Archives for: January 2009
Nuggets of internet gold:
- Michael Hew at RANDOM THOUGHTS contrasts the reasonable, listening, outreaching, friendly new President with the grungy, perfidious, obstructionist, zero-vote Republicans of the House of Representatives. Actually, Hew presents a straight forward case that leaves you agreeing.
Another conservative site that will raise the blood pressure of all us good little liberals: Wigderson Library & Pub features an article obliquely accusing Senator Feingold of a double standard. Seems he and we are going after the wrong constitutional issues.
- Jessica Hollingshead at ¿Dónde está la Biblioteca? brings us an effort in Texas to ban a book about the evils of banning books.
Have a safe weekend. Pray for someone in pain. A lot of them out there this week, the next few could find any of us among them.
Consider the plight of US Representative Don Manzullo, Republican from Illinois. Night before last he appeared on Rachel Maddow's increasingly popular evening program on MSNBC. He defended the Republican position on President Obama's stimulus plan. They oppose it. Maddow turned him inside out. At one point he insisted that hiring more people does not create jobs. And if government hires workers to repair infrastructure, they are no longer workers. They have become bureaucrats.
You have to have at least some grudging admiration for Congressman Manzullo. He was brave enough to show up on a television program where others fear to tread. He had an indefensible case to make. He, like all other Republicans in the lower house, wants to cut spending in the President's economic stimulus package and substitute tax cuts. They argue that cutting taxes on the very wealthy will stimulate the economy, because people with money will open businesses, thus providing employment.
It is not easy to be a national Republican these days. One poll shows about half of American voters approve of Democrats in Congress, while Republicans get 26%. On a generic ballot, congressional Republicans lose to Democrats by more than 2 to 1. Wow. Another poll, this one by Gallup, shows Republicans have a significant majority over Democrats in only five states, representing just 2% of America's population. 35 states are pretty solidly Democratic. 10 states are close enough to be tossups.
And the new President is phenomenally popular. Folks feel he is fighting for them, while Republicans are seen as unanimously obstructionist. Elected Republicans face a problem that fits in with what ails the economy. It is the Problem of the Commons. That's when it's to everyone's benefit to take actions that if only taken individually would be painful. Republicans in the House and Senate want to become a national party again. But if any one of them takes actions individually that will help the country at large, they commit suicide with a rabidly conservative base. Rock, meet hard place.
Rocks and hard places apply to the economy. If everyone together increased spending, the theory goes, jobs would be created and everything would be fine. But if my family alone increases spending, we put ourselves in danger. So we cut back, and so does everyone else. It makes us all worse off. Until the economy improves, nobody will invest more into businesses to serve a non-buying public. Tax cuts don't cut it. But with enough government spending, jobs get created, individuals also start spending, and the cycle gets healthy. The rock and the hard place go their separate ways. But Republicans know that if Democrats get the credit, the GOP will wither.
Life is filled with little trade offs. Getting along without elected Republicans is a price we can all learn to live with.
I'm okay with baseball. Kind of slow, but if you know something about strategy it can be as entertaining as, say, watching a few old timers play poker. Better than pulling your own teeth, I would guess. President Bush was uninterested in public policy to the point of being bored during an early intelligence briefing warning about bin Laden's 9/11 attack. But he was, and remains, passionate about baseball. He reportedly has memorized baseball statistics going back to the 1950s.
Which brings me to my young daughter. Young is a relative term. She magically became an adult as I watched, amazed. She is about to be married, which doesn't exactly prove she is all grown up. That proof comes from a continuous stream of wisdom demonstrating a maturity that escapes most of us. She is a baseball aficionado. She knows the game.
On a hot August afternoon, summer before last, she watched the game between her home team, the Baltimore Orioles, and the visiting Texas Rangers. Camden Yards is a comfortable park with a sort of retro design. Fans looked forward to seeing the Orioles show their considerable skills.
Sure enough, Baltimore scored early, coming out of the first inning with a run. In the third inning, they scored 2 more. The Rangers couldn't get on the scoreboard. It looked to be a good game for the hometown fans. In the 4th inning, Texas came alive with 5, count 'em 5, runs. They led by 2. It was going to be a ball game. Fans yelled for the Orioles to come back. Instead, the Rangers scored in the 6th, with 9 more runs. Nine? In one inning?
Fans were stunned. It couldn't get worse. Except it did. With 16 more runs in the last two innings, the final score was 30 to 3. The Rangers didn't just win. They crushed the home team. The margin approached absurdity.
