. All other laws and rules and regulations flow from that single statement.

But what some of us believe are our rights are in conflict with what others believe are their rights. So the law must intervene to insist that there are times when, sorry, but your pursuit of happiness cannot stand if it impacts others in a negative way.

For instance, some religious denominations don't believe in blood transfusions, or indeed, any medical treatment at all. We had a case in Indiana years ago in which a 4-year-old girl died of a huge tumor growing out of her eye. Natali Mudd had experienced a great deal of suffering before her death. Her parents belonged to the Faith Assembly Church, a Pentecostal offshoot, that relied only on faith healing. At that time, Indiana had strict religious shield laws that protected them from prosecution.

Our laws today say that competent adults may make the decision to refuse medical care for themselves but they may not endanger a child's life because of their beliefs. Are these laws a violation of religious freedom? Should we go back to the previous way? A majority of us say no.

In 2000, Congress passed a law to mandate that prisons must comply with dietary needs of inmates, such as Jews who request kosher food or Muslims for whom it is a sin to eat pork. The cost of  complying with their dietary requirements is only in money, a small price to allow others to observe the tenets of their faith.

The use of peyote by Native Americans for religious purposes has been protected in the U.S. since 1965 but  the Supreme Court, in the case of Employment Division v. Smith, (1990), muddied the waters by holding that the First Amendment does not protect Indian practitioners who use peyote in Native American spiritual ceremonies, and also raised uncertainty whether this religious practice would be protected under the compelling State interest standard.

Ritual animal sacrifice is a part of the religious observance of some Afro-Caribbean religions, such as Santeria. The Supreme Court ruled that such sacrifice was legal in the name of religious freedom. Even some of us who support decorating wedding cakes for gay people are a little squeamish about sacrificing goats for the sake of faith but I guess it is no worse than our sacrificing animals for food. What if it was babies rather than chickens or goats though? No matter how genuine such beliefs might be, I assume we and our lawmakers and the Supreme Court would draw a line.

According to federal law, we cannot discriminate against other Americans based on the EEOC designations of race, color, religion, sex, national origin or age. We cannot refuse to hire them, to allow them to marry, to rent them a motel room, to serve them in our restaurant, to sell them a house, etc.

But the more recent questions have centered around: where do LGBT people fit into this? Based on religion, many Americans believe that homosexuality is disapproved of by God and undeserving of the same rights as the others on the EEOC list. (In fact, there are Americans who still believe this about African Americans but federal law overrules their religious beliefs) Meanwhile, it seems a majority of our citizens have concluded that gay people deserve the same rights as everyone else.

So, religious freedom versus civil rights. As much as Christians want to insist that we were founded as a Christian nation, they are wrong. America was founded on religious freedom, that is the right to practice whatever religion you please or no religion at all. You are free to live your faith or non-faith in whatever way it dictates so long as your faith doesn't infringe on the rights of others.

We entered an entirely new area of conflict when the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are the same as people and not-for-profit organizations, such as churches and hospital and schools associated with religion. Now, any owner of a corporation, like the owners of Hobby Lobby, can discriminate based on their faith, thus, employers do not have to provide contraception to their female employees if doing so goes against their church doctrine.

Evidently a majority of the court decided that the religious beliefs of corporations trumps the right of citizens to receive legal health care.

Abortion is protected in America per the Roe v Wade ruling, however, many red states have used legal maneuvering to shut down the clinics in their states or made the restrictions so onerous as to prevent some women, poor women especially, from accessing them. All these laws are, of course, justified in the name of religion.

Religious belief is often in the eye of the beholder. Thus, a Christian who will go to the mat against the term "Seasons Greetings" may also fight to stop a mosque from being built in their neighborhood. A Christian denies the separation of church and state which, ironically, is the very concept that also protects them from the dreaded Sharia law. Sauce for your goose is not necessarily sauce for my gander.

And what about people like me? People who claim fealty to no religion? Those who are bound to a particular faith are all convinced they have found the One True Way and every other religion is simply wrong (at least) and evil (at most). People like me find most of their most fervent beliefs incomprehensible. A god who cares whether his followers eat pork? A god who sends plagues to afflict his people. A god who demands the sacrifice of a rooster? A god who expresses love by allowing his son to be crucified? A god who orders you not to eat meat and milk together? And on and on and on. Oh, God, you certainly do occupy yourself with nonsensical minutia.

