This is Not About Religion.

Recently, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty took out a page of the New York Times that stood in defense of the LDS Church's position on Prop 8. It went even further to accuse "many" of the protesters of being mob-like and using intimidation tactics instead of reasonable persuasion. While some people did not represent their dissent in as honorable of a way as they could have, this is a slap in the face to many (i.e. the majority of) people, including myself, who were careful to be as diplomatic as possible. Quite frankly any prejudices I may have voiced at the time have always been flaws of my own and were not representative of any cause or movement. In fact, there are people within the LBGT movement who are quite religious whereas I am not.

The original NYT ad can be seen here.

If you would like to take action, you can use the webform here to write a letter.

And my own letter to the NYT and the Becket Fund is posted below:

It is arrogant and cowardly for anyone to mount an attack on a minority group of our society. And it is irresponsible to claim that a minority of that group with extreme behaviors and gestures represents the group as a whole.

The LBGT community and its supporters believe that we should all be able to live peacefully, and equally.

Using religion as a means to prevent that from happening is absurd. The whole point of religious institutions is to bring people together and not tear them apart. Open up any history book - even scripture - and you will see how well that has worked in the past. You will also see glorification of what we would now consider terrorism.

But people who choose to be religious have every right to do so as well as every right to voice their opinion. We do not consider all who practice religion to be terrorists. It is, as you state in your letter, important for the health of democracy to be inclusive of all ideas and opinions. And especially not to allow them to be misrepresented.

Additionally, for the sake of democracy, we must not allow any group - be it minority or majority - to take away the inalienable rights of others simply to impose upon them a sectarian moral code. It is unethical to treat anyone as second-class citizens (an expense to their liberty) as it is to force them to live in fear; something that both the LDS and the LBGT communities have been familiar with. Your freedom of speech ends where hatred of people for what they are begins.

Yes, a few people have fought dirty on both sides. But that does not give license to you or anyone else to denounce an entire movement which strives for peace, harmony, and love just as much as yours probably claims to. This world is running out of room for that kind of behavior and I suggest you learn how to live within it instead of "above" it.


First Things First...

President-elect Obama is about 2 months away from his inauguration. No doubt he is hard at work preparing what we all anticipate to be one of the most historic speeches in the annals of our nation's government.

Why not help him write it?

The One Campaign has sent out a call to action:
President-elect Obama will have historic opportunities to bring hope and dignity to millions currently suffering from poverty and preventable diseases, such as malaria and HIV/AIDS.

We can make a difference by showing our support for an inaugural affirmation of Obama's pledge to fight poverty and preventable diseases worldwide, and for an FY2010 Presidential budget request that puts the U.S. on track to meet Obama's historic commitments to the world's poorest people.

They have set a goal for 50,000 people to add their name to a petition for President-elect Obama to make clear his plans for supporting measures to prevent and treat extreme poverty.

You can sign the petition by clicking here.

And you can add your own statement as well, if you wish. Mine is posted below:
"By stabilizing the poorest regions of the world, we can ensure greater safety and stability at home. Though it is within the American ethic to do this for the benefit of our neighbors, there is a great ancillary reward for our own nation and its allies. Current defense spending is misguided, unaccountable, and exacerbates poverty and social inequities in our own country. We need to take on a strategy of goodwill and peace that contrasts with the diplomatic failures of the previous Presidential administration. Rather than destroying infrastructure, we need to focus on re-building it in failed states, which as you know are hotbeds for terrorism and piracy. Instead of merely using unchecked military force, we need to work collaboratively to ensure majority global support."

Please at least sign the petition and show your interest in helping the world's poorest people. And if you can, send your own personalized thoughts or pass the message on to friends. Get involved early and often. Be well, and do good.


My Energy Plan

Earlier today, I visited a website for the Energy & Environment Transition Team of Barack Obama's upcoming administration. It has a video and a short blurb about what it is and that they want to hear people's ideas.

I submitted this brief message:

"While I can appreciate a shift toward what are considered cleaner energy sources, I feel that the Obama administration needs to remember that nuclear energy is not clean energy. As a resident of the state of Utah, it may be more apparent to me that nuclear waste dumping is a real issue and one that is forcing greater pressure on us if we encourage more dependency on nuclear energy. Instead, I concur with the video that we should take a more grassroots approach to solving the energy crisis. We can do this by implementing truly green solar, wind, and hydro projects on the local level via state and federal subsidies which can be recouped through temporarily reclaiming energy production surpluses. This would also generate needed jobs and provide greater national security through diversification of resource distribution and availability. Please contact me if you have questions or comments regarding this proposed strategy."

Please let me know what you think of this plan and some potential problems that might be faced in theory or with implementing it. Also, please go to the website and share your opinion on what you think needs to be done. Thank you.


