Book attempts to bridge peace between Atheists and Believers

For many people in the USA, when they ask you, “Do you believe in God?”,  saying “No” means that you’re an atheist, and saying “yes” means that you are a “Christian”, or so is the assumption.  However, according to many polls, nearly 30% of people living within the United States claim to have no affiliation with a particular religion.

Can you really believe in a God without belonging to a single religion? In the age of science, is there any modern experiments that hint towards a possible creator or God? Currently, the idea of Atheism is spreading like wild-fire. Many European countries poll at 50% rates or higher of national atheism. With science becoming more prominent and social values becoming more liberal, people are leaving religious institutions in waves.

I grew up as a Christian, yet was adopted by a Cambodian community who introduced me to Buddhism. Later at my first professional job working with Dell Computers, the bulk of my co-workers were Islamic former refugees. Throughout my life experiences, I have gotten the chance to explore many cultures and religions.  From these experiences, I have decided to write a book titled, “A Truce between God and Atheism.” This book explored modern and ancient discoveries that may hint towards a shapeless God that cannot be bound by religion. Yet, at the end of the day, we must all respect the possibilities of there being no God, many gods, or a single God.

This publication tips many sacred cows. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, no one is safe from criticism! After reading this book, regardless of your beliefs towards God, you are sure to question yourself and become a more open minded person!

The book can be purchased here.

(click here)  

It’s time we stop bullying our Veterans and LEOs

 

When it comes to veterans in our nation, there appears to be one of two attitudes held towards their presence.

  1. “We love our Veterans! We support them no matter what! “
  2. “Veterans are just tools of a war machine who deserve what they get!”

While many conservatives will never criticize the military or police no matter what, other political ideologies such as liberals, libertarians, or anarchists, will sometimes spit on the service of veterans by calling them, “tools of the government”, and other derogatory terms, — The truth is somewhere in the middle, as is in most cases of “This Vs That” issues.

Yes, there have been servicemen  and police who have acted inappropriately in their service.  The Mahmudiyah rape and killings involved the gang-rape and killing of 14-year-old Iraqi girl Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi and the murder of her family by United States Army soldiers on March 12, 2006.  In other cases, many Vietnam veterans have admitted that they killed Vietcong soldiers and wore pieces of their body parts as trophies.  And yes, it is true that many military conflicts are fought on bad intelligence or for malicious profit or gain.

However, there are also many accounts of soldiers who disobeyed orders that went against their conscious and/or later spoke out against things in their service they disagreed with. Soldiers are not mindless drones! They are usually very intelligent people.

A good example is Major General Smedley Butler, America’s most decorated marine in modern military history, who wrote the book, “War is A Racket”, which exposed the corrupt money-making schemes involved in overseas wars. Smedley, emphasized that soldiers should only be made to protect their country, not to police the world or fight on behalf of money hungry politicians.  Very brave and intellectual statements indeed!

Many liberal leaning people, often criticize our servicemen as being mindless robots for the US military, but this couldn’t be farthest from the truth. Every person who wants to serve our country is required to take an oath to the US constitution, a legal instruments that formed the foundation of our modern legal system to which the average American cannot even recite.  When our nation is threatened with an outside attack or an internal attack of gigantic proportions, the military is deployed to handle the crisis. These men and women spend their careers honing their combat, administrative, legal, and survival skills in order to protect those in their community.

While I agree that it is the duty of Americans to arm themselves and take part in the protection of their communities, our servicemen devote 100% of their time towards this effort, thus, they are experts in this field. Because we have a military, we can walk through the streets, fly through the air on our airplanes, and travel the world, knowing that there is a military force that is trained and ready to protect us from invaders.

People join the military for all kinds of reason. Sometimes those reasons are selfish other times they are purely out of duty and love for one’s country. Regardless of the reason, the soldier enlisted is employed to serve a primary duty of protecting his/her people. This rings true in all armies around the world. Without a military, in the event of an invasion, poorly trained citizens would have to band together with limited supplies to combat such a threat. While not totally impossible, the consequences would be disastrous, most likely leading towards the breakdown of their society.

