Two weeks into my sophomore year in university I decided to meet up with an old friend from freshman year. She was a Muslim from Kuwait and a very interesting person to talk to considering her background. We were discussing various topics and came across the theory of evolution since she was now taking the same biology class as the one I had taken during my freshman year. She is very much into science so I decided to ask her opinion on the theory of evolution. Her response wasn’t very positive. I first I was surprised, but then I remembered I had learned the previous year that the Muslim world frowns upon the idea of evolution. I also learned that teaching evolution in the Middle East varies by state and is usually combined with creationist beliefs for the explanation of the origin of the universe. I am fan of evolution, but the conversation reminded me just how the Arab world is similar to the USA since there is a problem here with teaching evolution and God in public schools. Questions arise asking whether God should be taught alongside evolution, should we even teach evolution to our children, or does God even belong inside the classroom? Read more
Following the immeasurably unpopular government shut-down, the Tea Party is losing ground fast. Soon the movement may dissipate causing grass-root supporters to go through something like withdrawals. Formless hatred stoked by the Tea Party and its donors is a mental opiate many Americans became addicted to the last five years. How do we get millions of people to kick the bad habit of Far Right ideas? Here are six steps that could help break one's addiction to negativity:
1. Block Fox News using the Parental Controls on the cable TV- Giving up Fox News is the equivalent of flushing the dope down the toilet.
2. Take up a strict regimen of NPR- This may be boring, but it will cleanse the mind of all poisons like a grapefruit and white rice diet clean the digestive tract. Read more
Free markets and college football. Deeply embedded into the sociocultural fabric of American life, these two time-honored traditions are incompatible. Why is scandalous headline after scandalous headline born from the act of receiving compensation for working hard, an act that is laudable in every other profession? The answer lies in one dogmatic, pious, hypocritical, bloated bureaucracy of a governing body: the National Collegiate Athletic Association. However, with targeted new policies, the NCAA and member schools can enjoy the best of both worlds.
An Environment of Inequity
The collegiate athletic system desperately demands reform. Young men and women are putting in 50-hour workweeks, on top of classes, and all they have to show for it is NCAA President Mark Emmert’s $1.7 million dollar salary. To put it bluntly, the NCAA’s revenues and operating budget thrive off the exploitation and suppression of “student-athletes” with nowhere else to turn for a playing field. Read more
Nearly every day since my sophomore year of high school, I have carried a U.S. Constitution in my left-hand pocket whenever I go out. People often ask me why. They’re usually fairly incredulous when they ask. It strikes many as odd, and I understand their reasoning. It strikes a few as honorable. Despite my brother’s warnings not to do so (I think the phrase he used was “social strike-out”), I’m going to tell you just one of the many reasons why I do this. Read more
If you read at an average pace, it will take you four minutes to finish this column. By the time you’re done, approximately nine U.S. students will have dropped out of high school. That’s 1.2 million dropouts a year—dropouts who are qualified for only 10 percent of new jobs, are eight times more likely to be incarcerated and are 50 percent less likely to vote. When Texas projects how many prisons it will need 10 years from today, one of the data points it considers is the percentage of literate Texas fourth graders. The correlation is strong—six out of 10 American prison inmates are illiterate.
America’s educational problems permeate all aspects of our society—from economic growth to crime to national security. And that’s not a new, tantalizingly fresh concept I’ve just written. In preparing to write this column, I found so many websites with educational crisis statistics that my Google Chrome froze from an overload of tabs. Read more
The subject of Father Scott's homily on Sunday was "tunnel vision," something our local parish priest knows a lot about since it was not until he was in his twenties and well out of high school that Father Scott finally got his driver's license. "Tunnel vision," said the state trooper who flunked him. "Stop focusing on the straight lines in front of you and see everything around you."
But it wasn't to whine about being the only kid in his senior class who still rode a bike to school that Father Scott brought up the subject of "tunnel vision." Instead, it was as a prod to urge the rest of us to stop fixating on the bright lines defining our own narrow prejudices, or tribes, or self-imposed prisons so that we might see the larger world around us.
That is because, as Father Scott explained, "God colors outside the lines."
Mine is a parish, as I have mentioned before, that lies on the outskirts (and mostly under the radar screen) of the larger Boston Archdiocese. It's a town that is predominantly Jewish but which has a protestant church on three of the town square's four corners and also a mosque all our own. Read more
My first memory of any recognition of race was the day I brought my new friend home for lunch. My grandma must have been watching us come up the steps because she met us at the door and said it wasn't convenient to have guests for lunch. She sent my new friend packing and then set me down and told me to never do that again. She said we don't mix with Blacks. That's all she would say.
Later, I asked my mom what she meant. Mom said that grandma had moved to the city from the farm and she had no experience with people of other races. She said Grandma was prejudiced. I asked what that meant. Mom said prejudice was fear of others because they are different from us. She said there were lots of ways to be prejudiced but race was the most common. I went to public school and in the 50's there wasn't much integration so I didn't have many interactions with other races. Read more
Last week, I drove up to my state’s capital, Olympia, to lobby on Arts & Heritage Day. I was the Team Captain for the Washington State Arts Alliance for several legislative districts, and a representative for the nonprofit arts organization I work for. My oldest son went with me as an ambassador for his school. Wearing gold stars of arts advocacy, we were ready to tell our elected leaders a thing or two about the value of culture, both economically and socially.
