Posts Tagged bigotry

If Jared Loughner is not evil, then who is?

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding.  In the words of Job, “when I looked for light, then came darkness.”  Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.  –President Barak Obama

And if you read back my statement of defense, it wasn’t self defense. It was defending those who are innocent, talk show hosts, talk show host listeners, those who have nothing to do with a crazed, evil gunman who killed innocent people. –Sarah Palin

For once, Obama and Palin agree on something. But they are both wrong. As awful as this shooting is, as tragic the deaths, and in spite of what some are saying, it cannot be denied that Jared Loughner is a mentally disturbed, obviously delusional, and probably psychotic young man.  Perhaps this could be said of anyone guilty of such an act. So is there such a “thing” as evil? Well, apparently some very powerful  people think so.  In addition to Obama, both George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan were outspoken in their shared belief that evil exists, particularly in the guise of heinous tyrannies.  Were they correct, or were they falling back on centuries old superstition?

In 2009, Roger Simon, of Politico,  talked about how, though once a skeptic,  he now believes he has literally met evil,  in the person of Iranian President Ahmadinejad. In another article two days ago, he wonders whatever happened to a general belief in evil and why so many are willing to accept an ‘insanity defense’ for Jarred Loughner’s actions:

Which leaves me with just one question: Whatever happened to evil?

Why have we rushed to the judgment of insanity? Legally, very few defendants are found guilty of insanity.

We know that anybody who guns down innocent people or sticks dead bodies under his house or eats them, for pity’s sake, has got to be crazy.

And we believe that because we do not want to believe, as our ancestors believed, in evil. Evil is even more frightening than madness. Madness can be treated. All we need is early intervention and clinics and more resources devoted to the problem.

We hope. We live in an age in which virtually all our problems have been medicalized. Not that long ago, compulsive drinking, compulsive gambling and even compulsive eating were looked upon as human weaknesses. Now, we treat them as medical problems.

Evil has been medicalized (sic) into insanity. But only up to a certain point. There seems to be a correlation between the number of people you kill and whether you are called insane or evil.

Loughner allegedly kills six and is insane.

Hitler kills more than 6 million, and he is evil. The same is true for Stalin and Mao. We don’t say they needed the intervention of community health clinics, we say they were the ultimate examples of evil on earth because they murdered tens of millions of people.

Is the difference just numbers, however? You kill a certain number of people, and you are nuts — but you cross the line and kill more, and you are evil? Is that how it really works?

Or, in our modern times, are we embarrassed by the term “evil”? To some, it seems too primitive or too religious, or both.

And we would much rather believe that all sick people can be cured by medical intervention.

Because that is a lot less scary than believing that evil walks among us.

Simon raises some interesting questions. But I think the ultimate conclusion he comes to is incorrect.  Perhaps there is is such a thing as evil. But there is a significant difference between the Tuscon killings and those committed by the regimes of  Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao and Saddam Hussein.  Infamously atrocious acts but,  at the risk of offending some,  I would like to add to this list the American enslavement of black Africans, the genocides of  Sullivan’s March, Wounded Knee, Rwanda and Dar-fur, the horrors of Andersonville, the Rape of Nan King, and the indiscriminate bombings of Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Maybe even the corporate dumping of toxic waste like what the Hooker chemical company did at Love Canal.  If the definition of evil requires that violent or harmful actions be premeditated and that the actors be perfectly sane, placing their own well being above the suffering of innocent people, then all of the above certainly qualify.

The difference between Jared Loughner and Adolf Hitler is not just about the numbers, although the real difference certainly would certainly seem to result in many more deaths than otherwise might take place.  The real difference here is that in one case we are talking about the tragic work of one lone madman as opposed to  institutionalized murder, which requires the wholesale complicity of a nation, a political party, a corporate entity –  a community.  The difference between the compulsive behavior of the delusional versus the calculated and coordinated machinations of those who certainly should, and do, know better. When we blame ‘evil’ for violence and murder we tend to deflect the focus away from the real causes, in which we might possibly even play a part. Which is a lot more scary than believing evil walks among us.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. – Edmund Burke


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The founding fathers know best: the TV Land version of American history

"Listen to this, kids. We can now live free or die. It's our choice."

