Friday, July 17, 2015

Re: Orthodox Christians Must Now Learn To Live as Exiles in Our Own Country

Rod Dreher’s article, “Orthodox Christians Must Now Learn To Live as Exiles in Our Own Country” is a wordy and somewhat rambling essay on the challenges now facing Christians due to the recent Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. He makes numerous claims and offers a variety of anecdotes. Most of them are wrong. He includes some pretty exciting language to describe marriage equality such as “radical”, “extremism”, and “revolution”. He makes reference to phrases like “inventing rights out of nothing” and “a threat to democracy”. Apparently the world is about to end.

I see gay marriage as another victory along the way towards liberty, equality, and justice for all people as imagined by our founding fathers. Our history shows how we get there: slavery was abolished, the right to vote was extended to women and African Americans, segregation was declared illegal, and today all people finally have the right to marry under the law. Still our society is not perfect, but as we continue the slow march forward, at every step of the way those like Mr. Dreher lament how “the old ways” are gone. Despite their protest we eventually look back on the social change and call it what it is: progress.

Mr. Dreher makes specific points about this most recent victory for LGBT equality that I would like to address.

1) That we are a “Post Christian Nation”.

“Post Christian Nation” sounds to me like… ALL THE CHRISTIANS ARE GONE!!! Where did they go?? Did the rapture finally happen? I still see all my friends in my social media but I suppose it is possible that none of my friends are true Christians like Mr. Dreher. I wonder if Mr. Dreher is still here. Mr. Dreher are you still here? Can you see these words? Are you going to Chick-fil-A for lunch today or did they disappear in a puff of greasy holy smoke? Are you going to pick up some art and craft supplies from Hobby Lobby or did Jesus call the fake plastic flowers and decorative trinkets up to heaven where they belong?

Sorry Mr. Dreher, but we are not a “Post Christian Nation” because we never were a “Christian Nation” in the first place. Granted, Christianity is part of our culture and history, but it was never a basis for our government. The US Constitution is the fundamental document of our government and it does not contain any reference to God, Jesus, or Christianity. In fact it specifies that our government cannot establish an official religion and at the same time guarantees the free exercise of religion. All religion, not just Christianity.

2) That “LGBT activists” will really be coming after social conservatives.

So Mr. Dreher, have you noticed how people who enjoy model trains have not been “coming after social conservatives” the way the “LGBT activists” supposedly have? Why would that be? I suppose it’s probably because social conservatives generally have nothing against equality for people who like model trains. Social conservatives, insecure as they are, somehow allow model train enthusiasts to live as they will. They are free to use old fashioned steam locomotives, modern diesel-electric engines, or both. Model train enthusiasts are equal members of society under the law with all the rights and privileges afforded by our Constitution. 

Now imagine if social conservatives also had nothing against this same equality for LGBT people. This is just a guess, but I’ll bet the “LGBT activists” would be happy to live and let live if this was the case. I’ve never heard any LGBT person say that social conservatives should not have the right to marry the person of their choice, raise their kids, and make a train layout in their basement. If we could just get the same courtesy from social conservatives towards the LGBT community, imagine what that would be like. Everyone just living as they wish under the laws of the United States of America. Nobody trying to control which pair of consenting adults can and cannot marry. What a radical concept.

3) That LGBT want to change marriage.

This one is really puzzling to me. I’m not Christian or married, so to examine this I look to my own parents. They are devout Christians who have been happily married for nearly fifty years. Probably the biggest recent change in their lives is the sale of their current house with stairs and construction of a new house that is all on one level. It seems to me that all other aspects of their marriage, and life, are pretty much the same after gay marriage.

I think what is really having an impact on my parents is gravity. They don’t like stairs any more and quite frankly I don’t blame them. My own house has plenty of stairs and I guess they are kind of a pain. I’m trying to think if gay marriage has changed the nature of the stairs in my house. Or the pull of gravity. You know, I don’t think it has. It hasn’t changed marriage, either.

4) That we (Christians) are going to have to learn how to live with at least a mild form of persecution.

