Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christians defend torture with eye for eye quote despite Jesus condemning it, facing His own crucifixion

In spite of Christ's admonition against dealing with violence with violence in return, many people of faith continue to quote the Old Testament passage "an eye for an eye" that Jesus said was no longer the law.  It is this notion of revenge that Christ specifically examined in his Sermon, something virtually all Christians consider His finest words.

The United States is more than 83% Christian according to the surveys of faith memberships.  Yet 59% of the American people recently stated they approved the interrogation methods, described in infinite detail on news media recently and over many months prior to the revelations made in 2014.  Furthermore more than 45% maintain they would approve these methods being used again.

Some of the interrogation tactics included allowing a prisoner to freeze to death, keeping a detainee awake for more than six days, beating, kicking and punching prisoners while forcing them to stand on broken legs and waterboarding, which is described as simulated drowning. One might ask, in response to these tactics, if the idea of an eye for an eye was used to extract information, as Dick Cheney and Karl Rove reiterated was the case.  Furthermore it is a quote often used on Facebook as justification for the interrogation tactics.  "After all," one writer posted, "We have to remember 9/11.  They deserved it."

One of the most famous selections in the Bible is a passage where Jesus examined the old laws and responded to them while at the same time underlining His own mission and how he was ushering in a new path for believers to follow.  The famous passage in the Book of Matthew is referred to as The Sermon on the Mount.  One selection specifically examines how people should treat both friends and enemies.

"5:38 You have heard that it has been said, An eye for an eye, and a
   tooth for a tooth:
   5:39 But I say unto you, That you resist not evil: but whosoever shall
   smite you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.
   5:40 And if any man will sue you at the law, and take away your coat,
   let him have your cloak also.
   5:41 And whosoever shall compel you to go a mile, go with him two.
   5:42 Give to him that asks you, and from him that would borrow of you
   turn you not away.
   5:43 You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your
   neighbor, and hate your enemy.
   5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you,
   do good to them that hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use
   you, and persecute you;
   5:45 That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven:
   for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends
   rain on the just and on the unjust."

The early Christians were tortured by Rome for their beliefs.  Many Christians today take pride in the fact that these early believers did not recant their belief in Christ and instead were tortured and killed.  Therefore the Romans were unsuccessful in their use of torture.
The Church, throughout much of its history, burned people at the stake and used all manner of methods to force them to admit to acts the Church considered heresy or that opposed some decisions made by the religious leadership of the time.  In the United States women were falsely accused of witchcraft, which they admitted under torture, despite the fact that the witnesses against them had lied.  So torture obtained false information and was therefore ineffective.

And religious individuals and groups used torture for many purposes with many examples of the ineffectiveness of it in securing information.  

There are numerous examples in both secular and religious history that show that lengthy interrogations under stressful physical conditions did not often obtain truth from the accused.
While the nation debates the Constitutionality of using torture, whether the methods used to interrogate prisoners was actually torture and whether it served its purpose in getting prisoners to confess, this secular debate is just one side of the issue.  In America where "Under God" is in the country's Pledge of Allegiance and where the phrase God and country is often used as if both words meant an equivalent devotion, the spiritual view is likely reasonable, considering that the words of Jesus directly examine the treatment of enemies as loving and praying for them. 

The history of Christianity is rife with instances of torture, explained away as necessary to rid the church of evil.  Often that evil was defined as simply being in opposition to the church views at the time, which could be holding opinions different from the Biblical teachings in order to justify personal sin.  It allowed papal leadership to explain its own forms of torture.
Every Sunday, or Saturday for some groups of Christians, ministers take the pulpit to examine the Bible and to cite its passages, often reminding Christians that those passages represent the divine word of God.

Yet the words of Jesus the Christ, who is considered by Christians to be the very Son of God,  that are disregarded in the "eye for an eye" quote in defense of torture, something Jesus, whose birthday is celebrated in this month of December during the debate on how enemies should be treated.   Jesus gave the Sermon at a time he knew the authorities were watching him, and knowing how they would react, that He would be crucified, thus speaking against doing evil in the form of revenge even when faced with terrible personal calamity that history records as torture.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Don't say you're sorry for crying

Men do cry
That old advice of just get up and get on with it, and don't cry isn't really good advice, according to the experts. Crying had some benefit after getting a hug from your mother who let you cry for a little and then reminded you that you were going to be all right. Not crying when we're hurt will simply double back and bite you later, as research has shown about the impact of not expressing emotions that can be increasingly hurtful as the years go on.

