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Monday, February 24, 2020

Spiritual Independence

I have discovered recently that the underlying reason for my codependence is anxiety.  The way I came to that was by recognizing my overdependence on external validation and seeking approval of others.  The reason for this, as it turns out, is my lack of trusting myself.  And the result has been living from a place of ongoing anxiety.  The anecdote is confidence.  So I am slowly working on building my confidence in various areas of my life. 

Once I recognized the weak boundaries I have with certain individuals in my life, at one point it dawned on me that I likewise have weak boundaries with the Catholic Church.  I seek the approval of Church figures, I don't trust my own conscience, and I operate from a place of anxiety.  This led to a spiritual quest that took me on a mission of finding a place of worship where I already agree with the people there so that I don't have to face disapproval!  It did finally occur to me that no such place exists, and that what I actually need is to work on embracing the potential conflict that may arise if and when I speak my mind.

An interesting but sad thing happened as I allowed myself the freedom to think for myself.  You see, that's the problem with codependence, boundary violations, external validation - you let someone or something outside of yourself tell you who you are, what to think, and how to feel about any given thing.  I grew up with this sort of dysfunction in my family of origin, but it was once I realized it bled over into my faith life that the rubber hit the road.  I realized that I didn't understand the very word "conscience" itself, supposedly something the Catechism of the Catholic Church claims is of paramount importance even above and beyond church teaching.  Because the RCC teaches that a conscience ought to be "formed" by thorough study of what the Church teaches and why.  Basically, if I didn't agree with something the Church taught, my conscience "wasn't formed" well enough.  Come again?!  So only people who agreed with the Church had a fully working conscience?  This of course is ludicrous.  The very definition of conscience implies that no one outside of oneself can affect it. 

Once I allowed myself to listen to my own conscience, without fear of judgment from "Catholic authorities", I started to ask questions that I never dared ask before.  The trajectory of my unraveling faith was as follows.

1. Even before I started down this road, I believed in universal "salvation" (though I use that term loosely, for I don't believe in original sin nor the idea that God "needed" the atoning death of Jesus in order to let me back into His good graces in the afterlife).  What this meant was that I didn't believe my religion was the one true religion.  Perhaps, at my most serious in the faith, I thought we were "the closest", but certainly still missing bits and pieces of information.

2. I started to object to certain teachings of the Church that went against my inner sense of justice.  Namely, I disagree with the Church's stance on LGBTQ rights.  I disagree with the excessive fixation on sexual ethics to the near exclusion of all other transgressions.  I disagree that God would make some people attracted to the same sex and then impose lifelong celibacy on them.  Celibacy ought to be something entered into willingly, after discernment, and given there is the other valid option of a lifelong committed relationship (namely, marriage) held out as an alternative.  In other words, I couldn't get on board with the Church's anti-gay marriage rhetoric and the various discriminatory practices by Catholic institutions done in the name of "religious freedom".

3. Once I loosened the control the Church had on my conscience, I started exploring various religions, which I've done previously.  But this time, I started to notice something.  Each group seemed to be using certain critiques to discount the teachings of other groups, without applying the same critiques to themselves.  This became most noticeable when I was watching a popular Orthodox Rabbi on YouTube.  He was of course critiquing Christianity as a whole, but he said - how can mainstream Christians reject the idea of Mormons or Muslims reinterpreting Christian Scriptures and claiming additional revelations and prophets, yet they accept their own changes and reinterpretations of the original Hebrew Scriptures?  I knew he was right.  And then I added... and what is so uniquely sacred about the Hebrew Scriptures that makes them sacred beyond questioning?  If we don't believe in the more recent prophets' revelations, why should we believe in more ancient prophets' revelations?  Why can't God simply reveal Himself to each of us directly, based on our receptivity?  And so, I realized I could not follow any religion based on the supposed limited "special" revelation of supposed prophets.  The prophets of the world, or at least their followers and the interpretations of their revelations, don't agree.  Hence, we have as many different religions as we do today.  Some, like the Bahai, claim that all prophets are saying the same message, yet this has not at all been a universal understanding of religious prophecy.  The most recent prophet is always thought to be the more relevant one.

4. Once I left revealed religion behind, I automatically had to put down written Scriptures.  The Bible was no longer a source of authority for me.  A modern group of influential leaders could gather the inspired writings of more recent spiritual gurus, like Deepak Chopra, let's say, and declare these to be the Modern Testament, Scriptures that supersede all the others.

