What Happens When Hunger Strikes?

Transient

 Starving yourself as a revolutionary movement, as a zealous motion for political change, seems like a foreign concept to most of us. Maybe it’s foreign, particularly to one over-fed, immoderate Nation. Starvation is probably the least likely form of a strike Americans would gravitate to as a means to opposing the system. For some reason, it’s not a course to make one’s voice heard we are accustomed to.

But across the world, in years past, it’s probably been considered the most civil form of rebellion. Hunger strikes are a silent, self-inflicted protest; a modest man’s revolt. While there are those occurences, such as the recent Guantánamo hunger strike, who forgo daily feeding by the masses, hunger strikes are more commonly suffered in solace. 

Pussy Riot band member, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who is currently serving a two-year prison sentence for "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” (basically a sacreligious concert in Moscow’s main Orthodox Cathedral in order to publicly, and creatively, I might add, denounce Vladimir Putin) feels her living conditions in the woman’s penal colony are life threatening and inhumane. This week, in writing, Nadezhda announced:

"Therefore, on Sept. 23, I am declaring a hunger strike and refusing to take part in the slave labor in the colony until the administration starts obeying the law and stops treating incarcerated women like cattle thrown out of the justice system to serve the needs of the sewing industry but like people."  (The Huffington Post)

Considering the uproar this Pussy Riot-er took part in, there is no telling what kind of conditions and treatment any of these pussies may be facing, and the leader of this pack has decided to take this rather public, but reclusive stance against what she feels is brutal treatment. But just how beneficial are these hunger strikes? Since the early 20th century, such strikes have been endured to see through vision and cultivate change in society. So can an individual's will power to deny themselves sustenance and withstand hunger really cause change?

Looking back at past non-violent revolutions, what exactly happens when hunger strikes?

1. The Government Pays Attention

One of the first recorded in history, and certainly the first woman, Marion Wallace was arrested for stenciling a part of the British Bill of Rights on the House of Commons. In response, to what she felt was an inhuman sentence imprisonment, Marion embarked on one of the first ever hunger strikes.

Quickly (4 days to be exact) Marion was released from prison for fear of her declining health.

2. Countries Find Peace

Certainly famous for more than just hunger strikes and possibly one of the most fierce non-violent figures in history, Gandhi turned to these starvation strikes a number of times. Some were more successful than others. A 21 day fast that he set out on against British rule, proved unsuccessful while another fast concluded within five day with Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus agreeing to work towards the national unity Gandhi envisioned.                                                                                             (US News)

3. People Die

Following a 5 year protest with the IRA (Irish Republican Army) that began in 1976, Sands initiated a hunger strike with cell mates in 1981 after being imprisoned for his riotous acts. Actually, Bobby’s strike followed the IRA’s “group” strike, a “no wash” motion where IRA prisoners didn’t wash for days, but rather covered their cells in their excrements and wastes. (Who wouldn’t lose their appetite after that?)

While the strike ultimately led to Bobby’s death (he died 60 days after beginning the fast, and 9 other deaths followed him), while imprisoned and on strike Bobby was elected to the British Parliament.                                                                       (BBC)

4. Celebrities Find Purpose for Starvation 

Mia Farrow embarked on a 12 day fast, for the “people of Darfur and as a personal expression of outrage at a world that is somehow able to stand by and watch innocent men, women and children needlessly die of starvation, thirst and disease.” Though due to doctor’s orders Mia had to end, what she had hoped would be a 21 day strike, by day 12. While Mia may have rated her movement as unsuccessful, it did give her something to blog about...                                                                                     (The Huffington Post)

5 (of the Many) Reasons Why Congress Can’t Agree on Syria

Transient

For those of us who rarely turn on the news, we may be casually nodding or shaking our heads these past days in conversations on Syria, when really we haven’t a clue about what’s going on, with the exceptions of some “chemical warfare in Syria.” Well, I’ll be the first to admit that when the news came out on the chemical explosions in Damascus, I hadn’t the slightest idea (ashamedly and bashfully) of the implications this one attack could have. Sadly, it normally takes events to reach the point of such potential global impact to get our attention.

Today, as Senate continues to argue on cases for whether or not we should attack Syria, it’s probably time those of us (ehem, myself included)  take a closer look at what exactly is going on, and why we should care whether or not Congress agrees to move forward with a strike on Syria. No doubt, it will have longstanding effects on our nation and the rest of the world, even though the majority of us might not notice until our primetime shows are interrupted with a National address from our President.

Here are five reasons why apparently more than 280 representatives remain undecided:

1. Syria’s chemical attack violated international law.

While some question the fine print of this internation law, Syria indeed agreed to this in the 1925 Geneva protocal, which first prohibited the use of chemical weapons in war.

Though in the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, that furthered the Geneva protocal to outlaw the production and use of these weapons, Syria was not among the countries that agreed to destroy the possesions of chemical arms.              (The Washington Post)

2. America is Allies with Israel.

(“So...?” you might be thinking. How does Israel factor into this attack?)

It is likely, since the US are allies with Israel (meaning we have committed to protect Israel at all costs) that the Bashar Assad regime (aka Syria) may attack Israel if we pose a threat to them, because they will no doubt get a response from such an attack.

