Lacey Smith

Archive for May, 2011|Monthly archive page

Memorial Day: A look back

In Current Events on May 31, 2011 at 12:00 pm

I didn’t want Memorial Day to come and go without a discussion on my blog, but I wanted to do it looking back. Today is a sort of review.

Memorial Day is possibly one of America’s most sacred holidays. It’s the day that we honor and remember those who’ve come before, especially those who died in war.

Except it’s not anymore.

Do a Google News search on Memorial Day and you get headlines like this:

  • Hollywood enjoys a record Memorial Day weekend at the box office
  • Maria Spends Memorial Day with Kids while Arnold Rides Around Town
  • Memorial Day Niblicks: No.1 Luke Donald & ageless Tom Watson

‎It’s not until you get down the screen a ways that there are stories about our soldiers and veterans.

It was the same when I pulled up my local news web sites: a few stories about the “reason for the season” mixed in with hard news and a number of stories about Hollywood, spending and travel in correlation with Memorial Day.

It got me wondering if there is anything sacred to us anymore.

I spent a lot of time yesterday thinking about my dad, grandfathers and friends who have served in the military and also my family that left me an incredible legacy.

Fortunately I’ve never lost anyone because of a war.

Maybe many Americans quietly carried the holiday in their hearts like I did. The media sure doesn’t give that impression, but I’m not in the habit of trusting that. I think this country is better than the media portrays.

On the other hand, I think we treat our holidays lightly. If you look up the etymology of “holiday,” it’s a conjunction of the words “holy day.” Not every holiday is a holy day, but some are.

Now, this close after one of these sacred holidays, is a good time to look back and review whether or not we are observing them with the respect they deserve or if every holiday is just a time to get in extra housework, go shopping and have a day off work.

I know I could do better at not getting caught up in the unimportant elements of a holiday. I think a lot of us could.

Do we still hold some things sacred? Today is a good day to reflect, to evaluate how we observed Memorial Day and find out.

Demanding more from our election choices

In Uncategorized on May 30, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Late last week I caused quite a controversy on my facebook page by posting that I would withhold my vote for president unless I could find a candidate of the caliber of George Washington.

I was rather surprised by the opposition I received.

I’m not an advocate of not voting, but if we can’t find excellent people to run for office, we shouldn’t be electing people who don’t fill the requirements. Period.

There is no argument that we all want good leaders. We all want upright, honest people we can trust to do the people’s will and give us positive, practical solutions.

And yet we don’t feel like we can expect a president of the caliber of George Washington.

There is no doubt that Washington was a singular man. He was everything a president should be: honest, courageous, devoted, religious, constitutional and wholly committed to country.

I think we discount the presidents who followed him though: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. All of them were true men who had principles and were intellectually honest. They honored and upheld the constitution as they swore they would.

In the generations since, the quality of our presidents has declined. And we have come to expect less.

In this country, we get what we deserve. By expecting less, we have set up a pattern where we deserve less.

In past weeks, I have been hard on the American people, but that is because I believe we are capable of more. There are good people in this country who are living short of what they deserve. Most of us are.

The problem with the way we are electing people in this country is that it has nothing to do with the voice of the people. When it really comes down to it, the parties and corporations (which are comprised of people) give us a group of people that have been through their system and pass their tests and then let us decide which of their candidates we get to choose.

And election after election, we vote for them.

There are many truly good people in this country who avoid politics because the process is so broken. I believe there are people of the caliber of George Washington out there who just need a push to get involved.

Washington, himself, did not “run” but was drafted to be president. All he wanted was to retire quietly to his home and be a farmer. But he put his country before himself.

That’s what we need in this country: honest, courageous, devoted, religious, constitutional and devoted men who are committed to their country. They will be reluctant when we draft them, but they will do it because they love the country.

We must demand better. There are men of the caliber of Washington out there. Some of them, I believe, are even in politics, either because someone drafted them or because they felt like they had to.

We have to find them, because their country desperately needs them. We should vote, but only for people who we believe is honest, will put country before power and uphold the constitution, no matter what.

And if there is not a candidate who fits that criteria, we should not vote until there is.

Freedom Fridays: The Declaration of Independence, a key to our freedom

In Uncategorized on May 27, 2011 at 3:43 pm

America’s freedoms were purchased through the time, treasure and blood of early Americans. These were people who believed in what they were fighting for, both on the battlefield and in the Congresses and Conventions that followed.

Although many of those who signed the Declaration of Independence were not immediately involved in the Constitutional Convention, many of them were influential in ratifying the Constitution.

