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.

Integration Movement Needed During Divisive Election

IMG_0814Elections are inherently divisive, with deep contention portending for November, but ruptured personal relationships aren’t a predestined outcome of differing political views. While the ballot box garners attention, groundwork for unification starts in local communities. This concept was reinforced during an engaging recent discussion with a University of Illinois student working to create a campus integration movement.

Although our discussion focused initially on her pursuit of a leadership certificate at the Urbana-Champaign campus and my role as her coach in that endeavor, it was quickly clear that our pairing has a broader purpose. Whoever created the partnership saw past age and ethnicity differences to focus on what matters most; common interests.

The increasing political segregation of our nation and risks associated with this division inspired my first two novels. Having identified potential solutions to these problems, I had thoughts to share. She also imparted her experiences and insights—highlighting safety, inclusion and opportunity concerns based on obstacles in daily life, and compounded by a “Build the Wall” rally held by one candidate’s supporters outside La Casa cultural house and other venues frequented by Latino/a students.

Several integration movement paths forward that don’t need to wait for November are evident, including many highlighted in Brandeis University Professor Susan Eaton’s book: Integration Nation: Immigrants, Refugees, and America at its Best. [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…]

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…]

A Golden Rule View of Immigration Reform

Is the answer to today’s immigration debate changed by considering the issue from a Golden Rule perspective?

The Golden Rule concepts of “doing unto others as one would have done to oneself” and its negative form of “not doing to others what one would not want done in return” are shared by every major religion and most atheists/agnostics as a guide for personal behavior. I believe the unifying nature of Golden Rule principles makes them much more: a core concept to drive government decisions as well. Let’s consider this against the issue of immigration reform.

Critical components of following the Golden Rule include imagining ourselves in the circumstances of others and acting consistently across various scenarios. Many questions arise when it comes to immigration reform, including:

  1. If I had trouble taking care of my family in my existing country, would I want another country to allow me to move there with no restrictions? Sure.
  2. On the flip side, if I’m having trouble finding work at a livable wage because too many potential workers exist for the given number of jobs, in part due to illegal immigration, would I find this fair? No.
  3. If I’m waiting in line in a traffic jam, do I get angry when someone drives off on the shoulder and skips around past me in line? Absolutely, which is the way legal immigrants often think about illegal immigration. [Read more…]

Filtering Politics Through a Golden Rule Lens

My path as a political futurist action-suspense writer would be far easier if I could tell you my tribe. If I could easily and consistently use words to describe myself like progressive, conservative, libertarian or socialist, I could quickly target my audience. If I could tell you I’m clearly aligned with the Republican, Democratic, Tea, Libertarian or Green parties, you would readily know what to expect of my views.

It would be easier.

But it wouldn’t be true.

Even if I did fix my political position today, that identification will likely shift as definitions and platforms change for political terms and parties, respectively. I may also simply change my mind on certain issues as I learn and think more, perhaps with your help.

Two core concepts that don’t consistently align with an entrenched philosophy or political party are foundational to my views:

  • My all-encompassing philosophy is the Golden Rule concept of “doing unto others as I would have done unto myself” and it’s negative form of “not doing to others what I would not want done to me.” Following the Golden Rule requires that I understand others, consider all impacted by any decision and imagine what I would want done if I were in similar circumstances. It also means thinking through long-term implications to eliminate my cognitive biases rather than rely on my immediate emotional response as a definitive answer.
  • The simpler of my core concepts is driving peaceful national longevity.  Governmental dissolutions can be peaceful, as one might expect if Scotland secedes from Great Britain. However, secession efforts frequently turn violent as we see today in Ukraine. Disorder and chaos create vacuums often filled with violent conflict. Conflict always finds innocent victims. There’s no opportunity to make amends to dead innocents.

The Golden Rule is embedded in the scriptures and teachings of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Confucianism, Jainism, Taoism, Baha’i, native spiritualities, and many other faiths. The Golden Rule also happens to be endorsed by most secular humanists and atheists/agnostics as a core life principal. In fact, it’s a unifying principle across nearly all of humanity but one many think of as confined to governing personal behavior. Unfortunately, it is not embedded in the governing document for the United States. It is not required to be considered in developing our laws, regulations and enforcement.

Once we agree that we should treat each other fairly doesn’t mean we will always agree on what that means. After all, we each start with an individual experience and knowledge base. Seeing past our biases takes study, debate and an open mind. The Golden Rule, though, at least gives us a common objective to work toward and against which to ask questions without demonizing those beginning from a different answer.

After a month-long break from posting here, I’ll take a stab this week at testing my Golden Rule-based philosophy against several of the issues I expect to dominate media attention during the 2014 mid-term elections: political reform, income inequality, climate change and immigration. I won’t pretend my views are the definitive answer, only that they make sense given what I know.

