War of Hearts and Minds

By Isis Win

recent years, marriage of same-gender couples has become one of the most published headlines in the US history. Every sector in the public opinion has seized the opportunity to express their position and in particular, to the media, for the benefit of gathering larger audience. This is not an old issue, but certainly it is one that grew in the past few years, and following the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, it has grown enormously. Since its repeal, advocacy agencies (such as HRC – Human Rights Campaign) finally let go of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, allowing room for the next issue in their agenda: Marriage between gay and lesbians.
This issue has become a larger controversy than the right to abortion when it comes to large-scale public participation. The religious realm, particularly Mormons, launched an unparalleled initiative to fight legislation passed in California that allowing gay and lesbian marriage equality, the 2008 ballot Proposition 8 “Eliminates Rights of Same-Sex Couples to Marry Initiative Constitutional Amendment”. Proposition 8 and its repeal landed in the hands of millions of people who didn’t care about it either way. Many were not even aware of this battle. Massive ad campaigns in TV and newspapers awakened these people, however, and as well, many important pedestrian traffic spots in California were manned by groups of Mormons distributing literature against same-sex marriage and preaching to the passers-by. Some organizations claim that Mormons spent about 20 million dollars in this campaign. But the religious opponents of marriage equality have not limited themselves to California; as well, in recent years they have been sponsoring the same campaign in many cities and states across the country, except that now they use Obama’s recent public support to attempt repealing both, the right to marry and the presidential candidate.

Religious opponents to same-sex marriage sustain their argument based on the Bible that, according to them, contains many entries referring to “marriage exclusively between a man and a woman”. Some people as well say that the Bible claims marriage in the between the same gender is an aberration and sinful behavior, regardless of the contributions of theologians, anthropologists, sociologists and archeologists that show that there is no evidence of such citations, but rather, that they are citations based on majorly flawed interpretations. In fact, archeologists report finding evidence that same-sex couples during Jesus Christ’s time existed and were not abominated. But arguing the Bible against a civil right, clearly will never end this issue. While religious extremists argue that marriage equality is contrary to their beliefs, their opponents argue this is not a religious issue but an issue about freedom and civil rights. Such an argument between apples and oranges offers no future to either party. However, this attitude from the extremists is fueling a response that is better to leave alone because, it adds gas to the already roaring fire. Defenders of freedom and civil rights, will be in need of breaking into pieces the Bible, categorizing it and proving that the Bible could never address this issue when it was created. There is enough evidence to this case that ultimately will make opponents to Marriage Equality so angry, that it is not unforeseeable that they will hire the devil to revenge against these “pagans”. Something already is happening but it is escalating into a major war, and all because although, in a democratic nation the wishes and will of all matter, this issue is one that cannot be fought by beliefs and phobias. In democracy, facts are the most determining factor and if this issue is examined by the Supreme Court based on the facts of the constitutional elements of it (or lack of thereof) so that the law rules what is fair and not, then at least in some form, this issue will be a thing of the past. However, extremists present their case as if it was “written in stone”, as the Ten Commandments. BTW, the Bible cites that they were 3 tablets not 2 as used today. I bet that the eleventh commandment was in regards of not getting your nose into someone else’s business.

On that note: religious extremists tend to believe that they are in the right to rule and force how others should live; it is a clear demonstration that religious extremists are people who are unhappy within themselves and lack fulfillment. It is that same unhappiness and lack that forces them into looking into the eye of others instead of addressing their own issues and how they observe their religious views themselves. This type of behavior is nothing new according to anthropological and sociological studies that establish that for centuries, in small towns or cities, the country side, part of the daily routine of a large number of citizens was, and still is to criticize, ostracize and gossip about the behavior of others that they do not approve. However, times are different and this phenomena has no longer any place in a modern and civilized society. Bottom line is: This attitude among those activists have nothing to do with Christianity and they heavily deny the basic principles of Christianity based on their personal beliefs and assumptions.

Christianity is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, and the Bible as a historical record proves that the cornerstone of Jesus doctrine was about forgiving everyone, loving others as they love themselves and God and giving them the opportunity of redemption when their time comes. Jesus? message was about love, support and compassion. And the lack of these attributes is what shines in this initiative against Marriage Equality. On that note: The Bible cites in several chapters that slavery was OK and that slaves should submit to their owners and never raise against them. I wonder what the view about this issue is for those extremists, because slavery has been fought for centuries as an issue of human and civil rights cruelty and injustice and gradually and slowly has been disappearing from the face of earth. Only seriously under-developed and uncivilized nations still preserve this abuse and those nations are being fought by human rights activists and international organizations such as the UN.

