Why We Should Be Investing In AmeriCorps

Why We Should Be Investing In AmeriCorps

President Trump is looking to appropriate AmeriCorps' funds for military expansion.
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Graduation Day I remember the most diverse crowd of young people I had ever seen. Hands in the air and confidence in their voices saying, “I will get things done for America - to make our people safer, smarter, and healthier. I will bring Americans together to strengthen our communities. Faced with apathy, I will take action. Faced with conflict, I will seek common ground. Faced with adversity, I will persevere. I will carry this commitment with me this year and beyond. I am an AmeriCorps member, and I will get things done”.

I always felt like I had joined a mindless cult or some sort of kid’s summer camp when we were told to throw up our hands, as if we were all about to start simultaneously princess waving, and read this mantra off a computer screen.

It was not until my final day as an AmeriCorps Member that I understood the significance of the AmeriCorps Pledge. We started out as 300 misfits, unsure what we had all signed up for and walked off a stage ten months later as a unit with pride, purpose and an understanding of our place in this world.

There are some things in life that you cannot put a price tag on. The feeling of a job well done, pride in oneself, the sense of responsibility and the indescribable feeling that fills your body knowing that you helped another person. And the opportunities for young people to experience those feelings? Priceless.

I am sure many already know, as bad news travels fast these days, that President Trump’s latest in his seemingly never ending changes is a list of programs to cut in order to lessen domestic spending. Of the valuable programs on the list was the Corporation for National and Community Service, which is the Federal Agency in charge of AmeriCorps.

I cannot help but see the irony. The irony in taking money from peaceful initiatives fighting the good fight here on American soil and appropriating it for military expansion. I would rather spend money equipping young people with gardening tools than with guns.

Service is service. It is noble and selfless no matter what equipment you carry or whether your life is on the line or not. As a country, if we truly want to be "great again" then we have to understand that one form of service is not more crucial than another.

It is irresponsible to take money from AmeriCorps programs to expand the military. You are essentially saying to other countries and the citizens of this one that taking care of our people and conserving our land’s resources is secondary to the need to defend ourselves and strengthen our borders.

I have wondered what Trump meant by, “Make America great again”. Like any country we have a history of taking what is not ours and oppressing groups of people. What comes to mind when I hear the word “great” is the Greatest Generation. The generation before my parents, the generation that lived, and didn’t live, through World War II. A generation of Rosie the Riveters and soldiers.

Women were in the States rolling up their sleeves and doing what so many thought was impossible. They were building and flying planes, manufacturing bombs, sewing uniforms and whatever they needed to in order help in the war effort. The WWII generation was great because everyone was involved in the cause, the cause of making this country great.

While the Greatest Generation were involved in a war effort, bringing victory to the United States, I believe that if everyone of this generation is to be involved again, we can be a generation greater. Today the war effort is different, it is overseas and it is here at home. We are in combat, but we also have wars on climate change, poverty and illiteracy. And who do we want fighting those battles? Young people. And how can they do that? Programs like AmeriCorps.

These young people, who are a part of the largest demographic this country has, are willing and motivated to dedicate not only their time, but their lives to the betterment of this country. They are registering survivors of natural disasters, building houses, planting trees and working hard at the jobs that no one else wants to do. These are able and willing young people and they may not be out there toting guns, but they’re right here at home making a difference, peacefully.

So, my question has been and will continue to be: aren’t young people worth the investment? Especially young people willing to serve their country right here, in an equally selfless way?

Invest in strengthening national and community service. Invest in the future of this country. Invest in the United States. Let’s set the bar higher and surpass the Greatest Generation.

Cover Image Credit: https://www.bostoncares.org/vistaopenings

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Islam Is Not A Religion Of Peace, But Neither Is Christianity

Let's have in honest converation about the relgious doctrine of Islam

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Islam is not a religion of peace.

Christianity is also not a religion of peace.

But, most people in both religions are generally peaceful.

More specifically, bringing up the doctrine of Christianity is a terrible rebuttal to justify the doctrine of Islam.

That is like saying, "Fascism is not a good political ideology. Well, Communism isn't any good either. So, Fascism is not that bad after all."

One evil does not justify another evil. Christianity's sins do not justify Islam's.

The reason why this article is focused on Islam and not Christianity is the modern prevalence of religious violence in the Islamic world. Christianity is not without its evil but there is far less international terrorist attacks and mass killing perpetrated by Christians today than by those of Islam.

First, let's define "religious killings," which is much more specific than a practicer of a religion committing a murder.

A religious killings are directly correlated with the doctrines of the faith. That is different a human acting on some type of natural impulse killing someone.

