Thursday, April 24, 2008

Floridian Faith-based License Plates

Florida state legislation announced this week that it has plans to begin producing vanity license plates featuring a large golden cross in front of a stained glass window with the words, “I Believe,” running across the bottom of the plate. If it does so, it would be the first state to offer an option which features a specific religious faith. This, of course, has many up in arms and will undoubtedly be met with some form of protest, at least, and a slew of anti-defamatory legal action.


As it stands, the state currently offers more than a hundred license plates supporting everything from universities to sports teams to any of the numerous leisure activities for which it is known. To add one more which lets a devout member of a given faith to display that devotion seems a small allowance.

Before taking up arms against this oppressive gesture, or against those opposed to it, however, we must ask ourselves why it is that this is such a hot-button issue, even in its conceptual stages. We are a country built upon notions of freedom of religion and freedom of expression, two ideals which this plate solidly represents. Given that, there is no reason why it should be offensive to anyone. It does not seek to proselytize and if your faith is weak enough that you feel that you will be converted by the image of the symbol of another’s faith, then you ought to spend less time protesting what amounts to a logo and more time figuring out where you lost your way.

Where it does break down, though, is that it calls only for the creation of a Christian plate, rather than a religious line of plates. The country has shown a recent trend of religious intolerance when it comes to governmental processes and procedures, such as a last year’s denial by the military to allow pagan soldiers who were killed in Iraq to have a pentacle on their memorial headstones amongst the crosses and stars of David. Were the Florida government to make this small amendment, all would be well and they would have little solid ground on which to form a protest.

The irony, of course, is that those Christians who would stand up in support of this plate, forming the inevitable counter-protest, are also those most likely to stand against the inclusion of other religions. There is a need amongst humans to belong to something larger than we are. What we have lost sight of, or perhaps what we have never truly understood, is that we do not have to define our unity with the exclusion of others, be it when talking about something as powerful as a chosen faith or as a simple as a license plate.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

When My Child Grows Up...

There was a time when an American parent’s greatest hope for a child was that he, or she, would grow up to become president. As a young man entering the latter part of my twenties, with the prospect of having children of my own edging closer by the day, I wonder if that’s true anymore. Would I want my child to grow up to be the kind of person who is capable of succeeding in the American political system? The fact that I hesitate to say yes, even for a second, raises uncomfortable feelings in my gut as the next major election looms around the corner.

To begin with, I have to look at the attributes I would wish to encourage in my own progeny. Like most parents, or the good ones, at least, I would like my child to be honest, kind, a hard worker who understands the nature of sacrifice and the pride of having done goodness for the sake of the work itself. I would like my child to be intelligent, clever, and wise enough to know the difference.

Ideally, I would like a child who is tolerant not because he fears how society will view him, but because he is self-reflective enough to realize that he carries the prejudices of experience that we all accumulate along the road of life. Most of all, I want a child who is happy and proud of who he is and has been and realizes that it is those things which will make him the person he will be later in life.

When I list out the qualities I would wish to see in my own children, then take a step back and look objectively at his chances for the presidency, I realize that were he to become the man I hope he does, he would never stand a chance of wading through the murky waters of American politics. He would either be torn apart by the media, who ironically seem to distrust anyone on whom they are incapable of finding a shred of dirt, or, and my heart freezes for a moment at this dreadful thought, he would find a bullet in his heart, put there by another victim of our country’s increasingly fatal divisiveness.

Why, then, if these traits are those which we would consider a blessing on our own lives, do we not expect them of our leaders? Why do we, in fact, seem to go out of our way to make certain that they are not present? If a child is truly the reflection of its parents, then a nation’s leaders are the reflection of its people. As we enter an economic recession and the fifth year of a war driven by greed and fueled by fear, why haven’t we stopped bickering with one another long enough to realize that the child birthed by our forefathers more than two hundred years ago is slowly dying.