I Am Proud To Be An American: Happy Birthday America!

Since the election I have been thinking about a lot of different things. Partisanship, big government-small government, Trump, Sanders, Alt-Right, and Alt-Left are things that continually run through my mind; am I political, not political enough, do I care about those who have not had the wonderful opportunities I have, or does it matter? I do know I believe in the right of people to own their own property, and I believe in the right of business people to own their own businesses and experience the reward of owning said business. In that case I am a Democratic-Capitalist. I also believe that business people can get a bit greedy, and therefore someone needs to watch how business is conducted. This is not government overreach, at least if it is done correctly.

The above is not what I want to write about, but thoughts associated with Democray. I just finished Condoleezza Rice’s wonderful work on Democracy. Democracy: Stories From The Long Road To Freedom is an excellent look at the messiness of Democracy. Rice states in the chapter entitled, 2016, “Democracy’s story is ever evolving. There are always new challenges, new responses, and new possibilities – good and bad.” I thought about this comment on the golf course today, especially in light of what is occurring in our country right now.

Many in our country think that our politicians do not represent our aspirations and fears. Rice emphasizes this is why the United States and Europe are facing strong populist movements. I remember during the election when I said I was not voting for either major party candidate, one side would tell me not voting for their candidate is a vote for the other, and the other side would say the same thing. Thus, I agree with Rice. “Some write darkly that these trends constitute a threat to democracy – if not the end of it as we know it. That seems alarmist and premature. Indeed, democracy is built for disruption and its institutions, its checks and balances, and its shock absorber – the ability of people to change their circumstances peacefully. People are exercising that right – at the ballot box, in the courts, and some in the streets.”

I have to believe that our system will prevail in this tumultuous time. As much as I tire of the negative rhetoric coming from both sides, and have even taken part with name-calling, I have to believe that the Democracy of the United States will prevail. Rice encourages by reminding us, “The statesmen who inherited the broken postwar world of 1945 built a system that trusted free markets and free trade to create an international economy that would grow . . . Countries would find comparative advantage, trade freely, and all would benefit.”

I also agree with Rice when she states, “the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – populism, nativism, protectionism, and isolationism – served neither democracy nor peace very well the last time around.” We cannot allow the fear associated with these horsemen to overwhelm us.

Even today, July 3rd, as we get ready to celebrate the 4th of July, some of us feel like this is not their holiday. I am sorry for that, so we still have work to do. Also, not everyone is participating in the economic prosperity, therefore new jobs programs and apprenticeships should be created to help these folks win the millions of jobs not being filled today because of the lack of job skills. Rice argues, “The postwar global order need to admit that there are those who have not shared in its prosperity and are troubled by its rejection of more traditional values.” She also states, “the trend toward dividing people into ever-smaller groups, each with its own particular grievance and narrative, comes at the expense of the unifying identity that all democracies need.”

Tomorrow will be July 4th, the day we celebrate independence from an authoritarian regime led by George III. Tomorrow we all come together as one nation to celebrate the fact that we are all Americans. Several years ago I asked my Uncle why my grandfather never made a big deal about his coming from Russia. My uncle said that my grandfather wanted to be known as an American. Not a German-Russian American, but an American. That is what I am today and for my humanly existence. Democracy is a wonderful thing. It is one thing to create Democracy and another to keep it. Lets keep it simple and be American. Happy 4th.

And this is my thought for the day!

Capitalism Versus Socialism: The Predator Versus Godzilla

Several days ago I shared a link on Facebook that discussed the negative elements of liberal elitism, and as I expected I received several comments based upon the political beliefs of the respondents. Once again, those comments have caused me to ponder what it is that I believe. Even so called pop stars say we must be political, so how am I political? What is it I believe? I do know I am against Socialism. I agree with Hayak, it is the road to Serfdom, thus the metaphor Godzilla. I believe in the power of Capitalism, if used right, can lead people to freedom, but it can be a Predator. Let me define terms and then why I chose the metaphors I did to represent Socialism and Capitalism.

In my mind Socialism, in any form, is as Hyak stated, “The Road to Serfdom.” Hyak believed that central government planning would lead us once again to working for the lords. “High taxes and large government will have the same effect as it did 1000 years ago.” The question in my mind then, is how big should government be? Can the government provide services more effectively and efficiently than the free market? I think this is a fair question. However, I am not sure it is the right question. A better question would be, are there services that the government should offer because it is a right?

