Nice guys these Quakers

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Yesterday I came across an article in a local online newspaper about how a group of Quakers are helping the LGBTQ community flee Uganda’s absurd and outrageous Anti-Homosexuality Act. What’s more, I got to learn a lot about the Quaker community, otherwise known as the Religious Society of Friends (didn’t know that either).

Like the Amish community, Quakers are fervently religious and believe very strongly in non-violence. However whereas The Amish are very conservative and don’t adapt to change, Quakers are pretty liberal and embrace modern technology. Another thing, Quakers don’t have priests or clergymen and eschew religious symbolism, and for that alone this atheist is warming up to them.

But here’s why I think they’re simply awesome: Quakers are involving themselves in a dangerous activity by helping people escape persecution. And they’ve done it before; many times.

Quakers denounced slavery as early as the 1670’s in Barbados. Later they would play a fundamental role in abolishing slavery in the United States. They were also involved in setting up the Underground Railroad in the USA which helped runaway slaves.

It was therefore fitting that the group based in Olympia, Washington, assisting people escape the bigotry and persecution as a result of the draconian law passed by the Ugandan government, decided to call themselves Friends New Underground Railroad (FNUR).

However not everyone likes what they’re doing; even right’s activists and NGO’s within the LGBTQ community have their reservations, but I think it’s just remarkable.

Meanwhile Ugandan activists, and right’s organizations like Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) who incidentally are critical of what FNUR are doing, are petitioning the courts to overturn the anti-gay law. I sincerely hope they’re succesful. The world does not need legislated hatred.

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

While on my recent road trip, I did manage to find time to finally finish reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which was recommended to me as a book about critical thinking.

When I first read this book as a school kid many years ago, I thought it was just a great adventure story, like so many other kids at the time. Now, many years later, and with a more mature outlook on the world, several new layers are revealed beneath the tale of a boy (Huck Finn) and a runaway slave (Jim), and their journey down the Mississippi River, on a raft.

When originally released around 1885 in the USA, the book was criticised for its course or crude language and even banned by several libraries. Later it was criticized even further for the use of racial stereotypes. However, the cunning use of these stereotypes by Mark Twain, was meant to highlight one of the many themes of the book; that of racism. It was also meant to be a commentary on slavery, which was entrenched in the period the book was written about.

Perhaps the most important underlying theme of the book explores how Huck is in constant moral conflict with the  prejudicial values that the society of the time inflicted on people. And this is where intense self-evaluation (and critical thinking) enables him to ultimately make the right moral choices.

Notable Quote:

Mornings, before daylight, I slipped into corn fields and borrowed a watermelon, or a mushmelon, or a punkin, or some new corn, or things of that kind. Pap always said it warn’t no harm to borrow things, if you was meaning to pay them back, sometime; but the widow said it warn’t anything but a soft name for stealing, and no decent body would do it. Jim said he reckoned the widow was partly right and pap was partly right; so the best way would be for us to pick out two or three things from the list and say we wouldn’t borrow them any more – then he reckoned it wouldn’t be no harm to borrow the others. So we talked it over all one night, drifting along down the river, trying to make up our minds whether to drop the watermelons, or the cantelopes, or the mushmelons, or what. But towards daylight we got it all settled satisfactory and concluded to drop crabapples and p’simmons. We warn’t feeling just right, before that, but it was all comfortable now. I was glad the way it come out, too, because crabapples ain’t ever good, and the p’simmons wouldn’t be ripe for two or three months yet.