Who Are We? Americans? Global Citizens? Both? Neither?

I've been to America's east coast several times throughout my life. My first visit was in 1973 as a young teen; my last visit was in 2015. Two particular trips--one in 2001 to Washington D.C. and another to the east southern states in 2005--had a particular impact on me; by 2001, I was a mom to four kids and had begun my teaching career. My age and educational experiences had changed my perspective of American history and Western civilization; Edward Said's book, Orientalism, had really opened my eyes concerning the West's historical colonialism and imperialism throughout the world. My feelings toward America have evolved over the years, and I look at America's future with great anticipation--and dread. Yes, we're changing as a nation--and as a world. Like everyone else, I hope to be on the right side of history. But I'm unsure which side of the political and ideological divide is right or wrong. Are they both right? Are they both wrong? Or a mixture of right and wrong? Strident voices in our midst are telling us that we must "pick a side."

In this post, I will discuss the moral and political ideologies that seek to define America along with Western civilization and its principles, and my own thoughts and observations concerning America's genesis and future.





The Growing Antipathy Between American Universities and America's History and Its Institutions

As a student and instructor within the social sciences, I have studied and trained using critical theory. Basically, critical theory is a philosophical approach to culture and literature that confronts the social, historical, and ideological forces and institutions that produce it. It's a neo-Marxist philosophy originating from the Frankfurt School developed in 1930's Germany. Thus, all of my studies focused on leftist ideology from philosophers such as Karl Marx, Herbert Marcuse, Antonio Gramsci, Jurgen Habermas, in addition to third wave feminist authors. Not surprisingly then, my academic schooling was highly critical of the Founding Fathers, most of American history, its culture, and Western civilization as a whole. (I'm not arguing that these criticisms are inherently wrong. Of course, these criticisms have validity. I would, however, like to see more of a balance of left-wing and right-wing sources and theories in academia.) In any case, after having been immersed in academia's left-wing secularist and globalist ideologies after many years, my patriotism and pride in America had significantly diminished.  

For instance, in describing America, many, if not most in academia would offer the following claims and rhetorical questions: 

  • The Founding Fathers were slave-owning, white, Christian, cisgendered males from socially, racially, and economically privileged backgrounds. 
  • They helped rape and plunder the land from indigenous Native Americans to further empower oppressive Western cultural imperialism and colonialism. 
  • They conquered Native Americans by stripping away their culture and "enslaving" them to Christian doctrine and practices. 
  • Thus, how can we call the Founding Fathers and other colonists heroes? 
  • How can we give credibility to American values (or Western civilization) and its governmental institutions because they are based on the oppression and domination of people of color?
  • How is it possible to defend American and European institutions from a secularist humanist perspective? 
  • How can we be proud of America (or Europe) due to its history of slavery, domination, patriarchy, and present-day institutionalized racism and sexism? 




To further illustrate, this was a recent event at Stanford University:


This month Stanford University students voted on a campus resolution that would have had their college require a course on Western civilization - as it did until the 1980s. Stanford students rejected the proposal 1,992 to 347. A columnist in the Stanford Daily explained why: Teaching Western civilization means 'upholding white supremacy, capitalism, and colonialism, and all other oppressive systems that flow from Western civilizations.' The vote and the column encapsulated the Left's view of Western civilization: In Europe, Latin America, and America the Left loathes Western civilization (Prager, National Review, April 26, 2016).

Rightly or wrongly, European and American universities--with their emphasis on the historical and present-day oppression resulting from Western civilization and its values--have helped fuel America's present-day divisions. We see the protest and escalating violence in our streets coupled with the anti-American/anti-Western rhetoric permeating our national social discourse.

