Songs for Political Theory Class

Posted February 1, 2017 by billpeach
Categories: Uncategorized

In our Political Theory class at Columbia State we were assigned the choosing of ten songs that were relevant to what we are learning about government and politics.

I will begin with the anti-Vietnam War songs. Blowing in the Wind by Bob Dylan and Where Have All the Flowers Gone by Pete Seeger were probably the most played, recorded by many folk artists including Peter Paul and Mary and the Kingston Trio.  I was a child of the 60s. I included lines from one of these songs in a play I wrote for our local community theater, Pulltight Players.  The play also included a reference to the now infamous photo of Kent State. Neil Young wrote Four Dead in Ohio which is about the shooting by the National Guard at Kent State.

We Shall Overcome became the anthem for the Civil Rights movement. I think the lyrics were written by Zilpha Hart, but it has roots in Gospel Music and has a history of creative lyrics to fit the occasion. Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are a Changing and Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come were favorites for defining the Civil Righs movement. The Byrds recorded Turn, Turn, Turn also by Pete Seeger, taken from the well-known Biblical quote in Ecclesiastes, “There’s a time for every purpose under Heaven.” It fit into the 1960s which depicted the decade as the “best of times and the worst of times.”

On freedom of speech, my daughter introduced me to One Voice by the Wailin’ Jennys (not Waylon). The first verse is a solo proposing the idea of one voice for freedom of speech. This is followed by a duet for the second verse with two voices, and a third with a trio and three voices. Then they all sing the fourth verse as the voice of everyone, and the fifth verse as one voice including everyone.

On the subject of pluralism, Woody Guthrie, made a statement for diversity and inclusion with This Land is Your Land, “From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream Waters. From California to the New York Island, this land was made for you and me.”

On a current note and recurring theme, Woody Guthrie, wrote and recorded Deportee. It is a story of migrant farm workers who picked fruit in the Southwest who drowned after being deported. The references to the disaster included no names, just repeating the word deportee.

On the subject of nationalism and patriotism, three come to mind. The Star Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key brings us to our feet routinely at athletic events and proudly when our athletes win medals. It has had moments of protests. Members of our track team raised black gloves and clenched fist on the winners stand at the Olympics. More recently NFL players have “taken a knee” to protest Black Lives Matter and other racial issues. This was followed by a right wing backlash of anger and condemnation.

Lee Greenwood’s Proud to Be an American has become the anthem for conservative America. Wherever there is a gathering of Republicans or any right wing group Lee seems to show up and inspire the crowd. “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.”

To make the quantum leap from the sixties to 2017, I have one of the classics from the worst of times or best of times. The campaign, election, and first month of the new Presidency have filled the streets with demonstrations and protests similar to my generation. Barry McGuire captured the mood of troubled times in 1964 with his hit, The Eve of Destruction.  Ironically, when I went to a link to look for a quote from the lyrics, the first images on the video were of President Trump. Here are the lyrics:

Christian, Liberal, and Logical Disciple

Posted January 3, 2017 by billpeach
Categories: Uncategorized

In my Church of Christ tradition, I was taught I was my brother’s keeper. I had some obligation for “seeking the lost.” This did not translate into an evangelical imperative that I should convince my Methodist cousins to give up their love for the piano in Sunday morning worship, or their resistance to baptism by “immersion.”

It took me a long time to appreciate the sincerity and dedication of the young Latter Day Saints or Jehovah’s Witness missionaries who knocked on my door with Bibles and printed religious tracts. I was more appreciative of the welcoming neighbor, bringing baked goods and the offer of fellowship within their steeple of choice. I remember years ago when a new youth minister at the Fourth Avenue Church of Christ first offered a church bus ride to children in a segregated neighborhood to our Vacation Bible School.

Our First Amendment is a wall of separation, a barrier to an established government religion, and also a fortress of refuge for believers from falsehood and fanaticism. The growth of non-denominational Christianity has restructured our paradox of unity and diversity. Congregations offer traditional or contemporary praise and worship, and we promote or quietly deny our liberal or evangelical leanings to recruit the young and the unaffiliated. Christianity, as I knew it in my childhood, has become rare. Even the Church of Christ at Millview now has an electronic screen behind the song leader rather than fumbling through the pages of hymnals.  I found them to be very apolitical during the election. Their young minister is academically conversant with contemporary and classic literature and media hype, but astute in rational Christianity and biblical integrity. Still much of their Christmas message was focused on food and heavy coats for charity. I feel a kinship among friends in most religions. Last week, I spent an afternoon at a visitation for a friend among the members of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

I enjoy the faith, worship, morality, tolerance, and fellowship of Christians. They are in no way as despicable as they are perceived to be in politics, mega church television charlatans, retail bigotry, ostentatious end zone celebrations, or divine attribution for trophies of vanity. They reach beyond their faith, their praise and worship, and selective biblical literalism, and embrace a harmony of tolerance and fellowship.

