Tuesday, September 22, 2009

part of a story I'm writing

“The man who has seen the rising moon break out of the clouds at midnight has been present like an archangel at the creation of light and of the world.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m not sure why I have always been a night owl. Staying up passed three every morning, just because I could.

Maybe I just loved the feeling of being so alive when every one else was asleep. Maybe I just wanted to do whatever I wanted to do, no matter how early I needed to be up.

Plus, this book I am reading has been a real page-turner. It is a political biography. “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

I know most people wouldn’t find it as engrossing as I do, but I have a great respect for the written word, and Goodwin knows how to tell a story. It doesn’t matter that it took place more than a hundred years ago, it is just as alive and interesting, if not more, as the current headlines. Who cares about Jon and Kate when you can read about how Lincoln put together what is possibly the boldest cabinet in Presidential history, at least to that point.

Even my friends make fun of my love of history.

“You’d rather live in the past than live today,” Van told me once. He’s probably right, but it wasn’t always that way.

There was a time I looked forward to every new day. Every day was a new adventure always waiting for me; every day there was always something new to learn.

Not anymore. Now every morning I wake up, I fight with myself to even open my eyes. Because on the other side of my eyelids is just the same bullshit corporatist world.

And if I don’t open my eyes then I’m not really awake, and if I’m not really awake, I don’t have to deal with all the shit in my life. I don’t have to deal with my alarm, which is going off. I don’t have to deal with Eve, Adam, or any of the dozen paintings I haven’t finished. And I don’t have to think about work.

But everyday, without fail, I open my eyes. It’s just another day. I hope everyone has this feeling. Because if they don’t, and I’m the only one, that makes me really weird.

Mark Cameron. That’s my name. It’s what people call me; but I don’t know if the name fits the soul. I’ve always thought I was more of a Ted. I don’t know why, but doesn’t Ted Cameron sound better?

Oh well, blame my mother. I’m stuck with Mark.

Friday, September 18, 2009

On my soap box talking to the vast emptiness of the interwebs

Over the past month or so I have acquired a insatiable need for information, knowledge, wisdom and stories. It could be the result of my disappointment in the American people for not being more involved and knowledgeable about the news and issues of our day.

But I only can say this because I have no life. I spend my free time watching the news, reading news and analysis online, listening to podcasts and audio books while also reading two or three books at any given time. I have such a short attention span I bounce from book to book to book and back again. I just have to make sure to keep the books different enough so I don't get too confused. I may not be able to remember to take the trash out, but I can keep the storylines of several books clear in my head. I'm crazy like that.

Because they say to write better you need to read a lot, I should be a lot better at writing. But I have a major flaw. Well, at least one in regards to writing: I have no attention span. Thus, I do a very poor job of organizing my thoughts as I write them out. It's always been this way.

I remember one weekend back when I was still in high school. Must have been my junior year. I was a staff writer and page editor for the school newspaper, and I had a front-page story about the end of the popular sophomore history and social studies class. I don't remember the name of the program, but I do remember loving the class my sophomore year. I was the only kid in the class to get an A on the very difficult World War II final. I say this not to brag about the grade, but to show how much I worked and listened in that class. That WWII final was one of the few times I actually studied in high school.

But back to the story. I remember sitting in the middle of my father's bed with my laptop writing the story. I don't remember why I was in the bed, but I do remember the pure joy I had putting that article together. I got all the quotes written out, then I wrote all the points I needed to cover, put it together with the appropriate quotes, and then finally took forever putting it in order. I was trying to tell the story but also work in the classic journalist model of the inverted pyramid (the most important thing first, and so on).

Flash forward to my sophomore year in college, working on the college newspaper as the features editor. I was trying to write an editorial, but I couldn't get it to flow. Good thing I had some great help. I just needed to outline my idea and points I wanted to make; then write it. So between those two experiences, I created my process for writing: get everything down, make sure you have a solid outline, and make clear your goal for the piece.

Here I am, a little more than three years removed from college, and I am still working to become a better writer than I was the day before. For me that means focusing more on form and structure. I don't lack for topics to write about, opinions to share, or ideas to try out. Writing for me is a great mediator for life. Always trying to be better, always fighting between skill and passion, time and energy.

So, this blog is more than my little soap box. This is my way of working out the workings of my thinking as well as the world going on around me. With all of the stuff I take in from all of today's sources of information, my brain is filling up. Writing about something here lets me work it out in my head so I can move on to the next idea to think about. So not everything I post here will be good. Odds are that most of it will be crap. I just hope today's crap is better than yesterday's crap.

At the very least, maybe I am one of the various sources that someone gets their information from, then at least I'm making a difference and not just talking to the vast emptiness of the interwebs.

Standing up for gay rights, WWJD?

Last week I was reading the online edition of my college newspaper, The Grand Views, when I came across an opinion piece about the Lutheran Church, the bible, and the gays; so I just had to read it.
"As many of you can see from the hot media topics the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has voted to allow lesbians and gays to hold a pastoral position in the church.

