vendredi, avril 29, 2005

Where is the Outcry Against the Noisy Gong and Clanging Cymbal?, or: What Matters More than Faith?

To me, the absolute center of Christianity is embodied love. In my reading of the Bible and in my experience, that's it...hook, line, and sinker. In Genesis it is God's love embodied in Creation, with every part dependent on every other part for perfect function. When human beings couldn't seem to keep their part of the harmony going, God embodied love more specifically in human form, in the person of Jesus. Jesus thus becomes both the embodiment and the revelation of God's love. Christians consider themselves to be the Body of Christ...those who try to continue to embody God's love in and for the world. If it is not done in love, it is a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. It matters even more than faith, Paul says. When Jesus is asked in Luke 10 what must be done to inherit eternal life, the answer is to love. Love is at the center of Creation, because God is love. Embodied love is at the heart of Christianity because that's who Jesus is.

The Reverend Anne Robertson


You know who was a cool guy? Adlai Stevenson.

So, let’s pretend that it is 1952 or 1956 (by the way, I probably could not be married to my wife whose ancestry is traceable to Europe whereas mine is traceable to Africa and by the way, the majority of Americans would have easily passed constitutional anti-miscegenation measures – let me know if my point there is too subtle), and let’s pretend that Adlai Stevenson won the presidency either in 1952 or in 1956.

The reason for the hypothetical is simple: Adlai Stevenson was a Unitarian Universalist and so am I.

For fun, let’s pretend that Adlai Stevenson’s domestic and international policies and agenda were exactly the same as President Bush’s – except for one change: whenever Bush uses the word Christian, or promotes policies that benefit Christian churches, assume Stevenson promotes Unitarian Universalism instead.

My point is simple. The hue and cry from the UU community and against Stevenson's policies would be deafening. In fact, I would expect that the church would publicly protest against his policies and that they would undergo a massive effort to demonstrate how they were inconsistent with our beliefs and teachings. I personally would demand that he disassociate his policies from UU teachings, and that he state publicly that his policies are not guided by our inspired by UU principles.

The absence of this kind of outcry from the Christian community is telling. I’ll concede at the outset that Christianity is a varied religion with billions of adherents who share the same core beliefs but who deviate wildly on specifics. For example, there is a vast difference between Catholics and the Church of God in Christ, between Methodists and evangelicals and (these days) between Episcopalians and Anglicans. But there is also a tremendous amount of common ground. Being a Christian sets you up for a lot of nit picking from non-Christians such as myself, and I would be very forgiving if Bush were being nitpicked. But the response from most Christians (there are exceptions) has been silence or boisterous, enthusiastic and deeply, deeply ignorant, deeply ignorant assent.

Where is the Christian outcry against:

The war against Iraq?

The abuses at Abu Ghraib?

The lies supporting the war against Iraq?

Bush’s behavior in the campaign (Swift Boat Veterans for WHAT)?

Bush’s non-response to Rwanda?

Bush’s treatment of the poor?

Bush’s favoritism of the wealthy?

Bush’s treatment of the sick?

Bush’s (foreign and domestic) AIDS policy?

Bush’s treatment of the hungry?

Bush’s treatment of the meek?

The ostracism (and sometimes hatred), in the name of Christianity, of gay and lesbian people?

[Work through that for a second - ostracizing and hating in the name of Jesus Christ.]

Bush’s environmental policy (which favors corporations over the earth (the latter being God’s gift to us which we are charged with supporting, the former being a scourge and a menace))?

Where is it?

I could go on and on, but I won’t. Let’s just say that there is much in our current administration’s policies and behavior that I see as dishonest, murderous, prideful, non-loving, judgmental, ignoble to God (claiming to be a Christian for political gain, blatantly using Christ as a marketing tool) and, most importantly, unchristian.

And not unchristian in the details of Christianity - which day is the sabbath or whether Popes are infallible or not (there is respectful room for disagreement on those points) - but unchristian in the fundamentals: LOVE your neighbor. LOVE God. LOVE.

Bush has made it abundantly clear that he is a man of Christian faith. His faith guides his policies and his decisions. I wonder who would make the case that Bush is a man of Christian love. Who would argue that his policies are derived from embodied love?

I'm asking sincerely.

jeudi, avril 28, 2005

"Loving You Is Easy 'cause You're Beautiful...Uh Doo Doo Doo Doot Doo, Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah"

La la la la la

La la la la la

La la la la la la la la lah oh oh oh

Uh doo doo doo doot doo

Ah ah ah ah ah ah.

Please Submit Your Questions (in Writing) by 12:00 p.m. EDT

Dub's gonna break it down (interpret that however you want).

All the people who want reform are also the same people who are supposed to be so smart (and well-off because they're so darn "responsible"(unlike the poor, the unemployed and, well...democrats)) that they have investments outside of SSI anyway. Correct?

mercredi, avril 27, 2005

A Nice Barry Goldwater Quote

Instead of reading my boring and stupid post (below), please check out whatkeezel'sblogging today. He has a great Goldwater quote. That's right, first I wrote about my support for public financing of stadiums and now I'm quoting Goldwater! You'll see why...