In Condoleezza Rice’s wonderful book, “Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom,” mentions the role of security as necessary for a Democracy to thrive. In the chapter that discusses Columbia, Rice states, “The Columbian government had to provide security for its people.” FARC and other paramilitaries were undermining the stability of the country. Therefore, any Democracy needs to be secure.

I do think there are other responsibilities of a central Federal government other than security. Federalism in the United States expresses the relationship between our central Federal Government and the government provided by the States. After the Civil War the United States moved to Dual Federalism. However, after the Depression FDR’s New Deal policies moved us more to a stronger national government. Ronald Reagan attempted to move us back to what was called the “New Federalism,” where power was moved back to the states.

The size of the state has been debated and continues to be enacted in its various forms, depending on who is in power. I think this reflects the people in the United States and I think it is positive. I believe that for our country to continue to be free there needs to be a Ying and Yang. This will ensure the government does not become too big or too small.

Take healthcare for example. I think everyone should have access to good healthcare. I also think people should take care of themselves. The compromise then would be to have a healthcare that is available to all people, but if they want better health care they can buy a supplement. Whatever level of taxes required to provide that type of healthcare system, then so be it. This is not the centralized planning of the economy. It is people, as represented by the government we elect, taking care of each other.

However, when it comes to the economy Capitalism is the system to have in place. Based in the value of vocation, the system is based in the ability of people to choose what to purchase, where to work, and when to climb the ladder. Where this becomes problematic is when systems are put in place to favor those with power. This is what anti-capitalists focus on when discussing their reasons for being against the free market. However, I am one who believes that even though this system is not perfect, it is better than all the others.

The first premise of capitalism is profit. In other words, having something left over. Through the voluntary exchange process the person who has the ability to own their own business will run the business in a manner that is efficient, therefore, having something left over. Thus the pillars of capitalism are private property, self-interest, competition, a market mechanism, the freedom to choose, and the limited role of government.

In either case, Socialism or Capitalism, there can be excesses. However, I would equate Socialism to Godzilla and Capitalism to the Predator. Godzilla is an iconic character originating in Japan. Metaphorically it represents the horrors of nuclear war. Through its atomic breath, reptilian body, and muscular arms, it can destroy cities, people, and a nation. Godzilla’s roar can send chills into the hearts of those affected by his presence. The size of Godzilla is overwhelming and terrifying. Some would say that Godzilla is a metaphor for the United States, but I am using it as a metaphor of the ability of Socialism to destroy the world. Just as dangerous is Capitalism if not coupled with Democracy.

To illustrate this danger I am using the Predator as a metaphor. The Predator was an alien who came to the world to devour its prey. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, and Jesse Ventura were a part of the team to kill the Predator. The problems associated with the Predator were evident, skinned bodies and bones, while the Predator was hard to see, but had deadly tools that could be used to destroy the people around him. The Predator is a metaphor for the ability of Capitalism to leave skinned bodies and bones alongside the road as it move along.

If left on it’s own Capitalism, not known for fairness, can lead to the same excesses as Socialism. However, with the right team in place, Democracy, the ability of the Predator to kill can be controlled. Schwarzenegger’s team was made up of volunteers, so I think another control on Capitalistic excesses is personal choice. People should choose to be benevolent.

As I reflect on both metaphors, I think the Predator is evil and dangerous, but I think Godzilla is the larger problem. Once in place Godzilla will be harder to destroy than the Predator.

In conclusion, I am a Democratic-Capitalist. I am not ashamed of this and am willing to shout it from the housetops. I am very concerned with this growing desire to become Socialist, and agree with Hayak, it will only lead us back to becoming Serfs. However, as I alluded to with my metaphors, without controls on Capitalism, it too is a problem, and can lead us to the same place, serfdom.

And that is my thought for the day!

Thoughts On The Future: Retirement and Beyond

Wow, I just realized I haven’t written a blog since last February. I think it is time to gather my gowns and start to run again. Much has happened over the last few months, and I have made many decisions about my future. As an older gentleman, a true Boomer, I think it is time to think about how to move to the latter phase of my life. The question I have right now, is what do I do?

