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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Karolina for President

Here is what my campaign would look like. This is a draft.  I do not have the finances worked out.  ;)  I also recognize, through this exercise, that it is simply impossible to please all people, especially when trying to represent huge numbers of people from very divergent walks of life.

I would like to base my candidacy, campaign, and presidency on two underlying principles:

1. To make intentional decisions based on sound principles of what's best for the common good, and not based on the special interests of the wealthy and powerful at the top, who pull the purse strings according to whether their interests are met or not.

2. To uphold the separation of church and state by preventing any religious belief system from exerting excessive and unbalanced influence on public policy, while at the same time allowing and encouraging everyone to openly share and celebrate whatever their beliefs and traditions are, both religious and spiritual, without trying to stifle them in an effort to "not offend".  We need more dialogue and understanding, not more avoidance and pretending that our faith (for those of us who adhere to a religious or spiritual faith or practice) does not effect the whole of our lives.

With these two underlying principles in mind, I would like to share what I would propose if it were actually up to me to make decisions on the following issues. The areas of concern are of course not exhaustive.

CRIME & JUSTICE
1. The punishment must fit the crime.  Simple drug possession offenses need not waste taxpayer money on incarceration.  Rather, community service and/or fines should be imposed instead.  Incarceration should only be utilized for people whose crimes indicate a threat to society.  The death penalty should only be reserved for the most heinous of crimes.  At the same time, jail or prison should not resemble a sort of retreat, with free education, gym membership, and access to media.  Rather, it should be a productive time of working towards repentance - counseling, community service, and the earning of any educational degrees in exchange for actual work that contributes to the upkeep of the facility and/or the community.

2. Native American First Nations should have priority in decision making that in any way effects their traditional land, regardless of the bottom line.

3. The age of consent must be taken into consideration in instances of statutory rape.  If we as a society openly encourage adolescents as young as 11 to have access to free birth control on their public school campuses, then we must also assume that this is an appropriate age for a child to give consent to sexual activity.  If this seems unacceptable, we need to stop sending mixed messages to our youth.  And we must stop treating "older boyfriends" the same as violent criminals based only on the age of their partner and not on the circumstances of the encounter (ie. was there or wasn't there consent?)


ECONOMY & TAXES

1. No income tax on annual incomes at or below the national poverty line, adjusted for number of dependents.  A 25% income tax on incomes at or above $1,000,000, adjusted for number of dependents. Current rate of income tax on incomes between these two extremes.  No income tax on incidental, part-time, or person-to-person exchanges of money for goods or services (like babysitting, or any arrangement without the benefit of business incorporation).

2. Retirement should be set permanently at 65 years old.

3. Business taxes should take into consideration the actual income brought it, and not be taxed beyond what the business owner actually benefits from merely because they are incorporated.

EDUCATION

1. Schooling for children should not be mandatory before the age of 7.

2. Home education should be widely encouraged to help lower teacher-student class ratios for the students who remain in an institutional school setting, and to allow for more relevant educational opportunities for the students who are homeschooled.  Homeschooled children should have access to all the same educational resources public-school children in their county do, such as being able to participate in extracurricular activities and competitions, attending school functions like proms and sports games, etc.  Alternately, individuals without children in the public school system ought to not be taxed for supporting a school system they do not participate in.

3. Children should only be advanced to the next level based on mastery of any given subject.  There is no excuse for a high school graduate being functionally illiterate.

4. High school graduation should take place once the student has reached the educational equivalent of an average Associate's Degree.  Alternately, dual enrollment and vocational schooling ought to be available and accessible to all high school students.

5. Decisions having to do with any changes in the curriculum, discipline, or atmosphere of the public school should be put to a vote by the parents (and children, when appropriate) once these have had a chance to educate themselves on what is being voted on and the resulting consequences.

6. Simple dress codes (but not uniforms) should be mandatory for all students, and should allow at least two alternatives for each student.

7.  All students, teachers, and staff should feel free to share and celebrate their religious beliefs without forcing anyone else to participate, and as long as these beliefs do not in some clear way discriminate others.  Anyone should feel free to silently pray at any time in public without fear of harassment.