Sarah Palin summed things up best. When her history teacher, Mr. Beck,  asked who her favorite Founder was, she replied: “Well as for me ummmm….thats a hard one, cuz all of them have a special place in my heart.”.  Which is like being asked who your favorite candidate for president is and you saying you couldn’t make up your mind, they all were that good.  (But I guess when you are busy reading everything from the Nation to National Geographic to Penthouse it can be hard to make up your mind about a lot of things.)

It’s like people really believe that the ‘founding fathers’ were of the same mind, with the same goals and ambitions.  That almost overnight they became angry at the British and, looking around and seeing ALL the other angry Americans, got together, wrote the Declaration of Independence, formed the Continental Congress and ratified the Constitution.  Somewhere around 1776.

A lot of people on the right claim to be  modern day patriots,  who (incorrectly) see themselves fighting for the same things as did colonial Americans 240 years ago.  They are not alone there:  ill-informed politically minded people have claimed the divine right of Minutemen before, both on the right and on the left.  And of course, none of them were anywhere near the truth, either

The issues facing the colonial rebels at that time were nothing like those we face today, no matter how we may like to stretch the truth.  Like our current tax policies or not,  in this country every citizen, no matter their gender, race, religion, educational background or financial status, is represented by their vote.  Something that the colonists did not enjoy and something that they did not grant most Americans when they took power from the British. And they never said much of anything negative about government health care (though there were some positive words spoken about similar ideas).

"Martha, I've told you that Dan'l Boone handles problems with the Beaver."

In spite of all their lamentations, I don’t think that Revolutionary-era ideals are what the Tea Party & Co. are pining away for.  They know too little of history to convince me of that.  What they really miss is Parson Weem’s America, as taught in classrooms of the 1950’s and early 1960’s, when so many of them grew up. It was a rosy and glorious history,  full of anecdotes and myths about their country’s heroes that gave (almost) everyone a warm feeling inside.  It was the fifties, the big war was over, victorious America was super powerful and the times were prosperous, while the somewhat distant Soviet threat united many of them in common cause.  Life was good.

Unless you were black,  Jewish, an ambitious woman or a homosexual.  In that case you probably didn’t rate a pool-side martini with Doris or a corner office on Madison Avenue.  (OK, maybe some Jewish guys did alright there. And Rock was gay…) But non-WASPs,  many of whom played major roles in our nation’s early history, were almost never mentioned in Baby-Boomer text books  (as some non-experts would like to do with our text books today).  Instead they were told that it was the noble, virtuous  and Christian men of the colonies,  who would quickly shed their white wigs and frock coats whenever another musket was needed, who led a nation of united Americans (including their slaves) in the common cause of freedom and liberty for all (except for the slaves, of course. And women).  Anti-historical rubbish.

I know there are a few minorities swimming in conservative Republican waters right now, even some gays. But I think it’s pretty obvious that the bulk of the angry people are angry because they are the descendants of what were once the entitled and privileged class of America.  Not the super wealthy, but those who never feared that hard work and good morals would be insufficient to make it in America. Those that never had to worry about being denied a job or a place of residence because of what they looked like.  Those that never had to stand outside in the dark, looking wistfully into the living rooms and kitchens of suburbia, wondering what that would be like, if only things could be different.

And now they are. And that pisses a lot of people off because nobody wants to share their toys, especially the white Christian right who have spiritually possessed the Republican party.  And as we all know, it is an American Christian mantra that “he who dies with the most toys goes to heaven”.  Toys like health care and pensions. And cheap gas for their SUVs. And really good schools that keep the property values up (Or at least they did for a while. Rats!)

And that’s the point of the anti-history lesson being taught by the Tea Party and Glenn Beck:  life used to be so much better. For the heirs of the Founders.

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Swedish IXθYΣ

Funny, he doesn’t look Jewish. Well, at least he’s not a shwartzer.

