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Monthly Archives: September 2010

*Sigh*

Once again some irresponsible person let her get behind a microphone again. Sounded like the same old stuff as ever. Vague political ideas, vague moral values, lots of praising America’s Foundation (ironically, a time when women couldn’t run for office.)

It’s unfortunate, but it works. Cheap sophistry will get you everywhere in that business. I can’t imagine I’d ever go with a surgeon who told me his credentials are “believing in good stuff,” but when it comes to managing a country apparently “values” trump knowledge and competency.

I really like her statement that she’s fighting for the “will of the people.” I suppose you can’t accuse her of lying. Lobbyists and conservative minorities are people. And she didn’t say she was fighting for the will of a majority of the people.

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No, no. Who could think that Apoplectical Materialism, the west’s leading Marxist thinker would ever say anything nice about those White Guard militants who call themselves the Tea Party?

But yeah, you could not find a more perfect example of the flaws in our democracy than the Tea Party. The Tea Party raise a big-ass fuss (about what, no one is really sure except that it might have something to do with government or taxes.) But should the ignorant not also cast their vote in our major elections? Who says you have to understand shit to have a say? That’s fucking elitist!

If you, like me, listen to the liberal-infected media that is NPR, there’s no shortage of stories on how the Tea Party popularity is killing the Republicans. So? Haven’t I been clamoring for years that the Democrats are (if you can even call them such) left-wing failures? Criticism should be applauded in a free speech democracy zone like this; yet, as the media reports it can also be politically unsound. DO NOT, they say, stray from the party line. You’ll take away votes, you’ll give the “greater evil” more power.

I’d just love to hear someone defend such a political farce. Because, whether you’re right or left, it’s the case that if you vote for the candidate who pushes your values too far, you jeapordize the whole race. Yesterday’s Nader is today’s Tea Party.  But this Tea Party is showing way more boldness than the acquiescent Nader did. Apparently, they wont shut up (nor do I think that’s necessary.)

Bravo! Tea Party! Sincerely. While I think you’re a bunch of dumbasses with no real grasp of politics (we can talk later), I have to applaud you all for not backing down under the “Democrats will win!” fears cast. You guys stick to your guns, and that’s more than I can say for my liberal/leftist bretheren sometimes. You say “Republican majority” and suddenly even the most strident Communist is a hardcore Democrat.

At my most pessemistic I fear this is because, while the Tea Party pushes sharp emotionalism, no leftist party is able to do likewise. Smart political decisions will require more than just sound bytes and political anger, but the left has cast too much of that aside. Leftists, wherever and whoever they are, want to play the polite, post-college reformists. We’d rather laugh with John Stewart on Comedy Central than… “I dunno… do something, my post-Foucaultian professor would not approve.” And while I am not foremost a psychic mindreader, I feel it’s because much of the left really doesn’t give a shit.

Because I know that today the blogosphere will be saturated with such posts, I’ll add tags, but expect this will be just a small drop into a big ocean. I’ll link up here for certain friends or family, but by and large this will be a private piece.

I’ll start with the somewhat cliche, “Where were you on 11-9-01?” I was at the Michigan State library, for what purpose I don’t remember. I was in the main lobby, where there is an open computer lab, and I noticed there was a certain buzz going on. Student strangers don’t just talk to each other as they were. Although at that time there was still a lot of media confusion and I only heard “a plane flew into a building.” No one at the library was emotional–it was too bizarre at the time. I went straight home to my apartment, turned on the TV, and if my memory is right I did just at the moment when a live broadcast showed the second plane impact.

At the time I was a pretty entrenched “leftist.” I’d digested lots of Chomsky; I knew that my country had made a lot of enemies in the recent past. I knew that somehow this was meant to be a retaliation. Even before Bush made any declaration of war (which he never really did) at MSU an anti-war movement was already starting on 9/11.  My involvement in that remains one of the biggest “wake-up calls” of my political life.

Right from the start a lot of people criticized us. Many Lansing residents and soon the president told us that peace was an ineffective solution (to a problem no one could define?) While some of our ranks did cry for pacificism, I think most of us simply wanted the U.S. reaction–whatever it might be–to be informed, effective and in line with our values. And in that sense, we were often accused of championing that “America deserved it.” Or that if we “weren’t with [Bush and Pentagon] we were with the terrorists.”

That definitely cut me up. I was a silly “anarchist punk” at the time, and I certainly had a lot of un-nice things to say about America, but I and my peers had clear understanding that just because we felt America was a lot more violent and hostile than most our countrymen believed, that somehow the deaths of several thousand New Yorkers could stand in as a blood atonement was simply unthinkable. I have always hated murder.

To this day I don’t think that the country as a whole has been able to psychologically accept a careful analysis of the situation. Though the Old Testament-like rhetoric of the early Bush eras has fallen away some, nothing else has really taken the place of the “good vs. evil” explanation we started with. I think a straightforward, rational questioning of what lead to the event will be mainly a historian’s task. If you want a good book to read on the subject, Death’s Dream Kingdom by Richard Wolin.

