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Here’s a quote from Michael Kazin’s book “A Godly Hero” for you to ponder.

“There are two types of government…”

“There are those who believe that, if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, their prosperity will leak through on those below.

The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon them.”

William Jennings Bryan — 1896

The basic choice hasn’t changed in over 100 years. All you have to decide is which you would like to see prosper — only the “well-to-do” or the “masses” along with the “well-to-do”. There will always be those that get rich. Greed will see to that. The real question is whether or not the masses will prosper– whether or not we will have a middle class in America.

Don Brown — Chairman
The Democratic Party of Pike County

I believe in the concept of the Separation of Church and State. Thomas Jefferson popularized the phrase and discussed the wall of “separation of church and state” in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut in 1802. Jefferson was there to address the congregation’s concerns that the rumors of the nation’s religion was to be Congregationalist. He assured them that it was not and that no denominations or religions could be appointed to the people by the government. When I hear of the “separation of church and state,” I believe that it is a good thing. Our first amendment ensures us that religion cannot be forced upon the people by the state. In this multi-layered amendment, it also addresses the right of the people to worship freely.

In the case of prayer in school, I believe that one should be able to pray or congregate as they see fit on school grounds as long as the time is appropriate, i.e. clubs or before or after school. If a student reading the Bible in the classroom was neglecting instruction for his math assignments, but was instead focusing on his devotional, I believe the teacher has every right to tell the student to refrain from her activity. I remember being a part of a prayer club in high school. It has been nineteen years since I’ve been in public education. My mother is a teacher and to my knowledge her school still has a similar extracurricular prayer club. When my father was in education, he even participated in a morning-prayer service on school property before classes began. The teachers gathered to pray daily for guidance in teaching the middle school and thank God for all of their many blessings. I constantly hear that prayer has been taken out of school. If this is reference to prayer led by public school teachers whose salaries are paid for by the government, then it doesn’t bother me that it has been taken out of the schools. Dad’s participation in morning prayers was voluntary. If he had been leading his students in a prayer during class it would have been considered improper.

When she was six, my mom was harassed by her first grade teacher. Every Monday, Miss Mary Clark would ask which student attended Sunday school the day before. Mom’s family rarely visited church and when it was brought to the teacher’s attention by a show of hands that she hadn’t gone, Miss Mary Clark made my mother and one other student stand in front of the class. The teacher would then chastise them publicly for not going. She then went so far as to tell them that they were both going to hell. Weeks later, Mom reluctantly told her father about her embarrassment at school. My grandfather called the teacher and told her to never do this again and that if she truly cared so much about little Janie’s salvation, that she had permission to pick her up every Sunday and take her to church. Miss Clark never extended the offer to Mom and she never questioned the student’s Sunday school attendance in class again.

Until 1961, prayer in school was mandatory. As a ruling of the Supreme Court it was finally outlawed. Billboards line the highways and interstates as if they were memos from God stating, “Please put me back in the schools”— God. I chuckle at these. It is sincerely doubtful to me that our problems in education and our problems in the world stem from this 1961 law.

I’ve heard many times that we began as a “Christian Nation” and that Christianity was the religion of our founding fathers. Many of our founding fathers (including the original George W., John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin) were intelligent individuals and many of our founding fathers were far more outspoken of their non-centered beliefs than that of our modern politicians who have all claimed Christianity in an outspoken way since Jimmy Carter said that he was “born-again.”

George Washington was a spiritual man who believed in God, but had his issues with Christianity. He could not be categorized as a deist because he believed God actually intervened militarily. He was accepting though of other beliefs. He even appointed John Murray, a Universalist, to Army Chaplain. Washington did this knowing that Murray dismissed the concept of hell. Washington proclaimed the role of religion in his farewell address, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports”.

When dealing with the Barbary Coast Muselmen (Moorish Muslims), John Adams (during his administration) ratified the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, which states in Article XI that “the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion”. Adams, was a Unitarian who rejected many doctrines of Christianity, but like Franklin, believed that religion was key to guiding the people morally.

Thomas Jefferson, the most famous of the deists, rewrote Jesus’ story in what is appropriately known as The Jeffersonian Bible. He omitted the miracles and only translated up to Jesus’ burial. He also believed that Jesus’ moral lessons were exemplary.

Let us not forget Ben Franklin. Ben Franklin believed in a providential God, but doubted the divinity of Jesus. He donated money to all denominations that asked for contributions, claiming that religion promoted morality.

