Monday, March 27, 2006

Michelle Malkin: Village idiot...

Ah yes, Michelle Malkin piled onto the story of a little black girl who expresses her father's racially motivated rage. Autum Ashante's poem White Nationalism Put U in Bondage compares Christopher Columbus and Charles Darwin to vampires who sucked the blood out of black people. The poem express disgust at the way whites have addressed and continue to handle race in our country. While I don't agree with the message, I can't argue the fact that whites have inflicted a lot of harm on people of color and I can't be surprised if once in a while people in certain minorities are inclined to hate whites.

It's sad that Autum's father has raised her in this culture of hatred but what is even more tragic is the fact that idiots like Michelle Malkin seem to think that this one girl's poem is the result of social programs designed to help black people attain some success in our society. Malkin goes on in her March 15th column to complain about affirmative action and cultural sensitivity:

"Who is surprised? If you set aside a separate holiday for Black History Month in the public schools, if you set aside separate graduation ceremonies, college dorms, academic departments, recruiting programs, and government contracts and subcontracts by race, you send a message that hard-core racial separatism is not only acceptable -- but desired.

Autum Ashante' is the natural offspring of militant multiculturalism and government-sanctioned identity politics. We reap what we sow."

So in Michelle's world it would appear that we could have achieved racial harmony if Abe Lincoln would have just stayed out of slavery and minded his own business. And here I thought that people like Autum's father were angry over things like racist cops and a clear bias against blacks in our criminal justice system.

The poem has been denounced, by people like Michelle Malkin, as racist. However, I didn't pick up on racial undertones in this poem, I simply saw a different perspective:

White Nationalism Put U In Bondage

White nationalism is what put you in bondage
Pirate and vampires like Columbus, Morgan, and Darwin
Drank the blood of the sheep, trampled all over them with
Steel, tricks and deceit.
Nothing has changed take a look in our streets
The mis-education of she and Hegro — leaves you on your knee2grow
Black lands taken from your hands, by vampires with no remorse
They took the gold, the wisdom and all of the storytellers
They took the black women, with the black man weak
Made to watch as they changed the paradigm
Of our village
They killed the blind, they killed the lazy, they went
So far as to kill the unborn baby
Yeah White nationalism is what put you in bondage
Pirates and vampires like Columbus, Morgan, and Darwin
They drank the blood of the sheep, trampled all over them with
Steel laden feet, throw in the tricks alcohol and deceit.
Nothing has changed take a look at our streets.

Where's the smoking gun, Michelle? This is the poem that stirred up a hornets nest but I don't see a call to arms. What I read is a lot of pent up frustration with centuries of racial injustice. This is not the racist anthem it has been made out to be. It's simply a matter of white people not liking the message. Perhaps the guilt is a little thick.

It's interesting, I searched Michelle's archives and I never saw her stop to write an article about Lamb and Lynx Gaede. The twin sisters are better known as the musical duo Prussian Blue, a white nationalist band that specializes in charming Neo-Nazi rally music. The name refers to claims made by holocaust deniers alleging that the levels of Prussian Blue in the walls of gas chambers proves that they were not used to exterminate Jews. How's that for endearing?

The girls and their supporters claim that they don't sing about hate, but rather promote a message of racial pride but their song Victory Day clearly speaks of ethnic cleansing and refers to a bloody purging. Perhaps that's just a metaphor. Other songs feature similar lyrics. These girls even celebrate Adolph Hitler as a hero, wearing shirts adorned with a smiling caricature of the wayward dictator. The man was misunderstood!

Michelle Malkin actually did refer to the Aryan duo in her article lamenting the outburst of the seven year-old Autum Ashante. Michelle wondered if the media (read liberals) would be as outraged over Autum as they were over Prussian Blue. The answer is probably not.

