Bigotry is a lousy money-maker

I have written before how coexisting and capitalism are not at odds with each other, in spite of the attempts of some through bumper stickers to show you should pick one or the other. History has shown, it is far more economical to coexist. Why? More customers. And, more customers means more jobs.

In my home state of North Carolina, we have forgotten this equation. In early 2016, our General Assembly rammed through a discriminatory law called HB2 in a special session taking just ten hours. I recognize fully the transgender bathroom portion of the law gets most of the press, but the piece which has caused the most consternation in the eyes of businesses looking at our state and ruling bodies of the NBA, NCAA and ACC, is the elimination of LGBTQ people as a protected class who should not be discriminated against.

The transgender portion was sold on fear without much data to support its issues. So, it is hard to back away from something its supporters made people scared of. But, let’s set that part aside and focus on the LGBTQ part. While there are proponents of HB2 who will argue the bathroom law should remain, the denial of protection to LGBTQ folks is flat out unconstitutional.

The proponents of the law said it is only the cities that are impacted by this law due to larger populations of LGBTQ people. Legislators in rural NC say what does it matter if Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro don’t get sporting events or new businesses? The economic dilemma for the rural parts of the state is this concept of revenue sharing. A portion of sales taxes from larger cities are distributed throughout the state to help finance smaller investments and pay for services.

The less money in the big cities means less money for the state. And, our entire state has damaged its reputation not just around the country, but around the world. I have read that some members of the General Assembly say they had no idea there would be such a backlash. The answer to these legislators is you did not take the time to know passing the law in ten hours.

I firmly believe HB2 should be fully repealed. Its treatment of transgender people using a sledgehammer approach to legislation is unjust. There could have been a more surgical answer. So, short of a full repeal, let me offer a compromise.

  • eliminate the LGBTQ discrimination feature in its entirety before you are made to by the courts. This feature is unconstitutional. Period.
  • eliminate the feature on restricting a city from having a higher minimum wage; cities who have larger economic competition and cost of living should have the right to allow a higher minimum wage than the national one. This feature needs to be vetted more than it was by itself.
  • change the transgender portion of the law to do the following; if a person has a formal document indicating a gender different from his or her birth certificate, he or she should legally have the right to use the bathroom he or she identifies with.

Again, I believe the whole law should be repealed. Yet, this compromise should help the state move forward before these business decisions not to move, expand or hold events here are more recognizable in our economic growth. The scary part, as shared by Chamber of Commerce recruiters, is we have no idea how many organizations did not consider North Carolina.

Jesus told us to treat others like he we want to be treated. It is the right thing to do as well as the economical thing to do. Bigotry is not much of a money-maker.

 

Happy Easter, too

While I did not grow up Catholic, my best friend did. So, one of our rituals that lasted about ten years was going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. One of the traditions of that mass was the Father would also wish Happy Easter, as he knew he would not see more than a few parishioners until next Christmas.

While fewer people are church goers than before and some check the box “none” when surveyed, Christmas remains an important holiday for the promise it brings. Whether you believe that Jesus is the son of God, there was a man by this name who walked the earth and spoke to gatherings of people of all sizes. He reminded us of four key themes among his many parables and lessons. And, these themes can be found in other religious texts.

– Treat others like you want to be treated.

– Help people less fortunate than you.

– Recognize each of us is imperfect.

– Forgive those who trespass against us.

To me, if we live our lives doing our best to remember these four things, Jesus’ words will help us be better people. And, if enough of us do this, the world just might be a better place.

 

The Harmony Project – Sing, Serve, Share

What do you get when you have a choir which does not require auditions? You get a tremendous amount of harmony, but not just the musical kind. From a recent CBS Sunday Morning report, David Brown has formed a choral group whose primary purpose is to bring different kinds of people together to sing, serve and share.

Based in Colimbus, Ohio, its members must serve the community in various community projects, as well as practicing and performing. During the interview, Jane Pauley talked with what sounds like the set-up to a joke – a CEO, a warden and a Rabbi. These diverse people epitomize what the group is all about – getting to know people who are different from you, then realizing how similar we are.

Brown has even taken this concept into the warden’s prison where female inmates have their own chorus. Recently, the incarcerated chorus joined the larger one for a performance, which brought down the house.

Brown’s history has been one of being diverse. It started in high school when he moved into a new school district and was the lone white student at an African-American school. In college, he came out as a gay man. So, getting along as the non-main stream person has formed his bent toward diversity.

