How do we determine who has the right to absentee voting?

The latest throne speech had some very interesting ideas that will be coming up in the next legislative session.  One of these is the introduction of absentee voting.  This is an idea that is long-needed, and is a step closer for Bermuda to becoming an even more modern society.  It is an idea that should be praised.  However, it does not go far enough.  From the throne speech, we find out that it will only be granted to students enrolled in accredited colleges and universities.  There should be limits on absentee voting, there is no doubt about that.  But this initial limit should highlight some concerns.

One of the arguments that I have seen is that these students should be allowed to vote because they still hold residence in Bermuda, while temporarily living abroad to complete their studies.  Well what about young professionals that are also living abroad on temporary work visas, and  have no citizen status in the country where they temporarily live?  One may argue that we do not know if they will ever return so they should not have the right to absentee voting.  But this argument falls apart when you really apply some critical thought.  First, there is no guarantee that the students will ever return to Bermuda.  Life happens, people marry citizens in the countries where they are living.  People decide to pursue careers in other countries, instead of returning to the island.  Who is to say that these students will return, especially those holding dual citizenship.  I was once told, you can never prove intent.  So you cannot say that the intent of every student is to return to Bermuda. Also, if a student is living abroad they are not a resident of Bermuda.  They would have been granted temporary resident status in whatever country they are in.  Just like a young professional on a work visa abroad has been granted temporary resident status.  If you are going to still consider a student a continued resident of Bermuda because of their temporary status abroad, than young professionals, living abroad temporarily, should be afforded the same.

Then there are the Bermudians that have relocated abroad temporarily for technical or other short-term training. They are living abroad temporarily to better their lives and learn new skills or advance their careers.  Why should they not have the right to vote in the country of their birth, thus ensuring that they direct the fate on some level, for a country that they may return to one day.  Why are they not allowed to participate in a country where they may still have family, children and loved ones?  For example, the government not too long ago sent people to learn butchering.  If these persons were sent abroad by the government and an election was called, that same government would then tell them they do not have the right to absentee voting, and they would have to disrupt their studies and purchase their own airfare to return home to vote.  Why is this group of students, ones that are trying their best to improve their lives, and may come back to Bermuda to make contributions to our society, also being disenfranchised?

Then there is another, more social-economic concern.  Higher education costs money.  Money that some do not have.  If a Bermudian family is living abroad temporarily, but do not have the funds to send their child or children to college or they can only afford a short-term or technical training program that is not accredited, why are they being denied the right to vote on an absentee basis, but others with the financial means can?  This starts to suspiciously look like classism.  Is this the type of society that we are striving to have; one where money equates to privilege?  I mean to be flatly honest, it already works that way, but are we to blatantly tell people, if you cannot afford college or university, you cannot vote.  In the past, if you could not afford (or you were not allowed to own) land, you could not vote.  Is this where we want to return, to that blatantly discriminatory era?

Of course opening the vote up for absentees needs controls.  What about persons that have never lived in Bermuda, born to Bermudian parents, have dual citizenship, and are students.  Are they allowed to vote on an absentee basis once they come of age to attend some affluent college?  Is it right that this faceless person, who has never set foot on the island, and may never set foot on the island outside of vacation at their holiday home that is still in Bermuda, be allowed to vote?  Should there be a time limit on how long someone can be abroad and still vote?  Say up to five years or one voting term, since a person has left the island, before they need to reestablish physical residence in Bermuda, for a set period of time. Even the UK has a 15 year time limit.  What should ours be?

If we are going to pass a law that allows absentee voting, all Bermudians should be afforded that right.  The students at university, should have the right to vote.  The people that are just overseas doing training as opposed to being at an accredited, higher education institution should have the right to vote.  Young professionals, with or without dual citizenship, but are only living abroad temporarily should have the right to vote.   And certainly those who can not afford college or university, but have opted for technical training or other short-term training should have the right to vote.  Everyone should be given the right to absentee voting if they are temporarily abroad, within certain limits, but more than has been put forth in the Throne Speech.  If the government is for all Bermudians, they need to be for all Bermudians.

 

Have you seen this picture?

Serena1

Black people have a problem!

OK, you are are probably saying, “What is this guy talking about”, so let me explain. In May of this year (2015), a deputy from Lee County in FL decided to post a video of a black man and attached the comment, “Can someone please tell me what the [expletive] this monkey is saying?” He also said, “Get a real life [expletive] monkey.”  This deputy thinks that black people are monkeys.  He would like to dehumanize black people in an attempt to justify his racism, justify the things he has done as a police officer.

