Thursday, April 29, 2010

Commie Pinko... North Dakota?

The ever-vigilant ever-paranoid Teabaggers keep warning us about the dire fate awaiting us should the creeping menace of socialism latch its tentacles around our economy. Such hyperbole makes me wonder what the effect of having a truly socialist economic entity in America would be.
Well, my wondering is over. A short but interesting and informative article in the latest issue of Newsweek points out that there IS such an entity. The Bank of North Dakota, founded in 1919, is unique in that it is a 100% state-owned bank.
And the effect of this devastating socialism on that state's economy?
North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation and has a $1 Billion budget SURPLUS which goes back into the state's coffers thus funding social programs while keeping down the tax rate!
All I can say is if that's socialism, sign me up!!!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Completely Full of Crop

Just over a year ago, I discovered I was going to lose my job. For that reason, I was too upset to plant last year’s garden. Today, however, in a gesture of returning optimism, I have resurrected the overgrown patch of grass in the backyard in order to commit myself to new growth and new life.

Lest I start sounding too “new age” for ya, it should be noted that my extreme enjoyment in beginning this year’s installment of the backyard garden had little to do with plants and everything to do with “man toys”. I was able to borrow my brother’s rototiller (thanks Paul!) and start tearing up some topsoil. There’s something about standing behind a noisy soil-shredding machine that’s very satisfying. It’s wonderful to see the transformation of a sorry piece of weedy grass into a lush dark loam. The first smell of fresh earth brings a satisfaction seldom equalled the rest of the year. Besides, if I’d have had to use a garden hoe and rake, it would have taken forever… if I could have done it at all without my 47-year-old ticker giving out.

I think this year I will once again plant cornstalks. Yes, cornstalks. I know better than to say I’m "planting corn" because my success in that endeavor is dismal to say the least. In all my years of attempted corn cultivation, I think my total yield has literally been about half an edible ear. In my defense, though, that half-an-ear did taste quite good! I now resign myself to the fact that the only useful result of my corn planting will be to provide my wife with nice seasonal yard decorations. Weathered cornstalks look quite attractive in the fall.
Actually, though, the real reason I keep planting corn is the summer thundershowers wouldn’t be the same without it. There’s something about the papery slap of raindrops on the leaves of a corn plant that reminds me this world is a nice place after all. And seeing the green cornstalks swaying gently in the rain-infused breeze is more comforting than all the Zoloft I gulp down in a year. So if I should happen to get any edible ears of corn this season, I’ll just consider it a bonus.

I also plan to plant my specialty: grape tomatoes. Everyone who has tried them raves about my grape tomatoes. For some reason, I manage to do an exceptional job growing that particular crop, producing bumper harvests of very high quality. Ironically, I can’t stand the taste of grape tomatoes. I just like growing them. Go figure.

Another crop I don’t like is cucumbers. I grow those well, too. Why is it I do a good job growing things I don’t like while the corn, which I love, doesn’t grow worth a damn?

Oh, well… at least I like potatoes and I usually do well growing those.

And so work on the garden has started for the year. It’s my way of voting “yes” for the future. And as I watch the fragile plantlets slowly grow into mature and thriving veggie factories, I’ll be reminded of the value of patience, hard work and optimism.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Anyone who has been watching the news lately may have noticed a recent spate of seismic activity around the globe. As a science nerd, I had assumed this was all due to geological forces such as the movement of tectonic plates. But it appears there’s another theory. According to a Muslim cleric in Teheran named Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, these earthquakes were actually caused by immodestly dressed women!

One scientifically minded female blogger, thinking as any good science geek would in such a circumstance, decided rather than simply brush aside this geogynistic theory, it should be subjected to strict scientific scrutiny. She has therefore proposed a bold experiment: on Monday, April 26, she has called on women volunteers to wear their most immodest cleavage-exposing clothes in order to see if this mass immodesty will provoke the Earth’s crust into spasms of seismic activity.

Should this unprecedented display of mass mammary power prove awesome enough to trigger a large “Boobquake”, geology textbooks may need to be completely re-written!

