Journal My Best Posts

America and Religion

Yesterday, across all networks the story was repeated over and over that 24% of Americans believe Barack Obama is a Muslim.

Upon reading this I really had to fight the urge to bash my head into my keyboard.  I usually try to refrain from causing myself bodily harm but the onslaught of stupid news is causing me tremendous mental damage.  It looks like I will have to go re-read my previous post “Mind Control” in order to remain sane.

I have so many thoughts about this that this post is practically jumping from my fingertips and the keyboard struggling to respond to the furious typing.  It may be difficult to write a clean, neat post with all the ends tied up so I’ll promise you this.  I won’t even try.  It is going to be more of an opinion dump but I’ll do my best to keep things clear.  So, let’s start simple.

1. Separation of Church and State

– In theory, it really shouldn’t matter what the religion of the president is as we have separation of Church and State in this country.  However, that is a pipe dream.

We all very well know that the public expects the President to be “Christian” and it would be impossible to win the presidency unless the contender explicitly promises the public that he in fact is.  The caveat is, he must make his decisions independently from any religious institution as the power he holds is supposed to come from the people and not any specific institution.

But why is this and what is it that people fear from religious institutions.  Now, that is a pretty good question for a Ph. D candidate and I would love to read a dissertation on the matter.  But I am no Ph. D but believe I have a general idea.

I think it all relates back to England and the split from the Roman Catholic Church during Henry V’s reign.  Henry did not like being told what to do from the man in the pointy hat who resides in Rome.  So, he made himself the head of the Church of England and everyone had to follow the king.  As the founders of America were English, they too had no mind to give any power what-so-ever back to Rome.

But according to Wikipedia, The Church of England considers itself to be both Catholic and Reformed (Protestant).  As both of these religious groups share many of the same ideas it’s not a huge deal to try and find the differences except for one.  That difference is the powerful “reformists” prefer to not grant any authority to the Pope.

So, fast forward from then until now, we have always had “WASP” Presidents (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Males) except for one, JFK.  The fact that JFK was a Catholic caused quite a stir as many Americans were afraid the Pope would gain more influence in the USA with Kennedy.  Looking at the state of religion in Latin America (where the Pope does retain influence) the elite members of society were pretty concerned.

And look what happened to JFK (Enter conspiracy theories).  Then we return to the WASPS for a while until President Obama.  Given his exotic childhood people have their concerns and he does not fit the lock-tight WASP model.  Can you guess which letter does not apply to Obama?

However, Obama attended a “Christian” church and professed his faith very clearly a couple of times but many Americans still have their doubts.  This leads me to my next point “What is a Christian?”

*Side Note: Imagine how we feel when we hear that the country is an “Islamic Country.”  Most Americans would then get on their high horse and point out that we have separation of Church and State, and how “advanced” we are.  But when it comes to our own President, he better well be Christian.  If we look at “Islamic” countries with distrust, I wonder if citizens of those countries would feel the same way towards America in terms of religion.  After all, we do demand that the President be Christian, so to say that there is a separation is a bit silly.

2.  What is a Christian?

There was a decent article in USA Today called “Who, exactly, is a ‘Christian’?  Obama?  You?

They point out some interesting facts in that all of us “Christians” think the other “Christians” may not actually be a “Christian” or have got it all wrong!

If I were to ask a normal American “Christian” what they thought of the Eastern Orthodox Religion, I wonder what kind of answers I would get.  I’m sure I would be met with a blank stare.  I would half expect them to call the priests in this picture Muslims!

In fact, that might not be a bad idea.  Let’s release this picture to the general public and take a poll.  I’m quite certain that 35% of Americans would identify them as Muslims.  This is just to point out how I feel about polls and the opinions of a third of the population.

So what exactly is a Christian?  Do all “Christians” believe other sects, denominations etc are equally as “Christian as them?  The answer to that is probably a resounding no, or a very weak yes.

For example, if we compare Evangelicals and Catholics, I’m certain that Catholics would feel superior due to the authority of the Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelicals would think the Catholics to be mindless sheep who really do not feel passion when worshiping God.

The Catholics would look at the Evangelical and believe them to be in complete disarray with no direction, simply homegrown countryside bumpkins who like to shout and jump around in Church.  Where is the ORDER people!?  You can’t just construct a building, call it “House of Holy Salvation of the Divine Angel” and get any respect!

Then the Evangelical would look at the Catholics and disapprove of their boring, repetitious way of worship and think that is no way to really feel the joy that Jesus is supposed to bring.  The would see a kind of corporation directing their “flock” to the grinding mill every Sunday and see no passion in that service at all!

