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Did ’24’ help Obama?

I’ve been watching with interest the whole Presidential race and election in the US. It’s obvious how jubliant many Americans are at the election of Obama as their new President. It is  fascinating  to think that this guy was such an outside contender for the position when the race first began – many people had never heard of him. At that time he was not really a prominent figure to the general public.

But a thought came to me the other night as I heard person after person tell reporters on news channels how much it means to them to have a black President (okay, yes he is bi-racial, we’ll just stick to black for this argument)  and how much it seems like a dream come true, that they hoped it would happen one day but didn’t imagine it would be so soon…I wondered, how much effect did the TV show ’24’ have in helping Obama get elected? Some might say none as it’s just a TV show. But TV does have an impact on the public consciousness. It’s happened with other social situations, as well as TV reflecting social trends.

So did ’24’ help to open people up to the idea that America could have a black President? For there are undoubtedly many, both inside and out of America, that would have said that America was not yet close to accepting a black man in that position. I think it ought to be considered that seeing a black President on TV could very well have done something to make it seem more acceptable to some of the general public. I haven’t heard anyone talk about this yet, and hope someone does investigate it more. It’s an interesting social study.

You can’t turn on the news these days without hearing about the economic downturn in various countries. America being the hardest hit with unemployment figures quoted today at 10 million.

There are many debates about what has got us into the current situation. Some blame big business, some blame the credit system, but whichever way we want to look at it, I think it is a certainty that one of the outcomes is going to be a re-evaluation of our values.

For so long our highly Commercial societies have put an emphasis on being able to have everything material we want – if you don’t have the money, you can get the money by way of debt. The focus in our public media is on getting more, getting the newest. And many have bought into that. How many people  feel less ‘worthy’ if they are not seen to be sporting the latest trend, or have the latest model of something, or the latest gadget? All for how others will perceive us.

Economic hardship is no fun for anyone. Nor would I wish it on anyone. It causes stress, physically, emotionally and mentally. But I feel that it will ultimately push people to consider what is really valuable in their lives – basic needs of food, shelter, love, friendship, companionship. We can live without the latest gadget, or in a smaller house, but we can’t live without those 5 things I listed. And maybe, in a society where the balance has tipped to far towards material acquisition, it can only take a stripping away of that in the extreme to make people realize that.

I wish it didn’t take that.

SPIRITUALITY v RELIGION

I was listening to a talk by a Buddhist monk, and he said something interesting. He said one can be spiritual without being religious, and religious without being spiritual. I think I have always believed that, but hadn’t given it much thought till that talk. It’s an interesting point.

For some people the two terms may be synonymous. I think they are definately different. One can find spirituality  through religion I think, but religion itself is an organized belief system to which one can belong and  follow it’s ‘rules’, ‘perform’ the actions required without being spiritual at all. I’m sure we’ve all come across examples of that.

THE CASE FOR TORTURE….?

The subject of torture has been in the news alot recently. I guess for most of us it’s not a subject that we give much thought to. The question of whether the  US has been carrying out Extratordinary Rendition, the practise of sending  suspects to foreign countries to be tortured, and the US use of ‘Waterboarding’ has been forefront (if you don’t have a clear concept of what is involved I recommend reading this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterboarding

Many people are horrified that any modern Western democracy would resort to such tactics to ellicit information, firstly on the grounds of humantiarian reasons, but also because it is blatantly hypocritical – the US is a signatory on the United Nations Convention against Torture. Rendition of course is the way to get around that, and there have been rumours for years that the practise was being carried out, and of course denied for years.  Former CIA agent Robert Baer has been quoted as saying  

 If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear — never to see them again — you send them to Egypt.

Now it would seem those rumours were founded on truth.

Perhaps, some would argue, the end justifies the means..Let’s take a look at that more closely.  We have to first of all ask

‘How useful is torture as a means to produce viable information in the interest of national security ?’. 

From what I have been reading, there does not seem to be any evidence that use of torture is as effective in producing viable information as governments would have us believe. Intuitively this makes sense – if you are being slowly drowned, are in extreme pain, and are desperate for your situation to cease, what are you going to say? You may be the sort of person who becomes more resistant to complying under coercion, or may be you are the opposite, and will say whatever you need to to put and end to your agonizing situation. In either case (and apparantely there has been research which shows the former does happen) the information is not going to be reliable is it?

There is also the consideration of the actual physical and psychological effects of torture on the mind. If you have suffered damage in either respect it is possible that your ability to recall information will be impared. So again – how useful or accurate will be any ‘information’ you ‘give up’.

Methods of torture have been devised, known as ‘Clean’ methods which leave no visible physicals signs of torture, but it doesn’t mean they are any more/less effective.

So is the use of torture ever really ‘justified’ if it can not be shown that it really does produce useful information ? Apparantely there have been a few statistical studies on this, but with little evidence that this is the case.`

But I am no expert on the matter. If you are, or have some knowledge to add to gaining more clarity on the matter please leave a comment. 

I watched this with interest in full last night. It should have been called The MCain-Romney Debate.

Throughout the debate little time was given to Huckabee and Paul to answer questions. Ron Paul was cut off short more than once by Anderson Cooper, and towards the end of the debate Huckabee even became vocal about the appallingly unequal opportunity for him and Paul to contribute. 

OK, so McCain and Romney are in the lead in the polls out of all the Republican candidates, but why bother to even have Hucakabee and Paul up there if CNN didn’t really want them to talk?

