Leading Integrated, Supportive Lives

In groups I’m co-facilitating in Chicago, discussing and supporting each other through common struggles quickly erases boundaries of race, age, gender, religion and sexual orientation. I feel the same way when I’m out on the trails. Everyone watches each other’s back, offering helpful hints on the next obstacle, like this waterfall climb in Rocky Mountain National Park.
 
While too many political leaders encourage divides (no, this is not directed at just one person), no one can prevent us from leading integrated, supportive lives if we choose to pursue unity and peace over segregation and conflict.

Hiking up the side of a waterfall in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Winning the Philosophical War Against ISIS & For Humanity

The throat-slitting murder of an 84-year-old Catholic priest today in France by two ISIS “soldiers” is just the latest in a horrific series of barbaric acts. We need to win the physical war against ISIS and other radical jihadist groups, but we also need to win the philosophical war for all of humankind. My next book explores a world in which religions compete for adherents peacefully and coexist with and challenge the secular world. Several principles underline how I’m thinking about the issue. I welcome your thoughts and reaction:

1. Because each of us has been provided with a unique mind, it seems self-evident that any God would want to have a personal relationship with each of us, not one filtered through the motivations of others.

2. The scriptures and teachings of every religion have fallen sway to the imperfections of man, meaning that no single writing and no single teacher should hold unconditional command over its subjects. (I recognize this one will draw objection from many, but urge you to read the rest to put the thought in context.)

3. Each of us has personal responsibility to consider whether the teachings of any faith, including faiths such as atheism that there is no greater power, coalesce with the reason inside our minds and to specifically search for and consider evidence that our beliefs may be wrong.

4. If there is a God, he certainly didn’t choose me as his purveyor of violence. If you believe there is no God, you still don’t get to force your beliefs on others. [Read more…]

Common Complications for Muslims and Mental Illness

Political pandering driven to simplistic sloganeering is creating a common challenge for Muslims and mental illness sufferers.

For Muslims in America, being perceived as sharing a common religion is an increasing burden following Orlando’s Pulse shooting, San Bernardino, the Boston Marathon bombing, Chattanooga, Fort Hood, 9/11 and other incidents. Foreign attacks, including yesterday’s airport attack in Turkey, don’t help either.

For those struggling with any mental illness, being perceived as sharing a common disease is an increasing burden following Sandy Hook, Columbine, the Colorado movie theater, Virginia Tech, and other incidents. The Germanwings crash and other overseas events only add to misgivings.

Since Muslims and mental illness are rarely discussed in mainstream media outside of tragic events, the perception of all Muslims and anyone struggling with mental health challenges is that violence is part of the label. For most, this is far from the truth.

[Read more…]

Political, Spiritual and Mental Health Ruminations

During long walks, my mind wanders down political, spiritual and mental health paths I frequently lose by the time I reach a writing device. Some ideas stick, though not necessarily the most important ones. Please treat these as invitations to react.

  1. I’m sure I’m the only person who watched Straight Outta Compton and later wondered what impact the fiduciary rule would have if it applied to people like Suge Knight and Jerry Heller. (I was also reminded after re-watching last week that the movie deserved better from the Oscars.)
  2. Shouldn’t we look at the whole transgender bathroom issue from the perspective of optimizing the mental health and safety of everyone involved, including transgender people? If we agree that’s the goal, solutions are achievable. It doesn’t seem, though, that solutions are the objective for many in this debate.
  3. When will Donald Trump speak to America’s schoolchildren about not bullying children of Mexican heritage using his “words”? By Election Day, some will have endured 18 months of abuse beyond typical elementary, middle and high school torment. As I’ve heard from people I know about taunting they or their children have endured, it’s clear this wound needs substantial healing.
  4. As Pope Francis regularly calls for governments to further redistribute income, I’m wondering what Bible chapter I missed where Jesus meets with the Romans to demand tax increases. Shouldn’t the Pope spend more time reaching out directly to the wealthy to inspire them to give more? Should religions, including the Catholic Church, direct more of its resources toward social services?
  5. From a checks and balances perspective, is it better to elect President Trump than President Clinton given how many Americans view both leading candidates as untrustworthy? She would likely demand and receive total allegiance if Congress flips to Democratic control. He would likely be checked regardless of which party controls Congress, right?
  6. If a preacher in a white supremacist sect teaches that his holy book demands the elimination from earth of everyone who is not white (even if most who read that book disagree with his interpretation), would the FBI infiltrate that church or would we consider that profiling? Aren’t violent supremacy movements equally a problem whether based on race alone, race and religion, or solely on religion? Shouldn’t we react the same regardless?
  7. Bernie Sanders rightly talks about income inequality, and has even hinted at a few solutions that make sense along with many that would speed a path to Venezuelan-style collapse ($170 burgers, lines for toilet paper, troops in the streets). Breaking up the largest financial institutions—and otherwise actually enforcing antitrust laws—could spur the innovation that followed the AT&T break-up. Would he apply the same standards to information control and other business sectors that he applies to financial power?

