Where everybody knows my name…

Let me preface by saying that I have not agreed with President Obama on every decision he has made in his crisis-from- the start presidency.

I believe he mishandled the health care debate by not personally taking the case directly to the American people and I believe that he allowed too much leniency to Congress when crafting the stimulus package and that aroused suspicion among many regarding the size of it.

In his forgivable desire to be bi-partisan he has accomplished quite the opposite; he should have stuck with being a Democrat and let the chips fall as they may; things would have been no more contentious than what we’ve seen.

What has kept me by the side of our President has been the fact that we have an intelligent man who possesses wisdom with regard to long term and world relevant goals.  Gone has been the “You’re either for us or you’re against us” foreign policy rhetoric and a new conversation began with negotiation and cooperation.

The world was ripe for such cooperation after 9/11 when even the critical French paper Le Monde declared “Today We Are All Americans,” but because the French then dared to question the legitimacy of the Iraq invasion the Bush Administration goaded the American people into admonishing them for a reasonable point of view.

Today the right wing admonishes President Obama for having the nerve to say, “No more. We must sit at the table and talk without preconditions.”

Many people believe that our national security is achieved only through military might and the premise that “America doesn’t apologize.” They cannot fathom that Obama would propose nuclear disarmament (as Reagan did) and that he would suggest that we have, in fact, forced imperialist policies onto weaker nations at various times in our history.

I agree that the United States must maintain the strongest military, but it will only serve the order of peace if it is backed by a moral directive; that is achieved through actions of generosity, compassion and negotiation.

We are a magnificent nation; a nation that rises to the occasion of crisis anywhere in the world and I am truly proud of so much that we have done in the face of famine, earthquake, and reparations of war, but we remain great only if we are vigilant toward our purpose of preserving peace and upholding human rights.

The following is a conversation with a group of friends at a favorite pub.  It is as real as I can remember it and it is not my intention here to belittle anyone.  I have respect for the people I converse with on both sides of the aisle, but the some of the views expressed here concern me.

The names have been changed, except for my own, to protect the guilty.

Steve:  Disarmament now?  When so many people want to destroy us?  I don’t understand why we don’t use our weapons and end our problems tomorrow.

(Cheers from the group)

Bob:  Obama embarrassed America. No president has ever spoken negatively of a previous president before.

Gary:  I seem to recall Clinton being called a “stain on Washington” by members of the Bush Cabinet.  So did any of you defend our president when he was insulted by Amadinijad?

Bob:  They’re terrorists.

Gary:  Iranians? What do you mean?

Bob:  It means rules of war and that means “take no prisoners”

(I was as confused by that as you are)

Gary:  Rules of war means that we abide by the Geneva Convention, doesn’t it?

Steve:  Not with terrorists.

Gary:  What about justice?

Bob:  That only applies to Americans. They are terrorists.

Gary:  Because….they’re Arab?

(The crowd snickers and I get a “if the shoe fits” look)

Bob:  I don’t have a problem with Arabs and I don’t have a problem with gays.

(He wasn’t really making that far a left turn in one sentence, it turns out that the subject was about gay rights before I got there.)

Gary (all too happy to go in this direction):  So you support gay unions?

Bob:  I have a lot of gay friends and I have no problem with it, but marriage is between a man and a woman, so no, I don’t support gay marriage. It’s just wrong.

Gary:  According to….?

Bob:  Let’s start with the Bible!

(The crowd shows its appreciation for the trump card)

Gary:  The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to ban gay marriage.

Steve:  We’ll get that overturned.

Gary:  Why would you want to overturn a correct judgment?

(I withstand hoots and jeers over how foolish I am)

Gary:  The Constitution is not a religious moralizing document; it is a document to protect the basic human and civil rights of every citizen and to instruct us as to how to uphold those liberties.  I’ll bet I know more gay people than anyone at this table and not one of them chose to be gay any more than they chose the color of their skin or their gender.  It’s just the way they are.

So you’re telling me that a group of people should be denied basic civil rights because of the way they are?  That would be immoral.  How is it you say you want smaller government when you want the most invasive government possible?  A government that looks into your home and dictates behavior according to religious morality!

If you said, “I’m not a racist because I have black friends, but I just don’t want my daughter to marry a black man” I’m sorry but that would be racist, and there is no difference between that and your statement about having gay friends.  You are discriminating.

(I was prepared)

Bob:  This is a Christian nation. Our country was founded on Christian principles so why are we afraid to say now that we are a Christian nation.

Gary:  Bob, we are a nation that is predominately Christian but we are not an exclusively Christian nation. Our nation was founded on the principle of religious freedom. Even if every single American, all 315 million of us, became Christians, it would be contrary to our constitution to declare that we are now a Christian-only nation.

Bob:  Are you insane? Respect for God is everywhere in our history. “In God We Trust” is even on our money!  We used to pray in school until the liberals took that away!

Gary:  All of that was created along the way because obviously Christianity has been a major force, but nowhere in the Constitution is God mentioned except in exclusionary terms. The framers were agnostics, deists, and Christians, but they knew why they were creating a nation based on freedom, protected by laws and inalienable rights, and they knew there cannot be true freedom in a theocracy.

Steve:  What do you mean it’s un-American? That’s ridiculous.

Gary:  It is laid out very clearly in the First Amendment that there will be no law respecting the establishment of religion; the freedom to worship as we please, or not to worship, is the cornerstone of that amendment.

Bob:  Well….I don’t agree.

Gary:  So, you’re saying that you don’t agree that the Constitution says “There will be no law respecting the establishment of religion”?  It does and it’s there for everyone to see.  It isn’t subject to your opinion.

Steve: That’s your interpretation.

Gary: …….?

The conversation was now over; it had no place to go from there and we all settled down with friendly drinks and talked about collusion in Olympic Badminton.

I didn’t change anyone’s mind and no one changed mine.  The opinions of my friends were real and they represent a large percentage of Americans whose politics are born from what they believe protects them.  I know that a lot of Americans are unhappy with President Obama and Washington in general and 2012 could produce some changes (either way), but we would be well served to use logic, facts, and history to make our decisions.  I don’t believe anything that I don’t believe…as obvious as that sounds, it’s slightly more complex.

There are reasons we believe what we believe, but unless we are willing to investigate those reasons we will be confined by our emotions, and emotional thinking is rarely critical.  And that is what is sorely lacking in Washington, in our kitchens…and sometimes in my favorite pub.

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