Jesus as whispy-bearded metro-sexual with fashion cross

Jesus as Las Vegas mentalist with novelty tee-shirt

Jesus with puppy dog eyes

Gen-X Jesus with poor fashion sense and weird forked Amish beard

Creepy little prince Jesus. What's with the fingers? Again with the fingers!

Pop-up Jesus Golden Book

"Dirty damn Pharisees!" Charleston Heston as Jesus

Damien Thorn as Jesus with black robed acolyte

"Let whoever is stoned cast the first...uh...hmm. Anymore of that matzoh?"

Jesus the pained

Jesus as knick-knack

Jesus in the attic until next year

Jesus as the starship Enterpise's first captain

Jesus as Son of Zeus (That hat is a bit of a brag-tag, wouldn't you say?) And yet again with the fingers!

That last one’s my favorite. Funny thing is, Jesus must have looked more like (and had more in common with) an Arab Muslim  than he would a Christian Swede (or any Westerner). He might even have looked a little bit like the fellow pictured below.  Do you find this idea offensive? Then perhaps you should reconsider your icons.

Know the truth and the truth, not religious fantasy, will set you free.

Religious fantasy? You're not talkin' to me? You talkin' to me?!

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Mark Driscoll: Definitely no yoga, dude, but avatars are pretty cool

The other day a friend of mine said that, although she didn’t agree with his theology, Mark Driscoll was a pretty smart guy. I agreed.  Boy, were we wrong:

‘Should Christians stay away from yoga because of its demonic roots? Totally. Yoga is demonic,’ Driscoll said. ‘If you just sign up for a little yoga class, you’re signing up for a little demon class.’

I guess he’s an expert.  Right. Better warn those taking the weekly yoga class in my church.  They have been acting sort of…spooky.

I’m not saying that Driscoll has a low I.Q. – I’m sure that’s not the case. But the above statement sure doesn’t make him sound very smart. It’s the kind of thing that a lot of religious people are saying these days about other traditions, practices and beliefs that they apparently know next to nothing about. It’s the kind of remark that someone who thinks he has all the  right answers will make.  Stupid and…bigoted.

I suspect that Driscoll (like his fellow Calvinist, Al Mohler) is sure that yoga is demonic because of it’s “non-Christian” roots in Hinduism. (Though he just might feel that yoga is not ‘macho’ enough for him.)  To folks like this,  any  spiritual (or psychological) practice not based on the Bible is demonic, so it only follows that it’s practitioners are worshiping and serving Satan. A major problem with this position (aside from the arrogance) is that many, if not most, of the critics’ own beliefs and practices are not strictly Biblical. At least that’s what the majority of their Christian brothers and sisters think, even if they are too polite to say so.  Some, who are not so polite (like me ) might suggest that it is Driscoll and friends who are actually following Satan,  since Satan is a clever Hebrew metaphor for the selfish and frightened ego.

This idea that yoga is a way to allow demons access to our minds has been a staple of Christian pop-culture for some time and it’s a mainstay of Christian suspense fiction. But is it any coincidence that in the past few months ‘evangelical’ leaders have begun speaking out against a practice that is so closely identified with Hinduism? I don’t want to sound cynical, but have the hordes of Christian Islamophobes softened up the playing field for a more spirited condemnation of other non-Christians? (If so, then their fellow-traveling Jewish Islamophobes might want to be careful.)

Many of the people who have taken hip-shots at other religions really should know better. Graduates of divinity schools, colleges and universities – you wonder if any of them had ever taken a comparative religion course. But then some of those who teach comparative religions at the college level can miss the forest for the trees when it comes to faith.  Though not bigoted they may be prejudiced,  tending to see every religion as monolithic (or almost so) – each devotee devoted to the same set of doctrines and imagining the same image of God: all Muslims striving for world domination, all Hindus as polytheists, all Christians believing Jesus is the sacrificial Son of God etc.  Certainly a minister like Driscoll should know better -he  just needs to look around at his fellow Christians.  Consider how there is such a  diversity of theological opinion and such a lack of consensus on who Jesus was and what he said and did.  How some Christians might even accuse  Driscoll of  idolatry – an artist’s conception of Jesus on his tee-shirt.  He should ponder that a while before he gives into the temptation to tilt at other spiritual windmills.