First, I know I will retire. In fact, I have let my boss know that next May I will not teach full time any longer. However, I would like to teach part time in our adult program. This is not a given, they may not want be to teach, but I do need to figure out how to contribute in my latter years. I am not one to just sit around, and one can only play so much golf.

Second, I know I am going to write. I like to write, and I think I can put my thoughts into words that just may encourage people. Another question in my mind is what do I write about? Also, what gives me the right to put information “out there,” and is there anyone who will be willing to read it? As, I think about Strength’s Finder, and my top five strengths – I remember that harmony is one of those gifts. So I think by focusing my writing on harmony, finding equilibrium between opposing ideas, just might be where I should focus.

I am severely conflicted in regards to the contradistinction found today in the church, politics, and business/academics. Within the church there is a struggle in the understanding of liberation theology. In the most polarized constituents found within the church the left is focused on an interfaith universalism that ignores the centrality and distinction of believing in Jesus Christ, while the church on the right is focused on just the liberation of people from sin and appears to have very little care for the marginalized people of our society. Again, these are the extremes, which seem to me to be feeding the increase of apostasy in our nation. This juxtaposition is an affront to my desire for harmony, and therefore seems like something I can write about. Having been a member of the Church for 44 years I have seen many different expressions, and having worked with people who I would consider leftist believers I have an opinion that I am willing to share.

The second area of disharmony is in our political world. Democrats and Republicans are tearing our political system apart. However, I think it is more than just political parties it is how people are looking to political ideology as the savior of our country. So-called progressives have become the intolerant tolerant, who do not see anything positive coming from those with more conservative viewpoints; while conservatives are responding to this moral prejudice by voting for a President that was just not the other. So instead of having valuable conversations as reflected in the past within our Democratic Republic, we talk past one another and try to stop the other from talking. In the past it was trying to stop Angela Davis, now it is trying to stop Ann Coulter. Both are symbolic of the issues within our country. Having been a voting citizen for almost 50 years, and one who is proud of being middle right, I have something to say about this.

The third area that I would like to write about is the relationship between business and academia. Having worked in industry for 48 years, and taught in academia for 20 years, I think I have an opinion about both that just may be able to start a conversation. The business world sees academia as an environment desiring safety, and the young people that emerge from these safe zones are snowflakes that are not able to critically think and make decisions. Although this generalization may be true in some cases, most of the young people I work with are trying to get ready for a meaningful career. Academia, however, sees Business as only wanting to exploit people so the owners of Capital can get richer. That may be true in some cases, but not most. Most business people are proponents of Stakeholder Theory. They want their businesses to be successful providing them with a good life. They want to do right for their communities and employees, while providing a product or service in the best possible way. Most business people I know what to do well while doing good. I definitely have something to say about that.

So there you have it. This will be my future. I was waffling the other day about retiring. However, I had a great conversation where the person I was talking with said, “Roger, what do you want?” I left the meeting and I was at peace. Time to move on to my new endeavor.

To properly define this new direction, I would like to display a philosophical foundation, or theoretical framework, for my subsequent blogs. Think of an inverted triangle. The top two vertices are Democracy and Capitalism. The vertex on the bottom of the inverted triangle is Faith, and in my case it is faith in Jesus Christ. It will be through this lens that I will explore the paradoxes associated with the church, politics, and business/academics. To begin the new focus I will define my political/economic belief as Democratic Capitalist.

Let’s define terms. What do I mean by Democracy? The word’s foundation is from Greek language. It means rule of the people. When I use the term, I am thinking of the classic definition of “a system of government by the whole population or all eligible members of a state, typically through elected officials.” I am thinking of the Constitution as the foundation of this democratic system, and the evolution of this system to ensure that all are enjoying the freedom associated with being a citizen of this democracy.

The second term is Capitalism. There are many terms that are used by people that generate strong emotions, but the word Capitalism demonstrates the polarization of wealth in this country. When I use the term I am thinking of the classic Ayn Rand definition, “Capitalism is a social system based on the principle of individual rights.” However, we need to be a bit more specific. When I say the word Capitalism I mean an economic system where the means of production are privately owned, where individuals have the right to own property, where people have the right to earn money, where people have the right to buy what they want to buy, and where sellers have to compete for people to buy their products or services.