Still the argument for some representatives is that it is not our battle to fight. 

Though others argue that Syria may attack if we don’t do anything. Though Secretary of State, John Kerry stated on Wednesday, a politician who has remained quite opposed to military action in the past,to why the US should take action: “the world is watching.” 

3. We need to uphold International norms.

Over 400 children have died due to this attack. The fact alone that the Syrian government violated, not only an international law, but more a moral code of humanity is reason enough for alarm. Many in Congress argue that to do nothing would be saying something.

4. War costs money and America is already a financial mess.

Any strike will cost us, and any strike will likely be the gateway to more than one attack.

New York Rep. Brian Higgins, a Democrat, said in a statement to CNN:

"After 6,668 American troop deaths and tens of thousands of American wounded, after spending $2 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan representing $40,000 in debt for every American family, now is the time to nation-build in America and invest in the growth of the American economy,"  

Yet, I’m not sure who could argue with what price to put on the lives lost that day in Damascus.

5.  America could be Syria’s next target.

Certainly a possiblity. Though it would be disconcerting if this was reason for anyone to vote for a strike or no strike on Syria.

One member of the Senate Committee today posed the question, in his southern drawl, “What do we do if they literally shoot back at Americans?” Hm, profound question. I’m sure most of congress haven’t taken that thought into consideration yet. Glad he could bring that one to the table (or for national news, no less.)

Regardless of what next steps the Senate Committee agrees to take, hopefully this is not the question that drives our nations ultimate decision on what to do next. 

 

Vogue's Pays Tribute to Hurricane Sandy First Responders , As Only They Know How

Is the current Vogue issue using the responders of the Sandy Hurricane as a prop? It might look that way. Some wonder if this "is what happens when Anna Wintour feels emotion", with a high-end fashion spread “celebrating” Sandy’s first responders. Granted Vogue and CDFA did in fact raise millions for the Sandy Relief, I’m not sure just exactly how these pictures are honoring the first responders of Sandy or how placing runway models, in designer dresses is really bringing the focus on the responders. Are your eyes immediately drawn to the firemen in these images or… the tall, Karlie Kloss in ravishing red towering over them? Initially, I’ll admit (*sigh*) my response to these pictures is, like most Vogue pictures, “Oooo, sweet!” because a place like Vogue is one of the few where doing the unimaginable, fantastical and unrealistic is possible. It’s somewhat naive and frivolous a reaction but being the dreamy, idealistic female that I am, a shoot like this looks, well… picturesque. I would not naturally flip through this spread and initially find it a controversial issue. And give me a break, anything slightly questionable Ann Lebovitz captures has a way of making controversy just look so good, no matter how controversial or politically incorrect it may be. Fashion has the freedom to do that, and has for a long time. And it’s Vogue, we’re talking about after all. Not Newsweek (oh wait, Newsweek isn’t even in print anymore, because, guess what? People don’t care to purchase fact, when they can buy fantastical fiction for their coffee tables. It’s just looks prettier.) Though most of us weren’t directly effected by the Sandy Hurricanes, more lives were affected in this storm than we’ve seen in a natural disaster in America in quite some time. So it would be ignorant not to consider the controversy such “picturesque” images might stir for those who were affected.

Take into consideration the nurses, who were so cleverly fixed around these beautiful model dressed in Michael Kors (which I’m sure didn’t feel intimidating or at all belittled while they posed in their scrubs) I wonder how honored they felt. I wonder if when they were called about the feature, they had pictured the final product quite this way.

Vogue certainly made a point to highlight this tragic event and it’s hero’s doing their nobel duty as the empire of fashion, and in many ways, New York City. But if I was Anna maybe I would’ve made a point to actually let the hero’s take the limelight for once. It may have been a bit more honoring to, maybe, feature the firefighters among the remains of Sandy in Armani suits and the nurses in Diane von Furstenberg dresses, with the hospital floor as their runway. While “it’s the thought that counts” (so I’m told) it may have made for a better tribute if the idea to “celebrate” our heros, actually did just that.

Petraeous & Why You Should Know It's More Than Just Another Affair


No, Petraeous is not the next Ridley Scott film to follow up Prometheus. For those of you who don’t frequent CNN, MSNBC or any other news source, you may be out of the loop on this one (and that could very well sum it up to everyone in my age bracket - you twenty somethings.) 

Who is Petraeous and why should you care about it? Well, I admit, I scanned by the name a few times myself before giving it much attention. Turns out Petraeous isn’t a film or a soap opera (though there are enough characters involved for it to be the first Desperate Housewives of the CIA) but a leader who could have potentially caused quite the ripple effect in some major, recent “spontaneous” attacks on September 11. 

Petraeous is, or was, I should say, the chief CIA director who’s admission to a scandalous relationship is bringing up more questions than most any political or national figure we’ve seen take heat for.Through the years we’ve watched countless political leaders and moral figures get by the skin of their teeth after the breaking news of some poor choices - often receiving more recognition and more opportunities in the aftermath. But this leader in particular, as the assassination of 4 Americans, including the murder of a US Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Benghazi took place, won’t be getting off so easily.

