Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Thinking Points For Today

One concept that has become prominent in our political parlance is that of "talking points." The Right has really perfected this, and now the Left is on board with it as well. There's really nothing at all wrong with the idea, but simply shoving a set of "talking points" at the public can be extremely coercive and isn't always terribly honest.

I want to introduce, in this Blog, the concept of "thinking points." Most of my Thinking Points will be statements, but many will be questions. The Gospels record Jesus as frequently having asked questions instead of merely opening up people's heads and spooning in pat answers. He often even answered others' questions with questions of His own, as He knew this was an effective way of getting them to really stop and think.

So in that spirit, here are my Thinking Points for Today:

* Is it really effective moral leadership for those who have appointed themselves leaders merely to lecture others about what they should or should not do? Would it not be more effective if these so-called leaders led by example? How much credibility can "Christian" preachers and politicians truly expect to have when so many of them live such sloppy lives themselves? And if America wants to be a moral leader in the world, should we not "walk the walk" before we "talk the talk?" Is the moral crisis in our society not made much worse by the fact that so many of us are so unwilling to take the beam out of our own eye -- both as individuals and as a society -- before we attempt to get the speck out of others'?

* Ought we to place so much credibility in leaders -- either political or religious -- who stand to gain so much, in terms of money, power or prestige, from their "leadership?" When they mindlessly demonize certain other people or groups, singling them out as enemies or scapegoats, should we always listen? Why do we listen to leaders so uncritically when they belong to "our side," and find it so easy to believe the preposterous lies they tell about those on "the other side?" Whatever happened to our own, personal responsibility in choosing wisely whom we will or will not listen to or follow? What will become of our free and democratic society if we continue to function so passively?

* When the two aforementioned questions are asked, why is our most immediate response to say, "Well, the other side does it, too?" Over whom do we have more influence: ourselves, or somebody else? Do we see this sort of buck-passing in others as an attractive trait, or do we recognize it as childishness? Why do we believe it is any more attractive when we do it than it is when they do? Is there any other way to change the situation than for each and every one of us to simply jump in and take the initiative to live, in every possible way, the way we know in our hearts we ought to -- regardless of whether other people follow?

I can't answer for anybody else, but I know in my own heart-of-hearts that true leadership involves personal, individual integrity before anything else. And though my past track-record is probably as spotty as everybody else's, I personally pledge to live the rest of my life this way. How many others are ready, willing, able and determined to join me?

I don't care what other people do. The only person I can be is myself, and the only life I can live is my own.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Naked Emperors #1, 2 & 3

Well, as promised, here come some of the self-important nude guys. I DID promise 'em, so I can put this off no longer.

"Liberals believe things so laughably stupid, they don't even deserve a listen." How the heck would your average "Naked Emperor" conservative even KNOW what we believe, since they almost never shut up long enough to listen to the sound of anybody's voice but their own?

Right-wingers are forever telling people "what liberals believe." At least fifty percent of it is grotesque distortion and at least another twenty-five are outright lies. The remaining one-quarter of it (when it is admitted to at all) is only the stuff so basic and self-evident to being an American, a Judeo-Christian, or even a human being who lives outside of a cave that no person who hopes even to be seen as decent would disagree with it. Though much that falls into the latter category, conservatives will disingenuously argue away as "unrealistic." All the while piously asserting their support for it in theory.

I saw, the other day, on a conservative blog that shall here remain nameless (though this statement is so common, you can find some variation of it almost everywhere in the Right-Wing blogosphere), a claim that never fails to make my blood boil. "Liberals," it said in effect, "believe there ought to be no standards whatsoever."

Now, nobody who knows me would ever have the guts to say such a thing to me in person. Anybody who does will get a speedy invitation outside. Conservative blowhards pull this crap because they think liberals are all such weenies we won't fight back. I look forward to the chance to surprise one.