When soldiers are sent off to fight and die in conflicts that appear to have little to do with our national security, please do not criticize the soldier. Criticize the policy maker who ordered their deployment! Criticize the commander in chief if you wish, criticize your state’s governor if you wish, criticize our lack of spirituality if you wish, but do not criticize the soldier.  Most soldiers that I know who are stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan want to come home, many agree that the wars have gone on far enough, they don’t want to participate in such actions.  Yet, when they are deployed and the bullets firing towards them from insurgents begin, they have no choice but to fight back, all because of a policy maker who decided that military action was necessary.

Servicemen can be seen as “tools of the government”, but only when “we the people” do not support them and speak out for them. In the 1960’s, many Americans were forced to deploy to Vietnam under Draft provisions. Anyone who refused to enter into the military under a draft order was sentenced to prison. These young men who were forced to kill, fight, and see their friends die, were spat on and ridiculed by the anti-war movement and were often called, “Baby killers”.  These men were forced to fight in an unpopular war under threat of law, yet were ridiculed for attempting to survive such a desperate situation.  These events were totally unfair towards our veterans.  This is why Vietnam Veteran Era soldiers have some of the highest incidents of PTSD.

Contrarily, because of strong opposition from the American public with displays of nearly constant protests regarding the Vietnam war, politicians felt the pressure and eventually brought home our troops after being in the area for 20 years.  Our troops now face a similar situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our troops have been there for 17 years . Despite early protests from the modern anti-war movement, in recent years, these wars have been mostly forgotten about by the public.

President Obama announced a supposed end to the Iraq war in 2011, yet to this date, there remains over 30,000 troops permanently stationed in the country whereas Afghanistan remains as active as ever in terms of conflict. These wars appear to have no end in sight.  But who is at fault? Our servicemen or our law makers?

Our servicemen have only a few things in mind when it comes to their service.

  1. I must protect my nation
  2. Protect my family
  3. survive

Politics are of little concern to soldiers. In fact, the “Uniform code of military justice”, a codified legal system governing enlisted soldier behavior, bars public criticism of the President and missions in order to protect moral during combat.  Perhaps every year, congress should take a vote from our soldiers who have boots on the ground, or make true congressional declarations of war; such reforms would be highly beneficial in my opinion. Regardless, there is still no merit in criticizing individual soldiers or police to the degree we have been.

Let’s say you work for Nike, Reebok, Toyota, Burger King, HCA, or any major corporation.  It is pretty safe to say that all of these corporations have probably committed some atrocious act at some point; Harming the environment, treating employees badly, using forced child labor, ect.  Because you work for a corporation that sells products using unethical means, does that mean that you yourself are evil? Probably not. You are probably just happy to have a job in order to feed your family or perhaps you really love the product but secretly wish that the company operated more fairly.

I think our soldiers and our law enforcement officers feel the same way. They are doing a JOB! A job that often includes things that they disagree with but must carry it out anyways. Occasionally, an employee may speak out or rebel, but he/she does so at risk of losing their job or even their life in some cases.  If we as a society want to reform a corporation, reform a military, or reform a government, being angry with the actions of the leaders of such an organization is a normal response. But to criticize those who carry out the functions of that organization are not always warranted and are often gray, murky, and situational.

If you truly support our Veterans or if you truly disapprove of the missions they are involved in, be a part of the solution instead of simply espousing hatred towards such an entity. Bring together your community, show solidarity, make it clearly known to policy makers how the public is feeling, boycott, get new laws passed or repealed and use diplomatic methods to reshape these institutions.

The best way to support our veterans, those who stand between us sleeping safely at night or being invaded by those who wish to do us harm, is to get involved in politics in order to prevent needless wars and to support those injured soldiers who return home from these wars.  Our servicemen and law enforcers, while not always behaving perfectly, are essential to preserving a free society. When these men and women who are trusted with keeping our lands relatively safe act out under bad leadership, we should seek to reform the system, hold individuals accountable, work aggressively towards preventative measures of a repeat incident.