And here again is this tired old claim of persecution of conservative Christians. They can no longer force their narrow religious opinions of marriage into the lives of fellow citizens. This somehow ruins their own marriage and makes them “victims” of the day.

I’m reminded of the behavior of a young boy at a restaurant where I recently dined. He went into a tantrum when he was denied some leftover potato chips that were offered to another person at the table. He was so blind in his persecution that he failed to notice the ample number of potato chips remaining on his own plate. The child’s tantrum stopped when I pointed to his own chips.

I wish it was that easy to stop the tantrums of conservative Christians. I’ll point out how they are still free to marry the person they love, and yet they are not happy. There is wonderful diversity of potato chips in this great nation, and we should all be free to eat the chips of our choice. And we should all be free to marry the person we love. This is not persecution. It is simply the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all people.

Mr. Dreher continues to babble on about “Benedictine monks living amongst cultural darkness”. He wonders how to “build resilient (Christian) communities within a condition of internal exile”. He quotes a fellow in a monastery in someplace called Nursia who declares “how far things have decayed in our aggressively secularizing world” and blah blah blah blah blah… 

He says that the dissenting Supreme Court justices who warn of “the fall of the traditional American social, political, and legal order” are not like “wild-eyed prophets wearing animal skins and shouting in the desert”. Indeed. They are not wearing animal skins.

Mr. Dreher says we live in interesting times. I say we live in a time of progress, and it is good.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Open Letter to KS Legislators on Unlicensed Concealed Guns

Dear Kansas Legislators,

I’m writing to urge you to reject the bill to allow unlicensed carry of concealed guns. In Kansas you need a license to drive a car on public roads. You need a license to do many jobs (doctor, lawyer, teacher, etc). If you want to open a restaurant and serve food to the public you have to obtain a license. The idea that we should let anybody with no training and no license walk around with a loaded gun under their shirt is complete insanity. A concealed carry permint in KS requires fingerprinting and a criminal background check. Do we really want to do away with this? I can't see how it would make us safer.

Many people argue that there is no difference between concealed carry and open carry. To me the difference is obvious - I can SEE the gun with open carry. If someone walks into a restaurant with a rifle on their shoulder or a pistol on their hip I can immediately walk to the back of the restaurant, go through the kitchen, and out the back door. I don’t know if we have a “good guy with a gun” or a “bad guy with a gun” just by looking at them. But I can clearly see they have a gun. I might even see the gun out the window before this individual gets inside the restaurant.

Many people argue that criminals have concealed weapons so we shouldn’t have restrictions on concealed weapons since it won’t make a difference. This argument is utter nonsense. If laws don’t make any difference then why do we even have any laws? If we have speed limits then only the criminals will drive too fast so we don't really need speed limits. If we have laws against theft then only the criminals will steal so we don't need laws against theft. If we have laws against rape and murder then only the criminals will rape and murder so we don't need laws against rape and murder. Pick ANY law and you can make the same argument that criminals simply ignore that law. And yet somehow, we all agree that laws are good. Laws keep the vast majority of people from doing things that harm other people. Should we eliminate DUI laws? If we have laws against drunk driving then only the criminals will drive drunk. So let's get rid of DUI laws, right?

Here is a great quote from Karl T Frederick, an Olympic gold-medal winner for gun marksmanship: “I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons. I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.” Karl T Frederick also happened to be the President of the NRA at the time. I believe “The right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” is an important part of our constitution. I, Paul Klusman, believe in responsible gun ownership. I also believe in common-sense gun control laws. The 2nd Ammendment does NOT mean the founding fathers imagined a big free-for-all where ANYBODY can carry a gun at any time, anywhere, with zero restrictions, no license, and no training.

Paul Klusman

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Response to Joseph Stromberg and his article "What research says about cats: they're selfish, unfeeling, environmentally harmful creatures"

Dear Mr. Stromberg,

In response to your article about cats being, “selfish, unfeeling, environmentally harmful creatures” I feel the need to provide some perspective that your essay lacks.

