RIGHTS AND EQUALITY (Part 2)

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

– The First Amendment of the United States Constitution

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A woman walks into the break-room of her particular place of employment. She then proceeds to pull out her Bible, stand on top of a chair, and read aloud in a manner that is clearly audible to everyone in the vicinity.  Her co-workers complain about this to management. Management pulls the woman aside and requests that she stop doing this.  The woman replies by stating that management has no right to impede upon her religious freedom, and that this loud Bible reading was an expression of that.  Management replied that the nature of this reading was disruptive to others’ enjoyment of the break-room and potentially interfered with their workplace productivity.

It was at this point the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was called. For those unfamiliar, the EEOC is a federal agency established by an executive order from John F. Kennedy in 1961.  The EEOC administers and enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination, as well as investigates discrimination complaints based on an individual’s race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual preference, age, disability, genetic information, and retaliation for reporting, participating in, and/or opposing a discriminatory practice.

official-seal-of-the-equal-employment-opportunity-commission-eeocThe EEOC sent an investigator to look into the complaint of discrimination filed by the Bible-reading woman.  However, much to the woman’s surprise, the investigator proceeded to inform her that her “rights” had not been violated by the employer’s request, and that her grandiose reading of the Bible may have been offensive to her co-workers and thus intruding on their “rights”.

A close friend of mine relayed this story to me, which was in turn told to her by the aforementioned EEOC investigator as a part of a corporate “sensitivity training” given at her place of employment.  Interestingly, the EEOC bureaucrat/sensitivity trainer cited this story as an example of how “protected classes” are now using their “protected” status to infringe upon the rights of others.  My friend then asked me what my thoughts were on the matter, and I can definitely say they were not what she was hoping for.

My first response was to state that Christians, especially Evangelical or Fundamentalist types (of which I am neither, but this woman obviously was), were no longer really treated as a “protected class” in the eyes of the Federal Government or mainstream culture.  Evangelical Christians have actually been labelled as “more dangerous than ISIS” by the feds and the “liberal” media.   A few examples of this “protection” of Christians were cited in a recent (2012) joint report by the Liberty Institute and the Family Research Council:

• A federal judge threatened “incarceration” to a high school valedictorian unless she removed references to Jesus from her graduation speech.
• City officials prohibited senior citizens from praying over their meals, listening to religious messages or singing gospel songs at a senior activities center.
• A public school official physically lifted an elementary school student from his seat and reprimanded him in front of his classmates for praying over his lunch.
• Following U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ policies, a federal government official sought to censor a pastor’s prayer, eliminating references to Jesus, during a Memorial Day ceremony honoring veterans at a national cemetery.
• Public school officials prohibited students from handing out gifts because they contained religious messages.
• A public school official prevented a student from handing out flyers inviting her classmates to an event at her church.
• A public university’s law school banned a Christian organization because it required its officers to adhere to a statement of faith that the university disagreed with.
• The U.S. Department of Justice argued before the Supreme Court that the federal government can tell churches and synagogues which pastors and rabbis it can hire and fire.
• The State of Texas sought to approve and regulate what religious seminaries can teach.
• Through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the federal government is forcing religious organizations to provide insurance for birth control and abortion-inducing drugs in direct violation of their religious beliefs.
• The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs banned the mention of God from veterans’ funerals, overriding the wishes of the deceased’s families.
• A federal judge held that prayers before a state House of Representatives could be to Allah but not to Jesus.

Another interesting anecdote of workplace “discrimination” involved a Muslim worker at a GAP store who prayed in the aisle daily.  In response, a Christian co-worker put a Bible on his own desk and would read silently while the Muslim employee prayed.  The Muslim employee complained about this to management and the Christian was fired without warning.  Now the Muslim GAP employee had numerous complaints against him from others due to “loud prayers” and “blocking the aisle”.  It was also apparently against company policy for religious viewpoints to be expressed within the company; however this policy appears to have been selectively enforced as the Muslim employee did not lose his job, but the Christian employee did.

Now this is not to say that other religious and minority groups have not suffered workplace persecution in the past, but now the mainstream narrative has definitively flipped (unless you’re watching Fox News).  As I have talked about in previous postings, the culture of political correctness has become totalitarian in nature, with people losing their careers and being blacklisted over saying anything that is “deemed” as racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, or “intolerant” in any way.