My daughter was on the telephone right away. Baseball scores seldom get to 2 digits. But 30 to 3? I now understand that you could have found a more thorough trouncing if you went back 110 years to 1897. She does know the game. "You can't score that high in baseball," she explained. "They just got confused. They thought they were playing basketball."
This week brought us what is called "Black Monday". America lost over 50,000 jobs in a single day. Employees have pink slips from General Motors, Sprint, Home Depot, Pfizer, Caterpillar, IMG, and more. 50,000 families are talking late into the night about how to keep going. And nobody is safe.
As a few Senators hold up economic recovery to demand additional tax cuts for the wealthy, we are losing by historic margins that approach absurdity. Except this time more is at stake than a baseball game in Camden Yards.
One of the startling policy developments initiated during the Bush administration was the use of instruments of government to accomplish the direct opposite of their original purpose. In just one now famous incident the head of the civil rights division ordered highly ranked, experienced lawyers transferred out of their jobs. It so happened that all of the lawyers were black women. Supervisors were told to lie about why the women were sent away. They were told their work was substandard. But one manager was told the real reason. They were to be replaced with "real Americans." The head of the division elaborated. Real Americans meant white men who are Christian.
The civil rights division was then used in a series of attempts to prevent eligible voters from actually casting ballots. The division established to guarantee the right to vote became a lighter version of registrars in the old south, telling voters they could not vote.
Similarly the Environmental Protection Agency was turned around. Since the beginning of the department, part of the process of protecting the air we breathe and the water we drink was watching out for industries capturing local governments and passing laws that would allow pollution. When local laws contradicted federal guarantees, federal regulations would prevail.
But there was another side of the coin. Sometimes local and state governments pass regulations providing more protection than Congress allows the EPA. A provision was created for that possibility. The EPA is required to grant waivers when laws benefit the environment in which we live.
But under President Bush, the EPA began discovering ways to make us MORE vulnerable to pollutants. Science showing global warming was suppressed. Industry representatives were put on regulatory advisory boards. Regulations blocking brain damaging lead around little kids were relaxed. Allowable mercury levels were raised. Cadmium, Chromium, Copper, Nickel, and Selenium followed. More and more arsenic was allowed in the tap water we put into the drinking glasses of our children. Our President became a reincarnation of Lucrezia Borgia, complete with poison ring.
And here is the interesting part. When states passed their own laws to protect their citizens, they were told they could not enforce them. The waivers mandated by law were denied. The administration maintained that stricter laws by states might weaken the environment. The law had been turned on its head. California was the largest state to file lawsuits against the administration. Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger led the way.
President Obama spent his first full day in office beginning to repeal Bush versions of regulations. Much of the first term will be spent airing out our White House, sweeping the floors, scrubbing the walls.
There is much housecleaning to do.
The legislative testimony was contentious. The witness was alleging corruption at the highest levels of state government, and he had documents to back it all up. An enraged State Senator decided to focus on the credibility of the witness.
"You use the word 'Colonel' in front of your name," began the Senator.
"Yes," said the witness. "I was awarded the honorary title a few years back."
"Were you in the military?" ................................. The witness answered no.
"Had you performed some act of heroism?" ......... Again the witness said no.
"Then that word 'Colonel' you insist on using," sneered the Senator, "what does it really mean?"
The witness considered the question for a moment, then looked directly at the interrogator. "It's like the word 'Honorable' in front of your name, Senator. It doesn't mean a thing."
The Senate of the State of Illinois is finding its own honor attacked by the Governor whose title it is about to remove. The legalisms continue. The Governor maintains he is being railroaded because he is not being accorded by the Senate all the procedural rights he would receive as a criminal defendant in a court of law.
That Governor Blagojevich of Illinois has lost his lawyer should not count against him. The lawyer cited personal reasons for resigning, but his final remark left little doubt that those personal reasons involved his client. "I never require a client to do what I say, but I do require them to at least listen."
The disagreement, in part, seems to come from a basic difference in view. The Governor correctly sees his immediate troubles as political, not legal. Lawyers are paid to see matters more narrowly.
In fact, that goes to the heart of the procedural argument. The Governor is not yet a criminal defendant. A citizen's right to liberty is God given. The same is not true of the right of Blagojevich to be Governor. The people of Illinois do not have the right to imprison a man when they think he is a crook. They do have the right to fire him.
Regardless of his recent comparisons of himself to Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, and Mohandas Gandhi, the issue is simple.
The "Honorable" in front of the name "Rod Blagojevich" doesn't mean a thing.
