On A Personal Note: Politics and Religion, A Rare Post

I have to tell you, I normally avoid talking about two things: religion and politics. For good reasons, as I feel people who come to my blog are here to read about knitting, not about my views on politics or religion.

I have read a number of online things this week that have been more than disturbing and have left me feeling quite heartsick. I will simply say, on the religion bit, that it never ceases to amaze me how people will quite vehemently make statements categorically about Christians, in a lump sum as a group, and be as blindly, deeply judgmental, as they are angrily accusing the Christians of being.

There is a difference between being judgmental, and yes the “judgments” we make every day that are by nature good prudence. I judge, yes, but in doing so I try and keep an open mind about my assumptions. Will I assume a stranger at my door is out to harm me because they look hygienically challenged? No, but I do not as matter of course let strangers into my home. I will be more than happy to make a phone call for them while they wait outside my home if there is an emergency, but I am not going to invite them in to play with the grand-kids. That is a matter of prudence.

Am I going to assume that they are unintelligent, slothful, out to get what they can from me because obviously they do not work and therefore are out to get what they can, they must assuredly be lazy, yadda yadda yadda (see I cannot even develop this line of thinking easily). That would be judgmental.

I feel badly that there have been people who yes, have been hurt by those of the Christian faith who perhaps don’t have a good a grasp on the practice of their faith as they should. There are always individuals in every group, good or bad, who are like this. There will always be individuals who are a little too eager to cast the first stone.

For those who are not familiar with that analogy, it comes from the bible and a story of a women who was caught in adultery.  This was, at the time, punishable by death (stoning). She was brought to Jesus by the Scribes and Pharisees (they were rather like the lawyers and religious leaders of their day). They were testing Jesus, and in their trying to entrap him, they exposed their own hypocritical ways. The man who was involved with the woman was not taken before Jesus with the same query of what to do in this situation. According to the law of the time, he was just as accountable and would have under the law earned the same treatment. The response of Jesus to this was to say “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. He then went on to tell the woman to go and sin no more.

I won’t go into more detail than that, there are sites out there on the net that deal with this topic and that is not why I bring it up. I bring it up because of the lack of tolerance that I see. I bring it up because of the lack of compassion we have for each other in our imperfect and human condition.

And yes, I do sometimes see it with knitting although that is not what has me so genuinely in tears this morning. We all sometimes get a little too passionate about how we think things should be done.

What has me so upset today is in the realm of politics. I was reading a column on a blog of the Washington Post that I received a link to in one of my emails. This man said a lot that was hurtful to many in the military and their families. What really got to me was the comment that they are mercenaries and have obscene luxuries in the war zone. This man is supposed to be a political analyst. I suppose in a way that he is, he is analyzing and then expressing his opinion. What got him going on this topic was the story Richard Engle from NBC news did on the feelings of the troops over in Iraq.

Now I know, people have different opinions on the war, why we are there, and about the military. I am not commenting on that, as I think one of the things that make our country strong is the ability to discuss something from different view points and perhaps get a better grasp of the whole picture.

I also believe what is our strongest asset is often our weakest.  What I fear is that we are all like the blind men around the elephant, confident and emphatic that the portion immediately in front of us that we can sense is all there is to the story, and intolerant of others input, not willing to put the parts into a whole, all wasting time vehemently arguing that our take on it is the right one.

I think Americans, who are weary of this conflict and stress with little obvious benefit, have the right to question and express. I also think the Americans, who are in the conflict, have a right to question those who are not, and express. By that, meaning that within the culture of the military is no man left behind. You don’t abandon the mission. You “solider on” and get the job done. Apparently the columnist felt that they should not have expressed their frustration with the feelings of their countrymen back home. Can we not agree with the motives behind the war, if that is our view point, and stand behind our soldiers still? Whether we agree with how it started, or why we are there matters little at this point, as it did start and we are there. We need to put our energy towards solutions, not bickering about the how and why. And we need real answers about what progress has been made, not just what is filtered for us to know by news outlets that have deemed what is and is not note worthy. I can tell you there has been a lot of good that is simply not reported.