Unlike Clinton’s scandalous oval office appointments and JFK’s little birthday serenade, the ramifications of this affair are an entirely different ball game. David Petraeous had been the chief CIA in Afghanistan for the past two years and even had a book written on his leadership style, by biographer Paula Broadwell, who chose Petraeous as her Phd dissertation - a flattering gesture for a 60 year old man, no doubt. By President Obama’s reelection, an affair between Petraeous and Broadwell publicly surfaced and CIA director officially resigned. After admitting the affair Petraeous has been brought into some serious questioning over any classified information that may have spilled during their relationship, such as documents on Broadwell’s laptop, and any other information that may have trickled through the daily runs together. 

More important, the House and Senate intelligence committee are trying to figure out and what exactly occurred this past September 11, in comparison to what Americans were informed. Though it was communicated as an event that “arose out of a spontaneous demonstration,” now Petraeous "stated that he thought all along he made it clear that there was significant terrorist involvement." Speculators are proposing that the timeline of events concerning the Election, Lybia and Petraeous possibly mean that our CIA didn’t communicate as crystal clear as to our Nation they could have. 

While it’s all still speculation, and many are still in question and investigation, it would be worth your while to know why Petraeous is more than some sexy affair - though no doubt a movie is in the making.

Is Being Conservative “Not Sexy”?

Likely, as you read this, you’ve already answered that question.  The general perception of conservatives in our culture, as presumptuous or accurate as it may be, is no real shocker: being conservative is considered “not sexy,” or more specifically, being liberal is considered, “sexy.”

A recent CNN online report, which stated that hormones and menstrual cycles of women are likely the driving force behind the majority of liberal female votes, got everyone’s panties all up in a wad last Wednesday, as well as cause an uproar on Twitter. Based on research by Kristina Durante, an assistant professor in the marketing school at the University of Texas at San Antonio, the report suggests “There’s something that may raise the chances for both presidential candidates that’s totally out of their control: women’s ovulation cycles.” Durante’s study, in short, theorizes that women have a hard time thinking reasonably during that time of the month and therefore take the liberal vote for policies on abortion and other issues, indicating, the obvious, that to be sexy you must be liberal. Ok, so CNN doesn’t come right out and say this, but while women are back lashing on Twitter after this story came out (is it wrong to assume that men might not be so emotional, oh I mean… defensive ?), the report is also indirectly stating that to be sexy is to be liberal. Duh. When has liberal not been considered sexy? Possibly when “The Walton’s” was the best tv around. Oh, nope. Even then it wouldn’t have been “sexy.”

While this report was taken down shortly after the tweeting uproar Wednesday, it’s effects still linger as women all over the US are feeling belittled and bemeaned through a University’s report whittling down our decisive vote to a hormonal disposition. Most women want to lash out at this CNN reporter (who just doing her job, poor thing) and have taken their cyber opportunity to do just that, for having the gall to suggest that our hormones cause us to have any less control over our vote and thinking capacity compared to those without a monthly cycle (“ehem” men.) However, this report plainly states that women choose to vote liberal to be more sexy, while those not working so hard to be “becoming,” lean towards the conservative side, suggesting what most tweet rebuttals either completely overlook or completely agree with. 

Being liberal is somewhat a universal idea of being attractive or sexy, while being conservative is not. And I admit, most of us don’t grow up thinking, “It looks cool to be traditional” or “when I grow up I want to be conservative,” because, frankly, we know it won’t land us a cover on GQ. The majority does tend to think this way growing up, that or it’s portrayed to us this way. It’s attractive, yes, when an individual thinks outside of the box, when you push the limit (similar to the whole girls like Bad Boys) but who says someone who is stable and leans towards some moderate or traditional values isn’t sexy or attractive. 

Suggesting that women can’t make a clear cohesive vote due to hormones is one thing. Suggesting that being liberal is more sexy than being conservative, and the assumption that a women would t lean that way to appear sexy is rather - obtuse. Not only does this study labeling one party “sexy” and one “not sexy,” but it’s presuming that conservatives are one in the same, and just alike for the liberals.  Because how could one be conservative and have radical ideas? How could one be conservative and still be progressive? How could one be conservative and sexy? Inconceivable. This overall perception that all feminists are “liberal” and all bigots are “conservatives” seems somewhat dated itself. After CNN has taken down this story, I’m sure they will have a bit tighter reign on reports to avoid putting anyone in a box, sexy or not.


Why Most "Young People" Don't Care to Vote...

Most young people don’t plan on voting and most don’t care to. I don’t mean to speak for everyone person under the age of 30, but when Scarlett Johanson gave a speech at the Democratic Convention, she mentioned that less than half of those eligible to vote four years ago, ages 18-24, actually voted. That said, it’s fair to assume that in the past 4 years we’re much more familiar with the new guy who plays Obama on SNL, than what he or Mitt Romney actually discusses.  Most voters, at least those old enough to vote, likely don’t care to watch the conventions (which, yes, already took place) and speeches much less all the other Election highlights leading up to the Presidential Debates (probably the most entertaining part of the entire season). Most of us “younger people” don’t take time to stay in tune with much of the Election season for several reasons, and therefore likely won’t vote. Why not? Here are a few possible reasons why most of us “younger people” don’t really care about the Elections, must less care to vote.