Let me clarify, just for the record, what at least THIS liberal believes. I most certainly DO believe in standards, but I believe that they ought to be the same for everybody. Which means that right is right for everybody, wrong is wrong for anybody, and the same rules should apply to all. Conservatives believe there ought to be different rules for different sorts of people: one set for men and another for women, one for gays and another for straights, one for Blacks and another for Whites, etc. They will deny this vehemently, of course -- but their actions speak even louder than their blustery words.

Which brings me to Emperor #2...

"What conservatives believe is so demonstrably reasonable, nobody in their right mind can disagree." In the service of truth, let me tweak that just a tad. What conservatives CLAIM they believe is, indeed, not only demonstrably reasonable, but admirable. Right-wing apologists always describe what they believe by citing what they set to paper, and on paper, conservative theory is unimpeachable.

The problem comes from the huge gap (in fact, it's a yawning chasm) between WHAT THEY SAY they believe and WHAT THEIR ACTIONS INDICATE they actually do. Few of them make even the slightest attempt to live up to their own high-minded and demanding theories. Now, the few who do are fine people; good conservatives are among the best folks on the face of God's earth, and for these few, I have immense respect. But most people who call themselves conservatives are phonies, merely flattering themselves that they stand for something as noble as real conservatism as they hide behind the label.

The Right Wing -- and especially the Republican Party -- has been a haven for bigots, ignoramuses, hypocrites and spoiled, selfish overgrown infants for decades. And if you lie down with dogs, you're gonna get up with fleas. The few genuinely decent men and women left in the movement need to grow some backbone and toss these charlatans out. And they need to do so not only for their own good, but for that of the country and the whole world. Until they show the courage and the integrity to do that, they'd just better stop whining about the fact that not everybody likes them.

"Bush stands for free enterprise." No, Bush stands for Bush. And Cheney, and Condi, and Rummy, and Prince Bandar. I'm going to introduce a fact that will come as a shock to those who've been smoking the funny mushrooms and drinking the kool-aid for so long: capitalism and free enterprise are not always on the same side. Quite often, the former is even hostile to the latter.

Theoretically, any capitalist country will, of course, encourage free enterprise. But in actual fact, countries ruled by big-money, mega-corporation capitalism strangle the life out of genuine free enterprise. Are you an entrepreneur, trying to start a small business in our current big-fish-eat-the-guppies business environment? Well, good luck, but don't count on it! True free enterprise can only thrive where competition is not only allowed, but encouraged -- and competition is the last thing our corporate lords and masters will permit.

Socialism is not always Left-Wing. Just ask the Nazis. What we have in America, today, is a form of Right-Wing socialism that picks the pockets of the folks who actually do the work in this country and redistributes it to the big-corporate barons. The relationship between the common people and the tycoons bears an eerie resemblance, as a matter of fact, to the one that once existed between the vassal serfs and their feudal lords. Both Nazi Germany and Medieval Europe-in-general have returned to haunt us for the lessons we refuse to learn.

I am all for free enterprise. It is the only economic system under which democracy will flourish. Those who speak of "democratizing" our economy by replacing Right-Wing socialism with that of the Left are only fooling themselves -- and they, too, refuse to learn from history. The free enterprise system is the only one, in the history of humankind, that gives the wealthy a real incentive for the betterment of the circumstances of the poor.

Conservatives used to be the ones who would tell US that. What a pathetic state the Right is in when we're the ones who must remind THEM!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Seeing the World in Color

It strikes me as a bit odd, how totally at-odds our two most prominent crowds of modern screamers seem to be on the surface, yet how absolutely alike they are underneath.

In one corner are the religious fundamentalists, and in the other, the godless secularists. They certainly do seem, at first glance, to have nothing in common other than a mutual hatred. Yet they share exactly the same set of presuppositions about the world.

To both "sides," reality is all starkly black-and-white. There are no shades of gray, and colors are completely out of the question. And if you do not share their presuppositions -- if you do not view the world through their very limited frame -- then you must belong to the "other side," because God knows that, to these people, there are no other options.

