The Real Captain America

Steve Rogers has been my hero since I was a kid in the 70s. His responsibility to the greater good and his belief in doing right regardless of reward or punishment inspired me. Cap led me to believe that we can all make a difference. That’s a tribute to the power of comic books to effect young hearts and minds. I hope these aspects of the character can still inspire kids in today’s world.

When I became a teenager I stopped getting comics, but I kept in touch with Captain America. I still think about how to apply the things I learned from Cap to real life. Cap reminds me to avoid thinking everything was better in my youth. However, he also reminds us all to avoid thinking everything new is good. Because he’s a man-out-of-time, Cap is able to represent a universal understanding of what’s important. Cap is able to see things more clearly than those of us who are trapped in one time and place. And Cap always thinks for himself.

I could be wrong but, as I get older, values unconstrained by time and place become clearer to me. One thing I still value is the Steve Rogers I knew as a kid.

When a character’s been around for a long time, and passed through the hands of many writers, the true version of the character has to be whatever general traits can be traced throughout all those years. Traits that have appeared rarely should be disregarded when discussing what a character is really like.

Cap was always a realistic representation of the old-fashioned hero: the kind, unselfish nice-guy. He promoted both freedom and responsibility. It’s interesting that Marvel comics (who pioneered the realistic, imperfect superhero) resurrected him. The resurrected Cap was an attempt to make the old-fashioned super-hero a realistic character rather than a cardboard cut-out. In spite of his feelings of being an outcast, Cap fit into the 1960s of the Marvel universe quite well.

Some superheroes teach you to do good in spite of your imperfections. Captain America taught us to do good in spite of humanities imperfections. I never wanted Steve Rogers to be more like us. I wanted him to inspire us to be more like him. He let us know goodness was worth celebrating.

Being a hero is not about being “cool”. It’s about doing the right thing regardless of reward or punishment. Cap was always about “not sinking to their level”. Cap had survivor’s guilt over the death of his partner and the loss of the world he knew. He drove himself so hard that he often neglected the personal relationships in his life. However, he never gave in to selfishness, negativity or violence. Being a hero is a burden. It’s a lonely path fighting for people who won’t help, don’t care or don’t get it. In spite of this, Cap still did the right thing and treated people with compassion. Cap never gave up in the face of humanities shortcomings. He never thought he was better than others or had a holier than-thou-attitude. He was an open, honest man of action.

Superhero stories are modern mythology. What they say about humanity and about right & wrong is more important than whether they have a realism that’s impossible with costumed characters possessing fantastic abilities. If realism is really so important people would complain more when heroes outrun explosions, run through hails of bullets unscathed and survive impossible amounts of destruction.

People say stories are more adult when heroes are selfish and violent; but most adults I know aren’t that way. Supposedly some writers do this to satirize our culture. However, when you sensationalize negative human traits without showing how to deal with them appropriately you’re just making the problem worse by glorifying it. I can appreciate anti-heroes, but I still look for my heroes to instruct and inspire me. A sophisticated superhero story requires better and smarter story telling- not graphic violence, selfishness, cynicism and hatred.

In a democracy we believe in a fair trial. Most police men and women spend entire careers preventing and solving crimes without having to kill anyone.  A hero is not a hero if he kills any sentient being unnecessarily- he’s a murderer. Contriving plots where the heroes take the same actions that bad guys do means that the only difference between the good guys and the bad guys is who wins. But this is totally incorrect; villains are villains because they do heinous things. If a hero does heinous things then he or she is not a hero.

To be considered realistic now-a-days a hero must believe that the ends justifies the means. Heroes supposedly have to “make hard choices” and “get their hands dirty”. We are told this so often we think a hero who does good is actually the one who’s being selfish. This is Orwellian. Sometimes I wonder if people now want their heroes to give them permission to be cruel and selfish. Well, I look to be inspired by my hero’s, not validated.

Evil is, above all, a lack of empathy. So a hero must have compassion for all life. After he was thawed from the ice, Cap demonstrated over and over that he was firmly opposed to killing. He never carried a gun. His weapon was his shield.