5. Without Scriptures or organized religion of any kind dictating the boundaries of where my thoughts could wonder, I began to look at how other faiths envision Ultimate Reality.  I started to question the nature of God as He is presented in the Bible and in Christianity.  I realized that this God, indeed was made in the image of man - with human weaknesses of character that led him to be full of wrath, fickle, power-hungry, jealous, violent, and then to smooth things over, merciful and forgiving.  It sounded like a control freak show, honestly.  You never knew "which" god you would get.  Mainstream Christians would tell gay people that their active engagement in homosexuality would invoke the wrath of God, but their own tendencies to lie, cheat, even kill - well, God was all loving and all forgiving then.  It was utter nonsense.  I couldn't believe in "this" god any longer.  I realized that this god was simply too small.

6. I was ok with God being less personal, more mysterious.  After all, technically that is what Christians already believe about God, yet they continue to try to make sense of Him with various attempts at domesticating Him.  If it's not the Trinity, then it's calling Him Our Father.  We are never forced to just accept the fact that God -whatever and whoever God is - is simply beyond our understanding.  We ought to just be grateful God created us, and do our best to live a life of purpose and charity, so that we can better know God in the afterlife.

7. Ah, the afterlife.  I started to wonder about what sort of an afterlife we might have, since I didn't have to parrot back "bodily resurrection" or "heaven and hell".   I was never particularly attached to the idea of having a physical body in the afterlife.  I was more or less thinking that our soul was what lived on.  I just didn't know the details.  As I pondered what the soul might be, I thought of consciousness.  Because it did me no good to think that we simply got reabsorbed into the Universal Force after death, and that the way we "lived forever" was in terms of the energy we left behind or our molecular restructuring or mere memories of those still living.  The kind of afterlife I always imagined was one where I was aware of myself.  Very anti-Buddhist.  I wanted to keep the Ego.

8. So I looked into what consciousness really was.  I watched a certain video by an atheist that explained the biological functions of consciousness, how certain parts of the brain are involved in our ability to be conscious of ourselves, and then it dawned on me - the implication is that once the body dies, so does the consciousness.  There goes my afterlife.  And this created a bit of a panic on my existential journey.  For better or worse, I am not prepared to abandon the idea of immortality.  I know it may sound cliche, and to some even naive.  But if I have to go through the rest of my life believing that when I die, that is the literal end of me and I will never again see any of my loved one, not the ones who went before me and not the ones I'm leaving behind?  Well, I'm sorry but I simply cannot imagine going through life with that world-view.

9. Thank God ( ;) ) I remembered an old argument by religionists against the secular materialistic scientific world-view.  Science as we know it today is actually rather new in the history of humanity.  It has definitively answered lots of questions that previously religions merely had theories about.  Yet I realized I was finding myself being swayed - yet again - by an outside source.  I was allowing the "scientific community" to tell me who I am, what to think, and how to feel.  So I shook off the depression and despair long enough to think this through.

In a way, science can be compared to religions in that it provides an alternate world-view.  Just like religions, it makes certain assumptions.  It holds certain values in higher esteem than others.  It has well-respected "prophets" and "authoritative writings".  Most markedly, it has set up a system of checking for evidence of theories within the material world, and rejects out of hand anything that doesn't exactly fit into its scientific method.  Sound familiar?  Religions likewise draw certain boundaries and just don't venture past them for fear of being proven wrong.

What's more, by definition science deals with the material world.  How, then, can science possibly answer any questions about the existence or nonexistence of a spiritual realm, when it is simply not equipped to measure frequencies beyond the physical?  It is easy to say that if we can't measure it, it doesn't exist.  But it is not very honest to do so.