In the past men were counseled not to cry. The education started early when boys were told not to cry when they felt bad, if they fell down, if they did not understand an idea or a problem.  These days psychologists warn that the fact men have more trouble expressing feelings through tears is one of the barriers toward their getting help when they need it. Learning to express feelings through tears early on is a way of guiding the child to the grown-up way of managing feelings through expressing them legitimately.

Know how you feel when you're all choked up and can't talk about your feelings because you think people will think you're silly if you cry? What we apologize for, however, is something that we shouldn't feel ashamed about. Crying allows us to keep healthy, so it's useful to know more about it and give our selves advice and consent to go ahead and cry when we need to because sometimes that's the best thing to do to discharge fear and feelings and allow you to move forward.

Therapists often recommend crying in self-help articles found in newspapers and magazines. Nevertheless, how many times do we still do it and hear other people doing the same. The "I'm sorry" for the sniffle, isn't necessary. My Mother told me "you're your friends don't need it and your enemies won't believe you anyway when it comes to that type of words and behavior." However, people still apologize for doing it. But tears have a biological benefit because tension is released when we cry. Crying also lubricates the eyes. In addition it provides a physical catharsis that allows the body to discharge certain toxins.

Think about your inner self as needing a bath just like your outer body. Crying bathes and cleanses that inner self, gets you emotionally clean, and can refresh your heart just like a bath refreshes your body.

Crying provides emotional benefit. You will be relaxed and relieved, which allows the muscles to relax and then the relief continues. In other words, there is a mind-body connection to crying. Crying also relieves stress and therefore has a positive effect on our mental and emotional health because it is a natural response for coping with grief and pain, both physical and emotion. During stress we accumulate chemicals and hormones that are released when we cry. That's one of the reasons that crying makes us feel better. The chemical called endorphins are released when we cry, that makes us happy. It's what makes us cry, then have the kind of relaxation and relief that might even allow us to laugh afterwards. Then we have the relief from both the laughter and the tears. As one expert reminds us, "Crying is coping."

Next time you fall down emotionally or physically, you don't have to apologize to anyone for crying. Let the tears come when you need to and allow yourself to discharge hurts before they accumulate and do harm. This will allow you to keep your stress down and maintain good

Monday, December 15, 2014

Dismissing lessons learned in kindergarten can lead to social and mental health problems

Kindergarten, where we learn the basics of how to treat one another
A famous saying hanging on the walls in many offices, especially those of caregivers, speaks of the lessons that teach us to care for one another and do the right thing in terms of concern for others as the type we learn in kindergarten, but these are sublimated or dismissed by those who live with socially and politically self-centered attitudes and behaviors. Here is how forgetting those lessons can also lead to mental health problems.

In order to forget those things that seem to be almost common sense and simple enough for a kindergartner can create confusion and anger over time.  Having to offer one set of beliefs that counter the basic social beliefs one learns early in life creates the kind of stress that over time might lead to depression. Also forgetting those basics can, and has, lead to wars and to social and political problems throughout man's history

What is that favorite saying that offers us those kindergartner basics?
“These are the things I learned (in Kindergarten):

1. Share everything.
2. Play fair.
3. Don't hit people.
4. Put thngs back where you found them.
6. Don't take things that aren't yours.
7. Say you're SORRY when you HURT somebody.
8. Wash your hands before you eat.
9. Flush.
10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
11. Live a balanced life - learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.
12. Take a nap every afternoon.
13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Stryrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
15. Goldfish and hamster and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first workd you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.”
― Robert FulghumAll I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten
Those who practice the trickle down notions or who believe in Ayn Rand's theory of each man or woman just taking care of himself or herself make compromises, especially when they know that the great amounts of money they hold don't trickle down to the needy.  Winning at any cost is no way to play fair.  Taking ideas and products from others is a too common activity, whether it is a piece of music or an idea for a business.  People create problems for themselves and others, then excuse them with "Mistakes were made," which offers no admission of guilt for doing something wrong and dismisses the idea of being sorry. These behaviors done by people who wield power over others can create widespread social problems.  They also create problems for the individual that can lead to poor mental and physical health.
Those personal health problems come from disregarding safety issues and not caring for the safety of others, by not taking time to meditate and enjoy the beauty of creation, or to remember that life is to be lived in the moment.  Not remembering that we are all alike in very simple ways, that we all need the necessities of life to grow and that we all need one another can lead to the wide discrepancies between rich and poor and the disregard of victims of war and violence.
Psychologists tell us there are many causes of depression.  But one of these has to do with conflict.  The conflict can be with others, causing anger, frustration, anxiety that result in depression.  Or it can be internal conflicts that come from having one set of standards in conflict with other standards.  To relieve the anxiety that comes from behaviors outside of what are those basics, both children and adults will act out.  They will display anger or turn that anger inside into depression.  The stress from internal conflicts is a major cause of depression.
Those lessons learned in kindergarten offer the basics that work for children and for adults.  Robert Fulghum, the author of the poem that offers these lessons summarizes the lessons for life as this:
“Think what a better world it would be if we all-the whole world-had cookies and milk about three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.
And it is still true, no matter how old you are-when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.” 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Should alternative therapies be included in insured health care programs?