While I'm on the subject (and all references of this sort feel sycophantic and run the risk of seeming insincere, but) here are three blogs that I read every day. They are bright, personable, intelligent, insightful, witty, well-written, funny, and the type of blog I want to be someday when I'm all growed up (in no particular order):


Jesus Was Not a Republican

A Time and a Place

I hope you will read them and support them. Some day I'll learn how to add links to my site, but until then, you're going to get promos like this. Regrets.

Also, please read my boring and stupid post (below).

mardi, avril 26, 2005

I Support Partial Public Financing for Stadiums...There, I Said It

In Minnesota, we’re talking about building a new baseball stadium.

Here’s one example of where my thinking does not line up with traditional progressive or liberal politics: I support partial public financing for professional sports stadiums and arenas. I know, I know.

In the Twin Cities, if you listen to the hue and cry of owners and schools, the Twins, the Vikings and the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers football team all need new stadiums. Today, all three play in the Hubert H. Humphrey (oh, Hubert, where are you now when we need you most?) Metrodome.

The traditional arguments you hear are:

Billionaire owners should fund their own ballparks – public financing is like a tax break or an enterprise zone for people who don’t need it.

Another argument you hear is that money used for ballparks would be better spent on social programs.

First, let me say that both arguments are true. Billionaire owners should pay for the ballparks in which their teams play.

But, just as the rich get richer, team owners know that they can move to another city that will build them a stadium. As long as that is true and they have a captive audience in the city where they currently reside, then city’s have two choices: either support a stadium or risk losing the team. For me, sports teams represent a net gain for the cities that have them (to quality of life, to tax revenue, to convention opportunities and marketing, to its ability to attract corporations and businesses, and to its ability to attract talent to fuel those businesses (not to mentions clubs and restaurants and the other forms of entertainment hosted at arenas and stadiums – like concerts and monster truck rallies)).

As well, there are better uses for public dollars than stadiums.

Homelessness, poverty, public health (mental and physical), hunger, joblessness, living wages, affordable housing, criminal justice, excellent education systems, the civic infrastructure, transportation, clean air, clean water, environmental programs, bicycle lanes, support for the handicapped, parks, museums, literacy programs, substance abuse education, the arts, historical preservation, fire, police, AIDS programs, ambulance, hospitals, and early childhood and family education are all civic initiatives I would pursue before I would pursue professional sports venues.

It’s just that in my view stadiums, if financed properly, can allow for all the other things to be done as well. I mean that in both respects. Stadiums don’t mean the depletion of public funds that could be used for essential and preferred services, and stadiums, if done intelligently, can mean income that can be used to support other initiatives.

Last, financing for stadiums are not preventing cities from addressing public health or homelessness. Apathy, poor priorities, tax avoidance at all costs, the expansion of conservatism and ignorance prevent cities from addressing social ills and providing for things that make our communities vibrant and pleasant (like museums, libraries, parks and schools).

Ultimately, I think stadiums provide venues for teams and provide sports for communities. Sports, in turn, promote civic pride, provide revenue, contribute to quality of life, and encourage tourism among other things. And while it’s true that most billionaire owners could afford to build their own stadiums (and it is true that they would get a nice return on their investment), and while it is true that there are higher and better uses for city and county taxes, and while it is true that progressives and liberals do not usually support partial public financing for professional sports venues, I have to admit that if I were the Mayor of St. Paul, and we could build a stadium to attract or retain a professional sports team, I would sign it.

vendredi, avril 22, 2005

An Earth Day Message from My Friend Chuck, or: Examine Your Habits

I have been trying to think about what I wanted to say on Earth Day. I only knew that I wanted to write about one environmental topic. Clean Air, Clean Water, Lakes and Rivers, Land Use, Forests, Personal Responsibility, Environmental Justice, something like that, but only one thing. I also really wanted to try to come up with something that would speak to anyone who read it, and make them feel like they could make a difference with even small changes (keeping your tires properly inflated is a perfect example).

Then, I happened upon this editorial written by my friend Chuck, so I thought I'd print it here (it originally appeared on today's Star Tribune editorial page). So, instead of more of my words, here are a few of Chuck's (he has a great idea for a small thing you can do to make a difference).

Chuck Dayton: A day for even the green to examine their habits
Chuck Dayton
April 22, 2005 DAYTON
Star Tribune Commentary

It certainly wasn't the fault of the energetic freshman organizer that only a dozen kids showed up to hear my Earth Day talk last year on global climate change. A bundle of kinetic energy, she had cajoled six of her close friends, plastered the announcements all over the small college campus and offered free cookies.

In my PowerPoint presentation, I laid out the case that human-caused climate change is really happening, that Earth really is starting to heat up and that there will be a big environmental price to pay. I told them it's their problem, not mine (I'm 65), and asked, why do you think Americans don't seem to give a damn? They observed that the culture is selfish, and agreed we won't get the job done without a major shift in political will.

I left the meeting telling myself that it was worth it if I motivated a couple of kids. But this was a far cry from the first Earth Day of 1970, when several thousand students showed up at the University of Minnesota to hear Ralph Nader and were inspired to organize one of the first public interest research groups (PIRGs), which I soon joined as a young lawyer.