We only know what the politicians and media outlets choose to share, which is why it is valuable to have so many news sources that we have today so that we can have a broader perspective and not be fed the spin of one viewpoint. As hard as it is not to react emotionally and make decisions based on our emotions, we have to look with reason as well. And we have to accept that different life situations and view points will lead the reasoning of individuals in different ways. We are not going to all have the same opinion. We must meet in the middle.

I was up until 5am reading comments on several days worth of postings by this man. Mercenaries they are not. Yes, they are paid (they do have to eat, they do have to pay for cars and insurance, and yes, they do have to pay for health care for their families). They are still a volunteer force, even though they get paid. And they do not live high on the hog. Many military families struggle to get by. And they do hear their husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and neighbors accused of horrible things that they have never participated in. 10 year olds burdened with the horrible worry of not knowing if they will ever see Mommy or Daddy again are aware that others call them baby killers. Or rapists. Or worse.

I can talk about this, as I am in a military family. I know what it is like to have your loved one in the service because they love their country. My son-in-law has been deployed twice. I know the sacrifice he and others make to be in the military because of that devotion. I know what their wages are like, what their benefits are like, and what their health care is like. My husband works at a VA hospital and is a Major in the Army Nurse Reserve. I know how hard it is for many to have access to health care as veterans. For many, it isn’t a simple matter of going to your hometown hospital. I know what those “obscene luxuries” in the field are. I would not classify handi-wipes as an obscene luxury.

It is very disheartening; you see there is some merit to what some say when they say this kind of thing in the media emboldens the enemy. Part of the strategy (and this is something well documented, even from the Vietnam war) on the part of the ones we are in conflict with, is to get the media here to wage the battle of public opinion so that we will not have the will to keep on. They know they do not have the ability or the technology that we have. They also know that they have more endurance and patience than what we have. They bank on it.

I am not commenting on whether I think we should not have debate or discussion, I do think that responsible discussion is healthy. Endless bickering and knit picking is not, though, and I frequently feel that is too common.

All in all, I find myself feeling quite bruised this morning. There are many in military families who are feeling the same, and generally military families are ones who suffer in silence and soldier on, just as their loved ones do.

If I were a drinking woman, I would be toe up as I write this. But I am not, so I have to use more positive ways to soothe my jangled nerves. How can we not all be touched in some manner by the world events I do not know. It shapes us all in inexplicable ways.

After I have a good cry I shall try and knit.  I am sorry about the depressing post, I truly am. It is just so very heavy on my mind.

Peace and Knitting, JoLene

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2 Responses to “On A Personal Note: Politics and Religion, A Rare Post”

  1. Gillian Says:

    My husband is retired military and so I can go with you on what you’re saying.
    But we’ve been out of the system for more than 10 yrs, a good thing. No, the military and their families do not live high off the hog, and those who think it/say it are illustrating how little they know, and that they have no experience of it.
    I’ll look forward to reading more of your posts this fall, as I have been reading them in the spring.

  2. jolenetreace Says:

    Thank you, Gillian, for your kind words. I am not really sure why it hit me as hard as it did, but the times shape us in ways we cannot always explain. After writing my post I called my son-in-law Andy. A 25 year old who is loving and playful, as well as a man of deep integrity. He has been deployed twice, and we chatted about the so called “obscene luxuries” from home that our troops receive. When a really great thing is handy wipes, or simple snacks, well. That just hits home. The soldiers are not unknown entities. They are part of our families. They are real humans in extreme situations, not robots or romantic figures.

    How many of us think of cell phones and computer access as obscene luxuries? These are their life lines to their families back home, and not always available.

    There is some air conditioning in tents, still they are often over 100 degress. Better hope you are not in the army, where they had to wear their body armor (essentially 6 layers of cloathing) and try and sleep in that in 100+ temperatures.

    If the supply chain gets detained for some reason, they may have some trouble getting meals for that day, too.

    I don’t know too many men who are truely mercenaries, who get paid the wages they do to be at the every hour every day beck and call of their country, and have what little succor and comfort they have be termed “obscene luxuries”. They never complain. They soldier on, the help each other, and they get the job done. Mr. Arken said they should be thankful that our country still respects them. Frankly I disagree.

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