ELECTIONS

1. Presidential elections should include ALL third party candidates.

2. Felons who have completed their sentence should be allowed to vote.

3. Everyone should be allowed to vote by absentee ballot for any reason.

4. The Electoral College needs revision.  There must be a way for *every citizen's vote* to count.

5. Elections should be based on well-publicized debates and possible meet-and-greet tours funded privately by the candidates.  There should be no media advertisements endorsing any candidate.

ENERGY

1. There needs to be an immediate shift towards all manner of renewable natural resources as sources of energy.  The quicker we embrace the future, the quicker we will be able to finance it and prevent further problems down the road.

2. No one should be coerced by their circumstances to engage in dangerous work like coal mining.

FOREIGN POLICY

1. The United States needs to withdraw from playing Big Brother and meddling in other countries' business.  Unless directly asked for help, in which case it behooves us to help - according to that country's requests, so long as these are acceptable to us - in order to help stave off ongoing refugee crises around the world.

GUNS/2ND AMENDMENT

1. The second amendment should not be used as a carte blanc that allows mentally unstable criminally-minded individuals easy access to assault rifles or other weapons.  Yes, every American ought to be allowed to carry a gun, but with the following criteria met: a background check to ensure no violent criminal record, a psychiatric evaluation indicating a stable mental state, a maximum number of working weapons allowed to be kept on private premises (with case-by-case consideration for hunters and others who use weapons in their line of work or , a minimum age requirement, a shooting and safety course and/or assessment, and a waiting period between the application for a gun permit and the reception of the gun.

2. Gun safety courses should be incorporated into public schools, with the option of any student to waive.  These should teach both safe handling of guns, being able to assess potentially dangerous situations, and first aid for gun shot wounds.

HEALTHCARE, ABORTION & END OF LIFE

1. Abortion should not be criminalized.

2. There should be neutral referral clinics that neither perform abortions nor are religiously-sponsored that could then refer women either to a pro-life or a pro-choice clinic for further care.

3. Planned Parenthood should be defunded and abortion should stop bringing in the money that it currently does.

4. Abortion in the first trimester, including the morning-after pill, should be available on the spot to all women.

5. Abortion after the first trimester should require a wait period of at least 24 hours, during which time the woman would be provided with alternative counseling.  There should be no pressure exerted either way on the woman during this period.  Overnight housing for women who have had to travel long distances should be included in the cost of the procedure.

6. An ultrasound/sonogram should be mandatory before a woman can be expected to make an informed decision on what she is preparing to do.

7. Minors should not be required to get parental permission before undergoing the procedure.

8. Any abortion recommended for reasons dealing with the "health of the fetus or mother" should require a second opinion by a different doctor, either same day but in a different facility, or same facility but on a different calendar day.

9. Birth control should be accessible and affordable for all women.

10. Vaccines should not be mandatory, but should be highly encouraged.

11. The decision to end one's life "with dignity" should remain between the patient and the doctor.

12. All people, regardless of citizenship status, should have access to basic health care. This access should be affordable for all, and no one should be penalized for not having health insurance if there is no free insurance available.

IMMIGRATION

1. The federal government should not pursue raids to try to enforce immigration laws.  This creates fear among both undocumented immigrants and citizens who false sense there's some danger from the former.

2. The border should be secure, but not via a wall.  No one should be shot at or otherwise face death merely for illegally crossing the border.

3.  Families arrested together should remain together.  No child should be removed from his or her parents' care, unless the parent agrees for the child to return to a relative or friend they list by name.

4. Undocumented immigrants who have established themselves as law-abiding and tax-paying residents should be allowed to file for permanent resident status after a period of 5 years.

5. Native American First Nations should be consulted on all matters of immigration and refugees coming into the United States, and their opinion should be followed as far as possible.

