Saturday, April 24, 2010

Deviltry in Schools

Judging by the amount of hate I see spewed by Christians, why is it a goal for many to conservatively re-Christianize America's public schools?

Why should our children be taught as early as kindergarten that the entire world is filled with sin and they are sinful creatures because they were born, and must work to avoid it?  Why should they be taught to condemn children who might be homosexual once they realize what sex is?  Why should they learn that sex, the act thanks to which they exist, is vile but that they must fight against an impulse to have it--thereby putting the idea into their heads?  Why should children learn to parrot and not to think?

Christianity terrifies me.  I know many very vocal people who insist that simply reading the Bible can lead us to good, self-conscious lives, but that true moral authority and problems must be referred to the superiority of the Church.  Under the wing of believers like this, this means that children will be taught not to question.  They will be taught to follow.  They will become drones.  They will slide backwards into ignorance and fear because the one book they depend upon for all their answers is mismatched and incomplete, and because the people from whom they blindly accept their morality advocate that belief is strongest and best when there is no proof.  What could a Christianized school system do?  (Naturally, there are many other state-supported religion scenarios that are possible, but this one strikes closest to home for most Americans.)

It could rot the questions inside every child's mind.  It could delete half the curriculum because it doesn't support the religious opinion--showing that power is more important than knowledge, that fighting for dominance can be threatened by the slightest spark of reasonable dissent--and therefore showing how easily dissoluble the religious belief system actually is.  It could encourage children to hate those whose sexuality is judged.  It could encourage a great deal of early sex and pregnancy because students have nothing else to do.  It could allow discrimination and even violence towards those who aren't of the popular religion.   It will turn our children into prejudiced, uneducated little religious soldiers.

As an atheist, I see adding religion into schools as an act of insanity.  Schools are not here to form a child's character.  They are here to educate.  Religion, as a school of belief, damns new possibilities and therefore the presence of actual education, which means the development of independent thought.

Religion is clinging to life by its fingernails.  No wonder its members are acting like the Antichrist is coming.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Premarital Sex and Life

I've always wondered about the logistics behind forbidding premarital sex.  On the face of one side, it seems stupid.  On the face of another, it seems holy.  What's your take?

As an atheist, I can't, obviously, believe that an all-knowing, all-loving god first created me so imperfectly and so sinfully that I am not allowed to procreate and further advance the human race until another human, who can be ordained for $10 on the Internet, can perform a five-minute ceremony.  It makes no sense to me.  Rather, if I believed that, it would really make me want to shake god until his teeth rattle for being so illogical.

So what's the big deal?

I don't want to get divorced.  I don't want to rip apart all our mutual belongings, pay a lawyer, deal with alimony, and mess around with child support and visitation rights.  I don't want to undergo the hurt of realizing that I married someone without really knowing him, and that we're better off divorcing than staying married.  I wouldn't want to do that to children.

I can understand that marriage was important in an age when women depended on men to support them--or were legally and socially forced to do so.  If you were married, you were generally safe--unless he engaged in horrific cruelty.  But most women had to marry for security, and it's different now.  We work.  A lot of us love to work, and a lot of us are very good at what we do.  We don't need financial security.  It might be nice, but we can get it for ourselves just as well as men can.

I don't believe that it's ethical to promise to stay with someone until death do you part unless you know that you will be able to keep that promise.  You don't know how much someone will stay in love with you over the years, how much he'll help keep the house in order, how much he'll help raise the children, how prone he is to cheating, how prone you are to cheating, how well your ways of life clash or meld together until you try it out first.  I should think it causes a lot more pain and sin to rip apart a family and break a solemn promise than to live together before marriage to make sure that you can, in fact, tolerate each other.

I live with my boyfriend.  I adore him.  However, if I'd married him, I'd feel a bit cheated, because I would have expected that he would be my helpmeet in every way of life.  He gets sick to his stomach when he has to clean out the catbox and cannot stand the noise of clipping the kitty's claws.  So, if I eventually decided to marry him and maybe have children with him, we'd have to seriously speak about the number of child responsibilities (specifically feeding, grooming, and diaper-changing) I'd be stuck with before I even considered a decision like that.  If we can't agree, maybe it won't work out.  It would hurt, but it would hurt far less than the end of a marriage and the divorce payments.  I see no problem with waiting a bit before doing something as important as getting married.

So why does it bother so many people that I feel this way?

Is it possible that ancient decrees on marriage and sin might be wrong?

Is it possible that, when those ancient decrees were written, we knew no more about the universal nature of right and wrong than we do now?

Illogical Political Debates

I wrote "debates", but I might just as well call them "arguments".  I find it fascinating that people, mostly uninformed people who are therefore adamant in their convictions, love to argue with others and drive their own points home but never, ever seem to listen.  It seems that screaming at others--via the safe medium of the Internet, usually--is the way insecure people achieve confidence and self-respect.  That, and, admittedly, trying to figure out how to get around the censorship programming which forbids words like "fart", even in Spanish.