1.There’s always a lot of talking going on…

Let’s admit it: most of the speeches, debates and conventions seem like an endless sentence, which we can’t seem to figure out what they started talking about or when it will end. Sometimes hearing a president, or candidate going on about various topics puts us right back at another lecture, which we’d just rather tune out.

2. We don’t know what they’re rambling about.

Again, if we were honest (or at the risk of sounding impotent, I’ll be brutally honest myself) we don’t know what the heck their talking about. This current election has caused me to ask more questions than ever before about our Country and our government. Yes, I studied all these things in grade school or middle school - obviously I can’t remember - so I’m needing to brush up on my American Government knowledge. If we don’t know what they’re talking and arguing about, obviously we not only don’t want to care (because that then requires research), we don’t want to vote (because that would require research and responsibility.) Let’s not get in over our heads here, most of us aren’t even paying a mortgage yet (and yes, I even had to look up the spelling of “mortgage”).

3. We can’t waste our precious time.

All the research and new updates, deciphering what one candidate stands for to another could consumes some of our precious time. It’s a sports season without any game time. When Elections season kicks off, it doesn’t let up until the fat lady…, well, until November 6. You have to follow all of it to stay up with it’s current “play”, if you will. When deciding who to vote for seems to be such an investment of our time, we don’t want to be flippant about our decision. So why follow it? 

4. It doesn’t apply to us this very second.

We like things that are happening now, or tomorrow at the latest. When candidates are discussing issues such as social security, issues that may not affect us until much later in life (but affect us none the less), some of us just don’t care. If an election and an inauguration, (and tax-cuts lowered and an increase in employment) all happened in a New York minute, because of who we voted for, maybe we’d be quicker to vote.

5. It’s not as entertaining as New York Fashion Week.

I’ll admit this if not one else cares to, the most class and fashion we see in the Election season is Michele Obama’s new fall wardrobe from J. Crew. We like a clean and current image that can grab our attention, something that screams “I have a stylist.” And from what I’ve seen it wouldn’t hurt Ann to have a stylist herself. But - if it looks like another episode of West Wing, most of us tune out (unless you’re like my Dad and I - suckers for anything with Aaron Sorkin’s name attached.) We are aesthetically affected generation. If it doesn’t look or feel pretty, it’s not pleasant enough to keep our attention.

Though Scarlett Johannson’s speech likely stirred a variety of opinion’s, much like Clint Eastwood’s monologue (ok maybe not quite that much), she left us with an honest account of our generation’s current involvement in our Country: “Young America why are we only speaking with half our voice when so many issues here directly affect us… ‘We are the generation who feels like our voices haven’t been heard.’ So vote, that your voice is heard.” Yes, voting is responsibility, which requires an opinion, which requires some of your time. Election time is a good time to grow up. Vote.

Could This Be A Stunt To Expedite Votes? 

Today the Democratic Party voted as a “proposed amendment” to put God back in the Platform, as well as claim Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. When it was “proposed” (many are saying President Obama ordered this amendment and that the “proposal” was just to appease the party present) it seemed a house divided by the response at the Democratic Convention.  While it would be a novel situation to have both parties seeing eye to eye on issues such as faith and peace in the Middle East, leaving God and Jerusalem on the Platform, it’s slightly odd that just days ago, no excuse me, hours ago the amendment stood quite differently.

Back in 2008, when Obama first ran for President, the platform stated, "Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths." Just yesterday it was reported, while in the midst of these hyped convention scenes, and after Mitt Romney had made the debate over Israel’s capital as a part of his Middle East policy, the Democratic Party had stated, "The President’s consistent support for Israel’s right to defend itself and its steadfast opposition to any attempt to delegitimize Israel on the world stage are further evidence of our enduring commitment to Israel’s security.”  In layman’s terms this quote states we shouldn’t get in the midst of any mess fight with Palestine and Israel, both who claim the city of Jerusalem as their own. 

Just within hours,  in fact the next day the amendment “proposed” to reinstate “God as a significant part in the American story” and Jerusalem as the city of Israel seems to be an eager and swift change in the Democrat platform, just months away from the upcoming elections. Could Obama be throwing this wrench in the peak of this convention for a reason? With such an opposing and obviously upset response from the audience at the  Convention, it’s safe to say Obama isn’t necessarily looking to appease the Democratic party on this one.

In the Ring...

President Obama and Mitt Romney are now clearly in the ring for the first Presidential debate in October. The bell has rung, as we are waiting for the face-off and anticipating who will take the first blow.

Over the past month or so, as it became quite clear who the contenders would be, both candidates have stepped up their game to win this upcoming fight in November. Some readers may assume that any young, American, female “kid” (easily categorized as someone who does not a) have a Master’s degree, b) own stock or a home or c) get enough on tax refunds to bank on a cruise to Venice next summer - yes, that would be “moi”) doesn’t have a place to speak into such political events. I admit many of us “kids” may be a bit aloof as to all that we should consider, for now and our future, when voting for the man who should take home the title as our America’s President. Honestly, when it comes down to voting time, outside of maybe a few minor speeches and views of party conventions and celebrity supporters of a candidate, most of what hangs on the final vote for the young and the old in this election comes down to performance.