LABOR & WAGES

1. The federal government should guarantee paid family and medical leave for all full-time employees.

2. The minimum wage should increase according to inflation rates

MARIJUANA & ALCOHOL

1. An individual that is deemed old enough to vote, serve in the military, marry, establish a household, etc. should also be treated like an adult in all other ways, including the ability to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages and rent a car, among others.

2. Marijuana should be treated no differently than nicotine - legal and regulated, for both medicinal and recreational use.

MILITARY & WAR ON TERROR

1. If the president is to retain the role of "Commander in Chief", he or she must have served honorably in the military.

2. The United States should withdraw all military troops from foreign lands, except where expressly requested to remain by the host country, and only as long as the host country desires it.

3. The United States should divert some of its military budget to creating dialogue between conflicting nations and groups, in an effort to become a leader in world peace talks.

4. There should be a mandatory period of civil or military duty (at least one year, not more than four years) for all citizens, but each citizen should be able to choose civil over military without having to prove some objective "conscientious objector" status.

5. All military personnel should have equal access to all jobs, and have equal expectations in terms of performance, regardless of sex, gender, etc.

RACE

1. Colleges and Universities, as well as employers, should utilize "blind" selection criteria where the selection committee is not aware of the applicant's race/ethnicity or sex.

2. There is a clear correlation between race and the prison population.  The Black Lives Matter movement serves to point out that while we would like to believe that everyone in the United States is treated equally, that is in fact not the case.  Therefore, those who have been marginalized deserve recognition for their unique struggles.

SCIENCE & ENVIRONMENT

1. We must take it upon ourselves to be much better stewards of the natural resources at our disposal.  We must lead by example, and not drag our feet complaining about costs.

2. Genetically modified foods should be labeled as such.

3. Everyone should be allowed and encouraged to grow their own vegetable garden.

SEX & GENDER

1. Marriage equity between two consenting adults is a civil right.

2. Businesses that claim religious opposition to LGBTQ rights should at the very least be required to advertise their stance with a recognizable sticker (say, a rainbow behind a red "do not enter" crossed out circle) on their website and front door, so that prospective customers save themselves the embarrassment of being denied goods and services. This would also allow those who agree with the business owner to support them, while those who disagree to take their business elsewhere.

3. Transgender people should be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice.  In fact, public restrooms need to be reconfigured to allow easier access to the next available stall.  This would also drastically assist cisgender women who currently dare not enter a stall marked for "men" even when there is no line for it.  There should also be more family restrooms that allow for easier management of multiple children with or without diapers.






Monday, December 9, 2019

5 Social lessons every child needs to learn (Nicholeen Peck's talk during HECOA's 2015 Not Back to School Summit

1. Roles. Person must know her or his role in life. 1828 Webster's dictionary didn't have this word.  Child is a learner.  Associate with adults, mentor children to expose them to additional adult role models.

2. Know the difference between Truths and Traps. Eg: "Sameness disease" - everybody's doing it so it must be true; low self-esteem; "feeling drawn to something" vs addiction.  No, I cannot trust my still-developing child to problem solve on their own YET. Courage develops bit by bit by learning the four basic skills (follow instructions, disagree appropriately, accept no answers/criticisms, accept consequences)

3. Understand others and what they want. Disagreeing appropriately is the gateway to this.  If a person doesn't have a skill, they revert to a habit.

4. Know how to communicate.  "Master your mother tongue and you will make a mark upon the world that will be noticed."

5. Problem-solving.  To teach this, we must constantly be pre-teaching.

What God is calling me to...

1. simplify by minimizing material possessions
2. build self-sufficient life-skills
3. spend time in nature for reflection
4. live within our means, pay off debt
5. serve community using our gifts
6. do the above as a family

Notes on Codependence

Signs of codependence
1. excessive "helpfulness"
2. giving unsolicited advice
3. discomfort being around those who disagree with us
4. manipulation via shaming
5. "parent-child" like relationships

Core problems of codependence
1. self-esteem (seek others' approval and validation)
2. boundaries (try to control others, let them control us)
3. dependence (over reliance on others' behavior, not self-sufficient enough)
4. reality (try to match my perceptions to others)
5. moderation (ask for help but don't assume it)

Why I follow Jesus

1. He loves me unconditionally
2. He leads me to the Father, my Creator
3. He teaches with great wisdom
4. He models a perfectly virtuous, holy life
5. He roots for the underdog
6. He makes me feel good about myself
7. I like spending time with Him

Friday, November 22, 2019

What if...