Recently, I entered a few comments on an online newspaper opinion page.  I refuted arguments, tried to explain my position, remained civil, and attempted to take the opposing comments seriously as I responded.  The result was that several people on the message board were actually taken aback and were admonishing people of their own party not to insult "the new liberal" because they finally had a courteous person to oppose.  What does that say for regular, middle-class America?

Are we too caught up in the necessity of being right to consider another's opinion?  What makes us believe that our own political beliefs are irrefutable and the other side is going to Hell?   Seriously, why do we alienate hundreds of groups simply because we must be right?

It doesn't matter that we descended from immigrants--Mexican immigrants must go.  It doesn't matter that there are many illegal immigrants from other countries--it's totally okay to institute a racist regime to potentially arrest every Mexican-looking human being.  It doesn't matter that someone else's inborn sexuality is something they cannot help--you want your Bible to say it does, so they must be eradicated or educated out of their perversions.  It doesn't matter that the glaciers and ice caps are melting and the sea level rising--the politicians who will supposedly save you the most money (!) say that's ridiculous, and you are happy to believe them.  It doesn't matter that America has hundreds of thousands of people thrown into unemployment by this recent economic crash; no one who can't be bothered to get a job and help themselves should be allowed to take your tax dollars.  Listen to yourselves!

The stock market crashes.  Car plants close.  Factories shut down.  Businesses go into bankruptcy.  Layoffs occur all over the country.  Money has to be saved everywhere.  Result--people lose their jobs.  And you are telling these people that it's their fault they don't have a job?  It's their fault that they can't support themselves?  How do you know how hard people are trying to survive, to find a job?  All you want to see is the homeless guy chugging vodka and spending his welfare check, because that is easy for you to see!  That easily scorned picture means you don't have to help!  YES, for God's sake, there are many people out there who find it easier to remain on welfare than to work.  But there are thousands more who are trying every day to get a job, scraping the bottom of the barrel to keep their houses, there are some who are working two or three jobs to stay afloat, there are single mothers, single fathers--countless miserable situations that many people are trying to pull themselves out of!  How dare you suggest that they aren't worthy of their country's help?

You are not alone.  Without the well-being of this country, your life would be in the toilet.  You don't know how to do anything without the success of the grocery store, the hardware store, the people who run your water, your plumbing, your electricity, who make your televisions and your clothes.  Most of you can't make your own clothes and a great deal more don't know how to raise your own food.  When this country tanks, so do you.  When a young man with an IQ of 195 has to drop out of college because he doesn't have the money, you've lost an incredible asset to society and to your own life.  It will be your fault when the potential discoverer of a cure for AIDS or cancer has to drop out of school and work three jobs because the family can't afford food or rent, or when that person has to die because her greedy insurance company doesn't want to spend the money on an experimental bone marrow treatment.

We are responsible for everyone in our society.  The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can quit this idiotic warring with everyone of a different opinion, religion, skin color, or origin.  STOP IT.  None of you have the right to condemn another human being to poverty.

Like it or not, our social structure benefits the rich, even in matters of success.  Malcolm Gladwell wrote extensively about research done over a period of years on children with incredibly high IQs.  The children who generally succeeded were the ones from well-to-do families.  Why?

Rich kids have parents who are far more involved.  They are told to do their homework, they are encouraged to speak up to authorities (this includes people like doctors), whereas poor children are generally ingrained with the idea of authority's power.  They are taken to soccer practice, they can get tutors, they travel, and they're given far more opportunities.  Poor kids very often have to take care of their education themselves, and they've got to battle against self-consciousness while trying to prove equality with the rich kids.  This has nothing to do with skin color, nothing at all.  It's simply an economic state of mind that people fall into.  And this means that, when looking down on the poor, we're condemning kids for their grandparents' social positions.

We're interconnected, not just across the present world but across the past.  Your ancestors made you who you are today.  So open your eyes and help the struggling people who need just a leg up in order to become a person who can found a university, win your divorce case, or design your house better than anyone else could.  It is everyone's fault that we have poverty.  Stop pretending to be independent and claim your own responsibility.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Why Do We Have This Illegal Immigration Problem?

I read the Macon Telegraph daily when I'm at home in Georgia. It's on the table--why not? I used to read it for the comics, a salad recipe here or there, and Dear Abby. Then, being a vaguely interested liberal, I wondered where Doonesbury had gone, and found it on the "Viewpoints" section, the one in which people get to send in letters about, essentially, about anything they want to, usually political, conservative, and religious.

I'm horrified at America. I'm absolutely horrified. How can such a huge percentage of the population believe that forcibly Christianizing everyone is a good thing? How can people believe that we just need to shunt illegal immigrants back over the border to end the problem! How can people live with themselves while decrying their independence and spewing dislike for the poor, all the while forgetting that their very pledge of allegiance to America includes the words "one nation"?

My point for the day--because it was under discussion in the Macon Telegraph Letters comment section--is illegal immigration. Most people hear about the problem of people crossing the border without official papers and inveigling themselves into American, money-earning society, taking the jobs that out-of-work Americans should have and taking American tax dollars for welfare checks, food stamps, and medical bills. On the face of it, this seems a bit ridiculous. Only someone so blindly compassionate towards all human beings that he or she wouldn't let their little carnivore of a cat eat meat wouldn't have a problem with this scenario.