Actually, maybe a little yoga would help. He’s  already hooked into the Christian pop-culture passion for avatars

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Ugliness is on the tongue of the speaker: the meaning of words change depending upon who says them

Dr. Laura Shlessinger  resigned from radio yesterday after a controversy erupted over her use of the “N-word”.  I haven’t heard the transcripts, but apparently when advising a caller on how to deal with racial discrimination, she used the N-word 11 times in the span of five minutes.

National furor erupted when Schlessinger used the N-word 11 times in five minutes during a call August 10 with an African-American caller who was seeking advice on how to deal with racist comments from her white husband’s friends and relatives. The conversation evolved into a discussion on whether it’s appropriate to ever use the word, with Schlessinger arguing it’s used on HBO and by black comedians.

Schlessinger apologized the following day, saying “I was attempting to make a philosophical point, and I articulated the N-word all the way out — more than one time. And that was wrong. I’ll say it again — that was wrong.”

While Schlessinger told King on Tuesday that she was still “regretful” over the incident, she said she feels her freedom of speech rights “have been usurped by angry, hateful groups who don’t want to debate — they want to eliminate.”

“I decided it was time to move on to other venues where I could say my peace and not have to live in fear anymore,” she said.

Fair enough, I guess, if Dr. Laura had advised a real “patient”, one that she had taken the time to know,  within the confines of her office. But did she forget that she was on radio?

More importantly, as a popular “psychologist”, doesn’t she realize that one word can have completely different meanings depending upon who says it?  (Though perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised: her doctoral thesis was on the “Effects of Insulin on 3-0-Methylglucose Transport in Isolated Rat Adipocytes”).  A lot of people apparently don’t understand this linguistic rule, either.  Her argument, that it is acceptable for white people to use the ‘N-word’ because many  black people do so,  is one that I hear regularly.  And it is one that completely ignores the realities of life.

Throughout history  we have known words to change their meaning depending upon who is uses them.  Here is a classic example,  from the Merriam-Webster dictionary:


1 : of, relating to, or characteristic of the townsman or of the social middle class

2 : marked by a concern for material interests and respectability and a tendency toward mediocrity

3 : dominated by commercial and industrial interests : capitalistic

In each case the word takes on a different tone depending upon who is using it. It is complimentary when used by an egalitarian espousing the virtues of the middle class or an epithet when from the lips of Marie Antoinette, Leona Helmsley or John Reed.

When a rabbi exhorts his congregation to live like “good Jews” he is not thinking the same thing  that some gentiles  are  when they say that someone is acting like a Jew.

When the Romans referred to” Christians” it was not complimentary, yet the word was eventually adopted by the 1st century Church.  The word “rebel” meant different things to the British colonials than it did to American revolutionaries just as it did later for  American Unionists and  Southern secessionists.

I have to admit that when talking about Fundamentalists I am  not using the word in a positive way.  Yet not long ago I was proud to call myself a fundamentalist, even though I bridled when called this by other, non-fundamentalists.

So I don’t think it is too hard to understand why, that many (but not all) Americans of color  feel  it is OK  to use the N-word themselves, it is not OK for white people to do so.  Let’s be honest, when a white person says the N-word it ain’t meant as a compliment. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, ugliness is born on the tongue of the speaker.

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American discrimination against Muslims has Bin Laden “wetting his pants with glee”

An American Muslim going by the name of Saladin left a very brief  (and the only) comment on my post comparing Right-Wing Islamaphobic blogs to Mein Kampf: ” So few people remember that is past is prologue.”  I am glad for the comment  because I ended up visiting his blog, “Reflections on the Straight Path”,  where I read an excellent piece about New York mayor Michael Bloomburg’s profound speech on the proposed mosque at Ground Zero.  With Saladin’s permission, the article is reprinted here:

Yesterday, in a moment of statesmanship that would shame many presidents, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the commission that designated landmarks voted against extending that status to the building located where the Park 51 community center would go. He gave an incredible speech. He stood up for the US constitution, a piece of paper that is our truest national treasure. Many people were overjoyed, many others were outraged. Bloomberg was simultaneously hailed as a hero, a champion for civil rights and all that is good in the United States and condemned as a spineless politician bought off by special interests, if not an actual traitor. None of these reactions are unexpected when dealing with an issue this complex and close to peoples’ hearts and passions.