However, there is one group that political-correctness does NOT apply to. Think about who it is “okay” to make fun of and demonize without fear of backlash and being labelled, “racist”, “bigot”, “Nazi”, “anti-Semite”, “homophobe”, or any of the other words used to demonize those who are outside the PC mainstream.  You know who it is…  So yes, while it is true that the “protected classes” have become the oppressors, to group Christians in this category is a misleading statement at best and an obfuscation of the current power structure.

Moving back to the conversation with my friend and the story of the EEOC investigator and my response to it.  I questioned how it was the duty of the federal government to settle a private dispute between a private employer and employee on private property, and why it was the government’s job to regulate “discrimination”.  Even if you believe in the “law” of the Constitution, there is no place where the federal government is given that “right” or that responsibility.

Now I worked in the labor movement for the better part of three years, and I still believe in standing up for yourself when it comes to the workplace and the fruits of one’s own labor.  I will continuously advocate for the power of the boycott and the strike as organic expressions of free will (even if not always motivated from a “higher mind”).  However, the moral dilemma comes when the government gets involved. Government, by and large, can be summed up with two words- force and control.  This friend tends to chastise this point of view as a vehement and irrational “hatred” of government.

When it comes to labor and discrimination in the workplace, the premise behind getting government involved is to try and FORCE someone to do the “right thing” and/or, as my friend put it, “hold them accountable”, when they do the “wrong” thing.  Now, even if you believe in “rights” as a real thing, how is forcing anyone to do anything not considered a violation of THEIR RIGHTS?  That is circular logic, is it not? And what exactly is this need to “hold them accountable”, i.e. see them punished, all about?

There is a deep psychological desire for us to see quantifiable, measurable results to things. We need “closure” to move on from traumatic events.  We desire retribution towards those who have offended our ego.  This is at the root of our need to SEE “justice” done.   Even those of us who say we believe in or “know” Karma, often still feel that those who do wrong need to be punished in a way that is satisfactory to us, specifically our ego, or finite mind: “This person took something from me or caused me pain, so I NEED to be sure they will suffer as a direct result of what they did to ME”.

In other words, we want to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this “wrongdoer” has indeed been punished.  We don’t want to wait for the Law of the Universe to work in Its own eternal time and fashion- we want justice RIGHT NOW.  We want vengeance RIGHT NOW.  And this sense of “justice” can be projected onto the situations of others, causing us to believe we are identifying with them, when really, it’s about US and what we are identified with and attached to.  All of these thoughts and emotions are emanations of the lower mind that is completely absorbed in the physical world and has no faith in ANYTHING it can’t see, hear, touch, taste or smell.

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When I explained to my friend that people were ALWAYS “held accountable” by the Divine Law of the Universe when they acted immorally and maliciously towards others, she got pretty pissed off.  She stated that I was “looking down” from a position of “privilege” (there’s that word again).  I attempted to explain how, from the perspective of the Eternal Soul, that a person’s struggles of “oppression” may have been exactly what that person needed for their personal spiritual growth in this lifetime.  It also could have very well been the “reaping” of “sown seeds”.  With this, I was accused of being impractical and not “grounded in reality”.  In a way this is “looking down”.  It is looking down from the perspective of infinite spirit/soul as opposed to looking up from the perspective of finite body/mind.

My friend proceeded to cite examples of workplace insensitivity, which were racially-based.  These stories involved a company in which an African-American employee was “jokingly” threatened with a noose and a Middle-Eastern man was required to park in a parking spot that had been labelled “terrorist”.  While absolutely disrespectful and insensitive, and potentially even threatening, I still did not share her belief that the presence of an “entity to hold people accountable” was necessary or truly effective and productive.  The belief that such entities are needed is to affirm a position of bondage, therefore affirming the superiority of one individual or entity over another.  To top it off, forcing anyone to do anything only breeds resentment, not tolerance.

What really struck me was how the Middle Eastern man felt “trapped” because he “needed” that job to support his family.  I am “privileged” that I don’t have to worry about supporting a family and I do have empathy for this man as I understand that the basic instinctual desire to provide for one’s children can quickly put one into desperation or “survival mode”.  However, empathy is not pity.  Pity is looking upon someone as weak and powerless, rather than as a unique expression of the Divine Creator and possessing incredible creative power and potential. There are unlimited potential outcomes to any given situation, but when we are overtaken with fear, our consciousness becomes rigid and we develop a sort of “tunnel-vision”, making it much harder to see all possibilities and choose with clarity.