Readers who define themselves along traditional partisan lines almost certainly won’t agree with everything I write. Hopefully, though, I’ll raise concepts you hadn’t considered, offer solutions not generally debated and otherwise leave you feeling that reading these perspectives is a good use of time.

My personal and author branding would be easier if I could pick a well-defined track that others have cleared in advance and just ride the rails to an audience. But I haven’t found a path that I can stay on without believing I’ve taken a wrong turn.

I’ll be interested in your reactions.

Is U.S. Segregation Leading Us to Being the 2040 Ukraine?

The United States has lessons to learn to avoid being the 2040 Ukraine.

Strong parallels exist between the stories in my first two books and the situation playing out in Ukraine today, so much so that a reader teased me yesterday that I had provided Putin’s playbook. Several parallels are particularly concerning.

Russia seeks to expand its territory to include more ethnic Russians ✔

In my books, Mexico is part of a coalition working to annex Southwest U.S. territory heavily populated by Mexican Americans and Mexicans. (The book is not an anti-immigrant or anti-Mexican rant, so you’ll need to read to understand the full context.)

Speakers of minority Russian language considered “oppressed” ✔

Schools in the Southwest and other parts of the country are increasingly teaching in all-day Spanish, including at the community college level. Not expecting immigrants to learn English is increasingly being advocated as a civil rights issue, when it is instead a path to another layer of societal segregation on top of our existing segregation issues.  Segregated societies are historically ripe for secession and annexation efforts.

Geographic concentration of Russian speakers provides clear starting point for invasion ✔

There are already several U.S. areas where speaking Spanish is critical to finding employment and fluency in English is not necessary. The scope of these territories is expanding.

Several internal political leaders in Crimea welcome invasion ✔

Too many political leaders focus on their own self-interest. For many in Crimea, the opportunities for political and economic gains may be greater under Russia than under Ukraine. It is certainly conceivable that we will have U.S. politicians who think they’ll have more power if the nation divides.

Weakened, indebted economy in Ukraine undermines border protection resolve and economic response options ✔

My distaste for our high and growing debt levels is driven, in part, by my belief that it substantially restricts our crisis response options. Ukraine’s response options are highly restricted by both Russia’s military superiority and Ukraine’s tenuous economic circumstances.

[Read more…]

Does Coca Cola Ad Celebrate Diversity or Segregation?

The Super Bowl failed to generate much conflict, but Coca Cola’s “It’s Beautiful” advertisement is stirring generous gulps of internet angst. At the heart of the controversy is this complex question: 1) Was Coca Cola celebrating diversity by having “America the Beautiful” sung in a multitude of languages or is the iconic brand instead suggesting that we should become a nation segregated by language?

Coca Cola could easily have sent a powerful message of unity by having all of the singers come together at the end of the commercial and sing the last few phrases together in English. Such a commercial would have sent a powerful message that America celebrates diversity, honors multilingual citizens and welcomes immigrants from all over the world to join in becoming part of a nation that shares important common bonds.

I suspect that most but not all of today’s trauma could have been avoided had the producers not worried about offending people who believe it’s good to create new communities segregated by race, religion and language. Suggesting that people who move to the United States should learn English over time is racist to some academic elites and particularly to self-interested politicians who see personal gain in dividing America along language lines. It’s possible that the ad’s producers worried that having everyone sing in English at the end would have been taken as a slap against those in the United States illegally, because legal immigrants are required to learn English as a condition of citizenship. Whatever the reason, Coca Cola missed an opportunity to create a point of unity. If their intent was to generate controversy, they have succeeded.

My first two novels — Melting Point 2040 and Secession 2041 — tell stories of what awaits if we allow ourselves to be re-segregated by race, religion, class or language. We should welcome voices in every language to America. But we should also want to welcome immigrants into a nation where we can speak together and develop a united direction, rather than further segregation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=443Vy3I0gJs#action=share

 

 

DHS Admits U.S. Losing War on Border Tunnels

In an Office of Inspector General (OIG) report released this week, the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that the United States is ill-prepared to locate and deter the rapid expansion in drug cartel tunnels, a capability gap with dire consequences as explored in my first two novels. The OIG report states:

Illicit cross-border tunnels along the southwest border are primarily used by criminals to transport illegal drugs into the United States, and they are a significant and growing threat to border security. In an effort to counter this threat, CBP (Customs and Border Protection) has modified its operations through patrols, intelligence gathering, and closing of illicit cross-border tunnels, but it does not yet have the technological capability to detect the tunnels routinely and accurately. To best address this capability gap, CBP needs to develop and acquire tunnel detection technology, but it has not been able to identify existing technology that functions effectively in its operating environment.

Read the full OIG report here to read more about CBP’s plans to create a Tunnel Detection and Technology Program. Hopefully, such a program will also be able to prevent the type of tunnel-based attacks predicted in Melting Point 2040 and Secession 2041.