Now, let’s go deeper into the Catholic Religion.  This is worth a complete library of research but for lack of time let’s just get to the point.  The Catholic Church has its own divisions.  It has: Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, Benedictines and so on and so on.  In fact, there are well over 300 according to Wikipedia and I’m sure that is not even close to a complete list.  So, I ask, which one is the right one to belong to?  Is there a right one?  Are they all equal or do some look down on others?

Now, coming back out of the Catholic Church, we have all different types of “Christians” – Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, Shakers, Quakers, Lutherans, Methodists etcetera etcetera.

Well, I’ve bored myself with all the different divisions in Christianity, but I can tell you that each one will not believe they are equally “Christian” as the other denominations.  In short, their denomination is right and all the others are wrong.

The answer to what is a “Christian” is simply one who follows Christ.  (Christ – ian).  That’s it!

So, if Obama “follows Christ” then he is a Christian.  The issue is that a small portion of Americans do not believe him.  And even if they did, he is probably not following the right one, unless it is considered “Protestant.”  Then we will have all the divisions with those that call themselves “Protestant” and none of the denominations will satisfy this small portion of Americans.

3. Are you a “good” Christian?

What a
question!  This might be very hard to answer in that if you do not belong to the ‘right’ denomination then you can still be a Christian but just in the wrong group.  Which is the correct group?  Well, the one I’m in,,,, unless of course I’m you, then it is the one you are in.  But I’m not you, I’m me, ergo, you are wrong.

How stupid, how mundane!  If we were to really ask this question of the population, they may try to dodge the question unless we really pin them down on scripture.  Then they would refer to their denomination’s “authorized” scripture and repeat from that.  Which would make all the others wrong, strictly speaking.  Then they would feel uncomfortable and not want to discuss it anymore.

Since we are uncomfortable confronting each other, let’s just confront ourselves for fun.  Do we really even know that much about our own religion?  This brings me to my next point along with a personal story.

4.  How well do we know our own Religion?

To start off, I’ll give you the answer; Not very well.

I had the pleasure of taking a trip to Ireland with my family.  I was under the assumption that it was simply a vacation but I was mislead!  In fact, it was a PILGRIMAGE!!!  My family knew I would have reservations with hanging out in Ireland with a bunch of old church ladies so they conveniently skipped that detail.  Yet, it turned out to be wonderful and I learned a lot.

I would say the best thing I got out of that trip were discussions with a very intelligent priest.  At that time, I had read too much and had a lot of questions.  I was also starting to break free from the authority of priests and starting to think for myself.  As I was developing into an adult, I had started to think of many priests (not all – some were good) as almost adolescent, undeveloped aberration of men.  I started to see them from the eyes of an adult and saw how incomplete they were.  Yet, they asked me to call them “Father!”  (I’ll return to language and it’s usage later on)  In fact, quite a few had been suspected of pedophilia and had left the church.  So, my opinion of priests was not good at this time to say the least.

But, the priest who was directing this pilgrimage, was very intelligent and I respected him for a number of reasons.

1. He spoke Gaelic
2. He played the SPOONS!
3. He had no problems drinking a few pints with me
4. He was an academic.  No more of “It’s a mystery” nonsense, this guy had actual answers!
5.  He did not try to duck any of my questions and we could be open.
6. He became frustrated with some members in that they really didn’t know much about the faith they adhered to.  He said “Study your faith people!”  To me, this was refreshing in that the history and theology of the Catholic Church really is fascinating, but unfortunately, church is often filled with the same old boring readings and absolutely NO academic inquiry.  Just a blind following of whatever happened to be uttered from the priests mouth.

On one of the first nights, I was very surprised that he agreed to come to the bar with us and seemed enthusiastic about it.   There was a band and after ordering our pints of Guiness we sat down to listen.  He pulled out his spoons and was just itching to get up and play with the band.  And get up and play he did!!  This was a priest unlike any other I had ever met!

Afterwards we were walking back we started to get into a religious discussion.  I forget all the points but about halfway in I decided to blow this conversation wide open.

Me: Father, why are you Catholic?
Father:  It is what I believe (this was the standard answer I was used to getting)
Me: Father (I hate using that word, but out of respect I stuck with the standard)  Did you go to a Catholic grade school?
Father: Yes
Me: Did you go to a Catholic High School?
Father: Yes
Me: I would venture to say you even went to a Catholic College
Father: Yes, I went to (insert, I forgot the name)
Me:  Then Father, how did you think you would turn out?  Buddhist?  You were told your whole life to be Catholic and that is what you became!  How can you be so certain that it is the correct religion when that is the path the majority of people will take?  They will simply follow the religion that their parents and grandparents were!?  You ask a lot of interesting questions about your own faith, but are stuck within these parameters and have never even given a though to venturing outside them!

