Lessons of the Trickster: Coyote

Indigenous stories do not have obvious heroes. Beings are not easily divided into “bad guy” or “good guy.” The moral is often obscure. In fact, many of the stories are not for children.  Some of the scenarios deal with the consequences of improper sexual actions or other mature themes. These stories do not have a tag-line ending with “they lived happily ever after.” Mistakes led to uncomfortable results, and the hero does not always survive the story.

Many tales involve the Trickster archetype. Certainly, the Trickster has played an important role in many cultures. This complex character has been portrayed as animal — rabbit, raven, praying mantis, coyote, or spider — or as a divine being like Eleggua, Loki, Puck, and Hoyoka. Yet the active aspects of each are quite different. They range from sacred clown to wise fool, from scoundrel to sage, from conman to consultant, and from jolly companion to judge.

Tricksters have the job of teaching us about our limitations and responsibilities. While they flaunt convention (and gravity), they explain the limits of right action and the double-edged sword of power-hungry moves. One of the most popular tricksters is Coyote.

Coyote is a survivor. He trips through stories from many different traditions. In quite a few legends of North American indigenous peoples, Coyote is very similar to the sacred fool in European culture. He is shrewd and silly and seems oblivious to results of his actions.  Often he falls flat on his face, but he manages to do something wonderful while falling. In some tales, he is the wise animal instrumental in creating the world. Acting as a caring, wise person, he sets the stars in the sky and then leads a daring raid to capture fire to rescue the world from darkness and cold.

Yet, despite his sacredness, he has an ignoble side.  His greed brings him to a bad end. When he can’t control his basest urges, he sabotages himself and loses everything.  Jamie Sams wrote: “As Coyote moves from one disaster to the next, he refines the art of self-sabotage to sheer perfection. … Coyote takes himself so seriously at times that he cannot see the obvious; for example, the steamroller that is about to run over him. That is why, when it hits him, he still cannot believe it. ‘Was that really a steamroller? I better go look,’ he says. And he is run over once more.”[1]

In the oral traditions, Trickster stories allow people to laugh while learning. Ultimately the story teller’s entertaining tales demonstrate valuable lessons about the individual’s role in society. They illuminate the folly of greed, selfishness, and egotistic actions. Indeed, the best storytellers show us our own contrariness: our self-indulgence, avarice, and foolishness are highlighted through Coyote’s actions. As with the best cartoons, we may despise his actions; we may hate his repetitive silliness, but we have all been there.  All of us know people who are learning lessons of the trickster. If we are honest, we can recognize ourselves in those stories.

For instance, making an important decision can be intimidating. We analyze and fantasize about outcomes while worrying that we might choose wrongly or we might fail. Because we fear the potential consequences of our actions, we might put off choosing until someone else decides for us or we are forced into actions we don’t want. Through our fear of failure, indecisiveness, or sheer laziness, we make life worse for ourselves.

On the other hand, we can egotistically assume we have all of the answers. Consequently, we don’t even consider the possibility of being wrong. On the other hand, we might see the potential costs but choose to follow our personal desires despite them. We can ignore how our actions will impact others and do not see the steamroller coming towards us.

In all of these situations we are confronted by our own personal trickster energy. If we had listened to the message of the stories, we could have realized that Coyote did all of that before us. If we are smart, we learn from watching Coyote; if we are not, we become him.

Perhaps the most hopeful aspect of Coyote is that he persists. Coyote remains running through the countryside despite centuries of hunters; sometimes coyote finds himself lost on city streets.  This is the happy ending; although it is not the one we desire, it is the one that life teaches us.  We make mistakes, fall down, and despite the embarrassment, we rise again perhaps a bit wiser.

 

 

—- Footnote —-

[1] Jamie Sams and David Carson.  Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals (St. Martin’s Press, 1999).

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The Path and the Deer

I set out to climb the hill. I should be able to reach my goal easily.