A hero can still be a realistic, flawed character without having to be a sociopath. Certainly Cap was. He constantly fretted over what was the right thing to do in every situation. Real heroes are honest with themselves and question the world around them. This made him more realistic than any angry, macho tough-guy.

This sort of hero is not unrealistic. They exist all around you. Normal, everyday people aren’t getting into fist fights with the minions of the Red Skull or Doctor Faustus, but they are doing the right thing regardless of reward or punishment. These are people who do what’s right for the greater good instead of what’s easy. People who speak out against injustice, greed, intolerance and cruelty, no matter who it upsets. People who take the time and effort to really research and understand the world around them. People who think for themselves. People who live their beliefs, who live with integrity, who don’t follow the crowd. People who don’t give in to hate and selfishness. These are the Steve Roger’s of the real world.

Steve Rogers grew up in the Great Depression, an era that saw more protests and marches against injustice than the nation has ever seen (including the 60s). He cam from an era that elected the most comparatively liberal federal government in history.

He signed up to fight fascism a whole year before the U.S. entered the war. He signed up because fascism was the opposite of everything he believed in- the ideals of the Great Depression. Ideals of brotherhood and sharing; ideals of looking out for the little guy and giving each other a helping hand. Ideals that promoted cooperation over greed, the greater good before profit and human rights before punishment. Ideals that helped create the prosperity of the 50s and 60s. Ideals that many “radicals” attempted to apply to all races, economic levels and nationalities in the 60s and the early 70s. Ideals that got lost in the backlash to the cultural revolution of the 60s. This made Cap seem more old-fashioned in the cynical 80s and 90s than he did in the swinging 60s and 70s.

The resurrected Cap was a left-winger who sided with the peaceful campus protestors of the 60s. He became best friends with a black social worker when “race-mixing” was still seen by many as a sin. Cap has always shown us (especially when he gave up the uniform and became Nomad and The Captain) that America is not the military or the government. It’s not even the country or the people. America is the dream of justice, freedom and equality. That’s what we can love and fight for.

If Steve Rogers was a real person (and a couple years older maybe) he would have joined the Abraham Lincoln brigade to fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War. If Steve Rogers really existed in today’s world his patriotism would be questioned because of his fight for social justice and the greater good.

I have to admit, I was happy when they killed off Steve Rogers a few years ago. Ed Brubaker wrote some of the best philosophical discussions about America in the history of Cap comics. But, unlike everybody else, I didn’t much care for his mediocre, historically-muddled tales of Cap as a militarized spy fighting the cold war and W.W. II long after they’ve ended. Brubaker was always more interested in Bucky than Steve Rogers.

Later, when they resurrected Steve I was excited to hear he was going to battle evil as plain-old Steve Rogers; rather than be limited by the “America” in “Captain America”. I was soon saddened to discover Marvel was going to make him even more militarized. His name was now “Super Soldier”? Working for government intelligence? Carrying a gun? Condoning torture? How do you take a character who spent 40 years spouting how he was against killing and turn him into a killer? I agree with Cap’s creator Joe Simon who said Cap shouldn’t be carrying a gun. If you’re going to changes the core traits of who a character is why not just write about a different character?

Cap now became a character that, contrary to 40 years of previous behavior, condoned torture, killing and letting others do his dirty work. Cap was no longer, in the words of Mark White “making sure every other possible option is considered, discovered or developed first”. He was no longer thinking out of the box.

For 40 years everyone always figured that, even in the fantasy world of comics, Cap might have killed during W.W. II. Many also figured it was equally possible that, being a fantasy, Cap didn’t kill during W.W. II. Intelligent people knew that on the rare occasions he was shown firing a gun, to provide cover or drive off enemies, that didn’t guarantee that Cap was killing anyone with it. There have been several occasions when Cap didn’t kill a soul but readers who weren’t paying attention thought that he did.