The reason is simple, Autum Ashante doesn't represent a strong organized movement that endorses genocidal slaughter. Autum's poem expresses her father's frustration with racial prejudice and social injustice. It's misguided and unfortunate but Autum and her father do not speak on behalf of a culture of racism. The Gaede girls are Neo-Nazi propagandists who embrace genocide. Autum doesn't sell albums, Prussian Blue does. You can't compare an angry black man and his daughter to the Aryan Nation anymore than you can compare Al Sharpton to Adolph Hitler.

The difference between black and white racism is the results. Black people have never oppressed whites. Black racism is born out of frustration. It's only logical that some black people might succumb to anger after years of getting nowhere with reason. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were civil rights heroes who were both gunned down in their prime. John F. Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy were committed to Civil Rights legislation and they were killed as well. It's not surprising that Autum wrote this poem, it's surprising more black children don't feel equally inclined.

Sadly, it's the outrage expressed by the likes of Michelle Malkin that reveal the racism that still dominates our society. Michelle and other white columnists made a big issue of this story and went out of their way to characterize the Ashantes as bigots, but the poem doesn't reveal any bigotry at all. It expresses outrage at the attitudes maintained by racist twits like Malkin.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Conservatives and Yellow Journalism.

By now everybody has heard about Franklin County Common Pleas Judge John A. Connor, who was vilified by the likes of Bill O'Reilly for sentencing "a convicted child rapist" to probation. Even though the sentence was imposed months ago...December, in fact...this story wasn't media fodder until the end of March. Why the delay? Political gamesmanship. Elections are coming this fall and Republicans are at risk. They need fodder and Judge Connor is a Democrat. If they can demonstrate that Liberals are sympathetic to child rapists, they won't have to face real issues. Papa Bear Bill O'Reilly was more than happy to sensationalize this story by omitting the facts.

What facts? Well how about the facts that implicate Republican Prosecutor Ron O'Brien? O'Brien has served as the Franklin County Prosecutor for a couple of terms and with embattled Governor Bob Taft on his way out, he is looking at advancing to a state post. He's had his sights set on the Auditor's office for sometime and might upgrade to Attorney General depending on which chair is open when the party music stops playing. O'Brien is the man in charge of all of the criminal cases tried in Franklin County, where Andrew Selva allegedly raped two boys and where Judge Connor sentenced Selva to a treatment program and house arrest. Of course, the conservative wags told the country that it was probation.

What O'Reilly didn't tell you is that Selva was originally charged with 20 counts of rape, but that those were dismissed in September of 2004 due to lack of evidence and inconsistent testimony. In March of 2005, the prosecutor negotiated a deal instead of seeking another indictment. The deal included two counts of sexual battery and a stipulation that the prosecution would not submit a sentence recommendation. A week later Selva pleads guilty to the sexual battery charges before Judge Connor and the judge orders a sentencing investigation. In December of 2005 Connor sentenced Selva to a year of house arrest and five year's probation.

Connor's rationalization of the sentence is reasonable. Through the investigation he discovered that Selva had no prior record. Witnesses for the prosecution and defense indicated that it was unlikely Selva would offend again and Selva had voluntarily committed himself to a sexual-offender counseling program. Since the deal presented to the court indicated that Selva had committed no sex acts against anybody after November of 2002, Connor had to presume that Selva had ceased criminal conduct for a period of at least 3 years.

According to the facts of the case presented to him, Connor imposed a fair sentence. Connor couldn't take the original charges into consideration as they were dismissed. Connor had to act only on the case presented to him, which did not include charges of rape, or a sentencing recommendation. In Connor's eyes, the prosecution did not see Andrew Selva as a threat to the community, and Connor did not see the benefit of a prison sentence. Instead Selva is under intensive supervision for a period of at least five years.

I agree that child molesters should be dealt with severely, but the burden of holding criminals accountable for their crimes falls on the shoulders of the Prosecuting Attorney. That's why we elect them. Judges aren't supposed to impose harsh sentences, the prosecutor is supposed to convince the judge they are necessary. Ron O'Brien's involvement in the case is unknown. It was handled by assistant prosecutors. That alone speaks volume as to the urgency O'Brien placed on the case. Had he felt that Selva was a threat to the community he would have taken more control over the case. Instead it was left to flunkies who negotiated a slap on the wrist sentence with an accused child rapist.

