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The American Obsession with Rights

12 Mar

One thing that continues to interest me is America’s preoccupation with rights. This has is generally related to the rights and freedoms found in the Bill of Rights. Personally, I believe it is positive that our founding fathers have prescribed so many freedoms for the people of our nation in the supreme law of the land. These freedoms should a deep commitment to the idea that human beings have dignity solely based upon the fact that they are human. As I become more acquainted with Biblical scripture, I can’t help but grow in appreciation for the freedom we are allotted in America. While many non Christians may disagree with me, I believe that God has inspired this conception of rights that dominate our culture. He is the source of all the freedom, rights, and dignity that men may find as they continue to grow and prosper in our nation. Since God has given these rights to man we must assume that He did not mean for us to only focus on our own personal rights. Instead one can find that it is consistent with the character of God to help our neighbors learn to grow and live in greater freedom. He has intended for us to develop ourselves as individuals in complete freedom. Additionally, through our freedom His desire is for us to choose Him so that He may lead us to ever lasting life. It is only through certain freedoms and a personal relationships with people, as well as God, that we may find this complete freedom and have a life where we may be at complete peace.

Human freedom is what allows people to enter into relationships based upon our desire to enrich others, as well as being social nourished by a common friendship. This freedom is what creates a social phenomenon that results in humans thriving in relationship with one another. Interestingly enough, the word slavery can be used in multiple situations regarding interaction between people. Over the years it has become clear that slavery is not just one man having possession of another. In recent times slavery can be seen in the establishment of social classes. The members of a higher social class generally have a negative view point of those in a lower class; therefore, members of the higher class tend to work against having any relationship with members of the lower class in society. Furthermore, upper class citizens have all the power and influence within society and repress social freedoms of those in the lower class. This is one example of modern freedom being reduced by different social circumstances. It is essential to reduce the social slavery that occurs in many nations and expand upon the freedom that the founding fathers began in 1787. When examining the human condition, it becomes apparent that freedom is what allows people to thrive.

While people continue to thrive through a realization of rights, I can’t help but feel as though there’s an over exaggeration of their importance. It is not secret that there is grave importance that is attached to rights, however, is it worth it to maintain our rights if public safety is exposed to different social ills? Some American conservatives claim that government should not intervene on behalf of society when dangerous issues present themselves. For example, when the debate about gun violence is brought to our attention conservatives argue that government should not be involved in taking weapons away from ordinary citizens. Why is it that this issue is above the public safety of the American people? While it can’t be conclusively proven that a reduction in the amount of arms would reduce the amount of crime, there is a distinct possibility that this is the case. Why would we not want to follow in the footsteps of other nations that have reduced the amount of gun ownership through regulation and seen a decrease in the amount of gun violence? ┬áMy answer to this question is that Americans are obsessed with their rights much more than they are focused on the common good.

In addition to a lack of interest in public safety, Americans seem to lack interest in helping the poor. I don’t mean that Americans just disregard the poor, but that they seem to have much more of an interest in their own good than with helping the less financially affluent. When viewing American society it is clear that many of us value our freedom of speech, religion, and right to petition more highly than we value helping those that are positioned below us. In fact, for some of us our religion calls us to help those who are not financially secure, but we are more content to just assemble in our churches in order to show our religiosity. Our greatest pride in our religion comes from going to church and being involved in our religious community. This is sad for those people who call themselves Christians. These followers of Christ should be more interested in setting the socially oppressed of this world free, instead they are worried about themselves becoming oppressed. My caution to these Christians is not to worry about your American freedoms being oppressed, because if you are to follow the direct teachings of Christ there you will find true freedom.

Why is it that Americans are so focused upon their individual rights instead of being focused upon the good of society? My assessment leaves me to believe that the founders of our nation have left us with this individualistic mindset. While I do agree that rights are essential to promote human flourishing, and are needed for human relationships I do think that they are overemphasized. Our rights are not merely meant to promote our own human well-being, but rather are to help others recognize their full potential within their being. We should use our rights to protect others, not just ourselves. Furthermore, we should give up some of our rights, possibly ones that may lead to some sort of violence, in order to promote the common good. We should also use our freedom of religion to embrace the true teachings of our religion. It is not enough to merely go to a religious service once a week and forget the teachings that the religion has given us. We must use these teachings and our freedom to liberate the socially oppressed people in our society. If we do not do this then it confirms my suspicion that the American conception of rights is highly individualistic. In conclusion, if the American obsession with personal rights is continued I struggle to see how it can align with the teachings of Christ. Jesus did not mean for us to horde our rights and freedoms for our own personal gain, rather he meant for us to use our gifts and and life from Him to further the being of our brothers and sisters. This is why I see a contrast between the American conception of rights and Christianity.

