Monday, December 17, 2012

For the countless victims

We live in a country that glorifies guns and gun ownership. We see people go to rallies with guns. We see people touting about what guns they own and post pictures of their amazing guns on facebook. We see people taking pictures of their babies with guns. And then we see incidents like what happened last week and we never ask the right questions. We never look to help the mentally ill before it's too late. And of course we never want to regulate guns. Our answer is always more guns. If more people had guns we could stop these when they happen. Why not stop these tragedies before they happen? And before you go on about your only argument that criminals will still have guns because they don't obey laws go research European and Australian gun crimes and compare them to that of America.

I have heard the arguments; if the teacher would have had a gun.... If another teacher would have had a gun.... Would that really stop these people? Do you really think someone could react fast enough before they killed a few people with a fully automatic assault rifle? Could another teacher or policeman in the school get to the room fast enough before he had killed 2, 5, or 10 people? How many people died in the Trolley Square shooting before the man with the concealed weapon was able to take him down? 6 people to be exact and he was an off duty cop. These gun massacres are becoming all too common. We get so upset about them for about two weeks and then we forget. We go on about our lives and we don't think about it again until the next one. How many more innocent people and children are going to lose their lives before we really start to make a change and do something about this epidemic?

The first step to look at is helping those with mental illnesses. 80% of these massacres are done by people who are in one way or another mentally ill. We treat mental illnesses like they don't exist. We treat them like they are going away and that these people are just using this an excuse to get away with crimes. In the recent past we have cut funding for this part of the population drastically. My sister works in psych wards in hospitals and has first hand seen these cuts. People that aren't "sick enough" are being let out because there is not enough funding. People return several times to the hospitals because they can't afford their meds. They get them while at the hospital, then they are released because they are functioning again and then go right back because they cannot afford their medications and lose their jobs and life. Why isn't this the first step? If we are so worried about these "psychos on the streets" why aren't we making it so they can have the medical care and attention they need? Why are they always pushed under the rug and forgotten and then only remembered when these massacres happen?

The second step is gun regulations. Now I know I am going to get a lot of flak for this one, but I don't care. I'm not calling for people to take your guns away. Guns need to be regulated more. The sale of ammunition needs to be regulated, period. (Again if you think regulations don't work look at Europe and Australia gun crimes.) You scream and yell that is infringing on your rights to have a gun, but you don't get upset when your car is taxed, licensed, and inspected on a yearly basis. You don't get all up in arms when you go to the pharmacy and they regulate how much sudafed you can buy. You don't get mad when you are put in a database when they think you buy too much fertilizer. So why not with guns and ammunition?

Every gun should be registered and licensed. If it isn't and you are caught with one, you should be fined and your gun should be confiscated. If you purchase so much ammunition it should be controlled and checked. People with mental illness should not have access to purchase guns, period. What scares me most, at least here in Utah, is that you can go to a gun show and purchase a hand gun without a background check. I can go to right now and buy a gun from a private seller and there will be no questions asked as long as I have the money. No one should be able to buy a gun without a proper background check and mental stability test.

Until we look at the real issues that cause these massacres and tragedies, nothing will change. Throwing out more guns will not fix the problem it will only make things worse. Until we get people the help they need and regulate, not ban, guns and ammunition these tragedies will continue. How many innocent people will lose their lives before we all start to care?

Please contact your local politicians and leaders and let them know this needs to end. That we all need to take a stand. Not just for you and me, but for everyone; and mostly for those who have lost a loved one from these tragedies. Don't just post your feelings on facebook or twitter. Take a stand with me. Each step forward brings progress and as more people speak out and act changes will take place.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The untapped minority

I know you are all sick of politics and voting by now, and I know I am late in publishing this post, but my thoughts hadn't fully developed on the subject until now.

What is the untapped minority you may ask? The non-religious of course. We come from all backgrounds, classes, and ethnicities. Several studies have shown that if you include atheists, agnostics, and humanists we total to 16-17% of the population and we are continually growing. As more and more of us are getting stronger and getting support from others we are able to stand strong against the opposition. And the opposition fears us. They don't know how to combat us. They don't know how to keep their faithful. The youth of today are leaving religion left and right, especially Christian religions; and their leaders are frantically trying to hold on to them.

So why has no one stepped in to tap this minority? Are people still afraid of the religious right? If anything we should be stronger. Yes they still have a good control of the South, but not so much across the rest of the US. Our recent election proved that to be the case. In light of all the voter suppression caused by the right and all the fear mongering of the religious we stepped forth to vote for equality and healthcare for all. We now have an open lesbian senator in the state of Wisconsin. Minnesota voted down the ban on marriage equality; which by the way is the lovely state where Michele Bachmann resides. People are out there taking a stand.

