Saturday, March 04, 2017

Congress And Values-- A Guest Post By Tom Wakely


-by Tom Wakely,
candidate for Congress, TX-21

Recent letters to the editor in the San Antonio Express and News discuss Congressman Lamar Smith policy positions as have a few commentaries written about him in various national publications. As a candidate who campaigned against Smith in 2016 and who has announced that I will be running against him in 2018, I add my voice to this dialogue.

Ever since Donald Trump was sworn in as our nation’s 45th President I have seen a lot of verbal hype about “values” coming not only from our president but from Congressman Smith and many, many members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans. Sometimes the rhetorical use of the term is incorrect, confusing policies that might depend on a value for the value itself. By way of illustration, in the Texas legislature right now there is a “bathroom bill,” it is a policy proposal, not a value. Respect for persons-- both those experiencing gender identity disorder and those not-- is a value. People who give serious thought to real values will be clear about the difference between values, which almost all people share, and policy proposals. Unfortunately, Congressman Smith has made it a habit of promoting every proposal he puts forward as a “value.”

The World’s major religious traditions support values; gone are the polytheist systems of antiquity, which had both good and bad deities. My own religious formation was in the Catholic tradition and that tradition nourished the values that I hold and seek to develop further today. Even though my current religious affiliation is more closely aligned with Protestantism than Catholicism, both traditions embrace a strong doctrine of creation. I believe that what God created was good; so I try to protect the earth and the life forms and environments that support our world. I also try to protect the people created in God’s image and likeness. These are all values.

Some policies are consistent with these values and some are not. Limiting air pollution in order to control climate change is consistent with my values; sweeping away environmental regulations because of a vague “anger” is not. Moreover, it is incumbent upon anyone who would legislate for or against such environmental regulations to be informed about the science behind climate change. Politically motivated ignorance is a disvalue.

Policies that protect the wonders found on the earth include the designation of state and national monuments, forests, wilderness areas, and wildlife refuges. Allowing unlimited drilling, strip mining, deforestation, hunting, and fishing are inconsistent with my Christian-supported values. This does not mean no drilling, no mining, no developemnt. Designating areas and other forms of rational regulation are not the same as a sweeping prohibition. It is rhetoric, not reason, which has difficulty with such a nuance.

Valuing people, whether as individuals or as families and associations, is essential to the values that are nourished by my Christian formation. One of the values established in the Christian scriptures is the valuing of people beyond one’s own tribal grouping. The followers of Jesus went beyond their own nation; they decided not to impose their own cultural mores on gentile converts. Hatred of persons, whether as individuals or as families and associations, is inconsistent with my Christian-supported values, and policies that allow for racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, homophobic, taco-truckphobic or actions otherwise hostile to persons whom God found valuable enough to create are inconsistent with those values. Such policies include the building of walls against people, legislation that makes the abuse of the police power at the expense of minorities practically immune from prosecution, regulations that segregate people and set them apart from others, restrictions that keep people from living where they wish and from working at what they wish.

There is a temptation to neuter the Christian tradition, much as one would neuter a pet to keep it from being fruitful. This takes the form of limiting Christianity to saying prayers, observing rituals, obeying a short-list of commandments, and observing good manners. Such trivialized Christianity has little to do with important values. Consider this passage from the New Testament: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have abandoned the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and trust; one must do these things and not abandon those. Blind guides, straining out a gnat but swallowing a camel” (Matthew 23.23-24).

Valuing creation and valuing people are mutually supporting. Degrading the earthly environment threatens the well-being of people by disrupting the natural climate, poisoning the air, and polluting the water that people depend upon. Valuing people prevents wars, which history shows to be environmentally destructive. Valuing people restrains the “ethnic cleansing” of indigenous peoples, who historically hold their homelands to be sacred.

Is it too much to expect Congressman Lamar Smith to share in these values and rationally differ only in how to realize them? This is a rhetorical question of course, given that the answer is no.

Goal Thermometer So, what’s to be done about Lamar Smith?