Again, I'm not arguing against the validity of these views propelled by academia and leftist Progressives (although I disagree with their totalitarian, egalitarian, and authoritative methods and outcomes). On the other hand, I also understand the validity and arguments made by the right-wing Conservatives and small government Libertarians who champion the rights of the individual and feel that a larger authoritarian government brings its own form of oppression. And we see the growing conservative and libertarian resentment and push-back against the Progressive narrative. Moreover, today's politics are making strange bedfellows. For instance, commentator Dave Rubin is a gay atheist who considers himself liberal but disagrees with the identity politics of the progressive left. In his video below, he describes Progressives as the "regressive left." Rubin's observations echo the sentiments of many "classical liberals."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tq86Beh3T70

Rubin also discusses the changing political alliances between conservatives, Christians, atheists, and many gay people who are uniting in attempts to distance themselves from governmental authoritarianism:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fjb78LoPvog

The anger and indignation on both sides seems to be increasing with each day. And, of course, Donald Trump's election is proving to be the match that lit the long festering political and social frictions into the firestorm we see today.




On the Road Through the Southern States

Let's pause for a moment and travel with me, dear readers, through some of the states in the Deep South: Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, and the Carolinas. While visiting a few years ago, I marveled at the beautiful semi-tropical scenery and historical plantations--in spite of the brutal July heat and humidity. Oblivious to the heat, my husband, Rick, practically carried me (and sometimes dragged me) through the streets of New Orleans, Savannah, and Charleston.





As much as I loved the charming cities and the beautifully manicured plantations, my anger burned as hot as the southern sun. I thought about the unbearable suffering of slaves who worked and lived in brutality on each plantation. I walked past the slave quarters and pictured them slaving away in that intolerable heat and humidity. No longer an abstract in a history book, the viciousness of slavery spoke out to me. And walking on the battlegrounds of Antietam and Gettysburg, I shed tears over the immorality of the Confederacy and the human lives lost during the Civil War. 

I felt particularly stung touring Thomas Jefferson's Monticello home. Like the rest of us, Jefferson was paradoxical. His contradictions were reflected in his writings and in his lifestyle: He had acknowledged the immorality concerning the institution of slavery. Still (having inherited massive debt from his father, among other reasons), in Jefferson's mind, he could not live without his slaves. 


Monticello




Ironically, Thomas Jefferson had passionately denounced the slave trade in his original draft of the Declaration of Independence:


An execrable commerce...this assemblage of horrors,' a 'cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred right of life & liberties' (Weincek, 2012, "The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson," Smithsonian.com, para. 3).


His incongruent life was evidenced throughout Monticello: His home had stood atop a long tunnel through which unseen slaves served him and his guests. Slave quarters were also purposely built underground--again, out of plain sight from guests--and I suspect--to help quell Jefferson's guilty conscience. His fallibility disappointed and even angered me; his intellect and vision very much inspired me.


On the Road to Washington D.C.

I had previously mentioned that my 2001 trip to Washington D.C. was as a newly newly minted college instructor who had been cultivated and disciplined in a left-wing politicized education embracing neo-Marxism, secularism, globalism, and egalitarian social justice. Thus, my view of the Founding Fathers and America's legitimacy had become somewhat jaded. However, walking through the memorials honoring Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington was an unexpectedly moving and spiritual experience for me.

The Lincoln and Jefferson memorials showcase some of the writings of Jefferson and Lincoln which are etched into each wall. Taking the time to read every word in both memorials, I was taken aback by Jefferson's and Lincoln's many references to and acknowledgments of God. Again, I had visited these memorial three times before. This time, however, the ambiance seemed reverent or sacred because of their testimonials of God's inspiration and intervention. Their writings depicted grand and eternal principles, and I was deeply moved. 


The Lincoln Memorial


The Jefferson Memorial


The Washington Monument


And, although I was disappointed by Jefferson's inability to live up to his own ideals, that doesn't mean he was not (or could not be) inspired by God in philosophizing and then penning the revolutionary and lofty principles of liberty and freedom in the Declaration of Independence. Despite the flaws and frailties of our Founding Fathers, I have no doubt that their vision of liberty, a democratic society, and self-governance was divinely inspired. And, I had needed (and was grateful for) that spiritual reaffirmation during that trip.

Like the leaders of the Church and other inspired organizations throughout history, God uses fallible humans for His righteous purposes. And that's the miraculous beauty of it all. I will be forever grateful for the intellect, the idealism, and the fortitude of our Founding Fathers.