Cinnamon used to reduce sugar levels but with negligible results, if any, according to science
Carol Forsloff--Around 10 per cent of the money spent on health care in the United States is on alternative medicine and that percentage is growing rapidly.  How does this fit into the health care debate and should these alternative therapies be part of insurance costs and government sanctions?

If the new Congress overturns Obama's health care program, how will this impact what is accepted or not accepted in any new program that may be adopted?

These are some of the questions people seek to have answered, as they embrace an ever-increasing number of alternative remedies outside of traditional medicine.

Herbal remedies and other alternative therapies are used by a variety of people. Some take traditional medicine and add to it with alternatives. So people may have their family practitioner and a massage therapist for that bad shoulder and herbal remedies for sleep. That 10 per cent that people spend on alternatives goes for different things and for different reasons asBlack America Web pointed out in its lifestyle feature some years ago.

What research has found is that as the cost of traditional medicine has increased, people turn more and more to 
alternative therapies they find may be cheaper and some believe more efficient and accessible. These natural remedies lead some people to relying on alternatives because they can’t afford to see the doctor and turn to non traditional methods of healing as well. So why not rely on brother Bob up the street who teaches physical conditioning and sells herbal medications on the side along with his massage practice? That’s what some people consider when they have to make decisions these days.

But the question remains, in addition to costs, do alternative therapies work? 
KevinMD looks at the matter of alternative medicine to answer that question. Despite the bandwagon more and more people are leaping aboard, the doctor site maintains with respect to alternative therapies:

“Not only have they been shown not to work, the lack of FDA regulation surrounding supplements means that some of them may actually harm patients, or are laced with prescription drugs. In fact, the president of an independent lab that tests such products says, “one out of four supplements has a problem.
And worse, those who shun traditional medicine may be missing their last chance at treatment.”
Indeed there is that other side to the issue of alternative medicine.  Science has established that some alternatives can be helpful, but many therapies are not supported despite popular opinion.  For example, research has found that cinnamon, which is highly touted as a remedy for diabetes, has not been found to have any significant effect on factors related to diabetes, specifically reducing sugar levels.  Furthermore, because it inhibits clotting, in some European countries doctors counsel against taking it, as it has acts like warfarin and may be contraindicated especially when an individual is facing surgery.

Those who question the efficacy of alternative medicine caution people to be thoughtful and do their homework to find out about any specific alternative, as there are remedies that either do not work or that interfere with other treatments.  So while traditional medicine may have its drawbacks, there are also concerns about alternative remedies, as either not working or actually causing harm.  

What causes people to embrace alternatives in the modern era in opposition to traditional medicine?  Experts tell us the struggle between traditional and alternative therapies has gone on for centuries.  The increase in acceptance of alternatives appeared as religions began to accept new ways of thinking and orthodox principles began to be questioned.  What one expert maintains is moral relativism and political correctness has also been another reason why people will accept alternative remedies without question while voicing concern about traditional medicine.

So while the debate rages about health care, this side issue continues to be part of the consideration Americans make when they can’t afford health care. The question is how much and how far will this continue, given the issues before the political decision makers today and will people continue to turn to alternative therapies which haven’t been proven successful?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A comedic look at a politician through the eyes of "Josephine the Plumber"

US Capitol
Carol Forsloff--Me and old John, you know we're buddies. We gotta be because, well you can't fix an old guy's toilets and not know something about him. He tells me he's a regular guy and got good sense, but somehow he forgets to use it when he's down there in Washington in that Congress, especially when it comes to managing money.