On the far right you have man who’s conservative lead has won over more than may have been anticipated. He is new to this Presidential match. And while he may not quite have face for GQ, or big names like Lady Gaga opening up for his convention, the the polls are seeming to rise in his favor. Though we know from past elections, this doesn’t always ensure a win, but as a Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has carried himself with a consistent confidence, what some call a Ronald Regan-like or JFK-like resemblance (though I’m certain many Democratic’s rolls their eyes at the comparison.) Mitt Romney can deliver ideas, debates and convictions quite clearly, believable, whether you agree with them or not. His background is apparently consistent and family life is stable and grounded. Though some don’t think this is worth considering when select a President, I highly believe it holds some considerable weight.

Obama is comfortable, considerably cool (David Letterman has noted). He treads with a Rat Pack kind of collected swagger (I almost imagine a Sammy Davis Jr., sans the mustache, especially after discovering the guy can actually sing). Our President is a likable guy, the kind of guy you almost picture your Dad hanging out a with. Though many comment that our President is no business man and doesn’t know how to pull us out of debt, and that his past four years has only sunk us deeper, he knows what it takes to win. Four years has certainly equipped him to know where to punch and how to punch ( and being a President whose wife occasional covers Vogue and who will be highlighted in next months Glamour magazine, I’m sure his creative and well-equipped researching teams are prolific). After all, e has won this fight before.

As we wait to see how these two conduct themselves face-on, their televised messages are a bit of a foreshadow of the the fights coming. There’s Mitt Romney’s ad highlighting Obama’s love for the upper-class party of “friends” during our strickened season of unemployment. Then there’s the Obama campaign message highlighting Romeny’s lark-like voice, claiming Romney’s frivolous outsource of employment to foreign countries is indeed “the problem.” These guys are just warming up and I’m sure their team of well-informed witty writers have collected more damage to rain down on the opponent by October. At least for now we have a good idea of all the backstabbing and mocking we’ll be seeing soon.

It’s going to be an entertaining fight. While some may already be pretty sure who they will win, as they say, “it ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.” On one end you have an outstanding business man who knows how to create jobs and see some basic needs that he ensure’s us will be met, who also seems to be loyal and dependable, in nature while not attempting to lasso for us the moon in any extravagant promise of immediate change in our country’s current dilemma’s in order to win our vote. On the other end you have a man well-supported, well-liked, and some-what weathered, though likely overwhelmed and well-spent in this high-demanding line of work.

As a whole, I’m not sure anyone feels completely secure in one man’s ability to tackle the other and turn this Nation’s economy crisis upside down. Who knows what this next debate will bring for America. Let it at least be stated for the record, if this was a singing contest, I know who would have my vote. “Ooooo, let’s stay together…”

Menino, Are We Talking About The Same Freedom Trail?

I don’t care for Chick-Fil-A. And any one that knows me, knows I prefer putting $3 down for a good cup of coffee over a fried chicken sandwich any day. But that’s just me. No less, living in Florida, where every friend and their mom would likely choose to meet up for a chicken sandwich over Starbucks, it’s safe to say that Chick-Fil-A is landmark here.  Now, maybe in more places than before. 

Though any blog or newspaper article mentioning Chick-Fil-A in the first sentence likely has one agenda: Fight, fight. “Fight to the death.” Now I’m not one who likes to “fight” with my words. I’ve never really been the competitive type (though that’s not necesarily the case for the rest of my family.) Most individuals covering this recent taboo topic are trying to prove an exhaustible point, one way or another; to prove the sanctity of marriage or gay rights. Frankly, discussing such points, where either side of the issue, minds are made up and ready to “fight” wear me out.  

Though, one time a Boston-resident, who can still be found driving with windows rolled down, proudly singing along “‘Cause I love that dirty water.” every time it’s on the radio,  I find Mayor Menino’s decision to deny Chick-Fil-A business on The Freedom Trail in the city of Boston somewhat disconcerting. In Mayor Menino’s letter to the President of Chick-Fil-A , he stated “There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.” While many other states, governors and mayors have followed suit to Menino’s knee-jerk reaction, with the exception of New York City (kudos to you, Bloomberg), on what grounds are leaders like Menino basing the use of their power? However, it’s safe to say that all the uproar over Dan Cathy’s has just boosted Chick-Fil-A’s already steady sales here in Florida.

The immediate uproar from the City Mayor of Boston, along with Chicago, after the news of Dan Cathy’s stance on marriage, doesn’t come as a shock to me. Having lived in the Boston area for most of my childhood (not to mention as a Pastor’s kid, no less), any distaste or abolishment for conservative, church-going type is the least surprising.

During my years attending Burlington High School, just ten minutes out of the city of Boston, my and sister and I both made several attempts to start a Christian study or prayer group at our school, all which were shorted or denied. Initially I was denied, being told that the formation of any such group in a public education system would go against the law of Church versus State. Though later, after four years, and after graduating I finally was able to see my sister launch a Christian Prayer Group, though it was short-lived, after a Club Fair where our female principal, at the time, stormed to it’s table, all hotheaded (just imagine any villainous stepmother from a Disney movie and you pretty much get the picture), shouting, “What is this?! What is this! There’s no Christian Club here! Take this down!” One would’ve thought by her reaction that we were initiating students by tasing them, to put it lightly. So down it came. To this day I’m not sure if it ever was brought back. 