There are many debates on the topic recently and I admit I am befuddled as to how there is any question. I genuinely do not understand how any professed Christian can really believe this is acceptable.

The ELCA clearly states on their website, "As Lutherans, ELCA members believe that the Bible is the written Word of God." Thus, I'm forced into confusion as I try to make sense of this. If they believe the Bible is the Word of God, wouldn't they want to abide by His teaching? The Bible clearly states that acting on homosexuality is wrong."
- "
Lutheran churches contradicting Bible" - The Grand Views, 9/11/09
I read this, and the rest of the article, and was personally taken aback. As a gay man my shock mostly came from my lack of personal contact with people who hold this belief. It's not as if I select my friends based on whether or not they agree with me on any given subject, but my friends and I tend to agree on most gay rights issues. We all gravitate towards those we agree with; it's human nature. So sometimes a strongly-held belief from the other side can throw you off.

But I thought, naïvely it would seem, that personal feelings about gay marriage and homosexuality aside, we could agree with Jesus when he said "Love thy neighbor as thyself." I guess you can love your neighbor but if that neighbor is gay and wants the same rights you have, too bad.

I was proud to see others, most notably Steve Snyder, a Humanities professor at Grand View, stand up and give voice to the other side of the debate. Using history, facts and commenting on how we interpret what the Bible says, he gives a great defense of the beliefs and values I hold. He also called out those against such gay rights saying, "arguments founded on literal interpretations of scripture are often highly susceptible to the charge of hypocrisy."
"Indeed, those using the Bible to condemn homosexuality often overlook behaviors proscribed in other biblical passages. A passage in Leviticus, for example, is often cited as support that the Bible sees homosexuality as an "abomination." By the same token, Leviticus also demands animal sacrifices. It bans crossbreeding of various kinds of cattle and even wearing "a garment made from two kinds of material mixed together," yet I see no uproar over the presence of synthetic fabrics in the Lutheran pews on Sunday morning. If Lutherans are perfectly free to disregard Leviticus 11:1-12 (which would forbid eating portions of the menu at Red Lobster), why aren't they free to adjust their views on homosexuality? To denounce them for not following one passage but not others seems conveniently selective."
- Steve Snyder, Letter To The Editor, 9/18/09
I was also proud to see Molly Hottle (former Editor-In-Chief of the Grand Views '08-'09) take a similar stand. For me it was much more powerful coming from her because of her background and because she speaks for our generation. Those 18-29 are much more supportive of gay rights than any other age group.
"Many of the same arguments from scripture that are being raised, we also heard 30 years ago when the Lutheran churches decided to ordain women," said Jack Mithelman, campus pastor. Even with these historical references, it's happening again. How many repeats of history will it take for people to realize discrimination of any group-no matter race, gender or sexual preference-is wrong? These statements I make are not because I am ignorant of the argument used by those who say the Bible forbids homosexuality. In fact, I know it very well. I am a Christian who grew up in a conservative Christian home and was made to believe that homosexuality is a sin. But I grew up and did something unheard of: formulated my own opinion. And the fact is, times change. If people insist on using the literal meaning of the Bible to condemn the gay community, then those same people should also be expected to not play football since the Old Testament prohibits the touching of the skin of a pig. The accusers should also not be allowed to wear clothing made of two different materials and the women should be forbidden to wear makeup. Today, the enforcement of those rules sounds silly to us, as should the prohibition of homosexuality.
- "Hottle: No matter how they say it, opponents of gay rights spreading discrimination" - The Grand Views, 9/18/09

I didn't say anything about this subject until now for one very specific reason: I'm not a active member of the Lutheran Church, or a member of any religious organization. I didn't feel my input would really add anything to the debate. I also felt that as an Agnostic gay man, my bias would cause more conflict than it would help.

But I can't stay silence, and I definitely shouldn't hold back because of what people might say or think of me.

I agree 110% with Ms. Hottle that those who wish to deny rights, status, and basic equal rights are spreading discrimination. These people are painting the entire GLBT community as less than human, not entitled to the equal protection and equal opportunities of our straight brothers and sisters. By pushing this idea that they are smarter than everyone else, and saying they can't even see why gays should have the right to help others while spreading their love of God and Jesus to everyone they meet as a pastor in the Lutheran Church is only more evidence of their small-minded, selfish and hateful beliefs.

If Jesus had a vote in this matter, what would he do? Simply put, WWJD?

Friday, September 4, 2009

The media has failed us; have we failed America?

"Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment nothing can fail. Without it nothing can succeed. He who molds opinion is greater than he who enacts laws." - Abraham Lincoln

"Printers are educated in the Belief, that when Men differ in Opinion, both sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Public; and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter: Hence [printers] cheerfully serve all contending Writers that pay them well, without regarding on which side they are of the Question in Dispute." - Benjamin Franklin

"None of us would trade freedom of expression for the narrowness of the public censor. America is a free market for people who have something to say, and need not fear to say it." - Hubert H. Humphrey
This country was founded on the idea of freedom of speech and freedom of the press; so much so it is written right there in the First Amendment, in black and white.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
See the part I highlighted in bold? Freedom of speech, or of the press; What a wacky idea. Well, the framers couldn't see a press run not by the people for the people, but by the corporations for the corporations.

