My MPACS Research Colloquium Presentation on Islamic State's Foreign Recruiting via Social Media [VIDEO]

Location: Waterloo, ON Waterloo, ON, Canada


Below is my presentation of the research I did during my time in the Peace and Conflict Studies program. Basically, I had to address: "What have you done with your time here, why did you study that, and defend your choices against critique."

My research has focused on the Islamic State (IS/ISIS/ISIL/DAESH) and the relevant security implications associated with their theology, their recruiting efforts, and the soft-power attempts to 'destroy or degrade' IS.

I was able to record my initial presentation. I was unable to record the critique response due to privacy concerns by participants - which is out of my control. However, I passed this milestone with full possible points!


Full Paper on Islamic State Recruiting: 

http://www.thenolank.com/2015/05/Islamic-State-ISIS-ISIL-Using-US-Armed-Forces-Recruiting-Methods.html (HTML)

https://www.academia.edu/12336284/What_Are_We_Fighting_For_How_Islamic_State_Uses_United_States_Armed_Forces_Recruiting_Methods_to_Mobilize_Foreign_Fighters_in_a_Struggle_for_the_New_Caliphate (PDF)

Bonus Video:

Comparative Analysis of Occupy Wall Street and Marxist Philosophy


I, along with my group partner, Tyler Cox, gave a presentation on the application of Marxist philosophy in the context of the Occupy Wall Street Movement.


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An Equality of Terror? Why an Attack's Modus Operandi Matters (Part 1 of 2)



The recent attack on the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, like the beheading at the Vaughan Foods plant in Moore, Oklahoma before it (2014), is certainly a form of terrorism, but they are not the same incarnation of terrorism as Islamic State's attack on Paris or even the attack on Planned Parenthood in Colorado. In the Paris and Planned Parenthood cases, the attacks were perpetrated by persons who did not have preexisting relationships with the targets or their victims. They were launched blindly in their aim (in respect to who specifically they would kill/maim) with only their extremist ideologies connecting them to their attack's modus operandi. i.e. The Islamic State attack in Paris - the plan and its instruction - were foreign in origin and the attackers did not work at the locations they attacked, nor did they target specific persons with which they had a preexisting relationship. The same goes for the Right-Wing Christian Extremist who attacked Planned Parenthood; he did not know his victims beforehand nor did he have a preexisting relationship with that Planned Parenthood.

Flag of California
The case of San Bernardino and that of the Vaughan Foods Beheading involve ad-hoc targets, victims, and locations. The reason the attackers chose their place of work as their primary target were to specifically maim/kill those individual victims. Pre-planning was involved and no doubt they were loaded for bear, but the San Bernardino attackers, like the Moore attacker, had specific intent based off of preexisting relationships with their targeted location and the victims inside. Workplace rage heavily influenced these two attacks. As preliminary reports suggest, the San Bernardino attackers were angered at a company gathering, left, and returned to attack. Likewise, the Moore attacker had recently been suspended from his only job (working at Vaughan Foods) for disciplinary reasons. If these attackers were truly motivated by their extremist terrorist ideology, and indeed their sole wish was to inflict wanton terror, they would have forgone their specifically limited contexts and targeted a soft location for maximum effect. In these two cases, however, because of the context of their specific workplaces, they limited the amount of death and destruction they brought about. So while these two attacks certainly wrought terror, they were not solely motivated by the simple desire to advance their ideological agenda by attacking as many innocent civilians as possible - as was seen in the Paris and Planned Parenthood cases.