Enter alcohol infused haze and I cannot recall how the rest of the conversation went.  I was just pretty amazed at myself for having asked such a question when up until that point, I would never have dared to.  The only other thing I can remember is I asked him about the Masonic Order and what he knew, but he really didn’t have any information that I didn’t already know.

The point of all this is here was a priest that was not afraid to reach into the depths of Catholicism and explore as far as it will go.  Again, I had never met a priest as academic as he was.  He left an impression which left me wanting more information.

5. Diving into Christianity

Again, how well do we know our own faith?  I’d like to share with you a few examples that were very eye opening for me and provide some answers.  These are not answers that will solve the ultimate mystery but they are fascinating none the less.

I’ve met very few people who actually question their own religion.  They are told x is representative of y and ask no questions.  As for me, I ask questions, I want to know!  I’m not sure how I came to discover these things but I’m sure it was a mix of my travels and readings.  As for books, I can’t quite recall which book I read but I’m sure it was something like this (Religions of the World: Illustrated Guide To Origins, Beliefs, Traditions and Festivals).  I’m not sure how many examples I can come up with but lets give it a shot.

a.) The Cross is More Powerful Than the Sun

One of the most interesting things I learned is that the ancient religions always worshiped the Sun.  As Christianity spread the duty of the priests was to convert the locals.  To help with this, they placed their religious symbols in front of the sun.

If you have ever seen a Celtic cross, you will notice a circle around the cross.  This symbolizes the cross being in front of the sun and therefore the cross is more powerful than the sun.

Therefore, it conveyed to the locals that the priest’s religious imagery was more powerful than their own.  Make a symbol, put your own in front of the local symbol and automatically it is more powerful.

In Mexico, the most powerful image is La Virgen de Gua
dalupe.  Again, we can see that Mary has been placed in front of the sun.  But why is this?  The truth is the Spanish were very merciless with the natives and killed so many.  To win them over a miracle was necessary.

The story goes, that a native “Mexican” Juan Diego actually saw Mary and she spoke with him.  There are different versions to the story but some say he healed Juan’s uncle and at other another time presented him with roses to prove he was not lying (Roses did not grow in Winter, when she appeared).  In short, his uncle got better and local priests believed Mary had appeared due to the roses he presented them with.  Now, let’s pay attention to what she said:

“I shall be there to listen to your cries, your sadness.  I shall be there to cure your grievances, Your misery, your sufferings.”

But we have to ask ourselves, who was causing these “sufferings.”  Well, it was the Spanish who just happened to be the same people who brought the Catholic religion to Mexico!  So, the same people that were causing these horrible sufferings also brought the solution with the Virgin Mary and converted an entire empire.

Also, we notice an “aura” around the Virgin Mary.  The Aztecs worshiped the sun and again we follow the same formula of putting a Christian symbol directly in front of the sun to make it more powerful.  It would not do well to put the cross in front of the sun because that is the symbol the Spanish used and they were the ones killing everybody!  Therefore, it is much better to put a delicate, caring “mother” which would take care of the people that her religion was directly responsible for killing the locals!

To make matters more interesting, those humongous cathedrals you will find in Spain were directly financed by gold plundered from “The New World.”  That is to say, they were funded by exterminating a group of people and taking their gold to build something religious.  How is that for irony?

People are praying in a building funded by the blood of native Americans and praying for peace!!

b.) Festivals

How well do we know our own festivals?  Why is it that Christmas falls directly on the Winter Solstice?  The dates are both on December 25th.  Then, we have Easter falling directly on the Spring Equinox!  And why is it that we use Easter bunnies to also commemorate this holiday?  The reason is the ancient people saw the rabbit as a sign of fertility.  So, killing two birds with one stone, it is very convenient to have Jesus rise at the same time of the Spring Equinox.  Then, mixing traditions we throw in the Easter Bunny.

In fact, use any “Christian Holiday” and you will find it has replaced a more ancient holiday.  Why is this?  Because the local population was used to celebrating at that time and to encourage them to convert, Christianity had to create a holiday at the exact same time.  This made things easy.

Now, does any of this matter?