The Harmony Project is such a positive effort to bring out the best in us. While these examples happen on a daily basis, we need to celebrate them and our humanity by sharing our common threads. This is what America is all about. It is not finger pointing and hate speak. Let’s bring America together by celebrating our diversity, as well as these common threads that bind us.

North Carolina’s General Assembly fumbled yet again

Our North Carolina (NC) General Assembly gained global attention by introducing a law called HB2 in reaction to a law passed in its biggest city, Charlotte, to better accommodate transgender people in bathroom choice. The state-wide HB2 law passed earlier this year, in essence, does the following:

  • Overturns the Charlotte law and makes it state-wide that transgender people can only use the bathroom of their birth gender or if they have had an operation to officially change their gender.
  • Strikes the words referenced by LGBT from protection of discrimination. not just transgender folks.
  • Eliminates the ability for anyone to bring suit in state court should they feel discriminated against (the only recourse is in more expensive and elongated federal court).
  • Eliminates the ability of a city to have a minimum wage higher than the minimum wage of the state, in this case the federal minimum.

The push back has been significant and will continue to be so. Two companies have changed plans for moves or expansions in the state. What is not known is how many companies have taken NC off its relocation list. What is known is several performers have canceled tours in NC and the semi-annual Furniture Mart in High Point, which is very lucrative to the state saw a 10% fall-off and will likely see a bigger fall-off in October. And, the NBA has been pressuring the state officials to change the discriminatory aspects of the law, as they will likely move next year’s planned All Star game from Charlotte.

Yesterday, our NC legislature decided to only change a part of the law that impacted the right they took away for anyone to sue in State court. This impacted everyone, but the added back feature reduced the original time limit to one year from the previous three before HB2. So, they left in the two unconstitutional features and added $500,000 for legal fees to fight lawsuits, since our Attorney General decided not to defend an unconstitutional law (the appellate court in VA has already ruled on a VA case, so the AG sees efforts to fight as futile and a waste of money).

On a positive note, three onerous features in a Mississippi law aimed to limit the rights of LGBT folks and others were ruled unconstitutional. This is why party matters, as our conservative friends have used cookie cutter language from a group called ALEC to do a state-by-state assault on the rights of the disenfranchised, whether they be LGBT citizens or Black and student voters. As the GOP leadership and pundits try to distance themselves from the GOP presidential candidate, it should be noted that he is the mirror image of the ugly parts of the party. They have been fairly active in the discrimination business long before their bigoted, racist and xenophobic candidate has made them hide their eyes in shame.

I am a 57-year-old heterosexual white man and this is just not right. We should highlight this organized discrimination effort. We cannot tolerate bigotry in our leaders. We must shine a spotlight on fear mongering as a means to sell poor policy positions. We must look for underlying truths. When leaders cheerlead us in the discrimination efforts, we are truly investing our time in the wrong kind of leaders.

As a NC citizen, I get to see a series of leaders unwind the image of our state which will hurt people and the economy. This is not the first law that will be ruled unconstitutional passed by this and the previous General Assemblies. Call me crazy, but that is not only wrong, it is a waste of money and time.

The AR-15: the weapon of choice for mass murderers

According to a report on PBS Newshour this week, the weapon used by the Orlando shooter is the AR-15. Apparently, it is the weapon of choice of mass murderers and was even used in the Sandy Hook school shooting. See the link below to the news report.

This weapon is designed to kill efficiently and brutally. It fires 30 rounds of ammo at a time, in bursts of three. Its bullets are powered by hardware that flops around in its target to increase the size of the wound. The doctors in Orlando said they normally don’t see this many or this large of wounds in their victims.

The 49 victims on early Sunday morning were killed with multiple wounds from this military style weapon. The only difference is the military weapon can fire all 30 bullets in one stream, instead of bursts of three. But, the killer need not worry about this limitation, as he can easily reload a cartridge.

Now, let’s go back in time to the Sandy Hook shooting. Picture the mostly young kids who were killed that day. This military style weapon was used to do lethal damage to their little fragile bodies. I do not mean to insult the memories of the deceased with these comments, but want parents and non-parents to visualize the brutality of this weapon and those like it.