At first it’s comfortable following the path. The grass is waving in the breeze and the trees spread branches overhead casting enough shade that I don’t notice the heat of the day.  I began this walk through choice:  my reasons were numbered and organized.  The walk is uneventful; I begin to focus on my feet. I’m no longer aware of anything around me.  Once in a while I hear a shrill bird call, but I see only the tiny puffs of dust my feet stir up as I walk.

Time passes and I realize it seems darker.  I look up in surprise.  Where did the time go?  When did it get so late?  I look around – a sharp intake of breath – where am I?  Nothing looks familiar.  How is this possible?  I’ve walked this path so many times.  I don’t recognize any of this.

My rational mind insists I can find my way again:  I’ve simply taken a turn unto a path that I haven’t been on in a while.  I turn around and walk back down the path a bit.  I still don’t recognize anything.  A branching trail appears and I follow it only to find myself back at the clearing.  Back the same clearing.   How did this happen?  That clearing was farther up the hill.  I’ve gotten turned around.  Where am I?

A sense of frustration floods through me.  I collapse onto a large rock, one of several in this clearing, and I am angry with myself.  I should have been watching where I was going. Here I am: exactly in the middle of nowhere. How could I do this to myself? Reason argues that it is not possible to be lost.  Denial of facts as  thoughts vie with emotions.  Rationalism looses. Panic. I walk endlessly back and forth searching for a familiar scene.  Hopelessness. Exasperation.  Tiredness.

After a time I’m too tired to cast blame, too tired to be frightened.  I stop fuming.  Think about the path.  I could go further up the hill; I could go on back down the path.  It seems too much effort to move.  So I stop thinking.  I stop moving. I just sit.

I become aware of the rock sturdy underneath me.  Cool and smooth, it has been here through time.  I wonder how long it has been here.  I look at it, at the glitter of the sun on the planes and dips of the rock.  My shadow, warped by the rock’s shape,  flows to the ground.  I notice the plants growing at the base of the rock.  A sound of bird.  A buzz.  Something chitters in the trees.  Leaves shadowing each other dance with the sun and breeze, circling the branches, changing color as I watch.  Mutable colors turn back to the green with which they began.

The world stops and, for a moment, there is silence.

Then I hear something underneath my awareness, underneath my analysis.  Something twitches.  I dart a look out of the corner of my eye.  Ah. . . I turn unthinking, drawn to look at what is there, realizing too late that the movement might send it running.  I hold my breathe as, instead of leaping away, it walks forward.

The luminous eyes gaze at me seeing past the civilized veneer.  My vision is swallowed up by the dark eyes, attention wholly focused on the deer.   We see each other eye to eye.  No thoughts, no impulses, no body awareness.  The world is inside those eyes.  The fur surrounding the eyes is simply a velvet field encompassing the void.   Therein rests the wisdom of the ages.

One of us blinks.  Which one?  And it is gone.  Sound returns to the world.  I look around me blinking in the light of the world with fresh sight.  My foot is asleep.  I stand, stretch and take the path between the trees following the whisper of the deer.

 

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Charlottsville and What is a Law-Abiding Citizen?

In my last blog, I asked what Charlottesville means to you. Today I want to ask you to think about what it means to be a law-abiding citizen. The violent rally in Charlottsville showed that there are multiple issues festering in our society.  Sadly, most of the news is focused on simplifications. If we are going to stick to simplifications, the first question we must ask is:  what is a law-abiding citizen?

When Christopher Cantwell, one of the leaders of the Unite the Right rally, was asked about the tragic death and the many injured people caused by the automobile attack, he said, “a lot more people are going to die before we’re done here.”[1]  Cantwell is an alt-right talk show shock DJ.  During an interview following Charlottesville, he stated he wants “to normalize racism.”[2]  Why would anyone think that is okay?

More importantly: why does he have that much hate? As a country, we need to figure that out. Then we need to find a way to heal that hate or reject it.