Flag of France
The reason why this distinction is important is because the latter set of examples will be somewhat unavoidable. Whenever people are in an environment that involves stress, sustaining livelihood, and forced interaction - (a.k.a. the stresses of work) - people that are predisposed to hatred, violence, or psychotic attacks will lash out, regardless of the justification. As such, the average American is far more likely to die because of workplace violence than an act of extremist terrorism. These cases of terrorism, with the primary modus operandi of workplace targeting, will be limited to their respective workplaces. But because the modus operandi specifically targets a predetermined location, the potential harm arising from said situation may be possibly more confined than a target specifically chosen for the high potential for casualties (such as a crowded concert hall or medical facility). For example, in the USA, even the worst cases of workplace violence pale in comparison to pure extremist terrorism. In addition to the means by which an attack is carried out, the possibility for interdiction by law enforcement is perhaps greater with workplace violence as opposed to randomly targeted terror. In the two clear cases of workplace terror, preexisting connections linked the attackers to their targets - where even the coworkers could sense something ahead of time. In the case of Paris or Planned Parenthood, those overt warning signs were not there. That tactic of Lone Wolf Terrorism is what contributes to the lack of channels for interdiction by law enforcement prior to the attacks unfolding.

The true nature of extremist terrorism is terrifying for this reason. The selection of the location is not just chosen to settle a score or get revenge on one's coworkers, but rather to inflict as much death, destruction, and terror for the sole purpose of terrorism in the cause their are taking on. The pure terrorist attacks - whose modus operandi lacks a selfish ulterior motive - can happen to devastating effect without any warnings at all. In these instances, everybody then becomes a potential target, chosen at random, whilst lacking any ability to avoid the impending devastation.

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The purpose of these articles is not to reduce or belittle the tragedy or loss of life from these attacks. Rather, the analytical approach is carefully crafted to better understand these kinds of attacks in order to contribute to the conversation on how to prevent such horror from taking place again. This applied article is Part 1 of 2 in an analytical series on recent terrorist activity in the Western world. Part 2 of this series will look at the ideological justifications used by the attackers and how that correlates to society and politics from a wider perspective. Stay tuned for more...

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The Islamic State (ISIL/ISIS): Religion, Recruiting, and Resistance



Video from VOX: "Syria's War: Who is Fighting and Why"

The recent attacks in Paris, France have thrust the Islamic State (ISIL/ISIS/IS) back into the spotlight. The topics of terrorism, the Syrian conflict, and the Islamic State are something I have both covered in great depth in recent years and have been focused on for a while. I have yet to coalesce all of my various works into a single readily accessible format, so here is my attempt. I have included relevant portions from each work, but I encourage you to read the full works in their entirety. I hope this will strengthen your understanding on the subject matter.

Lone Wolf Terrorism in a 'New Kind of War':

"The solitary nature of a lone-wolf terrorist attack is strategically problematic for law enforcement entities. When a group or cell conspires to plan a hostile terrorist act, the way to infiltrate and disrupt the plot is by finding the weakest link in the chain. Accomplishing this process becomes increasingly difficult as the network becomes smaller in size. Less people involved means less communication – if there is only a single person, possibly compromising communications are virtually eliminated. Lone wolf terrorism has emerged as the new face of violent terrorist attacks. The solitary nature of the attackers helps to isolate their plans from incursion by law enforcement or intelligence analysts. These attacks can be sudden, grievous, and often times happen without warning. Thus, finally figuring out how to preemptively combat this issue is of great importance."

[Excerpt from "U.S. Counterintelligence & Lone Wolf Terrorism: The Evolving Approach to Combat an Emerging Threat" written in 2012. Read more Here (PDF)]

Theological Justifications in Extremist Ideologies:

"The justifications used by extremist organizations will be exposed for what they are: nationalistic and not theological. The basis for their ideologies is an appeal to Islamic scripture. In order to illuminate the specific arguments or underlying themes, a survey of relevant scripture will  be included and scrutinized. [and ]As demonstrated, when examined in realist terms a la Pape’s CPOST Study, the explanation for martyrdom and resistance become separated from Islamic theology. If the West becomes educated on the multifaceted issue of suicide terrorism, they would see Islam is not some inherent threat. Yes, this – or any – religion can be co-opted,  but nothing makes Islamic theology inherently more deadly than Christianity or Judaism."