As, to them, it's all either black or white, one side chooses the black, and the other the white. "Either science is true," they both declare, "or religion." But notice that for both, it always had to be simply one or the other.

Tell a fundamentalist how much like a secularist he or she really is, under the skin, and reap their immediate, gale-force wrath. They don't like it when you get under their skin. Tell a secularist how much he or she resembles a fundamentalist, and just watch the sparks fly. My, what a nerve you've touched!

One crowd flatters itself by thinking that it, and it alone, knows God and is numbered among the saved. The other must believe, with all its heart, that it is intelligent and sophisticated, with its finger on the pulse of the whole universe. To everyone else, they all merely look like the puffed-up fools they really are.

When I contemplate the labyrinthine path that life has taken from the primordial slime to where we now stand, heads erect and able to count at least all the stars we can see, I stand in awe of the inscrutable power of God. Of course we are all the product of Intelligent Design. Why must so many resort to fairy tales and hocus-pocus in order to believe in the existence of the divine?

The latest insanity is the trumped-up controversy between something dimmer wits insist on calling "Intelligent Design" and another that wits not too much brighter call "science." What the former means is that whatever we do not yet know is unknowable without resorting to "the God of the gaps," while the latter believes that once we discover what fills those gaps, there will be no room for God. Only those with a genuine faith in a real God can see all this for the tempest-in-a-teapot it actually is.

To think that anything we cannot understand at present must be explained away by hocus-pocus -- living in deathly fear that one day we'll find out too much and God will just disappear in a puff of smoke -- is not real religious faith at all. It is nothing more than a form of atheism too cowardly even to tell itself the truth about its unbelief. And to imagine that any God Who might exist is so feeble and tenuous that someday "science" will surely outpace "Him" is tragicomic hubris at its worst. Again, underneath the thin veneer of their differences, both of these crowds believe precisely the same thing.

I'm not worried that science will ever find out there is no God. That Soviet cosmonaut who, a few decades ago, declared that he saw no giant eyeball staring back at him from space, so therefore the subject of God's existence was a closed one, had all the intelligence and imagination of a laboratory chimp. He was stuck in the gulag of Cold War black-and-white. All these "people of faith" who have now declared war on science are right there in the gulag with him.

The media focus on their silly little squabble because it sells ad space and air time. It's high time we stopped acting like sheep and letting them herd us wherever they want us to go. If we stop buying into this bogus and utterly colorless view of reality, it will eventually shut up and go away. We have allowed the media to be dominated for far too long by stupid people devoid of imagination.

It's time to demand our right to behold and enjoy all the colors in the rainbow. It's time to worship the God Who Really Is. Liberal people of faith are the only ones now making that demand. Thus far, post 9-11, we have been held hostage by the colorblind. It's time for us to raise our eyes, see past the storm clouds, behold that rainbow in all its splendor, and remember, as did the earliest people of God, that God chose a rainbow to remind us that our covenant with "Him" will never end.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Eight-Hundred-Pound Gorillas #1, 2 & 3

Another sort of post you will see semi-frequently on this Blog will be my regular attempts to point out the obvious. Sometimes (like today) they will be Eight-Hundred-Pound Gorillas, and others, they will be Naked Emperors. As I'd rather think about great, big gorillas than about naked men of any societal station, this is the one with which I'll start.

We'll never beat 'em by joining 'em. We can never win our glorious war on terror by becoming like the very terrorists we're trying to defeat. They see it as a glorious war against us, and we have been suckered into accepting their mentality as the truth. These people do not deserve to be seen as simply one of two opposing forces. This places them on an equal footing with us, and it's an insult to America. These people are thugs and criminals, while we are (or at least are supposed to be) law-abiding and decent human beings.

Let's never forget that, even when our leaders do.

The pom-pom girls stay on the sidelines so they won't get tackled. They rah-rah all the carnage on the field, all the while staying as far out of the way of it as possible. I cannot stress this enough, as so many people are trying to gloss over it. It isn't just an eight-hundred-pound gorilla; it's a sixteen-hundred-pound hippo. The Right-Wing slackers tell us this is not a valid argument. But no matter how many times they keep on repeating that, they still can't make the hippo disappear.