With this in mind, please ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why should any American need to have a weapon that kills so many with so much efficiency and brutality?
  • Why have we placed people of interest on a no-fly list, yet think it is alright for them to purchase this weapon? Why have legislators in power not allowed a vote on this bill?
  • Why have we not extended background checks on all weapon purchases? This is not a fishing license. It is a weapon to kill.
  • Why have we not elongated waiting periods since 2/3 of gun deaths are suicide?
  • Why would we not want all guns to have fingerprint triggers to prevent a child from murdering his sibling, parent, grandparent, etc. by accidentally discovering a weapon?

Since the assault rifle ban expired in 2005, more than half of mass shootings in America have occurred. With over 1,000 hate groups in America plus other lone wolf radicals, unless we make some of the above changes, mass shootings will continue to occur in our country irrespective of tough talk by politicians on Islamic Radicals. It should be noted the Sandy Hook, Aurora, and Charleston killers were not Muslims, nor was the Indiana man arrested who was on his way to a Gay Pride event in California this past week, with several assault weapons in his vehicle and intent to wreak havoc.

We all must be diligent to watch out for folks, but we could make it easier with some of these changes. We should not hand the killer his weapon without doing some checking.

Please join me in reaching out for change with our elected officials. There is a movement by several Senators to bring some of these issues to a vote.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/its-the-weapon-of-choice-for-u-s-mass-murderers-the-ar-15/

Land of Hope and Dreams – Bruce Springsteen anthem for us all

There has been some push back on Bruce Springsteen by more conservative voters in North Carolina for canceling a concert in Greensboro in protest of the oppressive law that was passed that restricted the rights of LGBT folks, in general, as well as the rights of transgender people specifically. But, this is not new for Springsteen to lend his voice to fight for the disenfranchised folks in the world. In fact, if people listen to his songs, many are about those who have little voice in a society that sometime steps on them.

One of my many favorite Springsteen songs is called “Land of Hope and Dreams” which speaks of the train taking us all to a better place. To me the song lives in the chorus which is repeated often as the song winds down. This is one song where the live version sounds better than the studio-recorded one, in part as the studio version was recorded after Clarence Clemons had passed with his saxophone being overdubbed.

Here are most of the lyrics, with the chorus highlighted at the end.
Grab your ticket and your suitcase, thunder’s rolling down this track
Well, you don’t know where you’re going now, but you know you won’t be back
Well, darling, if you’re weary, lay your head upon my chest
We’ll take what we can carry, yeah, and we’ll leave the rest

Well, big wheels roll through the fields where sunlight streams
Meet me in a land of hope and dreams

I will provide for you and I’ll stand by your side
You’ll need a good companion now for this part of the ride
Yeah, leave behind your sorrows, let this day be the last
Well, tomorrow there’ll be sunshine and all this darkness past

Well, big wheels roll through fields where sunlight streams
Oh, meet me in a land of hope and dreams

Well, this train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls

I said, this train, dreams will not be thwarted
This train, faith will be rewarded
This train, hear the steel wheels singing
This train, bells of freedom ringing

Yes, this train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls

I said, this train carries broken-hearted
This train, thieves and sweet souls departed
This train carries fools and kings thrown
This train, all aboard

I said, now this train, dreams will not be thwarted
This train, faith will be rewarded
This train, the steel wheels singing
This train, bells of freedom ringing

Folks, The Boss’ words are compelling. We are all imperfect. We are all sinners. But, there is a place on the train for everyone. I for one applaud Springsteen’s stance. It is not a stretch for him to make it.

 

Will I be watching the speed debate?

Although, I must confess mild interest in learning how the GOP debate goes tonight, I won’t be watching. My guess is The Donald will try to look presidential, but will not be able to resist the temptation to fire back at folks. I will look at the highlights reel of the fireworks.Yet, the answer to will anything substantive be discussed, is an easy no.

I say this for two reasons. First, you cannot glean any substance from ten people in that little bit of time. It will be a war of sound bites, yet someone who can coin a clever retort, is not correlated with being a good leader. It just means they had a clever retort. Plus, the leader in the GOP polls is big on saying outlandish things with very little data or substance backing it up. Some of the others have already sunk to his level, so I think you will see a lot of big swings being made tonight.

Second, the issues that are needing to be discussed are multi-faceted and complex, so sound bites won’t cut it. Also, as a former Republican, the GOP is on the wrong side of future history on so many issues, that the real problems are not being addressed by the rhetoric of the candidates. We won’t hear about the need to address man-influenced climate change, but will hear about the jobs being lost in fossil fuel industry. Note, the coal jobs have been going away more due to fracking natural gas, so why has that not been an issue before? Plus, the solar industry jobs are growing at double-digit rates and tally over 170,000 at year-end 2014, so it is not an either/or issue on jobs.