So it’s no surprise that such a reaction would come from one of the Nation’s earliest English settlements. But I’m slightly confused. Menino stated “There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.” Basically The Freedom Trail has no place for a business with an owner who has a mind of own? The Freedom Trail? Really? Mayor Menino, are we talking about the same “Trail” here? The same Freedom Trail, where the Common’s once held witchcraft executions by hanging the innocent women? The same Freedom Trail where The State House held historic speeches, upon one which John Adams stated “the child independence was born”? And the same Trail where Park Street Church pioneered and holds (yes I do mean holds, as in present) Exodus International, a non-profit organization that “seeks to limit bisexual and homosexual desires” ? What the what?

How can a place, where independent thought was fought for, independent speech founded and cultured, find itself in such an intolerable state towards one man’s opinion opposing it’s own, let alone assume it’s own opinion as the bylaws for every man?  It appears the Menino is denying Cathy access to the very grounds that were broken into for the sake of free independent philosophy and religion. 

I believe we’re talking about the same Freedom Trail where witch hunts took place, free speech was planted, and even in the last decade conferences for Exodus International gay recovery organization were held at historic landmarks. Indeed, the same organization that Huffington Posts Gay Voices criticize Chick-Fil-A for financially supporting. Meaning, Mayor Menino, a Chick-Fil-A-funded organization dwells on your Freedom Trail. Yes, we are talking about the same Freedom Trail.

As much as Same-Sex Kissing at Chick-Fil-A Day may have attempted to make a scene, they’re inevitably making more dough for the Cathy’s. And though Menino has denied them a place at Boston’s historic grounds, they certainly have gained all the more ground from it. It’s almost ironic that one of the first places we settled as a Nation, is the first to deny a company a right to exist in their community due to standing by it’s belief, a freedom of religion that we came here for. Next time I think Menino might want to take another stroll down Freedom’s Trail before assuming he’s so familiar with the territory.

Obama Might Not be a Saint, but...

Image from Newsweek Magazine May 2012

Newsweek’s first cover page in May was the image of a stoic, yet glowing President Obama with a rainbow-colored halo floating over his head. Can you hear the angels singing? “Ahhhhhhh.” Of course the whole idea is nothing out of the norm. Our President, Saint Obama. In one form or another we’ve heard Obama referred to as angelic, a God-send to our Nation. Now, whether or not you agree with this is besides my point, though you likely have a very strong opinion as of right now and think you know where I’m headed. I may have stated this before, but I’ll reiterate, you’re not going to find any strong political tone here or any pull to sway you into some political animal, no pun intended. Truth be told, I’m not so much into politics as I am political dramas. However whether or not you view Obama’s position as an act of God or a plot from devil is not what I care to discuss, as much as the impact that our vocalized opinions of such political leaders may have.

From the eye of the media, as seen on covers such as Newsweek, our President is well-loved by many. Though it seems for every person who praises him as a saint, there is someone who loathes him. I’m not talking strong dislikes, or “agrees to disagree.” I mean loathe. With every comment commending Obama as a saint, he’s equally referred to as “evil” and pretty much every other variation of the word you could think of (you catch my drift.) While this might not be the terms used on right-winged networks such as Fox, it’s more caught in casual conversations; like the way your family might refer to a guy who has physically abused your sister.  I’m assuming, regarding President Obama as “evil,” one is referring to the fact that he is more of a liberal, left-handed leader, who Newsweek magazine likes to call “The First Gay President.” So if tolerance towards such left-winged priorities is a concern of ours, Obama is hardly the first President to have had an affect on America’s point of view. But again it’s not politics I’m here to discuss. Here in America, where next year we will be celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and just 60 some years from when African Americans still didn’t have the right to vote, it makes sense that Obama’s step into the Oval Office would be viewed as miraculous by many. And though it doesn’t necesarily make him an angel of God, calling Obama evil for changes that displease a more conservative crowd, may be giving one man more credit than he is due.

I dare to accuse “The Church,” for such talk, while many believe “The Church” and “Christians” go hand-in-hand (that is another subject, all it’s own) it’s no surprise that you will hear such references from many Christians. Feeling I have a good idea of the an older generation of Christians (currently working at a respectable established church in Florida) and the young emerging Christians Leaders of America (also having worked at a Liberal Arts University, with a large percentage of Practical Theology and Pastoral students,) I would say the opinions of our President in the church-realm is split, just as it is split in most of our Nation.

However, many of us “Christians,” those who trust in a God who created us and believe He still holds this chaotic world in the palm of His hand, can use the term “evil” a little too loosely, considering truly “evil” leaders of the past (think of Hitler or Stalin.) But the idea of a President itself has completely lost the honor and respect we once felt it was due. And while it’s not solely affect by those those who’ve stepped into the Oval Office, though past incidents in such spaces certainly have contributed to our lack of respect, we all contribute to our Nation’s of honor and respect in general.

