Saturday Selects: Where I Stand

Saturday Selects is a series of posts I write that fall outside the general bookish theme of the blog.

Have you ever heard the expression that someone was just raised that way? Or that another person was raised a strong Christian? Things like that. We all know humans are complex, critically-thinking beings, but sometimes we just make assumptions and base those assumptions on next to nothing at all. So that’s what today’s post is about. Me simply telling you how I came to believe in some of the things I do. This isn’t meant to be exhaustive and no one has asked me to reveal this information. But I’ve been posting on this blog for nearly four years now. If I’m afraid or unwilling to post something personal then what am I really doing here?

Faith

My family is Catholic. My HUGE Mexican family. Which if you know anything about demographics, then that surely doesn’t surprise you. I was “raised” a Catholic. The quotation marks are there because I grew up in a Catholic household. But never once did my parents force me to do something relative to the church I didn’t want to do. I was never forced to attend Sunday school. I was never forced to pray every night before bed. I was never expressly told to believe that Jesus is my Lord and Savior. I remember the last time I prayed, though that’s probably a stretch to even call it as such. It was after a Little League game in 2004. It was soon after my grandpa died. I remember praying, but I don’t have any idea what I was asking for. I also remember crying my eyes out for the one and only time over his death. I was 12.

But as I became older I soon realized that I didn’t believe in the same things my family did. There was a conversation between one of my brothers, my dad, and me when I was a teen about evolution and god. I was stunned that members of my own family rejected science in the name of faith. I was asked if I believed in god and I said I guess not. I walked into a high school classroom my senior year and asked how many people believed in evolution. Again, I was shocked that only one or two hands shot up. I couldn’t believe it. This is no different from when people say they don’t “believe” in climate change. But that’s another story. I’ve proudly been an atheist since I was in college, though that topic just doesn’t come up anymore.

Marriage

This is one of those things you constantly hear that “young people” almost universally agree on. I’m the same. You’ve heard of politicians “evolving” on the issue of what does and does not represent a lawful and acceptable marriage, probably most notably President Obama. But I’ve never once thought marriage could only be between a man and a woman. Not once in my life has that ever crossed my mind. Just like I’ve never thought it odd or different if two people in a couple were from different racial or ethnic backgrounds. It just doesn’t make sense to me to question who someone loves. No one is telling me who I’m allowed to love. What right does any person have to tell another who they can or cannot love? No right. No right at all.

Capital Punishment

Remember that my degree is in Criminal Justice, so I’m no expert but I have quite a bit of knowledge that most people don’t. Since I was old enough to reach my own conclusion on capital punishment, I was steadfastly in favor it. When I was in college I actually wanted to expand it to include cases of aggravated rape. I participated in a debate on capital punishment in a class during my final year in school. I once had to argue against an entire classroom full of students because no one else was willing to make the case for the continued use of the death penalty. But I know the stats. I know that the possibility of executing an innocent person exists. I know that the death penalty does not act as a crime deterrent. I know that the costs of carrying out the death penalty far outweigh the costs of life in prison. I know that the death penalty is state sponsored murder. I know that just about every Western country in the world has abolished the death penalty. And I know that it is very quickly falling out of favor in the United States. With all that being said, I decided fairly recently that I simply cannot support an institution of murder carried out as unfairly as death sentences are in this country. It took me much too long to come to this realization, but I firmly believe I’m on the right side of the issue and history.

Guns

Uh oh. Probably not the best topic to discuss at any point in time when you have no idea where others stand, but understanding different perspectives is just as important as understanding the core issue. For me this one is very simple. I think I’ve been heavily criticized on here when I’ve written about gun violence previously. I don’t think citizens should be allowed to have guns at all. Yep. Call me a crazy liberal who doesn’t understand things, but that’s how I feel and I’ll tell you why.

EVERYONE knows that other developed countries simply do not have the gun violence that we have here in the United States. And what I mean is gun violence is virtually nonexistent. Japan. Australia. UK. Canada. Germany. Belgium. The list could go on and on. And the reasons aren’t always because gun ownership has been outlawed. But the countries that have very few deaths attributed to gun violence each year don’t have an obsession with guns like we have in the United States. Which is why I think outlawing gun ownership is the only way to move forward. The problem people have is they’ll see one event in France or in another country with very strict gun laws and then proclaim that the laws simply don’t work. But they fail to recognize that the numbers in the US are simply astronomical when compared to every other country on the planet. EVERY OTHER COUNTRY ON THE PLANET. People hunt because they want to kill animals. People have guns because they want guns. We can rationalize it all we want, but the reasons really don’t change. Donald Trump has vowed to protect the 2nd Amendment, and I have no doubt about he will do so, but over the course of the next four years there is a very chilling certainty. There will be mass shootings. And he will have to speak about them to the American public.

The United States always claims to lead the world in this or that, but when it comes to gun violence not only have we missed the flight, we didn’t even remember to buy the ticket. I simply refuse to accept that gun violence is the way of American life.