[Excerpt from "Martyrdom and the Afterlife in Islam: Analyzing Theological Justifications in Extremist Ideologies" written in 2013. Read more Here (html) or Here (PDF)]

Inside the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM):

"The U.S.’s tier one fighting force is known as United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). The purpose of USSOCOM is to “Provide fully capable SpecialOperations Forces to defend the United States and its interests [and to] Synchronize planning of global operations against terrorist networks." After 9/11, U.S. Special Forces had to switch gears and operate within a radical new framework. What resulted from this shift was an overhaul of how military and intelligence agencies were structured. Interagency cooperation between civilian and military agencies was increased, while redundancies were reduced. With no allegiances to a flag or a state, the new enemy aligned with ideas and personalities. The global playing field switched from state actors to insurgencies, transnational revolutionaries, and civilian combatants."

[Excerpt from "USSOCOM: Firefights & Finances" written in 2012. Read more Here (html) or Here (PDF)]

The Responsibility to Protect and the Syrian Uprising:

"The Syrian regime has been unapologetic in every endeavor of the uprising. The man in power, Bashar al-Assad, is a strong-armed authoritarian dictator. His political ideology is rooted in the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party. Over 40 years of brutal repression in Syria helped to shape the fervent anti-Assad sentiments in the conflict zones. Just as the tyranny increased, the denizens’ willingness to tolerate it decreased. With Russia continuing to threaten to veto any Security Council resolutions condemning the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, the realization that diplomacy is often a stall tactic is not hard to grasp. Any delay in the UN deliberations that Russia could help to facilitate via veto power prolonged the conflict in Syria. Russia’s long term interests in Syria were established prior to the uprising, but an analysis of the current scenario yields a chilling understanding. Since the Syrian government was utilizing regular military troops to conduct operations on civilian targets, the resources being used to execute these missions – small arms, tanks, and artillery -  were also Russian supplied. As it currently stands, the bloody struggle in Syria is ongoing despite multilateral ceasefire talks. Even though Syria has used and implemented the prototypical style of a mass atrocity military campaign, no external force has yet to intervene militarily or humanitarianly."

[Excerpt from "The Syrian Uprising: The Responsibility to Protect & The Failure of Conflict Cessation" written in 2012. Read more Here (PDF)]

Analyzing the History, Recruiting Techniques, and Social Media of the Islamic State:

"The Levant continues to be rife with conflict and destabilizing violence. The largest draw to the region is the enticement of Islamic State via their recruiting efforts through social media and video productions. Islamic State started with the migration of regional al-Qaeda affiliated foreign fighters arriving to fight in the Syrian Civil War. Islamic State has quite a sophisticated media production division and their social media efforts are just as relentless. Each video released by the Islamic State has its own unique message and substance while still adhering to a coherent message. The commonalities in recruiting efforts between the U.S. Armed Forces and the Islamic State are numerous. Coincidentally, the intent of recruiting in both organizations are also similar in nature on a main point: Islamic State’s campaign to recruit fighters to volunteer to leave their homes to fight on foreign soil mirrors the U.S. Armed Forces recruiting campaign to likewise find volunteers to leave their homes to fight on foreign soil. Just as there is a large emphasis on counterterrorism in America and the Global North, so too should there be a more active counter- propaganda agency to combat the spread of Islamic State ideology via soft power methods."

[Excerpt from "What Are We Fighting For? How Islamic State Uses United States Armed Forces Recruiting Methods to Mobilize Foreign Fighters in a Struggle for the New Caliphate" written in 2015. Read more Here (html) or Here (PDF)]

How Soft Power Policy Failed to 'Destroy or Degrade' the Islamic State:

"Although the military advance of IS across the Levant region have been nearly unimpeded, efforts have been launched to resolve the regional conflict outside the context of a military intervention. The UN has attempted to bring about conflict cessation through conflict mediators, regional forces such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan have used a mix of military and non-lethal support, and grassroots efforts have been deployed on a local level. Nonviolent peacebuilding efforts implicitly rely on good faith measures from all  parties involved. Prior to IS seizing control, the Syrian regime was the sole coercive force in the Syrian regions. he use of soft power to combat the influence and advance of IS in Syria and Iraq has been met with increased barbarity and continued bloodshed. Relief efforts and non-lethal assistance has been delivered to the denizens of IS controlled territories in Syria and Iraq. However, the use of diplomacy, nonviolent peacebuilding, and humanitarian aid is a currency which IS refuses to trade in. While conflict cessation or the reduction of IS control cannot be achieved by soft power or nonviolent methods of peacebuilding, the key to a lasting calm beyond the reign of IS certainly lies in these approaches."