We also won’t hear about the ACA working and how it can be improved, as it is needed tool in the new sharing economy. Without the ACA, independent contractors would not have access to affordable care. We also won’t hear about the huge need for better gun control. We also won’t hear about asset based community development and investing in our infrastructure that will help change liabilities into assets and create jobs. We also won’t hear about how investing in family planning and birth control has reduced abortions, unwanted pregnancies and poverty. We also won’t hear how the economy and stock market have been doing pretty well and unemployment is low.

Yet, I am sure we will hear about the Confederate flag. I am sure will hear about denying rights and freedoms to the LGBTQ citizens. I am sure we will hear about how stupid the president is on immigration, Cuba, Iran, ISIS and Ukraine, yet I applaud his seriousness of purpose to address these problems and opportunities. I am sure we will hear about how the president has let down the African-American community, not admitting the huge role the GOP has played in disenfranchising this audience through unconstitutional voting laws, attacks on support programs, indictment of the ACA, lack of Medicaid expansion in twenty states, limiting wages and lack of investment in these communities and in public education.

So, I will watch the highlights, but avoid the watching their lack of attention to more important matters. I do like that John Kasich made the cut, as he is the best candidate in the bunch, but no one has heard of him outside of Ohio.

So, it is not OK for the Pope to talk about poverty and climate change?

There have been a series of comments by Republican presidential candidates and leaders directed at Pope Francis for having the nerve to talk about helping people in poverty and doing something about climate change. They have basically told him to stick to religion and one even said “helping us be better people.” I am having a hard time coming to grips with these comments, but I guess these folks felt like they had to say something to counteract the veracity of the Pope’s message. And, some of the candidates are even Catholic, no less.

Let me first say I agree with the messages of the Pope who is probably the greatest leader we have on the planet today. No, he is not perfect, but he is speaking about issues the Catholic Church has always stood for, helping people in need. More global charities to help the poor have been started by the Catholic Church and other churches for that matter than any other source. So, for the Pope to speak on poverty is part and parcel with the history of the church and Jesus’ teaching to look after who he called “the least of these.”

Further, the Christian bible and other religious texts are filled with passages about taking care of the environment, so speaking to climate change as a source of concern is also part and parcel with the history of the church. The Pope has noted that people in poverty are more impacted by climate change and environmental problems than other folks. So, his message on climate change has a dual purpose. Yet, with him coming to speak to Congress, we will witness a mountain of public relations unleashed on his right to speak to these issues. To be frank, this will backfire on the assailants and should.

But, to make these comments even more bizarre are the comments that are seemingly condoned by religious leaders who support the Republican Party. So, by virtue of the Presidential candidates’ silence, the following comments must be OK.

– Reverend Franklin Graham’s consistent indicting rhetoric toward Muslims and LGBT people. Contrast this to the Pope’s comments of a year ago when asked about gays, when he responded, “who am I to judge?”

– A minister in Maiden, NC who says we should put gay people behind an electrified fence, so that they will die off, a message which was reinforced by a minister and public official in Alabama.

– Pat Buchanan who says the Supreme Court gay marriage ruling could start another Civil War.

– The State of Oklahoma GOP’s statement on Facebook equating feeding wild animals and people in need, which is particularly offensive  (see link below).

– Pat Robertson’s comments that hurricanes are God’s response to various civil rights changes. I always find this one of interest, as the last two GOP Conventions have been shortened a day by hurricanes. While one was in Tampa, the other one was in Minneapolis, MN not known for its hurricanes. So, Reverend Robertson, does that mean……

We have a global poverty problem which is also apparent in the United States. It is a shame that so many Americans go hungry and cannot make enough money to live. Also, climate change is real and is man-influenced. It does affect those in need more, as people’s livelihoods are being washed away. And, the Pope not only is right to speak about these issues, it is well within his rights to speak about them. By the way, he has a Masters in Chemistry, so he also has a scientific mind which adds some gravitas.