For many, the answer is no.  They were simply taught to believe in Christianity because their parents and their parents before them did so.  They work themselves into a tizzy with no understanding of why things are the way they are.  For some, the euphoria of telling yourself something is true and getting yourself excited about it is enough!

c.) The Cult of Osiris

This is going to be a very long post and for those of you looking for parallels between Christianity and other religions, it would do you well to take a look at the Egyptian, “Cult of Osiris.”  Osiris also rose from the dead and there are many other similarities.  In the tradition of replacing old religions with the Christian teaching we cannot fail to examine this one.  It seems Christ wasn’t the only one to rise from the dead.

6. Language

The language of Christianity has been refined over many centuries.  If we were to truly understand, then we would have to study Aramaic which was the language of Jesus.  But instead, most of us only have English to go on and therefore that is what we use.

One aspect that has always irked me is the submissive nature of the language of the church.  We are expected to refer to priests as “Father” and he refers to the rest of us as his “flock.”  In the language alone, we submit to the priest’s authority.

Why is this?

In the past, the priest was the learned, the one who could read.  He was more intelligent then the rest of the population and a leader.  Now, that a good part of the population have attended University and perhaps studied more than the priest, this use of language might not fit so well.  I highly doubt the priest calling a layman “father” since it is only supposed to work one way.

The priest often refers to his subordinate as his “son.”  As I mentioned earlier I have no use for these dysfunctional, shells of men referring to me as their son.  We can have an intelligent discussion if we are on equal ground and respect can still (sometimes) be due but let’s dispense with this “Father/Son” nonsense.

The reason people still use it is because that is how they were taught.  They were told not to question and that the priest is the authority.  No questions.

Further, to add a bit of “sanctity” to the language, some still speak with terms such as “Thou, thee, thine,” such as “Thine is the Kingdom of God.”  This does nothing more than create a false sense of “holiness” to the language, as though it is superior than speaking in the common tongue!

Most people do not use those types of words, and therefore, if one is able to use it, it might seem superior to the less educated and thus more powerful.  The truth is, it does absolutely nothing than make the speaker sound silly.

7. The Usefulness of Christianity

Academics and those that study history always take the fun out of the party.  They deflate what people have taught themselves to believe.  But does this mean their passion does not serve a purpose?  The answer is no.

We as humans are not very good at taking care of each other.  We look to our own needs first and to be honest treat each other very poorly.  The fact is we need a guide to tell us to behave because the truth is we are not very good at doing it on our own!

Religion fills a void, it provides a road map on how to behave and treat one another.  The instruction is very clear which is simply “Love Each Other.”  Yet, even with a very clear teaching, we still have trouble doing this!!  We look to the scripture to find reasons to kill and hate.

Going back to Barack Obama, what those people are looking for is a reason to dislike the President and hate!  We humans are very good at twisting very simple teachings and the reason that people are calling Barack Obama a Muslim is they want to find a reason to dislike him, I daresay to HATE him!

Therefore, they use religion which tries to teach us to love and being a typical human use it in a perverse way and to hate.  How despicable!  How low and base!!  Only human beings could take something so simple and turn it completely on it’s head!

With the lessons above about the origins above, the fact is, they really do not matter.  Sure they are good things to know, but they have absolutely no influence on the core teaching which is simply to love.  I used the examples above to prove to people how little they know about religion and to provoke a bit of shame.  How dare they use religion, which they know very little about, to provoke hate, which is the exact opposite of the main point religion is trying to co
nvey!!!!  How stupid, how silly and how shameful!

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, reading a new article stating that a third of Americans believe Obama is a Muslim is simply stupid.  These are people that are looking for a reason to hate and by turning Obama into something he is not gives them this right.  The irony is their own religion teaches them to love yet, the purposefully seek out a reason do the opposite.


Journal Politics

Nationalism, Tribalism, Political Affiliation and Favorite Sports Teams

What a crazy title.

These are topics that have been on my mind for some time and are consistently brought up in the media. I’m not even sure exactly where to begin but let’s start with the comfort and camaraderie that come with being part of a group.

No, even better to start with self identity and our search for one. One caveat however, there is much more to adolescence and I’m just going to generalize here in order to get to a more important point.

When we are kids we aren’t exactly concerned with “self-identity” but instead want to be part of a group which makes us feel secure. Then around middle school one often wants to differentiate themselves a little bit in order to be “cool” and “special.” So we pick our favorite teams, buy cool sneakers and listen to certain music. If others pick the exact same things as another offense could be taken and it becomes “you can’t like them because I like them!!” Of course a certain amount of sameness is inevitable and others are allowed to like a few of the same things you do which then forms sort of a quasi-group and the feeling of being included. A good example is “boy bands” such as New Kids on the Block, Jonas Brothers etc. If a youth did not like them then they might feel excluded which is not desirable.