Cantwell’s actions rose out of that hate.  According to several sources, he has been charged with illegally pepper-spraying individuals and groups of counter-protestors. When asked about these situations, he stated “I don’t think I did anything wrong, and I’m looking forward to my day in court.”[3]

There are the key words: “I don’t think I did anything wrong.” He believes he acted as a law-abiding citizen; in fact, he made a personal judgment that he had done nothing wrong.

When asked to explain his conduct, Cantwell stated that he believed he was in danger. Under US law, people have the right to protect themselves, but the statutes are very complicated. As one attorney explained it to me, in most cases, a person cannot use more force than necessary to stop an assault. With the addition of “stand your ground” laws, things have gotten even more complex.  I don’t know Virginia laws, and I am not an attorney, but I can review events and determine if they seemed to have been reasonable. In fact, pepper spraying an attacking individual would be an acceptable method of protection. However, spraying an entire group of bystanders would not be self-defense.

Yet, we are faced with Cantwell’s beliefs: he thinks racism is okay. Not only that, he believes it is fine to act violently towards people you hate or individuals who disagree with you. And he does not think his behavior was wrong.

Do you think Cantwell’s statements are those of a law-abiding citizen?

What is a law-abiding citizen? Is it someone that always follows the laws?  What about people who live in an area controlled by terrorists or a despotic dictator?

During WWII, all of the atrocities committed by Nazis were considered legal. Should people have risen up against the Nazi racist euthenics or should they have followed the laws?

We don’t have to like everyone in our country. We don’t have to understand everyone in our country. But as law-abiding citizens, however we define that, we must allow each other the “right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” As citizens of the US and the world, we need to consider these questions and decide what we should do — and what we will do.

 

— footnotes —

[1].  Matt Stevens “Christopher Cantwell, White Nationalist in Vice Video, Braces for Charges” The New York Times (Aug. 21, 2017) online at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/21/us/christopher-cantwell-charlottesville.html?mcubz=0 (8/21/17).

[2]. Southern Poverty Law Center “Christopher Cantwell” online at https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/christopher-cantwell (8/21/17).

[3]. Under US law, people have the right to protect themselves, but the statutes are very complicated. As one attorney explained it to me, in most cases, a person cannot use more force than necessary to stop an assault. With the addition of “stand your ground” laws, things have gotten even more complex.  I don’t know Virginia laws, and I am not an attorney. Pepper spraying an attacking individual might be an acceptable method of protection; however, spraying an entire group of bystanders would not be self-defense.

 

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What Does Charlottesville Mean?

With the horrid events of the rally in Charlottesville, VA and the mystifying and disturbing comments made by the president, I cannot keep silent.  There are many things I could say (and  I won’t get to them all at this time), but some things need to be mentioned.

On August 15, President Trump stated that there were very fine people on both sides of the rally.  Are there two sides in this event?  Racism versus acceptance: are those the sides?

Don’t tell me that the people who marched in the parade at the Unite the Right rally didn’t know they were marching with white supremacists. Really? Do you think I am that dumb?  No one could have missed the flags, shirts, and shields obviously covered with fascist, racist, white supremacist, and white nationalist symbols. They were everywhere. Just supposing they didn’t know what those symbols meant, can we assume they should have asked before joining the parade?

What does Charlottesville mean to you? It should mean a lot. It should represent the need to think about the future. Look past the platitudes offered by those reading the news on your local stations. Consider the real ramifications of the anger shown on August 12.  Do not discount the violence of the protests.  Protests are permitted in the constitution. Do not reject that privilege or allow others to take it away. Realize that hate erupted on that day: hate that fueled the violence.

And as for the crazy act of killing people by driving purposefully into a crowd, that is a conscious performance of violence. It is assault. It is insanity. The horrid brutal act happened as a consequence of dehumanization of other people.  All of us need to look at what that means regardless of personal political views.

Wake up, people! This is your country! Act like it matters. Are you going to allow fanatical intolerant behavior to become common? Please consider the outcome of that. Stop rationalizing intolerance.

 

 

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Happy Fourth of July!