D'you remember that movie, A League Of Their Own? All those pretty girls playing kickass baseball? Remember why those gals got such a great chance at sports glory, fifty years before the WNBA? It was because all the men who possibly could serve their country in the military -- even the big-league baseball stars -- were in uniform doing their duty. We applaud Pat Tillman for having had the unselfishness to leave a mega-million-dollar football career to serve in Afghanistan (and well we should), but why the hell is it considered such an oddity, anymore, to see a young man give the prime of his life to the country he loves?

I'm gonna say it straight. If you truly believe that this war is a holy and glorious cause for truth, justice and the American way, if you are sincere when you claim that we're in a battle-to-the-death against an evil force that's hell-bent on taking over the world, but you are not either in uniform or doing everything you can to get into one, then you are either a liar, a coward or both.

My father was too young for World War II. He was still a high-schooler when it was over. But did he say, "Whew...dodged that bullet! Time to party hearty?" No, he enlisted in the Army and served his country honorably as a military policeman in occupied Japan. And he was a hundred times the man your average young neocon joystick jockey will ever be.

I do believe that women should serve in the military, too, and I don't believe in the draft for anybody (it's still unconstitutional -- not that such a technicality seems to matter much anymore). I also have the utmost respect for conscientious objectors and for people who, in general, stay out of military service because they don't believe the war du jour is just. But all the strutting and preening (not to mention the name-calling) by these Captain-Rock-Ribs, God-is-a-Republican types is just disgusting. They're a lot of slacking, shirking, stay-at-home good-for-nothings, they're making total assclowns of themselves, and it's about time somebody exercised some tough love and told 'em so.

There are liberal Christians, too. If I have to listen to one more secularist Left-Wing politician either (A) pander to "the center" by trying to appease bigots or (B) diss every Christian on the face of the earth by lumping us all together with the wingnuts on the Religious Right, I truly believe that I shall scream.

THERE. ARE. LIBERAL. CHRISTIANS. TOO. Get that through your thick gourds, boys and girls. It will by no means please every Christian voter in America if you vote for an amendment to the Constitution that would not only ban gay marriage, but destroy the integrity of the entire document by violating four existing amendments. Nor do even very many of us believe that the earth is flat, or that Santa brought Adam and Eve to earth in his sleigh. Some of us -- gasp with shock!!! -- even believe that God created not only Adam and Steve, but also Stephanie and Eve.

I don't approve of having a mass murderer and war criminal for President. Nor do I think Jesus would approve of anybody torturing anybody. And at the sad spectacle of the Catholic Church shielding child-molesters (and even enabling them to go on groping and raping!) -- all the while slandering innocent gays and lesbians -- I am sure God must weep.

Stop saying "Christians" -- meaning ALL Christians -- when truth would be better served if you said "certain Christians on the Religious Right." There may even be a hell of a lot of them, but that does not justify perpetuating the falsehood that they're the only game in town.

A lie doesn't become the truth, no matter how many times you repeat it. And neither eight-hundred-pound gorillas nor sixteen-hundred-pound hippos (nor, sadly, even naked emperors) have a habit of going away simply because a lot of folks are doggedly determined to ignore them. Many little kids enjoy covering their eyes and pretending things they don't want to see have magically vanished. Some of us eventually outgrow such tomfoolery, but evidently a whole heckuva lot of people don't.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Why I am a Liberal -- An Introduction

One of my favorite TV series is The L Word. The "L" in question, of course is for "lesbian," which is supposed to be so scandalous to polite society that it must remain inutterable. I have found, however, that in our present, poisonous political environment, it is less perilous to identify myself as a lesbian than as a liberal. The new (and evidently more frightening) L Word is liberal.