[Excerpt from "An Analysis of Promoting Peace in a Realist Conflict: Non-Violent Attempts to Destroy & Degrade the Islamic State (IS)" written in 2015. Read more Here (html) or Here (PDF)]



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University of Oklahoma: Home of the Sooners



“I’m a Sooner born and Sooner bred and when I die, I'll be Sooner dead.”

I was born in Oklahoma, grew up in Oklahoma, and earned my B.A. from the only university in Oklahoma that matters. I am a Sooner through and through.

For some context, here is the history of the word Sooner, as cited from the Oklahoma Historical Society: “Sooner is the name first applied about six months after the Land Run of 1889 to people who entered the Oklahoma District (Unassigned Lands) before the designated time. The term derived from a section in the Indian Appropriation Act of March 2, 1889, which became known as the ‘sooner clause’.”

There are some great ironies being completely ignored by Indigenize OU.

The suffering and maltreatment forced upon indigenous peoples came from the actions of the U.S. Federal Government. Thus, by their logic, and the record of history, the real aim of decolonization through the renaming of identity seems like it should be aimed at ‘American’, not, in fact, ‘Sooner’.

Furthermore, those who wish to indigenize and decolonize OU and are opposed to the term ‘Sooner’ seem to be completely fine with other colonialist constructs that fit their personal preferences. How is this not some sort of cafeteria in which you can pick and choose what you want in regards to the colonizers’ creations?

For wanting to decolonize, they are operating completely within the system of the colonizer. A University is completely manifested from the colonizer - as it epitomizes the whole foreign/European modus operandi. The stated goals of the organization are inherently at odds with the institution it operates in: Why even attend a University? You are choosing to participate in a colonialist entity and that colonialist entity has allowed you in. How does that reconcile with OU not being inclusive?

Indigenize OU is self-described as “the collective thoughts of [4 Indigenous Students]” and they cite the “representation of under 4% of individuals who identity as native” as cause for their mission at OU. Meanwhile, the OU student body totals over 30,000 - and by their own math - that means they represent roughly 1/3rd of 1% of native individuals.

In his response to Indigenize OU’s request to abolish the Sooner name, President David Boren correctly summarized what being a Sooner means: “The term today stands for a spirit which is very inclusive, sets high standards of excellence, and represents a strong sense of a common family”. Just as well, the ways in which us Sooners already share some of the core principles of Indigenize OU are demonstrably provable by OU’s achievements in regards to indigenous peoples: “Five Native American languages are taught at the University of Oklahoma, more than any other university in the world” and “[OU] ranks in the top five in the nation in the number of undergraduate degrees conferred to Native American students, according to Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.” Additionally, as 2013 data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Center for Education Statistics shows, OU is nearly 500% more inclusive of indigenous persons than the U.S. National average of just 0.8% for undergraduate enrollment.

How exactly is that evidence that Sooners are, as put by Indigenize OU’s response to President Boren, “not inclusive of indigenous communities?”

I would argue it exemplifies how Sooners have led the nation’s universities in being inclusive of indigenous communities. And, of course, it goes without saying that those benchmarks are things that can and should be improved upon. I get that undergraduate students want to take on the world. I remember that idealism. However, fighting against the modern ’Sooner’ identity is counterproductive, as that energy could be better spent lifting up the OU community and building upon great movements for a more inclusive campus. Instead of tearing down the Sooner name, embrace and collaborate with the Sooner spirit that has brought about unprecedented cooperation and inclusion of indigenous culture in an inherently colonialist system.