What this issue talks about in reality presents a much larger scenario than a human and civil rights issue or the religious beliefs supported by the sacred scriptures. This issue is clearly stating where the hearts and minds of people are and that place is not a good one; rather, it is a totally antagonistic place to the Christian beliefs. No wonder after a century of an explosive technical, industrial and scientific revolution, we still can’t live among ourselves peacefully and this place is not so different than centuries ago. We still act as savages, greed is the religion of most on the top at the ladder and poverty and inequality still is rampant even in most developed nations. Only when tragedy strikes do the people at large open their hearts and care for others. Do they choose and pick who is to received this help? Hard to believe but such still is the case in many nations at this time. Just the way it happened post-Katrina.  The most affected people had to wait for governmental aid at the cost of unnecessary deaths and suffering. However, those – volunteering helping hands – post-Katrina, didn’t look into ethnic profiles, religious affiliations or lifestyles to serve the needed. People with a good heart helped everyone and for a long time, even feed them from their own pocket. There were hundreds of volunteers that traveled – even thousands of miles – to serve with their human duty. Hard to believe but, in many studies across the nation, it has been said: Overall, people nowadays are self-centric and selfish. Just like many cities have a reputation of this trade by excellence (like NY city) even remote areas are equally sad and poor in compassion giving.

This battle of same-sex marriage, a marriage equality issue, is no more than a war of wills and beliefs to almost the silent majority of the population. Well, at least, those against Marriage Equality are extremely active and quite verbal. But because of that, the smallest of all minorities suffer their weight: gays and lesbians, when all they want is to have equal rights like the rest of the population. And there is no logical, sensitive and sensible reason to deny this right to anyone that cares for being part of an establishment that ultimately cares in the largest scheme for their nation and the institution of the family that supports society at large, the same institution that has suffered tremendously in the last six or eight decades because family members no longer gather as a family; it is not rare that family see each other once every other decade, because they are too busy entertaining their well-being and future while forgetting the love and gratitude that they received and owe to their parents. As well, in the US divorce has been growing at an alarming rate and at this point about 50% of marriages are divorced, many marriages are exclusively preserved by convenience or religious beliefs but there is no true sense of family among them and more than 50% of the existing couples do not marry but live together, even if they have children.

Almost everywhere I go, where people like to share their views about current events, I hear from the conservatives their camouflaged hate against LGBT and their consideration that such “lifestyles” are no less than a deviation according to God and their bible. They leave no room for education or understanding but the mysterious part to myself is the humongous question: What makes them think they are entitled to and should fight anything against their religious beliefs? I don’t even bother asking them, again, because reliably their answers are biblical citations that they believe to the core of their heart.
But on the opposite end, people express anger as well because they are unable to stand those they call “bigots” and among the religious ones, they call those who use the Bible to oppose Marriage Equality names such as sacrilegious because the word of God is being used for a mean and intolerant personal issue against LGBT people and their supporters. Many believe this bigotry is mostly a case of denied homosexuality because they find no other explanation for this. But the concerning part is that now I hear people judging institutionalized religion and the biblical interpretations by those bigots, something I believe will grow in a crescendo, and I see in it no positive end. This same phenomena was exhibited several hundreds of years ago in the Middle East among other areas and were the reason for many true wars between nations of different belief. Exact figures about the death toll of those wars are not reliable but suffice to say that entire populations were extinguished. I don’t believe we have the chance to escalate that badly nowadays, but Jihad fighters prove me wrong. So I wonder if in reality not only we are not able to live in peace but we need a war of some sort to justify our presence in this physical life.
However, time, as always, will decide the outcome of this particular war of hearts and minds and I have no doubt, like others, that this one will be won by granting all the needed rights to all minorities. And the LGBT is the one in turn. I hope I witness this change during my lifetime because it is rather disturbing to hear, see and known that there are humans that despise humans because they do not conform to their lifestyle and beliefs. Something must change right there!
I was told by a Guatemalan friend that her country was celebrating the first year against LGBT bigots in their country and as I reacted to her, I say to that: Let other live their own choice and present compassion and generosity to those that are unable to do so.

So meanwhile, let the war keep happening and let’s see at what point we may destroy each other when clearly these times prove that our historical mistakes demand our utmost good heart investment for the well-being of everyone. The well-being of everyone offers better guarantees that our personal future and space have better chances to achieve, peace, harmony and fulfillment. That leads to those occasional and rare moments in which we consider our selves being happy people.

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Middle East – Just a concern? Or an impending threat?