Judge Connor did his job. He followed sentencing guidelines and imposed a punishment that fit the crime. He's not the bad guy. Neither is Selva. If the victims and the people were let down in this case it was by a prosecutor more concerned with his climb up the political ladder than the cases before his office. Ron O'Brien is the one to blame.

Shame on the press, especially the conservative pundits, who piled on to this story without verifying the facts. They turned it into a political ambush by characterizing Connor as an incompetent activist judge. And they have the audacity to claim a liberal bias?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Worst President Ever

I was once told that George W. Bush would one day be revered as our greatest president. It astounded me that somebody I thought to be intelligent would make such an outlandish statement, but it made me stop and think about things a little differently. After careful consideration I doubt history will be kind to Bush.
Maybe I can’t get past my liberal bias. Maybe my judgment is clouded. Nevertheless, I believe Bush is the worst president ever.

That’s a bold statement. We’ve had some real dirt bags hold the office of President. While it’s true that the harsh edges of a poorly run administration can be softened overtime, the volume of Bush’s ineptitude is staggering . His body of work is such a complete and total mess, that the sands of time won’t polish his presidency, but rather reveal more of its flaws. It’s possible Bush will go down as one of the worst world leaders ever. The fact that he acquired and retained power in two highly questionable elections ranks him just below dictators who made a name for themselves slaughtering millions of people.

Where has he gone wrong? It would be easier to list the few things he’d done right, which would be...I’ll have to get back to you on that. But for the sake of argument (and brevity) I’ve compiled a list of five key issues:

1. Taxes

Blame Bill Clinton all you like, but facts are facts. The economy was stagnant under the first Bush, it boomed under Clinton and then collapsed under the second Bush. The only explanation is tax policies.

George W. Bush had no reason to change the economic climate when he took office. By cutting taxes he sent a strong economy into a tailspin. The reason the economy boomed under Bill Clinton is because the lower and middle class were shouldering a smaller tax burden which prompted them to spend the money they were saving. This resulted in increased production levels, created more jobs and eventually increased wages. Classes of people who never purchased stock were suddenly investing and global markets surged. Most importantly the dreaded national debt, which had spiraled out of control under Reagan and Bush, was being paid off. Consumer confidence was high.

George W. Bush wasted billions of dollars issuing a tax rebate. It was a shameless ploy to curry favor with the voters and sneak a massive tax break to large corporations. As businesses recognized the fiscal irresponsibility of this, production slipped and jobs were lost. Large businesses and wealthy people weren’t as motivated to stimulate the economy, because Bush was giving them their money in the form of tax cuts and rebates. While the everyday tax payer got a check for $300, corporations were getting huge breaks on fees and taxes and also getting rebates to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Under Clinton the wealthiest entities had to make their money, under Bush they got to keep it. Money doesn’t really trickle down. It’s like salmon, it swims upstream to spawn.

2. Disaster Relief

Moving ahead to the 2005 hurricane season, Bush was accused of making many mistakes, but the harsh reality is that he was powerless to stop the storms and the evacuation efforts are responsibilities that fall on the shoulders of the local authorities. Still, after being briefed on the magnitude of Katrina and the potential disaster, Bush could have gone out on a limb and taken charge of the situation. Instead he deferred to local officials. He didn’t want to be the one crying wolf if the storm weakened or turned away at the last minute. That’s selfish, but not atypical. The Mayor of New Orleans and the Governor of Louisiana did the same thing. Nobody wants to be Chicken Little.

Where Bush made the mistake was in the economic impact of the storm. The country was just starting to realize a sustained improvement in economic conditions. Job growth was inching ahead and production was improving. As Katrina churned through the gulf, analysts feared that the storm would affect oil production and send prices skyrocketing, which would have negative economic implications.