But here's the thing--it's much, much too simple. Unless you really want to see things this way, you can't buy this story just on that last paragraph.

First of all, why are these immigrants here? Well, why would you want to leave your country? Leave your family, your surroundings, your home, your familiar, native language, your customs, traditions, and way of life?

It could be because you just feel like traveling and leaving all those things behind doesn't really matter to you. Or it's because you're dirt poor. You cannot afford to live this lifestyle anymore. You're destitute. Your family is sick. You're earning 42 cents an hour working in, say, a maquiladora. Your wages have gone down at least 70% since December 1994. You live in a shack in Tijuana, the television-making capital of the world. 42 cents an hour covers 60% of daily necessities. You work in a toxic environment. It's the only place you can get a job. Around you, American tourists are enjoying duty-free shopping, amazing restaurants, music, gambling, and golf. Wouldn't you want to leave? More specifically, wouldn't you want to leave so that you can have that lifestyle in America?

Of course you would. But why on earth are you so poor in the first place? Why in heaven's name are they so rich?

Check out Border Assembly San Diego. This is just one example of a company employing Mexican workers. According to their website, geared towards American manufacturing companies, if you are spending 15% of profits on labor, you are spending too much, and if you want to turn your product manufacturing over to them, they will cut labor by half. You will not have to pay tariffs. They will ship your products cheaply. Your products will not be shoddy: they will be made by "a young, dynamic, and highly skilled workforce", who are also conscientious line workers. Your employees will be treated excellently. Their employees are paid well, get really good benefit packages and are just spectacular at their work. It isn't fair, they say, to assume that just because sweatshops get a bad reputation, their workshops are also run poorly. So come down and visit; you'll have a great time.

Sounds fabulous.

Check out the Support Committee for Maquiladora Workers: Background Information website. The story is slightly different. In order to get all this American business and to enrich those at the top, the government eliminated Article 27 of its constitution which stated that each worker owns a part of the land he or she works on, and, immediately, American rice and corn flooded the Mexican market. The workers--the few who could still get work--had to work for much less--they couldn't accumulate land to pass down through generations and raise self-sufficient families and communities--and they got dirt poor. Many were thrown into unemployment, because Americans had really high-tech machines to do their work. People rushed to the border to try to get across, to escape this hell of a poverty-stricken life.

So American companies rushed to the border. It wasn't a hard concept: it was a blockade. Put up companies, offer jobs, and keep them in Mexico, where the minimum wage is far below $6.25 (or whatever it is in your state of choice). So began the maquiladoras.

The workers, as stated before, work at ludicrous, ever-dropping wages (including monetary inflation in the calculation). They have no or barely any hazard and safety standards, so they deal with toxic waste dumps and toxic, dangerous working conditions. They work 48-60 hours a week without proper safety precautions. They are, naturally, forced into repression by workers who attempt to negotiate an improvement in conditions--and unions are far more dangerous. Maquiladora workers, with the aid of the committee, tried to organize a union, but they called off voting in fear that the elected leaders would be harmed. One woman, one of the candidates, was threatened and her 10-year-old son disappeared.

All of this, naturally, leads to bigger and bigger profits for American companies.

My God. You wonder why we have so many illegal immigrants!

So, essentially, we have three options that I can see. We can do what many Americans want, particularly conservative Americans, and just shove them back over the border where they belong. We can raise taxes to build a really impossible wall around our country, leaving room to only allow tariff-free merchandise through, we can forcibly stop and interrogate or examine any Hispanic-looking person about their right to be here, and we can forcibly deport people back over the border into poverty. By engaging in this essentially racist regime that bears a slight resemblance to Nazi Germany, we can also create hundreds of furious, militant terrorists bent on revenge for their ruined, trapped lives and their poverty. We can spend a really huge amount of money doing this. But how wise is it?

Another option would be to legalize every illegal immigrant and welcome all of Mexico and surrounding areas into America and just turn the abandoned countries into agriculture land. So, for the small taxes they pay (if they do, since American citizens do try to get away without paying taxes), we give them welfare, food stamps, and medical aid until they get on their feet. Without education, this may not happen for years. This will also cost millions of dollars.

Or we could fix things in the country the immigrants are coming from, giving them less of an incentive to come to America.

Think about it. Destroy the illness, and the symptom will subside.

Stop outsourcing, for God's sake. The enormous flat-screen TVs that we can buy at really laughable prices have illegal immigration and exploitation written all over them. So does everything else that comes from a country outside of the one in which you're buying your products. Our insistence on buying cheap products is one of the factors (besides profit and greet) that is making companies use and abuse cheap labor in other countries. If we stop abusing Mexico, our borders will become less attractive. This solution is not cheap, either, but none of them are. This has the potential to fix more than violence or knuckling under.

Stop exploiting people in their own countries for our profits, and they will stop coming to this country to seek those profits.