My strong advice to these candidates is to watch what you say. Your current position is in the wrong and if you follow the advice of your funders, it will haunt you. You are definitely barking up the wrong tree on this. This Pope has far more credibility than any Presidential candidate throwing mud at him.

https://mountainperspective.wordpress.com/2015/07/14/republican-christians-an-oxymoron/

The best of religion – creating community conversations around differences

Last night, my wife and I attended one of a series of “talks” around improving racial relations. It is a weekly chat sponsored by a multi-faith group based in our city. In essence, it is facilitated small group and large group discussions on breaking down barriers and listening to others who do not look like you do. It was well done and very meaningful.

To hear stories about small and large examples of racism is very important. To hear about how assumptions can be made and, if not corrected, can be become more concrete in the eyes of the beholder. Children learn lessons whether you want them to or not, even when you try to do the right thing. So, it is imperative to have open conversations about treating people like you want to be treated and listening to comments, so that they can be reinforced or amended.

Yet, it is we adults that need to do better. A few themes we discussed include:

– do not indict a group for the actions of a few;

– recognize that small sleights can be hurtful, as well;

– try to walk in another person’s shoes; understand that a white person has more liberty to go anywhere, while a black man, even when dressed-up, has restricted access;

– shine a light on hateful speech or behavior; tolerance must be viewed toward a greater good, so it is OK to be less tolerant of those who use words to demean and diminish;

– speak up and speak out to people who share your skin color who are indicting others who are different; a white person’s voice will be listened to when admonishing the behavior of fellow white people;

– be the change you want to see and see people for whom they are; and

– recognize that racial injustice is also the result of a larger poverty issue, which affects people of all colors.

There are many more lessons that were conveyed during the session, but one of my takeaways is this is religion at its finest. Welcoming, including and helping. Let me end with one more tidbit on how religion can help provide solutions and create a welcoming dialogue. The Kindness Blog is a compilation of good news stories from around the world. People need to read this blog to balance the many negative stories that we are bombarded with. Their latest post, which can be linked to below, is evidence of the best of religion.

Jesus said it so well in his Golden Rule. Treat others like you want to be treated. If we do this, we are way ahead in the game. So, welcome, include and help.

http://kindnessblog.com/2015/07/07/walked-past-a-church-yesterday-had-this-poster-on-the-door/

A Good Friday for America and the World

Irrespective of how someone might feel about same-sex marriage, last Friday’s US Supreme Court decision will be looked upon as watershed moment in American history. Further, it has already launched celebrations around the globe as the decision to allow same-sex marriages here is a beacon for the rest of the world. It was indeed a good Friday for America and the world.

Our friend Barney wrote earlier this year a post that offers some valuable historical context. He notes that our US Constitution afforded more rights to white male property owners at the expense of others. I would offer that should any of those white males have been gay men, they would have kept it extremely quiet, so as not to run afoul or the mores of the day. Women did not have the right to vote, nor did other white men. And, slaves were denied all rights and counted as 3/5 a person to provide southern states with more power in Congress.

But, what is most interesting to me, is the history of our country is a series of events that give others those same rights. The most notable changes are the freedoms afforded former slaves at the end of the Civil War, which was a hard fought battle in a predominantly northern Congress, and giving women the right to vote in the early 1920s. I like to remind people that women have had the right to vote in our country for less than 100 years, which is a shame that it took so long.

Yet, other key changes occurred by legislation and court cases. The Civil Rights and Voters Rights Acts are two key pieces of legislation which afforded Blacks the same rights they should have had in practice for 100 years, but were denied by Jim Crow laws. These laws were also ten years after the Brown v. Board of Education US Supreme court decision which said separate was not equal in education. Another key court case which is similar in nature to last Friday’s decision is Loving v. VA where an interracial couple won a court case which opened up marriage between people of different races. Like the recent decision, the Loving decision ran up against people with biblical references of how bad it would be to mix the races.

In America, people have the right to believe the way they want. That freedom is important. Yet, one thing that is of equal importance, is no one has the freedom to restrict the rights of other people. That is a key part of the Civil Rights Act. So, to say it simply, your freedoms are of equal importance to my freedoms, but not more. I cannot discriminate unfairly against you, nor should you be allowed to do the same to me. And, this goes for government officials as well. To do otherwise, is a slippery slope.

So, we should celebrate the historical ruling of last Friday. As a 56 year-old, heterosexual married father, who is an Independent voter, I am delighted that Americans have the freedom to marry someone of the same-sex. One of the best pictures I saw this weekend, is one of a Lesbian couple who had words painted on their fists, when held up in unison, said “Love Wins.” Yes, it most certainly did. And, so did America.