Now that I have defined terms, let’s put the terms together. Democratic Capitalism represents the combination of three systems into one. I will be relying heavily on Michael Novak for this part of my blog. Novak states, “What do I mean by democratic capitalism? I mean three systems in one: a predominately market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all.” This is why I use the inverted triangle as symbolic of this system.

I truly believe that our country has experienced great opportunity because of the combination of Democracy and Capitalism. As Novak states, “ In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one,” it is by combining the three, not one or the other, that we can ensure people have a full and rich life.

In his book, Reinhold Niebuhr and the Economic Order, John Carlson illustrates Niebuhr’s thoughts that Capitalism should die. In 1933 Niebuhr, in regards to Capitalism, said “it should die because it is unable to make the wealth created by modern technology available to all who participate in the productive process on terms of justice.” Carlson responds to this, “the claim that capitalism is dying is dubious given that this global economic system reigned even before the fall of the Soviet Union, and has only accelerated further since communism collapsed as a tenable global economic model.”

It is my argument that the problem is not the system, but the application of the system. This is where my faith perspective comes into play. I recognize the ability of human beings to take something good and make it bad; thus the need for this three-fold system, Democracy, Capitalism, and a Faith foundation. The Faith foundation, in my system it is Christianity, provides external accountability for actions. Because there is an external judge who controls my future I will think about my actions. As I adhere to the tenants of my faith, I will ensure that I apply those tenants to my political and economic practices.

I think this is enough for now. I will be writing about this over the summer. One last thought about my future. Never try to hold on to something too long, it may go stagnant, and it just may keep you from that fresh new thing that wants to emerge in your life.

And that is my thought for the day!

Welcome To My Crazy Family

High my name is John Q. Public, and this is my wife Jane. “Hi everyone!” We are here to tell you about our extended family. Although we don’t have any children, we do have some pretty crazy relatives. Our family picnics and dinners can be interesting. It has been years since our family events have been quiet. In fact just the other day cousin Mitch, a feisty old guy, yelled at my wife’s crazy aunt, Comrade Warren, and told her to sit down and be quiet. Oh my, you could hear a pin drop during our family get together. I think Mitch just got tired of Comrade Warren talking incessantly and he just lost it. This is just one example of my crazy family.

Jane and I just moved after eight years in California. We had a good time, but boy those Californian’s are pretty crazy. They really do want everything for “free,” we always tried to tell them nothing is free, but they never quite got it. They are Californians. So Jane and I worked very hard to give our family as many free things as we could. But what that did was drive up our debt. Now we owe almost as much as we make each year. I hope now that we’ve moved to Texas that maybe we can stop spending so much on our relatives.

In California we lived with our likable Uncle Obama. He really wanted to help our family, and he did pretty well, but many people in our family didn’t think it was fair to give all the free things away. Some of our family members thought that everything needed to be earned.

I have to admit it was my side of the family that got upset. My cousins Rubio, Jeb, Paul, and Ted all complained a lot. I just tried to ignore them, but the family began to listen, and as a result, we all decided to move to Texas. This upset my wife’s side of the family especially her crazy uncle, Comrade Sanders, and her nutty aunt, remember I already mentioned her Comrade Warren.

However, my side of the family was happy. In fact, my crazy uncle – Herr Trump (the one with the orange hair) – loved the fact that we were moving to his side of the nation. It was a little surprising, my other aunt Hillary thought we were moving to her neck of the woods, Colorado, but we figured, like our crazy cousin Jeff from Alabama said, “they smoke pot there so we don’t want to associate with them.” Seem pretty crazy?

Just wait, it gets weirder. It turns out that my wife, Jane, has several cousins that like to tell people about our family. Charlie, Corrine, and Nancy (CNN) love to tell stories about our family. They really like their aunt and uncle Comrade Warren and Comrade Sanders, but they hate uncle Herr Trump. So when they tell the stories, events that occur at our family parties, they always spin it to make Comrade Sanders and Comrade Warren’s side of the family look good. However, my cousins, Frank, Olivia, and Ximena (FOX) also like to tell stories about our family events. But, they will spin the stories to make Herr Trump look good. They really like that side of the family.

Sometimes each of these story-tellers relay information about events that Jane and I were at and we don’t even recognize the story. We’ll say to each other, weren’t we there? CNN and FOX, rather than write their names I ‘ll just use the acronym associated with their names, are amazing at how they can spin things. Sometimes Jane and I will call friends in England just to find out what really happened. Bob, Bill, and Camelia (BBC) sometimes has a better vantage point on what happens during our family meetings than our cousins.

