Word Forward

For most music lovers, the appeal of a particular song lies not just in the tune itself, but often in the lyrics as well. Sometimes, the words of a song will just speak to you.

There have been many times over the past four years of my Foo love affair that I’ve heard, or perhaps re-heard a lyric to a Foo Fighter song, and I knew, just KNEW, that it had been written specifically for me. It fit a particular situation I was going through, or it spoke to an idea or a mood I’d been experiencing.

There are many songs by other artists which have deep and powerful meaning for me, and I bet you have a few songs about which you feel the same. The right words, set to the right tune? They can change your life simply by changing your perspective.

Words can be incredibly powerful tools. Words matter. They convey ideas. They enlighten. They educate. And because words hold power, it’s important for people to use them wisely and responsibly.

Because words can also damage and destroy. Just as words can work to unite us, to help us understand one another, they can also hurt and drive us apart.

Despite the fact that I’ve been producing this blog for nearly two years, I still don’t think of myself as a writer. What I write in this space may never, in the grand scheme of things, have any lasting significance. I write for my own enjoyment, mostly, but if someone out there who reads my words has a laugh, or sheds a tear, or learns something new, well, that’s a bonus.

I still haven’t generated a huge following with this blog, and I have no idea if or when I ever will. But each time I sit down with an idea or a concept and try to put it in words and share it, I do so with the knowledge that words have power, even the words of an ordinary, 53 year-old, average Joe Jewish Mother. My words may not reach millions, but they reach someone. And when they do, I want them to matter and to be worth reading.

Context is important to me. I’m a stickler for grammar and usage and proper spelling. I don’t throw words out without knowing their meaning. I don’t use words to be controversial, not even profanity. I’m simply communicating as truthfully as possible.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that the misuse of words, most especially by those individuals who hold some power in the world, is infuriating to me.

You need only turn on the news or scroll around on the internet to see glaring examples of this. Sadly, much of what I’m seeing lately is what I can only describe as political pandering with regard to the marriage equality issue.

In the past few weeks, in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s hearing of four marriage equality cases from as many states, many conservative Christians have been showing signs of extreme prejudice (you can tell because their hair is on fire), and Tea Party politicians are taking advantage. Funny thing, too; most of the pols speaking out have also announced their intentions to run for President next year. Coincidence? I think not.

Any savvy politician knows that the best way to gin up your voting base is to latch on to an issue, usually one that’s unpopular, and rant about it. Extra points for those folks who attach scary words to the issue to make it even more heinous.

Let’s look, for example, at U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, perhaps the most dangerous man to ever come out of my state. And don’t blame me, I wouldn’t have voted for him for Prom King.

Speaking at the recent Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Summit, which just sounds like a stronghold of religious tolerance and diversity, Cruz warned the audience that the Democratic Party has “become so radicalized for legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states that there is no longer any room for religious liberty.” He blamed this dire situation on “liberal fascism”.

Webster defines “liberal” as “believing that government should be active in supporting social and political change.” Let’s pair that with “fascism”, which is “a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition. “

Am I mistaken, or do those two words together create an oxymoron? (According to Webster, an oxymoron is “a combination of contradictory or incongruous words, or words that have opposite or different meanings.”)

Maybe Teddy understands something I don’t, but I think he just pulled the term ‘fascism’ out of his ass because it sounds scary. Gin up the crowd by ratcheting up the fear. That’s Politics 101. Especially when you address a crowd in Iowa, where all Presidential races officially begin.

If you think Ted Cruz is whack, check out Presidential bridesmaid Mike Huckabee. In an interview with televangelist  James Robinson back in January, Robinson brought up the fact that we now have a “secular theocracy” here in the U.S., and it’s a very bad thing, indeed! Huckabee agreed wholeheartedly, stating that he was planning to run for President because America needed to become a “God-centered nation that understands that our laws do not come from man, they come from God.”

Actually, our laws come from the Constitution of the United States, which was written by men. In fact, it’s plainly stated in the First Amendment that our government is clearly prohibited from establishing an official religion, or preferring one religion over another. Be sure to mention this the next time someone tells you that America is a “Christian” nation. We are not. We are a nation borne of a desire by our forefathers for the freedom to worship as we please, even if that means not worshiping at all.

And let’s take a look at that whole “secular theocracy” nonsense, shall we? Secular – “Of or relating to the physical world and not the spiritual world; not religious.” And Theocracy? “A form of government in which a country is ruled by religious leaders.”

I’ll give Huckabee and Robinson credit, though. That’s perhaps one of the best oxymorons I’ve ever seen.

So, it seems that the prospect of marriage equality becoming a reality has instilled such anxiety in some people that they have felt compelled to share their concerns with the entire world. Often with tragic results.

Take the couple in Indiana who own a pizzeria. When asked about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that Indiana governor Mike Pence recently signed into law, the pizza folks told reporters they were happy about it, because, being “Christians” and all, they would not feel comfortable having to cater a gay wedding. Shortly after that, social media lost its mind and the pizzeria had to close down due to threatening messages and, more likely, a lack of customers.

But why would you announce something so ridiculous to someone holding a microphone? Was this really going to be an issue for them? No self-respecting gay couple I know would cater a wedding with a pizza buffet!

At any rate, somebody (rumors hinted at a staffer from Glenn Beck’s radio show) started a GoFundMe campaign to help those poor “Christian” pizza makers out, raising upwards of $800K, donated mostly by other “Christians” who felt bad about the “persecution” of, well, homophobes. And yes, I have put quotes around the word “Christians” because I don’t believe that’s what these folks are. I know plenty of Christians, most of whom actually practice their faith in a way that does not involve hating others.

But let’s talk about persecution for a minute. It’s another word which is currently experiencing a renaissance in popularity. And for all the wrong reasons.

Persecution – from the word ‘persecute’, which means “to treat someone cruelly or unfairly especially because of race or religious or political beliefs.”

There are scores of examples of religious persecution throughout history. When al Qaeda extremists stormed Garissa University College in Kenya recently, targeting and shooting Christian students, that was an example of religious persecution. The near-obliteration of the Russian Orthodox Church during Stalin’s rule is another example. The murder of six million plus Jews in Europe under Nazi rule is a particularly heart-wrenching case of religious persecution in the extreme.

And lest we forget, Jesus himself was crucified for his beliefs.

So let’s get something straight. When you open your mouth and spout your hate in the name of religious freedom, and other people who are more tolerant and open-minded than you don’t agree and take their business elsewhere, that’s NOT religious persecution. That’s you behaving like an asshole, and then being a victim of your own actions.

In America, you can hardly swing a cat without hitting a Christian church of some denomination. There are an estimated 350,000 church congregations in this country, and about 314,000 of those are identified as Protestant/Christian. Any individual who wants to may enter one of these churches and worship. The government won’t stop you. The police won’t stop you. Liberals won’t stop you. And until the doors to all those churches are barred, or you are dragged out of one of them and shot, don’t whine about being persecuted.

If you’re in a frenzy over marriage equality, over the chance that people that you don’t approve of are allowed a right that you’ve had all along, you are not being persecuted.

The word you’re looking for is ‘bigoted’.


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