But let’s not stop there, lets rewind back generations to Frederick Douglass.  Mr. Douglass painted a picture of how slaves were dehumanized.  Douglass says that from the time a slave entered the world, the dehumanizing began.  They were immediately separated from their mother, an attempt to break the bond between mother and child (Douglass).  He goes on to say that slaves were not told their birthday or age, this was a way the slave master enforced the slaves’ status as property.  Rape, torture, forced breeding, being called a sub-species of human were all ways that slaves were dehumanized.  Douglass says the worst way was probably lack of access to education.  All these tactics had one purpose in mind; so that the rest of the general population would see slaves as animals, unworthy of human rights, justice, opportunity or freedom.  And this is still repeated today, just look at the Florida deputy, calling a black man a monkey.

So why do I say that black people have a problem?  Well here it is.  Blacks are still an oppressed minority, and this has been evident in the US with the on-going police brutality, high incarceration rates, white-supremacist terrorist attacks and economic & social inequality.  Some black people are fighting hard against this with the #blacklivematter campaign.  However, there is one thing that is getting in their way.  It is this general attitude to continue to bash other oppressed minorities, in particular the LGBT community.  The picture above, which I will assume was created by DL Hughley or a fan (#teamDL tag on picture), and shared by his Facebook page is one example of blacks actually dehumanizing another human being.  One may say that, no this picture is just showing the way the media is celebrating Caitlyn, while bashing Serena and it is based on race.   I will argue here that this picture has a specific aim, because the person who created it knows that the emotions of blacks (specifically religious blacks) are high on the coat-tail of the SCOTUS ruling on same-sex marriage.  It was created to make a distinct division, and to highlight the need to foster civil-rights “competition” and self-segregate the black community into its own world.  If this picture was just to highlight race and white-supremacy, why not create this picture (below), showing Samantha Stosur, another muscular tennis player, which would make for a better comparison.  Two female tennis players, both muscular and successful, but one happens to be black and one happens to be white.  The motives of the original DL Hughley photo become clear.

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Some may also argue that the first picture is not dehumanizing Caitlyn.  Well, let me show you some of the comments from DL Hughley’s Facebook page.

  •  Ok….check this. Do Not Ever put Serena next to that again. (Calling Caitlyn a that says she is not a human, unworthy of respect)
  • Serena lookin like a Queen.. And Jenner lookin like the BEAST (Didn’t slave masters and the white population call slaves animals? And today, racist continue to call us monkeys)
  • Serena is a woman made from God. Bruce is man made. (Caitlyn is “fake”)
  • don’t call that nigga caitlyn. .that nigga name “bruce” (Will not respect Caitlyn’s reality)
  • Jenner looks like a genetically made freakazoid!!! (Caitlyn is a “science experiment”)

So back to the black people’s problem. In April of this year LGBT groups rallied around black civil rights groups to denounce police brutality. They understood that injustice is injustice and a unified front against it is one way to tackle the issue. What do black people do? Continue to tear LGBT people down, to try to segregate themselves and make civil rights or respect a competition, and post memes like this one.  Blacks try to dehumanize Caitlyn, in an attempt to show that their plight is more valid or more real, conveniently forgetting that their ancestors were also dehumanized (albeit on a much larger and more harsh scale).  Also, this picture is tearing a human down, to show that tearing another human down is wrong.  The hypocrisy is deafening.

Now, I also understand that transgender people are hard to comprehend to some.  I even struggle with it, but I understand that I may never fully understand, because I do not walk in the transgender’s shoes.  However, not understanding something is no excuse.  We have access to so much information these days.  To go back to Douglass he believed the greatest aspect of dehumanization in slavery…was not giving slaves the resources to develop literacy or intelligence.  Are black people dehumanizing themselves when they refuse to get educated with so much information out there?

I leave you with this.  How can people take the “new” black civil and human rights movement seriously, when blacks continue to bash and dehumanize other human beings?  Why is it that blacks cannot work with other disenfranchised groups to create a larger movement against all the world’s injustice (The LGBT groups rallied for the black cause, even while being called abominations, faggots, dykes, man-bitches and the destroyers of civilizations).  When will black people finally wake up to reality and realize that they will never progress if they keep pushing everyone away?

