An Open Letter to the President of the University of Windsor

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Below is an email I wanted to make public for everyone else at the University of Windsor. I’m tired of being embarrassed to tell people where I went (and go) to University. I’m tired of saying to high school students “Oh, don’t go to the University of Windsor, go anywhere else.” which I’ve said SEVERAL times. (And yes, I did include the picture in the email.)

Dear Mr. Kneal, 

 
My name is Mike McPherson and I have to drive from Tilbury to come to class on days like today. York, Toronto, Brock, Western, McMaster, and St Clair College are all closed today and yet one University stands out in disregard for their students’ well-being. I regret my decision to come here, I thought being close to my family would be worth going to a low-quality University, but I was wrong. I would like you to know that I wouldn’t be so upset about this except that my experience in the Faculty of Education, as well as previously in my undergrad, has been the worst experiences of my life. I wrote an email to the president back in 2012 about a Professor not showing up for an exam and it seems that nothing has changed. I love University, I love learning but I hate having my time wasted. So I will just repeat what I said in 2012, I am supremely disappointed in this university and I will discourage anyone I know from attending it. My time is precious and I think it is unjust to ask me to give up more of my time.
 
P.S. Is it any surprise that Maclean’s magazine ranks the Universities with the highest students feeling overwhelmed, The University of Windsor ranked 3rd. I believe this is because it has been made clear that this institution does not care about its students. This University has been a complete letdown, whether it is not canceling classes or switching the student site mid-year, or the nightmare that is communicating with the registrar’s office. 
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Also, below is the email and below that is an email I sent to Alan Wildeman back in 2012 about a prof skipping an exam for no reason.

Dear Mr. President, today our professor missed our exam without any notice before or during the exam. We waited in the class for a few hours and the GA took attendance and everyone left without hearing from the professor or writing the exam. (The professor had the exams, not the GA.)

She now wants us to write it as a take home exam that is due on Thursday. This is an outrageous request. I gave up my time to studying and being present for the exam and I think it is unfair to ask us students to give up more time for this class. The only reasonable way to deal with this problem is to give everyone 100% on the exam. I do not see any reasonable explanation as to why I should have to sacrifice anymore of my time and energy for this class.

I have had several other issues with the University of Windsor this semester. I am supremely disappointed in this university and I will discourage anyone I know from attending it. My time is precious and I think it is unjust to ask me to give up more of my time.

Thank you for your time, Mike McPherson.

UPDATE:

They didn’t even bother to salt the sidewalks for the students…

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Acknowledgment

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We all want acknowledgement for what we can do. This is really obvious in our workplaces. We do our work we want to be acknowledged by our co-workers, by our bosses, in our paychecks, the size of our office etc. Also, we parade this acknowledgement in our personal lives with the car we drive, the size of our house, the clothes we wear. We have a desire to be good at something, to be the best at anything. Either we tell the best stories or we are the funniest or the best at a video game or a sport… whatever our thing is, we want to be known.

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Well that’s not so bad, is it? All we want is recognition for the things we do well and for the contribution we make to society. It is a natural desire we have. The question it leaves us with, however, is why do we need to be acknowledged? Do we really need recognition for the things that we do? The answer is a very clear and resounding NO! We don’t need it, we want it.

It goes deeper than that though. It is not just that we are whiny children who want someone to notice them. What we really want is not just recognition for what we do, but for who we are. That is something very different. The truth is when my Dad does acknowledge me for my skills on the baseball diamond, it feels empty. When he wrote me a letter for a retreat and he talked so much about how proud he was when he watches me hit a baseball, all I could think was “So what? What if I lost my arm in an accident and could never swing a bat again? Would you be proud then?”