For example, an Islamic father honor killing his daughter who was raped is a religious killing. But an Islamic man who catches his wife cheating and kills her on the spot is a murder, not a religious killing. The second man may be Islamic but the doctrine of Islam cannot be rationally held at fault for that killing. Many men with many different religions or experience would make the same heinous mistake of taking a life.

Second, criticizing a doctrine or a religion is not a criticism of everyone that practices the religion.

It is not even a criticism of everyone who make mistake while inspired by the religions. Human are willing to do heinous things when governed by a bad cause. Not every World War 2 Nazis was a homicidal maniac but human nature tells them to act this way in order to survive in their environment. It is hard to fault a person from traits that comes from evolutionary biology and natural selection.

However, commenting on a philosophy, ideology or a religion is not off limits. Every doctrine that inspires human action should be open for review. The religion may be part of a person's identity and it holds a special place in its heart but that does not mean it should be immune to criticism.

Finally, before going into a deconstruction of the myth that Islam is a religion of peace, there needs to be a note about the silencing of talking about Islam.

There is a notion in Western Society that if a person criticizes Islam, then that person hates all Muslims and the person suffers from Islamophobia. That is not the case, a person to criticize religion without becoming Donald Trump. In Western Society criticizing fundamental Christians is never seen as an attack on all Christians because there is a lot of bad ideas in the Bible that Christians act on. Therefore, criticizing Islam should have the same benefit of the doubt because the Quran has many bad ideas in it.

The Quran advocates for war on unbelievers a multitude of times. No these verses are not a misreading or bad interpretation the text. Here are two explicit verses from the Quran that directly tell Followers to engage in violence:

Quran 2: 191-193:

"And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah (disbelief or unrest) is worse than killing... but if they desist, then lo! Allah is forgiving and merciful. And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah) and worship is for Allah alone. But if they cease, let there be no transgression except against Az-Zalimun (the polytheists and wrong-doers)"

Quran 2: 216:

"Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not."

There is no rational way to interrupt these passages in a peaceful way. The whole premise of both passages is to inspire followers that war against the unbeliever is justified.

The first verse advocates for genocide against non-believers for the mere transgression that a society worships a different god or worships another god along with Allah.

The second passage is arguable more dangerous because the first passage just advocate that fighting may be a necessity, while the second passage encourages it. The second passage claims that war on the unbeliever is a good thing under the eyes of Allah.

The reason why these passages are dangerous is because they directly incite religious violence. For most followers of Allah, these passages are ignored or they convince themselves the passages means something they do not. However, for a large numbers of followers that view the text of the Quran as the unedited words of Allah, these texts become extremely dangerous. These passages become all the rational they need to wage war on non-believers.

This is dangerous because there are millions of followers of Islam worldwide that believe every statement in the Quran is true.

Therefore, the Quran becomes a direct motivation and cause for its followers to attack non-followers. Rationally one can understand where the Islam follower comes from, if a person truly believes that Allah or God himself wrote these words then why would you not comply.

Especially when there is verses in the Quran that says the Follower who does not fight the infidel is not as worthy of a Follower that does wage war against the non-believer (Quran 4:95). Finally, when male Followers are told that their martyrdom fighting for the faith will be rewarded with an eternity in paradise with 72 virgins for personal pleasure. If a Follower truly believes all of this is the spoken word of Allah then there is more rational why a person would commit these atrocities then why they would not.

Men and women are radicalized by these passages on a daily basis.

No, it is not just the poor kid in Iraq that lost his family to an American bombing run that indiscriminately kills civilians but also the middle classed Saudi Arabian child or some Western white kid that finds the Quran appealing. If radicalization were just poor people, then society would not have much to be worried about. However, Heads of States, college educated people and wealthy Islamic Followers are all being radicalized and the common dominator is the doctrine of Islam.

Osama Bin Laden, one of the most infamous terrorist in history, was not a poor lad that was screwed by the United States military industrial complex. Bin Laden was the son of a billionaire, that received an education through college from great schools. There is no other just cause for Bin Laden to orchestrate such grievous attacks on humanity besides religious inspirations. A person can rationally tie Islam Followers gravitation towards terrorism to a specific verse. Quran 3: 51 tells readers,

"Soon shall we cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers."

Any rational person can tie Islamic passages like this directly to terrorism. It is not a complicated correlation to like Nazism and Jewish persecution to Christianity. The Holy Book of Islam directly encourages the Followers of Islam to inflict terrorism unto the non-believer.

So why do some many people deny these obvious truths about Islam and violence?

Political Correctness and the want to not be viewed as a bigot. The correlations here are as direct as the terrors of the Spanish Inquisitions and Catholicism and no one is afraid to retrospect and say, "Yes Christianity caused the direct murder of thousands of people". A person would not even be controversial if one stated that both World Wars has significant religious undertones. However if anyone states that terrorism and violence has a direct link with Islam then there is an outcry.

