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.”

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 Do-Nothing President Elect

Our New President, Barack Hussein Obama

What is so inspiringly great about this Obama victory are the obstacles—in both the primary and the general election—that he has had to overcome. The barriers faced by this black (or mixed-race) man named Barack Hussein Obama, however superficial and irrelevant, have been real and inseparable from him. Whether it is the sort of mind-numbing name-based stupidity of this woman, or simply the fact that more than 20% of our population still call him “Muslim” (to mask their own racial prejudice)—he did it. And we will all be better off for his struggle.

First, we will be better because he is better. His willingness to use techniques other than force and fear to convey his message — his eloquence, his learning, his clear ability to inspire confidence regardless of apparent obstacles…

But more importantly we will be better because Obama represents a crack in the damn of prejudice, that real and concrete barrier that has held back the flow of cooperation in our society. I believe that his ability and the example of his character will create in the minds of millions of American a new way of thinking about their fellows. His win represents the defeat of a certain mindlessness that has unnecessarily burdened our ability to cooperate in this country, and truly it is only together we can overcome.

As a child of the 80s, I recall watching Reagan’s speeches and feeling a certain pride in my country that I had never felt before. At that time I was less than informed from a policy perspective, but I understood the positive effects of strong and confident leadership — I felt it for the first time then — and I feel it again now.

It’s Election Day/Afternoon/Night!

Update 11:06 — 

It’s over… CNN just called it for O… will have some commentary tomorrow… goodnight and congratulations America! Continue reading

How Conservatives are Liberals

Last saturday Jerry Springer, the notorious talkshow host and former Democratic mayor of Cincinnati, held a 30 minute speech at the Clinton School of Public Service. The speech mainly addressed the income gap between rich and poor and the lacking healthcare system. There is also a shorter excerpt from the speech on youtube.

The speech and the Q&A session: http://cspanjunkie.org/?p=974
The YouTube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Sm743AQVsE

Although he inevitably speaks from a liberal viewpoint, he addresses issues which any viable political party tries to address. Springer elegantly puts his finger on what politics should be about, namely the demos in democracy — the people.

In a way we’re all more or less liberal because if we desire a strong and successful society in the end we must care about each other as much as ourself, and we must be tolerant of each other (that is, insofar as we do not limit the freedom of others by our actions).

I always find it amusing when the American right-wing compare liberals to socialism. Being Swedish brings another perspective to things. From our view, Democrats are on the “right” and socialists are just left of center… you can imagine what we think of the Republican party!