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At the root of it is an insecurity that eats away at us from the inside out. Thinking about all this I realized that I have this deep, dark voice that repeats the same thing… “If they only knew who you really are deep down, they wouldn’t love you.” It gives me chills to put that voice in writing. I don’t know if I believe in a personified Satan, maybe Satan is just that thought lurking in the shadows of my unconscious. If you read that line and it did not strike a chord with you, then I am seriously scared for your humanity! That line is fundamental to who I am. I’ve been running away from that very sentence my entire life.

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The solution is always the trickiest part, isn’t it? This is why I think vulnerability is the key to happiness. I spent a lot of my life trying to be perfect, especially in a moral sense. I was so hard on myself and I used every ounce of energy I had to do the right thing. I didn’t swear, I never did drugs, I never smoked, I didn’t even drink alcohol until I was 24. I tried to be a kind, sincere, compassionate person to everyone and I always felt like I was a step behind because of it. The truth though was that I was hiding from that voice. If I did everything right, no one would find out who I really was. No one would know the dark thoughts I had, that we all have. When you are sitting in a quiet place and a baby starts crying. All you can think is “Why isn’t someone making that stop!” even though we might not say it, or at least not like that!

Vulnerability is admitting our flaws. It is saying to the world, look at me, this is who I really am! That is the most terrifying thing in the world to do. It’s like walking down the street naked, completely stripped of all the things that we are ashamed of. It is difficult to do that for all of us. For men I know, it means crying in front of people. It means admitting that you don’t know the answer, or you don’t understand. Maybe it just means asking questions. There is no one more courageous than someone who asks a “dumb” question. It means being goofy, embarrassing yourself, sometimes maybe even on purpose. It means stop pretending like you actually enjoy the stupid crap that other people say they enjoy (even though they don’t) just to fit in. All of this is much easier said than done of course. It starts small though and then it grows. God knows I am not practising what I preach, in fact, I think I have further to go than most people. I suppose recognizing it is only the first step, living it is the challenge.

 

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Dave Chappelle

*Language warning* I don’t usually swear but I use a swear word to quote Dave Chappelle, if you don’t like it, don’t read it. Also Dave Chappelle’s comedy is very offensive, again if you can’t handle it don’t watch! You’ve been warned!

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Dave Chappelle has another new Netflix special out and they are pretty dark. Now Dave Chappelle has a tendency to talk about some pretty heavy subject matter. Race being his main component of his performance. I love Dave Chappelle because he barely does comedy… most of his material isn’t funny because it’s too real to be comedy. In “The Bird Revelation” he tells a story about a pimp who uses fear and devastating deception to trick one of the prostitutes into sticking around instead of leaving. He suggests that this is an analogy for how Comedy Central treated him while doing “Chappelle Show”. I’m guessing he legally is not allowed to say that this is what happened, so this is a clever way for him to get the truth out there. It’s scary if he is legally bounded not to say what happened, it shows how much power an organization like Comedy Central has.

However, the real kicker is when he calls this analogy the “Capitalist Manifesto”. He’s not just talking about a pimp or Comedy Central but the entire system we live under. First, what does he mean when he calls this analogy the Capitalist manifesto? I would suggest that he is trying to say that we are all prostitutes. We sell our bodies out to corporations who use fear and deception to keep us coming back even after we have reached our mental limit. He compares the pimp to McDonald’s and even says this explicitly, “Why do you think most of us work 9 – 5? Because 9 – 6 might kill a bitch.”

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In the book “Pimp” by Iceberg Slim, The more experienced pimp says to Iceberg, beat the prostitute and then draw her a bath and give her some pills. He says she will be so grateful that you fixed her, that she’ll forget you’re the one who beat her. Earlier in the show, Dave talks about how every time someone stands up for something good we as a society beat them down. Colin Kaepernick stands up for justice and gets crucified, Chappelle even makes a suggestion towards what happened to Jesus. You don’t have to agree with everything someone says, but we should admire people willing to stand up even if we disagree. Chappelle also says, and repeats with emphasis, that the best prostitute (or “bottom bitch”) keeps the other ones in line. This means that in a Capitalist society, the people who make it to the top are the ones who keep the rest in line. AKA the more money you make, the more you work for the system. There is even a sense of Stockholm Syndrome going on here.