Unfortunately, my friend saw me as being detached and unsympathetic to the plights of others. She stated that if I had encountered real discrimination that I would not view things in this manner. Indeed my past situations of discrimination didn’t mirror those of others; they were mine.  My friend eventually became so worked up due to my stance that she stormed off.

Later she told me that the reason she had gotten so upset was because she herself was feeling discriminated against at work.  She found herself in a compromising situation with someone who was management, and now this person threatened her job if she told anyone what had happened.  She now felt she was being intentionally ostracized from various “team-building” outings in her department.  She said that the environment in the office was incredibly hostile towards her and she was afraid to go to anyone due to the manager’s threat.

I asked my friend about talking to higher-ups within the company and telling them of the manager’s conduct.  I also told her she had an option with bringing a case to the Labor Board as well (even though it pained me to suggest going to government).  I also suggested she talk to people face to face directly regarding this matter.  However, she said she was worried about her reputation in the company and “making things worse”.  She also did not want to quit this job because it was well-paying and she had only started in the last several months.

While my friend felt powerless, it was ultimately her fear that made it most difficult.  It was the fear of having to make an UNCOMFORTABLE choice that could potentially make life uncomfortable for a time.  We want life to be as comfortable and hassle-free as possible- this is the vice of the modern western man/woman.  The statement is true that “where there is a will there is a way”- it just depends on how much you’re willing to sacrifice and how open and committed you are to thinking “outside the box”.

When viewed from the finite mind, these types of situations appear to present a threat to our very survival.   Anything that appears to have the potential to threaten our livelihood is something that we associate with death on a deep subconscious/unconscious level.  But the truth is that the vast majority things that get this response from us are NOT life or death situations at all.  This is why stress-related disease is rampant in modern society.  We put up with a lot that we don’t need to because we are so terrified of death.  And it’s not even really death, but the FEAR of death- the creeping uncertainty of the unknown- that keeps us mentally imprisoned.

When people and situations arise that seem to make our work in the world intolerable, we may do well to ask ourselves; “Is this really the work that I’m meant to be doing?  Is this really expressing the highest creative potential of my soul or am I just being a cog in a machine?  Am I here because this is the path mainstream society says I should be taking with my skill set? And if so, is there something more creative and enriching I could do with my time and potential?  Am I thriving here, or am I really just here to survive?  Am I here because I love this work and it makes the world a better place, or am I really just in it for the money?”

These are hard questions that I have asked myself continuously and continue to do so.  I know that the only reason I ever feel stuck or trapped in a situation is because I have convinced myself that is the case and/or I have believed what everyone else says is the case.  This is a universal truth that is applicable regardless of your “privilege” or lack thereof.  Now this isn’t to say that some situations don’t present harder choices than others.  Nor am I saying that our decisions should be taken at selfish whimsy.  What I am saying is that at the end of the day, our state of consciousness trumps any outside factors, regardless of how imposing, powerful or monolithic those factors may appear to be.

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Perspective shapes reality.  We can choose to see things from the limited perspective of the finite mind or from a higher mode of consciousness.  People only have power over us when we give our power to them.  If we believe our options in life are limited, then they will be.  Now of course, there is need to know and understand how to utilize our limitless potential, just as there is need for moral grounding so we use it appropriately.  But make no mistake about it, our potential is boundless, we just need to have faith and be fearless.  And if we do “lose”, we “don’t lose the lesson” and think our life is over.

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Not all sacrifices are worth making, but a degree of sacrifice and discomfort is inevitable if we want to grow to our full potential and be free men and women.

Sometimes our calling may be to confront a petty tyrant that is persecuting and oppressing people.  Perhaps we need to shine a light on their actions or perhaps even defend ourselves or another person.  But when we do this, we would do well to check within and be sure we are acting from a place of compassion and moral clarity as opposed to fear-based self-righteousness.  Sometimes the line is VERY fine indeed.

At the end of the day, some people are going to be intolerant or bigoted or just plain assholes and NOTHING- no amount of shaming or punishment will ever change that.  We can however change ourselves, how we relate to the world and how we treat other beings.  That is where REAL change can occur.

Namaste and God Bless.

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