Even if a man may not be an ideal President in our eyes, referring to a leader as an evil being that dwells in the pits of hell is unreasonable. Considering the variety of traumas our country has met through the past, I’d hardly think Obama has gained the rank of being labeled as “of the devil” or “evil.” He’s stepped into office at a time when our Nation was in dire need of hope: a state we’re still in for several reasons. To expect Obama to recreate and “Change” our Nation in 4 years is seeking a saint, maybe even a savior. But to regard him as “evil,” may be weighing too much to a single leader. Especially if that leader is seeking to meet high demands of the majority.  Obama is neither a saint, nor the devil. He is just a man, and due our respect all the same.

 ”Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.”

                                                                                                           Romans 13:7


Health Care in an Unlikely Place

“If you want to get healthy, you just might not want to go to a doctor. You might instead, go to church. “ At least that is what practicing physician, Dr. Mark Hyman thinks. A regular contributor for the Huffington Post Health, Hyman suggests that we may be looking to the wrong places for answers to our health issues. Essentially, health care is America’s means to answering our health woes and ailments. Be it our increase in diabetes, chronic diseases or issues with Planned Parenthood (more like the “oops, I did it again”- accidental coverage), we are fixated on every shift and change of this ever-evolving system. While health care couldn’t be a greater concern for our Nation, could we be banking on the wrong people and systems for our health and well being? 

The words “health care” didn’t always carry much weight for me before graduating college. Honestly, while it may sound naive (or plain ignorant,) I don’t think the words crossed my mind much until moving to NYC, on my own and on a religious job hunt. Even then I was perfectly content without it until maybe retirement (as in, never.) But now, knowing how blessed I am with a Full-Time job, I don’t take such benefits for granted. While there are so many who don’t have health care, those of us who do have it seem to be quickly overwhelmed by the many issues within our coverage; like, how the next President will change the way our plans looks, how much longer we can fudge around as a dependent, enjoying mom and dad’s benefits (if you’re still under 26, enjoy it while you can), or even now, the major uproar over the Birth Control Opt-Out Passed (though this opens another can of worms, that I will save for another time.) And I won’t even begin to talk about our lack of common sense where food and fitness is concerned. But for all the above, we live in a Nation that has been fashioned to feel the need to depend on Health Care providers and on our government, probably more than we wish to. Yet our country continues to decline in health, while still escalating in worry and stress. It’s a rigorous cycle.

It’s rare to hear a Dr. offer “the church” as an answer to our health needs, let alone on The Huffington Post. I believe the church plays a vital role in our emotional health and wellness, but that the church can also increase and heal our physical and mental health ( “the church” meaning, not just the fact that you go, but, the community that you are spending time with and the faith that you share in God.) When more of our illnesses increase in complexity and new ones continue develop, how can we rely on man to have all the answers, let alone properly govern how our needs are met. While “the church” is offered by Hyman as a place of emotional wellness and community, that will likely bring healing to our bones as well our soul, I would go further to say that the church, founded on the grace and faith of Jesus Christ, ought to fill us wiht an even greater expectation for healing and restoration.

There was a day when people referred to church as if it were a hospital, seeking more answers from God than anywhere else. But as we’ve grown as a country, developing more systems and answer to our problems, we seem to think we can provide solutions to it all. Though this doesn’t change how many chronic diseases are vaguely diagnosed, how many cancer patience undergo treatments that seem to be stripping them of more life than they can afford, or how people like my Dad, who has been diagnosed with Spasmodic Dysphonia for the past 15 years, “ a neurological voice disorder that involves “spasms” of the vocal cords causing interruptions of speech and affects the voice quality. SD can cause the voice to break up or to have a tight, strained, or strangled quality.”  My Dad, a professor, author, minister and speaker, was a full time pastor when one Christmas service he completely lost his voice in the middle of the sermon. There was no reason and doctors had no explanation. However, when my Dad lost his voice he began writing, and from it has published several books, contributes to several magazines, blogs (still with much more in the works) and continues to speak.  And we, the family, continue to believe God to heal him. Miracles still do happen. There are questions health care can’t answer and ailments our doctors can’t cure. So why do we go to our health care as our first resource to heal our ailments, instead of the church? Why do we get so stressed over providers who cannot completely provide all we need?

I’m not even sure if Dr. Hyman goes to church, but he certainly has a good idea of it’s vital role in our lives. More of our physical well being is connected to our trust and faith in God than we often wish to acknowledge, if we acknowledge there is a God at all. But while we continue to fork over our dollar bills, labeled “In God we Trust”, to our care providers, without ever seeking healing in the church and in God, we essentially are handing over trust and expectancy to men, science and a complex world of health that cannot fully our needs. So on Sunday, if you are begrudgingly rolling out of bed to go to church ( especially as we Spring ahead this weekend) think of it as a God-given health care, only one with no strings attached and no lifetime limit.

Youcef Nadarkhani

What makes me think I face any real struggles in this life? Because I’m not currently in my dream job? Because life isn’t panning out exactly where I hoped it would? We all have those days, where, we’re like, “Really Lord? Why?” You know those times you face where you’re ready to crawl out of your skin and you don’t understand how God can possibly stretch you any further? We’ll, I know do, but I’m finding even at my greatest point of struggle I am such a featherweight in this fight in comparison to some; in comparison to the likes of  Youcef Nadarkhani, a man who just today has been convicted guilty of converting to Christianity and therefore will be put to death. This is actually still happening. We think of such an absurd conviction as obsolete to our current culture, as so removed from our reality. But there is a man, right now, being beaten and likely tortured for his love of Jesus Christ. After a few more opportunities and refusing to claim Allah as his god, Youcef’s sentence, to be “executed at any time without warning,” grieves me and wakes me up.

