Why I’ll Not Take The Pledge

There’s always a lot of chatter on the internet about government policies: the manner in which it’s handling the credit crisis, rising gas prices, and even stuff as far back as the initial invasion of Iraq and Hurricane Katrina.

Most of the criticism is justified. God knows, there’s been a fair bit of it on Sparrow Chat, but I’ve found myself of late seriously considering why, despite my permanent residency in the US, I cannot bring myself to apply for citizenship. After all, governments are governments, and wherever in the world, most are corrupt, inefficient, and care little for their nationals till voting time.

I never applied for citizenship of the UK, of course. It was handed to me as a birthright. I never had to swear allegiance, or sing the national anthem before an audience of my peers, or anything else equally absurd. So, I don’t see why I should have to do so here. Citizenship, to my way of thinking, should be automatic after, say, ten years of permanent residency.

I don’t believe many Americans would agree with that. Most see citizenship as an honor bestowed, even though the vast majority received it for the sheer geographical coincidence of being born here.

Swearing allegiance, to me at least, means pledging myself to defend American ideology against other human beings who just happen to live elsewhere and within a different culture. My personal opinions have little in common with what passes for US ideology, and I find something grotesquely awry about a country that brags of its ‘freedoms’, yet incarcerates more of its citizens than any other nation in order to achieve it.

The only occasion I would consider defending anything was if I, or my family, was in imminent personal danger, a situation that could occur anywhere in the world, so swearing allegiance solely to obtain citizenship would, for me, be akin to perjury.

That, then, is one of my main reasons for not becoming a US citizen.

I guess Abu Khabab is another.

For those unfamiliar with the name, Abu Khabab was reputed to be a key poisons and explosives expert for al Qaeda. He was, no doubt, a thoroughly despicable character. Note, use of the past tense, because Abu Khabab is dead. He was killed last Monday in the tribal regions of Pakistan.[1] It doesn’t bother me that Abu Khabab is dead. It was the manner of his demise that causes concern.

Abu Khabab was killed by a US predator drone. These days that’s not unusual. The practice of assassination by remote control is common, utilized both by the Israeli government and that of the United States. What’s scary, is that despite all the government critique festering on the internet, I’ve read not a word in condemnation of injudicial assassinations by a lawfully-elected government.

While many reprove the Bush administration for its tactics against extremists mythically grouped under the banner, ‘al Qaeda’, and believe use of the term ‘war’ with its attendant distortion of legalities, to be inappropriate, they miss the implication of their government committing cold-blooded murder in their name. In fact, by the omission of censure, they accept it.

“Another bad man taken care of.” “One less terrorist to worry about.”

How often have we heard those kind of phrases bandied about, both in the media and on the street, or in the workplace?

Whatever happened to “innocent till proven guilty”? Where is the right of every man to a fair trial? How far is it from remotely ‘taking out’ a stranger in the hills of Pakistan, to doing away with the judiciary altogether and having a police officer summarily execute criminals caught at the scene of a crime, perhaps on a US street?

It may be more convenient to accept that Abu Khabab was just ‘another bad man’ who deserved to die, but without the correct judicial procedure, and knowing how governments lie, no-one can be sure.

Maybe I’m in the minority, but to pledge loyalty to a nation whose citizens allow their government to murder in cold blood, and who raise not a murmur of dissent, is not in my nature.

There are many good people in these United States. They need to wake up. They need to sit up. They need to start shouting.

Otherwise, one day, it may be too late.

[1] “Al-Qaida confirms death of poisons expert in Pakistan” Guardian, Aug 3rd 2008

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A Visual Update

Sparrow Chat is a ‘work in progress’ in more ways than one. Not only is it a place to vent my spleen at the dastardly doings of this world, but it’s also a vehicle for my own education, slowly and painfully advancing my knowledge of how a load of weird code transforms into those pages we read on our screens every day.

Consequently, this week has seen the ‘place’ receive another facelift. I hope it’s an improvement, though bear in mind it’s still a work in progress.

I must apologize to those of you still battling on with Microsoft’s abortion of a browser, Internet Explorer 7. Like a spoiled child, it has a mind of its own and refuses to accept anything on its plate, unless particularly to its liking. As a consequence, some of you may have experienced a frustrating screen message when attempting to load Sparrow Chat, and been unable to gain access. IE7 didn’t like where I’d placed the ‘Sitemeter’ stats counter, so refused to do its job until I eventually discovered what was upsetting it, and moved the counter to a place it found to its liking.