So should any women out there feel so inclined, now is your chance to help out the cause of science and critical thinking! Sadly, according to the cleric, I lack the anatomy required to affect the fault lines of our planet, so I cannot actively participate. But for those of you who can spare your breasts for a day for the cause of science, this coming Monday should provide an opportunity to help us learn more about the forces that shape our world.

It’ll be a good day to be a geek!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Human Cruelty; Divine Justice. Or Vice-Versa.

I realize this posting will touch on a very sensitive issue and there is a high likelihood of it causing offense. I believe, however, the issues involved are serious enough to warrant serious contemplation and consequently I believe I should say what I'm thinking and await the proverbial excrement to strike the mechanical cooling device.

Nearly any sentient being inside Genesee County Michigan now knows the story of 4-year-old Dominick Calhoun, who was horribly tortured and eventually beaten to death, allegedly by the boyfriend of the boy’s mother. According to details in press reports, Dominick had been severely kicked in the head and groin, had all his teeth knocked out, had burn marks on his feet and had even been dragged unconscious out of bed as the beatings continued.

As human beings who aspire to some semblance of civilized behavior, it is difficult if not impossible to understand how someone could carry out such a deranged, savage and horrific assault on a defenseless child. That Dominick suffered horribly is beyond dispute. Even thinking about the facts of the case objectively is difficult. In an attempt to assuage our own psyches, some of us imagine this somehow has a happy ending. Many people posting on a “Justice for Dominick Calhoun” page on Facebook, for example, attempt to comfort themselves by saying Dominick is now in a “better place” or that he is now “in the arms of the Lord”. The pastor at Dominick’s funeral was quoted as saying that Dominick closed his eyes in this world and opened them to gaze at “the loving face of Jesus”.

My first response was: where the hell was Jesus when little Dominick was being tortured? Was Jesus busy? Did he not care? Was there some perverted “divine plan” that required Dominick to suffer and die in this way?
My second response was: if little Dominick is now in such a wonderful place and his entry into it was said to have been caused by his mother’s boyfriend, shouldn’t we thank the boyfriend for doing this wonderful thing for him? Okay, obviously, I’m being darkly sarcastic there, but if you follow this logic to its conclusion, there IS a kernel of truth to it. I think all this Jesus & Heaven speak is nothing more than celestial sugar-coating which detract from the most horrible aspects of the crime.

My personal thoughts as to Dominick’s ultimate fate are clear: as an atheist, I believe he is dead. Period. There is no loving God to cradle him in his arms, no paradise to welcome a soul that outlives his physical body. If that seems harsh, I maintain that relatively speaking, it isn’t. If you want harsh, let’s look at the other side of religion… the one that’s being conveniently ignored. I know nothing of Dominick’s upbringing so I don’t know whether he had any religious rituals performed on him. But what if he had not been baptized? Or, if he WAS baptized, what if he was baptized by the “wrong” sect of Christianity? Or baptized in the “wrong” way? (Sprinkling with Holy Water on the forehead versus full immersion, say.) Or what if Allah is the One True God? Or Vishnu? What if, to counter the comforting image invoked by the funeral pastor, Dominick closed his eyes in this world only to open them in even greater agony in the eternal fires of hell?

I realize some people reading this will brand me a world-class asshole for even suggesting something so vile. But before condemning me further, I would like to ask one thing: can anyone point out to me a verse in the Bible that explicitly states unbaptized children get a free pass into heaven if they’re brutally murdered? I’ll be waiting.
In fact, there are some Christians who flatly state that an unbaptized child WILL go to hell. Harold Camping, head of Family Radio and a Biblical scholar who has a syndicated radio program called “Open Forum” once fielded a question from an obviously distraught mother whose infant child had recently died. The weeping mother asked whether, since the child had died before being baptized, he would still be able to enter Heaven. Camping, much to my surprise, unflinchingly said that the Bible was very clear on the issue: one MUST be baptized to enter Heaven and that the child was now and forever in Hell.
(Of course, Mr. Camping also predicted the world would end in September, 1994. If it has, I haven’t noticed.)
Upon hearing Camping’s exchange with the mother, my first reaction was shock that he could so blunt to the point of cruelty. But I also have to confess that, in a rather convoluted way, I admired his honesty. After all, in our society faith and honesty are supposed to be virtues. Here was a man who REALLY had faith in his beliefs and is honest about it to the point of misanthropy.