Our family has been pretty dysfunctional over the years. It appears that Comrade Sanders and Comrade Warren, my wife’s aunts are trying force our family to join INGSOC. They don’t seem to like how Jane and I have been making decisions. They think if they, and Comrade Schumer could take over the family, and make us a part of INGSOC, we will be better off and everyone would be more equal. However, when I look at them they remind me of the saying from the book Animal Farm, “some people are just more equal than others.”

However, my side of the family are just as bad. Remember my Uncle? Herr Trump? He is trying to get the family to dress in brown-shirts and goose-step. I am not too sure why he is trying to do that, but it worries me a bit. I know we just moved to his neighborhood, but my gosh he has been upsetting the whole family trying to change things. Moving from California to Texas has been hard on all of us.

It really does seem that our crazy uncles are tearing our family apart. But let me tell you this. We have this distant relative named Vladimir. The whole family thinks he is a thug. Although Herr Trump seems to like Vladimir, most of our family does not. And if Vladimir wants to pick a fight, he will see that even crazy family members will join together and fight.

I haven’t told you about the rest of the crazies in the family. There is cousin Betsy who really likes grizzly bears, and cousin Kellyanne, who really likes hitting the sauce. Oh, and my favorite cousin Spicer. He really likes to talk a lot about our family, he is so much fun to watch.

Oh, and let’s not forget crazy Nancy who thinks George Bush is still president. Oh, and good old Merkley from Berkley. He is so much fun at our parties. He is a Comrade Sanders wannabe who makes the whole family laugh. Oh, and I can’t resist mentioning cousin Patty. She is a mother who likes to walk around a lot in her tennis shoes.

Then there are the really crazy cousins. They all said that if we moved to Texas they would move to Canada instead. There was cousin Jon, Chelsea, Neve, Barry, Lena, Keegan, Choe, Al, Whoopie, Natasha, Eddie, Spike, Amber, Samuel, Cher, George, Barbara, Raven-Symone, Omari, Miley, Ruth, Amy, and Katie. Yet, all of them moved to Texas. They would say crazy things like #notmyTexas.

As crazy as this family sounds it is my family. I do love my family, and regardless of where we live Jane and I love our family. They are a crazy bunch, but they are our bunch and I wouldn’t trade them for anyone, and I would not live anywhere else.

And that is my thought for the day.

Something For Everyone To Hate: My Social Justice Proclamation!

I have been agonizing over whether to leave Social Media or not. The amount of hypocrisy, hatred, and lack of discourse turns my stomach. What should I do? Last night my wife and I watched the movie “Silence.” It is a Martin Scorsese film dealing with religious persecution of Christians in 1633 Japan. One reviewer described “Silence is about people in horrible conditions.” I keep drawing the connections between the dilemmas faced by those Catholic missionaries and the country they were in, with the current social media world. Andrew Garfield did an excellent job demonstrating the struggle of faith in a world in direct opposition to belief. I think I am there, at least as it comes to my world.

I teach in a college located in Portland, Oregon. I interact with diverse people which I am very thankful for, and who have helped me see many perspectives. But I really think it is time that I stand on my beliefs, especially in light of all the crazies out there, and maybe I am one too! I am sure this blog will have something for everyone to hate, and I will be happy to debate and discuss my points with anyone, I am ready to stand. I see hypocrisy all around me. The left is now expressing how it is on the high ground while it hates anyone from a conservative perspective. If you aren’t liberal then you are some negative adjective, fill in the blank here. The right is indignant and not willing to discuss issues facing women or people of color. I will stake out my ground in the middle because that is what I feel I need to do.

To express my beliefs I will use the seven themes of Catholic Social Teaching. It is both rich and lacking, and also gives and excellent foundation as a place for me to stand on a soapbox.

The foundation of my social belief stems from my position as a Christian. I am not Christ-Centered, I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I declare that openly and loudly. I believe in the fallen nature of man that can only be defeated by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe there is only one way to be saved and that is by the reception of Jesus Christ into your life. I believe there is value in other religions, because God’s moral truth is written upon our hearts (Romans 2:15), but the Truth is clouded because we look through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12). I believe there is one way, one Truth, and one life and that is Jesus, therefore only one way of salvation. I believe in the second coming of Jesus Christ and the judgment of the world for its sin. This is my worldview and focuses my perspective. I believe that I am to love God with all my heart and my neighbor as myself. Those are the two greatest commandments. OK, that is who I am, and now what is my social stance?