It was obvious to every intelligent person that killing during a war and killing during peacetime are considered two very different things. It was obvious that Cap was against killing accept when necessary during a just war. It was also obvious that he wasn’t going to fight in any of our unjust wars that had nothing to do with protecting America’s, or anybody else’s, freedom like Vietnam (which is why it was a disservice to the character to ever show him fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan).

I don’t know why Marvel felt it important to show Cap retroactively carrying a gun during W.W. II. Think about it: you’re writing stories about costumed characters who have fantastical abilities and you say “hey this unrealistic character needs to realistically carry a gun.” Kind of like worrying that the woodsman in “Little Red Riding Hood” shouldn’t be able to cut grandma (alive) out of the stomach of the talking wolf that had successfully impersonated her- because boy that would just make the story unrealistic!

You could certainly make a case, within the fantasy world of comics, that art-student Steve Rogers wasn’t comfortable with guns and he found that his shield was as effective as a gun at stopping his enemies. Before he went off to fight in the war Cap shouldn’t have been shooting the fascist spies he was bringing to justice anyways.

The other big change in Steve Rogers in the past decade has been an emphasis on the super-soldier to the detriment of the super-hero. Now he’s a regular army lover. For 64 years the story had been that Steve joined up, not because he wanted to be a soldier, not because his country was attacked, but because he saw Nazi evil devastating Europe a full year before Pearl Harbor and felt compelled to try to stop it. Steve Rogers served something bigger than the military or the government. He served the ideals of liberty, justice, equality and democracy.

In truth, Captain America has no more attachment to the military than the Sub-Mariner or the Human Torch or Wonder Woman. Yes, Cap often took orders from the government (by the way he was created by the FBI in the original comic- not the military), but so did the heroes mentioned above and nobody thinks of them as soldiers. If Dr. Erskine hadn’t been killed and there had been a battalion of super-soldiers then he would have been a soldier. But that’s not what happened, the government turned him into a super-HERO.

Steve Roger’s is Captain America, not Captain Military or Captain Government or Captain Espionage. When he was created in 1940 Captain America was not a real Captain anymore than Captain Underpants. Private Steve Rogers was like the real men who fought World War II; when they returned to civilian life they considered themselves former soldiers, not career soldiers. Cap was created a full year before the war and his purpose was to fight fascists in the U.S. not to become one.

Cap was referred to as a “crime fighter”in his second issue. In his first issue he’s referred to as an “agent”. He’s never referred to as a super-soldier. This term didn’t even exist in Captain America comics until the 1960s when it became the name of the formula used on him. When he was resurrected in Avengers #4 Cap was referred to by Thor as a “crime fighter” not a war hero or soldier. It was obvious his military service was completed when he fell into those frozen waters in 1945. Cap only visited Vietnam twice during the 60s, and both times on rescue missions. You certainly never saw him wearing any “Army” logo t-shirts before the 21st century.

Cap as a tool of the military-industrial complex began to creep in during the late 90s. It really set in after the Iraq war began and Brubaker’s first issue turned him into a militaristic killer. It’s been echoed by many other writers since then. This was probably a marketing ploy to sell more Cap comics by tying into the increased militarism of the US. It also reflected the popularity of the “Ultimate’s” take on superheroes as soldier-types.

Steve Rogers came from an era that had been against a large standing army for 160 years. They were willing to fight when absolutely necessary but they didn’t worship the military like we do now. A militarized Cap no longer represents all of us- as he was intended by Simon & Kirby.

In the late eighties and early nineties Cap’s personality started to get a little uptight, but his morals will still basically the same morals he always had. But by the turn of the century he was beginning to seem like someone else. Someone I didn’t want to keep in touch with anymore so I ended my subscription; but I still kept an eye on what was going on with my childhood hero. There were still a few bright moments to come, like Rieber’s Marvel Knight’s stories and Caps’ stand during the Civil War storyline. These stories show that Cap can still behave with the same morals he’s always had in a more realistic, modern setting. And his ideals and morals still forced their way to the surface in some wonderful speeches by Christopher Preist and, in the midst of his destruction of the character of Steve Rogers, by Ed Brubaker. But Steve Rogers was becoming less of an example of the best of what we all could be and more of an example of what we as a nation had become- violent, self-deluded, selfish, harsh and amoral.