Can those of us who share a love and relationship with God, even begin to understand what love is? Honestly, I find myself struggling at times to trust God’s perfect, sovereign will when my present state doesn’t match whatever I dreamt up in my head 5 years ago. Certain choices I’ve made, since committing my life to Christ, I’ve even considered to be sacrificial, as if I’m doing God a favor. When really, I’m the one favored and blessed with a life and love I don’t deserve. And what has He asked of me? To follow, to love Him as He has loved me. For Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, with 2 sons and a wife on the other side, saying no to Islam and yes to God with his life on the line is love like we do not often see; a truly sacrificial love that may be the most beautiful, unnerving kind of love to offer.

A man who won’t waiver his words and won’t play along in the game, when asked to claim Muhammad as a prophet and continues to name Jesus as his Lord, embodies more love and commitment than seems humanly possible. And likely, it will be the death of him. (Though we know eternity awaits.) I hate the thought that such an absurd action could still claim the life of an innocent man. I hate the thought of what is being done to him right now, as he clings to Christ as the one, true God. And I hate to think that I assume I understand suffering. Granted we all face it at different degrees, to what, I believe, God knows we can handle. We’re all aware that persecution still takes place, but can we possibly conceive the love it would take to cling to Christ as your Savior to the point of death? The next time I cry or complain about the disruptions in my life I hope I think of Youcef. I hope I think of his wife and his boys and the legacy that they will leave. If I ever fail to, please kindly slap this post in my face. In the mean time, pray that God would miraculously intercede for Youcef Nadarkhani.

"I am Spartacus"

spartacus

If you’ve seen the movie “Spartacus,” you know that quote doesn’t have much of anything to do with the presidential elections. But it was the first thought that came to mind when I saw the latest Newsweek. Though we’ve come quite far from our barbaric ways of governing, these “diplomatic” debates have been about as bazaar as this cover. While not quite the equivalent of watching a game of gladiators, lately these republican debates have been about as entertaining, making Newsweek’s choice of candidates in loin cloth quite fitting. And if watching Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich fighting like to boys at recess over who lost the last game isn’t entertaining to you, certainly Ron Paul with his high-pitched voice, playing the bobble-head-like referee keeps things interesting. All making fun aside, in these few paragraphs, I don’t wish to sway you right or left but rather would like to observe our reaction and response to the 2012 causcuses. (Don’t you just hate that word?)

If you haven’t seen it, “Spartacus” is a film by Stanley Kubrick about a heroic and rebellious Roman slave, played by Kirk Douglas, during the Third Servile War. (**SPOILER ALERT**) At the end of the film, the Roman Emperor demands that the zealous Spartacus reveals himself in turn for every other Roman slave’s freedom. After Spartacus (Douglas) exclaims “I am Spartacus” everyone else around begins standing and claiming “I am Spartacus,” leaving the Emperor so enraged that every last slave is crucified. The end. I know. It’s grueling. But these debates sometimes feel like that; like a bunch of savages in suits shouting “I am Spartacus,” “I am Spartacus,” “No, I am Spartacus!” Though altogether the film is irrelevant to the elections of 2012, doesn’t it feel this barbaric at time? Like we’re looking for this one, zealous, heroic individual to stand up and identify himself? 

As young adults, some of us are more eager to listen and trust all we hear.  It can be an impressionable period of life. While it’s ideal to always be eager to learn, there are some people we encounter who have such a compelling presence or a voice so fluent and forthright that we tend to cling to their words like gold (as if man could produce such an element.) And somehow we let the idea of these men build up in our mind to that of heroes and gods. But after you’ve lived enough life (which might not be saying much,) likely, you come to a place where you realize these words, which you clung to like a hidden treasure, were nothing more than words. It’s disappointing when men we’ve held up so high don’t meet up to their word. It’s disheartening when men we admire don’t fulfill our expectations. We have a way of building men up in our heads, and expecting them to be more than they are.

So in comparison to our personal interactions, for these candidates, the stakes are higher. The audiences are much larger. And so their words are inevitably greater than anyone can honestly fulfill. And who knows how much of what they’re saying are even their own words to being with? Inevitably, it will be their word that wins us over and elects the next President. Still, we can’t forget that their word is just a word. And each candidate is just a man.  One Psalm delicately puts this matter in perspective for me every time; “Man… is but a breath” (Ps. 39:5.) While the White House has held many men who’ve shaped America for the better, it takes more than a breath to tackle all our Nation faces and win.

While Gingrich and Romney are already fighting to the death in diapers, Obama warms up in the Oval office, and Ron Paul gets pumped up, the words being prepared for these final debates will surely be more ornate and full of life than they will sound after the Inauguration in 2013.  We ought to keep in mind, not one man can hold the weight of all we expect and need. And while there certainly may be a right man for the job, even Spartacus dies in the end.