Ciao W

The mistakes W made don’t bother me much. They probably should, but they don’t. I’m not exactly sure why. I guess in general I’m a forward-, not backward-, looking sort of guy. I don’t spend much time blaming people and then getting upset about the people I’ve blamed. What bothers me about W, though, is that even with a 25% approval rating, 75 million Americans approve of the job he’s done — and worst of all, he hasn’t seemed to learn a thing. 

In his farewell address W said, “Good and evil are present in the world, and between the two there can be no compromise.” Really? Is that still the way he sees things? Is he incapable of learning lessons from the past? Or maybe he didn’t pay close enough attention — maybe he wasn’t enough in the loop. Perhaps Nora Ephron is right to ask these few pointed questions:

  • Who exactly was running the country these last eight years?
  • What did the President know, if anything, and when did he know it, if ever?
  • Was he capable in any way of even one sleepless night, much less the ongoing insomnia that any sentient person would suffer after so many wrong decisions and pointless deaths?
  • Did he mispronounce the word “nuclear” 1) on purpose, in order to make himself seem folksy 2) because he actually thought he was pronouncing it correctly or 3) just to piss us off?

Well, regardless of what he knew (if anything), W’s worldview remains intact (or he desperately clings to it as if it is), in black and white — no grey — not even a hint of mulatto. He can tell what the “good” is. He’s ready to judge what is “evil.” And no matter what, “There can be no compromise” — I guess that means never, and it means in no possible way, forget it, it’s over — put a bullet in it. 

Us or them. In or out. That is how he sees the world. You are with us, or you are against us. To my mind, that thinking is… how do you say… fucked up. I say villification is vile; I say that antagonizing and demonizing are not effective methods of diplomacy, techniques for bridging differences, ways to create a safer, more peaceful world. And I would say that W’s tenure proves that point. But it hasn’t convinced him — nor has it convinced 75 million Americans.

No, past mistakes don’t anger me, but I get a little annoyed/worried/confused when people can’t learn from them. I don’t look back, but when I look forward, I still see so many folks unable to let go their intransigent notions of goodness and righteousness and holy virtue — their intractable opinions about right and wrong. 

But we have a new president, one who I suspect does not see in black and white, one who sees in color. I suspect President Obama can see the greys and, yes, quite clearly the mulatto. And I am looking forward to a leader who will not declare unequivocally and unconditionally, like a spoiled, pampered, rich teenager — “there can be no compromise.”

Old Soldiers: The Favre/McCain Connection

Long ago I promised you a piece on the similar stylings of Brett Favre and John McCain. Out of deference to Favre I had to wait until the NFL season finished and Favre’s blimp of a career set the horizon on fire in Hindenberg fashion — although my inner football fan wanted to write this piece weeks ago, as early as the election. As I stated in an earlier comment: Favre is to football what McCain is to politics.

Both men, it is now known, went down in defeat this year, likely final defeat, served up by opponents that can rightly be described as “up and coming.” For McCain, the rising star of Barack Obama; for Favre, the Lazarus-like Miami Dolphins.  In each case, their character and hubris was the key factor in their fall.

Both can be characterized as “old soldiers.” McCain in the literal sense, Favre in the way that Americans laud the leaders of their football squads. The images of McCain’s POW days, his fiery temper, his penchant for reform and “maverick-ness” juxtapose nicely with the images of the grizzled, unshaven Favre, breathing steam in the cold, playing hurt, and never saying die. A broken body wouldn’t make McCain give up or Favre come out of the game. Both were unquestionably heroes, even to those who opposed and hated them. McCain for being the firebrand who would run counter to prevailing Congressional wisdom, Favre for being the gutty leader who, as a fan, you could tolerate losing to.

For reasons entirely within their control, however, memories of both will have a different tinge than bronze-bust-ready, Hall of Fame-Commemorative Stamp one described above. If a high water mark or defining moment in the downward slide of these two had to be picked, I suppose one could throw a dart somewhere around the Spring of 2006 when Favre first hemmed and hawed about his plans for the next year and when McCain made a trip to Liberty University to preside over the graduation ceremony of those he had previously criticized as “agents of ignorance.”  Favre appeared to have nothing left in the tank and McCain appeared to be falling in with the conservative bedfellows he eschewed. Thus commenced the wearing thin.