Many have tried to excuse this by saying that the evil Cap must fight now is more powerful and evil than the bad guys of the past. Really? The super-villians now are more powerful than the ones with nukes and death ray sattelites from the past?  Why do we think circumstances are so unique today? This has probably been used as an excuse to behave amorally since mankind began.

Cruelty has always been cruelty, deceit has always been deceit, war has always been war, torture has always been torture, killing has always been killing. If Cap could fight Nazis while without compromising his integrity why can’t he do it now? Is there a more insidious evil than Nazis? Most heroes, and those who write them, have given up being creative enough to find alternates to killing and torture.

Since Steve became Cap again recently he seems to be more like his old self, but I still worry. Cap is in another transitional period. Steve Rogers needs to be more of an example of the American dream and less an example of sullenness, militarism and arrogance.

Thankfully, all the film versions of Steve Rogers had the attitude of that good man I knew. His moral code regarding killing was not all it should be in the recent films, but he was still basically the same guy. The movies also gave Cap a better sense of humor.

Wholesome heroes can have a sense of humor- just look at every issue of Spider-Man and all the golden-age Captain America and Superman comics (or even Jack Kirby’s 1970s Cap stories where he and the Falcon were portrayed, quite appropriately, as two happy-go-lucky jocks). Chris Evan’s Steve could smile more, but he’s still someone you’d enjoy hanging out with as well as someone you admire. Steve Rogers is, as Prof. Erskine said in the film, “a good man”.

Due to their fantastical nature, superheroes are the most useful when they are family entertainment (in other words, entertaining for both kids and adults). Kids today need a compassionate, selfless Cap who’s top priority is the common good. They need to see that heroism is not about militarism. They need to see that heroism is not about being the toughest or the meanest or the sneakiest.

Kids need Steve Rogers. The one who’s against lying and killing. The one who fights for social justice. So this essay is one childhood comic geek’s way of taking a stand for what he believes in- the best of all possible Captain Americas.

Creationism

Jesus himself believed we should think for ourselves and avoid literal-mindedness. For our children to be able to think for themselves and avoid literal-mindedness, we should teach them facts. Facts are based on evidence. These are the facts: there is ample evidence for evolution and no real evidence, in spite of creationist claims, to disprove it.  

Evolution, although generally proceeding at an incredibly slow rate, has also occurred rapidly and can be observed in nature and measured in the laboratory. It can be observed as new bacteria and viruses evolve resistance to antibiotics. It can be observed in domestic breeding of animals and plants. If you admit variations within a species of animal (like the many different breeds of the domestic dog) then you must admit the possibility that such variations could cause enough changes within a group to make new species.  

Genetic science is powerful evidence in support of evolution. Evolution is caused by natural non-mutational variation (like one individual has darker fur and another has lighter fur).  Molecular biology has shown that variation in genes within a species is huge and most mutations are small scale and don’t effect evolution of the species. Genetics’ vast evidence of the similarity of our genes to those of other species is powerful evidence that we have ancestors in common with those other organisms.

Modern domestic dogs share similarities with wolves. If you admit that, due to their similar traits, all domestic dogs are related then you must admit that their similarity to wolves might make them related to wolves. They share lesser similarities with other four-legged, furred mammals, so (based on a belief about the relationship between wolves and dogs) they’re distantly related to them. This belief can be extended to all living things.

Claims that evolution is statistically impossible are misleading. Statistics describe the likelihood of something happening, not whether it CAN happen. The chance of a specific result increases with increased chances, but the probability stays the same. Every time you flip a coin the chance is 50/50, but the more times you flip the coin the more tails will turn up.  There are statistically impossible things happening every day.  An unlikely event is likely to happen because there are so many unlikely events that could happen.  It’s the same for evolution. Over millions of years improbable things will happen- often.