The prudent thing to do was freeze prices. There was no way to know how the storm would affect the refineries and stabilizing the market until the damage could be assessed would prevent economic panic. Instead, oil companies increased prices as the storm approached and held them over three dollars a gallon for as long as they could. Even after it was revealed that the refineries weren’t damaged and most of the off shore rigs were intact, the oil companies justified high gas prices because the infrastructure in the gulf was so badly damaged. Infrastructure or beach houses? Record profits make you wonder.

3. War on Iraq

The initial reason for invading Iraq was that Iraq had WEAPONS of MASS DESTRUCTION and posed an immediate threat to the United States. In spite of numerous international reports to the contrary, the Bush team pushed forward with this theme, even sending Colin Powell to the UN to show them the “evidence” of Saddam’s “stockpiles.” The term “stockpile” might be subjective, but most people interpret a “stockpile” as an excessive amount of something. Any time you have to “pile” anything you tend to have a lot.

It didn’t take long to defeat Saddam’s troops. Apparently the massive army he had been outfitting was on leave when we invaded because the road to Baghdad was pretty short. Once Saddam’s forces were out of the picture the search for these illicit weapons began and after an exhaustive investigation we found nothing. Somehow we managed to catch Saddam Hussein, who should have been able to escape with billions of dollars, but the stockpiles of weapons were never found. Because they weren’t there.

Now, Bush and the gang concur that they were mistaken, which is political code for “we lied” and other premises for the war have been offered. Several others in fact, and each one is as implausible as the next:

Saddam was aiding al-Qaida:
Wrong.! Al-Qaida wanted Saddam dead. In fact reports have surfaced that al-Qaida sat back and waited for the U.S. to oust Saddam so they could sweep in and gain support among the fundamentalists Saddam spent so many years oppressing. Even if Saddam could check his ego long enough to consider such a partnership, Osama bin Laden wouldn’t dream of it.

Saddam was a brutal dictator:
Yes, he was. And it suited us just fine for 25 years. In fact, we gave him money, weapons and training to help him perfect those brutal methods in hopes that he would destroy fundamentalists inside and outside of Iraq. When Iraq was fighting Iran, he was a key ally, a secular Arab leader with a powerful military presence. The problem with Saddam was that his loyalties went to the highest bidder. We couldn’t trust him to always look out for our best interests.

Saddam was trying to buy uranium:
Maybe. What self-respecting world leader wouldn’t want to acquire the clout a strong nuclear program provides? A nuclear missile is like a back stage pass to the UN. However, it’s unlikely that the evidence the U.S. provided is valid. Our sources are unreliable and the documentation provided has been confirmed as forgeries. Even if he was advancing a nuclear program, it didn’t pose an immediate threat and the timing of this invasion distracted the US from more important tasks. Namely the next mistake on the list:

4. War on Terror

Go ahead. Remind me of the Americans who died on September 11th. Rant and rave about national security, immigration and people who hate America. Done? Good. Let’s be rational.

9-11 could have been averted. Clinton’s intelligence officials were aggressively following leads to identify the location and activities of terrorist cells located in the US. They were also tracking the movements and activities of Osama bin Laden. When Bush took office he was briefed on al-Qaida and on August 6th was provided with a memo that expressed specific concern that al-Qaida was planning to hijack commercial aircraft in the United States.

The Bush camp claims that the memo contained old intelligence and was not specific enough to follow up on and Bush proved how insignificant it was by remaining on his vacation until those buildings came crumbling down. But let’s assume that it couldn’t have been prevented. Let’s assume that Bush did work tirelessly trying to avert the impending attacks. The War on Terror is still a mistake.

Retaliation was necessary. I’m not suggesting that we should have simply ignored the attack, but the world was sympathetic to our plight. There was an outpouring of support from all corners of the globe which lasted until George Bush opened his mouth and started talking like some b-movie cowboy.