- Nolan Kraszkiewicz, Master of Peace and Conflict Studies (MPACS) Candidate, University of Waterloo, & OU Alumni, B.A. in Political Science and Religious Studies, Class of 2013.

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"We'll Be Right Back..."
(My Farewell to Jon Stewart)



"We'll be right back..."

Something one of my heroes has said during each and every episode of The Daily Show.

Tonight, as of 12:01pm EST on the 7th of August 2015, that assurance ceases to exist in its current familiar form.

The Daily Show will live on, as will Mr. Jon Stewart. In my list of the Top 5 people (who I have never met and were living at some point during my 24+ years) that have greatly influenced me artistically, creatively, and/or intellectually during my lifetime, Stewart joins the likes of Christopher Hitchens, Barack Obama, Casey Neistat, and Till Lindemann.

Jon Stewart was the narration to my political awakening when I was in the 8th grade during the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election. I had been watching Stewart for years prior, but without realization of the witty nuance of his commentary. The earliest indelible memory of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart that I have - like many other fans - is that of the first post-9/11 episode. For the past month I have been watching The Daily Show's 'Month of Zen' web stream, which featured every episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart from start 11 January 1999 to now, in marathon fashion without geographic restrictions. I have the live webstream on my MacBook Pro as I fall asleep at night and it is likewise there to greet me in the morning. My recent weeks' repertoire is a great departure from the distant nights at my Grandmother's remote Sauble Beach cottage adjusting a bunny-ear antenna on a television set many decades my senior just to have a luxury beyond just electricity.

Like other articles that have been written in the past few months since Stewart announced his retirement plans, now is where I start to create a playlist of assorted episodes... However, I will do no such thing. But only because I have already done so previously: TheNolanK - May 2012 & Mic - June 2012.

I could comment on how Jon Stewart has utilized The Daily Show format to transcend comedy and politics ascending to unparalleled and unprecedented status... However, I will do no such thing. But only because I have already done so previously - in print and online: Mic - April 2012,  TheNolanK - April 2012, OU Daily - May 2012, UWire - May 2012, & The Santa Clara - May 2012.

Instead, I will take relief in how I am parting ways with Jon Stewart. I subscribe to the old maxim that suggests "You should never meet your heroes". While I abide by that maxim, I do reserve the right to amend my position on heroes. In the case of Christopher Hitchens, my vicarious connection via exhaustive texts, Opinion Articles, YouTube Debates, and feature-length documentaries was ripped away from me due to Hitch's untimely defeat at the hands of the spectre of death. Speculation has already gripped the internet in regards to what Stewart's next move might be, with recent reports suggesting a return to stand-up comedy.

Stewart was never more damning than during his relentless (and necessarily crucial) critique of the Bush administration in the lead-up to the Iraq War, the invasion of Iraq, the declaration of 'Mission Accomplished', and the subsequently poor handling of a destabilized Middle East. Even when Stewart let the sitting duck subjects of satire that were, and often still are, President George W. Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney have a pass for that week's egregious Iraqi errors, Stewart would focus his efforts on truly important issues such as healthcare efforts for Veterans Affairs and 9/11 First Responders.

The main line of contention that Stewart's critics had was that he would often depart from basic political satire into activist commentary while hiding behind the job title 'Comedian'. Other than the hilarious fact that it was often Fox News personalities that accused Stewart of poor journalistic standards, selling a biased narrative, or (more recently) representing a political entity, Stewart never backed down from a challenge, never used miscontextualization to make his point, and never ceased to be genuine. In fact, that is the justification that Stewart has offered for his retirement, citing that The Daily Show "doesn't deserve an even slightly restless host, and neither do you [the audience]".