Knowing the Declaration of Independence is key to understanding the rights laid out and guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.

This document is as much a currently applicable statement of the purpose of government, the limits that government and the reasonable expectation that government will fulfill these obligations or be dissolved as it is a list of injuries committed by a king over 300 years ago.

The Declaration of Independence states the following about rights and government (emphasis added):

“…all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

To me, that is the clearest of all statements of the ideology of the American founders.

While it is true that only a few of those who signed the Declaration of Independence also signed the Constitution, the most peripheral understanding of early American history allows us to recognize that signing the documents was only a single step in a process that involved many of the same players throughout.

For example, George Washington did not sign the Declaration of Independence. However, is there any doubt he believed in it? He was leading the Continental Army at the time the Declaration was put together. He is not alone.

Some will tell you that the Declaration is nice but not American law. These people want to dilute the value of this document as part of the American government.

Many of the early state constitutions included the ideas of the Declaration. The U.S. Code references the Declaration. And many Supreme Court case opinions also directly mention the Declaration of Independence.

It is completely illogical to believe that those who first fought for America based on the ideas of the Declaration of Independence and then served in the government set forth by the Constitution discarded the Declaration because there was something new.

These two documents are absolutely connected. When we read the Constitution through the filter of the Declaration of Independence we understand our rights better.

Our government was instituted to protect our rights. If the government does not protect our rights, among these life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it is our right to alter or abolish it. We “…are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent…” people.

That is the ideology that the Constitution was based on. This is the foundation of our freedom.

Read the text of the Declaration of Independence on my page here:
https://rightsandreason.wordpress.com/the-declaration-of-indepenedence/

And here are two links I used in studying this topic:
DoI Part of American Law
DoI: A Constitutional Document

The indomitable American spirit

In Current Events on May 26, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Read the rest of this entry »

People of principle

In Uncategorized on May 25, 2011 at 12:00 pm

America was formed and founded on principles. Some of these include reliance on “Divine Providence,” equality of all men, divine rights, honesty, integrity, reliability and self-reliance.

The people responsible for creating the American government and helping ensure it could be what is were men and women of principle. They put their reputations, their occupations and their very lives on the line to give us everything.

They left us a powerful and weighty legacy. I wonder if we fully appreciate what it cost them. What they risked and what they gave up is very real.

Do we live up to the legacy they gifted us? Are we people of principle?

After a lot of reflection, I sadly believe we are not.

Before anyone gets angry or vehemently disagrees with me, let me explain how I got to conclusion that we are not people of principle.

I believe most Americans are genuinely good people who do have personal values and try to do their best. They are kind and civil. They have faith in God and are disturbed by how untrustworthy those in D.C. are. But most Americans are asleep.

In order to be people of principle, we have to know what we stand for and live it. Principle takes work and education and thought and action.

You cannot fall into principle. You must choose it.

Too many of us are good people who don’t know what we stand for and so we don’t stand.

We aren’t accustomed to working for our educations and the public school system discourages curiosity, deviant thought and non-compliant action (i.e. rebellion).

We buy into media hype that convinces us to give up our freedoms in order to gain perceived security and we’re happy to identify problems and ask Washington to “do something, do anything” without regard for the cost and only as long as it doesn’t hurt us.

We have become soft, pliable people who float through life and accept what we are told.

We need to decide what we believe, after the hard work of educating ourselves, and stick to it, no matter the cost.

I believe we are at a critical junction in the American story and time is not on our side. We need to reinvest in principle and fight for what we’ve got left.

We don’t need rely on the government FEMA trailers to house displaced hurricane victims or on food stamps to feed hungry families when America is filled with people of principle.

The key to fixing the world is to fix America and the way to do that is by fixing ourselves.

What do you believe? What are your principles?

When each of us can answer those questions with real answers and not “I don’t know” then we will be ready for the legacy of freedom given to us in 1776.

When we live those answers we will know America is safe and we are leaving that same legacy to our children.

No such thing as unbiased media

In Current Events on May 24, 2011 at 12:00 pm

In America, our news media functions from a claim that they are unbiased. It’s a claim that supposedly helps their credibility and ensures journalistic integrity.

It’s also an idea that some Americans buy into. However, the popularity of Fox News (which claims to be “fair and balanced” but not unbiased) and other conservative-leaning news outlets make it clear that not every American believes that the rest of the media is what it claims to be.

And, speaking as an insider, those people are right.

We have to get over this idea of an unbiased media. Not only is it not happening, it’s not possible.