When we first approached Afghanistan about Osama bin Laden, the Taliban leaders requested we provide evidence as to Osama’s guilt. Bush scoffed. The Taliban leaders requested assurances that Osama bin Laden would be tried in an international court. Again we scoffed. Perhaps the Taliban was posturing for no other reason than to evoke international sympathy, maybe they were stalling so Osama could plan his escape. Whatever the reason, the self-righteous posture Bush took, disturbed the rest of the world and Bush drew some criticism.

As the siege ensued, the scope of our military’s deployment concerned the UN who feared that civilian casualties were too high. They felt that the Taliban and Al-Qaida forces were too small and dispersed through the civilian population to warrant heavy bombing and the use of artillery. As concern grew to outrage Bush threatened the rest of the world by reminding them that they were either with us or against us. Very diplomatic.

After 9-11 the United States needed a voice of reason. Somebody wise enough to realize that there was a difference between justice and vengeance. What we got was Rudy Giuliani. When Bush finally came out of hiding we got a lot of though talk. That is the underlying flaw in the war on terror. Bush embarked on a crusade for vengeance when this country should have engaged in a quest for justice. The President is supposed to have more sense than the angry mob, not less.

5. The Patriot Act.

If you believe that the 9-11 attack on this country was really about our love of freedom and not a retaliation for years of social and economic oppression perpetrated by our country on the people of the Middle East then the patriot Act should frighten you more than it does those who are opposed to the two wars this country is engaged in.

The reason our criminal justice system is supposed to operate in clear view of the public is so the public can scrutinize the criminal justice system. The Patriot Act actually serves to expand the power of various law enforcement entities while concealing their activity from public view. This gives everybody reason to question the legitimacy of everything they do.

Jefferson once said he would rather be exposed to the inconveniences of attending too much liberty than to those attending a small degree of it. Liberty isn’t easy. There is no question that the civil rights that protect our very freedom also make us susceptible to an enemy’s attack. But limiting freedom and eliminating government accountability for playing by the rules does more damage to this country than anything a terrorist could do.

Sadly, under Bush we have seen this country step off of the high road and resort to tactics and strategies this country has always stood against. We have suspended the civility of the international community and engaged in acts of torture and humiliation that violate the standards we have always tried to hold the rest of the world too.

There was a time when the United States was the benevolent global constable who was always willing to lend a hand, now we’re the dirty back alley cop pistol-whipping anybody who questions our motives or authority. We used to be right, now we’re self-righteous. I can't think a of a President who has corrupted our freedom and destroyed our international credibility more than Bush has. Foreign and Domestic. The cycle of failure is complete.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Support our Troops?

Thanks for the invitation, but I'll pass. I know that's an extremely unpopular position to take since thousands of young men and women are putting their lives on the line every day, but I'm not the one using the "Support our Troops" rally cry to silence dissent over the nature of this war.

That's what it is you know. Bush's limited supporters have long given up on calling people to stand behind our president. The endless stream of lies, the irresponsible leadership, the vacations and his inability to hold his staff accountable for their actions has made it impossible for all but the most foolish of Republicans to stand behind the president.

This war is unjust. Our soldiers are fighting a for a cause that the majority of the Iraqi people don't want--which explains the well organized and highly motivated insurgency--and the American people don't need. Iraq was never a threat to the United States. Never. Our original impetus for invading Iraq was Weapons of Mass Destruction. The search for WMD's revealed nothing. After Bush hired and fired several chief inspectors to seek out the desired conclusion, the best we could come up with is that Saddam's WMD programs were dismantled back in 1991. Oops.

After that cause was exposed as a fabricated sham, Bush and his cronies changed gears and gave our war a purpose after the fact. Saddam was supporting al-Qaida. While some Americans believed this, most people capable of reading thought it was a wry little joke. Why would Saddam want to support an organization that was trying to kill him? Does that make any sense at all?

After Colin Powell sat in front of the U.N. waving bogus pieces of evidence around as irrefutable evidence that Saddam Hussein was actively stockpiling WMD's the United States lost all credibility with the rest of the world. Powell was upset that he was outfitted with fabricated evidence and resigned after Bush's first term. How can we believe anything the Bush administration says?