At this point I should state that this is one time where I sincerely wish I am completely wrong in my views. If anyone deserves a cosmic break and a Heavenly vacation, it would be Dominick.

But as Carl Sagan frequently said: “Wishing does not make it so.”

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Benjamin and Me

Lately, it seems as though I have something in common with Benjamin Franklin. No, I don’t share his sage wisdom… and I CERTAINLY don’t have his knack for making money from the written word.

What we do have in common, however, is the fact that we both started memoirs. The key word is “started”. Franklin’s memoirs, not published until after his death, are considered a milestone in American literature. My memoirs, I fear, aren’t destined for such a hallowed reception, but I started ‘em nevertheless and they will burden me until I either finish them or croak. And although I currently seem to be in fairly good health for my age, I still don’t know which of these will happen first.

The good Dr. Franklin had, I must admit, much better source material for his memoirs, being a celebrated printer, philanthropist, inventor, Founding Father, diplomat, etc., etc., etc. In my case, the analogous literary work is merely the memoirs of my years with the loud Flint punk band the Guilty Bystanders. I certainly have no illusions that my writing is anywhere near the quality of Franklin’s, but our authorship does share at least one common trait: procrastination. Franklin began his memoirs thinking nobody other than perhaps his son or close friends would ever actually read it. He completed the first part in 1771 and set it aside. Then, however, the manuscript started making the rounds and against all expectations people seemed to enjoy it and they started asking him when he would continue working on it. Well, in the early 1780’s he started writing a second section. After which his friends asked for even more. In the late 1780’s, he wrote a third section and he was working on a fourth part at the time of his death in 1790. So, in short, Franklin procrastinated on & off for 19 years working on memoirs that were never completed.

And me? My unfinished work has been nagging at the back of my mind every so often. And every so often, people have asked me when I would write more. I didn’t really have an answer. But I suppose the fact that I have a bit more free time than I used to should be something of which I should take advantage.

And so, if my word means anything, I pledge to begin doing some more writing of the Guilty Bystander saga… at least my version of it. I don’t claim that my version of events is definitive, objective or even necessarily very accurate… but if there are some people out there who are actually interested in my continuing the tale, I shall do my best to comply.

I have no idea how long this next installment may take, but I suppose if it’s worth doing, I should try to reduce its suckage quotient as much as I am able. If, therefore, my regular postings are a bit sparser for awhile, that will likely be why. When the next installment is completed, you blog folks will be the first to know. But please be patient… the fact that the first Guilty Bystanders song to ever get airplay was entitled “Apathy Song” wasn’t a coincidence!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Diplomats and Soldiers

Recently, there has been some debate in the atheist movement over what strategy should be adopted in relations with religious organizations. On one end of the debate, there are those who think atheists should be polite and accommodating toward those religious people who may treat atheists with respect and who may share common goals such as concern for the environment, social justice (NB: Fuck you Glenn Beck!) and the teaching of evolution in science classrooms. (Contrary to common belief, a majority of religious organizations have no problem accepting the evidence for evolution. Or, to paint a verbal Venn diagram, not all religious people are creationists, though nearly all creationists are religious.)
The counter to this viewpoint is that atheists should not make any compromise with religion. Though not all religions are openly hostile to atheists, even the most benign religions provide the cover under which the more radical religions are allowed to thrive. It might be argued, for example, that even though most religious people condemn the 9/11 attacks, the fact remains that the attacks were motivated by fanatical religious belief. To say otherwise is nothing short of a denial of documented fact. Many people downplayed this aspect of the attacks, however, for fear of offending more moderate religious movements. This timidity to criticize the religious aspect of the attacks, it was argued, made it more difficult to expose the links between terrorism and religion and without this exposure, effective countermeasures would be blunted.
So where do I stand in this debate? At risk of seeming like a copout, I think I'm somewhere in the middle. If the atheist movement is to continue to grow, it will need the ability to adopt varied and flexible strategies depending on the situation. Just as a large nation needs both diplomats and soldiers, the atheist movement will need to adopt both "accommodationist" strategies where they would work best while reserving the option of adopting a more militant stance in situations where they are needed.
To go back to the large nation analogy, it is certainly preferable to maintain civil discourse with other nations even when full agreement is not possible. In such situations, diplomacy is the best course for ensuring peaceful mutual co-existence. In cases, however, where others take actions that threaten our rights and security, we need to stop being polite and start defending those rights.
So that's what I think. Atheists should try to get along with non-atheists if and when possible but should be ready and able to boldly stand up for their rights when necessary. To put things simply: when religious people treat atheists with respect, we should reciprocate. When they take actions to infringe upon our rights, we should not hesitate to fight back - even at the risk of "offending" the more mainstream religionists.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Shameless Catholic Bashing from an Ex-Catholic