Also erroneous is the belief that complex body parts couldn’t evolve in piece-meal fashion because simpler precursors would not be useful.  Actually many precursors are of value: like proto-eyes in flatworms and other animals. If something complex couldn’t come from simpler parts then a zygote would never develop into a baby. Also, researchers at Michigan State have created a computer program (available on the internet) of randomly evolving digital organisms called Avida which shows that irreducibly complex things can evolve from simpler precursors.

Intermediary precursors of modern species are extinct because the reason those intermediaries evolved into new species is because they were not adapted as well to survive changes in their environment. There is an abundance of fossil evidence of evolutionary pre-cursor and intermediary species. The age of these fossils can be measured by carbon dating and by their location in layers of bedrock. There are plenty of intermediate forms of human ancestors that have been found in the fossil record.

Of course there will always be “missing links”. Fossilization and other such processes are rare in nature and only happen to certain kinds of living tissue. It’s absurd to expect that examples of all past organisms will have been fossilized and discovered. While radioactive dating of fossils is only accurate to within about a few million years, this is not as alarming a margin of error when you are dating ancient rock strata. For example, a fossil found in rock strata that is 380 million years old, plus or minus a margin of error of three million years, is still definitely at least 377 million years old. Extremes of temperature and pressure do not alter radioactive decay dates.

The prediction of rock ages based on where they are layered has always matched radioactive dating tests of the same rock. Areas where fossils are out of sequence with this fact are caused by geologic events that we are well aware of such as mountain formation and erosion. There is an incomplete record of sedimentary rock, which is where most fossils are found, because sedimentary rock is created by bodies of water depositing sediments. Throughout Earth’s long history (the oldest rock strata identified is around four billion years old- give or take a couple million years) oceans would cover vast areas of land for a long time then retreat and uncover those areas for a long time. When the oceans withdrew those top layers of sediment eroded away, leaving no fossil record.  Places the ocean never covered didn’t accumulate any sedimentary rock.  So no place on the planet has a complete sedimentary rock record.

Evolution does not violate our understanding of entropy. The law of entropy applies to closed systems- which the Earth is not. Species and their environments are not chaotic systems because chaotic systems are not complex.  Chaos theory tells us that complex systems self-organize (the opposite of entropy) until they reach a critical state which causes change to occur. Like sand in an hourglass that creates a perfectly organized pile.

Evolution is a theory. A scientific theory is an explanation of the evidence in the world around us that has not been proven wrong.  Gravity is a theory. In fact, since nothing can be proven true, only proven wrong, everything factual is a theory.

Genesis’ account of the creation of the universe may (or may not) have been meant as a story, not to be taken literally. Just because it’s written down doesn’t make the creation story factual. There are many written accounts of many things throughout history but that does not make them true. Stories are not evidence. 

In a discussion of what should be taught in school, whether or not the Bible is factual is irrelevant. Public schools represent everyone in the society we live in. Our forefathers created a separation of church and state.  They wanted everyone to be, in the words of Ronald Reagan, “free to believe or not believe” and “free to practice a faith or not”. 

Schooling exists to impart knowledge, facts, analysis and reasoning (or at least it should). Religion exists to explain things that cannot be explained by knowledge, facts, analysis or reason. The religious story of creation, whether it’s Christian, Hindu, Druid or Native American, has no place in the public school curriculum. Evolution, a theory accepted by the scientific community for over 150 years, does have a place in the public school science curriculum.

Charles Darwin was a former divinity student who didn’t let his beliefs get in the way of his seeing the reality around him.  He was able to ask questions and seek answers, just as Jesus encouraged us to.  Evolution is not anti-religion; why do some people need religion to be anti-evolution?

Democracy Sits Down

Winston Churchill said “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the other forms that have been tried…” A government is supposed to represent the people. People ought to be able to decide how things are run in their own country and democracy is the way to do that. So why was Churchill so critical of it? Well, he didn’t trust the common people too much. A lot of common people agree with Churchill though because, when done right, democracy is messy and that makes most people nervous.