10. And so where I find myself is here:  I do not know what the nature of God is, nor what exactly awaits us in the afterlife.  However, I have had enough spiritual experiences to tell me that there must be something worthy of mention there. That science has no more ultimate truth than does religion.  One thing I think science does a much better job of than does religion is to focus on the improvement of our world, here and now.  Religion often prioritizes the afterlife over the here and now to the point of ignoring the legitimate needs of our planet and certain marginalized people.  Religions tend to cater to the poor, though not universally and often with limitations, not to mention failing to see how minority group membership status affects poverty.  Yet for all the bad things that religion has done and sadly continues to do, there are also things that religion is doing better than science, providing hope, meaning, purpose, comfort, as well as high standard for character formation.  We need both.  Perhaps in a few hundred years, there will be talk of ecumenical discussions between the scientific community and the religious community (singular), like there is today within religions.  Religions need to band together and focus on what they as a whole bring to the table, because if they continue to bicker among themselves, greedy to win maximum adherents, people will simply trickle out and get lost in the sea of science, living for today, but with no hope for tomorrow.

I know some people don't need the affirmation of God or an afterlife to feel fulfilled.  There are also people who don't seem bothered by their religion going against what science has already established as fact.  We need to accept that different people need different things to lead a happy life.  We need to find a way for science and religion to talk to each other, not over each other.  But that's for another day.  For now, suffice it to say that I am holding on to that last shred of spirituality that was nearly extinguished by my newfound freedom of thought.  And that I need to focus my attention on reframing my own religious tradition in a way that I will find meaningful, a way that I can teach to my children while maintaining integrity.

If indeed I need a label for this new spiritual adventure, perhaps Spiritual and Religious is the best available term.  Not specific to any one religion, but rather valuing different aspects of several different religions.  Yet spiritual first and foremost, pursuing an individual and unique spiritual practice, building fellowship in unusual places, and only supplementing and falling back on religion as a way of being grounded in something that - while I don't believe in it literally - has stood the test of time and certainly holds certain valuable truths about the human condition.

Alternately, I certainly am "Spiritually Independent", and so perhaps this term is even more appropriate, since I am in need of labels ;)

Groups

What groups do we/I belong to?  What groups do we/I want to belong to?  What groups should we/I try to belong to?

I try to be very conscientious about doing what's best for my children.  Because we are a multicultural and multi-ethnic and multilingual family, I have to be intentional about which of the various relevant groups ought to be "ours", and to what degree.

The literature on the best practices for children "of color" (a politically correct phrase for non-white people, but one that my Latino husband dislikes, hence the quotation marks) talks of the importance of immersing children in groups where they can see racial mirrors, find role models, and gain a sense of identity.  And I have tried to do just that. 

For the past six years, we have tried to make friends by participating in Filipino events.  It has been frustrating, as no lasting friendships have emerged from our efforts.  I'm shy, so the effort has not come naturally to me.  My husband has never met a stranger, so it's actually surprising that his efforts haven't had better results either.  Finally I asked my good friend, whose husband is Filipino, for insights.  What a relief it was to learn that even he - a Filipino raised by Filipino parents, does not find himself regularly included in Filipino gatherings. 

Further insights from an online group I belong to pointed out that ethnic and cultural groups tend to be insular for self-preservation or just to have a safe space where they don't need to be explaining themselves to outsiders.  It now makes perfect sense why we, as outsiders, have been unable to "infiltrate" the Filipino groups that have been perfectly friendly on the surface.

It is important to try, try again.  It is equally important to know when to let it go.  I'm letting it go.  Not my intentions to keep exposing my kids to Filipino culture whenever possible, but rather my expectations of it ever getting beyond the level where we are now.  And this acceptance is freeing. 

Another aspect of raising Brown children is to ensure that they don't feel like they stick out because of their ethnicity or race.  In other words, we want to make sure we live and learn and play in areas that are diverse.  It doesn't need to be other Filipinos, but it does need to be other Brown people.  As long as the White people are used to seeing Brown people and interacting with them and befriending them, then we should not have any problems.  But we do not want our kids to be the experimental diversity in otherwise White spaces.

Here, again, I came upon a dilemma. I wanted to do right by my children and move to an area that was more diverse than not.  However, the truth of the matter is that this would come at a price.  Diversity is not the only value our family has.  Nor is it the only priority.  We must live in an area relatively close to my husband's work, and close to my parents, who are in need of more assistance as we all get older.  My children need ample space to run around, especially since we homeschool, and so our home is our base.  We grow food.  We try to spend daily time outside.  We value privacy and safety.  What all of these add up to is a certain sized yard. Fenced, with shade and sunny areas, and room to run and roll around all without worrying about nosy neighbors.  And what's more, we need to be able to afford this kind of living arrangement.  We decided not to incessantly keep up with the Joneses. We have no intention of upgrading the size of our house, or moving to more "elite" neighborhoods.  But we do want to keep a single family house with a fenced yard.  And we want to pay it off by the time my husband is ready to retire and our kids are graduated from high school.

