Updates (on my life) and Redefining the Blog

Hello there everyone,

Happy New Year! My sincerest apologies for being inactive on this blog for a little over a year. My last official “column” if you will, debuted back in December of 2018. Since then, I have been applying to jobs and taking online classes in order to 1UP my skill set in the meantime—and to show off my resume. 😉 Alas, after many months of continuous rejection and disappointment, I gradually experienced a combination of psycho-emotional burnout/fatigue, depression and “backsliding” in regards to what my original career goals were. In fact, I even started to forget what was my motivation for looking for work in the first place. Continue reading Updates (on my life) and Redefining the Blog

Tackling Islamophobia and Learning to Love and Respect Thy Neighbors in a Post-9/11 World: 12th Anniversary Commemorative Edition

On September the 11th, enemies of freedom committed an act of war against our country. Americans have known wars — but for the past 136 years, they have been wars on foreign soil, except for one Sunday in 1941. Americans have known the casualties of war — but not at the center of a great city on a peaceful morning. Americans have known surprise attacks — but never before on thousands of civilians. All of this was brought upon us in a single day — and night fell on a different world, a world where freedom itself is under attack. [1]

 

~ Former President George W. Bush in his Address to the Joint Session of the 107th Congress (September 20, 2001)

 

CONTRARY TO THE VIEWS expressed by the mainstream media, the notion of Islamophobia—the irrational fear of the beliefs and institutions of the Muslim faith—did not first enter the modern American psyche on September 11, 2001. Rather, it occurred decades before my time, back in the late ’70s and early ’80s when Ronald Reagan was in the Oval Office.

 

Former President George W. Bush’s now famous declaration of ‘a war on terror’ is in fact a continuation of his father’s legacy, Mr. [George] Herbert Walker Bush and Mr. Reagan respectively before him, not an initiation, despite what my current generation of Millennials may presume to think.

 

Three years ago, within weeks of saying goodbye to my fellow graduating upper classmen of the Class of 2010, I struck up a conversation with one of my few close Muslim friends Adam S. one afternoon. Initially sharing my profoundly educated knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of his own faith with him, I somehow eventually felt emotionally provoked to painfully, but honestly scream the statement, “Nevertheless, I still believe that Muslims are terrorists.”

 

I could observe the deep remorse and pain in his face as I declared it. As I would later solemnly apologize, I restated that my motive was not to label every Muslim person walking around as a terrorist, as clearly that would be irrational, not to mention, unethical.

 

I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith. It’s practiced freely by many millions of Americans, and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah. The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself. The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them….

 

Americans are asking, why do they hate us? They hate what we see right here in this chamber — a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms — our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.[2]

 

Former President George W. Bush couldn’t have said it more clear-cut or more precise, as his words still ring true nearly a decade after the attacks. Nevertheless, despite his best-suited intentions, we still have yet to fully recover from the damage left behind in a post-war Iraq and Afghanistan, and there are still questions that are left to be answered. Most importantly, if and when, the nations of the Middle East, and the people living there can ever accept the notion of executing democratic principles, not in the names of liberty, freedom or equality, but swiftly with mercy and grace.

 

In recent years, ideological Islamophobia has resurged with the controversy of constructing Park51 two blocks from Ground Zero in New York[3] and Pastor Terry Jones purposely burning a copy of the Koran two years ago at his church in Gainesville, Florida.[4]

 

As a fellow Christian, I again would like to apologize to the worldwide Muslim community if there are people among us who use hate and fear to evangelize our beliefs on the rest of the world.

 

The Great Commission

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.” Amen.

~ Matthew 28:16 – 20 (NKJV)


newsweek13f_3If we are indeed human, wouldn’t we also share the same resentment and hurt if other rogue parties were to target and ransack our churches, desecrate our icons of Christ and the Cross, and shred our Bibles? As history proves to humanity repeatedly, violence can only beget violence, no matter what one’s faith.

 

Which evidently, brings me to Syria…

 


Although President Obama has identified Tuesday night President Bashar al-Assad’s government in the involvement and usage of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, he also agrees not to send troops to intervene in Syria:

 

First, many of you have asked, won’t this put us on a slippery slope to another war? One man wrote to me that we are “still recovering from our involvement in Iraq.” A veteran put it more bluntly: “This nation is sick and tired of war.”

 

My answer is simple: I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria. I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan. I will not pursue a prolonged air campaign like Libya or Kosovo. This would be a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective: deterring the use of chemical weapons, and degrading Assad’s capabilities.[5]

 

His overall message resonates with me, and echoes a similar overtone several of my other politically inclined friends on Facebook have recently been discussing in the last few weeks regarding Assad’s Syria:

 

Whatever we do over there, I believe it’s just going to fuel the fire and make matters more complicated. Whenever we drop bombs, people get killed – guilty and innocent both. This fuels the fire of the Muslim’s already present hatred of us and it will do it until the end of time. We can’t bribe real friends. And we can’t intimidate them to be our friends by bombing who we deem as “bad guys.”