According to Catholic Social teaching there are seven themes of social justice. The first is life and dignity of the human person. “The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of moral vision for society.” I agree with this from an abortion, capital punishment, and war perspective. The many millions of babies killed by abortion is the number one human rights violation in this country. Anyone that adheres to a liberal agenda and minimizes this travesty needs to think about consistency. However, I also recognize we are not in a perfect social environment, so I understand a woman’s right to choose, but the choice to kill a human being should not be given to another human being. Just by calling something a fetus, does not remove heinousness of this choice. Abortion should only be available in an emergency. I also think that capital punishment is something we should not take lightly. It should only be used in a limited situation. I also think war is not a solution, and should only be done as a last resort.

Theme number two is the Call to Family, Community, and Participation. “Marriage and family are the central social institutions that must be supported and strengthened, not undermined. We believe people have a right and duty to participate in society seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.” Theme number two is critical and those parts of our society where the family has broken down need to be supported. I also agree that we have the right to participate in society for the common good. The lack of civility in our social media environment is destroying our ability to seek common good. It is so easy to post any stupid thing on Facebook, but we need to be more responsible. I will talk more about the poor shortly.

Theme three is Rights and Responsibilities. “Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency.” I don’t see anything here about if you agree with my perspective. Everyone, liberal or conservative, black, brown, or white, have this right. However, “corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities to one another, to our families, and the larger society.” I would change the order on this one. First, there needs to be an external reason, we have duties and responsibilities first and foremost to God. Then we go to family, one another, and then the greater society. This is where I really have a problem with the extreme left. This is where I see the greatest hypocrisy. The Marching Tornados from Talladega College (young African-American students), according to the BBC, received “intense backlash for playing at the inauguration.” However, the left has never recognized that a GoFundME page, used to help the band pay for its trip to Washington D.C. raised $650,000. According to the BBC “the extra money will go towards scholarships, new band uniforms, new instruments and a new practice space – the college only has 700 students, almost all of whom receive some type of financial aid. I don’t know if it was conservative or liberal people donated, but this is an excellent opportunity for these young people.

Theme four, is an Option for the Poor and Vulnerable. “A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the last judgment (MT 25: 31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.” I see this as the biggest area of difference between the Evangelical and Social elements within the Church. You notice I called it the Church! There is only one bride of Christ and that is the Church. It is made up of many different types of believers, but if we are Christians we are all following the same Jesus. So instead of fighting each other on this, lets talk. I know the Social side of the Church needs to emphasize salvation more, but I think the Evangelical side needs to care for the poor more.

Theme five involves the Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers. “The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation.” I really like this particular theme. I understand the excesses of capitalism, but socialism has its excesses too. So I see the right to own the means of production as critical to healthy economic opportunity, but I also see the responsibility of those owners to pay a respectful wage that will allow people dignity of work and a sense of accomplishment.

Theme six is about Solidarity. “We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers and sisters keepers, whatever they may be.” Therefore, get to know people. Talk to them. Find out what their experiences are. There are many people that are discouraged, come along side them and help them. I love working with students of color because it confronts many of the bootstrap ideas I once had. Even though I abhor socialism, I think we need strong social systems to help people to have dignity in their life. If that means paying a little more in taxes, so be it. People need to have affordable housing, and they need to have a path out of poverty. I also think young people who were brought here, and are undocumented, should have the ability to become citizens. I think this is the right thing to do.

The last theme, involves Care for God’s Creation. “We show our respect for the creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the earth is not just an Earth Day slogan, it is a requirement of our faith.” I believe that global warming is occurring and it could be both cyclical and a result of human beings. However, as a business-person I believe that the sustainability of every company is based on how it deals with its people, planet, and resulting profit. If a company treats its employees well, those employees with treat the customer well. If the company treats the planet well by being respectful of the planet, we will all benefit, resulting in greater profit for the company. This doesn’t mean more regulation by the government; it means companies making the right choices.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, there is something lacking. Maybe there are other Catholic writings that connect this, but I don’t see it here. I also see this as an area of deficiency in conversations I have had with many of my peers. They say they are into social justice, and I know they are, but there is no mention of a need for a person to be saved; a person to know Jesus Christ. There is a comment about being Christ-Centered, heaven forbid that we offend someone for telling them they need to be saved, but if we don’t then we are guilty of not sharing the whole gospel. Yes the gospel involves all of the above themes, but it also includes the good news of what Christ has done for us on the Cross. I will not apologize for saying this.

