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Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

Springfield, Illinois, USA. Barack Obama, his ...

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http://www.christiancentury.org/article/2011-08/liberal-agony

Christian Century has a wonderful political summary of our current administration’s plight.  This is a wonderful and well written article.  As I read it, I thought of Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky’s Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading.In the book they detail the art of the holding environment in order to keep the temperature not too hot or too cold for change.  It seems to me that President Obama may be working to sustain a holding environment in a more complex or entrenched political environment than the one FDR operated in.  So not just a pragmatist but a diligent, non-anxious strategist (which the article also suggests).

However the real insight in the article for me should not have been an insight at all.  The difference between Obama and FDR is that in Obama’s election there was a revolutionary sort of change, i.e., the first African-American elected to office.  Such revolutionary moments of change (overdue or not) withdraw a large amount of change-ability from the bank account so to speak.  If all things had been equal (and I understand in the article that they were not), FDR represented no such revolution upon his election and may have had greater power to do  revolutionary change while in office. As organizational development theorists would tell us, revolutionary change might be necessary or we might just want it.  However, evolutionary change has a greater staying power if the ego of the leader can be held in check for it’s more subtle but powerful efforts.   Whether he likes it or not, it seems Obama has symbolized one revolution and is now into the agony of evolution.

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Corn male flower AKA corn tassel. The stamens ...

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My mother remembers among her childhood memories, a time when her small family farm was anticipating a corn harvest.  The corn was ripe, mature with tassels promising a great yield.  As is the risk in the midwest, about this time, a powerful storm blew up with increasing intensity.  As hail began to patter against the roof and then drive against it, my mother remembers her parents watching the storm through the picture window of their modest farm-house.  With their arms wrapped around the small of each other’s backs, side by side, my mother read her parent’s faces:   worry…then sorrow and slowly….ever so slowly… resolve.

My sense of America and my sense of my own work ethic is grounded in such stories.  It is with a sense of my grandparents humility, creativity and self-reliance that I consider the future of our country.  When I think of my investments (material and immaterial) I think of the promise and vulnerability of their corn.  When I think of life, they remind me there is much that you cannot control.  So human beings need one another for strength at the base of the spine.

Chapter six, “Is Social Security Really Broken”  of Progressive Christian Uniting:  A Different Voice on Faith and Politics was written just as President Bush’s proposal for the privatization of social security was being anticipated.  I have included links at the bottom of this post that might allow individuals to think about social security reform in a more up to date way.

Despite its age, like the other chapters of this book, the in-depth analysis of this chapter can inform our decision-making today.  The central concern of the chapter is the way in which privatization of social security might privilege those who are financially sophisticated.  “But what about the less fortunate citizens, the ones who will need to live on their Social Security checks but who may not know the difference between a stock and a bond?  Is a freedom of choice a blessing for them?” (99).  There is a great deal of work in the chapter to do math on the projections for privatization or the status quo and I am quick to admit the economics is beyond me.

As a pastor and granddaughter of farmers is the way that our country reforms itself according to capitalism as opposed to community.   There is an undercurrent of scarcity amid our abundance.  Like a proverbial pea under the mattress of gratitude, scarcity whispers to us…”there is not enough for all get what you can while you can.”    Such whispering seems likely to break the back of social security which is not the security of some individuals over another but a security for the whole fabric of our society.

Even as I am concerned that the poor at risk in the reforms AND that there is a fearful undercurrent driving reforms, I agree with the authors and am not opposed to “…the restructuring of Social Security in ways that increase participant choices over how they obtain their social-insurance protections.   …Americans have come to expect choices over what they buy and do.  …a structure that offers participant choice may be less rigid and more capable of evolutionary change than one with unitary structure.  ….Alas, the search for more efficient structures usually ignores the economic security of those (usually the poor) who are unfamiliar with the risks and rewards of private investment decisions.” (102).

We in the church have a responsibility to think about social fabric beyond our individualism and even beyond our nuclear family.  (Zech. 7:10 and Amos 2:6-7)  So the security we imagined has been ravaged by economic weathering!  There is an opportunity, with resolve to clean up, dig in and sow a few new ideas remembering that property lines are not as important as good neighbors.

http://www.progressivechristiansuniting.org/Blog/Entries/2009/1/28_Restoring_Dignity:_The_Employee_Free_Choice_Act.html

http://socialsecurity.procon.org/

http://www.socialsecurityreform.org/ (updated as of 16th of February 2011)

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A Helicopter and two boats of the U.S. Customs...

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It was noted in a recent NPR story that President Obama was going to stand down from sending a new, manned shuttle into space this year.  The space shuttle program, at the end of this year, concludes.  This, no doubt, dampens the hopes of some that space would be the new frontier should we ever fully wear out our welcome on earth.  It is a strong and cautionary signal to a nation that has been bent on growth for at least 2 centuries.  The irony about the US interest in growth is that as much as we are interested in growth and expansion,  there is, simultaneously, a strong resistance to immigration of refugees and those from Mexico.  

The  9th chapter in Progressive Christians United:  A Different Voice for Faith and Politics  notes that since the days of settlement of the United States that has been serious question about who to let in and what power they might have.  The authors recount early American history and our leader’s ambivalence about immigration with even a tendency to restrict it.  Interestingly, they quote Benjamin Franklin’s observation “Americans hailed newcomers to its shores as the bulwark of democracy, however, in times of crisis it has also used the foreign born as a scapegoat for unsolved social problems.” (148).  Challenges of communicating across ethnic differences, territory and the accessibility of jobs are some of the social problems that cause us to continue to scapegoat on the immigrant.   But of course there are many types of immigrants.  

Tha chapter makes a helpful distinction between refugees, legal immigrants and illegal or undocumented immigrants.  They grade the U.S. poorly on the national responsiveness to refugee resettlement.  The U.S. does less than Sweden, Canada, Australia and Denmark.   There is considerable attention given to the border issues of Mexico and the authors are explicit to debunk myths about 1/2 of the United States’ undocumented immigrants which come from Mexico. ” Contrary to widespread impressions, almost half of those do not sneak across the border but rather arrive legally and stay beyond the expiration of their visas.” (147)

 In all cases they appeal to Christian love as the way to make a faithful response.  The note the “double character and expression” of love.  “Love functions as an immediate response to the one who is present, especially the one who is in greatest need.  Love also functions to guide relfection about the wide range of consequences of every action over time and space.  Soemtimes, acting spontaneously to satisfy the expressed desire of another individual may work against the common good as viewed over time.  Many of the most difficult decisions facing the Christian are occasioned by this tension.” (158-159)

True to this understanding of love, the authors make no easy suggestion regarding immigration for the progressive christian.

1.   Borders are important.  Unless communities have borders, they are less likely to feel responsibilty and charge to their fellow human beings that surround them.

2. They commend the Jordan Commission which recommends the following: 

Commission recommended the elimination of the existing family-based admission categories for adult unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; for adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; for adullt unmarried sons and daughters of legal permanent aliens; and for adult brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens.

eliminate the admission category of unskilled workers since there are already a vast amount of those in the US

reduction of immigrants to 550,000 per year

Additionally, the authors strongly recommend a de-militarized response to the mexican border.  The most profound point of the chapter lies in what authors recognize as the underlying concern about immigration ….population. 

As populations expand and consume, there is a question will there be a scarcity of resource or an abundance.  Perhaps pausing the space race will allow the United States to consider our current population strains before we takes unresolved issues of population, immigration into another dimension of our Creator’s frontier.  Though it might delay our immediate desire to continue space exploration, could a such a pause allow us to learn better about our love for one another.

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