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Politics in America

21 Jan

One thing that strikes me as odd is many of the people in our nation who claim to know about political issues are truly ignorant. They will blindly defend their candidate, and strike down others even if their own candidate is morally obstinate. While I would like to believe in true repentance a past sin will often rear it’s ugly head during the time of largest stress, more specifically a campaign trail. How can a candidates supporters truly think that a person has fully changed when his anger and the past issue still plague him? What they fail to recognize is that religious transformation is not the only thing that is important for our political scenario. An understanding of the key issues are also essential for our continued formation as a nation. Many people in our nation see radical Islam as a threat; I would be inclined to agree with that statement. Yet I would also say that not all members of Islam fall under the category the idea of “radical Islam.” Even more importantly I would say the American problem goes far beyond any relationship to Islam at all. The problem is the ignorance of the issues as a whole and the arrogance that occasionally goes with becoming political involved. In general we like to think that we know how our economy works, or that social issues are our most pressing problems. Most of us have very little idea of how our economy works in fact. If I were to ask about the housing market , the effect of a high credit rating, interest rates on loans, the health insurance industry, or the general expense of living an average year in our nation very few people would be able to tell me about them. People would love for our economic system to be very simplistic to understand; unfortunately this will never happen and we will not be able to fully understand it. A second issue I see is the fact that people will misuse terms when they are afraid of them. One key example is socialism. President Obama is often referred to as a socialist and this is very far from the truth. While he may advocate more regulation he does not advocate government overtaking the means of production (which is what some refer to as a socialist state, but even this is somewhat inaccurate). Third social issues may be a deep problem in our nation, but this goes far deeper than just whether being pro choice is right or wrong or whether gay marriage is immoral. The social issues we face today are the negativity towards our world leaders, being merciless to our fellow American, and the every man for himself mentality. When the greatest generation was prominent the common attitude was to respect a leader even if they vehemently disagree. This has since changed now that their children are now in leadership. It is our job to pray for our leaders even if we disagree with them; not preach doom and gloom about them. Secondly we are called to love the weak as we love Jesus. It is obvious in this nation that we don’t since the income inequality gap is dramatically rising and we spend the least on social programs out of any developed nation in the world. Thirdly we are called to live corporately and this seems nearly impossible when we live for ourselves without any interest in the development of our neighbor. There needs to be more incentive to help our neighbors rather than just promoting ourselves. In conclusion our political stand point is not based on one political issue, but rather based on our whole system and the attitude of our nation as a whole. As our nation grows in optimism and trust in one another I believe we can begin to restore this country.

GOP Primary

12 Jan

It took a long time for me to be able to decide who I was going to vote for in the New Hampshire presidential primary. After reading many articles and watching many interviews I realized that I could not be supportive of a Newt Gingrich candidacy. He came across as very pious and took too much credit for things that other people had a hand in as well. For example, as speaker of the house he took credit for balancing the budget for four straight years. This was not because of some wonderful leadership that Gingrich engineered, but because the Clinton administration was willing to work with congress. This was a collaborative effort. Secondly, When he was a representative during the Reagan administration he took credit for leading the charge in pushing supply side economics through the Democratic majority House. This is another prime example of how he has taken credit for something that was not his doing. Reagan had strong support from Democrats, and at this point Gingrich was relatively new on the scene as compared to where he was in terms of political strength in the Clinton administration. Thirdly, it was wrong for Gingrich to take money from Freddie Mac when they were just about to go bankrupt. This portrays him as a schemer that can not be trusted. Finally I do not trust him on a personal level from the way that he has conducted himself with his family or his behavior in the house. Newt shouldn’t feel special in my lack of support for him during this primary season though; this is one of the weakest GOP primary fields I have ever seen.

Ron Paul is the second candidate that I could never support running for the office of president. While I think that his foreign policy may have some arguments in favor of it, I think that it may be a bit too far isolationist. I favor economic relationships with other nations instead of ones based upon the military but he may go too far. Paul is almost too quick to denounce a military threat. The area that I really struggle with Ron Paul on is his economic policies. Personal liberty is a strong message and I doubt that there are too many people that are fundamentally opposed to the idea of liberty. Market systems have helped to create this nation into the greatness it once had, but have also helped to create the weakness it is now in. Paul’s anti government message within the economy is completely unsafe and shows very little compassion for the middle and lower class. There are certain programs that are necessary to keep in place in order to protect the middle class from being dominated by the upper class. I am opposed protecting the business rights of the rich so that they may dominate the poor. There needs to be some regulation on business. Finally, I don’t believe Paul can be trusted to make remarks that are becoming of the office of the President of the United States. He has proved that he can say some down right abhorrent things and that is not what America needs.