And we're not talking about moving to a completely homogenous, secluded area where we can count on being the only mixed family in any given situation.  No, we're talking about a less diverse area, close enough to more diverse areas that we can drive there.

Finally, this is an issue for my own sanity.  I have been programmed by the anti-racist rhetoric to be very careful to avoid at all costs anything that may be interpreted as whitesplaining, ethnocentricity, or white fragility.  I worry about these things even as I am trying to guts up to putting "on paper" what thoughts are going through my mind.  See, I was brought up with judgment and comparisons being the norm.  I internalized the idea that if I am always judging others in black-or-white terms, then they are likewise judging me.  Concepts like giving someone the benefit of the doubt or not taking things excessively personally are seen as having racist undertones when applied to trying to take White experience as equal to that of people of color.  I was in an online group that taught me a lot, but at the cost of my own sense of self.  The "people of color" in my real life - Latino, Black, Native American, all thought I was in a "cult".  They simply did not experience the world in as harsh terms as the group described.  The group would retort that they weren't being honest with themselves or with me.  But that, indeed, started to sound a bit like indoctrination.

And I recently realized that I have had about enough indoctrination for one lifetime.  I am in recovery for codependence.  Through 3 years of therapy and recovery work, I've come to see how I have weak boundaries, don't trust myself, depend too heavily on the approval and validation of others, and operate from a general sense of ongoing anxiety.  With very few, specific, decisions I've made, mostly dealing with my children, I have no confidence.  I oscillate between superiority and inferiority complexes.  And so, when it comes to what's best for my children, I am again in a place where I can either take in everything I've learned and then make a decision based on my specific circumstances and those of my children, or I can once again let some "experts" make these decisions for me.

I've had enough of giving over my power.  People of color should know all too well what I mean.  Just like not all Brown people are alike, or all Black people, or all Asians, etc. the same holds true for White people.  We are not all alike.  Yes, we all share having White privilege in US society.  But aside from this, we are as different as minorities.  We have different experiences, values, priorities, intentions, goals all of which must be taken into consideration when making day-to-day decisions.  I know I won't find any popular outlet for this perspective, and I don't need it.  I only need to admit this to myself, accept myself, trust myself, and make these decisions for myself.

Returning to the initial questions of groups - what groups do we belong to?  The Catholic church.  Sunday School at OLPH.  Our area Catholic homeschooling group.  My daughter's gymnastics class.  My husband's men's group at church.  My husband's job.  Celebrate Recovery Meeting for me. Courageous Conversations (temporary group). Multilingual mixed families living in the US.  Immigrant families. College graduates.  Transracial adoptive (embryo) families.  I'm sure there's more. 

What groups do we want to belong to? Some sort of ongoing group where we can fellowship over shared values of racial, religious, and LGBTQ affirmation and understanding, as well as the pursuit of socioeconomic and environmental justice.  Homeschooling group local to our area.  A faith community where we can practice the rituals and traditions that give our spiritual journey meaning.  I'd like to return to teaching adults ESL. Honestly, I don't want to belong to any one-race/ethnicity/culture groups.  Not my Polish one, not a Filipino one, not a Latino one.  Our family is all of these and we operate best when mingling with others who understand what it's like to mix and match, to find commonalities across the differences, and not just to uphold long standing norms in an isolated environment. 

While I'm on the subject, I also need to remember that just because we are a multilingual family doesn't mean that we are aiming at 100% native fluency in all three languages.  Frankly, my Polish heritage language is the least necessary for my kids to retain.  Any language is a boon to the brain, and Polish in particular can make the learning of other Slavic languages easier if my kids ever decide to go that route.  But aside from that - their Polish relatives with whom they interact regularly are not monolingual, and we have no intentions for travel back to Poland in the near future.  I will be perfectly happy if my kids understand Polish music, movies, magazines, and can pronounce the uniquely Polish sounds if pressed to do so.

As for Spanish, this is a much more useful and ubiquitous language in our society and world.  Our kids are likely to come across many people who speak Spanish, even only Spanish, and can easily benefit from knowing the language for both economic advancement and the enjoyment of the culture.
Perhaps we should seek out Spanish-speaking playdates?