Even President Obama refused to use the terms Islam and Muslim when publicly talking about the War on Terrorism. I am a hypocrite also because I used the term Islamic Follower instead of Muslim in an attempt to sound more political correct.

That is a problem when society refuse to use terms that are correct in an attempt to not offend anyone. Imagine if scientist could not report their findings because the underlying politics. Society needs to be able to have open dialogue about this problem or else it will never heal. Society needs to throw away the worrisome about being politically correct and focus on identifying the problems and solving them.

The world of Islam needs to open themselves up to this criticism.

There can no longer be a closing of dialogue where the West cannot speak on the doctrines of Islam because they are not partakers (That applies to all organized religion too, especially the Catholic Church). People who draw Muhammed must no longer be threatened with attacks on their life.

When Islamic women and men speak up about the sins of Islam, they must stop being silenced. If humanity is going to take steps into the future with better technology and more dangerous weaponry, then we need to solve this problem with Islam and gradually to organized religion at all.

If not it will doom us way before we get there…

Thank you for reading and if you enjoyed this article follow my podcast on Twitter @MccrayMassMedia for more likewise discussions.

Cover Image Credit:

https://unsplash.com/photos/JFirQekVo3U

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To my friends Wanting to know why there's not a "straight pride month," You Get 11 Months

But you get to love the person you love without judgement, ridicule, or people damning you to hell.

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So, for those of you who don't know, "Pride Month" has begun! Pride Month takes place in the month of June. It is when the LGBTQ+ community takes time to celebrate the fact that they don't have to hide anymore and are able to celebrate their ability to love whomever they love. Now, one thing I always here whether it is "Pride Month", "Black History Month", "Hispanic Heritage Month", etc. is "Where is our special month"? And I'm kind of tired of it. As an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, and other minority groups, I would like to say chill the eff out. Seriously though, when was the last time you were told that you were going to be damned to hell for being who you are or loving your someone special?

The whole idea that you think you need a "special month" for "Straight Pride" is a bit confounding and ridiculous. I'm not saying that you shouldn't be proud of who you are or the person you love, I absolutely think you should. But you get to love the person you love without judgement, ridicule, or people damning you to hell. (By the way, as a Christian who attended a Southern Baptist high school and has also read the Bible, I would like to remind you that God is the judge. James 4:12 says,"There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?" You literally have no authority to damn people to hell) .

The thing is that you don't need a special month to celebrate being straight. You see you don't need a month, you get a year of celebrating you. You also don't need a month to celebrate being white. You also get a year of them. You see, even though you may feel "attacked" or "confused" about the "Black Lives Matter Movement" or "Pride Month" or "Hispanic Heritage Month" or "Black History Month", white people have re-written history over the years to make us look better than we were/are. I know that may be a hard pill to swallow, believe me, I know. But it's true.

You see, segregation in the United States only ended in 1964. That is only 30 years before I was born, and only 54 years ago. The LGBTQ+ community only established support systems in the United States in 1950 in L.A. and didn't gain momentum until 1962, two years before segregation ended. Both groups have been victims of hate crimes, and have only, barely, been accepted into society.

In 1974, the American Psychiatric Association declared homosexuality a disease. It was also a crime. From 1700-2003 sodomy was considered a suitable punishment for many homosexual acts in the United States. You think that's bad? Honey, we haven't even talked about the AIDS/HIV epidemic of the 80's. In 1981, a group of 270 people were diagnosed with this "cancer" as they called it back then. Luckily, two senators delegated 5 million dollars to research that lead to the term and diagnosis of AIDS. In 1982, the first congressional hearing for AIDS/HIV convened where the CDC revealed they estimated that tens of thousands of people were affected by this disease. Unfortunately that December it was learned that infants were acquiring the virus through blood transfusions. So much more happened, but maybe that's for another article. But thanks to 2015 legislation, all anti-LGBT laws were abolished, and marriage for the LGBT community was made legal through the whole of the United States. (We still have discrimination issues though).

Anyway, the point is, there is a lot for this community, and other minority communities to celebrate. Please don't take away from that with your ignorance. You get eleven months out of the year, so calm down. Start planning your fourth of July bash. Or even better, join in the festivities as an ally to communities that need love, support, and the same respect you'd expect for yourself.


*To learn more about the LGBTQ+ community please visit these websites. Or if you or someone you know is in need of an ally, please visit these websites. There are phone numbers in the second link to call for any support you may need! Please remember you are not alone.

https://www.pflag.org/

https://www.pflag.org/hotlines

https://www.glaad.org/


Cover Image Credit:

Josh Wilburne

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