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Isn’t this the story of our society today? Donald Trump has to come to mind, doesn’t he? He is a rich, “successful” businessman that the average person looks up to and even idolizes. Who doesn’t want tall buildings with their name in gold on it? People admire him and his ability to make money so much that they elect him as president. This makes it official that he is in charge of keeping everyone else in line. In the analogy, the Capitalist system is the pimp, Donald Trump is “bottom bitch” and we are all the other bitches. That is a hard pill to swallow, but it’s true.

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The pimp in Iceberg’s story is trying to control a woman that he has no control over. He uses fear and deception to get her to work for him just a little bit longer and just a little bit harder. This is Capitalism. We work for society, get paid as little as possible to work as long and hard as possible to make money in order to buy things because that stimulates the economy which is good for society. Great! Now we can work harder and buy more stuff and it just keeps going in a vicious cycle for no reason with no one ever wining.

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The crazy thing is, we blame the government or we blame individual people, but it’s no one person or one group of people’s fault. We can blame society or Capitalism, but these aren’t actual things, these are concepts. They are concepts that we invented as an experiment to try to make the world work. The experiment has failed. No one is winning. Even the bottom bitch is still a bitch to this system which is pimping us out, even though it’s nothing! It is as if we created our own slavery to live under with no ruler, no pimp, no one to blame but our lack of courage to try something new!

The good thing is that we can change this. If we created it, we can break it and try something new. We hand our sovereignty over because we are afraid of what real freedom looks like. This is what Christ really came to offer, true freedom. True detachment from the system. Jesus said something significant about money and Capitalism, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar” (Matt. 12:17). We need to break this vicious cycle, let’s find a new way.

 

“‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’
    She has become a dwelling for demons
and a haunt for every impure spirit,
    a haunt for every unclean bird,
    a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal.
 For all the nations have drunk
    the maddening wine of her adulteries.
The kings of the earth committed adultery with her,
    and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.” Rev. 18:2-3

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Freedom of Conscience

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Freedom of Conscience is an important part of religion and is regularly overlooked. The job of the Church’s teaching office is to outline truth. When it comes to ethics and morals this means defining what is right and wrong. The church does this well, however, Karl Rahner says,

“The Church’s teaching office can provide this pure presence of the truth of revelation in the Church, but it is not in a position to supervise the conformity of the individual’s specific faith with the Church’s doctrine.” [1]

While the Church sets guidelines for morality, it is the responsibility of the individual to use their freedom of conscience to discern where and when to apply those rules. Rahner goes on to say,

“In respect to the individuals faith, when this faith takes on tangible form in society, the teaching office can only ascertain that this particular expression of faith does not contradict the universal faith of the Church”.[2]

“Ascertain” means to find something out for certain. Rahner is saying that the job of the church is to say with certainty whether or not a particular act goes against Goodness itself.

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The Catholic Church has not always been supportive of the freedom of conscience in its members. The Fourth Lateran Council made it obligatory to confess sins once a year in 1215 and then issued the states secular authorities to enforce excommunication.[3] People obeyed the Church’s moral obligations, however, “Fear of Divine Judgement loomed large among the motivational forces”.[4] Moral obligation expressed only as “Fear of Divine Judgement” is often minimalistic; i.e. People perform the minimum amount they feel obligated to do and no more. This use of fear and secular authorities contradicts the primacy of freedom of a person’s conscience according to the Catechism.[5] 

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Now, this is not to say that we do not need the Church’s teaching office. As I stated earlier, it is necessary to have the boundaries of right and wrong set for us. However, laying out what the boundaries are is very different from supervising the conformity of an individual’s faith. As soon as you enforce the rules, you set yourself as opposed to anyone who does not follow every rule. The coercion into conformity is the basis of almost every argument against the Church. From Nietzsche and Karl Marx to the modern high school student; each one has a problem with the act of forcing conformity to a certain way of living. Moral theology is about determining what a person ought to do and communicating it with people. What good does it do people to use guilt, fear, coercion or state imprisonment as a way of forming someone’s conscience?