Toward A New Civil War: The Dismantling of the West. Replacing European and American Institutions in Favor of Globalization and a New World Order

August 2017 has been a tough month for America. As citizens, we seem to find more to divide us than unite us. I agree with my brother, Dave's observations on a recent social media post regarding our collective social conscience: 


I think we're all intolerant. When we're truly honest with ourselves we'll begin to realize that we're each part of the problem as none of us is really looking for common ground. We're each caught up in our own versions of righteous indignation and moral superiority.




Unfortunately, mainstream media, politicians, and social media also reflect a similar form of moral superiority through hostile rhetoric and attitudes--which serve to further stoke the fires of an already volatile national tinderbox. (Again, please note: I'm not here to criticize or politicize the Left or the Right. I see merit in multiple viewpoints and ideologies. But I do support the rights of the individual over group think.)



Some Californians are petitioning to secede from the United States


Nevertheless and from my own observations, I've reached a few of my own conclusions:


  • People on the Left and the Right are hurling hateful insults at each other. 
  • Rather than respectful disagreement with one another, people are claiming others who don't share their world view as "evil."
  • Many wonderful people who, in the past, have encouraged us all to "be kind to one another" are now engaging in character attacks using shame and guilt on others who express a differing view. Irregardless of well-meaning intentions, an "I hate you for hating others" approach adds to our personal and national divisiveness by dehumanizing and "othering" those with whom we disagree.
  • Fallacies of loaded language, innuendo, ambiguity, and equivocation are used to accuse each other of bigotry, racism, and Nazism.
  • Escalating violence
  • Mob mentality
  • A high level of hysteria, zealotry, embellishment, and hypocrisy
  • In exasperation, one of my friends exclaimed, "I'm not interested in playing this game. I tried, at first, to offer a differing viewpoint, thinking I was dealing with reasonable adults. I'm constantly astonished by what people are willing to say to and about others. They enjoy wrestling in the mud." (I agree with my friend.)
  • Antifa (black clothed and scarf covered faces) stands for "antifacism" is really its own brand of fascism. Violence for peace is incongruent.

I have never seen our society so divided during my lifetime--and I lived through the 1960's upheavals, riots, Civil Rights Era, Viet Nam War protests, the 1970's Watergate scandal, and the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Back then the media and politicians acted and spoke more respectfully and responsibly even if the citizens did not.






Oh, how things have changed! Back then the vast majority of Americans presumed the legitimacy of the United States as a nation. 1960's Americans were divided in terms of some social issues called "The Generation Gap," but there was no question we were all Americans bound together as a nation based on the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the principles of our Founding Fathers. 

Today, Americans are separated as to--not only the legitimacy and moral authority of our Founding Fathers and our national identity--but they also question the legitimacy of Western civilization as a whole--in Europe, Canada, and America. As I said previously, rightly or wrongly, today's leftist Progressives believe that Western civilization was birthed in and continues to propagate the evils of imperialism, colonialism, oppression, racism, bigotry, the malfeasance of Christianity, and the excesses of capitalism. Furthermore, they believe that America was founded in the theft and the conquest of Native Americans which destroys America's moral authority. (Another reminder: I see merit in both conservative and progressive arguments in how we define America.)



Rightly or wrongly, and for better or worse, we are all witnessing a global and national revolution with its counter populist uprisings here and in Europe: The systematic dismantling of traditional Western culture, ideology, institutions, and nationalism while welcoming a borderless and balkanized Europe and America in the name of globalization. Presently, globalization is bringing monolithic cultures from the Middle East and Africa into a pluralistic existence with Europeans throughout Europe and Canada. These monolithic cultures (a culture within a culture) are morphing some European cities into sectarianism and balkanization. Time will tell if the cultures of migrants and refugees will be able (or desire) to assimilate to their host countries. Presently, Britain, Germany, and France use a two-tiered legal system of western secular courts of law and Islam's Sharia Law. There are some in the United States who fear Sharia Law is already practiced in places like Dearborn, Michigan and in parts of Minnesota. (Another reminder: I'm not criticizing nor advocating Sharia Law in Europe or in America.) Inevitably, revolution, balkanization, and pluralism bring conflict and violence. History has shown that governments and cultures are not toppled and revolutionized without a lot of resistance and warfare.