Just as I was getting into my Prius (the hybrid car that makes me vaguely smug) I felt the deep bass vibrations of a stereo booming through the heavy steel of a yellow Hummer. It rolled into the parking lot, top lights lit, and the lights continued to burn as the tall young driver sauntered toward the student union. You scumbag, I thought. You are the epitome of the problem! How can you drive this monument to American arrogance, this fuel-devouring war machine? Does it make you feel powerful? Why not volunteer for the Army and drive a real Hummer in Fallujah? Did your Daddy give you this? There's no way you paid for it. Does it help you pick up girls? You probably get gentleman's C's and are just marking time till you can take over Daddy's business.


Whoa there, I told myself, when my blood pressure fell to near normal. Why does this kid think it's cool to drive this obscene car? Sure, it is one of the worst symbols of our affluent and wasteful culture, but his attitude is probably not much different from most in a country where half of the cars are SUVs, where fuel efficiency is less than it was 25 years ago, where 4 percent of the world's population produces 30 percent of the world's heat-trapping gases, and advertisers appeal to our individualism (you earned it, you deserve it, bigger is better). This kid is simply doing what American culture tells him to do.

And, come to think of it, those of us with good educations and comfortable incomes, who sanctimoniously drive our hybrids, are probably not much better in terms of our overall per capita generation of carbon dioxide.Our dirty little secret is that we fly about the country on business and pleasure, and take a couple of long (often international) flights for vacations each year (air travel is a quarter of the transportation emissions), and we often own two houses (one in town, one at the lake) that have to be heated and air-conditioned, causing about 20 times the carbon emissions of the average Chinese citizen.

What, then, must we do?

First, take personal responsibility for our own energy use, by buying efficient cars, lightbulbs and appliances and by insulating our houses well. It really does matter.

Second, we can buy offsets for the carbon emissions that we cause through air travel or otherwise. Each mile of air travel causes about 1 pound of carbon emissions per person. For a 2,000-mile trip to Colorado to go skiing, I can offset the carbon emissions for about $30, by paying a nonprofit group to fund projects like restoring rainforests, or providing efficient lighting in developing countries. (Just Google "carbon offsets.")

Finally, in the public sphere, what else can we do but to try to work smarter: organize, preach, lobby, sue, donate, write, find smarter solutions and strategies to build the critical mass and the political will in all segments of our society to bring change. As my ex-hero, Ralph Nader, said in the early '70s, "Despair is the luxury of an intellectual dilettante."

There will come a day when driving cars like the Hummer will not be cool, when it will be as socially unacceptable as blowing smoke in someone's face; when more kids think like my freshman organizer and not like Mr. Hummer.

The day will even come when our power plants and our cars don't emit nearly as much carbon dioxide -- the most significant gas contributing to global climate change. The question is whether we will bend the curve too late and too little to avoid major damage to polar bears and coral polyps, to Bangladesh and Boston, to farmers and flamingos -- in short, to the planet and its community of life.

Chuck Dayton, St. Paul, is an environmental lawyer and board member of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.

Earth Day Begins, or: The Earth Is Just a Squirrel Trying to Get a Nut

Earth Day started with me washing dishes while my daughter ate a breakfast of grapes and animal crackers (don't judge me).

NPR was on in the background, and the first story I heard was that the energy bill passed the House of Representatives yesterday and includes drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (perfect way to celebrate Earth Day). George Bush went to the Smoky Mountains and talked about how the envirnonment is better today than it was in 2001 (Viva Clinton!). This implies that he is responsible for those improvements. What a disgustingly dishonest man he is.

Then, on my way to work, three of my least favorite things all combined in one despicable scene:

1. An SUV with a W '04 sticker (really, you voted for Bush? No, duh!)
2. With a driver who was smoking with a child in the in the car (windows up)
3. Who rolled down her window to throw the cigarette butt out.

or, stated differently:

Selfish, ignorant Earth hater,
Who is unaware of or ignores health risks to her own child, and
Loves to leave problems for other people to take care of.

More later, but for now, enjoy your Earth Day.

jeudi, avril 21, 2005

Two Heroines/Plural Form of Vagina/A Weird Thing I Keep at My Desk/A Tee Shirt I Want, or: You Go Girls!

According to every woman-centered historical reference I have read – from M Esther Harding to bell hooks – the containment of women’s sexuality was a huge priority to emerging patrifocal religious and economic systems.

Cunt: A Declaration of Independence, by Inga Muscio

No, this is not about Benedict XVI…this is about trouble, right here in River City!

A few years ago, my wife and I went to Milwaukee for a nice weekend. We stayed at a fabulous Bed and Breakfast whose proprietress was prone to bralessness and talked about her vagina a lot. This reviewer would not hesitate to recommend it to you as America’s most hospitable Bed and Breakfast; however, this reviewer’s wife would demur.

But I haven’t told the complete story. See, the proprietress made frequent reference to her vagina because the day before we arrived, the Bed and Breakfast completed a successful run of their very own production of The Vagina Monologues. Which I’m told is an international sensation and involves frank talk about what is (apparently) a very taboo subject.

Something about that play makes women goofy because, here in Minnesota, two nice, wholesome young women are suddenly flaunting their vaginas all over the place (link is workplace appropriate but I wonder if you need a Star Tribune account to read the article – here’s the gist of it: two young women in Winona, Minnesota (where I guarantee you will see a bald eagle) wore buttons to school which read “I [heart] My Vagina!” I know, I know, it’s going to be okay. Anyway, hysteria ensued. A ban was issued by the principal. Enter the ACLU. Now, kids in Winona are buying tee shirts that read “I [heart] My Vagina” for girls and “I Support Your Vagina” for boys. Proving once again, in the words of Joe Camel, “if you want to reach the kids, make [the product] taboo or forbidden.”).

