Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Cutting off your nose

People just do not get the simple concept of choice. In a world where we have far too much government and are quickly heading the way George Orwell envisioned there are more idiots who cannot figure out how to avoid watching something that offends them.

For two years I chose not to have a television. When I did decide to turn the television on again I used it to watch movies, movies I chose. Now I have cable and I still use my new television to watch movies and I choose what I want to watch on cable. I choose not to watch commercial television. I choose.

Evangelicals and many fundamentalist Christians now want cable companies to tailor a package to fit their choices, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't suit them. They have yet to figure out what that little box with the buttons on it does -- it helps them choose the programs they want to watch and avoid the ones they don't want or find offensive. It's not a difficult skill to master and cable companies also include a feature on that little box with the buttons that allows them to lock out whatever channels they do not want to watch. Cable companies also provide a guide of the channels they offer and a guide to tell the consumer how to use the lock out button on the little box and still they want a special package. Give me a break. Better yet how about licensing in order for people to be able to buy a television with a remote or channel changer?

We live in a very special country where our constitution, the model for many other countries, grants us the rights of free speech, the freedom to practice the religion of our choice and the simple right to choose what we do and do not want in our cities, communities and homes. Those rights are double-edged swords though. While they grant us the right to choose the Constitution also grants others the same rights of choice. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights were designed for minimum government with maximum benefit and we have spent the past 200 years changing that most elastic of all governing documents to change with the times. I don't think the Founding Fathers had any idea we would change or want to change our government in such a way as to limit freedom and democracy in the ways we have over the past 50 years.

The problem is that we have become separatists who are determined to be allowed our freedoms and rights without allowing those who differ from us ideologically, religiously and fundamentally their freedoms and rights. It's all about tolerance.

Government officials who espouse a specific religion or set of religious ideas are determined to make everyone believe the same way or be denied their rights and freedoms. Religious leaders who have determined their beliefs are the only true beliefs deny other religious leaders and participants their rights under the Constitution by enacting laws that redefine and limit what is and is not permissible. More laws, more litigation, more narrowing of the broad and tolerant bedrock of our country's Constitution and Bill of Rights lead us directly to the world where Big Brother is indeed watching and weeding out the nonbelievers. Is that what we really want? Do we really want a country where one person's beliefs can be used against those who do not believe the same way?

The argument of the separation of Church and State is one that has been used often over the past fifty years and it is not part of the Constitution or the Bill of Rights or the Declaration of Independence. It is a line of thought that Thomas Jefferson wrote about outside of those documents. Having a religious motto on a building or as part of the curriculum in a school does not force anyone to believe in it nor does it harm anyone who reads it. Having such a motto or credo in full public view and paid for by the public also does not constitute a State Religion which is what Jefferson was writing about, but we are very close to having a State Religion when any governing official publicly uses his religious beliefs to deny the rights of any other group, religious or secular.

Freedom to practice any religion means you are FREE to practice ANY religion. That is not a difficult concept to grasp. Freedom also means if you are an elective representative of the people then your religious beliefs are your own but you are obligated to uphold the religious beliefs of every single person in your governed area from the President to a council member in a small town. You do not have to agree with your constituents but you must uphold their freedoms as you uphold your own without reservation or prejudice. That goes for pagans as well as Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc.

In simple terms it means that you are free to turn down the offer of a bible or Koran or Torah or book of spells. It also means that the words of one religion or another on any building is not a declaration of a State Religion but the freedom of expression granted by our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. That means that it is all right to pray in school and it is all right to not pray in school; it's a matter of choice. That means we are free to read the words of another religion on a building or to ignore them. That means we are free to practice whatever religion speaks to us and to ignore the religion that does not speak to us. That means we are free to choose whatever path we wish to walk and to allow others to walk their own path without interference or intolerance.

Freedom can be a heavy or a light burden depending on whether or not you GET the concept of freedom. We do not need more laws. We do not need special cable packages. We do not need more government. We need more tolerance. If we do not practice tolerance now we will find ourselves in a world where freedom is a word that is punished by law and Big Brother will determine our paths for us.

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