Except that’s not what happened.
Instead, my son and I were schooled in the finer points of state budgets, taxation, and funding by our fearless leaders. Taking their time to teach us about how government works, my legislators sent my son and me away better citizens. Needless to say, I was in love! Read more
If anyone said the solution to drunk driving was more alcohol, we would all think they were nuts. Wayne LaPierre, the head of the National Rifle Association (NRA) finally made a statement concerning the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut where 26 people were killed, including 20 children who were all six and seven years old.
LaPierre called on Congress to pass a bill to put armed guards in every school in the United States. The NRA is putting together a safety plan called “National School Shield” in which they are hoping to be a model for schools nationwide.
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” remarked LaPierre in the statement. The problem with that is, some good guys with guns turn into bad guys with guns; just add maybe some alcohol and a jealous rage and anything can happen. Read more
I know a police officer who is very socially conservative. He’s a Baptist who believes that homosexuality is wrong, as most evangelical do, if not all. We had the usual discussion about gay people and he expressed his disapproval as a Christian. One day I asked him a question, and knowing how he believed, I was surprised by his answer.
He and his wife had a newborn son and I asked him what he would do if his son turned out gay. He told me that he would still love him and accept him for whatever he was — not the answer I expected.
When a child, at whatever age, tells a parent they’re gay, the parent will deal with it in either a positive way or a negative way. When I told my mother, she chose to deny it by telling me it was just a phase I was going through. When she finally could no longer deny it, she reacted negatively by telling me “you need to get right with God”.
On the other hand, a friend of mine who was gay, told his mother he was gay, and though she cried, she told him that she wanted him to be proud of who he was and never be ashamed, she loved him just the same. It affected him in such a positive way and it showed in his life. Read more
The invitation came as soon as the ballots were counted, and the opposition conceded. My friends were engaged to be married. It took a state initiative to accomplish the deed, but the right of this couple to wed was confirmed, and certified. This weekend, the end of their long journey is in sight; and they will speak the vows they fought together to take. My friends’ gay wedding has renewed my faith in marriage.
Thousands of gay and straight people worked tirelessly in 2012 to get Initiative 74 approved, and gay marriage solidified as an inalienable human right in Washington State. People I know, including the couple getting married tomorrow, put time, money, and emotional energy into this righteous cause- creating an atmosphere of sacredness around the timeless ritual. Marriage was renewed.
The institution of marriage is in desperate need of renewal. Read more
It’s Saturday December 8th! Do you know where your podcast is? On this day in history back in 1980, John Lennon was shot and killed in New York City. The late great playwright, James McLure, even wrote a play about it called "The Day They Shot John Lennon". Hmm. John Lennon gets killed, and Dick Cheney gets another heart. Ain’t that some shit?
Of course the day John Lennon was killed is a day worth remembering. But worth even more than the day he was killed, was the day he was born. If that day hadn’t happened, we never would have been blessed with all he had to share with us. It’s the day John Lennon was born that matters most. All too often, our culture chooses to define itself with death by its wars, atrocities, disasters, incidents, events, etc. Seems like most our history is marked by the days and ways we’ve died. We have a macabre fascination with death, and more specifically, killing. This should come as no real surprise to any of us considering that death is a virtue we hold in high regard. We find it “Simply Irresistible” (thank you, Robert Palmer…who is dead). Read more
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Last week, eHarmony, a dating site, was hit with a lawsuit by Eric McKinley for allegedly discriminating against gays, lesbians and transgender. eHarmony did not offer an option for homosexual couples until recently after the settlement, which included a $5,000 payment to McKinley for grief and a one year complimentary membership; they also created a website titled Compatible Partners specifically for homosexual partners. Read more
On July 18th back in 1984, James Oliver Huberty carried several guns into a busy McDonald’s restaurant in San Ysidro, California, and opened fire killing 21 people and injuring 19 others. Although an act such as this is especially abhorrent, acts like it are unfortunately all too common. Last week, a teen was shot walking into a McDonald’s in Phoenix, Arizona. Earlier this month, a man was shot in a drive-by shooting driving his car in a McDonald’s drive thru in Daytona Beach, Florida. Prior to that, a McDonald’s manager in Jackson, Mississippi was shot by a customer claiming his order was incorrect. Talk about a “McFlurry” of shooting activity! Rather than shoot the manager, that angry customer could have just given him the “Birdie”. Read more
Sixteen American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan this month as of July 16.
One a day on average.
July 8th was a particularly bad day.
Seven soldiers were killed; six in the same roadside bomb.
Two of the six are from Tampa Bay. One black man. One Hispanic man.
Of the sixteen killed this month, thirteen of them were in their twenties; the youngest just turned twenty.
Our Tampa Bay casualties were both killed on July 8th in the road side bomb.
One was Sergeant Clarence Williams III of Brooksville. He was 23 years old. His family lives maybe 15 minutes from me.
Dying that day with him was Staff Sergeant Ricardo Seija, 31. His momma works at the airport. Read more