However, the real drawback to democracy appears to be that it exposes the minority to the tyranny of the majority. But in modern democracy this majority is in turn exposed to the tyranny of a moneyed-elite minority that controls the debate and the levers of power. So the end result is that modern democracy exposes the powerless minority and the powerful majority to the tyranny of a super-powerful minority. It seems to me that this could be fixed by having a system that is set up properly.

A proper democracy, that serves everyone, is like a stool- it supports all those who rest on it. A proper stool must have 3 legs:

First and foremost, it MUST have a comprehensive set of rights that the state guarantees to all citizens (so if financial institutions, corporations or the majority try to act against the good of the community the set of rights will stop them- if the second leg of a true democracy is in place).

The second leg is that it must keep money completely out of politics (which will promote a government that acts for the good of the whole community instead of just the moneyed-elite).

The third leg is that it must have decentralized decision-making for it to be democracy in the first place. If decisions are centralized then they are made by the few but democracy is decision-making by everyone.

So it seems to me that the state should represent:
The right’s of the individual 1st,
The current will of the people 2nd
And the profits of business last

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Christianity

As they decry the imaginary “war on Christmas” you sometimes hear fundamentalist Christians claim a similarity between the imagined persecution they fear and the real persecution experienced by the civil rights movement. They try to claim that the great prophet of the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., would be on their side.

Some of them think that, because we talk about MLK’s works and actions and speeches regarding our lives here on Earth, that we are forgetting how important Christianity was to him. They think the fact that he was a Baptist minister means he would agree with their beliefs. In fact, if you know anything about Martin Luther King, you know that he was undeniably a left-wing radical.

The sanitized Martin Luther King we will hear about next month is a pale reflection of the passionate radical who worked to change the system of oppression of blacks and poor people. This radicalism had traces back to another radical- Jesus of Nazareth.

The teachings of Jesus were the most important ideas in King’s life.  The second greatest influence on King was the Declaration of Independence and the ideas upon which the United States were founded.  King’s dream, from his famous speech, was the American dream.

Dr. King’s morality stemmed from Jesus’ teachings, not because he would miss out on everlasting life if he ignored them, but because the teachings of Jesus made sense morally and intellectually. Dr. King studied many great thinkers such as Kant, Aristotle, Hegel and many others. Rev. King was totally against communism and fascism but he was not afraid to read the writings of Marx or even Hitler, because he knew that, as Jesus said “There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those can defile a man.” Dr. King thought deeply about things and his ideas changed as his knowledge and understanding grew. This is because he knew “Seeds that fall on rocky ground” as Jesus said, “soon whither because their roots have no depth.”

King was a Social Democrat who said, “You have what you have because of others; let us be concerned about others because we are dependent on others.” King talked of a parable in which Jesus called a man a fool because the man “failed to realize that wealth is always the result of commonwealth. This man talked like he could build the barns by himself, like he could till the soil by himself. He also failed to realize his dependence on God. Do you know that man talked like he regulated the seasons? He was a fool because he ended up acting like he was the creator instead of just a creature.” The early Christians would be considered socialists. As Acts 2:45 tells us, they “sold their possessions and shared out the proceeds among them according to what each one needs”.

Dr. King’s greatest concern became economic justice for all people. He said that “any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that cripple the souls –the economic conditions that stagnate the soul and the city governments that may damn the soul –is a dry, dead, do-nothing religion in need of new blood.” Dr. King heeded Jesus when he said, “The kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” In other words, the kingdom of heaven is what we make of the here and now.

Dr. King called for economic and social justice for poor people of all races. “Sometimes a class system” he said, “can be as vicious and evil as a system based on racial injustice.” He also said, “It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.” Rev. King knew that poor people could never truly participate in the American dream. As he said, “If a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists.” King called upon Congress to enact legislation guaranteeing all Americans a living wage. He condemned the behavior of those who, as Jesus said “make heavy packs and pile them on men’s shoulders and do not raise a finger to lift the load themselves”.

Dr. King criticized the greed of modern society. He knew from Jesus that, “No man can serve God and money.” “We spend millions of dollars a day to store surplus food,” Dr. King said, “But I want to say to America ‘I know where you can store that food free of charge: in the wrinkled stomachs of the millions of God’s children who in Asia and Africa and South America and in our own nation who go to bed hungry tonight.”