Healthcare

This is another big one being heavily debated today. Tell me something. Have you ever had some freak accident that forced you to go to the emergency room? I have. Multiple times. When I was in 3rd grade I made the highly intelligent decision to ride my bike off the edge of a construction ramp 6-8 feet off the ground. My face stuck the landing right there on the concrete. I got stitches that night at my local ER. Three years later I was racing out of the gym to run my warm-up lap around the track before PE class and I ran directly into a locked door. My face again absorbed the impact. I got stitches again about an inch from the first spot on my chin. That same school year during the same Little League season I previously mentioned I decided to test the fielder’s arm at home plate. The throw beat me by a mile. There was an abrupt collision. I broke my wrist right there on the field.

None of my cases were real emergencies. I mean, yes. I needed to see a doctor. But my life was not in any real danger. Now imagine if it were. Imagine if I’d suffered an injury that required extensive surgery, but surgery that wasn’t required. You know, the doctor can tell you what’s wrong and recommend surgery but first he’s going to make sure it’s covered by your insurance. But uh oh, I don’t have insurance. The doctor gives me something for the pain and I’m out the door. I don’t feel too bad until I run out of the pain meds and I realize how bad it really is.

I’m no health professional, and perhaps this isn’t EXACTLY how it plays out in hospitals each and every day. But I can’t wrap my head around the fact that in this country healthcare is viewed as a privilege. The right to life is viewed as something only some can have. We guarantee public education through high school, right? But we can’t guarantee healthcare to every citizen in this country? Again, the United States is well behind much of the world at this point. Someone recently described healthcare in their country to me. You paid a small amount for up to 7 days in the hospital, and after that it’s completely free to you. I acknowledge that there are MANY ways to go about insuring everyone, but we aren’t even trying. And we’re still awaiting the changes that are looming just ahead of us after the election of Donald Trump.

Guys, I absolutely do not expect you to agree with me on any of these things. And that’s the beauty of it. There’s nothing wrong with that. What issues are of particular importance to you? I have several more but WordPress tells me this post has somehow reached 1700 words. Yikes.


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Saturday Selects: My Letter to President Obama

Saturday Selects is a series of posts I write that fall outside the general bookish theme of the blog. This is the first of 2017.


Donald Trump will be sworn in as President of the United States next week. So I did what I believe many Americans have done over the last eight years. I wrote a letter to President Obama.

This isn’t meant to start a discussion. This isn’t meant to somehow change your views of President Obama or Donald Trump. This is simply the sharing of my thoughts and life experience with my President of the last eight years. I don’t expect you to agree with me or to even care what I think about anything. This is simply something I wrote and am willing to put out for anyone who may be feeling the same way.

I know some of you don’t care to watch my video, so I’m also including the text of the letter here. This is no different from what’s in the video. This is exactly what I’ve sent to the White House.


Mr. President,

Your time serving in the White House is just about complete. I wanted to take a few minutes to write you a brief letter thanking you for your service to the country you and I both love and call home. I’m 25-years-old. I’ve lived my entire life in the state of Texas. I’ve been heavily interested in politics and current events since I was in high school, never more so than this year. Some would call me a cry-baby liberal who can’t get over losing this year’s election. But you and I both know that there was nothing typical about this year’s election. I have to be honest with you. I’m scared. I’m scared of what a Trump administration can accomplish in four years. I’m scared that those who look like me but weren’t fortunate enough to be born in the United States will be forced to leave the only country they’ve ever known. I’m scared that Donald Trump’s isolationist rhetoric and potential policies will alienate the United States from the rest of the world, most notably from our friends and allies. I’m scared that Donald Trump’s economic policies will only further widen the gap between those of us at or near the bottom and those at the top. I’m scared that Donald Trump will do nothing during his four years in The White House to tackle climate change. And I’m scared of the people who feel emboldened by his win to come out and say whatever they want, to whomever they want, no matter how wrong, disrespectful, or derogatory the remarks might be.

But the point of this letter isn’t to tell you how scared I am of the future. I refuse to live a life in fear. I want to personally thank you for your service. Thank you for helping to ensure equal pay for equal work. Thank you for fighting for marriage equality. Thank you for helping more than 20 million Americans gain access to affordable healthcare. Thank you for putting an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Thank you for moving us toward clean energy because as you always say, this is the one planet we’ve got. Thank you for pushing for Americans to reach Mars. Thank you for pulling our country from the brink of a second Great Depression. My family lost our home in 2010, and my parents have struggled every day since, but we’re still here. We’re still fighting. We’re still putting our work in because in America hard work is rewarded. Thank you for keeping families together instead of dehumanizing illegal immigrants who are productive members of society. Thank you for respecting every American, no matter what they look like or who they love.  And thank you for bringing our troops home.

I could go on and on, as you can see, but I won’t. I want to end it very simply. Thank you for serving me and every other American for the last eight years with respect and dignity, humbly and gracefully. I’ll always be proud to say I voted for your reelection in 2012 to help continue to better the lives of every American.

I look forward to standing with you as a citizen in the continued fight against wrong, un-American policies, and furthering the idea that we are all created equal.

Sincerely,

A university educated, Mexican-American liberal from Texas

John Guillen