Saddam was a secular ruler in region highly susceptible to theocracy. The high illiteracy rate, and lack of information gives clerics a great deal of power which they wield with a cruel decisiveness. Iraq is populated with zealous fundamentalist Muslims who vastly outnumber the more reasonable and educated Muslims who embraced the secular leadership of Saddam. Under Saddam Hussein fundamentalist practices were banned, education became a priority and women were granted a number of rights that included employment and divorce. He went so far as to outlaw Sharia law, which is the cornerstone of an Islamic theocracy. This infuriated fundamentalists and invoked the wrath of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network of extremists.

There was not a truce between the two so they could pool their resources against the United States. Fundamentalists like Osama don't operate that way and it's unlikely that a megalomaniac such as Saddam would entertain such a compromise either. This theory of collusion was widely dismissed as wishful thinking as soon as it was offered. Strike two.

That's when Bush grasped at the humanitarian aspect of this war. Which would have made sense if the U.S. had done two very important things: First, define that cause in advance of the war and gain U.N. support for the humanitarian aspect of ousting Saddam. Second, and possibly most important, demonstrate that the U.S. has a pattern of deposing tryanical dictators who brutalize their people. Surely we sent forces in to contend with Pol Pot or Ceaucescu. Oh, that's right. We never lifted a finger to help the people those murderous dictators oppressed.

It seems like years have passed since Bush stood in front of a carefully selected group of troops on an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf in his flight suit and smirk to declare "Mission Accomplished". It's almost like he had a banner flying behind him with those very words emblazoned across it. Saddam's regime had fallen and the people he had oppressed for so long were now free to embrace democracy. Our boys (and girls) were coming home. Hooah!

Except a funny thing happened on the way to democratic bliss. All those fundamentalists Saddam had been keeping at bay decided they were going to take control of Iraq. No room for democracy and freedom. They wanted an Islamic theocracy and they wanted it now. At first, Bush and the boys were elated. This was the proof they needed to link al-Qaida to Iraq. Once we pushed back this tiny band of foreign terrorists the people of Iraq would be free to govern themselves and Bush would have his red herring. Except it wasn't al-Qaida. Oh they have a hand in things now, but the first band of insurgents were rank and file fundamentalists.

Since accomplishing our mission, thousands of U.S. Soldiers have died and the network of insurgents shows no sign of weakening. The Bush administration has changed the complexion of this war by no longer referring to it as a war on terror, but rather a long war. They don't specify what the goal of the war is, but apparently they are going to fight it until it's over. Obviously this has drawn a lot of criticism.

We aren't fighting one enemy right now. There are several groups that are working independently with the common goal of running our forces out of Iraq. Al-Qaida, Islamic Jihad, Shi'a insurgents, Sunni insurgents. The list of those opposed to our occupation seems to grow each day, and none of them seem interested in accepting the authority of the puppet government we have worked so hard to install. Once we leave, they'll destroy the Iraqi government we created and then they'll fight amongst themselves for the next three thousand years.

The Bush administration and sympathetic media entities (Fox) have resorted to exploiting the young men and women fighting the war to make would be protestors feel guilty about questioning Bush and his administration about this war. The rebuke is that our soldiers will see the lack of public support and lose morale thus making them less effective and increasing their risk of being killed in combat. The real kicker is that this will only draw things out even longer.

That's rich. So now, as the body bags pile up, they can blame war protestors for the loss of life. The American public isn't stupid enough to fall for that. We've learned our lessons from Vietnam and understand that the soldiers are victims. While we won't be lining up to wave flags anytime soon, we'll happily acknowledge the sacrifices our troops have been forced to make by an irresponsible administration. We know who to blame, and we won't let you hide behind the troops. Not this time.

Nobody has lodged criticism toward the troops. Even in the case of the Abu Ghraib scandal, most reasonable people believe Lynndie England and Charles Graner were offered up as patsies. Anybody who has been in the military knows that it is highly unlikely that such low ranking soldiers would take the initative to employ such extensive measures to humiliate and torture military prisoners.

