A statement of principles, post-2016 election

We now return to our regularly scheduled, extremely moderate, non-partisan program.

You know, I take a lot of flack for being liberal from people who don’t know any better, usually because I find certain liberal issues more interesting to discuss. But anyone who has known me for a long time knows that, while I may fall to the left on certain issues, I am far from liberal overall.

Without disclosing specific races, I have voted for the Republican nominee for president more often than I have voted for the Democrat (actually, after yesterday, it’s now 50-50). I felt George W. Bush won Florida by every legal standard, though I agree with the analysis that Al Gore would have won the state if not for mechanical reasons and ballot confusion – the race was so close that the margin of victory fell within the margin of error. We’ll never know who would have won in a perfect world, but we know who won in the world that actually exists. And it was legit. I got over it as it was still being litigated.

FlagI believe that tax cuts can spur economic growth, but the issue is moot if spending exceeds the new growth-fueled income. I also recognize that I’m not an economist, and many, many, many intelligent economists say I’m wrong about that. I yield to their expertise.

I believe in a strong military that deserves honor and respect, not just when they’re serving but also when their service is done and they are veterans in need of services. I hate war. I wish our enemies would hate war too. But until they do, I believe in building a military force that is better at waging war than our enemies.

My views have certainly shifted to the left on climate change over the years, though I do believe that there is an anti-capitalist element in the environmental movement that needs to be checked and kept from making unnecessary changes masked as pro-environment needs. Still, climate change is real. It is happening. And human activity is a contributing factor. Science, the saying goes, is not a liberal conspiracy.

I struggle with where to draw the line between a person’s freedom to believe as he chooses and the state’s obligation to protect the rights of those who don’t agree. For example, should a photographer be forced to work at a gay wedding if he/she does not believe in gay marriage? We’re dealing with private individuals on both sides, so the answer is not as clear cut as it would seem. The couple has a right to be free from discrimination, but the photographer has the right to believe as he wishes and act accordingly. Should the government penalize the photographer as a businessman for discriminating against people whose orientation offends him, whether I agree with the photographer or not? I can see both sides of that argument. I sympathize with one side, but I lean toward the other. And my position shifts from time to time.

I do not believe in special rights for the LGBT community. I do believe in equal rights for them, which includes the right to have a marriage recognized by the state with every legal privilege attached. I do not believe this right undermines traditional marriage anymore than I believe an atheist wedding undermines Christian marriage.

I do not believe an agent of the government should be permitted to use his or her public office to deprive anyone of their equal rights under the law solely because doing so would violate the religion of the agent of the government.

And there are some principles from which I will not veer.

First, no one gets to use OUR government to promote THEIR religion (or lack thereof). That’s a big one for me, and it covers a multitude of issues. Basically, if government or an agent of the government is involved, my response will be predictable.

The courthouse is no place for the 10 Commandments (half of which are unconstitutional). Government has no business whatsoever telling me how many gods I can have, what his name is, whether I can say “dammit” after speaking his name, whether I can represent him with a sculpture, what day of the week to worship him, or whether I can wish I owned the car in the driveway next door. It’s simply not government’s concern. Put the 10 Commandments up in your house or on a church lawn. Problem solved.

I do not have a problem with people praying. I do not have a problem with children praying in public schools. I do have a problem with schools leading such prayers, because not everyone in the classroom is a child of a follower of the God being prayed to, and some follow no God at all. Keep government out of it. Period. Pray with your kids at home. Problem solved.

If your God’s ego is so fragile that it will not be appeased unless you get our government to force my kids to pray to your God, then I humbly submit he’s not worth worshiping.

I do favor a moment of silence during which students may pray silently if they wish. Lots of atheist groups oppose that, and my response is, “what’s the big deal?”

But the moment you try to come up with some kind of uniform prayer that offends no one, you dilute everyone’s religion and force that diluted religion on those who have none. It’s wrong, period. Keep government out of it.