Setting aside my skepticism about the nature of the boys’ support, I, in a dead panic and out of sheer terror, am left to ask:

Dear God, what will stop these girls from loving their vaginas!?! How can we instill a nice, healthy, traditional, self-hatred in these young women to make them more like too many other young women in the world? If we embrace vaginas, what’s next? Clitorises?

In an effort to calm down, I hit a scale model vagina with a stick (I keep a scale model vagina at my desk). Then, I channeled my fear and ignorance into some research and this is what I found out:

According to the Oxford American Dictionary (I was afraid to type “vagina” into Google here at work), Heald Colleges Edition, which bills itself as “the most authoritative paperbound dictionary of American Usage,” (and which I really keep at my desk) “vagina” is defined thusly:

Vagina (va-ji-na) n. (pl. -nas, -nae, pr. –nee) the passage leading from the vulva to the womb in women and female animals. Vag-i-nal (vaj-i-nal) adj.

In other words, this is not unique to women, but it's also common to female animals! Vaginae, if left to roam free, could get out of hand in a hurry. Can we return to shame and fear and ignorance and suppression and oppression post haste?

Last year, on the recommendation of a good friend, I read “Cunt: A Declaration of Independence” by Inga Muscio. It was educational and a wonderful way of confronting the campaign to marginalize, shame, attach taboos to, and otherwise hate on the vagina. I feel much damage is done by trying to make vaginae something other than what they are. Vaginae are nothing to be afraid of, in fact, they are wonderful and miraculous. I would have been so much more impressed with the reaction of the school principal in Winona, Minnesota, if she would have flown headlong into whatever distraction the buttons caused by having a V-day at school and used it an opportunity to educate instead of as an opportunity to add to the fear and ignorance (as quoted by one of the students at the center of the controversy: "The principal said that by wearing the pin, I was giving people wrong ideas," Rethlefsen said. "That I was giving an open invitation [to guys].").

(BTW does the principal have a little pronoun problem? The buttons read: "I [heart] My Vagina,” not “YOU [heart] My Vagina.” See the difference? It’s subtle.

I’m sure the community would have demanded a response, and I’m sure the response would have been fueled by conservative voices, demanding that all references to sex (and health and history) be stricken from the face of the earth.

But, to me, references to vaginae are not just references to sex, but also references to biology, to physiology, to womanhood, to art and theater, to body love, to beauty, to birth, to mystery, to miracles, to positive self-image, to healthy self-esteem, and, (sadly and) as these young heroines so elegantly point out, to fear, to ignorance, to suppression, to oppression and to shame.

Now, if I could just get my hands on one of those tee shirts…

mercredi, avril 20, 2005

Two Stories

First Story:

I have a neighbor who, for purposes of this post, I’ll call Carl. Carl is an amiable fellow. He’s in his mid to late 20’s, and he is the classic son of St. Paul. His father used to own a sporting goods store that is a St. Paul institution. He is married to a lovely woman (let’s call her Annabelle) who is from an island nation in the Caribbean, and they have a beautiful daughter (let’s call her Mary).

Annabelle has worked a number of temp jobs, including for companies that purposefully hire temps, have them in temp positions for 9 months, then let them go, en masse (only to do it all over again with another class of temps).

Carl has been unemployed for more than 3 years. This means that he is not counted in the unemployment rate (actual unemployment is estimated at 14 million people or about 9% of the workforce).

You have to worry about an economy that is supported by serial temps and cannot find work for a man like Carl who is healthy, young, college-educated and looking.

Second Story:

There is this woman who is the love of my life who, for purposes of this post, I’ll call Mrs. Duf. She is a college-educated horticulturist at one of our nation’s leading conservatories. She is an employee of the City of St. Paul and a member of a worker’s union (viva unions!). Last year, she did not get a raise or a cost of living adjustment and her pay-in for health insurance increased. She just learned that this year she will not get a raise, but next year she will get a raise of 2.5% (or about .85% per year over the last three years). When you consider that inflation rose 2.2% last year and has risen 4.3% so far this year, then when you factor in her increased health insurance costs (which would more than absorb the increase even if it were given each year – which it wasn’t), she’s losing money. Each year, she gets paid significantly less to do the same job.

What does it all mean?

I don’t feel the United States will make significant (read sufficient) progress with meaningful employment: adequate salaries/wages, available, affordable and adequate benefits, and permanent work, until we provide actual employment (or unemployment figures) and until we isolate the temporary workforce from employment numbers. We need to change the way the unemployment is determined.

From the two stories above, Carl is unemployed but does not count in the unemployment numbers. Annabelle is a temp employee who counts as employed, but who is subjected to the whims and amorality of potentially evil employers, and Mrs. Duf is overly reliant on her sugar-daddy husband because she is a City employee and, with each passing year, has less and less income (when you consider inflation, lack of pay increases and increased health insurance expense) from doing the exact same job.