One gets the impression reading through various reports that even the high ranking officers are weary of this war. While nobody currently serving will publicly criticize the war or the administration's handling of it, you can sense the frustration in their words when they talk about the details of this ongoing battle. Our forces are stretched dangerously thin, supplies aren't getting where they are needed and progress is dubious.

It's not a war worth supporting. The troops deserve our respect, but supporting the war is doing them a grave disservice. Voicing dissent about the war and the administration will force our leaders to consider withdrawing forces to appease an uneasy public. Protesting the war will serve to give leaders pause when future military incursions are pondered.

Those who support the war believe they are being patriotic, but that's not true. Patriotism is not about blindly supporting your country regardless of what it does. A true patriot realizes that his country is bigger than one regime. A true patriot isn't afraid to question his government or express his dissent.

This war the Bush administration has gotten us into defies everything good patriots have stood and died for throughout our country's history. This war isn't about freedom and justice, it's a personal vendetta. This war was not conceived with the interests of national security at stake, it was about possession of oil fields. No, this war isn't good. It's not righteous or just. This war is about ego and greed and I will not support it and by extension I simply cannot pretend I support our troops.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Church and State.

I laugh as I read through some of the blogs, conservative columns and frantic letters to the editor that outline a sinister liberal agenda to promote homosexuality, atheism, and terrorism throughout the world. What a contrived reality this point of view conveys.

I am an atheist. That is to say I believe that there is no god. No heaven, no hell. Nothing. When you die that's it. End of story. Like a struck match, our time is fleeting. Some of us might light a few candles along the way, others might set massive blazes but we all end up snuffed out after our time expires. Some matches burn a little longer, some a little brighter but in the end it's all the same.

That doesn't mean I'm right and it is not my desire to foist that belief on others. That's why I want our government and, by extension, our public schools to promote secularism. Nobody knows if their theory is right or wrong, so let's agree to have a government that
remains neutral.

Secularism is not atheism. Secularism is the exclusion of religion from the public function of government. Elected and appointed officials are welcome to let their spirituality guide them in their duties, but they should never be inclined to impose their religion on others. When people move to take religion out of a school they aren't replacing it with a culture of atheism, they are simply leaving the question of religion unanswered so that spirituality can be guided privately. That's fair, isn't it? If you're a responsible parent you should insist on it.

Christians make the mistake of confusing secularism with atheism. In their small minds this is a Christian society and our government has a duty to promote Christianity. But which brand? I can't keep track of all the denominations but I do know that there is constant bickering within the institution of Christianity over which version is right.

Ironically one of the loudest voices supporting the separation of church and state was that of Jesus Christ. He saw how easily corrupted religion became when it was mixed with politics and everything he did was intended to empower the individual to take control of his own spiritual path. Jesus preached a message of introspection. When the Jews who subscribed to his teachings asked about the Romans, Jesus told them it didn't matter what the Romans did. Essentially the underlying message delivered by Jesus was to mind your own business. Pray not in public...Worry not about the spec in thy neighbor's eye...Let he who is without sin...yadda, yadda, yadda.

I had Christianity crammed down my throat as a child. I resented it. I lost all interest in Christianity when my second grade teacher told me that dogs don't go to heaven because they don't have souls. I didn't think that was fair and my concern led me to question everything about religion. If Santa Claus is a fraud and the Easter Bunny is a hoax, who the heck is this Jesus guy everybody is clamoring about? As I got older I realized that I was an atheist. Sure, it would be wonderful if there was another plane of existence after this one, but I just don't buy it. Who am I to think that I am worthy of immortality?

That's not to say that my position on this matter is based entirely on the fact that I won't be reunited with my dog when I die. That's not the point, although some Christians have tried to simplify it to that common denominator. That was the moment when I started to question religion and over the years I have become increasingly certain that there is no deity waiting on the other side. In my mind people are terrified of the finality of death so they create this concept of an afterlife. They need to believe that death is not an end but a beginning and I'd be lying if I said that I wouldn't welcome an afterlife, but I can't buy into a religion just because I'm afraid to die.