A third candidate that I am opposed to is Rick Santorum. Believe me it is difficult to say that I can not support a candidate that I believe represents the same God that I claim to call my own. I believe Santorum is a genuine Christian, but I can not support his policies. Overall, he is much too far to the right for me, as many would often refer to me as a more liberal Christian. I agree with Santorum on the issue of abortion, but that’s almost the only area I agree with him. He generally has an anti government message that I can not support; I believe in government playing a role in helping society to be productive. I don’t believe that making overwhelming cuts is the correct move at this point, regardless of if we are in perilous economic times or not. The idea of only having two tax brackets for the federal income tax seems unreasonable to me. I don’t see any situation where this would be helpful. The only thing that would be worse is the Gingrich idea of having a flat tax. Santorum, like Gingrich, would also call for a dramatic cut in the corporate tax. Giving the power to the upper class has never truly been productive for the United States. I also believe that Santorum has too much of a hawkish idea of foreign policy. While Santorum is a strong Christian, he is not a strong candidate.

Rick Perry is becoming a non factor and I disagree with his foreign and domestic policy.

When it came down to decision time it was Mitt Romney who ended up with my vote this past Tuesday. I voted for Romney because I believed that he has a reasonable approach to taking the troops out of Afghanistan. I think that Romney has an acceptable approach to Iran as well, while he knows they have military capabilities he does not plan to run in blindly. Overall, I liked his tax plan as he plans to lower the corporate tax by a less substantial amount, decrease the estate tax, and eliminate capital gains tax for low and middle income earners. While the elimination of the capital gains tax for low and middle income earners will not be substantial I think it is a step in the right direction for the American market system. Romney has displayed an understanding that liberty is important to the American people, but that government must also put regulations in effect the protect the people. The one thing I do not like about Romney is the fact that he plans to repeal President Obama’s healthcare bill. I believe that this bill will help to cover many uninsured Americans, but Romney does not. However, it does seem as though he is willing to give states the option to accept the plan. Another issue I had with Romney was the negativity he has had during some of his speeches. In general I like Romney as a candidate, but there are a couple of things he could do to sure himself up in my opinion.

The last candidate that was an option to vote for in this primary was Jon Huntsman. After hearing him speak last night when the results were being announced I may have decided to switch to being a Huntsman supporter. He handled himself with such poise and class and realized it is important to put our nation before politics. In addition to his attitude I also like many of his policies. I think he will handle the troops in Afghanistan well as he acknowledges it is time to bring them home and that we have something to show for our time there. Huntsman can be very diplomatic and is a good representative of the United States. I also believe that Huntsman realizes that some regulation is necessary to keep the people of our nation safe from bigger businesses. At the same time he realizes it is important to create an environment that is safe for business to grow. The two things I liked most were his healthcare policy and his attitude towards future generations. Although he does want to repeal Obama’s healthcare plan he would like to keep parts of it such as allowing people to stay on their parents’ health plan for longer. He has also realized the battle for the heart of America continues with the next generation and it is important to strengthen future Americans. This is why I think Jon Huntsman is one of the top two candidates for the GOP nomination.

In this election I was not looking for a candidate that was going to figuratively knock me off my feet. I was looking for a guy who loves his nation, and realizes that in order to rebuild it there is a need for a comprehensive effort needed from every citizen. A candidate that has a message that inspires Americans to take pride in their nation, and allows them to have the pride to say they took part in establishing the way their country is. This is the type of person I was looking for in the Republican primary. I had no interest in a boisterous candidate who was willing to throw his weight around in order to get what he thought was best for himself. Since this is the battle for the heart of America I believe that it is necessary for someone who is optimistic and can turn out pessimism and negativity around. We needed someone who can unite us rather than divide us and restore the pride that we once had to call ourselves Americans. I believe that Jon Huntsman can be this leader. The most clear recent example I have is that even though he and his party may have been opposed to Obama and his policies he still dropped what he was doing to be the ambassador to China for this administration. This displays real selflessness and a desire to serve his country. Selfless acts are enough of Jon Huntsman to garner my support.