Meanwhile, the rich….oh never mind…I don’t want to be accused of class warfare.

jeudi, avril 14, 2005

First the Protein Bar, then the Bile, then the Dry Heaves: A Nutball Blogger Responds to the 109th Congress, 1st Session

…so much to write about these days.

A whale made his way up river to Jersey.
Our U.N. nominee hates the U.N.
The Twinkie is 75.

But this morning, I was going to write on why progressives and liberals see religious conservatism as hypocritical (or, at the very least, counter-productive/end-justified-by-means driven). Then, I made the mistake of checking out, and I have to postpone that post to post about the post-worthy plunders from the other party.

Indeed, there is so much to write about these days.

First, read this.

Then, read this.

Now, as a nice bonus (and a sign that the apocalypse is nigh) read this.

Did you throw up in your mouth a little bit? I sure did.

Here’s my summary. If Republicans get their way, then:

There are tough times ahead for those who are in financial dire straits a.k.a. debtors (there are good times ahead for irresponsible creditors).

There are good times ahead for the heirs of the wealthy (but there are bad times ahead for those certain someones who will have to make up the difference and here’s hint: it ain’t the rich).

There are great times ahead for corporations and corporate farms (and really tough times ahead for Mother Earth). Sorry Mother Earth, we need gasoline, baby!

I’m so mad I can baorekly typowe!

In other words, Republicanism is on an aggressive campaign to make our country completely unlivable for anyone outside of the wealthiest 1% (or so).

Repeal the estate tax, move toward a class-based society, make it so the rich don’t even have to lift a phone to hire someone to set up a trust to insure wealth transfer. Make wealth transfer a right! Warning, we may need to raise taxes on the middle class to make up for it. Or we can just run up more deficit! Who cares? We’re rich!

I can already see the commercials slamming democrats who “want to tax you even when you’re dead!” God, help us! Please! Smite a few of those ridiculous clowns. Please!

Can someone explain to me how this squares with the Republican philosophy of self-sufficiency and making your own way? I know they love to apply that philosophy to the poor. Double standards abound.

They can be judged by their priorities. Look at the legislation that our Congress is advancing. Ask yourself, what do our congressmen and congresswomen value.

The most amazing part of the whole thing, is that our conservative/Christian/religious/moral/Republican leaders won’t even pay us the compliment of being subtle. They know that their folks will stand behind them no matter what they do (except raise taxes). They could wear tee shirts reading “I [heart] the rich” or “Yes, trickle down is a scam” or “Thanks for your vote, you pro-life freak” and absolutely nothing would happen. They can be blatant and overt and even flagrant in their indifference (flagrant indifference? Okay Duf, sure…) to the poor secure in the knowledge that outside of a few nutball bloggers, they can count on very little by way of response/outcry. And, even though the legislation they propose is disgusting and nauseating and embarrassing and despicable and horrible and ugly and vile and yes, immoral, the lack of response and their smug confidence that there will be no response is what makes me vomit and vomit and never stop vomiting.

mercredi, avril 13, 2005

Let's Be More Creative, or: "That Ain't No Answer"

With a “hat tip” (shiver, ick, gag, vomit) to Panda (the best of the best), I just wanted to share a few thoughts on this.

First, my bias:

I’m a vegetarian.

In fact, can I break one thing down one time?

If we must kill things, I feel we should do it humanely, and I feel we should eat what we kill. I don’t have a problem with hunters. I rather admire hunters who eat their take. I don't have a problem with people who eat meat. I don't cry when someone orders veal (at least not outwardly - dangit... I said I wasn't going to cry. But I digress...) I do have a problem with passive meat consumption that directly and indirectly fuels the inhumane and ridiculous meat industrial complex. To repeat, I love omnivores. For example, my wife is an omnivore and we get along just fine. My daughter is an aspiring omnivore.

Now, my theories:

1. I think we should, in the words of Bob Barker (animal lover, ladies man), control the pet population (get your pets spayed and neutered).

2. I think it is unfortunate that the cats are killing so many songbirds.

3. I think there is a solution to the problem short of cat killing.

4. If people want to shoot guns, might I recommend clay targets?

5. What constitutes a "wild" cat? Any cat not in a house?

This is similar to legislation passed in Minnesota last year, making it legal to kill mourning doves (good for about 1 ounces of gamey meat). It just seems so unnecessary.

There are too many cats, let’s kill ‘em.
All that cooing drives me nuts, where’s my shotgun?
There are too many deer in my subdivision, I’m gonna come out blasting.

I think we’re more creative than we give ourselves credit for. In general, I think we should use our creativity more than we do. This is one example crying out for creativity.

Thank goodness for a wise (and funny) Governor.

mardi, avril 12, 2005

I Do Not Recognize You

A number of years ago, I was walking in downtown Minneapolis, on my way to lunch with a colleague who happened to be a (married) white woman. She also happened to be pregnant at the time. As we made our way toward some café or other, a black woman, stopped to confront me for “going out with” (and presumably having children with) a white woman. When she was done berating me, I informed her gently that I was on my way to a business meeting with a co-worker. I asked her to excuse me, and she did. We exchanged no other words.

On Monday, my brother, who lives in Kansas, wrote to me to share his upset at the result of Kansas’ recent vote to ban same sex marriage. With vigor he went to the polling place to stand up against fear and ignorance, and with shocking force, he learned that he lost and that he lost by a wide margin. It can make you ill to realize that you live among so many people who are driven by good intentions and fear and ignorance.