Your first point compares cats to dogs in an attempt to demonstrate how cats do not show affection and do not form attachment to humans, at least not the same way dogs do. It certainly is true that cats and dogs show affection differently. I often tell people that if they suffer from any sort of insecurity they should get a dog and not a cat. A dog will always provide instant affection on demand at all times and all places. Cats on the other hand, are the more subtle animal. They demonstrate affection and attachment on their own terms. There are times when a cat seeks attention and there are times when the cat prefers solitude. This does not mean their affection is not genuine, even if it is demonstrated differently than dogs or even human infants.

As I write this, one of my own cats is pawing at my leg, looking up at me, and making direct eye contact. I know what she wants: physical contact. I reach down and give her a little scratch on the head, then go back to my writing. Here again is the paw on my leg. More head rubs which she clearly enjoys and then back to my writing. And again more pawing at my leg, and so on, and so on. If she is particularly insistent the only thing that satisfies her is when I pick her up and park her on the table just between my chest and the laptop keyboard. She will sit there, curled in a warm ball, for up to a half hour while I write. Mind you breakfast was served an hour ago so she is not seeking food.

There are many other examples I could mention such as my cats gathering near when I’m upset, vocally crying and watching out the window as I drive away in the morning, and greeting me at the door when I come home at night. Of course these are all subjective, and we really have no way to “measure” genuine affection. What I can tell you is that I am the author of a popular series of cat videos on YouTube, and I receive daily contact from my fans who express affection for their own cats the same way that I demonstrate affection for mine in the videos. My videos have been viewed over 17 million times. I’ve received tens of thousands of comments directly on the videos or through other social media where people from all over the world express love for their own cats. That love is real.

Your next point attacks cats for their environmental destruction. It is true that free-roaming domesticated cats do kill birds and small mammals in their local area. For fun. Well, so do some humans. And let’s be real here, the vast majority of harm that comes to birds, animals, fish, and so many other parts of the planet is due to human activity. Every strip mall, every McDonalds, every industrial beef operation, every new car, every cell phone, and every item purchased at Walmart represents environmental destruction in the long run that is incomprehensible to the average person. Overall, the destruction caused by domesticated cats is a tiny drop in the bucket compared the wrath of human greed. If you really want to help out animals around the planet perhaps you shouldn’t upgrade your cell phone when the next shiny new model is released. Cats in the wild are only doing what their natural instinct compels them to do. You can change your behavior, they cannot.

Finally you report on the devastating effects of a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii that can be found in cats. According to your report, the parasite can cause “altered behavior, neuroticism, schizophrenia, lower reflexes, traffic accidents, and suicide.” The same wikipedia article where you pulled this information also reports that the parasite is present in many other types of animals including pigs, lambs, and birds, as well as contaminated water, unwashed fruits and vegetables, and dirt. In fact the biggest risk factor to humans is consuming undercooked meat. You did give undercooked meat a passing mention but pegged most of the blame squarely on cats. If you really want to warn people about Toxoplasma gondii you might urge them to get their burger “well done” instead of “rare” next time they go out for dinner, but instead you chose to spread sensational nonsense about cats.

Further research on the topic indicates that people with a poor immune system (cancer or AIDS patients) are most vulnerable to the parasite but the vast majority of infected people clear the disease with little or no symptoms. Your same wikipedia article concludes the following: “Numerous studies have shown living in a household with a cat is not a significant risk factor for T. gondii infection, though living with several kittens has some significance”. This means that adult cats normally develop a strong immune response to the parasite and present no risk to humans, while young cats may pose a small risk for a short time before they develop an immune response. Overall, I would suggest the best way to avoid the peril of Toxoplasma gondii is education and the presentation of relevant and accurate information, something that is lacking in your poorly written essay.

I understand that your article might be “all in good fun” to some degree, and certainly a good-natured “dogs vs. cats” debate will continue. But your article and others like it can do real harm. Cats experience a disproportionate amount of suffering by hateful people who would torture or kill them for fun. Your article is clearly biased, lacks perspective, and only adds to the ignorance of people who would harm cats. If you lack the sophistication to appreciate the subtle ways in which cats express affection, it is unlikely that I will change your mind. You probably just won’t ever like cats. However some perspective and intellectual honesty would be welcome in your otherwise slanted and sensationalist writing.

Paul Klusman