This has doomed the Catholic Church especially. We have people who are members of the Church, yet they feel as if they are also enemies of the Church. The role of the Christian church should be to help people understand why the rules exist so they can see that God desires their ultimate happiness. The church needs people who follow God’s will because they love God and because they trust that God knows and wants what is best for them. If they feel as if they are in opposition, they become consumers. They are Consumers of Sacraments, consumers of prayer and worship. Consumers do not volunteer, they do not fully engage in prayer and worship and they are quick to complain. This leads to a culture of whining. Consumers complain about inefficiency, volunteers complain about the non-volunteers, the fully engaged complain about the unengaged, the choir blames the people, the people blame the music, and the Church leader complains about everything.

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We need to build a culture of trust. Just as the teaching office needs to trust Christ, the people of God need to trust the teaching office of the Church. People need to be able to trust Church leaders and Church leaders need to trust people to judge themselves. This means we need to teach, as Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 11:31, that if we are “more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment”. If people do not trust the Church it is the Church who has failed the people and it is the Church who must work to earn trust back.

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[1] Karl Rahner, Theological Investigations: Final Writings New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1992 pg. 85

[2] Rahner, Theological Investigations: Final Writings

[3] Norman P. Tanner. “Papal Encyclicals Online” Kindle, Nook, EPUB: Last updated February 20, 2017, http://www.papalencyclicals.net/councils/ecum12-2.htm 21

[4] F. Stanley Lusby, Encyclopedia of Religion (Linda M. Tober; Detroit USA: Thomson Gale. 2005) 1941

[5] Catechism of the Catholic Church 1790

Youth Group`s NOT Dead

Below is from a blog I read, the italics are my thoughts and the application in youth ministry, the rest is not mine. I only took the part about Adolescence because I think it is particularly important. They go through each age group. The bolded bullet points and underlining are done by me to draw special attention to them. To read the full blog, please click the link here, it is a great read!

Phew! It’s Normal. An Age by Age Guide for What to Expect From Kids & Teens

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  • Friends will be more important than family. You’re still important, but there’s something they have to do – find who they will be when they step into the world as a healthy, independent adult.  Just like you had to do at their age.

One of the best things a parent  can do for their teen during this stage is give them opportunities to make and build good healthy friendships. The church is a great opportunity for parents to allow their teen freedom and independence while not having to worry about the risky behaviours that get mentioned below.

  • What their peers think of them will be a source of stress to them for a while, peaking for girls at age 13 and for boys at age 15. They might go to extra lengths to try to fit in with their peers. This might involve making silly decisions or putting themselves in risky situations. Breathe. It will end.
  • They will become more argumentative and will push against you more. This is perfectly in keeping with their adolescent adventure and their experimentation with independence.

Youth Ministers (both volunteer and a CYM) can be an excellent catalyst by simply listening to teens complain about their parents while reminding the teen not to be too hard on their parents. Well formed volunteers can be the stepping stone between parents and teens so that teens feel an adult is hearing them and taking them seriously but not joining them in blaming everything on parents. It is dangerous for people in youth ministry to take sides but important that teens feel they have an ally.

  • May become more emotionally distant from you (don’t worry – they’ll come back but maybe not until they leave their teens).
  • Might not want to be seen in public with you – however cool you are.

This is the most important point for churches to hear. According to the NSYR (National Study of Youth and Religion) teenagers said they want to spend more time with their parents. However it is important to note they do not want to be seen in public with their parents. This is key because we can promote family ministry without focusing solely on family events. Our desire to promote family ministry can cause us to do only “Family Events” which alienates teenagers.  This is the exact reason why High School youth groups are still relevant, given the NSYR. If we are connected to a teen’s parents, if we encourage communication between teens and parents, then we are achieving our goal of family ministry without alienating teens by doing only “Family Events”.