As a student of journalism (graduated from Grand View College in 2006, now Grand View University), I have always been an advocate for freedom of the press as well as freedom of speech. It may not be pretty, but it is the only way a representative democracy is going to work. Even Thomas Jefferson understood this. And he hated the media of his day, the newspapers.
"The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers." - Thomas Jefferson
But even with that deep-seated hatred and mistrust of the media, he knew that's the way it needed to be. The people needed to be informed. Even after the U.S. Constitution set up the system of representative democracy (really a Constitutional Republic) we have today, which was put in place to let those most informed make the decisions while still answering to the people through elections, people need to be informed on the issues of the day. As much as Jefferson feared newspapers, he feared the idea of government without newspapers more.
"The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter." - Thomas Jefferson
But the newspapers Jefferson was speaking about, unlike the media in today's terms, were run by businessmen and citizens, not global corporations.

I have always distrusted corporate control of the media, but my trip over to the FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting) Web site still felt like a punch to the gut. I knew how fucked up the media was and is, but to see evidence, data, and reporting on the subject, well, it's depressing.
"A specter now haunts the world: a global commercial media system dominated by a small number of superpowerful, mostly U.S.-based transnational media corporations. It is a system that works to advance the cause of the global market and promote commercial values, while denigrating journalism and culture not conducive to the immediate bottom line or long-run corporate interests. It is a disaster for anything but the most superficial notion of democracy--a democracy where, to paraphrase John Jay's maxim, those who own the world ought to govern it."
- from The Global Media Giants
FAIR has several Issue Areas, and I think one in particular is having a damning affect on current debates in the media.
"Given that most media outlets are owned by for-profit corporations and are funded by corporate advertising, it is not surprising that they seldom provide a full range of debate. The right edge of discussion is usually represented by a committed supporter of right-wing causes, someone who calls for significantly changing the status quo in a conservative direction. The left edge, by contrast, is often represented by an establishment-oriented centrist who supports maintaining the status quo; very rarely is a critic of corporate power who identifies with progressive causes and movements with the same passion as their conservative counterparts allowed to take part in mass media debates."
from Issue Area: Narrow Range of Debate
The media is shaping debates by leaving out major progressive (but albeit minority) views. Which brings up to the epic media fail going on right now. And I mean, right now! FAIR looked into this back in March.
"Major newspaper, broadcast and cable stories mentioning healthcare reform in the week leading up to President Barack Obama's March 5 healthcare summit rarely mentioned the idea of a single-payer national health insurance program, according to a new FAIR study. And advocates of such a system--two of whom participated in yesterday's summit--were almost entirely shut out, FAIR found.

Single-payer--a model in which healthcare delivery would remain largely private, but would be paid for by a single federal health insurance fund (much like Medicare provides for seniors, and comparable to Canada's current system)--polls well with the public, who preferred it two-to-one over a privatized system in a recent survey (New York Times/CBS, 1/11-15/09). But a media consumer in the week leading up to the summit was more likely to read about single-payer from the hostile perspective of conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer than see an op-ed by a single-payer advocate in a major U.S. newspaper.

Over the past week, hundreds of stories in major newspapers and on NBC News, ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR and PBS's NewsHour With Jim Lehrer mentioned healthcare reform, according to a search of the Nexis database (2/25/09-3/4/09). Yet all but 18 of these stories made no mention of "single-payer" (or synonyms commonly used by its proponents, such as "Medicare for all," or the proposed single-payer bill, H.R. 676), and only five included the views of advocates of single-payer--none of which appeared on television."
- from FAIR Study: Media Blackout on Single-Payer Healthcare
That CBS News/New York Times Poll? 59% in favor.
CBS News/New York Times Poll.
Jan. 11-15, 2009. N=1,112 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.

"Should the government in Washington provide national health insurance, or is this something that should be left only to private enterprise?"

Private Enterprise
So we are being totally robbed of a real debate. Only now are single-payer (Medicare for all) advocates getting a voice in the mainstream media.

And if you think this health care debate is only being fought in Washington, at town hall meetings, and in the mainstream media, I give you something that is going around one of the newest additions to the media list: Facebook.
No one should die because they cannot afford healthcare. No one should go broke because they get sick, and no one should be tied to a job because of pre-existing condition. If you agree, please post this as your status for the rest of the day.
It seems a real grassroots movement is underway.
"As an amazing (and pretty clearly organic) piece of evidence to counter the "young people don't care about health reform" meme, Facebook is exploding today with viral status updates that read: "No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree, please post this as your status for the rest of the day."


To be clear, I don't think this is an organized campaign by any organization, but just a very clear and powerful indicator that young people do care, are communicating through their own methods and paying attention to this important issue."
- from WireTap Blog
Take a look for yourself. It would seem, while the media is failing us & America, the people might just have what it takes to make there voice heard, with or without the media.