I was raised Roman Catholic. I worked for five years at a Catholic church when I was younger. It was mostly landscaping and janitorial stuff, but what I saw behind the scenes while there was a real eye-opener. There was a lot of alcoholism and homosexual behavior among the clergy. (Nothing, to my knowledge, involving minors, but to a teenager who had been taught to respect the church, it was still quite a revelation.)

What I observed and the public hypocrisy being displayed made me disillusioned with the church so I left. Although I later became an atheist, that, for me, was not caused by my bad experiences with Catholicism; it was simply a matter of reading, studying and thinking about the philosophy of theistic belief and discarding it later in life.

One would have to be willfully avoiding all media not to know about the allegations of child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. (I was going to write “recent” allegations, but that would be incorrect. These allegations have been around for decades. It’s simply a matter of the evidence for it recently becoming so overwhelming that it can no longer be explained away as a series of misunderstandings or isolated incidents.)

Some have claimed that instances of pedophilia among the Catholic priesthood are not significantly higher than they are among the general population. I’m not certain that's accurate, but for the sake of argument, I will concede that point for the present. This pedophilia, as horrible as it is, is only part of the problem. The more sinister aspect of the sex abuse scandal, in my opinion, is what increasingly appears to be a concerted effort to place the reputation of the church above the well-being of the young sexual abuse victims.

Some have raised the point that it is perhaps unfair to single out the Catholic Church as an institution for these incidents since the people who committed these horrible deeds and those complicit in their cover-up and of the enabling of these child predators to strike again were merely human and that their behavior – reprehensible as is was – should not reflect upon the Church as a whole. I wholeheartedly disagree. Here’s why:

If you call a plumbing service, you expect the people there to be better than the average person when it comes to fixing showerheads and drains. If you go to a mechanic, you should expect them to know how to change a spark plug or a head gasket better than the average person. If, therefore, an institution claims to be a beacon of moral behavior, I would reasonably expect their representatives to excel in moral behavior! Simple as that. Claims that the Catholic clergy molest children at a rate equal to that of the general population simply doesn’t cut it for me. I would expect an institution claiming to instill moral behavior in others to have a rate far LOWER than that in the general population! If it didn’t, I would – like a plumbing service that employed people who knew diddly-squat about plumbing – have to question the reason for such an institution’s existence.

If there could possibly be any positive outcome to this tragic situation, it would be that this systematic abuse and cover-up is finally being exposed and the evidence is now out there for all to see. In the past, there were people who respected the clergy so much that anyone making claims of less-than-holy behavior on their part simply would not be believed. I know this for a fact since, when I told others about what I knew to be going on at the local parish, I was surprised at the number of people who simply refused to believe me, even though they knew me to be trustworthy and truthful in my communications with them otherwise. Now that the light of truth has entered the darkened corridors of the rectories, perhaps those who are abused in the future will be more readily believed… at least to the point that further investigation takes place when an allegation is made and swift and proper punitive action takes place in instances where the allegations are verified.

Worth Checking Out...