  • Will experiment with their image, their identity, and the way they are in the world.
  • They may become sexually active.
  • They might be impulsive and they might start taking risks. (For a full explanation of why they do this, see here.)
  • They will be more creative and will start to think about the world in really interesting, different ways.
  • They will act like your opinion of them doesn’t matter but it does – as much as ever.
  • They will often misread your emotional expressions – reading anger, hostility or disappointment when you feel nothing like any of that (See here to understand teenage emotional flare-ups).
  • Their sleep cycle will change. Their circadian rhythm will move them about three hours past where they were as kids. This means that they will fall asleep three hours past the time they used to and unless they are completely exhausted, it will be biologically very difficult for them to fall asleep earlier. They will need about 9-10 hours sleep so will need to sleep in for later.
  • Will want to make their own decisions about the things that affect them.

What to do

  • Don’t be judgemental or critical – they need your love and connection more than ever.
  • Understand that they need to find their independence from you. Give them the space to do this. Over time, their values will be likely to align with yours.

Youth group is a safe space for teens to grow in their independence while under the supervision of responsible adults and in an environment that promotes positive values.

  • Know that your teen isn’t rejecting you, but is finding their own way in the world – it’s an important, healthy part of being an independent adult – even if it feels bad.
  • Let go of control and go for influence. The harder you fight to control them, the harder they will push against you. The truth is that when it comes to adolescence, we have no control – they will decide how much they involve you in their lives, how much they tell you, and how much influence you have. Make it easy for them to come to you when something happens or when they need guidance.
  • Give them information, but don’t lecture.
  • You may or may not know when they start to become sexually active, so it’s important that they have the information and guidance they need to stay physically and emotionally safe. See here for an age by age guide for what they need to know.
  • Don’t buy into arguments – ask them to state their case and talk to you about the pros and cons of what they want. By nature, teens will overstate the positives and underestimate the negatives. Encourage them to tell you some of the cons – nothing is ever black or white.
  • Be the calming force – breathe and wait for the wave to pass over you. It takes 90 seconds for an emotion to be triggered, to peak and to start to fade, provided you don’t do anything to give it oxygen.
  • Help them to plan ahead and see around corners, but without judgement.
  • Encourage their social connections and give them space to strengthen their relationships. An important part of their development is to decrease their independence on the family tribe and to do this. To do this, they will feel an increased need to strengthen their affiliation with a friendship tribe. Encourage and support this wherever you can.

Youth groups are a safe space for kids to strengthen their friendships and make new friendships. We would assume the friends they are bonding with, and new friendships, are with teens who have similar values and morals and are (hopefully) not going to lead other teens into risky behaviour. However there is never a guarantee that any friends they make will not lead them into risky behaviours. Don’t assume because a teen goes to youth group they are not into risky behaviour. With church events, teens can be one person at a youth group and another person outside of it. 

  • Help them find safe ways to take risks such as sports – competitive and non-competitive.

    Meeting new people is a risk, a positive and relatively safe risk . Parents should encourage their child to make new friends, especially in a positive environment like a church youth group.

  • Let them know you will always do whatever you can to collect them from any situation when they want to come home – regardless of the circumstances and how late or far away it might be.
  • Let nothing be off limits when it comes to what they can talk to you about.

Many times parents don’t give teens the freedom to talk about anything or the teens don’t FEEL that freedom is there even if it is. Youth groups help to give them a safe place to talk about anything. If we are connected with parents and encouraging that type of “no limits“ communication with parents, the youth group can be a real asset in this area.  

  • Wherever possible, let them sleep in to catch up on sleep deficits.
  • Listen more than you talk.

