Foundational Values: A More Perfect Union

Summary

The United States has a single foundation: The Constitution. It outlines our legally shared values:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Any appeal to principles not contained herein are not shared values. For example, we are not a biblical nation. We are a Constitutional nation. Argumentation of law must only appeal to legally shared values.


During each political season, we are inundated with campaign slogans and rhetoric which appeal to foundational American values. We hear reference to our being a Judeo-Christian nation, appeals to biblical authority, nostalgic recounting of the founding fathers’ personal beliefs, or even the eulogizing of small-town American values. The values of some Americans are identified as real, while others are demonized as un-American.

From this basis of branding values, many attempt to both discredit the ideas of others and to lend authority to their own. Their position is necessary, they’ll argue, given the core values they’ve defined.

The problem? Frequently these defined foundational values are not legitimately shared. Agreeing to a shared set of values is fundamental to any productive argument. Discussion of a topic, absent agreement on the foundational values, is most often pointless.

Imagine a bicycle built for two; if the riders don’t agree on the purpose or direction of travel, their odds of arriving at a mutually acceptable place is unlikely. If one rider attempts to define his own values as universal, in this example by seizing the front seat of the bicycle, they’ll simply be imposing their non-shared value on the other. Their values, then, are no longer shared, they’re authoritarian; one party attempting to force their values on the other.

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Foundational Values: Personal

Anselm Kiefer, Stars

Anselm Kiefer, Stars

My Chosen Purpose

  • My primary purpose is joy.
  • My secondary purpose is pursuit of knowledge.

My Chosen Faith

  • I choose faith in free will, in my ability to transcend those forces that limit me.

My Chosen Community

  • I choose faith in humanity.
  • I choose faith in the equality of individuals
  • I choose faith in human rights which exist prior to and apart from communal law.
  • I choose faith in democratic pluralism.

Joy

I choose joy as the primary purpose of my life. I specifically choose the word joy instead of other similar words such as happiness. In my usage of joy, I mean something more enduring than simple pleasure.

My Definition of Joy: An enduring sense of contentment, measured not in each moment, but as a dynamic summation of experience. The constituent parts of joy include instances of happiness, sorrow, pleasure and pain, boredom, excitement, leisure and work. Joy is the result of life well-lived, adjusted by experience to achieve a net-positive sentiment. It is an expression of my desire.

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Racism and the LDS Church. The Mormons!

This is an issue that just won’t go away, darn it! That’s frustrating to those mormons who don’t like the implications of racism in past (and current!) prophets of the LDS church. The LDS Church, in 1978, became the last major religion to fully integrate all races into it’s priesthood (though, still, women are left out).

The tactic taken by the Church over the past few years has been to remain silent on the racist priesthood ban for black members. Liberal mormons think that this speaks well on the issue; that the silence equals some semblance of admission of wrongdoing. Silence rarely means that, in any context, and especially in matters of church doctrine and official positions. More popularly, silence equals complicity.

So, why bring this up now? Well, in 2003, I was involved in some online discussions concerning this topic, and in the course of my research, I wrote some letters to LDS Public Affairs, and received some interesting responses from the Church. Those letters have been circulated around the net since, and I get occasional requests for copies of the letters. To make it easy, I’m posting copies of the letters here, on my blog, for all to see, copy and distribute. I only ask that you reference this post if you use the letters.

So, here they are:

My Original Letter to LDS Public Affairs, Aug. 4, 2003
Response from LDS Public Affairs, Aug. 14, 2003
Response “Envelope” from LDS Public Affairs
My follow-up letter
The follow-up response
The follow-up envelope

The primary question that I was teasing out in these letters was the question of attribution of the source of the racist ban. Is it the position of the LDS Church that this racist policy has its origin with God or fallible men? The historical position of the LDS Church has always been that the source of the racist ban was with God. And, my 2003 letters show that the LDS Church, still, maintains that position.

As I was taught clearly in LDS Sunday School, the first step to repentance is confession of guilt. I’m still waiting for the LDS Church to begin the process of repenting. By remaining silent, by maintaining the position that God is the source of the racist ban, mormon’s are still teaching racist doctrines to their membership, still contributing in a material way to racism within the world.

In other words, according to them, mormons aren’t racist, God is!

Brokeback Families…

family treeI‘ve heard several comments by conservatives, seemingly unable to directly criticize the love story that exists in the movie Brokeback Mountain, railing about the injustice of how these two men treat their undeserving wives. The pain caused to Michelle William’s character (Alma) is unmistakable, and many conservatives point the finger at Heath Ledger’s character (Ennis), and by inference, indict the entire gay community for the harm they’ve caused to the broken families they leave behind.

This, as I read between the lines, is another attempt to demonize the gay community, to blame them for the problems that exist when their relationships fall apart. The criticism isn’t without some merit, and therefore, can’t easily be dismissed. The irony, however, is that equal criticism should be aimed directly at the conservative community which has worked to demonize and dehumanize gay individuals, making it difficult for them to understand their own sexuality, and ignorantly promoting the idea that if you just act straight, you will be straight. Read more

5 People I’d like to Meet…

Leonardo da Vinci

mp_davincida Vinci transcended the normal constraints of the human experience. The ability to talk art, politics, science, religion, sexuality…and all the while, doing it with style. If I could give him a gift, it would be an Apple iPod. Quote: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”


Herodotus

mp_herodotusHe was asking all the right questions at a time when most others were looking in entirely different directions regarding life, humanity and nature. The ability to ask the right questions is what makes for interesting conversation, and I think he’d provide that in buckets. Quote: “Circumstances rule men; men do not rule circumstances.”


Steve Jobs

mp_jobsThis man has so affected my life and shares such a compatible vision of technology and how we interact with it. Mostly, I’d spend much of my time trying to convince him to bring back the Apple Newton. Quote: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”


Sade Adu

mp_sadeI can’t explain it. But, I’d want her band to be involved as well. I envision a weekend in Monte Carlo, or in Spain. Good food, great music, passion, tears, and heartbreak. Oh, and we’d have to ride horses as well. Quote: “I know the end before the story’s been told, it’s not that complicated, but you’re gonna need a bullet proof soul.” [NOTE: I got to meet Sade. I write about it here: My Life With Sade]


Somerset Maugham

mp_maughmOf Human Bondage is one of my favorite books. I so identify with Phillip Carey, the lead character, that I think I would likely connect with Somerset Maugham as well. There is a kinship there that I’d like to explore and better understand. And then, I’d like to explore the ideas of human bondage that he wrote about. Quote: “It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it; but the young know they are wretched, for they are full of the truthless ideals which have been instilled into them, and each time they come in contact with the real they are bruised and wounded.”


Other candidates: Carl Sagan, Aristotle, Joseph Smith, Frida Kahlo, Anne Rice, Joseph Campbell, D. Michael Quinn, Kurt Cobain, Jeff Buckley, Karl Popper, Low