I learned this lesson within the first month as a journalism student in high school. Everything from the words I picked and the way I put them together to the quotes I chose and the pictures I used presented the facts as I saw them.

I tried very hard to be honest and fair in the way I told the story, but I was still the story-teller.

Since then I’ve spent more years watching television news from behind the scenes than in front of the TV and repeatedly I have seen evidence that there is no such thing as “unbiased” in the news business. There is “fair and balanced” but there is not “unbiased.”

One way to tell which way a newspaper leans is to look at it’s editorial board and the regular editorial columns it publishes. Do the opinions sit to the left or two the right?

TV news unfortunately has no equivalent. However, once we start looking for the bias that does exist, it’s not hard to see which way a national network leans.

This is also true of anchors and reporters and news stations on a local level.

One anchor I worked with was an advocate for public schools and didn’t like the charter school addition to public districts. She worked on a story that presented material on how charter schools harmed traditional public schools.

I knew her bias because I knew her. I doubt many of the viewers at home were savvy enough to see through a well-crafted story to the message between the lines.

The news media, especially television, would do Americans and themselves a favor if they outed themselves and admitted what their bias was.

We would know which way they leaned and they would earn trust for being honest. It’s win-win: we want honesty and trustworthiness in our news sources and they want our business.

Of course, with 75% of the country leaning conservative or moderate and a 4:1 liberal-to-conservative ratio among national journalists, being honest about the product might just be bad for business.

Sources:
http://www.gallup.com/poll/120857/conservatives-single-largest-ideological-group.aspx
http://www.stateofthemedia.org/files/2011/01/Journalist-report-2008.pdf (page 18)

On the issues: Do ALL your research

In Politics, Uncategorized on May 23, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Elections are one of the things that make America unique. A democratic process is found in many countries throughout the world but the legitimacy and success of some of the governments formed is highly suspect.

The right to vote, as with all rights, is not just a privilege we enjoy but comes with responsibilities.

It is very important that we do a lot of research and make educated decisions. As important as it is for us to be educated when we elect people, research may even be more important when we are voting on issues. Issues are often complex and we should take time and hard work before we decide where we stand.

A good example of this is a vote that took place last week in my home town. The issue was whether or not to create an auditorium district and establish a hotel tax to pay to build a new events center.

One of my friends encouraged people via Facebook to vote in favor of it and he wasn’t alone. A number of businesses, other organizations and even the city itself advocated a “yes” vote. The hotels, predictably, were opposed to it.

As we discussed some of the reasons to vote for and against it, one thing became clear to me: only part of the research had been done by those who were supporting the events center. I don’t live there anymore and my research was also limited, but I was surprised by the lack of depth of study of those who were not just voting but advocating for a certain vote.

When we study an issue, we need to do all the research. We should ask many questions about not only the intended consequences but also the legitimacy of the material presented and what the possible unintended consequences may be.

Some of the things we should ask include:

  • Who paid for this material/literature supporting or opposing the issue?
  • What do they have to gain?
  • Are the parties involved trustworthy?
  • Who benefits from this?
  • Who loses from this?
  • What are the unintended consequences?
  • What might advocates and opponents not want me to know?
  • Will this raise my taxes now or might it in the future?
  • Is there a sunset to this (especially if it raises taxes)?
  • Did other cities/states do this and are the demographics the same?
  • What was the result in those other places?
  • What ensures things get done like they are supposed to?
  • Who is accountable to the taxpayers that the money gets spent properly?
  • Is this something the government should be doing?

Too often we just trust that the literature we read has correct, unbiased facts, that the government entity is honest and has our best interests at heart and that what we see is what we get. Rarely is that true.

In the case of the election, the auditorium district passed and a hotel tax was implemented. I was not in favor of it. I have a lot of history with the city that makes them untrustworthy, had too many unanswerable questions and saw too many unintended consequences.

But I wasn’t voting there, so what I think doesn’t matter so much. I am sure that a lot of people didn’t do their research, didn’t ask the questions and voted anyway. That’s scary to me.

We have to be more accountable and responsible when we vote, especially on issues. Otherwise anyone with a good-sounding idea and a shiny pamphlet can get anything passed. It’s up to us. That’s how government of the people by the people works and it’s the only way it works.

Freedom Fridays: Protecting what we have

In Politics, Uncategorized on May 20, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Every Friday I want to profile some of the rights and freedoms available in America along with tools that will help us learn and understand them. I also want to make you aware of current threats to their existence.