Third Nephi in the Book of Mormon prophesied and illustrated the idea of sectarianism or "tribalism" that undermined Nephite unity and encouraged divisiveness. Ultimately, sectarianism and power struggles brought down the Nephite civilization. Surely, these events parallel our own:


And it came to pass...that they were dividing into tribes, every man according to his family, kindred and friends; nevertheless they had come to an agreement that they would not go to war one with another but they were not united as to their laws, and their manner of government, for they were established according to the minds of those who were their chiefs and their leaders. But they did establish very strict laws that one tribe should not trespass against another, insomuch that in some degree they had peace in the land; nevertheless, their hearts were turned from the Lord their God, and they did stone the prophets and did cast them out from among them (3 Nephi 7: 14).


This passage sounds like the identity politics in the ancient world. We know that this "separate peace" between the groups didn't last long. Eventually they warred with each other and destroyed their nation and civilization in the process.


"Title of Liberty" by Arnold Friberg


For me, it's simultaneously horribly and beautifully amazing to see these unfolding events prophesied by the ancients in holy scripture. When violence and strident voices frustrate, anger, or demoralize me, I am reminded of the deep desires of those prophets who had longed to live in this day and age--and to be a part of these wondrous events. Deeply troubled by the recent strife in Charlottesvile, I decided to read Timothy Ballard's book, The Covenant: One Nation Under God. I'm not advocating Ballard's opinions, but his book helped me to renew and to fully embrace the concepts outlined in his book:

  • liberty
  • individual free agency
  • freedom
  • the spirit of independence

To avoid being labeled or defined by others and/or compelled to "pick a side," I've also decided to define myself and my politics exclusively to these spiritually transcendent and universal principles. Ballard's observations of the Declaration of Independence as "national scripture" resonates with me:


A careful read of the Declaration plainly reveals that, throughout its intirety, it is an invocation of the very blessings of the American Covenant--the blessings of liberty, protection, and prosperity. The document clearly states America's intention to 'secure' for America the 'inalienable rights' of 'Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,' thus invoking the blessings of 'liberty.' The document further states that it is America's intention to create and maintain 'Safety and Happiness,' thus invoking the blessings of 'protection.' It independently regulate its own trade, its own taxes, and its own expansion, thus invoking the blessings of 'prosperity.' Furthermore, these blessings are recognized as being accessible to American through 'a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence' (2012, p. 291).



  

 Ballard concludes with these words that can appeal to the religious and secularists alike:


Indeed, we have now witnessed the details of how God, knowing that Satan's war plan was to destroy the agency and liberty of man (see Revelation 12:7-8), created a powerful defense. This divine defense was the Constitution. More specifically, God provided this defense by lacing, throughout the Constitution, the covenant promises of liberty, protection, and prosperity. If we live up to our obligations, also put forth in associate with the Constitution, then a fullness of these blessings, and thus a fullness of liberty, will be ours. Only then will the ability to access the principles of the gospel forever be secured. Let us see the Constitution in this gospel life--let us see it as the covenant it is--that we might better adhere to it, sustain it, promote it. Let it be an ensign to all God's children, both at home and abroad (p. 404).


Whatever the future holds for the United States, I will always stand with the principles of liberty, the spirit of independence, and free agency, while aligning myself with people who nourish and defend them. I seek to maintain my religious rights and the freedom to worship. I will push against oppressive government authoritarianism and forced compliance that seeks to undermine my moral and religious principles. I will encourage the rights and freedoms of the individual over collectivism and group think. I seek beauty and goodness within individual persons rather than judging, condemning, or even revering any one person because of their group identity or their self-identity. Also, I will continue to advocate for the free exchange of ideas in the public square. I advocate for respectful dialogue and against shaming and bullying others because their opinions are "unpopular" or differ from mine. Lastly, I am prepared to be labeled whatever my opposition might choose to call me, but I will not "take a knee" in solidarity with anyone who engages in purposely hateful and violent behavior--from the left or from the right. 