Our republic is a contentious child of brilliant men who debated endlessly by mail and in person. It is not a yet “a more perfect union” since it falls short when dealing with many issues. Racism and sexism continue to be contemporary problems. News reports highlight serious issues with interactions between police and minorities. Native American rights continue to be contested by state and federal governments especially when minerals or petroleum are located nearby.

But we will continue to struggle, to debate, to strive and persevere towards that more perfect union. Maybe we will manage to continue to evolve until all the inhabitants of the US have equality and the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” regardless of race, creed, origin or gender.

We must not use apathy or cynicism as an excuse to ignore what is wrong with our country, but rather to use them as warning signs.  We need to realize we have a duty under the constitution to be active in our personal education.  It is not enough to accept new stories blindly or ignore horrid events. We cannot fall back on believing something because we want to believe it.  As US citizens, we are asked to be educated and to participate so that, as Lincoln said, “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Happy July 4th!

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Dualism as a Force of Separation

Dualism as a Force of Separation Based on a Comparison of the Philosophies of Descartes and Heidegger

Early in the Twentieth Century, Martin Heidegger[1] analyzed the concepts of previous Western philosophers and rejected their prevailing dualistic worldview. Based on Descartes[2] and similar philosophers, Western civilization had divided the world into the dualistic view that everything was either mind or body. In other words, for centuries, they believed that knowledge had two bases: either thoughts or physicality.[3] This philosophy was called Cartesian Dualism.

Since Cartesian Dualism divided the world into mental things and physical things, [4] it separated mind from body, soul from matter, and spirit from flesh as if they functioned totally separately from each other.[5]  It permitted our society to develop concepts based on simplistic assumptions such as all or none, good or evil, and us or them. In addition, that dualism led to a situation where people could be separated from their experiences in the world.

Incidentally, don’t confuse the dualism of Western civilization with the apparent dualism of Taoism that is commonly expressed by the yin yang symbol. The yin yang of Taoism incorporates an interdependent and independent existence of opposites. The counterparts may be divided into dark and light, male and female, hot and cold, or moon and sun. However, just as the moon and the sun exist in relationship to each other, yin and yang interact. They seem to stand alone but there is that little dot in each that symbolizes  interaction and mutual support. Together they make a complete balanced whole. The yin yang concept does not completely separate the opposites; even though they are independent, the Taoist symbol, and the philosophy behind it, does not detach the mind from the body or yin from yang.

Working from a purely Western European perspective, Heidegger rejected the dualistic worldview. He believed that philosophy must focus on human experiences in the world, and so, he developed some complex and novel explanations to try to explain events.  Heidegger said that people could not be separated from their experiences. In fact, he viewed experience as an important part of existence, but he recognized that there is no analysis of event or things while experiencing them.

For instance, individuals using a hammer do not think about the hammer unless it breaks. That is, to use the hammer, they do not need to think about how many nails it has pounded into wood in the past, and they do not need to know how or where the hammer was manufactured. They are focused on utilizing the hammer, perhaps to build a bookcase. Explanations about how the hammer works are not an important part of the experience. The company that manufactured it is not important unless the hammer breaks and must be replaced.

In the same way, Heidegger considered Being-in-the-world to be an experience. To him, a mental analysis of any object was not considered important; only the usefulness of the object was important. Yet, Being-in-the-world was imperative. That is, the essential thing about life would be actually living our experiences.

It is important that we don’t separate mind from body or spirit from flesh.  But the key is: actually living our lives is of utmost significance. I think we all can agree with that.

 

— Footnotes —

[1] Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) was a German philosopher; his most famous work is Being and Time.

[2] René Descartes (1596-1650) was a French philosopher, scientist and mathematician; he was (and still is) extremely influential in western philosophy and analytical geometry.

[3] These explanations of Heidegger’s views are mine; any misinterpretations cannot be blamed on the reference material.

[4] I am grateful to Professor John Searle, University of California at Berkley for his succinct online lecture explaining Cartesian Dualism.