I can't figure out what's getting into my old buddy these days. He used to say to me, "You know Josephine." He always called me by my full name; the rest of the folks just call me Jo, I mean, John's a hoot. Anyway he'd say to me, "Josephine, I think you probably know me better than anyone." Well that's probably true, but I don't know if I know him very much at all anymore. Because my old buddy has changed so much that the rest of the guys around here aren't sure they understand him anymore than we do the rest of those folks in Congress.

I went by John's house last week hoping he might come around since I hadn't seen him in awhile. He's been stumbling quite a bit these days, and I can't do as much as I used to for him because of my arthritis. In fact I had to stop plumbing a few months, or was that weeks, no I think that was a couple of years ago. You know, I'm getting up there like my buddy, John and some of his friends in Washington who have been there way too long.  And the young ones who work with John in Congress?  They act like they didn't learn anything before they got their job. But then I'm not doing anything too important either since so many people lost their jobs and can't afford a plumber.

John has got this house in this fancy place in Alabama, just a few miles from where I live now. I retired here because you know, it's cheaper and all that. Anyway John's old house is near a vacant lot where my buddies and I hang out and have a cool one, and John always said he was going to hang out with us, so I was looking for him to come by any time.

So my buddy John was going by down the street past that house of his in some fancy bus with all these letters on it, and he stopped when he saw me. Besides he said he'd want to check on that house he's fixing up for him and his honey. At least that's what he told me once. He'd say, "You know, Josephine. You and I are going to retire together, and I'll hang out with you, because I know people like you. I feel your pain." Well, I'm curious about that because mine is right on my tail end just where I sit down.  Guess that's why people around here call people like John a pain in the ass.

 I've been hearing about him and those people he has been working with.  They keep telling us they feel our pain.  Well if that's true, and all of us are feeling the same, I guess we got our pain in the tether from them.

 When I first met John he had only a couple of bathrooms in just one house, and this house that wasn't much bigger than 1½ block or so. I can't remember sometimes about how big and all. But you know those toilet pipes of his, they got plugged up all the time; and I was always running over there to fix something or other. I told John he and his wife should splurge since they were getting up there and all. Besides I says, "John, you know those newspapers you been reading then turning around and using in the bathroom have been plugging up the john. You can afford to get something better in here." But they got to keep up appearances, he says, so their townhouse in Washington's got gold and sparkling stuff all over the bathroom.  Here where he was living before, and where he comes home when he's tired, well it's all different. He  told me he leaves the newspapers everywhere around his house so people know he's reading, including when he goes to the bathroom.  And he says if some bit of them are floating in the toilet, people will see he's trying to save money himself.   I guess that's why his folks called him John.  He says when it comes to things in Washington he feels sometimes like he's losing it.

Anyway, John stopped by and got off the bus when he was running for re-election to talk with me for a few minutes. I says to him, "You know, I get all these taxes, and I ain't got much to live on. Besides I'm no spring chicken with my arthritis and all." Well, then John he says to me, "Hey Josephine. I'm gonna make sure that that big store out on the highway with all those things shipped in from Korea from their plant over there gets a big tax cut, and the money will trickle all down to you." Well trickle my foot, or is that tickle my foot? No it's trick that's what that is. Yes, I think that's a trick all right because John doesn't know what trickle means or he would have fixed his own darn faucet.

I can't talk with you much longer because my old man Buzz he thinks I'm trying to get into politics myself by shooting off my mouth and all.  I just think someone's gotta stick up for the little woman,

I had to share this with all you folks cause there isn't a lot of time this year before a bunch of new guys take over in Washington, and it will be the same thing all over again, if old John is any example.  I know the guy for years, but I'll be switched if I can figure out what he's really going to do.  He'll probably just argue with everybody in Congress like he argues with me about that toilet.  Cause nothing ever changes now in Washington and I don't expect it ever will, if they all act like John.

Well, gotta go now. But you know what? It's been nice writing to you.
And I'll get back here as soon as I can when old Buzz isn't around to turn down the television when I'm trying to keep up with what's happening in Washington.

Hey Buzz, turn up that darn t.v., and can you bring me a beer?

Friday, December 12, 2014

No such thing as a little murder in life or politics

Pinocchio, the character known for telling lies
Lies are harmful, on personal and community levels. Multiplied many times over they can create wars, economic dysfunction and major crises. These days folks can lie, cheat, steal, and do almost anything and get away with it, in politics, in government and in personal life. The response "mistakes were made" takes the place of "fessing up." But my Mom would say about any of these things, "There's no such thing as a little murder."