Concurrent with Sunday worship, in my extended week, I find a similar harmony in our secular culture. Most people are church going spiritual people for whom their spirituality is more personal and less vocal. Most of them believe in a higher power, the unseen designer and author of truth, morality, ethics, love, tolerance, and charity.

On a more secular note, I find comfort among agnostics, humanists, Unitarians, moralists, and freethinkers who have found and embraced their morality, ethics, tolerance, love and compassion through secular intellect and logic, through reason rather than revelation. Earlier in one of my books, I included a reference to a comparison of religious ethics and secular ethics. I shared a conversation I had with a professor who has taught in more than one Church of Christ universities. Our mutual thought was that secular ethics may be stronger today than fundamentalist religion. This is of course not by design, of God’s will, or the Messianic message of Jesus. Neither is it an apostasy, or a religious falling away of a chosen people.

Academia and the several theories of ethics have served us well historically. Logic bends toward ethics, morality, love, compassion, and fellowship. You don’t have to abandon your Sunday morning praise and worship. You don’t have to abandon the inspiration of the New Testament writers when you receive your doctorate of science, technology, literature, history, political science, or philosophy. Christianity is not a fairy tale or mythology. There is a harmony of faith and reason. The human mind and altruistic love are the creations of higher intelligence, by whatever name or written document.

This harmony requires tolerance without compromise. Absolutes are imperative, or pragmatically idealistic. Truth is truth; falsehoods are untrue; sins are sins and crimes are crimes as defined by appropriate law. In our culture and politics we may find some conflict and compromise of ideology and immorality. We often find less affection for persons who are different by birth, created by a loving but indiscriminate God. We often find discomfort around people with special needs, physical frailty, limited cognitive skills, different sexual orientation, or coveted heroic and gifted attributes. We find our warmest fellowship among those with the greatest commonality.

I have come to rethink the concept of inspiration. As a writer, I seldom find it and make no claim to it. I respect the writing of the Old Testament scribes and God’s covenant with the people of Israel, and the metaphorical story of creation. I embrace the Apostle’s writing and the Epistles chosen to be included in our Christian Bible. This was and is the religion within which I grew up, and eventually grew old. I have less affinity for inerrancy, fundamentalism, charismatic signs and wonders, visual and physical manifestation in praise and worship. I find no common purpose with the Religious Right and no kinship with the movement we have come to know as Evangelical. I like the word Christian, even in derogation, as a label, maybe somewhat short of the image of likeness. As a measurement of attitude and compassion, I like the word liberal. For intellectual integrity, I think I like the designation logical disciple.

Keeping America Great in 2016

Posted September 21, 2016 by billpeach
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The 2016 Presidential election is about more than whom you could not possibly vote for, or who you think is evil, or stupid, or a liar, or a buffoon, or should be in jail, or in a circus. We need to think about qualifications, a combination of intellect and common sense, temperament, respect for the Constitution and compassion for the diversity of our people. The words Liberal and Conservative are not pejoratives, but imprecise coloration of our religion, our economics, and our politics. On November 8, we are going to elect a President, who will have to work with Congress, who will be our Commander-in-Chief, who will propose nominees for the Supreme Court, and occupy the most powerful pulpit on our planet. I have been impressed with the many people who have expressed their rational and positive support for their candidate of choice.

Voters and citizens are not deplorable; obscene speech and ignoble behavior are deplorable. Tennesseans will also be choosing 9 members of Congress, who make decisions about immigration, taxes, regulations, environment, defense, diplomacy, civil rights, and our social contract. We will elect 99 House members of our State Legislature. These people may impact your life more than the President.

I am sorry that my inquiry into your political privacy may have emboldened people on the left and right who might have been uncivil and intimidating. I appreciate many of you avowing your faith and your moral principles as the attribution for your political decisions. I respect that. But I would remind you America is a Constitutional Democratic Republic, not a Theocracy. Your public image is more than an affirmation of your faith. It requires a validation of your speech and your compassion for people with whom you live and share a sense of community.  The moral world view that comes from God is shared by people who derive their ethics from reason and human introspection. If you can for a moment, put aside your distaste for one or both of the candidates.

