Monday, June 14, 2010

My Madness

Many things factor into my madness. My childhood was an interesting combination of influences. I am a preacher’s kid who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s. I was well aware of the Cold War, Vietnam, and the hippie generation. I wore bell bottoms, now called low riders, platform shoes and tube tops. Certain life events have greatly contributed to my psyche since then. The combination of all these factors made me the totally mixed up person I am today.

Imagine growing up, from the time before you have any cognizant memories, in the church. Not only is your dad a preacher, but your grandfather and two uncles are also in the ministry. My childhood was rooted in the church. One of my brothers is now in the ministry, but he jumped ship and went to the Baptists. (!) My own ponderings about life began as I aged.

It was a time when the world was able to get more news faster than it ever had. I saw news reels of soldiers in Vietnam and the fighting they were going through. I vividly remember a photo that showed the execution of a North Vietnamese soldier. That particular photo won a Pulitzer. It had a part in shaping my view of war and my sense of fairness. I felt bad for the executed soldier and loathing for the one who did the deed. It was unfair in my mind even though the executed soldier was on the opposing side. I felt no one deserved that.

During the same time, the Cold War was still in everyone’s mind. There was always the constant worry that the “big one” was coming. The incident at the Bay of Pigs in 1962 set in motion the bomb shelter craze. It was considered the thing to do so you could survive the blast. Even through the birth of my first child I had that in the back of my mind. It took years to go away.

I also grew up in the age of the Civil Rights Act. It was enacted in 1964 but it was still being contested by places that did not want to see it enforced. People who were working to get African Americans registered to vote were still disappearing or being murdered in the south long after the Civil Rights Act was put in place. I heard all the stories of the time. It was still big news into the 70’s.

I have to admit, I was totally confused. This time period in my life shaped how I feel about the death penalty, equal rights, religion, and politics. I am a walking contradiction. It is hard to explain, but I will try to do so as succinctly as possible.

I disagree with the death penalty for one simple reason. Executing an innocent person is not worth the cost. On the other hand, putting a person in prison for life may cause more suffering for that person, but I feel they should suffer for not following the rules that the rest of us have to follow. That is the law and order part of me. The practical side of me knows that when government has to defend that death sentence, it costs more than ten times the amount it would cost to house them for the rest of their lives.

Equal rights are near and dear to my heart. Because life can be so unfair, I feel we should strive to treat everyone with the same respect and dignity we feel we should receive. These feelings extend to everyone regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, or any kind of handicap. I know that discriminating against others will diminish humanity and show we are no more than animals.

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