For those few of you out there who may read this blog from time to time, I would like to suggest another blog that is definitely worth reading on a regular basis:

I may be a bit biased since it is written by a good friend of mine, but I think I can honestly say that I would enjoy it even if that weren't the case. It's updated frequently and always contains delicious electrifying brain candy!

Go there! NOW!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Thought for the Day

ZEN: It's not a matter of whether a god really exists; it's whether the existence of a god really matters.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spoiled and Lazy?

Much has been made of the results of a recent survey of the so-called “Millennial” generation: defined as those between the ages of 18 and 29, in which they did not claim a strong work ethic was a defining trait of their generation.

Some commentators have slammed the Millennials for being “spoiled and lazy” as a result. I am not among them. Despite the temptation, as a middle-aged codger, to do what every generation since at least the Ancient Greeks has done by bad mouthing the younger folks, I must admit that I admire the honesty and perceptiveness of these young ‘uns.

Those older folks who decry the lack of enthusiasm for the 9-to-5 routine among these new members of the workforce are, in my opinion, making the mistake of looking at things based on their own perceptions of reality rather than what these Millennials have observed.

Think about it: when I was growing up, the narrative was if you do well in school, work hard and are loyal to your employer, you will be rewarded with a good income and financial security. And let’s face it, when my generation was growing up, our observations seemed to bear this out. People would work for decades on the shop floor and if they were fortunate enough not to die before retirement, they pretty well had it made. A nice pension, health insurance, a paid-off mortgage… It seemed like a good deal.

But think of what the Millennials are seeing: people who have done well in school and who have worked loyally and hard for their employers for decades are simply shunted aside just shy of retirement age and are left with no financial security and no job prospects. If I were in their place, working my ass off for some ungrateful employer would be the LAST damned thing I’d want to spend my life doing.

I spoke with people even older than me (yes, they do exist) who slammed these younger workers for their lack of loyalty to a company and their tendency to move from job to job whenever a better prospect would arise. They viewed this as a negative trait, but from the viewpoint of the Millennials, it was a rational decision. Why be “loyal” when such loyalty won’t bring any rewards in the long run? From their perspective, it makes sense for them not to get too involved in a job. They’re actually making shrewd observations of economic reality and are making their decisions and adjusting their values accordingly. In the past, people busted their asses for the boss because it would be worth it in the long run. Now, however, that the stick no longer has a carrot attached, why pull the bossman’s cart?

Perhaps these Millennials will be pioneers in formulating a new lifestyle which strikes a more healthy balance between the stresses of work and the joys of living. Perhaps they will learn to work to live rather than live to work.

So, to all you 18-29 year olds out there: more power to you. Learn from our mistakes and find your own path. You’re more than just a paycheck and a job description.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


For many married couples, the holidays sometimes present scenarios which need to be dealt with using the greatest tact and diplomacy. This Easter might have been one such instance. Should we spend the holiday with my wife’s sibling or with mine?

If we were to choose her sibling, we would spend a few days being spoiled shamelessly at a house within walking distance of the sandy beaches of Grand Traverse Bay dining on – among other delicacies – a standing rib roast and genuine Tiramisu. (Not to mention ample breakfasts featuring bacon cooked to sublime crispness by the only woman whose bacon-making talents have approached the perfection achieved by my late grandmother.) If we were to spend Easter with my sibling, however, we would spend it in the company of some creepy fundamentalist Christian in-laws and an equally creepy extended network of their friends and co-workers and siblings of co-workers…
And the cuisine? Let’s just say that one year we were treated to lukewarm instant mashed potatoes reconstituted with – nay – bathed in tepid soy milk.

Screw tact and diplomacy! Going to Traverse City was a no-brainer!

And so, on Saturday morning, the four of us and Lily the “Special” Maltipoo piled into the Toyota and commenced our trek northward. Unlike past excursions, we actually managed to leave at our planned departure time. Apparently the kids getting older combined with our experience packing for such trips have combined to make our travelling much more efficient than in previous years.
And so the humans involved were doing well. The canine traveler, though, wasn’t. When Lily noticed us packing up the leash and doggie bed, she started to freak out: separation anxiety without the separation, I suppose. She whined and hyperventilated in the back seat for the first half hour of the trip before finally settling down.