What if I could get the pope's very own permission to follow my conscience and believe what resonated with me about God?  Would I then finally be able to breathe a sigh of relief and just be in the presence of God among fellow Catholics?  Or would I still find a reason to seek and search and feel inadequate?

There are people who hold the same views as I do about God and all the various related theology.  They're called Reform Jews, Quakers, Unitarians... But there is a different group of people who worship in a way that is already meaningful to me out of tradition, indoctrination, whatever you want to call it.  They're called Catholics.  There are subsets of both with whom I agree about issues of personal morality and social justice, which of course means there are people in both groups (Catholic and non-Catholic) with whom I disagree. 

I'm codependent. One of the signs of codependence is discomfort being around those who disagree with me.  What needs to happen is for my self-worth to grow and branch out beyond what my well-meaning Catholic role models try to tell me.  Yes, I'm made in God's image.  Yes, I'm a precious daughter of the King (God).  Yes, He meets me where I am.  Yes, He loves me unconditionally.

But I also hear that while it's ok if I happen to be doubting or questioning or disagreeing, it is not ok for me to stay that way.  "I believe, help my unbelief" I'm to pray.  Am I really supposed to spend my entire life trying to believe something I don't?  Aren't there better ways for me to use not only my time but also my talents?

What I'd like to see happen is that when an issue comes up, I would feel safe saying "I have a different perspective" without feeling the pitying eyes of more orthodox Catholics trying to shower me with God's grace through their gaze.  I don't want to feel like a pariah when I disagree.  I don't want to feel like I'm at risk of being asked to leave or be quiet if I disagree.  I don't want to feel guilty for coming to different conclusions than others who have thought through the same set of evidence. 

Currently, I don't feel safe speaking up.  When I'm in a meeting or class and the issue of the historicity of a person purported to have lived 4 thousand years ago comes up, I want to be able to focus on the metaphorical, allegorical, symbolic meaning of a story rather than getting into a debate about weather it is historically true or not, which frankly I think is usually beside the point.

What if Catholics actually thought Jesuits were fully Catholic? (Or is this only a problem at my parish?  And no, it's not a traditional latin mass parish.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Seeking Bug is Back

I'm almost embarrassed to have to admit that only a few weeks after I thought I was done with my latest faith seeking journey, turns out I was wrong.  I have to trust that God is using my innate spiritual curiosity to further hone in on what the meaning of my life ought to be and where I ought to worship and serve Him.

After much deliberating, I realize that I am looking for the following four aspects in a faith community:
1. praise, worship, and reverence for God during weekly communal prayer
2. acceptance of free thinking without shaming, guilt-tripping, or fear-tactics
3. focus on study of both Scripture and the world at large
4. encouragement of personal virtue

In my current Catholic faith community, I feel only the first and fourth of the above are present.  Whenever I or even Jesuit Catholic thinkers express an interpretation just off-center from orthodoxy, the more conservative Catholics start with the shaming, guilt-tripping, or (less so) fear tactics.  Free thinkers are shamed for daring to think anything other than what has been accepted as orthodox Christian belief and practice for millenia.  I had a hard time even bringing myself to realizing on a conscious level my doubts about who Jesus is thought to be because of guilt-tripping present among Christians who say, if Jesus died an unfair death on the cross and it wasn't to save our souls, then he died in vain, and how dare I even suggest such a thing? But what about all the other innocent people who have died over the course of time?  Should each of them also be granted a divine following because otherwise they died in vain?  I don't think anyone's death or suffering is in vain.  God is all-powerful and can bring something good out of the worst of circumstances, even if we cannot perceive it. And while this isn't as prevalent in my Catholic parish, there are plenty of Protestant and Catholic believers who dangle damnation in hell over anyone who dares to question the gospel about Jesus Christ.  (Notice I said "about" and not "of".  Few Christians are actually interested in the radical self-giving that Jesus proposed.) Catholic: yes - 1 & 4; no - 2 & 3

In my years of spiritual seeking I've come across many different alternatives.  The ones that most resonated with me included Deism, Quakers, Unitarian Universalists, and Reform Judaism.

