Thursday, May 05, 2005

The one where it's cinco de mayo...

First off, feliz cinco de mayo! I just love celebrations (of all persuasions. I also celebrate several wintertime holidays. Can't be content with just one of anything...) and this is a favorite.

On to less pleasant things... I am irate. And frightened. And a few other nameless-yet-terrifying emotions. Here's why:

So I'm driving to work this morning, having deposited the Bear at her loving home-away-from-home (aka Daycare), and listening to NPR on the radio. Since I'm rarely home in time to watch the news (and when I do watch it's pure and unadulterated CRAP), I get my news from NPR in the car. (I have an hour-long commute each way, so I'm usually fairly well-informed!)

At any rate, they're doing a series on the move toward conservative Christianity in politics, and I was reminded afresh why it is that I so fear my government. They had interviews with several people regarding the Ten Commandments statue that was removed from an Alabama courthouse. After the courts ordered it removed, someone apparently loaded it into the back of a pickup truck and is making a pilgrimage around the country with it. He stops in small towns and people hold rallies where they come to venerate this statue and reaffirm their desire for America to be run according to a strictly traditional, conservative, Judeo-Christian ideo-theology.

Let me pause here to say that I am, in fact, a Christian myself, and that I respect and admire people of faith. I *am* a person of faith.

However, I also respect and admire The Constitution, which, as I was always taught, provided for the Separation Of Church And State, and I admire the people who defend it and its purpose. (I mean the people who *actually* defend it, not the ones who swear they will uphold it, but only the parts that they like.)

What gets me is that this entire country was founded on freedom. The first settlers came here because there was no freedom of religion at home, and they wanted to live and believe and worship as they saw fit, without government interference. So, to America they came, to have that freedom.

May I also say at this point that there are two kinds of freedom: freedom *to* and freedom *from*. I think that in order to be truly free, we must have both kinds of freedom - the freedom to practice our own religion (or to practice no religion at all), and the freedom from having someone else's religion force-fed to us. Only when both freedoms are embraced can we truly consider ourselves free.

So why is it that, today, our government defiles the Constitution every waking minute, bringing conservative Christian values into our laws, into our homes, into our bedrooms, and even into our schools? I have absolutely no problem with people of faith being in charge of our country. What I DO have a problem with is the fact that they are imposing that faith on everyone - even people who do not share those values. Why should an atheist student be forced to recite the words “One nation, under God” in a public school, if he or she doesn't believe in a God? Why should a Buddhist juror be forced to serve jury duty in a courthouse dedicated to Judeo-Christian imagery? Why does my big green English textbook contain excerpts from the Bible, but not the Torah or the Koran? Why can't a non-Protestant get elected to the White House?

Why can't we let the people decide for themselves? This is not a theocracy - it's a democracy! (I think...)

I think that religious and/or moral instruction should be the province of parents, not the government. If you want to instill virtue and morals in your own children, excellent. It's all part of the “family values” that bind parents and children closer together. However, this is a country - not a family. George Bush is not my father, and his values are not my values. Why must I live my life according to his values? If you want to impose your religion on other people's children - we have a problem. Our government marginalizes people who don't buy into their religious values. That's not fair - or free.

It just seems to me that our country's decision-making process has turned from “what best serves the common good?” to “what would Jesus do?” And since millions of voting, tax-paying U.S. citizens don't claim Jesus, why should they have this set of values imposed on them?

So today, on a day that celebrates independence, I say a prayer (yes, a prayer) that some day we will truly gain the freedom that the first pilgrims were seeking - freedom for every single person, not just those who share the values of the majority.

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