Unlike Christians I don't feel compelled to get people to join me. As long as I can live in peace and not have religion forced on me I couldn't care less who else agrees with me. Christians, however, are so insecure in what they believe they require institutional reinforcement of their beliefs. They feel a need to convert others to their religion and desire the leadership of a theocracy. Maybe it's a strength in numbers sort of thing. Perhaps it's easier to believe in fairy tales when everybody else believes in them too. This is a dangerous aspect of Christianity. That very sort of thinking is what gives Osama bin Laden so much power in the Middle East. Do we want our own insane fundamentalist, Pat Robertson calling the shots for our government?

I resent the implication that removing religion from public schools is an attempt to force atheism on anybody. The reality is that the practice of secularism actually serves to protect religion by allowing people to control the manner in which they practice their faiths. Christians can't agree with each other on certain aspects of Christianity. How can we expect an objective
application of religion to be honored if we don't simply remove religion from the public domain all together?

Secularism is neutrality. It is a position of respect and one that is necessary in a society such as ours that is supposed to embrace myriad cultures and creeds. It's true that there are some traditions within our government that seem to embody Christianity but that was done in error in a time when people arrogantly assumed that everybody was Christian and the differences were minor. Time has proven that position to be false. In reality Christian denominations can differ bitterly, even violently, on certain issues and then we have millions of American citizens who are not Christian. Our government should be sensitive to these differences and avoid religion in the interest of fairness.

Religion shouldn't be about a society's connection with a theology, but rather the relationship an individual has with his or her deity. According to Christian texts, God will not be judging America on it's devotion to Christ but rather each person will be judged individually. One of the concepts mentioned in the bible is free will. This is the idea that god has granted everybody with the power to choose their own path. How does the political institutionalization of religion impact a concept like free will? It crushes it. A person can't come to Jesus freely if everybody and everything is shoving him in that direction. It makes you wonder how many people are true Christians.

So let's review: How does removing "under god" from the pledge of allegiance affect your personal relationship with god? Why would god be upset with you if the science curriculum at a public school doesn't promote Creation as the origin of the species? Is god really going to punish you because our government removed the Ten Commandments from a courthouse?

The answer is no. The laws of man have no impact on your relationship with god. You still have the right to read the bible, attend church and believe what you want to believe. As a parent you have the right to exclude your child from science classes that teach theories you believe are blasphemous and if that's not enough you can send your child to a Christian School. Nobody has infringed upon your right to practice your religion. Nobody wants to.

Secularism is a movement intended to protect everybody's individual beliefs and it's not a new concept. The idea was first expressed by Thomas Jefferson when he drafted the Declaration of Independence. Notice how he used the strategic phrase ..."endowed by their creator..."? At the time it sparked a bit of a controversy because he didn't mention God or Jesus Christ. A few years later James Madison infuriated religious leaders of the day when he excluded mention of God and Jesus from the Constitution of the United States of America. They told him that this was a Christian nation, to which he replied that it most certainly was not.

I don't practice Atheism. There's nothing to practice. I don't have a bible or a church to which I can turn to express my spiritual views. It doesn't bother me that people practice religion. I respect that. What I resent, however, is the arrogant assumption that our government was constructed upon a theological foundation and must be immersed in religion to be effective. This is simply not true. The majority of our founding fathers were deists who believed that there was a creator but not in the popular religious doctrines of that era. Most of our founders openly challenged Christianity's theological dogma and they agreed that our government had to be free of religion if it was going to protect an individual's religious freedom.

But don't take my word for it. Look within yourself and find your feelings. Get in touch with your spiritual side and ask yourself, what would Jesus do? What would he do indeed. Based on the passages in the bible that outline his teachings it seems abundantly clear, Jesus would have minded his own business.