Deism seems very simple and to the point on the surface - it strokes the ego of anyone who prides themself on their intellect (myself being among them).  But when it comes down to it, there are two huge black holes in the Deist system.  At least for me.  1) God is distant and uninterested in human affairs.  I disagree with this whole-heartedly.  I believe that God not only created me, but that He loves me and has a plan for my life and is willing to guide me along my path. 2) Even if that wasn't a deal-breaker, there is no communal worship of God by Deists.  I have found that I need that sense of belonging.  I cannot go rogue and just do my own thing.  This is the reason I'm constantly searching.  I cannot do like my husband or mom, neither of who actually believes most of the official Catholic teachings, yet they are happy as clams to go to Mass every week and aren't bothered by the disconnect between their actual beliefs and what they are assumed and expected to believe.  I need greater integrity than that. Deism: yes - 2 & (sort of) 3; no - 1 & 4

Quakers are likewise nice and simple.  Too simple, in fact.  Their communal worship is more like a group meditation.  There is no praise and worship of God, no official education taking place, nothing other than fellowship with an occasional insight from one of the gathered Friends.  In spite of their very good track record in social justice, and the simplicity of their main testimonies of peace, equality, simplicity, community, and environmentalism, Quakers lack two important qualities of communal worship that I crave: 1) an educational component, ideally from Scriptures, applying God's wisdom to everyday life, and 2) a joint praising and worshipping of God in song, music, communal prayer recitations.Quakers: yes - 2 & (sort of )4; no - 1 & 3

Unitarian Universalists sound good on paper.  There's a communal worship program with music and Scriptures (at least most of the time, from what I understand).  But because they are open to any and all walks of life, there isn't a clear standard of personal piety nor even the general direction of belief. It's a hodgepodge of people who want to be accepted for who they are and don't mind it if others in their group don't actually believe or value the same things they do.  I actually do believe in certain standards and I don't mind being held accountable to them.  I just don't want to be held accountable in areas I never assented to. UU: yes - 1, 2, & (sort of)3; no - 4

What remains is Reform Judaism.  I am very specific here about the flavor of Judaism, because there is a huge difference between the opposite extremes (I'm thinking here of say, Reconstructionist Judaism, which focuses on Jewish culture without God! versus Orthodox Judaism, which is very literal in their upholding of the Torah laws.  Neither of these works for me.)  Reform Judaism sounds like it focuses on all the right things: serious study of Scripture, with an openness to different interpretations and applications (for instance, circumcision and kosher dietary laws are not required).  And because there is a clear, uniformly agreed-upon idea of Who G-d is, there is also a somewhat systematic notion of what this G-d expects of us in terms of personal virtue and social justice and charity.  And while I have only ever been to one Jewish religious service and don't have a firm remembrance of it (plus, it was on a college campus, so it was surely a mix of Jewish flavors), from what I've gathered, weekly gathering for communal prayer involves praise and worship of God.  Reform Judaism: yes - 1, 2, 3, & 4... I think.  I'm going to be interested in confirming this one way or the other.  At least knowing what specifically I'm looking for will help me to know if I've found it or not.

But wait!  You may say.  Reform Judaism is sort of leaving out a pretty important feature, is it not?  Where is Jesus in Reform Judaism? 