And it was a wearing thin indeed — the final unraveling took time. McCain’s political career survived and Favre’s passing career stayed alive. McCain’s enough to push him to the front of the Republican heap in no time and allow a cakewalk to the nomination; Favre’s season impressive enough to stir up talk that the MVP caliber Favre had returned. The final blow to these halcyon commanders likely came sometime this past summer-again throw a dart in August. Favre who had retired, held the nation and Green Bay Packers hostage in a multi-week soap opera, petitioning for his return, that ended in the severing of ties with Green Bay and a trade to New York-not a likely destination for a southern boy who preferred wood chopping to wine. About this time, the number of McCain’s residences became national news, he picked a running mate that hearkened more to conservative culture than to Maverick and as days wore on McCain had to throw more traditional conservative (read divisive) hay makers to try to sway the polling. Favre could at least throw touchdowns, for a few more weeks.

Ultimately we know how McCain’s tactics played out, and on Election Night, some of the grace of McCain appeared to have returned. And now we know how it turned out for Favre. Two “Stevie Wonder” quality interceptions in a must win game; no offseason; talk of being mentally fatigued and his body aching. Favre’s past mistakes were always excused by his lust for winning: He’s just having fun, he just wants to win, he just wants to compete. And perhaps in time McCain’s nastiness and desperation during the campaign will be regarded in a similar light. But for now, we’ve seen two swan songs. It’s time for the two old soldiers to fade away.

Rank Your Offendedness

atheist-sign This is the Atheist sign being displayed in Washington State’s Capitol building alongside various religious displays… it has been stolen — and returned — and is now being picketed… 

I can see how, if one was keen to be offended, one could be offended by such a sign… it doesn’t offend me at all, but does it offend you?

Please rank your level of offendedness on a scale of 1-10 (10 being absolute, unspeakable outrage!)

I should rush to add, however, I fully agree that if the government is going to allow religious ornamentation on public sites, atheists have a right to post such signs. If religious organizations don’t like it, then they shouldn’t seek to have their displays on public grounds.

I lay in bed last night thinking, “Hmm… how could atheists do it ‘better’?” Could they find some sort of wordless symbol to represent them — to put a more positive spin and avoid the controversy. And I realized — no, they can’t. And if they could, they shouldn’t. That is to say, the more atheists bend their message to appear like a religion, to follow the methods and traditions of religion, the more atheists are going to be accused of “having just another religion.” And as any regular reader of this blog will know, that is something I am keen to avoid. 

Atheists stand in rejection of the predominate, theistic (“religious”) worldview. For me, it is a position outside of the cycle of the creation of new gods and faith-based “ways of knowing.” And while we could certainly debate the finer points of what constitues faith, suffice it to say, I am eager to avoid a labelized “Atheism” that coopts symbols and/or consolidates it’s “tenets” in any fashion.

And yes, I realize this is a great marketing deficiency for atheism. I am told with great regularity that people, “need somethign to believe in.” 

But atheism should not be that “thing.”

Grand New Party?

An interesting article by Gary Kamiya at Salon yesterday takes a look at what Republicans might have to do to once again become appealing to the wider electorate. The article makes explicit the basis of the stereotype that Republicans only care about God, guns, and gays.

First, Kamiya outlines the wrong way — the way of far-right commentators like Ann Coulter, Pat Buchanan, and Rush Limbaugh. Here’s a sample: 

The McCain-detesting Coulter wrote, “The only good thing about McCain is that he gave us a genuine conservative, Sarah Palin. He’s like one of those insects that lives just long enough to reproduce so that the species can survive. That’s why a lot of us are referring to Sarah as ‘The One’ these days.” Continue reading

The “Fuck You Elmo”

Are you prepared for this future?
Are you prepared for this future?

The Supreme Court is debating the f-word. You know–that one. No, not “flag”. No, not “founding fathers.” No, not “freedom” either. Yeah. That one. And since they couldn’t say it, I won’t say it either… not until the next parapraph.

The problem at hand is the use of swear words as “fleeting expletives” — that is, the utterance of words that are graphic or sexual but used in a way that is devoid of their meaning. An example of this type of language came from Bono’s 2003 Golden Globe acceptance speech in which he said it was “fucking brilliant.” The court wondered if that sort of usage might lead to a character from a children’s program (for literary sake let’s say Elmo) describing how he might “fuck the shit out of someone” (for example, Abby Cadabby.) Continue reading

The Do-Nothing President Elect

Through Religious Ears

A couple of days ago, I posted a portion of a speech about Religion/Secularization made earlier this year by Barack Obama. Here are portions of that same speech as interpreted by a heady Christian believer:

This is a level of disingenuousness that borders on lying, and yet, I am sure whoever this guy is, he is “all about” his Christianity.