Friday, February 6, 2015

Democratic Change

I promised to discuss change today. Change happens. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad. Some things NEED to change. Part of my martial art association pledge, discussed in Compass, is to "promote the development of a better society."

On this blog, I had been telling the story of how I grew up, in a Conservative Catholic Air Force family. About the meme that our Armed Forces personnel choose to give up their rights so that civilians can have theirs. And how, as a military dependent, I did not choose to give up my voice... but I mostly complied with the system that said what I could or could not do, say, protest.

Even after becoming civilian, it's taken me a long time to overcome my inner censor, to find my willingness to speak publicly. Now that I've found it, I'm reluctant to give it back up, because our voices are one of the key tools by which change is created.

Other tools for change were established at the very founding of the United States, in the first amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights.  Here's what the document says::

Article the third... 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.
(Note: from the Government archives. The first two proposed amendments were not ratified.)

We'll take this in parts:


Respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof:

I keep hearing some people claim American patriotism is wrapped up in the American flag, guns, and the Holy Bible. While I do respect the flag, and I understand that guns are covered in the 2nd Amendment, the Holy Bible is a personal thing, not national.

Despite what many who claim patriotism may say, the U.S. is not a Christian nation [reference Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli].

Many, even most, Americans may be Christian, but not all are. Jews and Muslims have been part of this country from the very beginning, and even fought in the American Revolution.

I have elsewhere described how the Base Chapel would change to accommodate Friday Shabbat, Catholic Mass, and a variety of Protestant traditions. While I was not aware of Muslim Friday Prayer, Hindu, Humanist or Buddhist services during my childhood, the expectation in military culture is that the Base Chapel and the Chaplains who serve, are there to serve all.

If you think about the conditions deployed military personnel may face, under fire and at risk of death... Military chaplaincy is about meeting the needs of the troops. There won't always be a Chaplain of one's own faith available, and so the Chaplains need to be able to serve the soldier's need, as best they can. That usually rules out proselytizing.

 or abridging the freedom of speech,

This is the right that it has taken me the longest to embrace and use for myself. Certainly there are limits to this right: the inappropriateness of yelling "Fire" in a crowded theater is one of the first clarifications I read.

Coming from the perspective that I do, it's fine to disagree with each other. It's fine to have different opinions. What's not fine, is to resort to derogatory terms and threats over such disagreements.

Also, as has been stated frequently on Twitter and elsewhere, freedom of speech does not mean freedom from the consequences of that speech. Most online Terms of Service prohibit uncivil behaviors like threats and hate speech. If ones account gets locked for violating the Terms of Service, that's a natural consequence of uncivil behavior.

Furthermore, the lastest Supreme Court direction seems to be that money is speech. Therefore, freedom to spend our money where we choose, and not spend it where we disagree, is also our individual freedom. I've seen attempts to label a boycott as "bullying," but really?

or of the press;

Propaganda happens. Governments, Corporations... everybody knows they need to manage their image, and they put a lot of effort into it. Freedom of the press to investigate and report the truth is part of the checks and balances put in place by the founding fathers (and mothers).

or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,

Signs, assembly, and nonviolent protests are the cornerstones to civil rights change. Build community, communicate ideas, change the world. This was written into the fabric of our country from practically the very beginning, and it needs to apply to all Americans.

and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Change.org, WhiteHouse.gov, petitions abound in this day and age.

These, plus our vote, are the tools set into the foundations of the United States for affecting change. They are a resource to bring about the "better society," the Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness which everyone deserves.