"You coulda had all this!"
There is no conceivable way in which The Daily Show with Trevor Noah can even begin to replicate 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart' and its 18 Emmys, 2 Peabodys, 1 Grammy, and numerous other awards, accolades, and accomplishments - nor should it. Just as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart blazed a trail in the American political dialectic, so too must The Daily Show with Trevor Noah forge its own destiny. Stephen Colbert did it and John Oliver continues to do it. Never has there been such bigger shoes to fill by a vastly smaller footprint.

From the bottom of my heart, truly and sincerely, I thank you for the amazing ride that was The Daily Show with Jon Stewart - and may you enjoy retirement and enjoy the time with your family you so manifestly deserve.

-NK
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Welcome to Global Peace Centre Canada (GPCC)



Ziauddin Yousafzai and Nolan Kraszkiewicz at launch of Global Peace Centre Canada
Ziauddin Yousafzai & I at GPCC's Official Launch on 09 June 2015
I have some exciting news on my recent endeavours. About a year ago I started the next stage of my academic career. Since beginning my Masters program I have been fortunate enough to embark on some amazing opportunities. My current pride and joy is my position with Global Peace Centre Canada (GPCC) as a 'Communications and Electronic Outreach Intern' - a continuation from my work developing their prototype structure as part of an MPACS course assignment.

The mission of Global Peace Centre Canada (GPCC) is "to foster societal transformation and fulfill human potential through education and peacebuilding." I am pleased to have such a positive and motivated group of colleagues in the GPCC. The Honorary Chair of GPCC is Ziauddin Yousafzai, father of 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. My role with GPCC is to help spread his message of peace through education.

Through skills acquired from firsthand experience with this very blog, dabbling in video editing with my YouTube channel, and familiarity with graphic design, I was able to produce an outreach video for Global Peace Centre Canada.



In producing this video, I edited the various clips, composed and recorded the theme song, designed and rendered the intro and outro segments, and developed the storyline to help capture the spirit of Ziauddin Yousafzai along with the mission and vision of Global Peace Centre Canada.

I hope to share more developments with my summer internship and GPCC in the coming future!

Thanks,
-NK
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The 26th of June 2015: Today I Am Proud to be an American


My Oklahoma License Plate featuring Human Rights Campaign's Sticker (edited for personal privacy)

In all honesty I did not think that this type of progress was possible in the current political and social landscape present in the U.S. However, what I have witnessed in the US, in the past three days, has solidified my hope that positive change will happen in my lifetime. In the past three days, monumental change has taken place in America:

1) Two Days Ago: Southern States, that have have histories of violence and discrimination towards minorities, finally began recognizing the racist and hateful nature of the 'Confederate Battle Flag' and are working to remove that horrible symbol from state buildings, dismantle ill-conceived war memorials commemorating Southern traitors, and solidifying the social stigma that needs to be associated with that flag.  Without delving too deep into a history lesson, and ignoring the fact that the continuation of slavery was the second most emphasized cause for the South’s secession, I will briefly dispel the whole ‘the South was no more racist than American society of the time’ argument. The Confederate States of America (CSA), in its founding documents, clearly emphasized racist intent. Yes the USA had slavery, but it was defined as “Person(s) held to Service or Labour”. By contrast, in their new Constitution, the CSA used the term 'Negro Slaves' in Article IV. Section 3. The CSA made a clear distinction of highlighting the colour of the slaves’ skin - a definitively racist maneuver. The common refrain I heard growing up was “Heritage not Hate”. Even more absurd is when those who still uphold ‘Southern Heritage’ often claim that racism no longer exists since slavery and segregation are in the past. Yet the very past they are telling Black people to let go of is the exact same past some Southerners are clinging on to when displaying the Confederate Battle Flag or the Stars and Bars. While history is important to learn and should not be forgotten, in the case of the CSA, that Heritage is Hate.

2) Yesterday: The Supreme Court ruled to uphold the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as 'ObamaCare', which added to the long list of victories for that piece of legislation - including over 50 failed challenges to defund and/or repeal by the House of Representatives and a prior Supreme Court case that likewise upheld the law. Adding to these legal victories are the costs of the legislation coming in under budget, numerous success stories in patient coverage and care, and a drop in the number of uninsured Americans. In contrast to the intended policy outcomes from the legislation, a majority of Americans (55%) still disapprove of the law.