We decided to stop for lunch in Cadillac. Leanne saw a sign indicating an unnamed lake was ahead.
“I wonder what lake that is?” she asked.
“I dunno… Lake Cadillac?” was my smartass reply.
About a minute later we encountered a sign informing us that we were in the presence of… Lake Cadillac.
Damn! Even when I’m being intentionally stupid, I’m smart!
One thing a visitor cannot help but notice in the vicinity of Cadillac are all the anti-abortion signs. Lots of pictures of fetuses and babies and slogans such as “Take my hand, not my life.” Yep. Someone in Cadillac really, really, really hates abortion. I fantasized about wearing a T-shirt around town sporting the slogan “I (heart) abortions!” just to piss these people off. But I suspect anyone actually doing so would probably get a lethal dose of “Christian Love”.
I'm guessing all the infatuation with the unborn is somehow connected with the Catholic Church. You know, the folks who believe human life should be protected from the moment of conception until the moment of birth. After that, fuck ‘em. Figuratively and – in some horrific situations – literally.
(Okay, I realize this is supposed to be a lighthearted account of our recent trip to Traverse City, but you really couldn’t expect me to get through several paragraphs without a gratuitous slam against religion, could you? Besides, this is MY blog. If you want a more polite and civil blog, write your own!)
Anyway, we soon arrived at the sister-in-law’s without incident. The pantry was well stocked and our hostess was not about to let us leave weighing less than we did upon arrival.
Everything was wonderful… except the weather. This, however, was not as unfortunate as it may seem. I had long heard of the fine public library in Traverse City and since we couldn’t do much else, it was a perfect opportunity to… uh… “check it out”. (Sorry… I couldn’t resist the bad library pun.)
The Traverse City Library is wonderful! It’s a large, beautiful architecturally appealing building located on a scenic parcel of land near Boardman Lake with convenient access to the TART Trail. In Flint, such a parcel of land would most likely be occupied by condominiums.
Not only does the TC library boast excellent wireless internet access, but I was informed that Traverse City is planning to implement a free community wifi service later this year. Yep… the powers that be in the TC community view internet access as an essential public service and are willing to take steps to make it happen. I couldn’t help but contrast this with the situation in Flint where cuts in public services and a rash of arsons are plaguing the community. I kept wondering: why does Traverse City work while Flint seems broken? Maybe someday…
We spent that evening eating some delicious pizza and watching MSU lose in the Final Four basketball game against whoever-the-hell-they-were-playing-against. I was once a diehard U of M fan, but that all changed when they thumbed their noses at Flint by shit-canning WFUM. So now… it’s Go Green!
We spent a quiet Easter Sunday eating like royalty… from the aforementioned awesome bacon & eggs for breakfast to the juicy standing rib roast for dinner.
Sample dinner conversation:
“What’s in the bowl?”
“That’s the au jus.”
Au jus? I didn’t think they celebrated Easter.” (You get one guess who couldn’t help say THAT!)
After the delicious roast - some divine Tiramisu for dessert. Damn! This was the life!
And since the weather was clear, the kids & I walked to the beach where I read, my son looked for fossils and my daughter took pictures of every animal that passed within a hundred yards.
The next day, the downtown shops were open. Used book stores, gift shops, food stores… Leanne actually had pity on me and allowed me to purchase a container of excellent Cherry-flavored loose leaf tea from one of the local vendors. Mmmmmm!
For lunch, we ate at a place I insist on calling – much to everyone’s annoyance – SlapChop. Actually, it’s called Slabtown (after the old name of the neighborhood in which it’s located). My wife once kept mistakenly calling it “Slaptown” and from that I morphed the name into the infamous product hawked by the ever-trustworthy “Vince” of TV infomercial fame.
SlapChop… uh… Slabtown is an incredible burger place. How good? I realize this may be speaking blasphemy, but it ranks with the best burger joints in Flint. I think I’m gaining weight just thinking about it!
Finally, no trip to Traverse City would be complete without a trip to Moomer’s, voted the best ice cream place in America by some TV show awhile back. (Yeah, I could do some basic research to look up the specifics, but then again, so can you. That’s what Google is for.)
Not only did I have some delicious German Chocolate ice cream, but we purchased a new product: Moomer’s milk. It’s not homogenized and is processed to get from the cow to the consumer as quickly as possible. And unlike most store-bought milk which could pass for opaque water, this milk has an actual… taste! (Imagine that!) It’s hard to describe, but it reminded me vaguely of tasting like the liquid one would encounter in cottage cheese. Kinda. Anyway, it was quite good and worth checking out.
While at Moomer’s, my sister-in-law was telling me about research where dairy cows were being raised in a stress-free environment and could be milked when they wanted to be and were exposed to soothing music.
“Great. My next CD will be ‘Music for Cows’” I quipped.
I spent that night awake in bed… seriously wondering what kind of music cows would enjoy.