[5] Searle, John. Philosophy of Mind, lecture 1. UC-Berkeley Philosophy 132, Spring 2011. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi7Va_4ekko (accessed October 15, 2012).

 

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What is Constitutional Originalism — and Why Should You Care?

Former SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia and sitting Justice Clarence Thomas have called themselves constitutional originalists.  New Justice Gorsuch also claims to be one. Constitutional originalism is similar to those Christians that believe in the literal word of the Bible: they both claim to interpret the written words exactly as the writers intended them.  In the case of the US Constitution, that means basing law on the values and connotations of the originators back in 1789 — although most, including Scalia, include the amendments. Regardless of your beliefs about the Bible, Constitutional originalism is bad for our country.

First and most obviously, our country is totally different from that time; we live in a completely changed world. How can we possibly know the beliefs, ideals, and social expectations behind the constitution? We can imagine committee meetings and discussions about specific details; we have written records of some of those assemblies. However, we cannot really understand the ideas behind those words or the concepts and arguments left out of the conference records.

For instance, we all know what “google” means, but no one living in 1791 would have an idea about the definition let alone the significance of being able to google information. Reverse that concept and think about words that they used that we do not.  Now expand that to include concepts, attitudes, and social expectations. We can read about them, but can we truly understand? More famous people than me have written entire books on the fallacies that arise from believing we understand our ancestors and their societies.[1]

In any case, as much as we think we comprehend people from centuries ago, it is unrealistic to believe we do. Supreme Court Justice Brennan agrees.  “It is arrogant,” Brennan said, “to pretend that from our vantage we can gauge accurately the intent of the framers on application of principle to specific, contemporary questions.”[2]

As an originalist, Justice Scalia debated the concept of flogging, that is, whether or not it was cruel and unusual punishment. His views shifted from one year to another. Flogging was acceptable in 1789, but it certainly is not considered civilized now. Obviously, since Scalia could not reconcile flogging as a blameless contemporary punishment, he was not an absolute originalist.  However, during his time on SCOTUS, he set in motion the idea that originalism was acceptable as a basis of legal interpretation or a reason for rejecting modifications.

Although Scalia was flexible in his originalism, Clarence Thomas declares himself to be an absolute originalist. It seems incongruous that he  accepts originalism, and that he bases his rulings on it. In fact, I would love to hear Justice Thomas explain why he defends constitutional originalism. I’ve searched the internet without finding his justification. After all, as an African-American, it is likely that he would not have had citizen rights in 1789. Not until 1865, would the Thirteenth Amendment outlaw slavery. Does he acknowledge that the writers of the Constitution were flawed since they did not prohibit slavery? What about women’s right to vote? That law, the Nineteenth Amendment, was passed in 1920. Obviously, our society has decided that the goal of equality among all people — established as a truth by the Declaration of Independence — is a positive objective.

Third, regardless of its increased status on SCOTUS, constitutional originalism is damaging and dangerous to our country.  Media as diverse as The Daily News, The Washington Post, and The Hill (“published for and about US Congress”) have discussed the problems with constitutional originalism, and they have also noted, in particular, the issues with Gorsuch’s version of it. Many of those arguments focus the need to be able to change the laws to fix injustices in modern society and to handle contemporary situations (such as technology and privacy).

Rather than recounting all of that, let’s look at some of the transformations in our society since the 1700s.  Men of color are no longer legally considered a portion of a man with white skin. People who do not own property have the right to vote, and so do women. Employment is based on minimum wage rates, 8-hour workday, and 5-day work week. Employees have the right to safe working conditions, and their labor entitles people to Unemployment Insurance, Social Security, Medicare, and Worker’s Compensation — all through employee and employer contributions. None of that existed when the constitution was written. Women can buy houses and cars without a male co-signer. The government no longer can jail an individual for marrying a certain person. I’ll stop now even though there are many more positive changes. How can originalism ignore those changes? Certainly, as a country, we recognize that they were good ones. As I said, I’d enjoy hearing Thomas’ reasons for supporting originalism.

