Saturday, July 24, 2004

A Letter

Below is the body of a letter that I wrote in response to an email, which I received recently from a group calling itself the Christian Family Coalition. I'm not entirely certain how I found my way onto their mailing list. In fact, this could be one those scams like the Nigerian dealio for all I know. But as I have determined to speak truth to power, I thought I should get started. Next, I will write a letter to the Holy Father regarding his position on the book of Revelation and the current of apocalypticism in America. I post that here, too, when it's written. At some point I will put up a website for my teaching this fall, and I'll post CFC's original email there, for completeness' sake, I guess. There you go.


I received your organization’s email entitled “You can help Protect Marriage!” As I am a Christian, your message was suitably placed, and I do understand the fervency that you bring to this issue. I do not intend to address the actual question of Same-sex Marriage herein, and I hope, if you have read this far, you will do me the honor of proceeding to the end. I wish to bring to your attention certain flaws in your exhortation. I will try to be brief.

In explaining that America may not survive the introduction of legal same-sex marriage, you write, “Young boys and girls will be taught how to perform ‘safe sodomy’ on each other in sex education classes.” First of all, to my knowledge, most sex education classes advise abstinence first and, failing that, the use of condoms to prevent disease transmission and pregnancy. Notably, condom use is prescribed for any and all sexual contacts which involve an exchange of bodily fluid. Clearly, this advice already treats the circumstances of homosexual sex, so it is not reasonable to expect any significant change in sex education curriculum due to legalization of Same-sex marriage. Moreover, safe-sex, or as you prefer “safe sodomy,” practices are surely not necessary in the context of a monogamous relationship, especially, as there is no possibility of conception (barring those cases wherein one partner, and not the other, carries a disease). Again, you can see there would be no need to alter sex education guidelines. Your claim, in my opinion, is essentially inflammatory, and it does no good service for your cause.

You also write, “YOUR CHURCH will have to abandon Scripture and ‘marry’ homosexuals or lose their tax exempt status or worse yet - BE SHUT DOWN if they refuse to marry two men or two women.” I believe this statement is false. Churches are not enjoined to share sacraments with people who do not share their beliefs. For example, in the Roman Catholic Church, which places Marriage among the sacraments of Baptism, Communion, Holy Orders and others, a priest is not required by law to share the Eucharist with non-believers, even with Christians who are not Catholic. As Marriage is a sacrament, the priest is not enjoined to marry same-sex couples. If I am in error, I ask you to correct me. However, I believe that if I am correct, you would do well to retract this claim or modify it.

Finally, I would ask you, please, to clarify your meaning in the statements, “the SURVIVAL OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE” and “AMERICA WILL NOT SURVIVE...” Do you mean to say that the United States will be extinguished as a sovereign state? If not, what do you believe will be the state of American society a generation after the proposed legalization of Same-sex marriage? Please provide specific examples, if you would.


I was going to write a bit about leadership, but then I felt like I would be writing a business school application, or a campaign spiel. I was going to remark that leaders are supposed to more than act decisively--specifically, if you’re at the top of the pyramid and everyone is handing up whatever they know to you, then you’re the one with the obligation to make something of it all, see the big picture, etc. you can’t excuse yourself with the claim that the pyramid below didn’t tell you what you needed to know because you’re the only one who really ought to know. Whatever it is.

I bought the 9/11 Commission Report just today, so I’ll save that rant for a later day. The Report, by the way, is another ridiculous bit of presidential theatre. It was published and available in book stores earlier this week, in huge bestseller-scale quantities, with the nice velvety cover, though the pages are newsprint. W.W. Norton published the thing, and I defy you to print and bind millions of copies, crate them, and ship them in a morning. It would be reasonable, then, to claim that the report must have been “final” in manuscript form for at least two weeks, in the public domain (in the publishers hands) for at least a week. But the President, in all his affable-earthy-blah-blah-blah, said to reporters that he looked forward to reading it. This is the report was, simultaneously, about the single most important event of his tenure and the centerpiece of his “re”-election campaign. But he hasn’t gotten around to reading it yet. Well, it is 428 pages long, plus endnotes. By the way, the chapter titles are pretty catchy.

