Sunday, June 20, 2010

Discrimination: Alive and Well

Let's just suppose that an organization existed that didn't permit gays or atheists to join. Regardless of whatever good qualities this organization might have, would it be worthy of a formal legislative commendation?

A couple of Inland Empire politicians see nothing wrong with legitimizing this insidious form of discrimination. Assemblyman Curt Hagman and would-be assemblyman Mike Morrell have written the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin to condemn Democrats for refusing the pass a resolution honoring the Boy Scouts of America on its 100th birthday.

I don't quarrel with the Boy Scouts' right to determine its own membership qualifications, although I think what they've done is short-sighted in the least and actually downright bigoted. (Other organizations serving young people -- the Girl Scouts, Campfire, Boys and Girls Clubs, and probably a host of others -- have seen the light.) What I don't understand is the desire to celebrate and applaud discrimination, unless of course you approve of those views yourself.

Unfortunately, the Boy Scouts have lots of company when it comes to discrimination against atheists. During the past six months, I have had occasion to attend four meetings of public bodies. Three of them began with a sectarian, Christian prayer. Since I was there representing my employer, it would have been inappropriate for me to state openly what I felt -- namely, I felt unwelcome. More recently, the City Council in Ontario has voted to add "Under God" to the display of the City Seal in the Council chambers. [Note: Council meetings are presided over by a Mayor who has openly admitted to adultery.] I wonder whether they also plan to hang signs on all the roadways leading into town, announcing that "Atheists Are Not Welcome."

Some people claim that gays and lesbians should not be discriminated against because sexual orientation is not a choice. Personally, I've never been real happy with people who do (or believe) the right thing for the wrong reason. Gays and lesbians should not be discriminated against regardless of whether it's a choice or not. But this misguided line of reasoning, albeit somewhat helpful in a crooked way with regard to the sexual orientation issue, is clearly not helpful to atheists, who are making a deliberate choice. I feel confident in predicting that, at least in the United States ("the land of the free...with justice for all"), atheists will continue to experience discrimination for many generations -- long after gays and lesbians have been received into conventional society by everyone except members of the Flat Earth Society.

Will the Boy Scouts be accepting either type of person when it celebrates its 200th birthday? Only time will tell.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Fight Them Over There, Not Here?

The attempted terrorist bombing by Faisal Shahzad in New York City May 1, 2010, conclusively disproves the theory that "if we fight them over there, we won't have to fight them over here."

The truth is, apparently, that fighting them over there has little or nothing to do with fighting them over here. All of our efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, now spanning about eight years (twice the time it took to win World War II), have not resulted in an ability to keep would-be terrorists outside our borders or foil their plots in advance (no doubt with some exceptions).

Meanwhile, we continue to lose American lives -- for what? To prop up a corrupt Afghan government (NY Times, 6/13/10, p. A1) that puts the most flagrant of American political disasters to shame (ok, with the possible exception of Watergate)? To curtail violence in a country in which suicide bombers continue to wreak havoc not only on American soldiers but on their own indigenous population (LA Times 6/12/10, p. A8)?

Let's put things in perspective. This country was outraged, with good reason, when 2,976 people (not including the hijackers) were killed on 9/11/2001. Since then, approximately 4,400 members of the U.S. military have been killed in Iraq, and another 1,000 have been killed in Afghanistan. CNN estimates that approximately 50,000 NATO soldiers have been wounded in both areas combined (most of them American, no doubt, since we supply the vast majority of combat troops). Meanwhile, peace is still not at hand in either country.

Is this an intelligent course of action?

Might we not be spending our precious resources (both lives and money) more intelligently to improve border security and beef up real-time investigations of people who rent vehicles with cash and purchase large amount of fertilizer (the ingredient of choice in home-made bombs -- used, if you recall, with devastating impact in Oklahoma City)?

I know, these things are supposed to be complicated. But there comes a time when your gut should overrule your cortex (even presuming that a thinking person can still believe these efforts to be worth the cost), and you should just conclude "This makes no sense. We should get the hell out of there."