Let’s consider the most important idea: the reason we have a constitution.  The US Constitution gives us our basic rights — those freedoms that politicians like to mention in speeches and the military claims to protect.  The Hill published: “there is a big difference between the Constitution and statutes: while statutes are designed to represent the majority’s will, the Constitution — especially the Bill of Rights — is largely designed to protect individual rights against the majority.”[3]

There it is: US Constitution was written to protect individuals, all individuals, regardless of faith or lack of faith, and despite skin color or ancestry — and someday we look forward to that protection extending to everyone regardless of gender too. In the last few centuries, our society has evolved. Certainly our country is a different one than it was in 1776 or 1789. The founders of our country knew that people (and society) would change, and they accepted that idea. Article V of the US Constitution explained the process for proposing and passing amendments to the document.

Consider what Benjamin Franklin said: “I confess that there are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them. For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise.”[4]

The constitution delineates the proper behaviors of both the government and its employees. It sets out the interactions of the three divisions as equal powers in the federal government, and it explains how those divisions should interact with individuals, the states, and other countries. Most importantly, the Constitution provides many important rights; rights we should not be quick to give up. However, constitutional interpretation is fluid: it shifts as our culture matures and develops. Whether you call those interpretations “originalism” or something else, the rulings made by SCOTUS affect each of us.

It is time to read the US Constitution again and remember the protections it offers.

 

—- footnotes —-

[1]. I refer you to The Symbolism of Evil by Paul Ricoeur.

[2]. Stephen F. Rohde. “The myth that is Neil Gorsuch’s ‘originalism’ (To the Editor)” posted 3/21/17 Los Angeles Times online at http://www.latimes.com/opinion/readersreact/la-ol-le-originalism-gorsuch-20170321-story.html (5/30/2017).

[3]  Ken Levy, “Judge Gorsuch’s strict ‘originalism’ puts justice itself at stake” posted 04/07/17 The Hill online at http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/the-judiciary/327808-strict-originalism-puts-justice-itself-at-stake (5/30/2017).

[4] Benjamin Franklin, “Madison Debates: September 17” The Avalon Project (Lillian Goldman Law Library, 2008) online at http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/debates_917.asp (bold text added for emphasis) (6/1/2017).

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Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan Fails Civics

Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan Fails Civics

Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan[1] has released advertising for a demonstration he has organized (to support President Trump on May 31). Through that ad he shows that he needs to retake a high school civics class. The ad claims that protest is  a “public temper tantrum.” This ignores or rejects the constitutional right to protest. The US Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting … the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances” [edited only for clarity].[2]

In addition to his desire to reject the constitutional right to assemble, it seems he would like us to lose the right to criticize our government. Remember Freedom of Speech? Once again, the US Constitution gives us the right to complain about our government and the politicians that work in that government. We can legally do that through verbal or written words and through assemblies.

The ad continues with the emotionally-charged statement that “left-wing Democrats” are protesting in an “attempt to undo President Trump’s election.”  Democrats and Republicans should want the same thing: the elected president to do his job legally and properly. And while we are on the topic, why is it okay for a Republican to organize a demonstration but it is wrong for a Democrat to do the same thing?

Jordan will be up for re-election in 2018. Since the congressman is so willing to set aside your constitutional rights, I suggest you find someone else to vote for.

 

—- footnotes —

[1] Jim (James D) Jordan is the Republican State Congressman for Ohio 4th district first elected in 2007. The 4th district was redrawn in 2013 (was it gerrymandered?) to include Elyria on Lake Erie (although skipping Sandusky and Port Clinton) and moving south and west around and through 14 counties to end in the northwest suburbs of  Columbus.