What was also interesting was that Paul, when he did talk, seemed to be the only one willing to be honest about and want to tackle head on the core issues which Americans need to be addressing for their future. This is what he said in response to the question if he agrees that the US may need to keep troops in Iraq for the next 100 years maybe 

“I don’t even think they should have gone, so keeping them for 100 years, where’s the money going to come from? (APPLAUSE)

You know, the country is in bankruptcy. And when I listen to this argument, I mean, I find it rather silly, because they’re arguing technicalities of a policy they both agree with.

They agreed with going in; they agreed for staying, agreed for staying how many years? And these are technicalities. We should be debating foreign policy, whether we should have interventionism or non-interventionism, whether we should be defending this country or whether we should be the policemen of the world, whether we should be running our empire or not, and how are going to have guns and butter?…And we have these silly arguments going on about who said what when. I think it’s time to debate foreign policy and why we don’t follow the Constitution and only go to war with a declaration of war. “

(Transcript from  http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0801/30/se.01.html )

I’m not American citizen and so I won’t be voting in any elections, but I watch with interest to see who the American people will choose for their Republican candidate. I suspect McCain will come out on top – he seems to be the kind of guy Americans like to choose for their President, and boy did he lay it on thick about why he is ‘right’ to lead the country, based on his background. Will he be a Bush mark II I wonder…?

I was watching the debates tonight, and I thought it was really interesting how none of the the candidates who were given time to answer the question about what they thought Jesus would do regarding the death penalty, actually answered it. They all came back with some answer about them praying for guidance  to personally do the ‘right’ thing.

Why couldn’t they answer the question?

I believe it’s because in their minds they knew what the answer was, but to say it would consequently (since they profess to be Christians) make them look like hypocrites : if you asked any Christian whether or not they thought Jesus would support the death penalty, and even if they could imagine him sitting in on an execution, I am pretty sure they would say no (I’d love to hear any opinions contrary to this). So, if Jesus wouldn’t, then shouldn’t Christians also not?

The issues of abortion is a big issue for many Christians, particularly the Christian Right in America. “Why?” I ask. Does that seem like a silly question to you? If you are one of those Christians the answer will probably seem ‘obvious’ . Well I’d like to question some more your vehemence concerning abortion in this post. I also feel the issue is not really debated, discussed and explored as much as it should be – quite often you just hear “It’s wrong”.

Abortion is a big, emotional topic. I’m not going to try and cover all the various arguments for and against it, nor am I stating my personal position on the issue here.  I will make such arguments in other posts from time to time. For now I’m just exploring a few questions that come to mind…

My first thought as to why it’s such a hot topic is because of the commandment ‘Thou shalt not commit muder’. Ok…that makes sense. And not committing murder is a universally held moral, whatever your religion, that the majority of people believe is a correct one.  But then why, do many of those anti-abortionists favour the death penalty? That is undeniably hypocritical, is it not? (Of course, you may argue in terms of what the definition of ‘murder’ is and the justification of it according to circumstance…but that is another issue.)

Next thought: If the issue is about following what you say are God’s commandments, then why are you not also so vehement, so vocal, about other issues that appear to be in conflict with the other commandments? Surely, if you insist these are God’s commandments, they are all equally important. Or are you saying some are more important than others?

Let’s see…

What about “You shall not commit adultery”? Now why aren’t you all up in arms about the number of people who commit adultery? Why are you not campaigning to get the law to do something about those found to have commited it? Anyone can tell you how much infidelity adversely affects peoples lives. Could it be because many of you have committed it yourselves, and that’s, well,  just a bit too close to home for comfort…?

What about “You shall not steal”? Why not be up in arms about the number of burglaries and theft, and say, the number of such crimes that are not solved. I don’t see you with placards protesting about that. These crimes have a real emotional and psychological affect on their victims which can last a long time, and shouldn’t be dismissed lightly.

These are just two of the commandments other than “You shall not commit murder”. So if your argument is that abortion is wrong because it’s murder, and the commandments forbid it, then why aren’t you just as passionate about adherence to the other commandments? Picking and choosing are we?

My other concern is this – what are you doing about the mental and emotional well-being of the mothers and babies/children concerned? Do you wash your hands off them once the law has been changed the way you want it?  Who will look after all the babies that are born that are not wanted, or are brought up in homes by mothers who are just not ready to be mothers or are perhaps not good mothers (I’m not for a minute saying all women who would have had an abortion or are in the position of considering it are not good mothers)? What are you doing to ensure that there is enough support for them to deal with giving up their child ,  raising one when they are not ready to, or are not coping well with being in that situation. What are you doing to ensure those babies will be given good homes – that they will not stay in a system where they are passed about from one foster home to another or grow up in an orphanage (and yes, I know there are alot of people who have been adopted or grown up in foster homes that have been well loved and are happy. My concern is with hose that haven’t been so fortunate. How do we know those numbers won’t increase?). If you want to effect a change, ie make abortion illegal, a change that will affect women’s lives, you must ensure that good systems are there so that this  change does not impact negatively on their lives.

We need to ensure first and foremost that women are helped as much as possible not to be in that situation in the first place – through education, good sex and relationship education. Education about contraception, about being in a good relationship, etc…I’m sure you can think of a myriad ways the problem can be tackled. I don’t have all the answers. My point is, if you are so vehement about abortion being illegal, then why aren’t you so vehement about ensuring our societies bring up girls with the education and life skills so they do not find themselves in that situation in the first place, or at least so that the chance that they will is minimized. It’s all very well saying you shouldn’t do this or that, but what are you going to do to help them not do it?  As Christians, if you don’t want them to go down the road of having an abortion, and you claim to care so much about human life that you can’t bear the thought of a foetus being killed, then where’s your voice campaigning to ensure the support is there these women will need if they cannot do so.

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