A couple of weeks ago, Gayla Sorenson, Dean of BYU's law school, gave a compelling and insightful talk. Her views align with my own. Below is an excerpt from her speech:


We need to change [society's] imbalance by playing the role of advocate more and the role of critic less. Remember, Christ is our example, so civility must be paramount. There is no room for mocking, labeling, bullying or belittling. Advocates should remember the opposing point of view. Effective advocates can still ably represent their client's strengths while conceding that the other point of view is not entirely devoid of merit. BYU students should act as advocates because Jesus Christ himself was an advocate.


Here's a link to her BYU devotional address:

http://origin-www.byutv.org/watch/836f0160-5d8e-4edd-86ef-80ce2a54522b/byu-devotional-address-gayla-sorenson-8817

I see these increasingly bitter and divisive winds within our nation blowing the Church in a different direction than the rest of society. In my opinion, these winds (which are quickly morphing into a raging storm) are blowing us toward the settlement of the New Jerusalem in Independence, Missouri. (And I believe the name "Independence" is no coincidence.) The divine decree in D&C, Section 78 instructs the Church:


For verily I say unto you, the time has come, and is now at hand; and behold, and lo, it must needs be that there be an organization of my people, in regulating and establishing the affairs of the storehouse for the poor of my people, both in this place and in the land of Zion--for a permanent and everlasting establishment and order unto my church, to advance the cause, which ye have espoused, to the salvation of man, and to the glory of your Father who is in heaven. That you may be equal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also, for the obtaining of heavenly things. For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things. For if you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you. And now, it is expedient that all things be done unto my glory, by you who are joined together in this order... Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, to prepare and organize yourselves by a bond or everlasting covenant that cannot be broken. Behold, this is the preparation wherewith I prepare you, and the foundation, and the ensample which I give unto you... That through my providence, notwithstanding the tribulation which shall descend upon you, that the church may stand independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world...saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Zion, who hath established the foundations of Adam-ondi-Ahman.


Fortunately, the New Jerusalem will stand independent of the political mess of the United States government and other global entities. This sacred city will set the global precedence of a people who reflect all races and ethnicities and who live together in genuine unity and love under the banner of Jesus Christ. Isaiah prophesied that worthy saints who have come "from all the corners of the earth" will gather and become the "shining city on a hill." 





We have already seen how immigration of all peoples coming into the United States is fulfilling this particular prophesy. The spiritual and temporal mission of the New Jerusalem is the social and "political" movement to which I aspire. The politicians in Washington and other countries cannot ultimately solve our social and economic problems because they are too much the problem. As we all know, too many politicians have self-serving aspirations, exercise unrighteous dominion, seek authoritative power, and align themselves with special interest groups. (Talk about modern-day Gadianton Robbers.)

I hope to be a worthy, humble, and peaceable disciple of Christ. I seek to be part of the solution in peacemaking--not part of the shrill, divisive voices who contribute to the social and political problem.

It is the best of times. It is the worst of times.

Still, I'm thrilled to be living in these last days!

Julie

"You Don't Have to Walk the Plains to Be a Pioneer"

In 1996, two of my kids attended the Especially For Youth conference. The theme was called "Living the Legacy," and one of the songs on the featured CD was titled "You Don't Have to Walk the Plains," sung by Brett Raymond. At the time, I was pursuing a Master's Degree and struggling with the workload while being a mother to four children. Additionally, my university newspaper was writing anti-Mormon articles, and one of my professors was outwardly hostile to Mormonism. 





Part 3: Suffering a Crisis of Faith? A Bitter Root Produces Bitter Fruit

I'm not into gardening, but I did marry an Idaho farm boy. My husband can grow almost anything. Over the years, he has taught me some basic principles about planting, sowing, and harvesting. (I've always been familiar with scriptural metaphors of bitter roots producing bitter fruit, but I was clueless regarding the earthly components of this spiritual and temporal principle.) I've come to appreciate more fully the miracle of planting and harvesting. Furthermore, I've learned to respect an insidiously potent foe called "root rot." The scriptures call it a "bitter root."