It has taken me a few days to process my reaction to it all. I am, by turns, not at all surprised, deeply saddened, angry, ill, silenced, inspired and devastated. My friend Michael, wrote with what I would describe as glee, that 70% of Kansans supported the constitutional ban – to him it is proof that we are moral people and that God is winning. He was happy to hear that another State Constitution has been amended to exclude same sex marriage. The tally is 18 amended State Constitutions for those of you keeping score at home. To me, it is proof that we are easily distracted and that good intentions matter not at all.

I have to admit that on a certain level I am afraid. I know in my heart that if we have the same vote here in Minnesota, people who love God and aspire to be Christ-like will line up to ban this love they regard as sinful. Many of them will drive past the homeless and the hungry to do it. I think the vote will be closer here in Minnesota, but I think the outcome will be the same. I can already see the damn-fool “protect marriage” signs in people’s yards. I fear that kind of ignorance, I really do.

When I am most calm about it, I realize it doesn’t matter. You can’t legislate love away, you just can’t do it. Refusing to recognize it is analogous to a child who plugs her ears and shouts so that she won’t hear something unpleasant. It doesn’t change the fact of the saying. It doesn’t even really change the outcome. It just gives you the satisfaction of knowing that you stood against it. My favorite part of all, it gives the satisfaction that you stood against it out of some bizarre notion that in so doing, you adhere to the teachings of Jesus, that in so doing you are more Christ-like. Yes, okay, sure – you’re moral. You’re Christ-like. Our God is a vengeful God, and you are his instrument. Or whatever.

Day in and day out, nothing changes. Gay men can still live together, love each other, build a home and a life and a family. Lesbian women can do the same thing. I suppose we’ll block them from adopting next, then perhaps we can consider internment or something else. We won’t allow lesbian women to get inseminated artificially (maybe we’ll block all women from doing it – I know JP2 was against it).

But until we do, gay men and lesbian women will adopt children or have children. They will raise them. They will work and pay taxes and contribute to the community (or they won’t). Banning same sex marriage in the Constitution really does only one thing. It says “I do not recognize you.” That is all. The lack of official recognition has the effect of denying people healthcare, visitation rights, tax breaks, property transfer rights, and influence over end-of-life decisions of a loved one, but most of those impacts can be overcome with the proper paperwork. So, in reality, it is just a refusal to recognize people – an effort to deny their love. All of it, motivated by the same fear and ignorance I encountered a few years ago on my way to lunch with a colleague. All Christians should feel good about that denial - I hope they go after gluttons next, I could use the motivation.

I am not a Christian. With each passing day, I get further and further away from Christianity. I do not understand it. I don’t imagine that I ever will. Everything I took away from it is wrong. Apparently, Christianity is not about love. If I understand Christ through the example of his most fervent followers, then if Jesus were here today, he’d be a raging Capitalist supply-sider with not even hatred for the poor – he would ignore them completely – worse than hate. Instead, he would focus his energy on ostracizing gays and lesbians, liberating Iraqis (while ignoring Rwandans) all the while wearing a Culture of Life tee shirt and listening to Rush Limbaugh! It must be true because people who say it is so, love Jesus and know Jesus way more than I do.

But in the end, beyond demonstrating how many people dislike gays (except on home decorating or personal makeover shows) it really doesn’t matter. In fact, as I type this, I bet two men are sharing a home and a bed together; two women who love each other are working on getting pregnant. I hope their love changes the world.

That’s right, religious conservatives, you cannot stop it, you can only hope to contain it.

In parting, if I may pass along one thought, from an ignorant man, to all my enlightened Christian brothers and sisters: perhaps you should find better things to do with your Christian love. I suspect that if you look closely, there is plenty of work to be done – I suspect that if you really look at it, you will find that the work which awaits your attention is more loving and more Christ-like than the work you do today. There is much to be done. Prioritization is called for. As you work to stamp out homosexuality, children are starving, hegemony is increasing, and suffering is in abundance.

lundi, avril 11, 2005

Andrea Dworkin 1945 - 2005

Sexism is the foundation on which all tyranny is built. Every social form of hierarchy and abuse is modeled on male-over-female domination.

Andrea Dworkin

Feminist writer and activist Andrea Dworkin died over the weekend.

I read her book “Woman Hating” in school. I really dug what she was saying, although I admit that I struggled with some key parts of it.

For example, I don’t consider all pornography to be per se exploitation or rape. I do believe that most pornography is exploitative and misogynistic and that it therefore contributes to a larger sexism pandemic that impacts us all (often in ways we can little imagine). I just have the crazy idea that sex is beautiful and that filming it can be done in ways that promote that beauty (it’s all part of a larger pornography vs. erotica theory that I have - Ms Dworkin disagrees by the way she once wrote that "erotica is simply high-class pornography; better produced, better conceived, better executed, better packaged, designed for a better class of consumer."). I also wonder what happens to the argument in the digital age where pornography/erotica can be filmed and produced for an audience of two (its participants).