While I agree that it is not healthy to worship servicemen and policemen as flawless gods, it is also not healthy to put all servicemen and policemen into the category of “corrupt”. Our servicemen and policemen are also individuals with their own opinions regarding war, politics, and society. They are serving as a collective yet still deserve to be treated as individuals. Just as it is not fair to stereotype a race or religion, it is also not fair to stereotype those who are employed in a certain profession, whether it be the lowly cashier or the badge wielding police officer.

Honor and dishonor exists in all areas of employment. Some employees will take pride in their jobs, seeking to obtain a leadership position in order to improve conditions for everyone, whereas others will do just the bare minimum because they just want survive and get by.  Unless you are living off the land living like the amish and making your own clothes by scratch, odds are, we are all somewhat guilty by association in terms of the things we buy, the places we work at, and/or the things we say to each-other.

No one is innocent. 

However, when it comes to the military, less than 1% of Americans serve.  It’s a job that is totally necessary yet less than 1% of our population is willing to do it. Some say our veterans do not deserve the benefits they get, while others say they deserve more.  I say, if its a necessary job that less than 1% of our population is willing to do, then I’d vote that they get MORE benefits.

If you hate the wars, if you hate the policies, if you hate the way things are run, start your own or seek to reform them. It is that simple! Criticism is necessary for a dialogue to occur, yet, eventually some action has to come next to create a solution. Some problems are never completely cured as problems often evolve or devolve. Regardless, someone has to care enough to do something about it and i’d bet every last cent I have that most soldiers have no desire to unnecessarily harm others, and most police officers don’t want to unnecessarily ruin people’s lives.   We must stop picking on the “foot soldies” and criticize those who are calling the shots, the law makers and the CEOs who make the final stamp on an order.

Just like in all systems or ideologies, it is the “bad apples” who give the harvest a bad name.  As a person who is interested in running for office someday as a congressman or senator, instead of bashing the actions of policemen and servicemen, I am more interested in talking to them on ways we as lawmakers can improve our system, make it more fair, make their jobs easier, and less stressful.

If we as a society are comfortable with criticizing policemen and our soldiers because of bad leadership, we should be consistent and also protest the lowly cashier who works at a fast-food restaurant which serves unhealthy food to our public.  As Jesus Christ once said,

“Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

or as a great rapper once said,

“Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”

 

  • Randell Stroud
  • 2018
  • Nalini-Global

The Importance of Cultural Immersion

Unlike most of my peers, I grew up in a very diverse environment. Being a Caucasian male, most people would view me as being a part of the “majority”. Alas, in my hometown of Nashville,Tn, I grew up in Inglewood, an area where Caucasians are the minority. My Wushu (Kung Fu) teacher was from Indonesia.  My best friends were from Cambodia and the kids at my lunch table who taught me how to unleash poetic rap verses were mostly African-American.

My mother and aunt were born in Germany. My girlfriend in tech-school was Chinese. My co-workers at my first professional job working with the Dell corporation were mainly Muslim refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt. One of my first boxing students was from India who frequently invited me to events at the Hindu temple he attended services at. Needless to say, being around different types of cultures doesn’t bother or make me feel uncomfortable,in fact, I thrive on it! The notion of , “Birds of the same feather, flock together”, isn’t unfounded.

If you grew up in Japan, you probably feel comfortable being around Japanese people. If your skin is white, and your family is white, you probably feel comfortable being around those who look the same as you or share some kind of cultural similarity. It isn’t racist or bigoted to feel comfortable around those who look and believe as you do and it isn’t bigoted to feel uncomfortable around those who look different or believe different as you do…although it does say something about our world-view and experiences. (or lack thereof)

If you are not privileged enough to live a life that allows you to travel the world or take vacations outside of your hometown, do not fret! There is a way to become cultured without having to fork over thousands of dollars for plane tickets, hotels, and passports. You could joint the Army (Pray that you don’t get sent to Iraq), Join the Peace-Corps (Can you commit to two years, do you have a BA degree?), go on a religious mission….. what if none of these appeal to you. There is one last resort.