This post is not about adolescence however. Moving on to High School being part of a group has serious consequences and depending on which group one joins really determines a large part of the social life for four entire years! Continuing on, in college the former H.S. groups are broken up and we all get a “re-do.”

Now that we are adults we find ourselves without a constant circle of friends but still find the need to be part of a group. The first and easiest way is to enthusiastically support your favorite sports team. One wears the uniforms, goes to tailgates and this is comforting because you can be surrounded by people who like the same thing you do and makes us feel included. Then there are those who in determining their identity find it would be useful to support the rival-team even though there is no apparent connection or affiliation but does serve the purpose of being “different” or unique.

In the USA most people do not bother to research exactly why this social phenomenon takes place. The easy answer is the team is supported because it actually supports the community and is part of the community. Being part of the community ourselves it only follows that we would support the community we happen to be in. But looking further we must look back to our roots in England. Villages would support their lords, and during jousts wave the banners of their villages against another. (Very brief explanation there). In America we find those bonds severed and turned to our universities as pillars of the community thus fulfilling the need to be part of the community. However, I believe we are more tolerant here in America of opposite teams and do get along better unlike the Hooligans and national soccer matches. For them, there is much more at stake then simply loosing a game but is rather taken as a match to show National/Community superiority.

However, sports teams are not enough. Soon our interests may turn to politics which used to be rather staid and boring except for the upper class which could actually make things happen and further enrich them. The common man got to vote but they were pretty easily persuaded one way or another and could be manipulated. Now, due to the media and race for ratings politics has become something where everyone can participate and is divided neatly into two camps, Republican and Democrat. Even those that are not politically astute can participate as current beliefs will fall neatly into one camp or the other. The lines do blur quite often, but the media would have us believe that you must be for or against, “with us or against us,” a Republican or RINO (Republican In Name Only).

This does serve a great purpose in that the simple minded can be easily divided and that all difficult answers have an easy solution which is to simply join one party or the other. Again,the lines do blur but the media would not want us to think so. The extremes are on both sides but the Republicans gain more notoriety as of recent because most “middle-of the road” folks have voted Democratic leaving only the “hard core” Republicans who have hijacked the mouth peace of the Republican Party. Rush Limbaugh, Savage, and so on have been called “the mouthpiece of the Republican Party.” This only serves to damage American politics as a whole since it is my view neither side should gain too much power and that extreme right further damages Republican credibility and takes away from even-minded Republicans. On a positive note for Republicans, Americans in general will go “middle of the road” and the pendulum will swing back eventually. However, I do believe Obama is doing a good job even if the Democratic Congress is not. Don’t agree with the Obama statement? Read on…

The Democrats on the other hand are being degraded by Nancy Pelosi who has done a spectacularly awful job as Speaker of the House. Bush divided America quite enough and now Nancy is doing the same but on the other side. It is my view that Obama is much more of a “uniter” than George W. ever was but is being sucker punched by Pelosi who is too arrogant to let Obama tell her what to do and thus we simply have a political pissing contest.

Getting back to being part of a group, it is curious that we now wear our political affiliations on our sleeve just like we do our sports teams. I’m also surprised that we do not yet have team like uniforms to show which political party we support! What we do have is the sports like mentality where should the other side have a point of view, there is a knee-jerk reaction to oppose it because it’s from the other team!!!

It is quite evident in that should the Democratic President make one tiny misstep the media will pounce and everyone goes up in arms. There really is no way to win in this type of mentality. If Obama encourages debate, the other team will say he is not bold enough to make decisions. And if he makes a decision they will all be considered wrong by “the other team.”

This could be simple push back after 4 years of criticizing Bush. In any case, thoughtful, rational debate has long fled from America and now it’s all sensationalism. When I listen to arguments from both sides it is simply regurgitating arguments that people hear on the media and is really not very sophisticated at all. Take the stimulus for example, it does stink but what are the other options? One side will say “he put us all into debt forever, get him outta there!!

Yes, we are in debt forever this is true. However, without it our economy will cease to function and the very people saying this will probably lose their jobs for which they would blame Obama for that too!! Again, it’s true that the stimulus stinks but it’s simple minded to blame one side or the other for the current mess, rather it is simply convenient! Why not have the government do nothing. endure some serious pain, then everyone can blame Obama for the pain. AND it’s easy to blame only one person or another regardless that the office of President is subject to political lobbies, various state and politician interests and does need to rely on an army of advisors. No need to dig into all of this though as the media would have us think we can just blame the President which makes things so simple.