This is the #2 thought process I alluded to above that I couldn't even bring myself to admit that just because there is a creed that I recite every week with other Catholics doesn't actually mean I believe it.  The truth is, I wanted to believe what the Catholic church taught about Jesus.  I wanted to be as happy as a clam just going along with the whole kit and kaboodle of pre-packaged religious beliefs and practices that I was used to and comfortable with.  But one tiny objection kept eating away at me.  I wasn't being fully honest with myself or others.  I wasn't actually bringing my integral whole self to the altar at Mass.  I was checking my doubts, questions, and interpretations at the door, thereby never being fully present in the presence of God.  I wasn't fooling God, of course.  And I think this is why He has continued to tweak at my heart, hoping that I've learned enough about myself (and Him, and unscrupulous people who would use religion to gain control over others) to start thinking clearly about what He wants from me.

I know, this only points to a disconnect with the Catholic church, not with Christianity as a whole.  But the alternatives are Orthodoxy, Mainline Protestants, and Fundamentalists.  I have never ascribed to the Fundamentalist idea that God will judge us based on belief but not actions.  I believe in a very different God.  A loving, merciful God.  Orthodoxy was on my short list most recently, when I actually thought that perhaps there was a Christian denomination that was "closest to the truth" (something I had previously believed was impossible to know), but it fell apart when I noticed the discrepancies in the Orthodox teachings on divorce and marriage, as well as celibacy for bishops but not priests, among some others.  Realizing the imperfection of Orthodox Christianity, I realized I had no reason to make a lateral move from one imperfect church to another, swapping out one set of problems for another set.  Mainline Protestants were vaguely on my short list as well, especially Episcopalians and Evangelical Lutherans, but using my now streamlined number system of what I'm looking for in a religious home community, I would label them accordingly: ECLA & Episcopalians: Yes - 1 & 3; no - 2 & 4.  The Orthodox Christians: yes - 1, 3, 4; no - 2. Fundamentalists: yes - 1 & 3; no - 2 & 4.

This still doesn't answer the question: what about Jesus?  I love Jesus.  I love that He loves me. I love that He died on the cross rather than go back on what He believed to be right and true and good.  I love His teachings.  I love His example of a virtuous life and a courageous standing up to social injustice.  I'm not sure if elevating him to the status of God is actually beneficial to my faith experience.

First of all, I believe in universal salvation.  I don't think I have to be Christian to "go to heaven".  I once reasoned that nonetheless, it was Jesus who "opened the gates of heaven" for all to be able to now enter, believer or not, when beforehand the gate was simply closed.  But the idea of God accepting the innocent suffering of one person for the guilty sin of others doesn't sit right with me, actually.  Of course, if Jesus is "the unique Son of God", then it's not a matter of God the Father sending Jesus to die on the cross as it is Jesus willingly volunteering to go.  But that still leaves the Father allowing such a thing.  He is God, is He not?  Surely there could've been another way to get people to do the right thing?  Oh, wait.  The problem is that even Jesus's death and resurrection (more on that later) didn't lead to all Christian believers always doing the right thing.  And curiously, lots of non-Christians are perfectly capable of selfless acts of justice and mercy.

Truth is, there are a lot of presuppositions that one must first accept as a given before even getting to the point of claiming Jesus as Savior.  What if, humor me here for a minute, the story of Adam and Eve is not at all about our eternal separation from God.  What if, rather, it's an allegorical story of what every human being experiences and why.  Namely, we don't trust God to provide all that we want, so we try to do it ourselves, which leads us to experience separation from God.  The consequence is the difficult life separate from God, but the mercy of God is in the exile from Eden - we do not eat of the fruit of the tree of life, and so we eventually die and pass into eternal existence back with God.  The consequence is that we have to put up with imperfection in this life.  In this scenario, there is no need for a sacrificial offering. 

Perhaps I can learn more about this from studying Judaism, since Christian theology and Catholic liturgy is largely based on Jewish foundations.  Maybe after gaining a better perspective from "within" Judaism, I'll be better able to commit to a continued life as a Catholic Christian?  I'm not saying it's not possible.  I actually hope something like this will happen because I'm truly tired of the spiritual seeking.  But regardless, this is the path I must trod in order to follow God's prompting.

I am daring to trust that God Almighty - whether He is Jesus or not - will forgive my questioning and doubting, and instead appreciate my desire to draw ever closer to Him, with no preconceived notions of how that ought to look.  Codependent no more ;)