Useful links:

http://cypheravenue.com/found-black-panther-party-founder-huey-newtons-surprising-45-year-old-pro-gay-speech/  (You really should read this one)

http://thefreethoughtproject.com/violent-florida-cop-defends-call-black-people-monkeys/

http://usslavery.blogspot.com/2007/03/how-were-slaves-dehumanized-and-how.html

http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2015/04/23/op-ed-its-time-all-lgbt-people-care-about-police-brutality

http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/op-ed-its-time-for-all-lgbt-people-to-care-about-police-brutality

Keep it Personal

Recently, a petition was given to the Bermuda Government in support of same-sex marriage.  After this, there was some media coverage, which included an interview with a pastor.  In her interview she said that while the advocates were concerned with being “on the right side of history”, she only concerned with being “on the right side of eternity.”  She also went on to say that government could not change “divine marriage” and that she has been married for 30 years and gays will “never have that.” I would like to interject here that there are some same-sex couples that have been together longer than her 30 “divine” years.  In conversation with a friend, my friend said that this pastor lacks in expressing compassion for the number of couples that have loving, long-standing relationships that, if left up to people like the pastor, will never be recognized and celebrated in the same way this pastor’s relationship is.  It doesn’t make hers better – it just highlights how quickly some humans can dismiss the lives and feelings of others.  My friend also said that same-sex marriage advocates want equality through marriage enabling all to receive the full rights that everyone claiming to be heterosexual freely enjoys in our society.

So what am I getting at here?  My question is, what happened to the concept of a personal relationship with God?  Dictionary.com defines personal as “of relating to, or coming as from a particular person; individual; private”, or “intended for use by one person.”  So why is it that some religious people say that they have a personal relationship with their God, but constantly try to inject their beliefs into other people’s lives, specifically, using the law?  And when I say beliefs, I am not talking about a high level view of a general philosophy; I mean the nitty-gritty, “Thou shalt or thou shalt not” types of beliefs.  Some are quick to point out to others that they are sinners, worthy of death and need to repent (they even say this to other Christians).  I have even heard someone say how a person who had recently died deserved it because they were not living a “righteous, Christian life.”

We in Bermuda live in a diverse society.  There are Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Atheist, and the list goes on.  Yes, I will admit that in the 2010 census 70% of respondents stated that they were affiliated with some type of Christian denomination (or non-denomination). However, nine percent responded that their religion was “other” and 19% were not affiliated with religion at all.  On top of that, “other” grew by 56% between 2000 and 2010, while “not affiliated” or “nones” grew by 34% during the same time period.  The respondents that identified with a Christian denomination decreased by 12% from 2000 to 2010.  It is obvious that the religious landscape in Bermuda is changing.  With more “others” and “nones”, you would hope that the religious would be more cognizant of this fact, but there continues to be the push to interject beliefs into other person’s lives by some, including through the law of the land.

Do not get me wrong.  Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, but this constant barrage of judgments, condemnation and/or evangelism is not fair to those who live their lives another way.  Trying to keep certain laws in place because they are seen as “God’s law” is infringing on the rights of people that do not believe the same.  For example, do you remember the prohibition of alcohol sales on Sunday?  As times have changed, this law became outdated.  It was once put in place to enforce some religious belief that not everyone followed or agreed to.  Just because some think it is “sinful” to drink on Sunday, doesn’t mean that everyone should adhere to that belief.  If you don’t think you should drink on Sunday, well, don’t drink.

In order to live up to the ideals of the cosmopolitan society we are striving to build and maintain here in Bermuda, there has to be a level of understanding and acceptance that everyone is different, and everyone has a different set of beliefs.  There also needs to be an understanding that just because we believe our principles are the “right” ones for us, that does not mean that everyone else should follow them.  Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind, to be able to entertain a thought, without accepting it.”

I believe that everyone has the right to pursue a philosophy in life that makes them happy and adds value to their lives, as long as it does not infringe on other people’s lives in a negative way.  For some it’s religion, for some it’s education or personal development; there are many ways for people to enrich their experience and live their lives to their fullest potential.  If you have a personal relationship with a God and have a set of personal beliefs, why not keep it just that, personal.  If there are rules that you have personally agreed with your deity to live by, then you live by them.  Do not expect everyone to follow your rules; they are yours and yours alone.