The simplification of every complex issue does nothing to strengthen the nation.

Sensationalizing every issue does not advance the merits of issues either. Now we see people getting angry in the media when there is disagreement. This is extremely childish in my opinion. It is like saying; “Wow, you are very angry, I can see your point so much more clearly now. If you got even angrier I might even agree with you.” Or perhaps it is just to show the level of loyalt
y to one team or another. After the broadcast those in question can retreat to their team clubhouse and all the comrades will say “You the Man!! You go so angry over there, but on point X, I think you could do kick the anger up a notch.”

The anger could also stem from a very self-centered society and if we don’t get what we want we become angry. Just like a child throws a tantrum remember this tactic and believe that since we are angry we have more of a chance to be pacified. “Look at me I’m angry, please let me have what I want and agree with my opinion!!”

If there was a show which showed calm rational debate it is one I would absolutely watch. I don’t really want to hear the same mantras regurgitated over and over. Yet, this is unavoidable because if we really dug into the issues they would quickly become boring. It’s much easier and attracts more followers if the media appeals to emotions and keeps things lively. I’m just waiting for a political reality show where a Democrat and Republican are forced to live together, decide which OC queen to date and who can sing the best. Then we could just support the coolest one and not worry about these troublesome issues!! “Well, the Republican gal is a hottie and dates the strapping David AND she can Tango!!!” What is not to support???

So being all grown up but still needing to be part of a group the political parties can serve this purpose. It also has the added bonus of making us feel smart and sophisticated when we talk about such adult things as politics. Yet, there is another group and is the main issue of this post.
Being regarded as “American” or part of any nation for that matter is the ultimate group and has been used by various governments to legitimize themselves and advance goals. Not so long ago you were un-American if you didn’t support the war. This is extremely powerful because people generally like America and when you call them un-American it might strike a deep cord. It basically boils down to “agree with me or else you cannot be part of your own nation anymore.” This is the dumbest thing I could think of to tell someone. America by nature is made up of immigrants with different points of view and it is exactly this fact which makes America great! To make something stronger it takes people to come in, not conform share opinions and then seemingly by magic things improve!!!

Sports teams know this and will steal a player from another team to become stronger. They will NOT simply gripe and moan about the other team being stronger. However, in politics it is a very difficult thing to actually consider the other side, and really take it in. It is much more fun to simply get emotional then to truly study, keep an open mind and consider why the other side could be right.

But now to my grand and final point. I long for the day when we can truly do this among nations. Currently, we think it fashionable to be “international” and travel. But what hasn’t happened is we do not have the ability to truly understand and simply look at them from the bedrock of our own culture and compare and contrast from the prison/prism of our own culture. Of course there are major obstacles such as language, proximity and so on but for everyone to make an honest effort to truly understand each other would be nirvana. (Diversity courses should be banned though).

Unfortunately, this curiosity is not there in this country and we’ve become more of a “agree with me or else” society. This is my team, if you wear the other color I automatically dislike you because you are not like me. This is my political affiliation and if you do not agree you make me uncomfortable. This is my country and we never make mistakes. You on the other hand are from a far away place, speak a strange language and I really cannot relate to you so either become like me or else.

I long for the day when we can break down all of these barriers but we are not even close yet. In America, we broke down the tribes which was a great feat. Yet, we set up new barriers in politics and by using Nationalism.

The people I admire most are those whose opinions I do not share but can explain calmly and rationally why they think the way they do. These people can also be persuaded to actually abandon their own viewpoint when presented with logical arguments. I admire people who can go to other nations, immerse themselves in it and thus seem almost indistinguishable between the two cultures. These are people I can really learn from and I hope is the direction we are headed.

Again, I think we have broken a major barrier by mixing all types of people here in America. The next step would be to consider ourselves humans and global citizens and even do away with national boundaries!

Now that last point probably seems absurd but I ask why? Individuals became tribes, Tribes became Nations, Nations became Empires and they have all been broken down and rebuilt throughout history. Yet, we become hardened with our sports teams, hardened with our political affiliations and God forbid think of switching national identity ………………………………….. unless the individual in question is switching to an American then it’s ok!

But why is this? The national identity is so strong here that even mentioning the topic probably seems blasphemous. An example of how strongly we think of our national identity goes like this.

– An American consular official asks if my wife wants to become a citizen of the USA
– I tell him No, she is Japanese and wants to stay Japanese
– The official is taken aback as if he cannot comprehend why someone would not want to be American.