I cannot wait for the day when we have atheists and agnostics and humanists running regularly for office. We won't restrict your right to worship as you please. Church will still be legal; it just won't be legal for you to force your religious views on others. The laws and constitution are set up to protect rights and freedoms for all, not just the Christians. Just like you don't want the Koran or The Torah making your laws, we don't need the bible making any laws either. There will be a day when a Senator or House Representative can run as such and not have to fear of backlash. Because one day whoever takes on such a role, will have the support. We're not afraid anymore. Our numbers are growing and we will make a stand we just need a few good leaders in the right states at the right time.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Morality comes from God

I have heard this so many times from the Christians: you can't be good without God. And if you don't have God in your life you will become a whoring alcoholic murdering rapist because life doesn't matter; that without the almighty God you are lost. When in fact I see it completely different.

Living in fear of going to hell is not living a moral life. You are doing something because you are afraid of not receiving the reward you get for living a "good" life. You give money to a church because you are commanded to. You aid others because God commanded you to. You help the poor because God commanded you to. You help the sick because God commanded you to. But in all reality how many of the faithful do this? Look at the wars on social causes, welfare for the poor, health care for the uninsured; and the ones most fighting this are those that fall to the right and a lot of the right are very religious.

Take Mitt Romney for example. He is running for president. Has millions of dollars. Has horses worth millions. Ran Bain Capital which bought companies and "fixed" them and then sold them for a profit. Most of these companies ended up laying off most of their work force and shipping the jobs over seas. He is fighting the universal health care act. He is for cutting welfare programs and giving more money to corporations. Yet he is a practicing Christian. Claims to be working for the average person.

He probably does go to Church regularly and pays his tithing regularly, as his taxes show, but just by doing that does that make him a good Christian? If God existed would he care that he gets tax breaks worth more than my annual income just for his horses? In fact he/she/it would care: Matthew 19:24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

Real morality comes from doing things because they are the right thing. Helping the less fortunate is just good human nature. Helping the sick is good human nature. Just because I believe once this life is over there is nothing left does not mean I am going to be an alcoholic murdering rapist. I am going to make this life better to cherish the moments I have with those around me. I am going to make the world a better place for those that follow me. I am going to be a legacy for those around me to carry on what I have done in my life. I am making that choice because I have morals not because I am commanded to.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

I am part of a family.

Tonight as I was lying in bed with my fiancee I was pouring out my feelings about my family and how most of my life I felt I was alone. I felt I had no one to turn to, that I had no where to go. Yes, I had my older sister who was always a phone call away as she had moved out of state during my teens, but I didn't really have anyone else in the family. I didn't have anyone close I could run to, cry with, or hold until the pain went away.

There were times I felt I could just disappear and they wouldn't notice or care and there actually were those times. One particular time while living at home shortly after mission while I was struggling to figure out who I was I didn't leave my room for 6 months other than to go to work. I never went out with friends. I never went out to find new restaurants. I just worked and slept. I was even to the point where I was only buying food I didn't have to refrigerate or heat up so I didn't have to interact with my family. And they left me alone as if I didn't exist. They never tried to talk to me. They never asked me how I was doing. I was left to my own demise. And that is when I knew I had to get out. I was utterly alone and no one cared. The ones that should have cared the most showed the least affection.

I was talking about this and many other situations with my fiancee as we laid in bed and I let out my emotions. I talked about how I felt like I haven't really had a family. How when I lived at home I felt more like an orphan than a son, unless I was doing what they thought was best for me. At those times the praise never stopped, but once I became me I was despised. I was cast aside as if I was a disease and I was killing them and they had to eradicate me from the house.

I think back of all things I did for them to try and gain their praise and love, but how it hurt me more inside to be something I wasn't rather than be me, but I did it to not be alone. The feeling of being alone is one of the worst. So with each new friend I would build courage. I would branch out. I would slowly become me. Certain friends helped me more than others until one day I was strong enough to finally say enough is enough and truly be me, but it was still hard not having a family. Families are supposed to be always there for you no matter what. Families don't live by ultimatums or conditions and this is why I felt I didn't truly have a family until now.

As I held my fiancee she told me that I have a family now. And I truly believe that. In the short 14 months since I first met them I have never once felt like an outsider. They took me with open arms and open hearts. They didn't care that I was an atheist. They didn't care where I had come from and what my past experiences were. They did like that I was a liberal and open about that; according to my fiancee it wouldn't have worked with her family is I was a gun-toting conservative, since that was pretty much the only deal breaker for her parents. And all but one of the six dogs have accepted me as a play mate. Can't say much for Wookie, maybe he'll warm up to me one day.

I feel I can share my experiences and my stories with them and they genuinely care. I can show up at their house after a bad day and they would take me in and listen and talk and guffaw with me over the jokes and mishaps of the day, week, month...