I was going to write a bit about the unbelievably bad idea of creating a cabinet-level intelligence director, but I think, maybe, it’s been done to death. I’ll get to clever concluding thought for that bit: This is a country that once went to war under flags reading “Don’t Tread on Me” and “Liberty or Death” and “Live Free or Die.” Its Constitution is riddled with provisions for preserving the minority from the mercy of the majority. Still, people “debate” giving up “some” civil rights for security. Everyone knows the Ben Franklin quote. I’d be interested to know why people, after all the indoctrination their subjected to, even look down the road to hobbling their inalienable rights. Why do defenders, like the ACLU (I’m a card carrying member) even bother/need to prophecy horrors or cite Huxley and Orwell? If we’re going to call ourselves Americans, with all the City on a Hill stuff, then we just don’t yield on the basic freedoms. We just don’t. There you go.

Now I’m going to state that Republicans are Fascists, just to get it off my chest.

Republicans are Fascists.

I used to assume that the folks who vote Republican aren’t really bad people afterall--it’s just the Party leadership and their soldiers (like FNC, check out “Outfoxed” if you can) that have fallen into darkness. But now I hear that 40,000 Michigan Republicans signed petitions to get Nader on the ballot, and similar shit went down (re: cursing here; in fact “shit went down” is, in my view, the optimal turn of phrase) in Oregon. Seems to me the Party rank-and-file has gotten itself infected with this win-or-die attitude, this drive toward a single party government. I can’t think of another reason why you’d need to divide and conquer.

Thursday, July 15, 2004


I have an image in my mind that I think works fairly well as an analogy/allegory of racial history in this country:
Imagine two men. One of them is on the ground, while the other beats him and stamps on him. One day, for whatever reason, the assailant quits the attack, and, I suppose, he goes about his business, whatever it is that assailants do at leisure. Meanwhile, the other man is, naturally, bleeding and wretching on the ground where he's left. A few days hence, perhaps the next day, the two men meet again. In the interval, the victim has gotten some medical attention. The cuts are closed with stitches and covered with some gauze, and probably he's not actually bleeding anymore; he has plaster casts, maybe, and crutches; his eyes are still swollen mostly closed. Obviously, he's not about to run any races or lay down a nasty dunk. When they meet, the victim is basically cowed and has little ability to articulate anything meaningful. The other man doesn't particularly notice the injuries, though he doesn't resume the attack or anything. He says to the other, "Glad see you're back on top things."

This is the picture I have in my mind when I hear arguments about affirmative action, etc. For example, discussions on the radio between four middle-aged educated white (sounding) people and a twenty-year-old black/latino/etc college student, talking about how the new GPA requirements will "impact" minority enrollment.

Now we have this little spat between Kerry and Bush about making speeches before the NAACP. In summary, Kerry made a speech before an NAACP gathering, and in that speech, he made sure to point out that Bush has not spoken to this (I think, venerable and prestigious are appropriate) group at any time during his presidency. When questioned about this neglect, the administration claimed that the NAACP is a partisan organization and not interested in constructive dialog (I'm paraphrasing). Anyone with ears probably will agree with me in thinking these words don't sit very comfortably in Bush-administration mouths. That aside, I have a theory (actually, it's more like a belief, without the fallback of hypothesis or "conjecture") about this neglect. Along with Martin Luther King Jr. and others, the NAACP is one of the images of the Civil rights movement. Afterall, these are the folks who finally a got shoulder up against the cork that was sealing up the bottle. When MLK came on the scene, Thurgood Marshall felt that the time for his kind of work was coming to end. Nowadays, there are all sorts of nasty words that can't be said in polite or public conversation, including such horrifying epithets as "coloreds" and "negroes." Instead, we have a whole dictionary and rhetoric of euphemisms; instead, we say, "a certain element in society..."--that sort of thing, meaning the guy in the bandages. Folks like Trent Lott, the rules at Bob Jones University are, I think, a good indication of how shallow this is really buried. Why "ignore" the NAACP? In an administration in which every screenshot is storyboarded meticulously? This is a nod to those "elements in society" that have not made their peace with MLK and unsegregated restrooms. Are there a lot of those people? Enough to get a nod from a sitting president.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Response for Anonymous' comment

I guess I'm not completely sure of which part of my post your comment was directed to, but let me make an attempt at an answer.