As well, in “Intercourse” (of which I have only read a chapter) Ms. Dworkin had a complex argument that was misinterpreted by too many as equating all heterosexual sex as rape. Many feminist theorists and writers have responded to this misunderstanding by pointing out that her argument relied on nuance and subtlety and required her readers to come to the discussion with an understanding of key works from feminist theory (from “The Second Sex” up thtrough “Woman Hating”). As such a reader, I analogize it to my experience upon reading “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man". With neither a background in Latin, nor a background in Irish history to rely on, I was really only able to appreciate it for the power of its language. Anyway, like many readers I struggled with Dworkin and took less away from it than her more educated readers. Only on reading reaction to her work did I even come close to understanding it (think economic conditions, think violence, think patriarchy). And an informed reading makes it clear that she spoke of long-standing constructs and deeply entrenched hierarchies.

This much is clear, a witty and engaging member has left the discussion circle. We are poorer for her loss, and I hope her absence will inspire at least 1/1,000th of the response that the fallen pontiff inspired (hey, I can dream, can’t I?).

Banned Books - Do NOT Read Them Under Any Circumstances!!!

In the blogoshpere, I think I'm supposed to write "hat tip", but I think that's dorky. Instead, I'll thank my dear, dear friend at A Good Yarn for sending me this "blog fodder." I thought it would be a fine topic for a rainy Monday (it's raining here).

Below is a list of the 110 most banned books. Those in bold are ones I have read (many of which I have NO idea why they are banned - what is the only thing we have to fear again? It MUST be ignorance...if anyone knows the answer, please post it in comments). Those in italics are books I have read portions of. I am supposed to underline the books that I want to read, but I don't know how to underline in this thing, so I have emboldened the number for those books (as you can see, I want to read almost everything).

I'm ashamed to say, there are two books that I have never even heard of - perhaps I should read them first. They are #67 Gargantua and Pantagruel and #78 Popol Vuh.

While I'm discussing shame, I'm very ashamed that I have not read the following: 14, 17, 25, 38, 39, 42, 50, 55, 83 and 94.

Also, it just figures that I fight my way through "Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man" but get no credit! For sure #25 is next up on my reading list - then I think I'll read number 51.

Last, if I were to go through and identify all of them I was required to read, it would eat up a good portion of the list. I would guess that at least half of what I have read (partially or completely) I have read under assignment. Hat tip to the Political Science Department at Kansas University.

And so, without further ado...

#1 The Bible
#2 Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
#3 Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
#4 The Qur'an
#5 Arabian Nights
#6 Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
#7 Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
#8 Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
#9 Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
#10 Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
#11 The Prince by Niccoli Machiavelli
#12 Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
#13 Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
#14 Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
#15 Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
#16 Les Misrables by Victor Hugo
#17 Dracula by Bram Stoker
#18 Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin
#19 Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
#20 Essays by Michel de Montaigne
#21 Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
#22 History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
#23 Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
#24 Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
#25 Ulysses by James Joyce
#26 Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
#27 Animal Farm by George Orwell
#28 Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
#29 Candide by Voltaire
#30 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
#31 Analects by Confucius
#32 Dubliners by James Joyce
#33 Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
#34 Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
#35 Red and the Black by Stendhal
#36 Das Capital by Karl Marx
#37 Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire
#38 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
#39 Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence
#40 Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
#41 Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
#42 Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
#43 The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
#44 All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
#45 Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
#46 Lord of the Flies by William Golding
#47 Diary by Samuel Pepys
#48 Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
#49 Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
#50 Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
#51 Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
#52 Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
#53 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
#54 Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus
#55 Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
#56 Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
#57 Color Purple by Alice Walker
#58 Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
#59 Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke
#60 Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
#61 Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
#62 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
#63 East of Eden by John Steinbeck
#64 Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
#65 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
#66 Confessions by Jean Jacques Rousseau
#67 Gargantua and Pantagruel by Francois Rabelais
#68 Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
#69 The Talmud
#70 Social Contract by Jean Jacques Rousseau
#71 Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
#72 Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence
#73 American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
#74 Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
#75 Separate Peace by John Knowles
#76 Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
#77 Red Pony by John Steinbeck
#78 Popol Vuh
#79 Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith
#80 Satyricon by Petronius
#81 James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
#82 Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
#83 Black Boy by Richard Wright
#84 Spirit of the Laws by Charles de Secondat Baron de Montesquieu
#85 Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
#86 Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
#87 Metaphysics by Aristotle
#88 Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
#89 Institutes of the Christian Religion by Jean Calvin
#90 Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
#91 Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
#92 Sanctuary by William Faulkner
#93 As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
#94 Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
#95 Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
#96 Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
#97 General Introduction to Psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud
#98 Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
#99 Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Alexander Brown
#100 Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
#101 Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines
#102 Emile Jean by Jacques Rousseau
#103 Nana by Emile Zola
#104 Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
#105 Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
#106 Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
#107 Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
#108 Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
#109 Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
#110 Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

jeudi, avril 07, 2005

On Growing Older, or: Straight Up "Am I Caught in a Hit and Run" of Aging?

Next Friday, when you are paying (literally) homage to Uncle Sam, I will have completed another trip around the sun (the same is true for my twin brother – the handsome smart one). That’s right comrades, I am getting older. It’s true of me (and you as well, gentle reader) and all living things. But I think I might be getting older in other ways too.

First, a story about my Uncle Arthur…

When I was a kid, my Uncle Arthur used to tote me around in this Pontiac GTO. He was (and is) so cool. He drove with ONE FINGER, he had a huge afro, the was the drummer in a band called Storm and he had a superfly girlfriend. He listed to great music like Creedence and the Allman Brothers. It was a lot to aspire toward.