Tagalog, what I suppose could be seen as a heritage language based on the kids' Filipino heritage, is similar to Polish in necessity. Unless my kids express an interest in actively learning the language, I won't stress over it.  Since we cannot break into Filipino communities in order for the kids to be immersed in this culture anyway, I don't see how learning the language would do any good until they are grown and don't need us to facilitate.  And at that point, they can also pick up the language, having already learned other languages previously, thus making language learning as a whole much easier than if they were starting out as monolinguals.

The next entry will deal with the theme of trusting self and resisting external validation, but from the spiritual perspective.  (Both religious and secular-scientific.)


Monday, February 10, 2020

Losing My Religion

This R.E.M. song came to mind recently as I started on what I assumed was another leg of my spiritual seeker journey.  But the more time I spend pondering the future of my religious affiliation, the more confused and stressed out I feel. 

Why do I feel the need to even have a religious affiliation?  Why can't I let the particular beliefs and practices that I find soothing and relevant to me simply be what they are, without placing a label on them?

Well, it's because with that label comes a community.  A religious community is generally a group of people with shared beliefs, values, practices, traditions, etc.  The problem arises when there is a disconnect between one's beliefs or values that triggers a desire to look elsewhere for a better fit.  And the problem continues when one realized, after thorough research and consideration and "trying on" that while there may be other religious groups whose beliefs and values resonate perfectly with one's own, the associated practices and traditions simply don't jive.  They seem foreign, artificial, forced, irrelevant.  Yet it is in the practices that the faith tradition comes alive in community.  It's not a bunch of minds agreeing with each other that makes a community, but rather a bunch of people doing things together the same way.

And that is where I find myself.  I know plenty of people who recognize there is no perfect match for them and they just stay with whatever group whose practices are familiar and comfortable, and keep their beliefs private, or at least don't engage in arguments over them.  I know this is the easiest and most obvious thing to do.  And yet I'm struggling with it.

I feel like an impostor when I find myself keeping my mouth shut so as not to let on that I disagree with what was just mentioned as a given in a group of supposedly "like minded" fellow coreligionists of my same affiliation. Every time this happens, and it happens pretty frequently when you have as many objections as I do with the official beliefs of my faith tradition, I'm reminded of how I don't really fit it.  I'm reminded of how this isn't really me.  I'm reminded of how I'm compromising. 

Of course, I could also choose to opt out and join a group where I can have these open dialogues with people without worrying about getting their side-eye.  I could mingle only with people who value what I value and believe as I do, where we can talk about these things openly and without shame or fear of ridicule (or accusations of heresy or blasphemy).  But to do so, I'd have to engage in artificial rituals that hold no meaning for me.  And again, I'd feel like an impostor.  I'd feel inauthentic yet again.

A final option would be to simply stay away from all manner of religion altogether.  Pretend that deep topics don't interest or concern me.  Pretend that familiar ritual practices are not comforting to me.  Pretend that I could be a spiritual being without a spiritual community.  This would be a lie as well.  No one is an island, right?

The final option that I see before me is to patch a quilt of religious experiences into a coherent whole.  To divide my time between those groups that practice the familiar rituals that I find comforting and meaningful, and those groups with which I can engage intellectually.  I suppose the only thing left to do in that scenario is to decide on a label, something I need in order to understand my place in the world.  It could be two labels or a hyphenated label: Catholic Quaker, or Buddhist Unitarian Universalist, or Noahide Christian.  It could be finding the least common denominator between the two prominent groups that resonate with me for different reasons, and use that label instead of the two affiliations: Theist, Monotheist, Unitarian, Deist, Universalist. 

One label I don't think I can honestly use that I thought I could is spiritual-but-not-religious.  Because I am a religious being.  I just don't have a religious tradition that satisfies me philosophically and practically at the same time.

One label I cannot steer clear of is the label others may place on me.  Lapsed.  Cafeteria.  Non-practicing.  Heretic.  Schismatic.  Even blasphemer maybe?  No matter what path I find myself on, those not on it would inevitably label me as well: pagan, heathen, non-believer.

I am spiritual.  I am religious.  I am a global citizen.  I am a child of God.  I am the hands and feet of God in the world.  I am.

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)