Back Again

I took a short break from social media. It did me good to step away from the drama, and look at my beliefs with a critical eye and decide what was important to me, and if I truly believed them enough to stand on those beliefs.

The truth is no one knows everything. we’re all learning from day to day, moment to moment. And none of us have all the answers. If we did then there wouldn’t be so much contention in the world. My core beliefs, the things that I hold most dear, have always hinged upon that fact. That I don’t know everything, and I should be willing to examine my beliefs in order to make sure they still hold true.

Oddly enough I learned this lesson in church. I don’t go to church anymore because I don’t consider myself a Christian, but there were many good things I learned there. One of the things they taught in the churches I went to is that you should examine and know your beliefs. It’s based on the idea that when someone asks you a question about the church, or the gospel, that you will have an answer because you know what you believe in. It’s the fundamental belief of most philosophers that if your belief can not stand up to scrutiny then the scrutiny is not the problem. Your belief is.

So I took the time to pars my beliefs and to really hold them up to a light. The belief that violence, outside of self defense, is not the answer. The belief that endless war is not the answer. The belief that EVERYONE has a right to speak, and assemble even if I don’t agree with what they have to say.

I’m not a violent person. I don’t like confrontation, and I don’t enjoy being harassed, but I think I can’t stay silent anymore. And the harassment will surely follow. If anything has been shown to me recently it is this: If you don’t believe in the group think 100% then you are their enemy. And they will hit you, even if they don’t know for sure what you said.

And that’s the point that scared me the most. All of the thousands of people rejoicing that “the nazi got punched” probably never actually watched any of his videos. They probably had no idea what he actually talked about. I know I only have a vague idea, and what I saw I found distasteful and turned it off. But I didn’t feel like punching him over it.

Then there is Milo and the riots. A man who is gay, prefers black men, and talks about equality for all people. Granted, some of his ideas are little out there, but I have yet to see a single thing from him that makes him racist or a nazi. But no one actually listens to what he says, they just listen to what everyone else says about him and believe it without vetting.

If either of these men have ideas that can stand up to the light of day then maybe we should listen. If not then HOLD THEM UP TO THE LIGHT! Poke holes in their ideas. Show people what’s wrong with them. That is the proper response to someone spreading ideas you don’t like. Not punching. Not rioting. Not denying them their freedom to speak.

I’ll leave with this final quote:

“When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.”  George R.R. Martin, A Clash of Kings

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Explaining the world

I was watching a news piece about the shootings in France on youtube last night and my son wandered over and asked me “Why did they do it?”

That’s a big question, with a bigger answer. I tried to explain it: They drew cartoons criticizing their religion and they didn’t like it. Then my son asked what the cartoons said, and then he had extra questions.

questionmasterMy son is the Question Master. When he focuses on a subject he starts asking about every little thing, and if you let him he will have  you there for a couple hours just answering more questions about the same original subject. He doesn’t understand that it’s frustrating for other people to have to answer 15 MILLION questions about the operation of a stick shift Subaru. (Except for Gregg, he loves Subaru.) Usually once he gets to a certain point I will point him toward Google and say “have at it.”

But this time he wasn’t asking about aerodynamics, or cakes, or tensile strength of a bridge (yes he’s really asked those things. My kids WAY smarter then I am.) This time he was asking about religion, extremism, cultural differences and censorship. Things that are a little tougher to understand. Things that you can’t simply say “this is right and this is wrong.” No, these subjects are more nuanced.

We take for granted this “freedom of speech”, except that it is our right, and then rally against those who would try to silence or control it. At least sometimes.

But not everyone believes in freedom of speech. Not everyone thinks “everything” should be allowed. And I’m not talking about just certain religions or certain cultures. EVERY culture has issues. Even the USA that prides itself on this freedom has groups that ban books, like Harry Potter, or Christian groups that try silencing other groups because they aren’t christian.

When you feel that you belong to a specific group you tend to want to help that group. You might show it by wearing your teams colors on Sunday, or singing a hymn in church. You might wave a banner, or spend a month camping out near Wall Street. And some people take that idea that their group is right and yours is wrong to new heights. Just ask the parents at the last game who started a brawl in the bleachers of their kids school.

How do you explain the world and all its intricacies? Why did they shoot a cartoonist?

We can say it was fear, or pride, or anger… but I think there are some people in this world who hold the idea of being “right” over the idea of life. When a human life is less important then being right then things start happening. Things that sometimes end in deaths.

And I’m not talking about just this incident. Look at any mass shooting, every war, every violent act. Someone believed that they were right, and it was more important then the life they took.

Wikileaks_cantstopsignalI’m not a religious person, and I have anything against anyone who wants to practice a religion. But I do have a problem when your religion infringes on my right to a happy, and healthy life. That includes information. You can’t stop the signal! You can never stop the signal!

Knowledge, science, and progress aren’t going to stop just because someone, or some group are afraid of it. It didn’t stop Galeleo, or Rhazes, or Domagk. If the KGP and Gestapo couldn’t stop it then neither can the NSA or ISIS leaders. We will endure. Knowledge will prevail.

And life will find a way.