For once in my life I feel like I am truly part of a real family. One that doesn't judge me or hold ultimatums over my head for what I believe, but one that just loves me for who I am.

This goes out to my new family, The Crivellos

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Grieving Atheist

A little over a week ago I lost my grandfather. He was a kind and amazing man. It has been hard, as it is with anyone with death, but I wouldn't say it's harder for me than a believer. Over the past week I have had many people come to me with advice thinking it would "help" me. I have also had a lot of people coming to me thinking that through this loss I will turn back to God and they try to give me advice to help guide me back to God.

To me personally I don't see how believing in an afterlife is going to help you get over a loss. It doesn't take away the pain. To me it is just a pacifier for adults. We are meant to show our emotions and through showing them we become stronger, not suppressing them because some guy in the sky promises that you will see him again. It angers me how in religion there is only one emotion: happiness. I don't see how by believing in a God that everything is ok. It doesn't take away the pain you feel. It doesn't just lift your sorrow away. It is a way of not having to deal with the pain and the reality of death.

I don't believe in any afterlife. I don't believe that I will ever see my grandfather again, but I believe he lives on through me and others. Through the people he touched and changed for the better. I believe through showing our grief we are showing our true respect for the dear friend or relative that we have lost. That is what I see when I think back on my grandfather. Just because I will never see him again does mean that I can't celebrate him. I believe in celebrating their lives and having true grief we are glorifying those we lose. We are turning them into the legends they were. They do not have to be forgotten or put on a shelf for later. They were there to inspire us and that is what my grandfather did for me.

He taught me to see the good in people. He taught me not to judge others just because of what religion they are a part or what color of skin they have. He taught me to look into people's hearts and look at their true selves before deciding on what that person is like. He taught me hard work. He taught me how to laugh and joke. He taught me how to help others. He taught me to give of myself. He taught me how to have a good time. He taught me how to love. These are the things I will pass on of my grandfather. These are the ways he will live through me. I will become my own legend to others as Louis Pete LeDuc was to those that he touched in his life.

We can eventually be happy and makes things better, but the way to do so is through our memories of those who have passed away. Live your life better through the good things you learned from those that have touched your life.

You made me a better man, Grandpa LeDuc. I will continue your legacy.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tribute to a Hero

Louis Pete LeDuc may not have been famous in the world. He may not have been a hero to many, but to the lives he touched he was more than a hero. His type of hero came in many names: soldier, father, son, brother, uncle, and grandfather. Which in my opinion are some of the highest honors one can have.

He was kind and gentle. He always had a smile on his face. He never turned down a chance to be with family. These are things I remember from visiting his home. It was always warm and inviting. The bowl of candy was never empty and neither were our pockets. He would always remind us to "fill our pockets!" Followed shortly by grandma yelling at us to "only take one!" Which always brought a smirk of mischief to his face and very low chuckle so that grandma could not hear or see it, but he always made sure we could see it so we knew that we really could "fill our pockets." I am always reminded by my fiance that I get my boyish attributes from my grandpa and that by meeting him she understands why I tease so much.

As kids, as all kids do, we annoyed grandma with our incessant running around or making the dog go crazy with our antics and that's when grandpa stepped in. He knew exactly how to handle us. He knew what to do to keep us busy. I think that comes from the fact that he never lost his boyish attitude about life. He was always laid back. He was the type to always take things easy. Now that doesn't mean he wasn't a hard worker, because he worked harder than most people I know. But he knew how to enjoy life at the same time.

During the summer he would take us out to his garden. Which was huge. It had all sorts of vegetables and fruits. From green peppers to tomatoes to cantaloupe to lemon cucumbers. He would teach us how to properly pick them and how to tell when they were ripe. After this he would bring us inside and serve us the delicious fruits and vegetables that he had toiled over all summer. He taught us that through the work of caring for the garden properly you can have a bounteous harvest of the best produce money can't buy, but what is purchased through hard work and sweat.

A few times after a hard afternoon of work in the garden he would take us to the movies. One such occasion sticks in my memory from when I was about five years old and he took me and my sister to Oliver and Company. Before the movie he took us to the candy store. He let us have free reign on whatever we wanted. I remember going up to him with a bag half full of candy and he told me, "now are you sure that is all you want? You're not with mom and dad you're with grandpa! Get enough to fill your pockets." I ran away excited. Other than on the holidays I had never had so much candy in one day. It was like Halloween or Christmas all over again. He then took us to the movie and bought us soda and popcorn! What a treat! I couldn't believe it and of course when we back to his house all hyped on sugar grandma was in a fit and he just smiled with that boyish grin back at her.

As the years went on we started to do more grown up things together. We would watch football together. He was probably one of the biggest BYU fans there was. (I'm sure it killed him a little inside that I was a Utes fan.) He taught me how to correctly tie a fish hook to a line and properly bait a hook; as I was starting to fish I had these questions. And he told me about how he served in World War II.