In the days leading up to the Normandy invasion, the huge military move that eventually ended Europe's half of World War II, the allies worried about the vulnerable first stage. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers would be landing on the coast of France. If Hitler's people discovered the landing point, redeployment of German units could mean slaughter of Eisenhower's troops.
The allies needed to convince Hitler's generals that the invasion would begin elsewhere. German spies the British had discovered and turned into double agents sent information back to Berlin, suggesting a buildup of forces opposite Calais. A force composed of rubber tanks and fake soldiers were set up at that point, led by George S. Patton.
In 1943, British agents hatched a plot. They took an unidentified body, disguised him as a diplomatic liaison, and attached official looking papers detailing an invasion, not at Normandy. Papers for a Major William Martin were created. A lover's photo, letters, and other details were placed on the body. A submarine spirited the body to a beach in Spain. It was found and sent to Berlin. The ruse worked. In 1954, a book detailing the true story was published, The Man Who Never Was. A 1956 movie was based on the story.
And in 2009, a GOP strategy is based on the same tactic.
Republicans rail about non-existent plans to revive the old Fairness doctrine, the regulation that decades ago required broadcasters who promote a political tract to provide equal time to opposing views. One member of Congress supports such a move but it dies a lonely death. No other support.
Republicans now detail their opposition to the Obama stimulus plan. They don't like the spending on infrastructure. They cite a report from the Congressional Budget Office to prove it won't work. The report does not exist.
Republicans say closing the Guantanamo prison and ending torture will endanger America. They claim that 61 released prisoners have already resumed terrorist activities. Indeed there are some very dangerous guys mixed in with those caught up in broad sweeps in Afghanistan and Iraq. One fellow released by the Bush administration has indeed been taken on by the Yememi branch of al Qaeda. Many others are now considered to have been unlucky bystanders. The group of 61 Republicans cite includes those now committing such "terrorist" activities as talking to reporters and writing op ed pieces for US newspapers saying their false imprisonment was wrong.
Unlike the 1943 plot, what the GOP version now targets is not the German high command, but the American people.
It's The Democrat Who Never Was.
More than half a lifetime ago I often occupied the time each day during my lunch break strolling through the manicured grass of Forest Park off Kingshighway in St. Louis. One pleasant noontime, I was stopped by another young fellow passing out leaflets. With each leaflet he yelled out to the recipient "Have you been saved?"
I mentioned the incident to a friend, who said the logical response might have been "From what?" I suppose the answer to that might have been Hellfire.
Each election, ink is invested by the popular press in evangelism. How will evangelists vote? What issues will excite them? What candidate or party will capture their hearts? The image in which they are seen, not entirely without justification has been one of intolerance.
What is often called the Great Commission is outlined in Matthew. The resurrected Savior instructs us, his followers, to make disciples of all nations. Many mainline Christians have been reserved in their approach to this assignment. The tent rallies, the televised bigotry, the movies that depict evangelists as a bit crazed and a little ridiculous, and the polls that show a silly sort of political focus all combine to turn most folks off. Evangelists are seen as more interested in converting eager masses to a discipleship of the Republican Party and to followers of inherited wealth.
The affable, young acquaintance I knew at a workplace where I was once employed might have benefited from a more reasonable contact. I do not believe there has been a week I have not prayed for him since the afternoon he never returned from a lunch break. His suicide did not come with any warning or crisis that was apparent to those of us who had contact with him. Crisis seems to have been a secret part of his life.
When we talk of evangelism, most of my Christian friends react to the negative images presented by popular culture or personal contact. Personal experience causes me instead to think of a friendly contact with what could be a troubled friend at work or even with a casual contact while in line at a purchase counter. "Have you been saved?" in my mind does not come close to "Are you having a tough day?" or "Is anything wrong?" or "Is your stepson doing any better?"
One issue I have with the crazed folks in the park, or those who know how Jesus would vote (you hear me Alan Keyes?) is that they are filled with spiritual certainty, and in their unquestioning lives, they have no personal curiosity about those they target. It is as if some are so caught up with their grand mission, they do not really care about individuals.
They have the answer. They see no need for the question.
Nuggets of internet gold from a few of my favorite sites.
Jack Jodell at THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST celebrates joy and relief at the replacement of a very bad President with what promises to be a very good one. Pay attention to his last paragraph: some very generous words for this site and for me.
- Jessica Hollingshead at ¿Dónde está la Biblioteca? treats us to an array of great photos showing her inaugural experience. It ends with a one minute video of crowd reaction to the moment of legal transition.