The first vote I cast for President was for John Kennedy in 1960. It was an absentee ballot during my active duty in the Army Reserve at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. I stood in the snow in January and watched the Inaugural Parade from the curb. From that day, until President Obama leaves office this January, we will have had 28 years of Republican presidents and 28 years of Democratic presidents in the White House.

America has been and is great now, and the word “again” is irrelevant. None of us are fleeing as refugees into Mexico or Canada, or a mythical time or place after the election. On a positive side, in my asking for votes for Hillary, I have found a Democratic party, unified and willing to go forward with a continuum of the Obama legacy. I have also found a bonding with my many sincere conservative Republican friends who find optimism in things that unite us as Americans that are more important than the things that divide us. Whatever you do, please vote, whether you follow your party, your conscience, or love of country. Also, even if you leave the top of the ballot blank, or write in the name of your cat or vote for a minor party candidate, give serious thought to our elections in the State Legislature in Districts 61, 63, and 65. These are our friends and neighbors. They make decisions about our schools, our local government, our quality of life, and the public political integrity of our County.

The Corruption of Children

Posted April 22, 2016 by billpeach
Categories: Uncategorized

In one of the closing scenes of the movie version of Inherit the Wind, Spencer Tracy, in the role of Clarence Darrow, quotes from Proverbs 11:29—“He that troubleth his own house…”—just before he puts copies of the Holy Bible and On the Origin of Species into his briefcase. I have watched this on late-night satellite television until it is archived forever in my brain beside To Kill a Mockingbird.

Those of you who arrived late to the South may have missed our regional reluctance to racial understanding and academic honesty within the walls of rural public education and fundamentalist Sunday school. The story of John Scopes and the Dayton, Tennessee trial, jokingly referred to as the Monkey Trial was documented on front pages of newspapers, North and South. Scopes was found guilty and fined a minimal sum for violating a state law that prohibited teaching evolution in public schools.

The trial began as a tourist phenomenon to draw a crowd to the public square and Main Street of Dayton. It became much more. Fundamentalist rural Tennessee and the liberal Eastern media created a comedic but historic spectacle involving William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow.

In recent days, I have been reading again the writings of Plato, including Apology, in which Socrates defends his conduct as a philosopher. Charges within the evidence presented against him include corrupting the youth of Athens, and denial of the gods.

The difference in importance between Scopes and Socrates is obvious. The similarities often go unnoticed. Teachers, or philosophers, who encourage students to think critically, contemplate the complexity of the universe, or question paradigms, are sometimes chastised by public consensus. Great men of science and thinkers of periods of enlightenment have found themselves in conflict with public opinion and religious orthodoxy. From Socrates to Jesus to Copernicus to Galileo to Darwin, those who challenged the existing order were accused of corrupting the youth and denying the iconic deities. Through the history of the Reformation, the Civil Rights Movement, advanced scientific and medical research, and innovation in education, persons often defamed the images of conservatism and Christianity, with their opposition to human liberty and intellectual freedom.

More recently, talk-radio personalities publicly assail classroom assignments in schools, and challenge the academic diversity of public education. Parents, in opposing assigned readings that they find offensive, often could deny access to other students for reasons of ideology. Legislators would ban or disclaim the content of some chapters in our science textbooks.

There is, however, the risk that those of us who are advocates of secular intellectual freedom may at times become intolerant of religious expression. With caution, we avoid sectarian instruction in the classroom. The proper guidelines seem to be: the protection of all religious freedom, and the non-participatory role of government in matters of collective religion. Those of us in elected public office, who hold positions of authority in public education, are prohibited by law and logic from imposing our religious views on our youth or challenging their religious beliefs, writings, symbols, or practices.

Those who find an attraction to philosophy and the Socratic method of reasoning, often derive delight from circuitously challenging the advocates of certainty. We thrive on the gamesmanship of challenging the Sophists in the Greek marketplace who define truth and virtue in their own street-vendor rhetoric. We love confounding the Pharisees in the Temple courtyard in Jerusalem. We applaud Luther as he rattled the ramparts of royal and papal Christendom.