I believe in racial harmony, which includes the recognition that things are not where they need to be. I believe Black Lives Matter. Yes, I believe All Lives Matter, but All Lives don’t matter if black lives don’t. You send a fire truck to the house that’s on fire. It doesn’t mean you disrespect every house that is passed along the way.

I believe in supporting, befriending, thanking and obeying our police officers. I do not think they are always right. I do not think they are always wrong. I think there are issues that police officers desperately need to address, and we can articulate those issues because the police force is an arm of the government, and the first amendment recognizes the right to petition our government for a redress of grievances.

Yes, I believe there are problems in communities of color, and white communities for that matter, that need to be addressed. But it’s foolish to say that society cannot address one problem until another problem is addressed. And it defies reason to suggest that the general public can address something like “black on black crime” or “white on white crime” for the simple reason that the perpetrators don’t comprise an arm of the government that can respond in an organized way when we petition them for a redress of grievances.

I should not have to wait for a crook to stop being a crook before I have the right to ask a cop to please don’t shoot me I’m only going for my wallet.

Violence against the police is never the answer, and it robs you (obviously) of any moral authority to state any case you’re trying to make, whether it’s Black Lives Matter or I Want My Country Back.

I struggle with the death penalty. I suspect it’s not worth the trouble. Outside of war, the taking of a human life should be reserved not only for the worst of crimes, but also for cases where the guilt and competence of the accused is established beyond a shadow of a doubt. And even then, I still wonder if it’s worth it.

I believe abortion is not murder in the same way fornication is not adultery. Yes, I see what they have in common, but they’re not the same thing. My personal belief is that it is something I would not endorse unless under a very particular set of circumstances. I need not disclose them, because my larger point is that I cannot come up with any set of circumstances without recognizing that you may come up with a set of circumstances that may differ, however slightly or greatly. As such, I am pro-choice. But when it comes to the pro-life view, man, I get it. I just can’t see imposing it on others. Hence, pro-choice.

I believe in freedom of speech. I do not believe in compelled speech, even if it’s compelling something I like, such as patriotism. I was raised Jehovah’s Witness. We did not say the pledge of allegiance. Today I say it because I don’t have to. If I didn’t, that would be my right. If that bothers you, too bad. Veterans fought and died for my right to CHOOSE whether I want to pledge allegiance to my country, not to force me to do it. If you don’t agree, then you don’t honor veterans’ sacrifices. You only think you do. Forcing an expression of patriotism is fascism and it is meaningless.

I believe patriotism and theism are separate traits, and you can have one without the other. It is a travesty that we have allowed an expression of patriotism to be co-opted to force people to acknowledge a god they don’t believe exists or risk having ignorant people believe they do not love this country.

Yes, I said ignorant. And I meant it.

Cutting taxes is not government spending.

Raising taxes is not robbery.

I expect those in our country illegally to be respected as human beings and afforded the due process rights we would grant to any other human being accused of a civil infraction and/or crime. I also think the immigration laws of this country ought to be respected [except in cases of civil disobedience, in which the offenders ought to be prepared to face the consequences to make their points].

I don’t believe it’s racist to oppose illegal immigration, but shucks, I sure do notice that an awful lot of racists do. I don’t believe it’s racist to oppose affirmative action, but shucks…

I think The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird are brilliant works of literature. And I think all children of all races and ethnicities should read them.

I do not “look for reasons” to be offended. I do not look for reasons to offend. I believe if you are thick-skinned, it doesn’t make it OK for me to offend you. And vice versa.

I am tired of being so “politically correct” that I am not allowed to say what I really think of racist positions and views for fear of offending the people that hold them. I’m over being polite to people who are rude to me and to those I love and respect.

I go with my head and, if unable to draw a conclusion, go with my gut. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes it’s a mistake. But it’s always with the best interest of our country at heart.

(portions previously published).

Published by Olmeda

At-large director on the national board of the Society of Professional Journalists. Former president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and of UNITY: Journalists of Color. An extreme moderate, not committed to political ideology. Stepfather to two wonderful daughters. Father to two wonderful sons. Husband. Rogue karaoke singer. Humanist

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