During the final stages of the site update, I used a test image in the sidebar. It had, both unfortunately and misleadingly, been labeled, “enhancedorgan.jpg”. As I could overcome IE7’s reluctance to load Sparrow Chat by switching off its internet security system, I first assumed it had reacted to the image and dubbed Sparrow Chat a porno site. Replacing the image with a more innocently-named one, failed to resolve the issue, however, which was eventually pinned down to the Sitemeter counter and its offending Javascript.

If anyone still experiences difficulties with the site, or wishes to comment on it’s design – whether you love it or hate it – please feel free to email me at rjadams@sparrowchat.com or leave a comment below.

Oh, and the image labelled ‘enhancedorgan.jpg’?

A photo of the pipe organ from the church where Will Shakespeare is buried in Stratford on Avon, enhanced for internet use using photo-software.

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To The Greater Glory Of…….Something

Where did we go wrong? Why have our core values of morality, like honesty, integrity, honor, justice, and respect for our fellow man, been – like the proverbial baby – washed away with the bathwater down the drain of materialism and consumer greed?

It could be the beginning of one of those really boring Sunday sermons. You know it too well. The hymns and prayers are done with for a while, the paster shuffles up into the pulpit, ruffles his papers, and you can already feel your eyelids relentlessly starting to droop.

No, I haven’t been contracted to write Sunday sermons for the local priest, but it does seem we are sliding down a slippery slope towards a world where no-one gives a damn about anybody else, life grows cheaper by the minute, and the latest flat-screen TV is so important we’re prepared to kill to get it.

The church, of course, has a perfect explanation for this sort of behavior. They say we don’t get enough God. As usual, they’re lying. They don’t really mean we don’t get enough God; what they mean is we don’t get enough of them, or at least, more of us should get more of them. If we all went to church and absorbed more ‘God’, then we’d be better people – provided we filled the silver plate with coin on leaving.

But, it’s not true, is it? After all, where do all the ‘righteous’ go as soon as they’re let out of the pews on a Sunday? Down the local Wal-Mart to fight over the latest flat screen TV, that’s where.

So more ‘God’ is obviously not the answer, it’s just another of those marketing ploys that assail our lives from morn till night, seven days a week.

Perhaps the answer is less ‘God’? Certainly, the general conclusion of anyone who’s researched the effects of ‘God’ on the world over the last few millennia, must be that we’d all probably be a lot better off without Him. Quite why He chose to devote Himself to this tiny, insignificant, planet when there’s a whole universe full of them to play around with, is somewhat incomprehensible; though it does say somewhere that He works in mysterious ways, so maybe He chose us because we’re stupid enough to believe He’s an omnipotent, omniscient, Superhero who’ll solve all our problems if we just remain sufficiently servile.

For me, that presents a problem. It requires ‘God’ to have an enormous ego, and surely, the whole point of ‘God’ is that He’s ego-less? On the other hand, if ‘God’ is nothing more than a huge ego, and has nothing else to give us, it could explain a great deal.

For instance, have you noticed that all the wars in the world are started by egos? Never has a conflict arisen without an ego at the head of it. Nero, Charlemagne, Hitler, Pol Pot – all the famous names, on down through the ranks of petty tyrannical rogues to Ceausescu and George W Bush – have been driven by ego.

It begs the question: were all those egos pumped up by God’s superego? You know, rather like balloons filled from a pressurized gas tank?

Personally, I don’t believe so. But then, I don’t believe in the conventional human ideal of God. Strikingly, the human concept of God adheres closely to humanity’s view of its own individual self. God made in the image of man, rather than vice versa.

It makes more sense. If we invent a nebulous being in the image of ourselves, we can conveniently dump all our responsibilities onto it, and providing we keep it fed with our own servility, it allows us to go about our consumer-ridden, materialistic, lives secure in the knowledge that God will – eventually – take care of everything, so we don’t have to worry.

Among those dumped responsibilities we can count honesty, integrity, honor, justice, and respect for our fellow man. After all, it may not make for a better world, but it’s a much more convenient one.

Now, if you’ll forgive me, I have to dash. I’m off to Wal-Mart to purchase the latest flat screen TV – before all those religious freaks get down there after church on Sunday.

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