These four, who many think of as our most influential founding fathers, by all means believed in God, but by many of today’s standards would not be considered Christians. I’m not trying to draw a conclusion that our Founding Father’s church education did not influence them in their personal involvement in the creation of a new country’s law, but they were wise enough not to intertwine the two directly. When many today claim that these men did not have to put the words “God” or “Christianity” in our law because it was an assumption that most were Christians leaves little credit to them.

It is obvious that “God” is in our government. “Under God” was added to the pledge of Allegiance in the mid 50s to distinguish our nation from Communist one’s which were mostly considered atheist. Of course, “In God We Trust” was already on our coins due to the rising religious sentiment during the Civil War. Do these things bother me? Of course not, but it also does not bother me when there is a prospect of them being taken away. The word “God” on money or in a pledge, whether it is there or not does not effect my personal faith. I find that these issues are really more about drawing lines and rallying a political base than actually about faith or religion.

The majority of the people in America, including our politicians, can be categorized as some denomination of Christian. Considering that the populace is made up of Christians, it goes without saying that as a majority we are and have been a “Nation of Christians,” but I do not feel comfortable calling the United States a “Christian Nation.” Not until we affect Jesus’ teaching in community living, after we feed the world’s poor and care for our elderly and after we put away our armaments, then I will feel that the title will be more befitting. As a nation, no matter who is at the head, I do not feel that we could collectively act as Christ would. I also feel that is dangerous to consider other nations non-Christian. This only displays our arrogance when we name those who we believe are inferior.

As far as offending others with our displays, we have always offended. There has never been a time when we could worship or display our religion without the fear of alienating or offending. For example (I think this works well in the South), If a Catholic school teacher led the class in a ceremony or invocation that seemed to idolize Mother Mary, might someone whose parents were fundamental Baptists and not Catholic take issue with this. Whose Christianity would be correct? Is it fair to make Jewish, Muslim or Atheist children sit through a Christian prayer at a football game that is on school grounds during a school function?

I believe religion in its simplest terms is a relationship between God and one’s self. Government cannot dictate this whether it is a law or not, but to allow the expression of faith to appear sanctioned and endorsed by the state will only guarantee civil strife.

I awoke to the sound of yet another garbage truck going by my window before dawn. I believe there are at least three trucks from three different companies that serve my neighborhood. Besides the question of disturbing my peace (repeatedly), I wondered if this really was “a better way”.

I’m old enough to remember when the government picked up the garbage. At least in the cities. Back then it was called the sanitation department. That was back when people still remembered open garbage dumps and how unsanitary it was to let people pile up garbage willy-nilly. It was a public health issue. And the public, i.e. the government, came up with a solution to the problem. But somewhere along the way we convinced ourselves private companies could do a better job of it all. We let ourselves believe the bean counters when they said it would be cheaper.

It was cheaper. In every negative sense of the word. We cheapened the people doing the job. Instead of a city employee with a good job — decent pay, benefits and a retirement — we got people without any of those things.

It was cheaper for me — the customer. But I’m not just a customer. We think that word is so important now: Customer. We used to think a different word was a lot more important: Citizen.

What’s “cheap” for me the customer turns out to be really expensive for me the citizen. Three times as much noise and pollution. Three times as much wear and tear on our roads that citizens (also known as taxpayers) have to pay to repair. That’s what the bean counters would have us focus on. That is how seductive their language is. But the real cost to us — to our society — is to our fellow citizens.

Instead of good jobs, we’ve created bad ones. We don’t want to pay the taxes (or prices) that pay the good wages, benefits and retirements. So private companies took on the job of taking our good jobs away. Instead of paying taxes for good jobs, we now pay the taxes for bad jobs — welfare for the working poor, indigent healthcare for those without insurance and Social Security now masquerades as a retirement plan for those that have none.

Don’t tell yourself that Pike County isn’t doing these things also. It is. The school board contracted out the janitorial staff. At last week’s meeting the County Commission heard a proposal to outsource the building code office. We’ve been furloughing teachers since the Great Recession began.

If you want America to be great again, take a good look at the person in the mirror tomorrow morning and realize that you can change all this. You can tell your government to treat your employees well. You can tell the business owners where you shop the same thing. You can tell the people to whom you give your money to treat employees as you wish to be treated. If you want a decent wage, health insurance and a retirement plan — insist that your government provide them to those that you employ with your hard-earned money.

Yes, it will cost you a few extra dollars every year. But we’ve tried being cheap for 30 years and it has turned out to be really, really expensive. Americans lost $16 trillion and and at least five years to the Great Recession. That’s a lot more than any tax increase anybody has ever contemplated. It’s time to stop being penny wise and pound foolish.