Happy Saturnalia…err, I mean Christmas

Is Christmas really a Christian holiday?  Here are 4 things you need to know about the origins of Christmas

1. Is December 25th the birthday of Jesus Christ?

“In the Roman world, the Saturnalia (December 17) was a time of merrymaking and exchanging of gifts. December 25 was also regarded as the birthdate of the Iranian mystery god Mithra, the Sun of Righteousness.  December 25th was not selected because it was the birth of Christ or because it was even near it. It was selected because it coincided with the idolatrous pagan festival Saturnalia.” The True Origin of Christmas – www.realtruth.org by David Pack

nativity

2. In the Bible the three wise men gave gifts, isn’t that why we do it?

“In the ancient Roman system of religion, Saturn was the god of agriculture. Each year during the summer, the god Jupiter would force Saturn out of his dominant position in the heavenly realm; and the days would begin to shorten. In the temple to Saturn in Rome, the feet of Saturn were then symbolically bound with chains until the winter solstice when the length of days began to increase. It was this winter solstice, December 25th, that was a time of celebration and exchange of gifts as the hardness of winter began to wane and the days grew longer.” What are the origins of Christmas – www.carm.org by Matt Slick

grinch

3.  Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, thy leaves are so unchanging….

4. What about Christmas wreaths

The wreath has been used symbolically for centuries. Pre-Christian, or Pagan, cultures placed much importance on the December celebration of the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. For them, this was a time of death and rebirth, a celebration of the end of the ever shortening days and the anticipation of the coming promise of spring. As part of many celebrations, evergreen wreaths were gathered as a sign of the approaching spring light.” The Meaning of the Wreath at Christmas – www.enlightenme.com

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My Journey (…still ongoing)

question2I like to say that I have always been a skeptic. But, I accept that sometimes our memories can be figments of our imagination. However, I did have questions growing up. I remember hanging out with one of my best friends when we were teenagers and questioning the things we were taught from the Bible. As a gust of wind would go by, we would laugh and say that God was going to kill us because we were asking questions about the secrets of his nature.

Yes, I had questions. But for most of my youth I was a devout Christian, a member of the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) church. My upbringing was pretty fundamental. I wasn’t supposed to go to the movies, couldn’t wear jewelry, no drinking or dancing and we basically became hermits between sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, only to emerge from into the light of day to attend Church and evening Adventist Youth (AY) sessions. All in all, however, I had a pretty good childhood. The comradery that is associated with Christian fellowship is a nice one at times, especially as a child and as I entered early adulthood.

Yet, I had questions.

I usually would ignore these questions or if I asked an adult, I was met with the cliché answers, “That is part of God’s plan” or “God works in mysterious ways.” As I watched people get sick and die, families being separated by divorce, and as things happened in the world such as war, famine and disease, I conjured up fantastic images of a loving god. One who was looking down and allowing all of these to happen so that we could look from the safety of our lives and somehow learn from these events. When they happened to me or my family, I just knew that everything would be OK, because I was cradled in the arms of a wonderful deity that had a plan for my life and these life events would somehow make me a better person and bring me closer to him.

Still, sometimes, I had questions.

I think the first time that I started to actually and seriously question my religious upbringing was when I went off to school at Oakwood College in Huntsville, AL, USA. This was a historically black college and affiliated with the SDA church. Even though I was still following the dogma of my upbringing, I started to notice things. Hypocrisies, intolerances and untruthfulness on the part of the administration there ran rampant. Rumors of the women’s dormitory dean stealing money from the school. Pastors kids dealing drugs (my roommate) and personal incidents of theft of my property. I won’t even go into the black-separatist, black power (racist?) atmosphere of the campus. I was faced with a new question. If I was part of such a powerful, truthful and righteous way of life, why was I surrounded by such seemingly vile individuals (not all of course, there were some nice people there). Unfortunately at the time, still entrenched in religious doctrine, I quelled these questions with believing that “all have fallen short of the glory of God” and everyone was a sinner and….well you know where I am going with this.

Also during this time, I was really falling into a violent inner war with myself in terms of my sexuality. I went through some deep, dark depressed states, contemplating suicide and begging my heavenly father to save me from sin. My relief never came from above.

And now, I had even more questions.

Rock-a-bye baby, in the treetop
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall
And down will come baby, cradle and all

My bough broke when I was living in Atlanta. By this time, I had become disillusioned with my past SDA upbringing and had decided to “get saved” into the Baptist church. It was the easiest ticket to heaven I had ever received. All I had to do was say “Yes, I believe” and that was it. One Sunday, after listening to the Bishop, and during a musical selection by the choir, I was overcome with my questions. Why would God just love me for no reason, no matter what I did, who I hurt, or the like? I was so confused. I left church that day confused. I needed an answer. I was tired of living without answers. So, I did what any person should do, living in the 21st century. I went to the Internet.

