Friday, June 29, 2007

A Trifecta for Sanity

Yesterday, June 28, we witnessed a three-fold moment of sanity in the sociopolitical world. Such a "trifecta" is rare and we ought to take a moment to indulge in some good feelings before our battles begin again.

President Bush's immigration legislation was dealt another defeat. Good riddance to the cheap-jobs-for-Republicans-and-cheap-votes-for-Democrats agenda - at least for awhile.

The "Fairness Doctrine" - a thinly veiled attempt of the Left to control the radio waves because they can not compete with conservative talk - was soundly rejected by the House.

And finally, the United Church of Christ, a mainline Protestant denomination, admitted that its policy statements concerning the Middle East were unfairly biased against Israel. A committee agreed that the Arabs share some of the blame for their problems and most of the violence is not the fault of the Israelis.

It is rare to hear see so much sanity in one day...let's enjoy it as we celebrate America's heritage and hope this week.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Welcome to America

This morning I had the honor of appearing on the KSFO AM 560 morning show, hosted by Leigh Rodgers and Melanie Morgan, with Officer Vic providing color, traffic and musical whimsy. Brian Sussman, who hosts his own show on KSFO from 6-8 PM nightly, was the guest host with Melanie and Vic. The topic was the current immigration crisis. A scheduled guest could not appear, so "Dr. History" spontaneously pinch-hit and provided historical perspective of the impact of immigration upon cultures throughout history.

America, by definition, is a land of immigrants. We have an uneven record toward welcoming certain groups at certain times, but overall, we have been, and remain, the first destination for those who want freedom and opportunity. Our sheer size, diversity of cultures, economic opportunities and the values that uphold our land draw people here by the millions.

In 1620 the Pilgrims landed, determined to practice their faith and live at peace with all - they did, for nearly 70 years.

Roger Williams established Rhode Island as a beacon of religious freedom.

In the 1650s, Maryland ("Mary-Land") was founded as a haven for English Catholics, with Lord Baltimore leading the exodus to freedom.

When our Founders wrote the Constitution, they expressly forbade any religious test for political office and forever enshrined the freedom of conscience and religion - the true "First Freedom" - in the first 16 words of the First Amendment.

Bigotry, racism and xenophobia are, alas, conditions of human societies everywhere and American history is no exception. Our Native American policies are a study in moral turpitude and self-deception. The War with Mexico was a pretence for conquest. In the 1850s there were anti-Catholic riots in Baltimore! The legacy of slavery and Jim Crow is still being overcome. The anti-Chinese and anti-Japanese laws of the 19th and 20th centuries are a stain on our history. The isolationism of the 1920s to 1940s kept thousands, perhaps millions, of Jews and other victims of totalitarianism out of our great land.

The previous paragraph reminds me of my history classes in Berkeley and Santa Cruz: America the colonial oppressor...America the racist...America - you get the idea. There were times I felt persecuted for walking in the room - after all, I am a white male, married and middle-class, so I am part of the problem and should apologize for living.

But there are other narrative threads that must be woven into our historical tapestry. Our Revolution was NOT like the one that came later in France! President George Washington spoke at a synagogue - and welcomed people of all faiths or none to be part of the virtuous citizenry our our new land. The Irish who felt persecuted in the 1850s became part of the elite by the dawn of the 20th century. The Asian laborers who built our railroads are now watching their descendants enjoy the American Dream. The African-American and Hispanic-American middle classes are growing and Martin Luther King's efforts are paying rich dividends for many.

Welcome to America - the greatest ongoing experiment in freedom in history.

Welcome to America - we need many "Ellis Islands" to welcome legal immigrants who want to become citizens and uphold our principles and virtues.

Welcome to America - if you are a visitor, we need to know where you are and if your intentions are good.

Welcome to America - a lighthouse to a world that is learning English.

Welcome to America - a land that must not "submit" to any theocracy, especially one designed to destroy our freedoms. People of all faiths or none live with their deepest differences in this nation. Yes, we can persuade and ask people to covert, but coercion and oppression of the conscience have no place in America.

Welcome to America - flawed, but struggling forward; naive at times, but anxious to receive all who embrace liberty and liberty's foundations of faith and virtue.

Welcome to America - and land that does not need to follow in the self-destructive footsteps of Western Europe and wallow in a post-religious vacuum of bureaucracy.

Welcome to America - if you can handle the responsibility that comes with freedom.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Here We Go Again

For thirty years there have been negotiations between Israel and some of her neighbors concerning a "final" geopolitical settlement in the Middle East.

Nobel Peace Prizes have been awarded - but we have no peace.

Israel has withdrawn from major portions of the "Occupied Territories" - but we have no peace.

Israel has offered unilateral concessions - only to be met with ridicule and rockets.

Hamas, Iran and Syria are arming for war against the only democracy in the region and most of the world accuses Israel as being the problem!

Here we go again. It is January 30, 1939 exhumed from the ashes. As Hitler prepares to unleash war on Europe, he blames the Jews for the coming conflagration. In his speech to the puppet Reichstag (Parliament), he declares that any bloodshed in the coming years would be the fault of the Jews and result in their "destruction."

Will we ever learn? Will we ever liberate ourselves from the bondage of Anti-Semitic mythology? Or do we need another war (which will be won by Israel) with thousands dead to remind us of the futility of hatred?

What are the keys to peace in the Middle East? There are two simple ones: Unequivocal recognition of Israel's right to exist within clear boundaries and an end to state-sponsored terrorism.

Until some Palestinian leaders cool their rhetoric and demonstrate real courage, we will live with a tinderbox that could spark far more than a regional war.