- Filmmaker and writer SJ at RANDOM THOUGHTS is seriously ticked off at New York Governor David Paterson's choice for United States Senator. If I ever irritate SJ, all I ask is a chance to apologize.
My current favorite conservative site Chuck Thinks Right attacks illegal immigrants with figures from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). I respond with some research of my own suggesting that Chuck is full of beans.
This is the first weekend of Barack Obama as President.
In the made for television movie about the events leading to 9/11 that played over a year ago on ABC, much of the drama had to do with failure to stop Osama bin Laden before the 9/11 attacks. You can see the frustration of the military people with the terrorist mastermind in their sights, as they wait for permission from Washington to pull the trigger. You can see the uncertainty as a sweaty Clinton bureaucrat hesitates, finally letting the opportunity go by. As the television drama demonstrates, Osama lived and so thousands died on American soil. It happened almost exactly that way.
Almost. Except it was not Clinton's people who backed down from attacking bin Laden. It was the Bush administration. ABC had turned research for the drama over to a conservative ideologue who made the conscious decision to turn history on its head. Bill Clinton was shown as weak and clueless. President Bush was shown as unflinchingly heroic.
With the harsh memory of that administration not even beginning to fade into merciful obscurity, the distortions of loyalists begin. Viral emails, occasional television commentary, radio and print, carry a repetition of the familiar tale. President Clinton was weak, indecisive, letting bin Laden go, and leaving President Bush to face the consequence of near criminal negligence.
In fact, President Clinton was mocked during his term by Republicans who thought his focus on terrorism was obsessive. In an article published almost exactly two months before the 9/11 attacks, David Keane, head of the Conservative Union, pointed to specific anti-terrorism activities by the Clinton administration. He regarded everything from financial tracking to cut off funds to terrorists, to efforts within the United States to find and stop terrorism before it happens as unjustified infringements. He praised Republican statements opposing anti-terrorist actions, and urged Republicans to make these useless activities a major campaign issue in 2002 and beyond. President Clinton more than tripled funding for fighting terrorism. He multiplied the number of intelligence agents assigned to stopping terrorism by similar proportions, to 357 percent of what had been.
He and his people begged the new Bush administration to continue and expand those efforts. Their pleas were laughed away, with tragic results. Anti-terrorist budgets were slashed, agents reassigned to anti-porn projects, CIA warnings derided.
I don't blame President Bush for disregarding the warnings, and discontinuing efforts by the Clinton administration against terrorism. He did not know, did not suspect what would happen. The Bush administration regarded Clinton as a little crazed on the topic of terrorism.
I do object to the continuing efforts of some sweaty palmed conservatives for whom the truth is just not good enough.
My daughter tells me of a friend who battles the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Karen (not her real name) waited to come to this country from Guatemala, then worked hard to pave the way for her immediate family to follow. She diligently researched every rule and obeyed each one to the letter. When financially ready, she applied for her family to come. Not unreasonably, a case worker wanted assurance that her family was composed of blood relatives, so it was ordered that they submit to DNA testing at her expense. So she purchased kits, sending them to her native country, then having the results sent to the lab recommended by the INS. The results eventually came back indicating that they were indeed family.
The caseworker was not convinced. Karen was told to arrange another test. Once more, the results were conclusive. The INS demanded another test, then another. In all, five successive DNA tests proved again that the family was related. The caseworker has now ordered Karen to arrange a sixth test. In frustration, the president of the testing firm is protesting: Further testing is pointless, since it will only repeat proof that is, by now, exhaustive. Karen's experience is not uncommon, although the business with DNA is a bit weird. What is not unusual is that overcrowded schedules, sometimes xenophobic workers, and some plain bad employees will often combine with ambiguous rules to produce anti-immigrant abuses.
My current favorite among conservative sites is Chuck Thinks Right. Recently, Chuck posted some interesting facts on immigration. He blamed illegal immigrants for much of California's budget problems, claiming a 7.7 billion dollar cost to the state of educating the children of those who break the rules in coming here. The source of his research is unfortunate. It is a group started by John Tanton, a nativist who has been warning for decades of the dangers of what he calls a "Latin onslaught." The Southern Poverty Law Center has been documenting his activities.
Chuck allows that "Pro-immigrant groups and Latino researchers dispute the federation's findings, calling them biased and incomplete." One such "Latino", Governor Schwarzenegger, says blaming immigrants for budget ills is plain wrong. The Social Security system is unjustly bloated by contributions made, with benefits unclaimed, by illegal immigrants. Several legitimate studies show scare figures of lawlessness and tax costs to be made up. But cost/benefit studies are not the real issue, are they?
