Thursday, June 16, 2005

There are more slaves in the world than ever TODAY

Did you know more than a billion children are forced into slavery (including but not limited to factory labor) or prostitution right now?

About 300,000 are child soldiers who are killing and mutilating other adults and children.

You can buy slaves in Africa for $40 each, cheaper for children, and this is a bargain without even considering that it cost about $40,000 (in today's dollars) to buy an African slave in Alabama in the 19th C. In other words, slavery is more plentiful and cheaper than ever. This is a worldwide shame.

Romania has an epidemic of childhood prostitution and paint thinner sniffing and the cops that know about it bribe johns so that the cops profit off of the children's exploitation as well. Kids in India produce marble tomb stones for Americans on the cheap.

The United States slavery "business" is the biggest black market after drugs and something else I can't remember. In other words, it's a big U.S. problem. It's estimated that 60% of U.S. goods are produced using child slaves--buy AMERICAN folks--but even then we should ask where the raw materials come from.

I gathered all of this from an Oprah episode. What does all this mean?

Adults have sold out children. Let's put our money where our mouths are, America!!! ADVOCATE FOR CHILDREN, HERE AND ABROAD!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

How to remove meaning from an American symbol...

I never thought you could actually take away or remove meaning from a symbol, until I received the following e-mail from my congressional representative today:

Many constituents have contacted me about amending the Constitution to prevent desecration of the United States flag. During a visit to the District over the Memorial Day recess, hundreds of veterans and their families in San Pedro, Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach urged me to continue my support for flag protection while, several days later in Venice, protestors challenged my stand on the issue.

I respect the strong views expressed in the calls, letters and comments I have received, and want to respond directly to you.

Simply put, I support the First Amendment [Reader, don't stop here...], and have made some tough votes to protect it, including votes against the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Acts of 2004 and 2005, which in my view allowed for unnecessary and excessive economic censorship that unconstitutionally restricted free speech.

But the Supreme Court has recognized reasonable limits on free speech, and as the most respected and revered symbol of our nation and freedoms, I think the flag should be protected against desecration. Defiling the physical flag is abhorrent to me, and an amendment to protect it does not limit the right of Americans to express their views.

The flag is the symbol of our national heritage and serves as an important link between Americans and our history. Flags are placed on the coffins of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to uphold the liberty and values it represents. Millions of homes - including mine - have displayed or flown flags since 9/11 as an extension of patriotism and solidarity.

I appreciate your taking time to share your views with me. Please stay in touch.


Member of Congress

Dear Rep. Jane Harman,

I am very disappointed to learn that you will be voting to restrict Americans' freedom of expression by supporting the flag desecration amendment. Please help stop the erosion of our freedoms and liberties by reconsidering your vote for this reactionary, unprincipled, amendment. This vote on free speech is about more than economic hardship, and it actually strikes at the true power of the American flag. As you vote to "protect" it, it will actually loose it's ability to symbolize freedom for all.

I wonder, what does freedom mean to you? I believe that the principle of freedom means that American symbols can be both respected, venerated and denigrated by Americans. This is one reason why America is unique and great. This freedom shows, or maybe showed, that we are fundamentally free. But today in America, peace means war, freedom means civil rights restrictions, and we are every day losing a sense of reality and truth and living in an Orwellian fantasy based not on principles of freedom and liberty, but of the political power of special interests and politically generous corporations. To me, a vote for restrictions on freedom of expression (e.g. flag "desecration," and even academic tinkering) is a serious erosion, and actual desecration, of the principles of freedom and liberty for all, and a vote for political power at the expense of these principles.

Symbols are not principles. Why should we protect symbols over our principles? That is a fundamental error in American democracy. And as powerful as symbols are, they are not life. They serve as forms of communication, as metaphors, and therefore they are very clearly SPEECH. Because they are like speech, their meaning depends completely on context, history, and interpretation.

I am an artist. Does this mean that my art involving the flag that I produced while I was living in New York, in reaction to 9-11, is a desecration of our national symbol [it is a flag with the word "comfort" literally cut out of it]? Who will make these interpretive decisions, Rep. Harman? What are the full consequences of this restriction on speech for which you are about to vote, and who will it most affect?

To me, individuals' fears of the flag being desecrated put America in a position of weakness, as if we are not strong enough to endure self-criticism. That's tough to support, and I would like to believe that our nation will always be strong enough to endure self-criticism. In spite of your optimistic justification for this vote, you can be certain that an amendment to protect the flag will in fact limit Americans' rights to express their views of America through her symbols--and that's exactly why certain people are gunning for it.

I understand that many veterans venerate the flag and think it should never be used as a symbol of dissent or protest. Their personal and emotional relationship to this symbol is something I can sympathize with but don't fully relate to through war, yet I also venerate our flag, and wish it to be a symbol of peace. However, ANY personally emotional or nationalistic reason for stifling the American tradition of freedom of speech is dangerous and not justified by our history of expanding liberties (this tradition is already being seriously undermined by the Bush administration and our Republican congress).

Thank you

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

God, politics, and a national park in Mississippi

There was an opinion in the L.A. Times by a man who argued that the difference between liberal and conservative Christians and Jews was that the conservatives actually believe that the bible is the word of G_d, and the liberals see the text as the opinions of man. Framing the interpretation of the bible this way seemed to pin liberals as "relativists" and conservatives as "purists."

The ridiculous thing is, if you really believe that the bible is purely the word of G_d, G_d is schizophrenic. Anyone who pulls "G_d's word" from the bible has to accept some things, and reject others, or else they are inherently contradicting themselves.

If you really believe that the bible teaches us pure knowledge about G_d, which would be "God's word," I believe that we underestimate the power and might of G_d, and overestimate our ability to understand G_d.

Lately, quite simply, I see conservatives using parts of the bible to justify selfishness, rigid control of individuals, and greed, while I see liberals hesitating to "use" the bible to justify a liberal agenda that is actually better for families' health and well-being, but we could, with equal claims on parts of the text, and in my mind, a much closer leaning toward Jesus' teachings.

As my husband often asks, "Why do so many Christians use the Jewish bible (to Christians, the "Old Testament") to justify conservative views, when the Christian bible basically was a type of reform of the older views?"

Even if we just use the Jewish bible alone to make a case for politics today, G_d's first covenant with life on earth was not just reserved for human beings, that covenant was with ALL life on earth. If this was G_d's word, it strongly argues that animals and other forms of life are of extreme value to him. And in both Christian and Jewish religions, people are considered G_d's hands, so we help maintain G_d's covenant with the earth. Therefore, one could argue that the conservative idea that G_d will repair whatever ever damage humans wage on nature, in a biblical sense, is an abuse of the human role within the covenant G_d has in this world.

If you haven't heard, and I doubt that CNN has covered it, Bush and Co. have given the mineral rights of a national park on the coast of Mississippi to the state. The state will now allow private oil and gas companies to drill inside a national nature preserve, a tax-payer owned property, and one with the biggest concentrations of bottle-nose dolphins in the world, among other formerly protected wildlife.

If Bush had ever been in charge of Eden he'd have been dreaming about how to export and exploit its treasures for money and comfort.