I wish my walks included more time thinking about strawberry-rhubarb pie, river float trips and great dance moves, but I find myself frequently caught in loops around political, spiritual and mental health. I never assume that I have all the facts (almost never anyway), so please feel free to share your thoughts and insights, knowing that I’m far from finding answers to some of these questions.

Principles on Faith and Humanity

Version 2Ever since being confounded by contradictions in my childhood religion as well as finding disconnects between that religion and my instincts, I’ve searched for spiritual truth. Decades into that journey and still bereft of many definitive answers, I created Principles on Faith and Humanity as a marker on my journey.

With this journey far from complete (as far as I know), I invite you to challenge, question, explore or otherwise comment on my Principles on Faith and Humanity. What am I missing that you know or believe?

  1. God is in us. We are in God.
  2. Humanity comes in many colors and fabrics, each of us with our own strengths and elements of attraction. It is only when we weave gently together, though, that we create the most stunning of tapestries.
  3. If God wanted us to be identical, she would have made us that way. Our differences create our collective genius and must be explored.
  4. The Golden Rule, when well understood, is a core unifying principle across faiths and secularists.
  5. Everyone has a faith, even if that faith solely includes humankind and/or the known physical world.
  6. Competition of ideas enriches our individual spiritual journeys. Forced compliance destroys our search for truth.
  7. When our religion conflicts with our instincts and/or reason, finding the truth requires deep exploration.

A number of my beliefs are important drivers in this exploration. I welcome your challenge to these concepts as well (and leave them numbered to make commenting easier). [Read more…]

Post-Nevada: Caught Between Political Hell No and I Don’t Know

Long troubled by the disproportionate primary process control of party extremists, I’m struggling to find a presidential candidate who offers me refuge from political homelessness.

With my political philosophy defined by non-traditional concepts of following Golden Rule principles and building unity – ideas that cross party lines – it’s not easy to find candidates I fully support. This year is no exception.

Republican leader Donald Trump routinely displays a full-force middle finger to anyone opposing him, emulating the contempt that President Obama has routinely displayed to his critics by not even pretending that different ideas could contain elements of merit. Perhaps Trump’s unflinching bravado explains his popularity among elements of the Republican electorate eager for payback, but he likely won’t build unity and he hasn’t even come close to sidling up to critical Golden Rule concepts.

Democrats are torn almost equally between a woman chosen by less than 10 percent of those Democratic voters who think honesty matters and a man committed to a Santa-like flow of government gifts. It seems Bernie Sanders would conscript more than half the nation into lifelong servitude that crosses the line between our Golden Rule duty to provide helping hands to those in need over to forcibly requiring the majority to porter around people who are both capable of walking on their own and likely to build better lives if left to paths with fewer bureaucratic obstacles.

Once I wake from the concept of changing my legal name to Hell No and running a November write-in campaign, I’m faced with the realistic dilemma of having to choose among less-than-desirable alternatives. Nevada caucus results only elevate my nightmare scenario prospects.

So what primary should I vote in when given a chance in mid-March? Who deserves help at least making it to November?

Each of us has our own priorities, but three fundamental reforms seem essential to the nation’s ability to survive long past our current 240 years (which also happens to be the average existence of empires before implosion or invasion). [Read more…]

I Can Explain Trump Supporters (With Help)

Only racism, bigotry or hatred could explain the call from presidential candidate Donald Trump for a temporary ban on Muslim travel into the United States or his months-old statements about Mexican immigrants. Right?

How can nearly 30 percent of the 40 percent of Americans who identify as Republican or Republican-leaning voters say they would vote for Trump today. Granted, his support from roughly 12 percent of the overall populace may not be enough to elect him President. Still, how could that many people find his exaggerated political statements anything other than repulsive?

It’s a question particularly perplexing, almost stunning, to liberal Democrats and libertarians, along with many traditional Republicans.

While I’m admittedly no fan of what I view as Trump’s Don Rickles campaign methodology, I’m convinced that the disparity in reactions to the Donald can be explained without labeling all of his supporters in terms so derogatory that no efforts to understand their motivations are necessary.