We can empathize with those on the large ship who wrongly see it as dangerously overcrowded, and face the heart wrenching decision of pulling up the ladders lest those struggling in the water capsize the ship. It is, I think, time to confront those folks who despise those still in the water. If we really want to reduce illegal immigration, we can begin by learning from Karen.
Make it easier to be legal.
President Obama met every expectation in his inaugural address. He took the broad themes of his Presidential campaign and cast them in a post-partisan premise: that all have an interest in America's success, and all will take credit if they participate in that success. His words continued the process of outreach that he began as he prepared to assume office, meeting with former opponents, promising to consider their viewpoint, wherever it was possible without doing violence to his own.
In reaching out, he did not surrender what he believed. Instead, he expertly interwove his goals with a visionary's view of American history. He talked of what is seen to be a new approach, but described it as an embrace of a more fundamental tradition. He invoked Washington as the father of the Republic. He described the moving spirit of a diverse people as a strength based on common principle. And he suggested that, although government needs to play its constructive role, the real source of America's strength will continue to be a unity of individual Americans.
The proof of all this, of course, will be in performance. Evidence suggests that Americans are prepared to be patient in awaiting results, as long as they see a contrast in method with the previous administration. For all of the new President's soothing words of conciliation, the departure of President Bush is remarkable for the degree of relief that accompanies it. Although Obama comes to office as much more than the un-Bush, that is an undeniable element in the glee that greets him.
Like President Obama, President Bush came to office promising to transcend political divisions. After a rocky start, a national tragedy united the country and most of the world behind him. But he betrayed our trust, turning policy and politics over to those who saw only partisan opportunity in a righteous national movement against terrorism.
President Bush did not come to office with a vision for the nation. Rather he approached the Presidency as personal opportunity. Trumpets, pomp, the cheers of crowds, and the obsequience of underlings all combined to make the job the greatest gig in the world. But nothing more. He turned actual governance over to the crassest of political operatives. In retrospect, the outcome seems preordained. Those who had no interest in making government work produced a government that did not work.
President Bush condemned conservatives to an eventual obscurity that may become permanent. He did it by the only means possible.
He put them in charge.
"We don't serve colored people here," said the restaurant owner to comedian Dick Gregory. "That's alright," Gregory said, "I don't eat colored people."
Dick Gregory was not universally popular within the black community. It was not all that common back then to make light of the degradation experienced by people of color. A few resented making discrimination seem comical, rather than purely evil. Some did not want discrimination discussed at all, since it might inflame white bigotry.
And there were the go-along-to-get-along folks. The best explanation for folks oppressed so long they embrace their situation might come in the movie Shawshank Redemption. Red, played by Morgan Freeman, describes how a prisoner for life becomes what he terms institutionalized. "Believe what you want. These walls are funny. First you hate 'em, then you get used to 'em. After long enough, you get so you depend on 'em. That's 'institutionalized.'"
An elderly friend once described an incident on a segregated train. A young man tried to sit in an all white section and was expelled. My friend, in telling the story, was not outraged even in retrospect. He chuckled at the foolishness of the violator. He was a source of wisdom for me. He was a man of intelligence and learning, although plain spoken. He worked quietly to expand opportunities for young folks. I admired him. I still do, although we lost contact several years back. He was no Clarence Thomas, yet even he succumbed, for a moment, to what Red called "institutionalization."
We do not know the inner thoughts of singer Marian Anderson as she was refused entry into a music school in 1921. "We don't take colored," she was told. But she studied on her own and started with the New York Philharmonic 4 years later. Critics loved her. Arturo Toscanini, the consummate conductor, said that such a voice was "heard once in a hundred years."
She is best known for standing up to an institution that surprised many by turning out to be racist. The Daughters of the American Revolution denied her the right to sing to an integrated audience at Constitution Hall. Hundreds resigned from the organization. One, Eleanor Roosevelt, arranged for her to sing to an outdoor concert at the Lincoln memorial, the same place from which Martin Luther King decades later spoke to the ages.
She sang to many thousands that day in 1939, looking over the Washington Mall. At the other end of the Mall are the Capitol steps from which President Barack Obama speaks today. I have had the privilege of walking along that Mall with my young daughter as she was growing up into the delightful young woman she is today. No chance she will be institutionalized. I lacked an answer when she asked the length of the Washington Mall. Now we know.