We’ve spent hundreds of billions, if not more, in bombing middle-east “bad guys” the past decade, and lost some 8,500 Americans. Does the US really need to keep bankrupting itself and putting lives and weapons on the line in yet another country? When will moral policing end?

We went into Iraq, partially under the pretense of helping the people Saddam used chemical weapons against. And what a disaster going into Iraq has been. And if we go into Syria, even with just drones (as if that’s no big thing), I still think we will end up with a bigger mess of which we may have to help clean-up.

And we haven’t even talked about who we’re helping by going after Assad: Al-Nusra, the al Qaeda wing in Syria.

I think the Founders, as the saying goes, are rolling over in their graves at the sight of how many countries our government is involved in.[6]

~ Chris Wright, expressing his opinions on the possibility of American military intervention in Syria

 

Going off Chris’ points directly here, first of all, I agree with everything he writes. As I voice my thoughts in a different Facebook comment thread with another fellow Mormon, Josh Roundy, I make a firm statement that coincidentally enough, reiterates the same points Chris outlines above:

 

I am not saying don’t help or support the children of Syria. We should in theory, help all, refugee and rebel alike. But I personally find it very emotionally and psychologically unsettling when one regime dominates the mainstream voice in the political and social discourse, as in the case of said Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.[7]

 

As for the actual children of Syria, here is the first of a series of clips I have painstakingly nitpicked from browsing and watching Youtube news on the conflict for months now.

 

 

This next one documents wounds two boys have sustained from a shelling in a neighborhood in Homs, dated April 2012:

 

Homs Innocent children were injured by Assad’s violent shelling on the area. 4-4-2012

 

 *Contains some graphic/bloody imagery. VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.

 


I’ll be honest here folks. I trembled and even wanted to cry as I glanced at the doctors removing the first boy’s clothes and examining his wounds as he cries aloud in fear, and tears. My heart cannot ever properly express the sorrow I feel tremendously every time I watch videos of this content and nature, especially when there’s children involved.

 

To help tell the story of one family siding with the Free Syrian Army rebels in the bustling city of Aleppo, and one boy’s experience of wanting to go to school to earn his education despite living in a war zone, here is Ibrahim’s War courtesy of Journeyman Pictures.

 

Trust me, this film will move you in ways you couldn’t imagine of being moved:

 

 


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Church of St. Tekla at Maaloula by DWinton © Flickr

As for the Christians of Syria, many of us are now learning that rebel forces are attempting to seize total control of the small mountainous community of Ma’loula (Maaloula).[8]


The local residents seem to gravely fear this predicament because it could inevitably give the rebels more legroom towards not only riling the authority of Assad’s regime, but also sparking further clashing of ideologies and religions in the process. Surprisingly, both Muslims and Christians previously living in the town, who are now fleeing the area due to the nature of the attacks, collectively agree that they have lived together side by side in mutual peace for years.[9]

 

Ma’loula is also home to one of the most well preserved sanctuaries of the modern-day variant of Aramaic, presumably to be the tongue of the historic Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.

 

 

And as the documentary describes, director Mel Gibson—who is indeed a devout Roman Catholic and directed the now worldwide sensation The Passion of the Christ—even took some civil and historic liberties of helping to carefully reconstruct the form of ancient Aramaic that Jesus and his followers spoke in his heyday, as accurately as possible.

 

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This ensures that there are people who are currently not only proactively determined in trying to save an essential Biblical language from the near brink of extinction. It ensures that history can be rediscovered, relived, and continue to live on in the present day for the world’s nearly 3.6 – 3.8 billion adherents of the major Abrahamic faiths, all of which, coincidentally, have their origins in the Middle East.[10]

 


But regardless of our faith or our politics, 9/11 isn’t just a day when our country was attacked by Muslim extremists. It isn’t a day to start pointing the finger of hypocrisy and shame at our neighbors and condemn them as terrorists.

 

9/11 was, and is a day when religion and politics simultaneously intertwined and crossed paths once more, as a rallying wake-up call for all of us to reconsider how we approach sensitive topics surrounding our everyday religious confrontations, and the benefits and dangers of exploring both fundamentalism and liberal theologies and theocracies alike.

 

And remember: Muslims can be your friends too.