I have been paying close attention, for some time, now, both to the way the word "liberal" is used by those who call themselves conservatives and to the reluctance of many I know -- folks whose expressed viewpoints place them solidly left-of-center -- to touch the word with anything shorter than a ten-foot pole.

Many of those who call themselves conservatives are actually, upon closer inspection, moderates. It has become so hot and trendy to identify with the brash, hip, trash-talking Right that calling oneself a conservative is now the cool thing to do. As few hardcore Right-Wingers can stand to listen to any opinion less extreme than their own, it is also a way to hide in plain sight and keep from getting shouted down.

A good many self-proclaimed moderates are actually liberals. They've simply been bullied into a deathly fear of admitting it. Even those of us who aren't afraid of inciting a fistfight (with these weasel-ass little combat-dodgers? Don't make me laugh!) think twice about spending all our social time arguing against those who try to stereotype or miscast us. As soon as you tell a Right-Winger that you're a liberal, they'll spend the next hour and a half telling you what that means. Only very rarely, in their rantings, do I recognize anybody who even remotely resembles myself.

This brainwash (actually, it's a power-wash) has been so successful, in our society, that for private citizen, politician and pundit, terms like "liberal," "leftist" and "progressive" have become dirty words. Merely calling somebody one of these names is often taken as an insult.

"The term leftist is frequently bandied about in the U.S. media, but seldom defined. The power of the label is in its remaining undefined, allowing it to have an abstracted built-in demonizing impact, which precludes rational examination of its political content."
Michael Parenti, author/media watchdog, Z magazine (Aug. 2005), quoted from The Utne Reader (Nov-Dec '05)

Now, I'm not crazy about "progressive" for two reasons. First of all, it isn't very descriptive. What the heck is a progressive, other than somebody who wants progress? Well, progress is totally in the eye of the beholder. Were you to ask Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Osama bin Laden or even Attila the Hun if they wanted progress, I'm pretty sure they'd all say yes.

Worse than that, "progressive" is usually used as a euphemism for "liberal." Which, of course, gets back to the implication that there's something wrong with being a liberal. If you think there's any sort of shame in being a liberal, then don't be one. But if you think, as I do, that liberalism is so crucial to the survival of this country that it must be loved, advocated and fought for, then dammit, stand up and call yourself a liberal. And do it with pride.

The real shame is that so many people who really are liberals are afraid to admit it. The whole "centrist" wing of the Democratic party could be brought into perfect, planet-aligned harmony with the "democratic" wing espoused by folks like me and Howard Dean if only they realized how liberal they truly are underneath their protective coloring.

In the days and weeks to come, intermingled with my various meanderings, I will present my own argument for being an "out and proud" liberal. Each part will focus on a slightly different aspect of the issue. And through it all, I will make my case for the following assertions:

(1) Conservatives are not wrong about everything. Which means that in some ways, the Left must stop being so reactionary. It is not healthy for Left and Right to be so far apart on every conceivable issue. In a few ways (though only a very few), the Right has actually won the argument. The Left has always been bigger than the Right, and must remain so to survive. It in no way dimishes us to admit that.

(2) We've all got to get our heads out of the Nineteen Sixties. Not only are we in a different decade, we've just begun a whole new century. And one of the things about which the Right is correct (even if they don't know what to do about it) is that 9-11 Changed Everything. We are, very literally, living in a different world than the one in which all too many on both Left and Right are stuck.

(3) We must all remember to appreciate our own Western, Judeo-Christian heritage. It isn't "xenophobic" or "jingoistic" to assert anything so demonstrably, even urgently, true. Nor does it mean that we have to kill, or even be less than hospitable to, people of other heritages. There are certain elements of the Left, particularly in Europe, that are rushing to suicide because they fail to understand this. But even the Left, as we in the West know it, is a product of our heritage, and we must remember that even when the countries from which we inherited it have forgotten.

I will elaborate more on each of the three aforementioned themes as I develop my argument. And again, as I said in yesterday's post, we have before us the opportunity to remake our world. 9-11 may have changed everything, but whether that initial tragedy remains nothing but tragic, or whether we resurrect it (like the great bird after which my home city is named) out of the ashes, is entirely up to us.