From one end of the Mall to the other is almost exactly seventy years.
Forty years ago the G.O.P. decided, in effect, to make itself the party of racial backlash. And everything that has happened in recent years, from the choice of Mr. Bush as the party’s champion, to the Bush administration’s pervasive incompetence, to the party’s shrinking base, is a consequence of that decision.
This contentious observation comes from Nobel winner Paul Krugman.
Certainly this has not been universally true. William F. Buckley, not personally a segregationist, was okay for years with Jim Crow laws and opposed federal Civil Rights. He changed his mind and regretted his earlier stand. Conservatives like Buckley had tried to make policy differences philosophical in nature. For some, those differences really did center on freedom, size of government, and free trade.
But, over time, philosophy surrendered to what worked electorally. What worked was fear. They were against us and our way of life. They were black folks, until that message became disreputable. When too many white folks had met black people or had seen the Huxtables on television, or in some other way outgrew that fear, the message was relegated to the back of the bus, not completely discarded but not mentioned in polite company. Black-people-as-enemy was surrendered to gay-people-as-enemy, then immigrant-as-enemy, or Muslim-as-enemy.
Mainstream Republicanism embraced the Bill O'Reilly led Christian Identity movement. Less likely threats from those-who-would-destroy-us were decried. The danger of the War on Christmas focused anger on hapless department store workers who dared to wish us Happy Holidays. Then came the peril of the War on Easter.
The politics of fear has finally lost to Barack Obama. The GOP has become a regional party of and for white southern men. Economic recovery is opposed, working people who were once the center of Republican resurgence are now objects of derision, joining at last those-who-are-not-us. Some new issue has been required, something that would rally the American people once more into voting against themselves.
Earlier this year, conservatives attacked Dunkin' Donuts. It seems spokeswoman Rachael Ray wore a scarf that might, if you looked sideways, resemble a Muslim keffiyeh. A scarf that might look like a Muslim garment must be seen as an endorsement of terrorism. Now, courtesy of Steve Benen, comes news that these folks have a new target: Krispy Kreme. The key to a GOP comeback: The War on Donuts.
It was a perennial argument. My friend insisted homosexuals should be hated because the practice was prohibited by the Bible.
I acknowledged that Leviticus 18 and other passages declared it to be an abomination. But I protested his literalism. I pointed to prohibitions in Leviticus to eating lobster, declaring shellfish an abomination. Rotating crops, wearing polyester and cotton in the same shirt are also declared by Leviticus to be sins. Deuteronomy prohibits me from drawing close to the altar since my vision is not perfect. In this I am joined by short people, since they also are forbidden. That will shrink the choir.
On the other hand, Exodus urges ethical behavior when selling my daughter into slavery. I should extend a money back guarantee if her new master is not pleased with her. If one of our then minor children were to go insane and speak back to their mother, I must not confine the offender to his room until he recovers his mind and repents, rather I must have him executed.
The list went on. My point was that God did not write the Bible, nor did the Almighty dictate it to willing scribes as a busy executive might dictate a letter. Rather those who wrote the scriptures were inspired by the Lord. They used their own knowledge and experiences to express that inspiration. The problem is that we are all mortal, and the wisdom available to us is limited by that simple fact. We should read scripture, prayerfully, for that inspiration.
I posed the question. Did my friend believe that slavery was right? Or did he believe that it had at one time been right but had since then become immoral? Or, as I believed, was it always wrong for one human to own another? He paused for a moment and responded. Morality had changed when Jesus died, because the cloth of the temple had been torn in two.
So there you have it.
Polling suggests that a growing number of folks embrace spirituality, but a declining number participate in any religion, the formalization of spirit. A new study suggests that children are happier when they include spiritual introspection in what they consider important, but that this has no statistical relationship with going to church, temple, or mosque. I think religion declines when it is less about spirit and more about literalism.
I have friendly arguments pretty much all the time about such beliefs. I enjoy them and I like to think I am willing to contemplate the thoughts of others. Most of the discussions I have with those who do not believe boil down to one difference. They see spirituality as being all about superstition.
So do my fundamentalist friends. To them that conception is immaculate.
Nuggets of internet gold from a few of my favorite sites.
- Jessica Hollingshead at ¿Dónde está la Biblioteca? offers thoughts on autistic children and an inadvertent justification for a public service requirement in high schools.
- On a lighter note along the same lines, Amber at Make Dinner not War makes a brief and pithy comment on our soon-to-be-ex-President. What more does she need to say?
This is the last weekend of George Bush as President.