I can even sense some readers being appalled at this and that proves my point. It’s ok to get out and explore and not be bound by anything limiting, sports teams, political affiliation and yes, even nationality. If we harp on Freedom so much then how about the Freedom to be completely free? Could I have a global passport? Or how about a passport to let me into countries I’m curious about and promise to learn the language and history. Is that such a bad thing? I feel in the current environment this is extremely taboo which is a shame.
Break down every boundary and set your mind free!


General Thoughts

Once again, long time no post. I’ve been extremely uninspired lately and feeling a bit disconnected. “Disconnected” seems like an ironic word to use since I’m now flooded with information on a daily basis through my PDA, Google Sidebar, news and magazines. Yet, for some reason I feel like this information really does not help me understand anything at all!

While living abroad, I was exposed to so many new things and experiences. Couple that with the grave mishaps (the Bush administration) America was up to I always had the drive to write. Here in America I feel like I’m constantly subjected to one big advertisement telling me to buy something and the wonderful experiences that I had in Asia no longer happen here. Instead, new “experiences” are simply different ways to spend money.

It might be that living in the city has something to do with this. There are always things to do but require sums of money to do. Restaurants, shopping, even Napa involve money. Also, the constant noise, honking, sirens make me unable to concentrate unless I’m at work. Throughout the workday I only think about my accounts and sales opportunities which, while good for my career, do nothing for personal growth.

Thus, my longing to return to Asia. In Asia I feel like I can “slow down,” spend time with interesting people and always be learning. Here, I feel like I’m simply always spending.
To get away from spending I turn to information, the news, magazines, etc. Yet, I feel like I never really learn anything. For example, I’ve spend a lot of time trying to figure out the whole “economic stimulus” idea yet have gotten nowhere. I read the “Economist” and listen to politicians from both sides but in a nutshell this is what I hear.

1. We need a large stimulus to revive the economy. We have to get the banks lending again.
2. What happened to the last stimulus package? Nobody is quite sure!!!!!
3. Will the new package work? — Absolutely no real answers.

As for the hope that the politicians will be able to help, that is fading quickly. I still support Obama but the whole fiasco with Tom Dashle in health care puts a damper on this. I cannot understand why someone who is supposed to manage national programs cannot manage his own affairs!!! As for the economic team, I think Summers will do a good job and there are plenty of smart people in there AND they must do SOMETHING but no matter how hard I try to understand I feel like nobody really has the answer and this package will not work just like the first one did not.

The scary thing is that nobody is sure how far this thing will go. In the news the benchmark is that things will be tough through 2009 but should be improving in 2010. Yet, the reality is that this thing could be very very severe with the entire American financial system in complete meltdown at the extreme end. Even though the probability of that being on the low side, America could enter into a “dead economic period” such as that of Japan during the 90’s.

For me, all this economic talk does not affect me directly and will not until heaven forbid I get a pink slip from my employer. I hear all this bad economic talk but am still able to sell and did make goal last year and am just a bit under this year. Personally, I’ve never been in a better position financially. During the “boom times” I found it more difficult to maneuver than I do now so it would seem I move in an opposite way to the actual economy and what the news is broadcasting.

Even if I were to get laid off which is unlikely, I have an escape hatch right back to Asia where I could always find work even if there would be a big pay cut. For me, money does not translate to happiness. Happiness is reserved for new experiences and “living life to the fullest” which does not mean I have to spend money. The only area where money comes into play is providing for my wife and future family which would involve a house, kid etc.

Therefore, the only solution I can find to actually “be happier” is to cut out the news, ignore the honking horns and not rely on my environment to provide happiness but instead to make it a “mental state.” This can be done but I honestly think it was much easier to accomplish when I was in Asia.

Yet, should I move from San Francisco I know I would sorely miss this town just as I missed Tokyo when in Saigon, and Saigon now that I am here.

Therefore, what have I learned since being here?

1. Money does not buy happiness.
2. I am extremely restless always looking for new experiences.
3. The news does nobody any good and only puts me in a bad mood.
4. I am addicted to information (including the news) and will read it anyway.
5. It’s harder to relax in a city.
6. I really enjoy the peacefulness of my parents porch swing in Ohio but would get bored if I went there to live (In Ohio,,, not with my parents).
7. I like reading the Economist put get tired of the economic angle on everything and would really like to read more from a social point of view.
8. I am more informed but have less answers.

To wrap this post up, I feel as though it is not as exciting as my former posts. Yet, this is my mental state at the moment and it might make good reading for my expatriate/foreign friends. Now, the rest of the day will be spent at the gym, reading the economist and news and playing video games. Seems I’m in a bit of a cycle with no real out at the moment.


