My Top 5 New Year’s Resolutions

Of course, how trite of me to have a New Year’s Resolutions list, eh? But then, the start of a new year, like any mathematically or biologically significant milestone in the wheel of life, is a good time to reflect on what has been and what you hope should be. I’ve never ascribed to the concept of “resolutions,” in the sense of those silly promises you know you can’t keep. Rather, I prefer to take the opportunity to look out on the new cycle and set some long-term goals which have at least the appearance of achievability, and those whose aim it is to make me just a little bit better off than I was before.

And so, for the sake of both reflection and anticipation, I commit my most relevant political resolutions for the coming year:

1. I resolve to remind myself that “sovereignty” is not a word important only to the United States.

All too often in the discussion of the War on Terror, our entire dialogue happens in the absence of this very basic fact. I thought about this again while watching Pumpkin Head in the last Sunday morning of the Old Year, questioning politicians about the situation in Pakistan. I regret to say that Mike Huckabee did better with his answer than did Barack Obama. But both politicians and Tim Russert all seemed to forget that Pakistan, for all the aid we might have provided them, is still a sovereign nation. When Barack Obama says we need to “be sure” that elections in Pakistan are fair, well, the fact is that we don’t have the right to make that call. We tend to forget that while we get all wrapped up in our own problems.

2. I resolve to remind people that those “without faith” are not lacking in some way.

I have several times heard the phrase “those without faith” from those who claim to have some specific faith when they’re trying to appear open-minded. They are, of course, referring to Atheists and Agnostics in the only way they seem to know how. They lump Atheists in with all those cynical teenagers who do indeed lack any faith in anything because they are. . . teenagers.

But if you think that being an Atheist is living without faith, you have clearly missed the point. If you don’t think being an Atheist means making a commitment, you’re clearly not informed. For all that people seem to take pity on Atheists, they miss the fact that Atheists believe in science and the modes of life that we can see before us. That is a kind of faith, though Atheists might not all call it such.  It takes faith – in one’s self, in nature, in reason – to believe that we can be decent people without a metaphysical justification. What’s more, it’s not an easy choice to believe that there is no after life and it damned-sure is not an easy thing to deal with all the idiots who take pity on you for living the life you believe is right. You can believe that god is a cheeseburger, and that’s OK with Christians, but to not believe in any supreme being is just unacceptable.

But of course, “choice” is a word used by religious types – intentionally or not – to minimize the choices of those who are different, and there can be almost no more different a person than an Atheist. Christians live “the righteous life,” and will sit at the side of Jesus, but Atheists have made another “choice.” So have gay people, of course. And drug users. And unwed mothers. And Playboy subscribers. Only one choice seems to be right, though, and of course it’s the choice they made. It reminds me of a Jane’s Addiction song:

When I was a boy, my big brother held on to my hands,
then he made me slap my own face.
I looked up to him then, and still do.
He was trying to teach me something.
Now I know what it was!
Now I know what he meant!
Now I know how it is!
One must eat the other who runs free before him.
Put them right into his mouth
while fantasizing the beauty of his movements.
A sensation not unlike slapping yourself in the face…

3. While I’m at it, I resolve to keep it in mind that a person’s faith is inseparable from their actions and politics, but that in the end, their actions are all that matter.

It is an inescapable fact of life that what your view of the universe is will indelibly affect how you vote, what you say, and if you’re a politician, what bills and policies you’re going to put your influence behind. If this is true of adherents to the Southern Baptist Convention’s teachings, it is at least as true if not doubly so for all those Agnostics and Atheists who insist that church and state be separated in the minds of our leaders. This has, of course, created some flares on the campaign trail, with Republicans trying to at once prove they are men of faith to those hard-core Orthidoxyists in the Republican primary while still seem a little less kookie to the great expanse of undecided voters in the general.

But with all that religion has regrettably made it’s intrusion into American politics in the last couple decades, it really is important to remember that even if you believe in Jesus, he couldn’t give a burning bush in a wheelbarrow what you say. What you do is all that matters.

And that’s all the rest of us need to worry about. What a person’s faith is or how they think that faith informs their politics are interesting character issues, but they don’t tell you enough if you just ignore their deeds. Meanwhile, getting paranoid about a person’s faith doesn’t do any good, either.

Look at George Bush. He used the religious vote to get him into office, but what has he done to further their cause? Nothing, really. And had Christian Conservatives only looked to his record, they would have known they were betting on the wrong horse, but they did not. Meanwhile, it goes without saying that a fair number of nominally Conservative Christians have not lived up to their professed faith in the last few years. I’ll leave it to you to decide who those persons might be.

4. I resolve to do a better job of demonstrating the relevance of national issues to our Rochester community.

This has been an ongoing change on this site. Local media seems to do a terrible job of connecting local issues to national ones and vice versa. When they do connect local to national, it seems they prefer “human interest” stories to actual news. I don’t dismiss the importance of soldiers returning from Iraq, but what about the cost of the war on our community? What about the impact of the subprime mortgage crisis on our local communities?

These are the kinds of questions which don’t often get asked or answered from our local media. The net effect is that people watch the two television news programs – first local, then national – as though the two were separated with bubble wrap.  My aim this year is to focus my own blogging on a few key issues and how they relate on both the national and the local levels.

And, while each of us in the Rochester blogging community has expressed in their own way that we can’t do what we do without each other, I surmise that there is still much, much more we are capable of as a community if we put it together in more formal ways.  There have been attempts in the past, there are items still left out there, but nothing major has happened, yet.  I think that this year might be a good one to explore those options and maybe come up with some new and innovative ways to collaborate.  What do you say, guys?

5.  I resolve to keep my posts short

So far, this one isn’t working out so well. . .

By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.