Voting Can Be Dangerous: Use the Buddy System

While this blog is non-partisan, it does represent a particular world view. The philosophy of this blog is informed by a belief in the virtues of: a reverence for the natural world, both within and without; being able to live peacefully with our neighbors, immediate and global; and appreciation of art, which enables expression of ideas that can't materialize as powerfully, or even at all, otherwise.
"Politicians use the truth to tell lies, while artists use lies to tell the truth." This, of course is an extreme statement, but it does have an artful touch to it. Some in politics have a natural talent for knavery. Yet many politicians are just as true to their duties as you or I; except our bosses tend to demand more of us than we do of them.
When we are called upon to exercise our democratic right to vote, let us not take for granted what some have died for. When we are in that booth, just ourselves and a machine, let us remember the reason we have our right to vote in the first place: to hire the right people for the job: the privilege of working for us, the people of the United States.
But then we cannot leave the affairs of the state in the hands of those who may contrive to exclude others most fit for the job: especially when we, the caretakers, have all but demanded they be given free reign. No, we must remind our public servants of their role and behave as only the most benevolent masters would without abandoning them to their own folly.
When the Republicans and Democrats are the only real voices for the American people is when I will defend them. But where was that voice when the right to declare war was ceded, fully and "legally," to the President? Where are the voices now in protest of our unsustainable and toxic energy plan? Tyranny is not the vestige of the underdogs. The two major parties have been controlling executive access in this country and doing so with such fervor that competitive exclusion has slipped into an institutionalized oligarchy. Furthermore both of their current offerings do not respect the need for peace and neglect the fragility of our biotic communities. And you, the American voter, know this full well.
In the United States, our electoral process is set up to favor majority parties. It marginalizes smaller campaigns or even big campaigns through non-conventional routes. The two big partisan beasts strike fear in the hearts of conservatives and progressives alike because we are more concerned about how they differ from each other than how they differ from what we really want.
From my experience in speaking with average people about voting for third-party candidates, they've been incredibly supportive of their campaigns, but apprehensive about actually casting a ballot. Some see "spoiling" as an immediate threat. Others see a third-party vote, even if it is aligned with their true beliefs, as still a "wasted" one.
Accusations that elections were "stolen" by legitimate opponents are preposterous. There is a great arrogance among major parties who believe that third-parties exist solely as a tool to tip an election from choice A to choice B. Third-parties are not yet taken seriously as a legitimate alternative choice. But some new ideas have given the American voter the possibility to do just that.

Enter Vote Pact, and VoteBuddy, two websites that are promoting basically the same concept of forming an alliance with a double from the "other team." You find someone you know well, a close friend or a family member, and you both agree to defect from the major parties. In some instances, you might find a pair that votes for the same third-party candidate. Essentially, you are agreeing to disagree with the status quo and, in a way, are celebrating your common ground. The net effect: there is no "spoiler" and the major party candidates are still relatively where you both left them.
Another site, from The Center for Range Voting, illustrates the advantages of a different style of election. It too promises to level the playing field and eliminates the controversy and hullabaloo of third-party participation in elections. Dubbed the "Hot or Not" method to voting, it has been featured in publications like Technology Review, Salon.com, the New York Times, and Newsweek. A sample ballot is displayed below.

You were probably thinking only artists could be this creative. Of course there is the possibility of cheating with the buddy system. This is why you truly need to know the person you are making your pact with and trust them. If anything, this solution for third-party voting is a test of relational skills. And while range voting isn't quite ready for prime time, it seems like a good institutional solution for storming the bipartisan castle; although it's not as unpredictable and exciting as the other, currently possible method.
One of the greatest things about humans is our ingenuity. While we certainly don't have a monopoly on ideas in this country, or always have a good one (see: past two Presidential elections), we are always looking to solve problems. People wanted to vote for third-parties but were afraid to "take away" a vote from the "lesser of two evils." Now we are shown the way to take two votes at a time from the "evil of two lessers" and give them to the candidates who truly paint pictures of nature, peace, and art.


Myself by Edgar Albert Guest

I have to live with myself and so
I want to be fit for myself to know.

I want to be able as days go by
Always to look myself straight in the eye;
I don't want to stand with the setting sun
And hate myself for the things I have done.

I don't want to keep on a closet shelf
A lot of secrets about myself
And fool myself as I come and go
Into thinking no one else will ever know
The kind of person I really am,
I don't want to dress up myself in sham.

I want to go out with my head erect
I want to deserve all men's respect;
But here in the struggle for fame and wealth
I want to be able to like myself.

I don't want to look at myself and know that
I am bluster and bluff and empty show.
I never can hide myself from me;
I see what others may never see;
I know what others may never know,
I never can fool myself and so,
Whatever happens I want to be
Self respecting and conscience free.

Come September

This is perhaps the most important public address of our time regarding peace and social justice. Those who are unfamiliar with Ms. Roy should be all the more encouraged by watching this speech to learn more about her life and mission. Please share your thoughts and this video with all you can.

For more information and to see a powerful documentary based on this speech: weroy.org