His stories were compelling. Him going on the B-24 Liberators as the top turret gunner. The danger and peril he faced every day. Kicking the bombs out if they were stuck because he was the closest to the bombing bay in the plane. Fearing for his life while having to take down others as they came at him. He said he always felt bad for having to kill people, but knew he had to do it to rid the world of the evil he was facing and fighting for freedom.

While I was living in France I was able to speak with a lot of the older people; who remembered the war. They thanked me as an American for what we had done for their freedom. I told them, "I will tell my grandfather thank you for you. He served in the great war and risked his life for you. He will appreciate this." We would always stand shaking each others hands in tears for the sincere thanks they gave him through me.

I will always remember the day I came home and told him personally of the many people that thanked me for what he did and how I told them I would tell him personally. We both started to cry. He knew people appreciated him, but he was probably never told by many that were as sincere as the people I had come in contact with.

But the one thing I will miss most about my Grandfather was his support for me. He never wavered. He didn't care about my religious beliefs. He never once made me feel that he felt any different about me in any way. He only cared about who I was inside. To him all that mattered was that you were a good person inside and he knew religion did not dictate that. He always told me to follow my dreams, to not give up, and to do what I knew was best for me in my heart. In many ways he was one of the most supportive people in my life.

This goes out to you Grandpa LeDuc. You will be missed, always loved, and never forgotten...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

State of Deseret, Land of Theocracy

So just a little bit of history of where the State of Deseret comes from. Way back in the 1800s when the Mormons settled the now state of Utah, they originally wanted to name it the State of Deseret. There is even a hymn about it (I apologize for the version, it was the only one I could find):

They proposed the state name and applied for statehood and were rejected several times before finally succeeding in 1896. So as I mention State of Deseret remember I am just referring to what the Mormons would want the state to be called.

Today's blog stems from an article I read today in the Salt Lake Tribune. Would LDS Church Influence Romney if President? If you care to read the article here it is:

I thought about this awhile and came to the conclusion I believe the faith would influence Romney quite heavily. In the article several times it quotes Romney saying he wouldn't let the leaders of his faith sway him in any way, but then why does he want to completely get rid of gay rights? Why does he want to make it so no more people that are LGBT have their human rights taken away from them? When you think about it he did say he didn't like that he allowed pro-choice and gay civil marriages in the state of Massachusetts while he was governor for four years, because he said:

“I believe that in our state allowing the sale of alcohol on Sunday is good for the consumer and therefore I didn’t oppose it. That isn’t saying that I disagree with my church. I simply did what I thought was in the best interest of the state, which I was elected to serve.”

But that brings up another point. If he was so interested in the common will of the state of Massachusetts why is it that he is now opposed now to what the majority wants? I understand that the majority of Republicans are against women's rights and equal rights, but the national majority wants both. So why fight against it so hard? They will be left on the wrong side of history just as they were with the Women's Suffrage and Civil Rights. Which brings me back to Utah. Are our politicians really doing what the majority of the State wants? I flat out declare: NO! Not by a long shot.

Now I hear the naysayers saying this is a Mormon State, but is it really anymore? I have read several articles and seen several polls where the percentage of Mormon in the State of Deseret ranges anywhere from 53% at the lowest to 58% at the highest. Now you say there, the majority is Mormon, but I still say no it's not. I would put it more around 40% at the highest of people who are actually Mormon and go to Church 75% of the time. It would drop even lower if you only counted the staunch Mormons that go to Church every week and regularly attend the temple. Technically I am still counted in the overall Mormon percentage because I have yet to remove my name from the church records (another story for another time).

When you think of all the inactive Mormons, Jack Mormons and less active Mormons in the state do our politicians really speak for the majority? Again I say no. I am fed up, as are all the others just like me living in this state having to be controlled by a complete theocracy. Too many times I have read news articles where politicians have blatantly admitted that they were waiting for the Faith's stance on a certain law before they say whether or not they want to back it.

I am always speaking what I have to say. I write my politicians on a regular basis and I am on The Salt Lake Tribune weekly voicing my comments as LeDuc64. But alas it is to no avail. Yes we do have some democrats out there, few and far between. We do have some that really listen to the majority, John Huntsman (one of the few Mormons that doesn't really listen to the theocracy). He is responsible for changing our liquor laws so we don't have private bars anymore. Unfortunately Waddoups is trying to destroy that yet again.

So I say to these Mormons where is Agency? Where is Jesus in your politics? Did Jesus really care? Did he have anything to say? Well he did actually Mark 12:17 "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God." The Mormons preach day and night about agency, but they don't follow it. They want to control everything they can. Which is taught to be Satan's plan.

I ask the politicians of Utah: Who are you following, Satan or Jesus?