Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Thank God For Angel

After receiving the Eucharist on Sunday mornings at church, I would close my eyes, get on knees, put my hands together, and talk to God. 

As a child, I did not know exactly what to say when I prayed, so I often asked God to care for the poor, the sick, my family, and me. Then, I waited for his response.

He never answered.

Soon, I found myself confused. Some told me that God wouldn’t respond aloud but that he would act in my name by protecting me and loving me.

My innocence led me to start praying more, since I believed that more praying would yield more results.

But even after praying each Sunday, I noticed that the poor were still poor, the sick were still sick, and my family was still the same. I began feeling like God didn’t care, and if he did care, it was only for those that were wealthy and happy.

Nevertheless, the environment of the church gave me a feeling that there was a God out there. People sang hymns joyfully, treated each other kindly, and worked together harmoniously.

Was I not getting it?

My doubts gave me an intense feeling of hopelessness. I thought to myself: "If God can’t fix the world, who can? If God doesn’t exist, why live?" I felt alone. And I felt like no one understood me.

But then in high school an angel changed my life.

No, not one of God’s angels, but my friend, Angel. He was an atheist who was comfortable within his own skin, a trait I had yet to acquire. Moreover, he felt that having this view didn’t make him a bad person. But at the time, I believed there was something inherently wrong with not believing in God.

After I talked to him several times, he gave me the confidence to continue doubting. I started feeling that I could be a good person,
although I was skeptical about God’s existence.

Yet I was scared to tell my family and friends that I didn’t believe in God. For me, it was like telling them I was gay. I essentially had to come out the closet.

My whole life I was trained that God should be a central part of my life and now I had to tell them that he meant nothing to me. Since it was so tabooed, it was difficult for me to reveal my atheism.

One night, my girlfriend, Ury, then a religious conservative, exposed my catholic family to my feelings in an unplanned conversation. Of course, I expected negative reactions.

Before I could get a hold of the situation, I was hearing it from all angles. My sister attacked me aggressively, calling me naïve and too smart for my own good. My mother criticized me passively, disapproving where my instincts were taking me. And surprisingly, my father was understanding, explaining that he believed there was a lot questionable about the church.

While they took their chances to share their perspectives on my atheism, I sweated profusely. I mildly tamed their reactions by telling them where my views stemmed from.

Thankfully, through time, they accepted it.

My experiences have led me to conclude that maybe us, nonbelievers, aren’t the lost ones, perhaps believers are the lost ones.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Transformative Figure

In his latest stand up, Chris Rock hilariously notes that white parents don’t have to tell their children that they can be anything they want. 

They’ve been cops, doctors, lawyers, and presidents. They’ve done it all. 

But blacks, he explains, have a duty, unlike whites, to ensure their children that their career aspirations are possible.

Yet if Barack Obama—a black man—becomes the next president, he believes it will be unnecessary for minority parents to say, “If you work hard, you can be anything you want.” Because Obama will prove it.

Ironically, Chris Rock had bluntly pointed out in an earlier stand up in the 90s that an African American was not going to be elected to the White House anytime soon.

Boy, have times changed.

Indeed, there is still systemic discrimination disadvantaging blacks and favoring whites. But although racism persists, Obama’s election to the White House will be symbolically important.

It will reshape how blacks think of themselves and how whites think of blacks.

Since the Civil Rights Movement, African Americans have worked in every occupational field. Nevertheless, in the highest paying jobs and most powerful jobs, they are still disproportionately underrepresented.

But who's most powerful than the president of the United States?

Obama’s admittance to the Oval Office will provide blacks with greater confidence, allowing them to knock down the mental barriers that have disabled them from dreaming and aspiring in the same manner as their white counterparts.

Obama becoming the 44th president will make the once seemingly impossible possible.

However, I want to assure you that Obama’s election to the White House will not singlehandedly solve race issues.

Alternatively, I think that his greatest impact will be psychological: He will spring a new sense of pride and optimism in the minority community, permitting African Americans to remove some of the chains of white supremacy.

Lastly, if Obama wins, many whites will abandon their stereotypical, false images of blacks, enabling them to realize that voting for an intelligent African American was not as big a gamble as voting for another witless WASP.

In the end, I feel that, if we give Obama the chance to lead America, he will be transformative. So don't be scared of change, welcome it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fundamentalists In Suits

When we think of “fundamentalists,” what often comes to mind are the Muslim extremists who carried out the attacks of 9/11 and those who continue suicide missions in the Middle East. 

But this recent financial crisis reminds us that the fundamentalists who pose the greatest threat to America don't live in Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Iraq. They live here.

They are free-market fundamentalists.

Free-market fundamentalists, also known as small government proponents, believe that capitalism naturally works its best when the government remains out of the private sector. They argue that regulations and taxes of any sort hurt productivity and investment.

This powerful ideology, referred to as the "Chicago School of Economics," was formed by Milton Friedman, an influential economist who taught at the University of Chicago several decades ago. His research and experience led him to the idea that, when it comes to the economy, government is bad—very bad, in fact.

Current adherers to Friedman’s beliefs are Wall Street elites, corporate executives, and the Republican Party. They oppose welfare, healthcare, and education funding because large tax revenue is needed to support these programs.

And I don't know if you know this by now, but free-market fundamentalists hate taxes!

Instead, Friedman’s followers favor privatizing social security and letting competition handle expensive healthcare premiums. Sound familiar? Perhaps it does, because these are the precise policies that have been supported by
senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican nominee for the 2008 presidential election.

Interestingly enough, while free-market fundamentalists take every opportunity to denounce programs like food stamps or housing for the underprivileged, they remain oddly quiet when the government
subsidizes their corporations or, as occurred recently, rescues their firms from collapsing.

The lesson learned from the recent financial meltdown is simple: Deregulation escalates corruption, and corruption destroys the market.

So I’m still scared of fundamentalists, it just may not be the same kind that you're scared of.