Since then, I have learned that it is OK to ask questions and that if the answer is “Just accept it”, you need to look for a different source for your answers. Starting to look for real answers has wiped the mysticism from my eyes and I now see the thinks in a more puristic view.

I have given my story to let other’s out there know that there is nothing wrong with questions. It is when you ignore the questions and delay trying to figure out the truths or facts that you lend yourself to living with ambiguity and possibly never living your life fully.

Do not be afraid to always question!

Paradigm Shift

I am sitting in church right now. Yes, RIGHT NOW. No I am not having a shift in principles, I’m not coming back to Christ. My grandmother went 93 this week, and as expected she requested family members to come to church.

Every time I come to church I see things with different eyes. At one point I was “in the church.” I was transfixed by the mysticism, the magic, the pomp, and the rituals. Now it all seems so silly. Firstly, I am not making fun of what christians do, that’s their business. But for ME it is weird now. I watch as my grandmother, who is on a fixed income, give away money. To appease a God that they say can do anything, but somehow needs money. The speaker at this moment comments on how it’s the “last days” [insert voice indicating impending doom], because of what he reads in the newspaper. Like these things have not been going on for thousands of years. Stand up, sit down, stand up, bow down…church is like an aerobic workout. Several church visits ago (almost 3 years now), I witnessed communion. Symbolizing drinking blood and eating flesh is not cool.

It’s so strange how life can make you see things differently. I used to believe in all of this stuff, now I don’t. I had questions back then, whispering in the back of my head like the distant sound of thunder, that you are not quite sure you heard. As time went on those questions needed answers and now that I can not find the answers, I have concluded that it’s all a farce. Now, today, sitting in church, I see it got what it really is….plain ole tradition.

(Sorry I’m rushing this so please forgive any grammatical or syntax errors)

I’m so Blessed

blessed

I never really know what to say when someone tells me to have a blessed day.  Usually I just fumble out a courteous and obligatory, “thank you.”  On the inside, however, I really don’t like the term.  I know that sometimes people don’t mean anything by it, and it is just part of the colloquialism of the day, but it makes me uncomfortable. It also makes me uncomfortable when people say “I’m blessed” or when I see bumper stickers with the same sentiment or when I used to see it blasted all over Facebook.

One the contributors on my Facebook community page, Jayson Davids, made this statement, “We live in a world of duality. Where someone is happy, someone is sad. Where someone has abundance (Bermuda, N Am, Europe) someone has poverty (3rd world countries we exploit).”  This pretty much sums up how I feel about it.  Resources are being taken from others to create this comfortable, easy, every-thing-at-your-fingers world.  We see these “blessed” mega-churches, encouraging people to give their mortgage money, and promising more blessings.  Then the money is siphoned off to some larger organization or used to buy limos and private jets.  Why not pass your excess “blessings” on to someone who needs it? 

As stated above, this idea of being blessed usually is propagated by the people affiliated with religion.  They seem to believe that God has favoured them, because of whatever reason and has given them everything they need.  I often times feel that this is disingenuous.  My reason for these thoughts is that it feels like they spout this statement, while hiding the fact of the adversities and trials prevalent in their lives, and that happen in everyone’s lives.  Sometimes I feel like they only say these things in an attempt to placate their deity into giving them more things.  It is very egocentric and leads me to my next point.  How can someone feel so good about their God blessing them, while others across the globe say the same prayers, follow the same dogmas and beg the same God for “blessings”, yet are still suffering?

Just this week I read an article entitled, We’ve already used up the planet’s resources for the year In the article Lindsay Abrams states, “About 85 percent of the world’s population lives in countries that are overusing what they’re able to replenish, and 72 percent live in countries that are both in deficit and low-income.” So is this the plan of an all-loving, all-knowing God?  I would think that such an all-powerful being would find a more efficient way to dole out resources so that he can bless all his children.  Unfortunately, this imaginative way of thinking is more likely a way to exert superiority over another set of human beings. One must not forget that it just that one happened to be born on this side of the world, or to the right parents. Or maybe it is a way to forget that there are people out there that do not have, and allows one to go about their life living in a thin skinned bubble.  Will they still say they are “blessed” when their bubble bursts?  Of course we know the delusional answer to that will be yes.

I myself was born on the “blessed” side of the world.  I also live in a bubble, forgetting the other people in the world that are suffering.  This is my own personal item on my list of improvements; not to forget this reality, and to try and help the down trotted and overlooked.  I need to remember when I hear the words, I am blessed, that I need to work harder to help others with the resources that I have worked hard to accumulate.  Will you do the same?