Friday, November 25, 2005

One More Thing to be Thankful For

As I continue to reflect on the special day we've set aside to give thanks, I realize I've got too much to be thankful for to fit it all into one day. I could, of course, go all day, every day thanking God for each blessing "He" has bestowed upon me as I think of it, and still I would never realize them all. But one special blessing pops out at me today. Post 9-11-01, we have the opportunity to see where humanity is headed -- and, still, just maybe, to change course before it's too late.

Human events and behavior in our post-9-11 world indicate our malady the way a pus-filled boil indicates an infection. We continue trying to live like animals, allowing our basest instincts to govern society. It's the path of least resistance, and it's easy to see why we have almost always lived this way. But we are not "mere" animals, we are human beings, created in the image of God. And it's about time somebody -- besides the nitwits pushing the study of "Intelligent Design" -- actually said so.

Biological darwinism is the scientific fact upon which all the natural sciences find their bases. But social darwinism is an unbridled and unmitigated evil. Funny how the very crowd so vociferous in opposing the teaching of the former is so dedicated to promoting the latter. Funny, that is, until we realize that there's a method behind such madness. If God simply said, "Abracadabra," and there stood humanity fully formed, then we have no obligation to keep on evolving.

Those most invested in the societal status quo are quite often those -- surprise, surprise -- who wish to see biological evolution dismissed as heresy. "We're already grownups," they claim, as does any first-grader standing amid the vast sea of a parent's clothing and gigantic shoes. If they are, like that first-grader, aware that they are merely playing a child's game of dress-up, then there's no harm in it. But if they seriously believe the claim they're making, then they're cutting themselves off from any possibility of ever really growing up. You won't strive and risk and toil to reach a destination if you believe you're already there.

Were we to allow overgrown spoiled and delusional children to run the world, they would ruin it. But wait a minute -- that is exactly what we are doing. And it's exactly what they are doing. They live in continual fear that we'll catch on to their game and see it as the make-believe it really is. All tyrants live in fear, and as fear is all they can understand, it is the motivator by which they would rule us all.

Is there an antidote to fear? Yes, there is, and it's laughter. What if we simply refused to take seriously, anymore, the little tin gods who would rule over us? Cindy Sheehan drew gasps of outrage from multitudes of sheeple when she called George W. Bush her employee -- our tax-paid servant -- and called him into account for the arrogant and irresponsible way he's been doing his job.

How dare she approach the Chrysanthemum Throne with criticism! The emperor-god and his minions are horrified at the cheek of it! Send out the flying monkeys, and bring back her head!

I can't help but laugh at the motley crew of idiots, overgrown adolescents and chickenhawks who've been given the keys to our country. Someone who took five deferrments to keep out of Vietnam is now sending girls young enough to be his granddaughter into battle? Hahahahaha!
A former pom-pom girl and cokehead -- who can't even pick his nose without a team of advisers to tell him how to do it -- is allowed to play with the mightiest military in the history of the world? Ye-heheheheheheeeee!!! Surely no comedy writer would dare come up with such stuff. It would be too insane to be made-up, so it can only be true.

But again, I say, rejoice! -- because it may yet not be too late to do something about it. 9-11 was a wake-up call, and it may not even be the last one we'll ever get. Let's not wait for another. We are making Iraq a paradise for terrorists from all over the Middle East. But we can come to our senses and figure out a way to get the hell out of there.

The Iraqis don't like having us there, but they need to learn how to run their own country. And yes, we've killed lots of people over there and broken many, many things. I fail to follow the logic of those who say this means that if we don't kill more people and break more things, the loss will have been in vain. The screwiness of such "logic" defies description -- and instead of taking seriously the folks who repeat such nonsense, we ought to laugh 'em right out of the room.

Happy Thanksgiving, one and all. And don't tell me it's over. We can give thanks all year round!