[Read more…]

Does Russia’s Re-Expansion Threaten Global Peace

A critical aspect of Golden Rule government is acquiring knowledge and imagining ourselves in the situation of others. With the news today that a Russian General has walked into the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to request/tell the U.S. to pull its soldiers away from Syria, I’ve started to imagine what Russian President Vladimir Putin might be planning. Following are some of the questions I’m pondering:

  1. Now that we’ve been asked/told by Russia to withdraw our troops from Syria, how long will it be before an American soldier is accidentally killed by a Russia bomb?
  2. In the likely case we pull our troops back further after that American death, how long will it then be before a full Russian military base is built in Syria?
  3. What American interests will be put at risk by that vastly expanded Mediterranean base?
  4. What part of Russia’s re-expansion strategy benefits from Russia’s rapidly strengthening Syria-Iran alliance?
  5. Once Russia begins to fight ISIS in and around Syria while also taking out the handful (actually) of soldiers allied with the U.S. in Syria, do we fully turn over the fight against ISIS to Russia?
  6. Do we have any reason to trust that Russia would only fight ISIS, given Putin’s willingness to invade relatively defenseless nations and know the international community will let him bully his way into control?
  7. Which one of the ‘stans, or will it be Armenia, will the international community have a harder time reaching to stop Russia’s taking of control the next time Putin senses that the U.S. President is politically weak? (My money is on oil-rich Kazakhstan, but there are other candidates).

It’s easy to say let’s clear out from the Middle East and let Russia fight ISIS. But we can be certain that Putin isn’t moving just a single chess piece. In Doing Unto Others, set in the 2040s, Russia has full control of some former Soviet Union nations beyond those he has already taken. Putin may be on the path to greater control sooner than I suspected.

Is Pope Francis Right on Golden Rule Government?

Pope Francis argued today for Golden Rule government, a concept investigated, advocated and tested in the philosophical thriller Doing Unto Others: The Golden Rule Revolution, which I released earlier this summer.

In his address to Congress today, Pope Francis argued for the Golden Rule as the correct moral principle against which to create public policy, particularly focusing his remarks on its application to refugees, immigration and protecting life.

We agree on the Golden Rule principle, though in some cases have different perspectives on the correct answers to Golden Rule consideration.

Some will argue that religious principles have no business in the public arena, particularly since the Pope quoted a version of the Golden Rule contained in the Bible’s Book of Matthew. For those unfamiliar with the Golden Rule, he could have just as easily quoted from the Quran, the Torah, or from the scriptures and teaching of Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and dozens of other faiths. He could have pulled Golden Rule quotes from atheists, secular humanists, existentialists and others not tied to a formal religion. It is our most common and agreed principle; shared by nearly all, though far from as frequently followed.

Its implementation is not easy. Properly implementing Golden Rule government requires gaining knowledge of each issue and the implications of various solutions, including exploration of alternatives not yet considered. It requires imaging ourselves in the circumstances of others and how we would want to be treated. It requires, in my view, looking at the long-term effects of the actions we adopt, not simply at the immediate emotional reaction. It requires testing for consistency. Do you react the same way regardless of race, party, gender or other point of differentiation? It also requires, as Professor Harry Gensler points out in Ethics and the Golden Rule, that we act only in a manner we would deem acceptable if we were in any position.

So, for immigration and refugees, the questions to ask are not just the simple ones. [Read more…]

Creating Golden Rule Social Services

“Each individual has different needs, different capabilities, different dreams. What I see in government programs is an effort to fit people into boxes, to make people easy to administer, rather than to provide resources we need to become our greatest selves.”

Tamika Jackson
Doing Unto Others; The Golden Rule Revolution

With more than 100 government welfare and life-improvement programs potentially available as sources of support, Americans most in need of assistance are often overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude and complexity of government support structures.

Every year, elected officials debate adding to or deleting from this over-mixed structure, providing never-ending fodder for the divisive hate game dominating politics today. During these debates, accusations quickly turn overwrought.

Hate the poor. Burn taxpayer money. Racist. Enabler. One percenter. Cultural rot. No accountability.

When it comes to social service programs, this debate misses a more critical issue.

Existing programs are bureaucracy centric, designed to remain within the purview of particular legislative committees or to ensure the legacy of a particular elected official. Each has its own application, funding requirements, auditing processes, staffing and timelines aimed more at fulfilling process requirements than at providing support. Many programs are established with set financial cliffs that force participants to lose nearly as much, and sometimes more, in support than they gain in income when they work additional hours or earn a raise, providing dramatic disincentives to career development.

People and their needs don’t fit neatly within congressional or state legislative jurisdictions. [Read more…]