I'm Back Again!!!

I haven’t written an entry in years. You may think it’s because I ran out of stuff to say. But if you knew me, you know that that can’t be true….

Truth is, I fell into “gaming” again. I’ve been a “gamer” or video-gamer as they say since I was 6. The video game industry is a billion dollar industry and I’m sorry to say I’m a relatively major contributor.

Good news is I’ve finally broken free again. I go in cycles between gaming and being productive, but for the past year I got caught up in the games. The game this time was “World of Warcraft.” which happens to be the most popular “Massively Multi-player Online User Player Game” ever. As a nerd point of pride, I played Warcraft 1 and 2 before it was multi-user and had such popularity. Guess that fact just makes me more of a dork though.
For my fellow nerds who read this, these are the major games I have played in my life:

1. Phantasy Star 1 – Sega
2. Phantasy Star 2 – Genesis
3. Phantasy Star 3 – Genesis – Completely sucked
4. Warcraft – Computer
5. Warcraft II – Computer
6. Grand Theft Auto I and II – AWESOME!
7. Knight Online – Computer
8. World of Warcraft – Completely amazing.
But anywho, I’m back now, I’ve got the addiction under control again and will be productive. Please prepare for more posts, rants and picts!!

Culture Journal San Francisco

More Culture Shock

My culture shock has mostly abated and I’ve become accustomed to this different country called California. However, there are a couple of remnants left from the shock.

First, my girlfriend and I were coming home about 12:30am after visiting a friend’s house and saw a police helicopter with its spotlight on about a mile ahead of us. As we got closer there was a mob of people outside some club and more than a few cops in cars, bicycles and so on. As I looked to the left some cops already had a few people on the ground and in handcuffs. Up ahead cops cars were zooming here and there and that’s when I decided to put the car in reverse, head down an alley and go the opposite direction towards the freeway where I could go around the mayhem. Nothing was reported in the news the next day but my guess was that there was a fight in some club and one gang got into a fight with another gang. Boy it’s great to be back in America.

Then today I watched two different cop shows, one of which made me like the police and one that didn’t.

The first show was about a cop who is a “human punching bag.” This means he goes out into dark alleys appearing drunk and lets himself get mugged. It was all caught on camera and it was pretty cool how he started to get hit and then two huge cops came screaming in and tackled the bad guys to the ground. The mugger went from hunter to prey in a split second and the look of terror on the mugger’s face when a huge African American cop appeared out of nowhere and demolished the guy was priceless.

However, the second show “cops” wasn’t as endearing. It was basically undercover cops preying on the poor and destitute. They would go into poor neighborhoods and bait the guys selling drugs. Drug dealers are not good, but it would be much more heartwarming if they sent in people to try and help these people so they wouldn’t have to sell drugs. The cops in this show were egoistic turds who try to talk in a formal intelligent manner but lack the vocabulary and often get stuck while trying to form sentences with complex grammar and interspersed big words.

Goes something like this:

Cop: Do you have any paraphernalia on your person?
Victim: Nah man, I ain’t got sh*t.
Cop: (to the camera) It looks like this person is guilty of having narcotics on his,, um,, well it looks like he had some illegal stuff.

For the TV they also like to use a lot of force, yet quite interesting that all the people they tackled, slammed to the ground were black. The only white guys that were pulled over simply got a citation.

However, from living abroad, I’ve learned that there are always two sides to every story and it’s easy to see the same issue from different viewpoints. If I was a cop I would also get tired of dealing with these issues and it’s a tough job for them. But then again, all of the people in the show were uneducated and poor. In short, they need help instead of cops beating the hell out of them. There is no easy fix and I have no solution. Just an observation. Well, maybe I can offer an absurd solution just for fun. Perhaps if we just had a huge war in America like in Vietnam and millions got killed, slaughtered, maimed then we as a culture would tire of violence and become peaceful like the Cambodians and Vietnamese.

To have peace, maybe we should have more war until we are all exhausted or dead and then we could have a few decades of peace until we forgot what war was like and then start all over again!

Switching gears completely and going to a different subject that I really don’t want to devote an entire post to I’d like to draw attention to the fact that only in America, the philosophy as fed to us by the evil box seems to be that we can save money by spending it. I’ve seen commercial after commercial telling me “JUST LOOK HOW MUCH YOU SAVE BY BUYING OUR PRODUCT!!!! IT’S A MUST HAVE!!!!” —— Wouldn’t we save money by not spending it?