[2] This is part of the First Amendment. The entire sentence is “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

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What I Learned from Church: Personal Lessons of Interfaith Experiences

Although most people have their own ideas about what the words interfaith and community mean, in broad terms, interfaith relationships stand on an idealized notion that people who believe in similar ideals desire to interact harmoniously. That is, whether they proclaim themselves as mystical, metaphysical, spiritual or religious persons, they would interact amicably in order to reach a common goal. Through these interactions, they would learn about each other and increase understanding of each tradition’s practices.

Regardless of the definition of interfaith that you accept, anybody can learn a great deal from being involved in such a community. The level of education increases when it is a well-functioning interfaith group. Here are a few important things I have learned.

Respect and Consideration

  • Having respect for a person is different from treating others respectfully.
  • Respect has nothing to do with fear or anger. Many people think that they must be feared before they will be given respect. Nothing could be less true.
  • As we interact, respect for an individual grows. Most commonly, it is earned through observation of someone’s appropriate actions or superior character.
  • While it is true that respect is earned, nothing good happens unless we treat each other with respect. In other words, we must begin our interactions with consideration and politeness. No positive communication can happen without courteous and civil interactions.
  • Clearly insults don’t move a group (or two people) towards a goal of empathy and friendship. After all, how can we build positive associations if we demean an individual? Whether we have just met or have known each other for years, rude behavior separates us from developing a friendly relationship. It prevents us from getting to know each other and it stops us from understanding each other.
  • The conversation needs to begin with the fundamental attitude that everyone has a valid point, even those we judge as being on the wrong side. Consequently, if everyone’s view is treated as valid, even if it is a dissenting opinion, people will be more levelheaded and more willing to listen.

In this time of bipartisan polarization, we have forgotten that we learn more when we speak our personal truths and listen to the other individual’s truths. Of course, that means we have to work to discover our own truths. Sure, it is easier to parrot someone else’s opinion — but that’s another topic.  Whether we are Republicans, Democrats or Independents, we need to remember that we are all in this together. We have to learn to listen to each other.  How bad does it have to get before we start to do that?

 

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Today’s US House Version of Trumpcare Fails the People

The latest version of Trumpcare was passed by the House today with no Democratic support; in addition, 20 Republicans voted against it. The bill gets two issues right but it breaks more things than it fixes.

I’ll mention the positive first. It eliminates tax penalties for those who don’t buy insurance (presumable because they can’t afford it). In addition, it continues the policy of keeping children on their parents’ insurance until they are 26 years old.

However, here are some of the problems.

  1. It erases tax increases on higher-earning people. That means richer people will pay the same amount as poorer people. Will the cost be a reduced amount or too much money for many people? We don’t know.
  2. It cuts the Medicaid program for low-income people. Don’t they need insurance more?
  3. It lets states force Medicaid recipients to work in order to obtain insurance. What happens if the person cannot work or there are no jobs?
  4. It changes the Obamacare subsidies into tax credits. The credits are supposed to increase as consumers get older, but it is a tax credit. That means that people must be able to pay for the insurance for a year before they will receive a tax credit. What happens if they cannot pay the premiums?
  5. States can obtain federal waivers freeing insurers from other Obama coverage requirements.
  6. With a waiver, insurers could charge people with preexisting illnesses far higher rates than healthy customers. By the way, preexisting conditions include: rape, cesarean section birth, postpartum depression, and surviving domestic violence.
  7. With the waiver, insurance companies can increase premiums for older consumers.
  8. With a waiver, there is no limit to the cost of the insurance.
  9. Waivers mean that insurance companies could choose what is covered so that certain benefits would not be covered such as family planning or pregnancy care. Insurers get to pick what services they will provide. So much for your doctor or health care provider determining your treatment.
  10. Back to pre-existing conditions: how does this impact people born with disabilities? Will they be covered at a reasonable price?

The House bill will now go to the Senate. Please call your Senators and write postcards about these problems. We may not be able to stop the Affordable Care Act from being repealed — after all, Republicans have been trying to do that since 2010 — but we can push them to fix some of these problems.

Here is the link to contact information for all US Senators:  https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/ .

Thank you for acting.

 

 

 

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