Martin Luther King Jr. supported the idea of unions because of his belief in the teachings of the gospels. “The worker deserves his wages,” said Jesus. “I’m tired of this stuff about menial labor.” remarked Dr. King, “What makes it menial is that we don’t pay folks anything. Give somebody a job and pay them some money so they can live and educate their children and buy a home and have the basic necessities of life and no matter what the job is it takes on dignity.”

Rev. King believed in non-violence. He said, “We have a method as old as the insights of Jesus of Nazareth and as modern as the techniques of Mohandas K. Gandhi. We need not hate; we need not use violence.” Rev. King also protested the “unjust and senseless war in Vietnam.” “Blessed are the peacemakers”, said Jesus. It is a historical fact that the early Christians were opposed to military service and war. King said Congress appropriates “military funds with generosity” but “poverty funds with miserliness”. He saw a connection between economic injustice and militarism.

Martin Luther King Jr. believed in compassion for all people. He knew Jesus preached, “Be merciful. I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Jesus also said “You judge according to the flesh, I judge no one.” While Rev. King strongly condemned any ideas and behaviors that led to the ill treatment of people, he didn’t demonize his opponents. Dr. King and the non-violent civil rights movement were not in the least bit interested in punishment. They were interested in equal application of human rights to all people, including their opponents.  Rev. King sought to expand, not restrict, the rights of all people. King was never interested in moral sanctions. Referring to the eighth chapter of First Kings he said, “God does not judge us by the separate incidents or the separate mistakes we make, but by the total bent of our lives. Salvation isn’t reaching the destination of absolute, perfect morality; but it is being in the process and on the right road. ‘It is well that it was within thine heart.’ says the Bible”

Dr. King did not believe Christian faith was a rulebook to follow letter by letter; he knew Jesus said he brought “a new covenant of the spirit not the letter. For the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.” Dr. King believed that it is the spirit of the Bible, specifically the teachings of Jesus who is the reason for the entire Christian religion, which we should follow.  We must try to understand, as imperfectly as we can, the general meaning of the Bible. To Dr. King, getting lost in the letter of the Bible is to miss the spirit of it.  It is to miss the whole point of Jesus’ teachings.

King was forced by the evils of the time to defy amoral laws. By willingly going to jail, Dr. King demonstrated the greatest respect for the law (just like Jesus and many of today’s freedom lovers around the globe and in the United States).  He demonstrated the importance of laws by drawing attention to ones that were unjust or unjustly applied. Like Jesus, Dr. King was killed for challenging traditional belief. But left-wingers like Jesus and Dr. King made things better for us all in the long run.

Religious freedom day occurs about the same time of year as Martin Luther King Day. It was inaugurated by one of our more religious presidents, Franklin Roosevelt, at a time when America was more liberal, but also less tolerant of differences. Despite the victories against prejudice by Rev. King and those in the civil rights movement, we should still be concerned about prejudice against religion, not against our dominant Christian faiths but against non-Christian’s whether they are Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu or Atheist for that matter. Dr. King would not want our country’s laws and statutes to be based on a literal interpretation of the Christian Bible.

King once said in regards to the Supreme Court decision outlawing school prayer: “I think it was correct. Contrary to what many have said it sought to outlaw neither prayer nor belief in God. In a pluralistic society such as ours, who is to determine what prayer is to be spoken, and by whom?  Legally, constitutionally or otherwise, the state certainly has no such right. I am strongly opposed to the efforts that have been made to nullify the decision.”

The Reformation ended the Catholic Church’s monopoly on Christianity. It stemmed from a conviction that a person didn’t need a dogmatic, top-down, rule-bound, controlling priesthood to tell people what God wanted. People had the freedom to discover for themselves what the mystery of God meant to them. Dr. King knew this so he didn’t spend a lot of time telling people what to do in their private lives.