Podcast Series: "Opposition and Enemies" for the "LDS Single Moms" Group

Dear Readers:

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of doing a three-part podcast series called "Opposition and Enemies" with Amber, the host of the LDS Single Moms group on Facebook. These podcasts focused on my written nine part series on enemies. (To access the posts, type "enemies" in the search engine provided for this website.)

Amber is a recently divorced mom who founded the LDS Single Moms group. She is a wonderfully spiritual woman and an inspiring example. Whether married or single, women will find her group a supportive and soft place to fall.

Part 2: Suffering a Crisis of Faith? Grow Your Own "Sacred Grove"


A short time ago, I walked through the majestic redwoods in California's Big Basin State Park located in the Santa Cruz mountains. Just a short drive north from San Jose (or south from San Francisco), I grew up camping and hiking amongst these stately redwoods.



Redwoods are some of the oldest and tallest trees in the world. They average 80 feet and can be up to 20 feet in diameter. Some grow as tall as 375 feet. These coastal redwoods live an average of 500 - 700 years and some are approximately 2,000 years old. (Sequoia redwoods can live up to 3,500 years.) The rings in the tree trunks tell their history. The photo below shows the remains of a middle-aged redwood. The labels on the trunk represent a time line according to the tree's rings.


Part 1: Suffering a Crisis of Faith? Grow Your Own "Sacred Grove"


The 1980's were challenging years for me. I began 1980 as a newlywed and began the 1990's as a mom to four kids. One of my difficulties involved questions of faith. Born and raised in Mormonism, I had always had a rock solid testimony of the gospel and of the Church. Still, like many young adults, I had questions regarding Church doctrine and LDS culture. My older sister, Janet, was asking similar questions. Janet and I especially struggled with the following issues:

  • The doctrine of plural marriage and its practice in 19th century Mormonism
  • Women and priesthood authority 
  • Church administration and priesthood correlation where women's auxiliaries no longer had autonomy but reported directly to priesthood authorities (Correlation had been instituted 20 years earlier.) 
  • The proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution (ERA) for gender equality (It ultimately failed to pass, but like Propostion 8 regarding same sex marriage in California, the proposed amendment divided Church members.) 

"Oh Come All Ye Faithful, Joyful and Triumphant"

I must take time from the holiday scurry and scuttle to acknowledge and pay tribute to the Savior and His birth. Each year, the Christmas season brings new meaning and significance for me. And each season increasingly separates me from the festivities of the holidays while pulling me closer to the magnificence of the Savior's birth. Western culture is quickly forgetting and erasing its Christian roots and traditions while embracing secularism and multicultural pluralism. As a result, Christmas---more than ever---is my favorite time of year; not because of the traditional festivities, but because secularists and non-Christians must acknowledge (on some level) the authentic reason for the season: the birth of Jesus Christ. 


Social Justice? The Slippery Slope: From Awareness to Sensitivity to Guilt to Shame to Segregation

I'm ringing my bell again. I don't write to be a cynic or bearer of bad tidings. Still, I write with a sense of duty: To speak my truth, to promote peace, and to testify. I hope to achieve this, in part, by lighting dark corners of oppression and tyranny. 

Life is easier when I stay silent; but life is not better:

Clearing Our Consciences


A few weeks ago, my husband and I spent a few days at Lake Tahoe for our niece's wedding. 


Tahoe's south beach

Every time I visit Tahoe, the lake's deep blue hues and clear water always surprise me. In summertime, we have taken our boat out on the water, and there---in the middle of the lake---I admire the beauty of the changing hues against the green of the surrounding pine trees. 

An Open Letter of Appreciation to My Readers and Friends


Dear Readers,

In my last few posts, I have discussed some of the dangerous trends in academia and on college campuses as a result of the rise in identity politics. These trends include the stifling of intellectual diversity, censorship of free speech, and repressive sectarianism and totalitarianism. In raising awareness of these issues, I was afraid to speak and write openly for fear of jeopardizing my image and reputation as a college instructor, blog writer, and friend. Nevertheless, and in earnest prayer, I proceeded to write the posts and lay out all of my concerns.