Before I do that I think it’s necessary to address why it’s important.

Having so much freedom is one of the things that make America great, but our apathy about it leaves us vulnerable to losing it. If we are not intimately familiar with our rights, how are we to recognize schemes that will take them away?

For example, if your child wears a shirt with a political slogan to high school and is asked by a teacher or administrator to take it off, will your child know that they do not have to do what that school official asks? They will if they know that students have rights and do not shed them at the schoolhouse door.

But who will teach them that? It won’t be the schools.

More common, and more important, is the passage of laws that erode rights. Do we recognize when our right to “keep and bare Arms” is being violated, when our “free exercise of religion” is limited or when a law violates reasonable search and seizure?

Many of our basic liberties are under attack and we cannot protect them in ignorance. It takes work and courage. And it is our responsibility.

America was founded on the principles of liberty and personal responsibility. Those are dying qualities. If we want to solve any of the problems of our world, we must first save America. It is possible nothing is more important.

It’s time to take back our country – take it back from laziness, from ignorance and, yes, from evil. It’s time to own our government and repossess our liberties.

Knowledge is power. Let’s arm ourselves with this power, teach our friends and family and live the legacy our founding fathers gave us.

When we find out what we have, we realize it is absolutely worth fighting for. That is why knowing our rights is so important. That is why it matters.

But carefully consider your rebellion…

In Uncategorized on May 19, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Yesterday I wrote on how we need to re-frame rebellion. Today I need to address the other side of that.

Rebellion is the latest Chihuahua dog. It’s the fashion accessory of the week. It is especially chic to support the rebellion in the Middle East and the “Arab Spring”. Democracy  in all its popular glory is the latest buzz word and means just as much (and is every bit as dangerous) as the 2008 buzz word “change.”

Rebellion is even itself an act of submission and conforming. It’s being part of the crowd. Rebellion is no longer rebellious.

However, not all rebellion fits this mold. This is the kind of rebellion I was discussing yesterday.

It’s not popular to rebel against the Arab world, global warming or government welfare. It’s especially unpopular to rebel against teachers or cops. There are many great teachers and police, but try going up against the system when you run into a bad one.

When we choose to rebel, and it should be a choice, we need to be careful. We should pick our causes with logic, reason and heart. This requires us to know what we believe on a more basic, ideological level, which brings us back to reason… see the circle, yet?

The single most rebellious act you or I can engage in is to think critically and then make our own decisions. We should carefully consider all the consequences of a situation – especially the unintended ones – and whether we can live with the end results.

When we rebel, we should do it with full heart for something we understand and truly believe in and not because rebellion is the flavor of the week.

Why rebellion is a good thing

In Uncategorized on May 18, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Rebellion. It’s a term parents, teachers, cops and others with authority dread. Typically, rebellion is applied to children, teens and young adults.

By the time we have been through the system, rebelled and been put in our place, moved out on our own (often for college) and realized how unproductive rebellion can be, we emerge on the other side to enter the real word as fully reformed, responsible adults who hold real jobs, marry, raise children and look back at our youthful rebellion as lessons learned.

At least I think that’s what’s supposed to happen.

I, myself, have never gotten past the rebellion stage. Perhaps it’s because by the time I got into the system I was too old to be put in my place. My mother teases she should’ve squashed us when we were little, but each of her children are very much their own people, due largely to her “wings mommy” style of mothering.

In fact, my mom’s favorite word just might be “why?” and asking that question is, often, itself a form of rebellion.

So I never learned not to be rebellious. I have learned to temper my rebellion and channel it, but I am still a rebel, through and through.

And that is a good thing.

Rather than squashing our children’s rebellion, instead of teaching them to speak only when spoken to and respect teachers just because they are teachers, we should encourage directed, respectful rebellion and teach them to think critically. We should teach them to stand up to authority when authority is wrong and give them the skills to know when that is.

Without rebellion, we are all just lemmings. We do what we do because someone – our parents, a teacher or principal, a church leader, the government – told us to. We don’t do things because we thought it through for ourselves (i.e. reason). That is a form of rebellion.

Many of the great events of early America – the Boston Tea Party, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution – along with hundreds of thousands of acts throughout religious and civic history that fundamentally changed the world were acts of rebellion.

We must not be so afraid of judgment or political incorrectness nor so respectful of authority that we lose all sense of rebellion. Rebellion created America and is part of what protects it.

Rebellion is the heartbeat of America. It is time to remember that and return to our rebellious roots. Rebellion is the way to save America.

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