Rev. King risked his life by following the teachings of Jesus.  In a conservative country such as the United States, the civil rights movement faced an exponentially greater and stronger opposition than any fundamentalist Christians do today. Any movement that demands a non-dogmatic, compassionate, collective and progressive approach to solving common problems still faces massive resistance in our country.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s beliefs drove his actions, not just in a single speech in 1963, but throughout his life and ministry. I wish I could follow the teachings of Jesus half as well as Martin Luther King Jr. did.

 

Why Education?

I believe the purpose of education is to facilitate children’s safe exploration of themselves and the world around them. As they are the future, children need to be given the tools to create that future as they wish it to be.

Children need to be allowed to instinctively use their individual powers and abilities to safely learn about themselves. This helps them, and us, to discover how they learn best.

In order to explore the world around them, and to create the future they will live in, children need to learn about the facts and they need to be taught and shown that there are no ideas we should be afraid to consider- only bad actions.

I believe the best purpose of education is to help children be able to learn and think and decide for themselves. One of the best ways educators can do this is by fostering a love of learning in our children. A child that loves to learn will learn.

I believe, as did Einstein, that imagination is more important than knowledge; but I also strongly believe that knowledge creates the most useful basis and springboard for the imagination. Teachers should encourage students to be curious observers, experimenters and self-evaluators. Teachers can best do this through example.

I believe the ability to learn new skills is more important than the specific skills themselves. A useful attitude is the most important tool a person can have. A successful attitude can allow a child to be imaginative and to acquire the knowledge and skills they need.

In order to allow children to use their natural abilities we should provide many pathways for them to learn. Providing few alternate ways to learn insures that students who can’t learn in the narrow, accepted way will fail over and over. Multiple alternatives to learn allow students to fail at some ways and succeed at others. As they learn which methods of learning work for them they will use those methods more often. This will increase their success and increase their enjoyment of the learning process. Also, it will make them less afraid to try those other ways of learning that haven’t worked so well for them. In this way they can also gain some ability in those more difficult areas. There are many ways we all live our lives, why should we pretend there is only one way to learn?

If schools exist to create valuable citizens of a democracy then they cannot be factories for churning out good little minions who don’t ask questions, who always believe what they’re told, who can’t think for themselves and who don’t rock the boat. In a democracy citizens must be seekers of knowledge. This means schools can’t be afraid of less orthodox ways of thinking or of undeniable facts that contradict our societal myths.

I am a firm believer in a well-rounded education. No one can predict where the future will lead a child. Children should be taught their responsibility to the future, but they should also be taught their responsibility to the present. Freedom without a sense of responsibility (towards others and towards oneself) creates immaturity and selfishness. Freedom with responsibility creates maturity.

To Make a Better World You Have to Imagine a Better World

• Weekends
• 40 hr. work weeks
• Minimum wage
• Child Labor laws
• Desegregation
• Democracy
• The end of slavery
• The fire department
• The post office
• The middle class
• Unemployment benefits
• The Bill of Rights
• Universal suffrage
• Clean air and water
• Retirement
• Equal rights
• Human rights
• Public education
• Public Transportation
Just a few of the things brought to you by left-wing radicals.

Decisions, Decisions

There are an almost infinite number of perspectives on any story/argument. The best way to make a decision is to be aware of as many of those perspectives as possible.

Once you see all those perspectives though, that doesn’t mean they are all valid perspectives.
Some of them are not factual like- “the moon is made of Swiss cheese”.
Some make no sense like- “2+2=bananas”.

Also, some perspectives are more morally valid than others.
For example, Hitler looked like a great guy from the perspective of shareholders making money in weapons manufacturing.
However, this perspective is not as morally valid as the point of view of millions of Jews- to whom he was evil.

So the key is to be aware of as many perspectives on an issue as possible and then rank them according to:
1.) FACTUALITY
2.) REASON
3.) MORALITY

You can’t make a good decision without all three of these considerations combined.

…Or you can be lazy and fearful and just follow orders: whether they be “God’s” or your bosses or the Law or the TV or the Corporations or your neighbors…