“O son of Adam, it is better for you if you spend your surplus (wealth), but if you withhold it, it is evil for you. There is (however) no reproach for you (if you withhold means necessary) for a living. And begin (charity) with your dependants; and the upper hand is better than the lower hand.” [11]


~ The Prophet Muhammad, Muslim hadith


*Original thanks to my good friend Marwan Mogaddedi for posting this verse on his Facebook three weeks ago.

 

 

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you…”

 

~ Jesus of Nazareth, an excerpt from The Sermon on the Plain, Luke 6:27 – 31 (NASB)

 

memorial-setembro-nGod bless everyone and Ahlan wa Sahlan my friends. #NeverForget 😀


[11] http://www.khilafah.com/index.php/component/content/article/76-daily-hadith/6436-daily-hadith


For Further Viewing and Thinking:

Christians in the Middle East



A Muslim Response in the Wake of the Boston Marathon Bombings:

Today Matters.

For so long, there was this voice that was silenced out there as far as exercising your right to vote. I think it was a voice that was silent because people had lost hope. They didn’t believe that their voice mattered or counted.

You know, we thought it was just politics—people going back and forth—and at the end of the day, it never trickled down to where we lived; and now people are exercising their right, and you are starting to see the power of our vote.

He [Barack] made it mean something for the first time for a lot of people. Having someone in office who understands how powerful our voice can be. It is very important.

~ Rapper Jay-Z on the power of voting (Jay-Z: The Power of Our Voice)

THE FUTURE OF AMERICA can come down to just one day.

It did on July 2nd, 1776, when the Founding Fathers of this nation ratified the Declaration, it did when the Japanese air force bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941—and it most certainly did when the Twin Towers in New York collapsed and the Pentagon building suffered collateral damage on the morning of 9/11.

These moments matter—and despite all the bigotry, hate and fear we instill in the political arena, at the end of each passing day, we are still friends, brothers, comrades one and the same.


During my senior year of high school, I was reminded of a crucial but often overlooked lesson: it doesn’t matter who we are or what we do, humans are competitive in nature. We compete in everything from grades and test scores to politics to the football, soccer and baseball field. But despite all of the rivalries one forms against another person, at the end of every game, we still root for our players and for our team. We’re family.

My former teacher Jaime Richards discussed this lesson in class one fine spring day about a year and a half ago as he proudly displays a photo of two girls he knew very well who played for my high school softball team on his laptop screen.

He emphasized what it meant to not let athletic rivalries and pointing fingers get in the way of forming beautiful friendships. To paraphrase Jaime’s speech that day, the girls play hard and train hard, but win or lose they still stick together.

That’s the message I remember and cherish so well when I hear the President’s message. Win or lose, we’re still in this together.


This isn’t the first time he’s said something similar along these lines but man, to imagine how far he himself as a person first and a politician second has come—it’s so gratifying to know Barack Obama has persevered through the obstacles he has also encountered before in his life.

I can also barely imagine what it must have been like to have been elected President just four years ago—in a time of drastic economic recession. Obama, however, does practice what he preaches and he is on a quest to finishing his mission.


On this day, we can choose between a person who leads and a person who follows; a person who has his head in the game and a person who aspires to be someone great and legendary.

I have made my choice, and my choice is clear.

Now I want all of you to make yours. We only have one shot at this, and before you even know it, it’s going to vanish.

So why not seize that opportunity now? Literally, go carpe diem here folks!

Get out there to the polls and vote today, make it count, and be proud that you will be making history in the process.

I also pray that whosoever takes the inauguration oath in Washington come January 2013 will promise to lead our nation with higher expectations and create a brighter future for all of us.

Thank you, God bless you and God bless the United States of America!

Bringing The Nation’s Attention Again to Colorado…

I have come to the conclusion that the main difference between Conservatives and Liberals is how much fear we decide we are going to live in. Liberals don’t normally hoard guns and ammo, because we aren’t afraid of the world. We all live in the same world, and there are bad things out there to be afraid of. Liberals have just decided that fear is not the thing we are going to focus on and we aren’t going to allow it to control our lives. I’m beginning to think that this applies to all sorts of issues as well. I heard two conservative (white) friends talking today about the fact that in a few years, white people will be the minority. They were terrified of this possibility, while my reaction was “So what?”.

 ~ Daniel J. Roe, Facebook commenter

JULY 20, 2012 will perhaps be another day that will live in infamy in early 21st-century American history as everyone woke up to the startling reaction of yet another shooting incident—this time in a movie theater in a town called Aurora, Colorado.

As I got out of bed that afternoon, my mom was shocked to see the news reports flash on the TV: “at least 12 dead and another 51 or so injured.” What was even worse after hearing the announcers utter those words was the life story surrounding the alleged gunman, 24-year-old James Holmes.