I heard that statement many times as a kid when I used a variety of made-up stories to lie to her about why I came home late after school. Mom would catch the lie, and I'd be reminded again about murder. When I asked her what she meant, I was told just to think about it for awhile, along with what I'd done. The law referencing the Ten Commandments were talked about in Sunday School, and that was reinforced by her words, although it was underlined to a child who fibbed, as many children do.  It was a violation of the 9th commandment. It was also part of the lessons we learned in kindergarten, not to lie when we took a toy from another child.   Yet the idea that lies can be as hurtful as murder made me realize the seriousness of lies.  So I think that advice I learned years ago is good for how we relate to one another as individuals or in groups.  There are ways we can reduce lies so that we improve our relationships and our government.

Mom's message rings even for me as I age.  Often it is in those senior moments we remember what really matters. As a child, I didn't understand her analogy of lying and murder, but as I grew older it began to make sense because I saw how harmful lying can be. It allowed me to look at what I was doing and try to change my patterns. In fact that valuable guidance many of us learned as children could help us get back to where we need to be with each other, where truth and honesty and doing good for others is held as a high standard for everyone and where doing anything against that standard is just like murder and just plain wrong.

In small towns and groups the murder seems to be gossip. In fact if one were simply to listen to that, and nothing else, there wouldn't be anyone to enjoy or admire anywhere because everyone would be suspect. The consequences of gossip, especially the spreading of falsehoods, on a grand scale are demoralization of some citizens, reduced voting and participation, and general apathy. Economic progress is impaired along with social programs and other venues designed to help others, since anyone oriented towards help is then accused of having a devious agenda of some sort by someone. In the recent economic crisis people had difficulty believing our national leaders because we have learned to be distrustful of them because of the pattern of lies.

On a national scale the problems are magnified by falsehoods. We have war, religious strife, cultural clashes, and the denigration of Constitutional safeguards because our leaders commit the murders of gossip and lies and disguise these as patriotic platitudes, excusing them, when uncovered, as "mistakes were made." Our Executives, the President, both Democrat and Republican, have not exemplified truth in public dealings from Clinton's Oval Office rendezvous to Bush's tolerance for, and maybe instigation of, interdepartmental machinations that cost people reputations and livelihoods.
And the uncovering of issues such as government spying and torture remind us of the risks involved in lying.

 When the "parent" example is set low, the "children" of the nation follow suit; and the frequency of "mistakes were made" used to excuse rather than taking responsibility becomes the order of the day.
Research tells us that lies are accepted as truth if repeated enough. In fact, even when they are retracted later, most people will continue to believe the lie, even when the truth is known. An example of this is the issue about weapons of mass destruction associated with Iraq and used as motive for the present war with that country. People know that misleading people can be done by lying and the revelation of truth has little impact on the continuing belief in the lie.

The politics of personal destruction where one candidate makes false claims about an opponent's character is a concept that is based upon known research about falsehoods and the effects on beliefs. By the time the truth is known, many people already believe the lie and will act in accordance with it. This can have a significant effect on the outcome of votes in any given election. It can bring a demagogue to power with terrible consequences. Power pushers know this and use it to manipulate large numbers of people to sway elections and obtain control. That is serious to democracy. It can kill freedom. The effect of lying can be devastating not only for a nation but for an individual as well.
On an individual level lying can be harmful. Defense against it becomes increasingly difficult the longer the lie remains. This creates personal stress that can lead to serious depression, and even suicide. The young child who is lied about and ridiculed at school becomes the desperate, confused adolescent who later takes a gun and kills his classmates, then himself.

So my Mother's comparison of lying and murder is likely a good one when we think of the risks that lies can bring to all of us. Lies can seriously hurt or destroy others, so we must be careful what we say. When we make a mistake, as does everyone, we must take admit it rather than lie because, as my Mother said, there's no such thing as a little murder. I suggest we recognize our errors for what they are, own up to them, and take responsibility for our actions so our children learn to do the same. And that we ask our leaders to do likewise.

To change our behaviors and attitudes requires a change of heart that we can't do by ourselves. Inner guidance comes from within. With love in front to lead us, truth can prevail and destroy fear that provokes lies. The advice about lying that came from our Mothers and the sages of old is valuable eternally and must be our direction in order to solve our problems on every level.