More power to anyone who finds a comforting faith to live by. I don't care if people believe these things and practice these customs as long as they leave me alone and don't try to force me to abide by them. My one spiritual law is contained in the Golden Rule. End of my bible.

America contains every possible religion. The vast majority are Christians, of course, but even they are broken into many denominations with differing beliefs. And among them, they pick and choose the sections of their Holy Books they want to emphasize or ignore. Usually, it is the other guy's sin that is the worst. (Homosexuality? An abomination. Adultery? Ah, well, you know....)

So, it all boils down to whose religious freedom and what religious freedom should be "restored". Oddly enough, we usually believe it is our own that most needs to be restored....which does not foretell peace in our time regarding religion.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Oh, Indiana, What A Mess You've Caused

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What can a Hoosier possibly write about this week except our shiny-new Restoration of Freedom of Religion law? The backlash has been incredible and I think it has astonished its Republican supporters as much as it has the rest of us. Perhaps they assumed there might be an initial flurry of negativity from its opponents but that it would fade in time.

And, after all, they've gotten away with so much in our state since they took over, I expect they thought this was just one more thing apathetic Hoosiers would shrug off as we have being made a Right To Work state and watching our prisons and welfare department and toll road being privatized for the profit of big political donors and seeing our public school system devastated (for the same donors) and ignoring our leaders' decision to deny poor Hoosiers access to healthcare by refusing to accept the Medicaid expansion and tolerating new abortion restrictions and voter i.d. laws. They can be forgiven for believing - "hey, we can get away with anything - Indiana voters either agree with us or if they don't, they won't stir themselves to react."

And, you know, they could still be right. Not only Indianans, but all Americans, have the attention span of gnats when it comes to political issues. As Rachel Maddow reminded us on her show, it was exactly ten years ago that Terri Schiavo was even more of a hot button issue than the RFRA is today. If you remember, Terri had been in a vegetative state for a decade. Her husband wanted to remove her feeding tube and let her die.

The governor of Florida at that time, Jeb Bush, persuaded the Florida legislature to pass a law making him, personally, Governor Jeb Bush, her guardian and they did. He signed the law and then ordered an ambulance to take Terri from the hospice where she resided to a hospital where she was hooked back up to her tube and artificially induced to live on.

A lower court declared the Terri Schiavo law unconstitutional and the Supreme Court allowed its ruling to stand.

But Jeb wasn't done. He went to Congress and convinced them, much as he had Florida lawmakers, to pass a national law forbidding the medical community to allow Terri to die. Congress came back from a recess just to vote. George W Bush signed the law. And once again, Jeb was Terri's guardian and he ordered her to be kept alive.

Remember now, these were the Republicans who shout to the skies how they believe government should keep its nose out of the private lives of citizens....unless they don't.

Public opinion was overwhelmingly against the Republicans in the Terri Schiavo matter (she eventually did die). In fact, when Americans were polled they claimed to be horrified that state legislators and governors and congresspeople and presidents would behave in such an arrogant manner. But, hey, this happened ten years ago and life goes on and we forget. Did we hold it against them? No, not in the long run. We voted for them overwhelmingly in the last election...or we didn't vote at all, which is the same thing.

The difference between Terri Schiavo and the Restoration of the Freedom of Religion Act is that poor Terri and her husband didn't have a bunch of big gun defenders, just a few liberal groups and common people. No one the Republicans cared anything about.

But business is against the RFRA and that's an entirely different story. Business is the Republican God so when Apple and Eli Lilly and Walmart and Cummins Engine and many, many more, not to mentions sports organizations, (NASCAR expressed its disapproval, for God's sake, and it doesn't get worse than that for conservatives!) The Indianapolis Star featured a front page headline in huge letters that simply said: FIX THIS NOW - and trust me, the Indianapolis Star is not considered part of the liberal "lamestream" media. Our state has already been hit by business boycotts and more are threatened.

So, we are now looking at a clarification amendment, or so the legislature and Governor Pence say. (The governors of both Arkansas and North Carolina have decided to think a little longer about signing their own recently passed Freedom of Religion laws in light of the push back Indiana has received). I don't think that will work. At this point, it is too little, too late. The whole damn this needs to be repealed. Maybe our state Republicans can get some advice from the national party because Washington Republicans definitely have a lot of experience trying to repeal laws.