And so, on Tuesday, we returned home. It was a nice break from the incessant job search and likely as close to a vacation we’re going to get this year.
It was fun.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dei Gratia

It happens with surprising frequency: a self-righteous sack of human fertilizer pounds pulpit or podium spewing words like napalm: homosexuality is SINFUL and IMMORAL! Gays are EVIL! Their agenda must be STOPPED!
And it’s usually just a matter of time before that person is exposed as a pathetic self-loathing gay man himself. (Do the names Ted Haggard or Republican California Senator Roy Ashburn ring a bell?)

I get somewhat that same feeling when I hear those teabaggers and militia-types harangue about the evils of tyranny and government intervention in one’s personal affairs. Sure, they certainly fling invective against tyranny and oppression, but I suspect, like the most vocal anti-gay activists, they actually harbor a deep and hidden lust for the very thing they rail against.
They fancy themselves the philosophical heirs to the American patriot movement of the 1770’s. Strangely, however, many of these tea party conservatives also state we should bring God back into government. (And in the case of Christian militia movements such as the Hutarees, they want to implement this civic piety by force.)
Which brings us back to the American Revolution. Look at a British coin from the colonial period. You’ll see a picture of King George III and the legend “Dei Gratia Rex” (“By the grace of God, King”). Now THERE’S a government based on the Lord! Right there on the coins it states that civil authority is derived by the grace of God. The American patriots, though, once they achieved independence from those who minted that coin and established a stable government, stated proudly it derived its authority from “We the People”. Damned secular rabble!

So despite all their posturing and attempts to assimilate the external trappings of the patriot movement, the fact is their ideology is more closely aligned with the British colonial authorities! In other words, if these guys somehow found themselves transported back to 1775, they’d be fighting for the Tories!
While you might think I’m merely indulging in a bit of rhetorical exaggeration in saying that, I assure you I mean it quite seriously. In defense of this proposition, may I submit for your consideration the recent actions by the conservative-dominated Texas School Board. In formulating new history standards, they are actually proposing the removal of Thomas Jefferson from the curriculum in favor of Thomas Aquinas (who argued the truth of the proposition on that British coin - that civil power is justly derived from the Almighty) and John Calvin (who actually set up a rather bloody, nasty and repressive theocracy in Geneva)! It seems the Hutarees would have been right at home there. Noodle on THAT for a bit!
(As an amusing aside, this same school board removed the children’s classic “Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?” from a list of approved elementary school texts. The reason? Its author, Bill Martin, was accused of writing a book on Marxism. It turns out, however, they had the wrong Bill Martin. The one who wrote the book on Marxism is a philosopher in Chicago and – aside from sharing a common name - has no connection to the children’s book author. Upon being informed of this, the embarrassed board reinstated the book. Yep. THIS is the caliber of intellect we’re dealing with!)

These people may TALK a lot about freedom, but I think freedom is what these people really can’t stand. Their flags may be emblazoned with the words “Don’t Tread on Me”, but I'm guessing if they had the chance they wouldn’t hesitate a minute to tread on US!