Sunday, May 31, 2009

Domestic Terrorism

If it is legally established that the killer of Dr. Tiller, a man who provided legal abortions in Kansas, was motivated to kill Dr. Tiller because of his profession, then the killer should be charged with terrorism. If this is the case and he isn't charged with terrorism as well as murder, it will be an injustice.

Dr. Tiller was attending church when shot and killed. He had survived a previous murder attempt ten years ago. The killings of physicians who perform legal, safe, medical procedures including abortions are blatant acts of terrorism because they have a political objective. It is a heinous act of violence against an individual and a message to other medical professionals who provide women's health services that religious fundamentalists often find objectionable.

Just as people killing in the name of Allah is of particular offense against humanity, so too is killings that find their inspiration in the religious texts of Christianity. We, as Americans, should come out strongly against anyone who would seek to terrorize our citizens. The networks that provide information on doctors who perform abortions to individuals considering and/or planning violence need to come under serious review by federal agencies and prosecuted vigorously. Terrorism, whether foreign born or domestically grown must be rejected on every level.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Add Meaning to "Family Values"

Social progressives have in front of us a time of real opportunity for having our positions more accurately represented within the political and cultural milieus. Further, this opportunity allows us to influence public policy and popular culture currently and in the future. Simply put, we have the floor- politically, socially and, I argue, morally.

It is the latter that I focus on here. Towards the end of bringing about a broadening and deepening of the dominant culture's understanding of and sanctity for human life, I suggest we shift then expand the meaning of the language put forward by the politically right of center folks over the past thirty years. Specifically, I believe we need to adopt the term "family values" and define it in a meaningful way for the twenty-first century.

If we are to be effective in shifting the direction of our political, economic and environmental systems, we must shift the idea of "family values" off of its fundamentalist Christian foundation and secure it as a cornerstone of secular cultural, political and economic values. Lets simplify the meaning of "Family Values" to family values, the valuing of families. If we adopt this shift of meaning, the public policies and private choices become less convoluted and more direct. When facing questions on such varying topics as tax code, marriage eligibility, school funding initiatives, or cause for war, we need to begin with two questions, "Does this serve our families?" and "Does this serve my family?"

Answering these simple questions will often become a complex endeavor, as the two answers may sometimes conflict. But at least we would have a clear focus on the conflicts as they arise. And the resolutions to conflicts would likely have a far greater humanitarian emphasis than we would otherwise have.

Certainly, answering these questions with the previous definition of family values has incited great eruptions of deep pain in many families. The previous definition of family values has little to do with the welfare of many families and everything to do with serving an ancient and often vague doctrine followed in a very specific way by a minority of Americans. A befuddling task indeed is serving this answer.

Focusing the debates on all manner of issues addressed in the political and economic sphere to answer "How does this serve our families," and "How does this serve my family," incidentally, would also clear up the Gay marriage issue. Does allowing Gays to marry cause immediate harm to my or other families? This question invites concrete answers that may help dispel the ether of religious doctrine that confuses the mind and seems to leave people unable to discern the difference between an idea and the agreed-upon "reality" that, by definition, must be shared in order to be valid.

Answering the questions, "Does this serve our families," and "Does this serve my family," may also lead us to conclusions that many among the more liberal left may find disconcerting. For example, does massive expenditures on failing individuals and failing families always make sense? Are there times when supporting the programs that benefit the higher functioning individuals and families make more sense when answering "Does this serve our families," even if the answer conflicts with the more individually focused, "Does this serve THIS family."

For example, does dumping hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars attempting to rehabilitate wayward individuals end up hurting the school programs that promote and support excellence in our communities when push comes to shove in the local government budget debates? Are there far less expensive ways to treat low-functioning individuals and families in a community setting?

Huge issues face the Gen Xers and those younger than us. Our strength is definitely our creativity. We have to come up with and follow through on the big answers, but we must ask the right questions before we can even begin. Let's ask the right questions, lets start with our families. And lets adapt family values to mean actually working on projects and policies that demonstrate our valuing of families.