And that is my thought for the day!

Civility And The Death Of Social Media

I don’t know how many times I’ve said, and observed others say, I think I am going to take a break from Facebook. It usually follows some event on social media that elicits horrible, and divisive, posts. Recently, the drive by some to secede from the United States and become a part of Canada was one of those events. Calexit has elicited cruel comments that demonstrate the darker side of our nature. A friend of mine, who did not like the election results, stated she was happy the west coast states were going to become a part of Canada. She was not serious, but several folks made comments, resulting in her stating that she will only post pictures of puppy dogs from now on, and how she is debating with herself to about giving up social media for a while.

I have noticed several of my “friends” have ben absent from the common areas of discussion, and I could only guess that they are fed up as well. As I ponder this, I reflect on previous discussions I have had about vanishing civility in our common areas of discourse.

Several years ago my wife went to a theater to see a popular movie. As the lights went down, and after the ubiquitous encouragement by the theater to turn off cell phones, several cell phone lights could be seen. There were several young people in the theater, who it appeared were attending together. With the lights down they began texting one another. Next thing you know there was giggling, and someone, obviously older, loudly stating to be quiet. One of the younger people said F _ _ K you, and the older person yelled back “shut up you skank.” Then the movie started.

The lack of civility in our society has continued to degenerate over the years, which is evident in our common areas of discourse found on social media. Because our comments are thrown out with very little thought, we think we can get away with this incivility, not realizing the effects it has on our society.

There have been many events in history that has demonstrated human kinds ability to demonize the other, and maybe it is just because I am now that old guy that sits on the porch yelling at people walking by, but it does seem to be getting worse. Instead of respectfully disagreeing with one another, we have to destroy each other. It is not good enough to win the argument, we have to obliterate the other. Or, just because one is black there are this, or because one is white they are that. I mean come on, lets be civil. We can disagree and still be civil with each other.

This very same discussion occurred back in 1998. Stephen Carter, one of my favorite authors back in the day, wrote several books on conditions in our country. “The Culture of Disbelief,” “Integrity,” and “Civility” ¬were all social commentaries of the day. His book Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy¬ had much to say about our current situation.

Carter said this, “So where did all the civility go? And when?” He continues this quote by mentioning the decline of religion, the rise of television, geographic mobility, and the end of the Cold War. However, he decided to focus on the birth of postmodernism in 1965. “That was the year that . . . many venerable American traditions – some wonderful, some horrible – all withered at the same time.” I would agree that some of our moral common ground has eroded, and is even non-existent in the social media realm.

Yesterday in my class we discussed organizational culture. We focused on many aspects, but one element is relevant to this discussion. Culture within organizations help to create an internal unity. Culture involves shared values, norms, and behaviors. In all organizations there is multiculturalism, but there is an overarching culture that creates unity of purpose. There is no reason that we cannot achieve that in the United States of America.

Carter states, “There is a well-known line from The Brothers Karamozov: If God does not exist, everything is permitted.” I, as a believer in Jesus Christ, would obviously gravitate to that comment, but in a multicultural United States that does not see God the same way I do I think we can find a common unifier. Carter describes it as “the singular meaning.”

I believe that the concept of servant leadership is critical as we move forward. I think that embracing the other we can create a more civil discourse, because if we don’t our discourse will continue to erode. Carter states, “The alternative is to continue our destructive tendency to engage in behavior aimed only at satisfying our own wants or needs. In our rush to self-fulfillment, we forget the crucial civilizing insight of the enlightenment – that human freedom is good because it is better to do right voluntarily than be coerced into doing it.”

That last comment resonates with me. If we don’t learn how to have a discourse in public arenas, who knows what type of control will be initiated to ensure public safety. But if we chose to be servants, concerned about the other while giving our opinion, just maybe we can have a democratic dialog leading this country to a new understanding of singular meaning. If not we just may be witnessing the death of social media, and maybe more.