3) Today: In an historic day for the United States of America, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, has found that state bans on marriage for homosexual couples are unconstitutional. Their ruling effectively legalizes gay marriage in all 50 states in the union. The 26th of June 2015 will be a date that lives forever in history. Those who have opposed equality for LGBTQ persons are now officially on the wrong side of history. I have been an avid supporter of marriage equality for my entire adult life:
"To deny a fellow human being the right to express their love for a fellow human being, in an adult and consenting fashion, just because they are a homosexual, is nothing short of hateful and vitriolic. Make no mistake, opposition to marriage equality is nothing short of hate, regardless of how you try and justify it. Opposing homosexuality may be part of your religious beliefs, but you have absolutely no right to make someone else submit to your beliefs in such an arbitrary manner." - Excerpt from my 2013 Article on Marriage Equality
What always baffled me was the fact that the Marriage Equality issue has nothing to do with individual churches or their procedures. The argument is just to extend equal protection under the law (See: 14th Amendment) to the LGBTQ community, for rights already enjoyed by straight couples.

TheNolanK, Love, Wins, Marriage, Equality, #LoveWins
(My girlfriend and I during our 2014 road trip to California)
Intolerance that arises from discrimination against someone for something they cannot themselves choose (i.e. Sex, Race, Ethnicity, Sexual Orientation) is not the same as intolerance against those who discriminate by cognitive choice. Thus, based on a choice, bigots who justify discrimination by citing their religious beliefs or political platform are discriminating, by choice, against something for which a person cannot choose. Characteristics of a person that are indivisible from their DNA, and are not arrived at by choice, will always outweigh the characteristics that people elect to either hold or believe. Intolerance or discrimination against someone for an innate characteristic they have no choice or control over is inherently wrong and negative. Just as in the early to mid 20th century, when Government mandates against discrimination based on race, ethnicity, or skin colour were issued, it was similarly the ultra-conservative right wing religious community clinging to "Religious Freedom" and "State's Rights" that served as the last bastion for discrimination and bigotry. It comes as no surprise that those opposing the rulings for love and equality today are largely the same ideological demographic that so opposed the rulings for race and gender equality all those years ago. Furthermore, there are largely no differences between today's arguments against marriage equality verses the arguments against non-whites and interracial marriages from the 1850's up to the late 20th century.

The idea of a Democracy Society is to not allow the majority to disenfranchise and discriminate against the innate characteristics of a minority. Enabling discrimination under the guise of 'Freedom of Religion' is not protection of the First Amendment but rather a thinly veiled attempt to enable homophobic bigots the ability to deny fellow decency and equal protection under the law towards homosexuals - and frankly anybody they deem to not be in accordance with their own interpretation of religious beliefs, including Muslims, atheists, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. However, intolerance towards those who discriminate against someone for characteristics they neither choose nor control is a positive social element. This form of social intolerance is the positive force that enabled women's suffrage, the civil rights movement, and equality based on sex, race, ethnicity, or disability - as well as today's victory for marriage equality.

Yes the U.S. still has its flaws, especially when compared to other developed nations, but this recent series of events has served to lessen that divide. Extreme income inequality and an exorbitant amount of intentional homicides still plagues the U.S. Issues like those still have yet to be adequately addressed. Make no mistake, the long march ahead for true equality remains an ominous challenge, but today, the 26th of June in the year 2015, love wins.

Closing Note: This amazing three day stretch follows President Barack Obama's interview on Marc Maron's WTF Podcast. At just over an hour long, I have already listened to the interview, in its entirety, multiple times. The news cycle picked up on one tiny element of the conversation, but the President gives a candid and very nuanced overview of the political landscape in the US. Click here to listen to Marc Maron's WTF Podcast with President Barack Obama


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