By Isis Win

I always advocate for learning what is necessary to have any kind of judgment about . . . whatever! But at times, we hear and read information that perhaps is reliable but never complete. That cannot lead to educated judgment but to assumptions that mostly fall in the domain of pure ignorance and projections of all kinds. The word moves around and as it grows becomes an exaggeration of what possibly was no more than an important issue. After all, the media constantly competes to be on top of everything for the sake or ratings. Nothing new about that. But bad or incomplete information at times in the hands of people with unlimited access to the media can become quite convoluted and make matters worse. For instance, during Republican campaigning, the media has constantly been accusing Obama of being responsible for the actual status of the nation, which we all know is not good, regardless of any progress reported by the same media or the executive branch. It is rather dismaying to realize that a presidential candidate would be making accusations that have no foundation in truth, that are, in other words, plain lies. The New York Times published an interesting discussion about lies in the political world. The discussion doesn’t really help any reader to figure out one or another thing except that lying is a fact of life; it has been that way for a long time and likely will not change.
On that note, I wonder about the lack of attention to the issues going on in most of the Middle East countries that represent not only lack of stability in the region but as well to the world. After all, we can’t ignore the fact that the world depends on the production and sales of petroleum products. Instead, we only have sketches about what’s going on and, from time to time, that news in the hands of the Arabs who fight the US, is used in the very same way that media portrays Obama to persuade their people to join the hate against this country. We have video of soldiers desecrating the bodies of some rebels and of cases of civilian casualties. Clearly, propaganda of that kind will not help any attempt to push any of those countries into diplomatic negotiations.
Perhaps my uneducated mind is more concerned than it should be or than is justified, but for years I’ve been afraid of what some analysts recently have been talking about: the possibility of a Middle East war. For starters a few analysts are concerned about too many loose cannons that can trigger one. If that happens to be the case, the world, including the US, is at peril. The US cannot afford another economic blow due to hostilities of any sort in the region. However, can the US stay out of it, particularly if Israel acts, provoked by the threats from neighboring countries?
I prefer much more to assume that this just another crisis that the world has to face as in the past, that it won’t escalate as in the past. But it is clear that just the threat of such a crisis will cause serious turmoil in most countries. And there are too many reasons to suspect a serious international issue is at stake at this moment. There are too many countries demonstrating antagonism toward the US, and no one can escape the idea that instead of fighting Big Brother in the war field, imposing financial distress can do the job. That was one of the aims of Al-Qaeda when it attacked the Twin Towers. It was not just to cause panic, fear, and loss of life. Regardless of how prepared any nation could be for the possibility of attacks in their own land, Al-Qaeda proved that even the most powerful nation in the world is at risk in the hands of terrorists groups.
I have no doubts the US can “bite the bullet” and overcome anything. The resilience of the American people has been proven over and over, but whether this is the case or not, this something that no one wants to see and deal with. As well, it is unlikely that the world would sit back observing a conflict. The alliance will join efforts to fight any country that disrupts the well-being of an allied nation. But we need warring of any kind, not even diplomatic warfare, as has been happening with Iran. However, we know little about what is happening with other nations that “claim” to be friends of the US. We have Afghanistan and Pakistan, and lately Turkey has been mentioned, as countries that possibly have hidden agendas with the US. And there is no doubt in my mind that petrol-producing nations have one of the “aces” in their hands. We know Saudi Arabia is somehow on our side, but we can’t ignore that it is an Arab nation and threatening countries are its neighbors. All this, while we already are sorting out an unemployment problem that represents a level of economic stagnation that is not exclusive of the political situation that we’ve been witnessing now for years.
Although most scholars and analysts I’ve heard don’t directly state the reason for the actual state of affairs with the Arab Nations, they are not slow to suggest more than one or twice that the lack of stability in the Middle East is collateral damage due to the poor management of Saddam Hussein’s removal. I recall before the pre-emptive attack against Iraq, academics warned the White House of the possible consequences. Iraq was the glue at the time that maintained stability in the region which was the reason the US supported that nation before the threat that it possibly was supporting al-Qaeda and had weapons of mass destruction. This by the way, showed either poor intelligence-gathering by the US or simply that we were deceived by the American government. There are plenty of people out there now suggesting conspiracies and that corporate interests curiously formed a nexus with our executive figures during the previous years. The ultimate fact is that whether we don’t know any better because the true knowledge is of National Security importance or the truth is manipulated back and forth, we have serious reasons to fear a longer period of chaos in the world. Of course, crisis like this had been seen a few times before, such as the case of the ballistic missile build up in Cuba by the Soviets. I recall the newspaper headlines pointing to a possible WW III. Thank goodness nothing happened because those missiles were removed. But the fear was there, even for myself, a young person incapable of reasoning the possible outcome.
As was lightly mentioned in the “Lies” discussion by the New York Times, one of the problems about manipulation, half-truths and lies in the political arena, is that the American people just read and hear them and go on. However, considering the radical split the American people have been facing so far, the same that will render its outcome this coming November, such lies are creating a wave of sentiment that all should avoid. During WW II, and the Great Depression, the American people joined hands to overcome the crises that threatened this great nation, and as anyone can see, the US came out gloriously and achieved a predominant place in the world. We are not even close to losing our place in the world as long the US dollar continues being the currency of trade, but this is something that we cannot afford to allow to change because of events in the Middle East. We all must be together, put aside our differences, and work towards bringing the nation to where we were before Iraq, Afghanistan and the mortgage crisis. Although I didn’t feel Obama’s State of the Union speech was of historic caliber, what he said is nothing else but the truth in regards to what must be addressed in the upcoming years. I am not fully convinced he can deliver his agenda due to the orchestrated obstruction by the Republicans; however, it is a matter of common sense to allow his initiatives to happen, even if they believed to be prone to failure, instead of simply freezing everything and getting nothing done. The entire executive and legislative branches should as well put aside their differences and sit down to negotiate whatever it takes for the sake of moving the country forward. Otherwise, even if the Republicans win the upcoming election, the damage could be too large for them to pull the country of danger, just like the scenario that Obama faced right after becoming elected. Our reality of today is not a partisan or philosophical issue. It is a matter of the well-being of the country and everyone in it because after all, if we end up with an empty basket, everyone, including the 1% will suffer serious consequences. It is a luxury we cannot afford.