Democracy is the Opium of the People

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In the United States there has been a lot of problems culminating with Donald Trump being elected president. People who want real and significant change in the U.S. voted in Obama where he did very little in terms of real change. Obama himself has come on after each school shooting and has said basically, “we need to do something, but I don’t have the authority to do anything.” As much as I love Bernie Sanders and everything he campaigned for, if he was elected he would be able to do the same as Obama, very little. So why can’t these well intentioned humanitarian politicians do any real change? Well there are a lot of reasons that are all political and have to do with who is really running things, the rich and powerful. Hillary Clinton is the perfect example of this Elitist group. She is the status quo and caters to the billionaires who support her. Donald Trump is rich enough to be a part of this group but for some reason is not, probably because he is too selfish to do anything to make anyone happy besides himself.

America has their police killing black people in the streets for no absolutely no reason. They have mass shootings less than 100 days apart from one another. (see below)

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Now if you think that standing in line and checking off a box is going to fix these things, you are out of your mind. Change will not happen through the illusion of democracy. That’s right, I said democracy is an illusion, Democracy is the real opium of the people (So there Karl Marx!). Everyone in a democracy feels like they have a say in what happens when really they don’t. They say it’s your civil duty to vote because it makes you feel like something is in your control… it’s not! The rich and poweful want you to vote because they want the status quo, Donald Trump is the closest the people could come to rebelling against this system. Donald Trump is like when you light off a firework in your hand, you do it just to see what would happen even though you know it might blow your hand off.

So how does real change happen if voting doesn’t change anything? Well in other countries that are “less developed” than America, they take to the streets in protest. They start a civil war if their government won’t listen to them. Watch this trailer below for Winter On Fire, a documentary about the Ukrainian people taking to the streets to fight for what they want. When people don’t get what they want, they rise up and force their government to listen to them. All democracy is doing is making false promises about how to fix things and about how much say we have. Fix school shootings, that seems like priority number one, but no one can because of Democracy!

Now there have been some rioting and protesting after Trump was elected. I applaud the fact that people are passionate enough about issues to actually protest. I disagree with those who say protesting doesn’t do anything, for Martin Luther King Jr. it seemed to work very well, where did that mentality go? The problem is that the protesting going on is against something, Donald Trump, but what is it for? MLK protested FOR equality, not just against racism. That movement had specific things that they demanded happen in an immediate time frame. That is what we need now, unity over certain important issues. Gun control would be first on my list, if you don’t want to see more children get shot then organize a rally for some specific gun laws to be put in place. Lobbyist have shown how much power they have, but that power is really just the power of protest. When the suggestion of a new gun law comes in, the NRA squashes it down by protesting (mind you they have lots of money to back them up which is why politicians don’t dare go against them).

But I would argue that the real power is public opinion. I am addicted to documentaries lately, and I see how much impact a simple movie can have. Look at Black Fish, a documentary about Sea World and cruelty to the Orca Whales in captivity. That movie had a major hand in the closing of Sea World’s across North America! How can a movie have such an impact? Public opinion. If the general population agrees that something is wrong then the government has no choice but to act. However when the majority is only 51% that really isn’t a majority. That is the real failing of the U.S. political system, split the country into two groups, make them hate each other and the rich and powerful can decide whatever they want because Republicans and Democrats are too busy fighting over what they don’t agree on to unite against the things they do agree on. There are things that everyone hates and everyone loves (or most hate and love). Not many people think racism is good, no one thinks school shootings are acceptable, not many like the death penalty… but those issues never came up in the debates.

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So America, I encourage you to take to the streets and organize protests. The Black Lives Matter movement is one of the best things I’ve seen from the States in a long time. Just look at the people in that picture! It is inspiring to see people marching in the streets for something important like equality. Support these movements! And even if you don’t agree with the intricacies of the specific protests, appreciate the courage and the passion that is behind these protests. To sit in your chair and criticize people who love their country enough to go out and actually do something is cowardly. Don’t be a coward, go stand up for what you believe in!