Live vicariously through other people!

Is there a Mosque in your neighborhood? Go visit! Attend a service! Do you see a foreign co-worker who sits alone and eats his/her lunch? Talk to them, get to know them, perhaps they can teach you their language or invite you to meet their family. Are you a Christian? Well, most Koreans are too! Visit a Korean church service and get to know the Korean community in your neighborhood. But, how do we approach foreigners?

It can sometimes be awkward, but with the power of Google, we can overcome such awkwardness through the power of language! By simply learning a few phrases of another language, you can instantly bridge gaps between yourself and foreigners!

I remember working as an office manager for a huge retail chain whereas we frequently has foreign customers. One time an Egyptian man comes through and is very upset that his product failed him in such a short time. He was irate! I asked him to calm down, (which he did), after he got silent, I said, “Shukran” (which means “Thank you” in Arabic). He began to smile, and he said, “You know my language!?”, I responded, “Only a few words”, and I smiled back. The entire tone of the conversation switched from negative to positive. The customer left the store happy and we resolved the situation. Even if we cannot afford or have the opportunity to travel the world, we can live vicariously through the experiences of our foreign neighbors. My Christian friends often remind me of a Bible verse, “Leviticus 19:34” – which commands us to treat foreigners as if they were our own family.

     
 (Venerable Sokham and I during Khmai New Year)

 

Last month, I was invited to attend a New Years party at a Khmer Buddhist Temple. In the Cambodian tradition, the New Year falls in the month of April, not January, as they operate on a different calendar. During this party, I had some interesting conversations with the head monk who goes by the name, “Mr.Sokham” or “Venerable Sokham”. We discussed Khmer Horoscopes, Karma, and other things related to Cambodian cultural norms. Two weeks later, I found myself attending an ordination ceremony of a newly certified monk at a Thai temple.

(Thai ordination festival)

During these events, I often have those “eureka” moments. I look around and realize, “Hey! I am the only white guy here!” Foreigners often form close knit groups who have insecurities towards native citizens such as myself. They fear they we look down upon them or we secretly want them to be deported. However, I have learned that once you earn their trust and show an interest in their culture, they will quickly adopt you as if you were an unofficial family member. During my time with Muslim refugees, Cambodian monks, Chinese law students, Hindu Clerics, so and so forth, I have never felt out of place but very welcomed because of these principles.

Our relationship with foreigners only becomes awkward when we approach them in fear. Like animals, we humans also pick up on negative vibes. If you come with arms wide-open, and a mind that extends even further, you will enrich your knowledge of how the world works. When you have an interaction with someone who is from another country, think of it as if you get to travel to their country free of charge! If you want to visit Korea, make friends with a Korean. If you want to visit Brazil, make friends with a Brazilian. If you want to smell the foods of Thailand, become friends with a Thai!

Lastly, after spending time with various different cultures, soon you find your own sense of identity began to change. I used to frequently identify myself as a “German”. And I was proud of my heritage. I still am in many ways. “Danke!” (Thank you in German).

However, after making friends with so many people from around the world, I now identify with my Humanity more than I do with my German ancestry or my American citizenship. Although those things are still very important to my character and function in society, I will never let it outshine my humanity and the qualities that are unable to be differentiated from any other person. Qualities such as compassion, a desire for food, shelter, love, and the universal challenges that face every human being, challenges like finding a job, overcoming health issues, and finding that special someone to share your life with.

At 29 years old, I’ve learned that the culture of man supersedes the culture of a nation. Yet, we cannot understand humanity as a whole until we experience the individual parts that make up that whole. Where I go next is anybody’s guess, but you can bet that it will be an adventure worth mentioning!

NALINI GLOBAL – 2017