I wish that I could trace their steps, sharing their courage and mischief, into the churches, temples, mosques, courtrooms, classrooms, and halls of government, and identify with those thinkers and reformers who have advanced human thought and liberty. We live in a time and place in which the Sophists and Pharisees have changed their raiment and taken new names, and sit in seats of authority, and we would be at risk if they thought we were corrupting their youth or questioning their gods.

Truth in Labeling in Politics, Religion, and Retailing

Posted April 13, 2016 by billpeach
Categories: Uncategorized

There is something paradoxical about “truth in labeling” in writing or speaking about both religion and politics. We have come to convey the argument that there is an ideal degree of liberalism or ideal level of conservatism that makes a candidate, public figure, or elected official in some way heroic and admired and any deviation from that we label as a flaw of character and add derogatory adjectives to discredit either. We offer some designations of compromise—fiscal conservative, social liberal, Christian humanist, progressive, or constitutional purist. In both religion and politics, we have found denominations within the Christian faith and political parties reaching the point of being “too” conservative or “too liberal” to an extreme that would lead us to change our party affiliation or church membership. When you identify attitudes issues such as bathroom privacy; insure Tennessee; official state book, song, animal, or wild flower; academic curriculum and standards; deviant sexual behavior;  or opening a public meeting with a prayer as being either liberal or conservative you will find both ideological and behavioral contradictions.

I don’t know the answer. I think in our labeling of “right” and “left” we may have neglected our attention to “right” and “wrong.” When we say that Hillary Clinton is too conservative, Donald Trump is too liberal, Bernie Sanders is too secular, or Ted Cruz is too religious we further confuse the ideology, the competence, the qualifications, and the character of each. At the local level of school board elections, state legislators, and friends who engage in a social media thread of likes and commentary, we often wonder “what is he or she drinking or smoking to vote for that candidate, or attend that church?”

We think and act based on our life experiences, our educational background, and our bonding with friends and family. We find comfort among kindred minds, and strength from our ideological adversaries. I appreciate “both of you” who have, with voices support and compassionate tolerance, helped me find some harmony of faith and reason.

On a more mundane level, I still have people who approach me and show me a label inside a suit or sport coat. Most of those were “combination labels” of the corporate integrity of the manufacturer and the local storekeeper, before the trend of “designer labels” and deceptive advertising and pricing.  I think there is an analogy there of a different time in our history and our culture. I learned in my formal schooling in consumer behavior, history, political science, philosophy, and the aesthetic content of the liberal arts there is usually a disparity in perception and reality. A product, candidate, elected official, public servant, or even a friend is limited to the level of the lesser of the two images.

Liberals, Conservatives, Moderates, and Independents

Posted March 28, 2016 by billpeach
Categories: Uncategorized

We are approaching a Presidential election with emotional crowds filling sports arenas and overflowing smaller venues in support of the most unlikely candidates. At the same time both political parties are wishing for an ideal, heroic figure instead of any of the front runners and likely nominees. The moderate, centrist voters look for a pragmatic voice of reason, while each candidate moves farther to the left, or farther to the right to appeal to the primary voter and the caucus participant.

Most of us embrace and cling to traditional values that we designate as conservative. Most of us adapt to change when logic and compassionate reality shine a new light on closely held beliefs. The labels liberal and conservative do not always coincide with traditional definitions of openness or resistance to change.

On most issues, we are somewhere between two extremes. We speak of redistribution of wealth or income, of capitalism and socialism. We fear a government that taxes the rich to finance government assistance to an undeserving underclass. We condemn with equal wrath the corporate giants who find ways to avoid taxation and receive government subsidies. We have a concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, while nearly half of our citizens are on some government program. The middle class, the under employed, the disenfranchised, and the ideological dissident seem disenchanted with both parties.

On the subject of sexuality and religion, the emotional dialogue about reproductive rights and same sex marriage or civil unions seems to be either far-right or far-left, with a superimposing identity of liberal or conservative on social issues.  We speak of abominations to God, and we defend diversity, choice, and civil rights.

On the subject of guns, liberals have not been able to convey their support for the Second Amendment. The fear of guns, or just not liking guns, does not give liberals a right to deny anyone the right “to keep and bear arms.” The right to keep and bear arms does not permit weapons of mass destruction, or guns in places that we have designated as gun free zones, or on the property of someone who objects to the presence of guns. We speak with uncompromising defense of gun rights or more gun control, fearing laws and court decisions that diminish gun rights or are a threat to public safety and innocent children. We live in a gun culture, unlike any other country on Earth, and there is no compromise, no moderate voice of reason.

