Saturday, December 17, 2005

The American Religion

It seems I cannot escape the War on Christmas. Maybe because it's the season of giving, or it could be the location in which I live, but all around me people are agitated about the perceived sleight to this national holiday. At a school winter celebration the other day, moms were using it as a rallying cry, not to save their children from the ignoble fate of attending a party in December without actually acknowledging Jesus' birth, but as a stepping-off point for discussions on why teaching creationism in science isn't such a bad idea. While the connection is not lost on me, its implications brought me back here for a rant about going down that slippery slope.

Since I've posted on the subject before, I won't beleaguer the point that the original settlers came here to escape religious persecution, and that as a melting pot of different beliefs and the supposed model of democracy for the world, we owe it to Americans, past and present, to protect the freedoms of the minority in our country from the power of the majority. Yes Virginia, there will always be Christmas in America, the real fear is whether there will always be an America in which to celebrate it.

This essay by Harold Bloom speaks volumes on the subject. Bloom is both a teacher and a student of literature, and while he uses this motif to illustrate his topic, his main subject is the eveningtime of America. Are we nearing the end of the greatest period in our nation's history, inevitably moving backward from the advantages we have enjoyed for two centuries? Bloom points to the cushion of religion and ignorance for this trend. "...American people seem benumbed, unable to read, think, or remember, and thus fit subjects for a president who shares their limitations." Moral conservatives choose to believe rather than think.

Bloom wonders, "Sometimes I find myself wondering if the south belatedly has won the civil war, more than a century after its supposed defeat. The leaders of the Republican party are southern; even the Bushes, despite their Yale and Connecticut tradition, were careful to become Texans and Floridians. Politics, in the United States, perhaps never again can be separated from religion. When so many vote against their own palpable economic interests, and choose "values" instead, then an American malaise has replaced the American dream."

Worse, Bloom points out, is the inconsistency and moral backruptcy of American religion, "There is now a parody of the American Jesus, a kind of Republican CEO who disapproves of taxes, and who has widened the needle's eye so that camels and the wealthy pass readily into the Kingdom of Heaven. We have also an American holy spirit, the comforter of our burgeoning poor, who don't bother to vote. The American trinity pragmatically is completed by an imperial warrior God, trampling with shock and awe."

Wielding the sword of power in America today is the religious right. In the quest for sovereignty they endanger the education our children receive, the civil liberties we have always enjoyed, and the very notion of what it is to be free. Bloom quotes Huey Long, ironclad leader of Louisana politics from 1928-35, "Of course we have fascism in America only we call it democracy." Long might have been before his time philosophically speaking, for it is today that religious conservatives reframe the meaning of liberalism to equate to fascism. Newspeak makes all things possible.

To the parents who suggested teaching evolution in science class, I suggested a sermon on Darwin for their next Sunday service. No one was amused; my children may miss a lot of birthday parties. But they will know about evolution, and democracy, and the right to choose for themselves what it means to be free. Sad to say, it may not be in America


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Happy Holidays

I had promised myself I would not post on the subject of O'Reilly's War on Christmas, figuring that it was yet another diversion from topics that warranted discussion. Ellen Goodman made what I considered the definitive rebuttal, so nothing more need be said. Then I read this poem and knew it deserved posting, not only on merit, which it has in spades, but because I really like creative argument. Enjoy and Merry X-mas.

Washington, DC - Congressman John D. Dingell (MI-15) recited the following poem
on the floor of the US House of Representatives concerning House Resolution 579,
which expressed the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and
traditions of Christmas should be protected. Preserving Christmas has been a
frequent topic for conservative talk show hosts, including Fox News' Bill

'Twas the week before Christmas and all through the House
No bills were passed 'bout which Fox News could grouse;
Tax cuts for the wealthy were passed with great cheer,
So vacations in St. Barts soon would be near;
Katrina kids were nestled all snug in motel beds,
While visions of school and home danced in their heads;
In Iraq our soldiers needed supplies and a plan,
Plus nuclear weapons were being built in Iran;
Gas prices shot up, consumer confidence fell;
Americans feared we were on a fast track to...well;
Wait--- we need a distraction--- something divisive and wily;
A fabrication straight from the mouth of O'Reilly
We can pretend that Christmas is under attack
Hold a vote to save it--- then pat ourselves on the back;
Silent Night, First Noel, Away in the Manger
Wake up Congress, they're in no danger!
This time of year we see Christmas every where we go,
From churches, to homes, to schools, and yes, even Costco;
What we have is an attempt to divide and destroy,
When this is the season to unite us with joy
At Christmas time we're taught to unite,
We don't need a made-up reason to fight
So on O'Reilly, on Hannity, on Coulter, and those right wing blogs;
You should just sit back, relax, have a few egg nogs!
'Tis the holiday season: enjoy it a pinch
With all our real problems, do we honestly need another Grinch?
So to my friends and my colleagues I say with delight,
A merry Christmas to all,
and to Bill O'Reilly, Happy Holidays.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Ted is definitely not dead

OK Beasties, especially all you in Houston, Austin, and points in between, I am asking for your help. A friend of mine is running for Congress here in Tejas. His name is Ted Ankrum,and he has an uphill battle against the Republican machine here. He is running in one of those DeLay-mandered districts that were created in 2004 when five Democrats were redistricted out of their house seats. District 10 runs from west Houston to Austin, and the current incumbent is a typical Texas Republican and is deeply entrenched in the Republican Party here. His main sponsors seem to be Governor Goodhair (Rick Perry) and Senator Cornyn.

Ted is an extraordinarily-capable individual. He has been a top NASA executive, a senior EPA executive, a DOE official, and a diplomat (see his web site for more detail). He understands the current US energy situation and the risks of Peak Oil. He is someone who I can get totally behind, and I think stc would say the same thing. Please give him all the love (i.e. money) and publicity you can. I don’t know if he can win this district, but I sure know that Congress would be better with him as a member.