Flash forward to when I was in college. I was riding around in KC (where hate has triumphed over love) with my balding Uncle in his (then) late model Ford Taurus station wagon listening to Paula Abdul or Sheena Easton or something. I vowed to never let it happen to me.

Now, about me getting older…

So now I am on the verge of another birthday (it’s a prime number* in the 30’s and last year was not a landmark birthday. Or, stated differently, my current age is a number whose square root that is a whole integer).

Anyway, conversation with a dear friend who’s doing great work in the blogshpere makes me wonder if I’m not getting a bit long in the tooth.

Three quick examples.

(1) The violence and misogyny in Sin City interfered with my ability to enjoy the film’s art and colored my overall reaction to it. All the whippersnappers and young hooligans in my office thought it was the national sensation, the likes of which we have not seen since the days of the Lindy!

(2) Chappelle's Show (particularly in it scatology) is too racy for me at times.

(3) Half the time I cannot name the person on the cover of People magazine (I therefore have no idea why the person is on the cover of people magazine).

Three quick defenses:

(1) I really liked Kill Bill Vol. 1.

(2) I still likes me some Chronic (no, not that chronic, this Chronic).

(3) I am an enthusiastic supporter of public radio.

But, the sad truth is that some strange combination of parenthood, age, saturation and destiny have had the effect of making me respond to things differently than I would have even a few years ago. I have, I fear, entered on a slippery slope. As my forehead grows larger (and larger still) I find myself shopping for cardigans and humming the words “straight up now tell me do you really want to love me forever (oh, oh, oh).” Worry not, dear reader, even a lost liberal like myself would consider waging war over the ability of other to see Sin City and to watch the Chappelle's show.

It’s just that…well…I guess I feel…I can kinda sorta already imagine the day when they will be…well kinda…not my cup of tea.

It all gives me something to think about as a drive the Subaru to a Buick dealership in my search for a decent (but affordable) sedan.

Anyway, think of me next Friday!

*A prime number is positive integer having exactly one positive divisor other than one 1.

mardi, avril 05, 2005

Behavior > Belief

NPR has resurrected a series called "This I Believe." It was originally done by Edward R. Murrow in the 1950's.

Anyway, it's really cool, and I think it is perfect for bloggers. It asks for people to submit their belief statement to NPR in 500 words or less. I plan to work on one and hope that my readers (I can name all three: my Mom, my mother-in-law, the Central Intelligence Agency) will do the same.

In the first installment, they played a clip from a high school student in the 1950's who had an amazingly articulate belief statement centered on her faith and its prescriptions. They interviewed the same woman today (she's a professor at an Ivy League university), and she talked about her current beliefs. She said something wonderful. She said (paraphrasing) "I've come to believe that behavior is more important than beliefs."

I totally agree. Totally.

For example, a Christian (belief) President can take actions (behavior) that lead to thousands of deaths. In so doing, that President can speak volumes with his behavior - in fact, his actions can articulate in ways that his (few) words will not allow. By his behavior, we can know something about what this President truly believes.

Short blog today - write your belief statement. I'll post mine when it is done.

Be well.

vendredi, avril 01, 2005

Ladies and Gentlemen...Your House Majority Leader...

Tom DeLay is a hypocrite.
Tom DeLay is a crook (IMHO).
Tom DeLay threatened federal judges (a crime BTW).

What's the delay?

Tom DeLay must go.

This Just In: Conservatives are Hypocrites

Sometimes Our Justice System is Good, Sometimes It is Bad

Our justice system is strong (and getting stronger) enough to condemn people to death, but it’s verdicts with respect to corporate liability are suspect. When our courts reach the same conclusion more than 21 times (as it did in the Schiavo case) it is appropriate for our President to undermine the justice system by saying that there are serious doubts and questions about what should be done.

Sometimes States Know Best, Sometimes They Don’t

Although states rights are mostly good, sometimes the federal government has to intervene: for example, sometimes we need to protect the sanctity of marriage by undermining wishes exchanged between a husband and wife, and sometimes we need to intervene when state courts reach the wrong conclusion (we can do this without being present during state court machinations and deliberations. What? The federal courts reached the same conclusion? Oh. Well…um…let’s call a congressional session).

Sometimes Science is Good, Sometimes Science is Bad

Randall Terry (who is either a co-conspirator to murder or darn close to one) argued consistently that Terri should have been given time for science to find a cure (brain transplant?). Meanwhile, conservatives prey (I couldn’t resist) on science curricula in our schools. Should their efforts prevail, empiricism will be subjugated to intelligent design or creationism…science overall will suffer…future efforts that might help people like Terri Schiavo will be frustrated.

Sometimes We Make Noise, Sometimes We Are Quiet

As Terri Schiavo stood at the edge of the abyss, protestors preened outside her hospice in a showy display of concern talking about their “culture of life.” Meanwhile, this week, in every major city in America a person expired quietly in hospice an in hospitals – sometimes because their wishes deemed it so, and sometimes because they lacked insurance/means to pay.

Cynical note: sometimes I wonder what would happen if Terri Schiavo were African American, or an immigrant, or a man, or poor, or homely. I don’t reach conclusions on it, but I do wonder.