We speak of open borders and a giant, impenetrable wall. We speak of compassion for refugees, for the need for seasonal workers, for a path to citizenship, of amnesty and we speak of closing borders, and deporting illegal aliens and undocumented immigrants.

We speak of a Christian nation and we fear the thought of a theocracy. We speak of declining morality and secularism, and the imposition of posting religious laws on the walls of public buildings and religious phrases on our coinage and in public school recitations. We include the history of world religions in our school curriculum and we decry any hint of indoctrination. We name our public school holidays in celebration of religious traditions—Good Friday, Easter, Christmas—or by the secular identity of winter or spring.

We have an absolute allegiance to Israel and an advocacy of rights and statehood for the people of Palestine. We pay massive amounts of money to guarantee the survival of Israel, and a similar but slightly lesser amount to Egypt to maintain the peace with Israel. Republicans have adopted Benjamin Netanyahu as one of them, while Democrats appeal to the more liberal among the Israelis who hope for a two-state solution.

There is a political divide between men and women in America. It may be an inherent contrast of our propensity for war or diplomacy, of motherhood and alpha male egos.  Much of the divide is related to reproductive rights and intrauterine legislation, and the rights of women in the workplace and the boardroom. This affects salaries, promotions, and time off for maternity and child care. We are still a patriarchal culture, even though we have had great success through a history of feminist movements. When the votes are counted Democrats have far greater numbers among women voters; Republicans have an equal advantage among men.

We are not all clearly defined Liberals and Conservatives. Nobody seems to speak for the moderate and independent voter. We have learned that third party candidates on the left can redirect enough votes to elect the more conservative Republican, while third party candidates on the right enable the election of the more liberal Democrat. Third party votes may be well intended, but are more often counter-productive. I don’t think it is likely there will be a moderate or centrist third party candidate who could carry enough states to attract a majority of the electoral votes. The solution is a more rational electorate.  As a party member, you and I have an obligation to vote for and nominate the best we have to offer in the primary elections. Then, if our party of preference nominates a candidate not of our choosing, we compare the virtues or vices of the Republican nominee and the Democratic nominee, and decide what is best for the country and best for the people, not what is best for the party. If we find both nominees insufferable and do not vote for either, we have forfeited our voice in the democratic process. If the independent voter or the moderate members of each party do not vote, Liberals and Conservatives will continue the cycles of extremism, obstruction, and disrespect for our elected officials.


Presidential Preference Primary

Posted February 10, 2016 by billpeach
Categories: Uncategorized

A recent poll showed Donald Trump leading the Republican Primary in Tennessee. This email is not an endorsement of any candidate. Our mayor was very cordial in welcoming Dr. Ben Carson and introducing him to Downtown Franklin and Main Street, and I applaud him for that. At least four candidates visited Franklin.

My concern, as Main Street Philosopher and life-long resident is the image of our town and county. We are recognized as one of the most conservative towns in America. We are also one of the poster towns as one of the great Main Streets of America.

As I have watched television coverage of the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, much has been made of the demographics and voting patterns of the two states. Most of us know that Tennessee will be a Red State in November. In the last two election cycles in Williamson County, President Obama received 26.46% of the vote in 2012, and in my run for the 65th District, I received 26.62%.

This is my twofold mission for the March 1 Presidential primary, if you live in Williamson County. Please vote in the primary of your political preference. Please do not cross over to vote for a lesser desirable opponent. Be careful what you wish for. It is not my business whom the Republicans nominate. However, the vote totals are to some degree a window into heart and soul of our county.

If you are a Republican, I would ask that you not vote for a candidate who could, if elected, become the target of international ridicule, or someone whose rhetoric further divides our country. If you are a Democrat, I would ask that you help us send a message of a Democratic presence in Williamson County. Regardless of your candidate of choice, we have an obligation to anyone who might feel intimidated in political events or discussions. This is also important to encourage Democratic candidates to be more involved in future elections.

When the votes are counted at the end of the day, my goal is at least 26% voting in the Democratic Primary.

Also, in local politics, begin thinking about the August 4 election, and the four seats in the State Legislature. The school board election is nonpartisan. Candidates are listed on the ballot as Independent. Seven of the school board seats are up for reelection (Districts 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, and 11). Please become active and support our parents and children in that election.