In fact, I favor removing "under God" and "In God We Trust", etc., from any and all government productions. You can see that a person's belief in a God, even an anthropomorphic one, does not imply that s/he wants the country to be explicitly godly? First of all, genuine faith must be derived from a genuine freedom to choose it, so embedding religiosity in government is, actually, not in the interest of a religious person--anyway, someone who wants other people to have real faith. I don't claim to be in the mainstream (among the religious) in this view. So it goes. In a previous post, I commented on the religious rights of atheists (though I gave a rather strict definition of an "atheist" in that case). So second, these references to God are not acceptable constitutionally speaking. So here I agree with you.

However, I have to contradict your claim that an anthropomorphic god is implied by phrases of the "God and country" sort. That particular turn actually goes back to the Roman Empire, where new legionaries took an oath of loyalty before "God"--this God being a substitute for "whatever gods you may happen to believe in." With the Christian era, this placeholder turned easily into the Christian God. But even noting this transition, I'm not ready to admit that Jefferson and his ilk, Deists I mean, and raving classicists, would have been thinking of an old bearded guy. Maybe this historical junk isn't relevant. I think it fits in though.

Finally, I don't believe that "contemplating the seeming need for a prime cause" is so easily distinguishable from more detailed (or flamboyant?) beliefs. Surely, the presumption that a Prime Mover is basically uninterested in the universe It created is itself an unverifiable "mythological" story, hence really in the same category, rationally speaking, as any religious story. (If you read some Plotinus, you can see how religious reason can be.) That said, I don't believe that a person who is willing to permit a Prime Mover is really an atheist, unless s/he posits that such a being is somehow sub-divine, which would be a difficult argument, I think.

I hope this does not offend you. And I hope I’ve given you some kind of worthwhile answer.

Thursday, July 01, 2004


"'Mr. President, Iraq is sovereign.'

With a simple handwritten note, national security advisor Condoleezza Rice made her bid to author one of the biggest and most brazen lies of our lifetimes. No, Iraq is not sovereign, far from it."

These are the openning sentences of a column by Marc Ash, who isn't a big fan of G. Bush, as you can see. You can read his column here. I will probably do that as soon as I finish with this. I just wanted to remark on the theatricality of this "exchange," which I haven't heard anyone note yet.

(1) Why should so august a personage as C. Rice be required for the delivery of a little piece of paper? When the second plane hit the WTC, it was just some staffer that delivered the message. Now, though, we need the National Security Advisor.

(2) Why would a person start a little note with "Mr. President" in (I think) the vocative mood? Who does that? If you're leaving a note for someone--leaving it behind as you go somewhere else--you might open with the name of the intended recipient, but I don't think Condi was planning to leave the note on the kitched table if she couldn't find George. So the rhetoric must have been planned out to last historically, in a way that notes usually don't do.

(3) I don't recall what George was up to at the time this note was delivered, but presumably the supposed End of the occupation of a foreign country, and probably the single most contraversial and divisive issue on his plate, would warrant a five minute break--more than the "Let freedom reign!" which he scrawled on the note and returned. Does George talk like this? Maybe. Was it planned out in advance that he should write just these words? I have no doubt.

(4) A photgraph of the actual note itself was published in several newspapers. Um... what? They'll go to the mat, balls out, over any and every request for documents or transcripts, but they'll publish even the principals handwriting in this case?

So this mini-event was staged, if not meticulously staged. I don't think I understand why they would want to instill the impression that, while it touched his heart, the Iraq thing was not at the top of the President's agenda today. This is some weird shit, man. I am formally requesting explanations.