Don Brown — Chairman
The Democratic Party of Pike County
March 12, 2013

One of the best things that has happened to me since I became the Democratic Chairman here in Pike County is meeting Sam Mitchell. You’re looking at a product of Sam’s work, right this moment. He is the one that has totally redesigned our web site.

You see, Sam is a artist. And he’s a Democrat. (Those two things seem to go hand-in-hand don’t they?) Sam is actually from the county next door. Believe it or not, we get that a lot here in Pike County. Democrats from other counties are finding out about us faster than they are finding their own county parties. We will steer Sam (and perhaps you) to his own county party but we sure are grateful for his help. He is a welcomed addition to our regular meetings. You would be too — whether or not you live in Pike County.

We’re excited that people are taking notice of the Democratic Party of Pike County and I’m sure that Sam’s efforts will accelerate that trend. If you’re looking for a way to make a difference, a way to connect with other Democrats in the State or just a chance to hear and be heard by like-minded people — come join us. We’re the Democratic Party of Pike County and we’d love to hear from you. Sam has made that real easy for you to do. Facebook, Twitter, this blog,…we even have a Flickr account now.

If you don’t know what any of that means, don’t worry. Just look at the top right of the page and click on “Contact”. That will give you a form to email us or even show you the address where you can send us a good old-fashioned letter in the mail. You see, we have members that don’t even own a computer (and don’t want to own one.) Remember, we’re the Party of inclusion, not exclusion. If you want to participate in the political process, you will be welcomed here. Even if you’re a recovering Republican.

Our next meeting will be on Thursday, March 14th, at 7PM. We’ll be in the back room at “A Novel Experience“, on the courthouse square in Zebulon, just like always. We hope you’ll join us. If you do, be sure to say “Thanks Sam“.

Don Brown — Chairman
The Democratic Party of Pike County
February 19, 2013

I was listening to a Science Friday podcast the other morning and a piece of the conversation buried within just won’t leave me alone. The following is from John Ashton, the former Special Representative for Climate Change from the United Kingdom.

But I don’t want you to get bogged down in all that. I want you to read and ponder this portion of what was said. The portion of the transcript below has been edited and emphasized for my purposes.

“ASHTON: … sort of big point, Ira? I mean, again, as a sort of friend of America, if you like, for me, everything that has been wonderful about America in recent generations has come from the notion that we can use reason and science to understand the human condition and to improve it. In other words, America had, for a long time, a political system which, I suppose you could call reality-based system. Let’s understand reality. Let’s use science to understand reality and improve reality. And, indeed, that’s the legacy of the Enlightenment.

We have that in Europe as well, and it’s something which, in some of the other emerging economies, is now coming into place. I… my impression is that that is coming under more strain in this country than it’s come under for a very long time, because there are people who say, actually, you know, building upon reality is not the only way to make the choices that we face. And that fills me with alarm, because I think it means that the only way to come out in the right place on climate change in America is to win that deeper struggle, which, in the…is really not a political struggle. It’s a cultural struggle. And that means that the forces of the Enlightenment have to rally around and defend the reality-based approach to making the choices that we face.”

In case you haven’t brushed up on the Enlightenment lately, here’s a link for you.

Age of Enlightenment

“The Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment or Age of Reason) was a cultural movement of intellectuals in the 17th and 18th centuries, which began first in Europe and later in the American colonies. Its purpose was to reform society using reason, challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith, and advance knowledge through the scientific method. It promoted science, skepticism and intellectual interchange and opposed superstition, intolerance and some abuses by church and state.”

The U.S. Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights are considered products of the Enlightenment.

With this background in mind, I think you should read today’s column from Paul Krugman.

“Still, the desire to perpetuate ignorance on matters medical is nothing compared with the desire to kill climate research, where Mr. Cantor’s colleagues — particularly, as it happens, in his home state of Virginia — have engaged in furious witch hunts against scientists who find evidence they don’t like. True, the state has finally agreed to study the growing risk of coastal flooding; Norfolk is among the American cities most vulnerable to climate change. But Republicans in the State Legislature have specifically prohibited the use of the words “sea-level rise.””

The choice is simple; do you want public policy formed using reason, evidence and facts or do you want it to be “faith based”? Do you want our laws based on what we understand is the truth or do you want us to ignore “an inconvenient truth”?  This decision goes beyond, “Obamacare” or “Global Warming” or any other slogan, slur or slight. It touches everything. It defines us as a people; as a nation.

If you choose facts — if you choose reality — we want you to join us. We are the Democratic Party of Pike County.

Don Brown — Chairman
The Democratic Party of Pike County
February 11, 2013