For those who support the Park 51 Islamic Center, now is the time to speak up, now is the time to reach out. Those who are in pain over the choice, who are righteously indignant–they are the ones we must connect with. They demand to know that “these Muslims” won’t support terrorism, DO condemn the attacks on 9/11. So tell them. Nearly a hundred Muslims died on 9/11–their deaths are equally tragic, equally outrageous. More Muslims have gone off to serve their country, died in wars they may not have fully agreed with but they served their country loyally. American Muslims are not a separate nation nor a fifth column.

For those who oppose Park 51, now is the time to remember what is under attack. It is our nation, it is our strength, and our freedom to choose that the terrorists resent. They think us immoral and corrupt. Some of us are. Most of us aren’t. As long as you do what they say, when they say, how they say, Al-Qaeda really doesn’t have a problem with you. The minute that changes, you change from ally to enemy. The issues that drive that organization are both simple and Byzantine, all at once. What you must remember is that whenever we turn against each other, whenever we choose to marginalize one group or try to curtail their constitutional rights, the terrorists wet their pants with glee. They want us divided, they want us willing to sacrifice our most basic principles. I’ve seen it. I know.

All of us, regardless of our religion, nationality, or any other distinguishing characteristic, are sisters and brothers of this world. We all love, we all bleed, and we’ll all die. The only thing we can change is how we treat each other.

“ We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. ”

—United States Constitution, Preamble

“Repel (evil) with what is better. Then will he, between whom and thee was hatred, become as it were thy friend and intimate. And no one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint.” The Qur’an – Surah 41, Verse 34 and 35

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Church in Fundyland sponsors “International Burn a Quran Day”. Just faschistnating.

International? Well, you have to give the folks at the Dove World Outreach Center credit for having high aspirations (for their rather lowly endeavors). From the looks of their website and their amateurish, if not disastrous, attempts at public relations, it’s doubtful that they hold much influence outside Gainesville.

From the Facebook page promoting their cause:

On September 11th, 2010, from 6pm – 9pm, we will burn the Koran on the property of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, FL in remembrance of the fallen victims of 9/11 and to stand against the evil of Islam. Islam is of the devil!

Sadly, almost 1600 Facebook nuts have joined. Maybe it’s because of all the really funny racist cartoons on the page. I don’t know. Maybe it was a slow YouTube day.

Telling people that Islam is of the Devil is a pretty important evangelical tool for these folks. They even went to the trouble of putting up some fancy plywood signs, Burma-Shave style, on their church’s lawn. But wouldn’t you know it? They were vandalized by some enemies of freedom and liberty:

Notice the quality craftsmanship? What a shame. Anyway, the savvy Dove Worlders knew exactly who the culprits were:

Last night one of our signs was vandalized. This is private property and vandalism is a crime here in America. In Islam, many actions that we consider to be crimes are encouraged, condoned or sheltered under Islamic teaching and practice, though. Another reason to burn a Koran. The signs have been in front of the church for a year. They are made of sturdy plywood and the missing sign will be replaced.

Who dun it?

Free speech is hated by homosexuals and they do not like to hear the truth about their perverted lifestyle. We are protesting our openly homosexual Mayor Aug 2. Maybe they did it, (not the Mayor himself, surely) but the more likely trigger for this attack is the burn a Koran Day plan.

Free speech is not Sharia compliant, and the Moslem Mafia (CAIR) is openly opposed to our signs and message. But this is America and we have the law on our side. The police defend us and our rights, the Fire Department have no problem with our having a bonfire on 9/11, and we will not be silenced.

I guess there is no need to overly worry about these goofy,fringe,church-going people. After all, they’re just idiots. But don’t forget:the people who supported Hitler and Mussolini were seemingly harmless, middle-class, church-going idiots as well. Brown shirts and white sheets. A lot in common.

Look out Westboro Baptist. Looks like you’ve got some competition.

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