And that is my thought for the day!

Democratic Capitalism And My Future

I saw a Facebook post from a friend of mine where he mentioned Democratic Capitalism. I know where this friend stands about the excesses of capitalism, but I do think at times he, and many others in Portland, look at the excesses of capitalism and large-scale corporatism as the end of the discussion. I did not want to raise this point in response to his post, because his post was in a larger context of personal responsibility in our community, specifically about foster children. His care for young people and children is admirable. However, it did get me thinking about Democratic Capitalism.

Francis Fukuyama, in his 1992 book “The End of History and the Last Man,” stated that “what we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period in post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western Liberal Democracy as the final form of human government.” In a 2014 Atlantic article looking at Francis Fukuyama’s essay, there is an interesting discussion about Fukuyama’s logic and how “liberal capitalist democracy allowed people to thrive in an increasingly globalized world, and that only the steady advance of laissez-faire economics would guarantee a future of free democratic states, untroubled by want and oppression and living in peace and contentment.”

As I read through the article discussing the relationship of capitalism, democracy, and liberalism I began to recognize familiar arguments. Its examples illustrate taking advantage of a free-market system to gain as much as they can at the expense of others. This win-lose perspective is demonstrated in some areas of our society. I also see the argument, usually accompanied by quotes from Thomas Piketty, about how capitalism has only enlarged the gap between rich and poor. I also see the emphasis on economic interventionism and nationalism. The arguments found within this article are no different that what we experience now in our common spaces for discussion.

Personally, after this current political debacle I have decided to throw labels out the window. The labels of Liberal, conservative, Republican, and Democrat are almost useless now. We have become so polarized that we have lost any ability to come to consensus. So, I am working on finding common ground that I may serve those around me. For the purpose of this discussion I will describe the terms capitalism, democracy, and liberal.
Capitalism is an economic system based on private ownership of the means of production. Its focus is on profit by effectively and efficiently using the resources associated with the business. This is a simple definition for a complicated topic that includes, capital accumulation, wage labor, voluntary exchange, a price system, and markets. It is a system based on individual choice and freedom to produce whatever the market demands. We can call this a free market, which is the opposite of a centrally planned market. Socialistic markets which are centrally planned have been traditional inefficient and have demonstrated an inability to create growing individual incomes.

Democracy is a system of government whereby the citizens of a particular country elect representatives to govern. It usually involves the rule of the majority through free elections. People within a Democracy are free to move where they want, when they want, vote for whomever they want, and marry whomever they want. It is a government of individual choice.

I know the term liberalism is wrought with meaning, but I like how the Atlantic article discussed liberalism. “It is, of course, true that liberty can be read in many ways. . . it is perhaps more useful to think back to the writings of Voltaire. . . and remind ourselves that liberty in its purest form – both positive and negative – can be thought of as the realization of man’s inherent dignity as a human being.”

No one can deny that the excesses of wealth distribution, consumerism, and selfishness in our society. Many decry the inequalities found in our society. Parenthetically, the paradox of Michael Moore, a multi-millionaire who at one time had several houses worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, who can decry the 1% when he is one of them, is very interesting. But, we must never forget the importance of individual choice.

We must never forget the discussion of inequality, consumerism, and wealth can never occur outside of the recognition of the fact the we are a fallen race. Mankind fell at the time of Adam and Eve, and that impact continues to feed our ability to create chaos out of goodness.

I see many people around me decry the injustices of society, and do nothing about it. I see many protest this inequality and yet nothing changes. We still have inequality and impoverishment. There are some people like my friend who are led by God to do something about it, by creating internships for young people of color, and trying to get more homes for foster children. I have seen his vision and it is good.

I feel a change coming on in my life. I have no idea when, or how, but I know that complaining about capitalism is not the answer. Even suggesting some other political system than democracy is futile. But, we need to do better.

Jesus Christ said this, “Then the king will say to those on his right hand, Come you blessed of my Father inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me” (Matthew 25: 35-40). He said if you have done this to the least of these you have done it to him.

So, we have an economic and political system that allows us to enjoy liberty. Let us use that liberty for the good of others. Those of us who have, let us give to those that don’t have. And those who need to hear about Jesus, let us tell them through our actions and words.

And that is my thought for the day!