In the past forty-eight hours, I have been following the stories—and the more I’ve uncovered, the more scary the situation gets. Turns out, Holmes graduated from what-could-have-been-my-alma-mater, the University of California at Riverside in the spring of 2010 with high honors with a B.S. degree in Neuroscience.

Despite my family’s worries and pleas, I am planning to pursue a Neuroscience-related degree perhaps several years down the road as well, since I also love to study the mind, and currently have selected my primary major in Psychology at a local community college I now attend in my time away from Riverside.

But my heart does sincerely go out to my Highlander family down there, as the nation now mourns for the families of the Aurora victims and as this recent tragedy now casts another spotlight on the rise in gun violence and firearm-related crimes.

While browsing my Facebook News Feed on Saturday afternoon, I spot an Internet meme-type picture posted on The Christian Left page (https://www.facebook.com/TheChristianLeft) that sports the label in large block letters “MEANWHILE, IN AMERICA.”

This meme portrays a white American male lying on his bed watching the primetime news broadcasts surrounded by what appears to be an arsenal of guns and ammo. A quick mouse scroll through the comments and I know the debate’s on between those individuals who support stricter gun control laws (such as myself) and those who claim such said laws will inhibit the rights of Americans to freely sport weapons, as established by the Second Amendment.

Coming across a paragraph also quoted in the preamble of this column, I have to say I fully agree with what Mr. Roe here has to say. For many years now, I have absorbed and reflected on the values, beliefs and morals of what many figures have taught me growing up…and the older I am getting, I realize that I continue to lean to Left-wing political views, simply because I cannot agree with what is going on with the GOP and the Tea Party.

Of course, I might as well apologize in advance if I may come across as being hateful of Republicans or something. I do not mean to directly insult or bash any individual who holds to conservative beliefs, for I should know better. I was also spiritually raised as a conservative Christian believer from a young age. But nevertheless, that does not mean I should not be able to think for myself and to be able to express my opinions on the InterWebs either. And so, I do.

I do express my heart, my mind and my soul—in every piece I compose and type. And I am glad my readers are able to see that part of me so genuinely as well.

Back to the matter at hand though, as Jefferson Bethke has stated so firmly in the opening lines—and rings so, so true to my heart—in his viral YouTube video Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus:

What if I told you JESUS came to ABOLISH RELIGION?

What if I told you VOTING REPUBLICAN really wasn’t His Mission?

What if I told you REPUBLICAN doesn’t automatically mean CHRISTIAN, and just because you call some people BLIND doesn’t automatically give you vision?

I mean, if religion is so great, why has it started so many wars?

Why does it build huge churches but fails to feed the poor?

Besides having a catchy, addicting rhyme to Jeff’s poem, I truly believe many non-Christians who troll on videos like these and intend to bash on them either to get a good laugh out of the whole ordeal for doing so or for merely getting attention—they just don’t understand the underlying message of his speech.

He isn’t trying to attack “religion” head-on and calling it bad. He’s saying, “Stop being so legalistic with the church and start being real. Be a real patron of Christ. Show mercy, show love, show compassion…and then say, ‘Hey, it isn’t necessarily me that’s showing you love. It’s Him.’ ”

See I spent my whole life building this facade of neatness,

But now that I know Jesus, I BOAST IN MY WEAKNESS.

Because if grace is water then the Church should be an ocean,

It’s not a museum for good people,

It’s a HOSPITAL FOR THE BROKEN.

What really touched me personally was when Jeff proclaims, “I don’t have to hide my failure. I don’t have to hide my sin.” Something I’ve been doing for my whole life, I’ve often wondered.

Like Severus Snape in the final Harry Potter movie, The Deathly Hallows Part Two, this theme of hidden shame and guilt does not just merely speak to me—it speaks to the whole wide world in its entirety.


 

And most people perhaps don’t know no matter how objective we all have to be in the business sector—no matter how many times you have to don a suit and tie and act “professionally”—I for one do believe that there is subjectivity in whatever people discuss. And more importantly, that there is a tragic hero side in all of us.

Pointing back to the Aurora shooting, perhaps most of us will simply remember the events being reported as the passing of grief—and for the families of the victims, an unfortunate deeply imprinted loss—but as the nation is again humbled in such a critical time, even President Obama is taking a stand to speak and share some of the pain, putting aside some of the heat he is still getting from the Right-wing and Romney’s campaigning.

Politics or not, we must not live in fear as Daniel Roe writes. Although we are aware of societal harm and the possible mass hysteria that could arise because of our fears of the unknown, I too realize we as a people must continue to push on through. Persevering and achieving. And while the general public may not completely begin to comprehend the inner workings in the mind of Mr. Holmes and what motivated him to dye his hair red, wear full body armor and open-fire into a crowded and packed movie theater, one thing we do know: Out of every tragedy we emerge stronger than before.

Amen?