Every two years, for over thirty years, he is returned to Congress to continue his reign of terror on our World, our home. How that can happen, you ask. The answer is simple-- gerrymandering and straight ticket voting and while we can’t do anything about gerrymandering at this point in time, we can do something about straight-ticket voting.

How bad is the problem?

Well according to the Texas Tribune, “straight-ticket ballots-- where voters choose parties instead of individual candidates-- accounted for almost 64 percent of total votes cast in the state’s 10 biggest counties” in the 2016 election. This is a problem more for Republicans than it is for Democrats. Nevertheless, it is still a problem as straight ticket voting has elected and will continue to elect any number of knuckleheads to office. Leave no doubt about it, Lamar Smith is included in that group.

So what’s to be done?

What our campaign for Congress needs to do is to educate voters on why they should vote for the individual and not for a political party. However, to do so, unfortunately requires money, money that our campaign did not have in 2016 but hopes to have as we move into a 2018 rematch with Lamar Smith. That’s why we are announcing our ’21 for 21’ campaign to defeat Lamar Smith. Our goal is to reach 21,000 donors who can contribute $21 to our campaign to take back Texas Congressional District 21.

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At 4:16 PM, Anonymous Hone said...

It is the labels that people respond to when voting, not the values or positions. Liberal, progressive, Democrat, Republican, conservative are all superficial labels. People have knee jerk emotional responses to these labels, positive or negative, and vote accordingly, apparently without much information or thought.

Instead it would be great if candidates listed their positions on say, a dozen matters and people would be able to vote for the candidate with the positions that most reflect their beliefs and desires, rather than the superficial labels. However, all of this would require some reasoning skills and higher level thinking rather than an emotional response, and unfortunately these are in short supply. To paraphrase what Newt Gingrich once said, he would go with the emotions to get votes every time. Until people feel the pain of the Republicans' destruction of much that is good about our country and are actual hurt in a personal way, this illogical, emotionally based voting for the likes of Trump will continue.

Our public education has not been serving us well - far too many people get high school or even college degrees without a basic understanding of our government or knowledge of history. We just keep repeating the same mistakes over and over since civilization began. Our capacity for destruction, however, has increased enormously and the stakes at this point in time are extremely high. The planet itself as we now know it is in real danger from the human race. The planet will survive no doubt, but the human race and other living things may not.

At 7:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said, Hone. Yes. Americans, utterly lacking in the ability and temperament to independent thought, react only in the limbic to the most simplistic stimuli.

Trained from birth by nurture both by malnurtured parents and the caustic effect of most media, americans are trained with a pavlovian recoil to certain labels. Socialism, communism, fascism (though they, provably, know not what it means), humanism, science (all disciplines) and many others, some of which are listed herein.

Also due to malnurturing, our limbic reactions are extreme. We may do anything from screaming at someone who means us no harm to killing dozens in a mass shooting to killing a million in a war to steal oil.

American voters, due to the permanent 25% who always vote their hate, will NEVER fail to make the same mistakes over and over and over... until they die and leave the fate of the planet to their malnurtured progeny. And studies show that the dumber the malnurturing parents are, the more malnurtured progeny are released into the world, like a pandemic spore that will end up killing everyone.

Earth will be better off without us.

At 5:41 AM, Blogger VG said...

Tom Wakely- thanks for your thoughtful post.

I donated to your campaign last time around, because of the many excellent posts at DWT- from Howie, from you, and from your campaign manager. I feel like I got to know you, and the fair and kind way you treat people, and the incredibly hard work and dedication of your campaign workers. And your record of working for the environment, and for labor as well, is truly impressive.

You came so close to defeating Lamar Smith last time around- quite a feat considering how little funding you had. That itself was a triumph of integrity, your integrity.

You are the first candidate I've donated to this election cycle. I decided to do so via BA, to honor all of Howie's fine work on searching out the best possible progressive candidates.

I wish you all the best. You are the antithesis of Lamar Smith.

For newer DWT readers who want to know more about Tom Wakely, just click on the subject "Tom Wakely" at the end of the post to read earlier DWT posts.


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