For that reason, what I believe is an inability to take a sober look at the 9/11 event, this day continues to resist any sort of symbolization or greater meaning to me. Patriotism? For me the greatest civic duty in a democracy is for a citizen to step beyond the government’s messages and to be critical where necessary. I think it’s a true paradox, worthy of those of Christ and Buddha: to be patriotic one must lose one’s patriotism.

I also feel that this cannot become another Memorial or Veterans’ Day. The employees of the World Trade Center did not die in service to the country. It was a mass murder of (mostly) civilians. They were going to their daily jobs, not a front line. In my opinion, to retroactively label the murders as sacrifices in a war only leads to a final legitimization. Only then did they have to die.

There are so many reasons for us to think and talk. This is a time to think of history, foreign policy, national values, identity, etc. Not to be either all critical or blindedly defensive. 9/11 shocked everybody. Unless you’ve got no blood in you then the terrorist attacks in 2001 caused pain. But it’s nine years behind us; we can’t be emotional and angry forever. It’s not honoring the victims to be in a perpetual state of vengeance. Yet, we’re still failing to come to terms. Lately, the “post-9/11” climate is turning back to a good vs. evil event only now with America and Islam respectively as actors. Terry Jones is proof that delusion still mocks us. And the dying inertia of the war movement (to me) proves that deploying the army to put a bullet in every would-be terrorist is not a sane solution. Political demagogues, like my nemeses Beck and Palin, ask us to withdraw into some illusionary past and anti-democratic identities.

(Three hours later, an edit.) Why did I talk about 9/11 conspiracy theories in my first draft? Pointless! Better to say a quick piece about Islam. I am an outspoken and devoted friend to the Islamic faith. All my life I’ve had friends and neighbors as Muslims, I studied some Islamic theology and even briefly considered that I might be Sufi. All claims that Islam is generally a peaceful and tolerant religion are true. If it weren’t so then the ranks of terrorists would be a billion plus.

On days like this a lot of people are going to talk about “Islamic terrorism” and “Islamic fundamentalism.” And while not to distract from the reality of 9/11, the Madrid bombings and all, this would also be an excellent day to realize the absolute fact that, when it comes to the actions of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, to also speak on behalf of “Islamic victims.” Terrorists don’t just kill Americans and Europeans.

“Americans are asking, why do they hate us? They hate what we see right here in this chamber — a democratically elected government. They hate our freedoms — our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.” – George W. Bush

“We feel it’s maybe the right time for America to stand up. How long are we going to bow down? How long are we going to be controlled by the terrorists, by radical Islam?” – Terry Jones (wants to burn Qurans)

It’s just too bad Bush’s speech and this supposed book burning couldn’t coincide in real time. Because nothing says “Islamic fundamentalists hate our religious freedom” like a mass Quran burning. And the U.S. Army is right to be worried about this. They are trying to keep civil peace, and surely a massive demonstration of Islamic Hate is not going to help matters. I doubt Terry Jones would be so bold to hold this bonfire in Afghanistan, but then again you don’t expect Osama Bin Laden to strap dynamite around his chest either. Most advocates for religious war rarely put themselves on the front lines.

Al Qaeda will use all our stupid propaganda and our bigotry against us. They’ll deconstruct any demagogue’s speech, and having some idiot pastor in Florida burn Quran’s is like a prayer answered for them. The problem is, so long as the war drums keep beating, who is going to back down first? I know Americans would like to think we’re greater and more courageous, but troops are committing suicides at astonishing rates and the army itself declares fatigue is becoming a problem. Al Qaeda wont tire. It’s not because they’re “better” than us or our troops, but there people have something real at stake, there is a war there. There is no war in Florida.

I remember just before and after the start of these wars I traveled around to many protest rallies. Each time we were greeted with the message that we “weren’t practical” and that America would do right. We never said let Al Qaeda off the hook, but pled for control and solutions that wouldn’t incite future violence. Almost a decade later we are still at war, still on high alert, and still people are asking for more war. The old “War on Terror” is slip-sliding into the “Islamic Question.”

Funny, you never know who is going to wind up in the news with something to say about God. The case of God was evoked again recently, and I found articles scattered all over my Facebook page about it. It’s only a couple names, but here are a few people weighing in on the God issue recently:

1. A former shock jock radio host.

2. An astrophysicist.

Now, God is a public good. Everyone can have a god, or gods or none at all. So far I don’t think anyone has tried to invoke a copyright (yet.) However, I do find it a little bit funny that the two big “God” stories I’ve heard in the news lately come from the mouth of a shock jock and a physicist.

Meanwhile, in another part of the country, Justin Bieber has just released a very important and official statement on the Hindu religion.

Now I have no ill feelings toward Stephen Hawking. I actually appreciate a lot of what I’ve read by him, I’m a HUGE physics geek, but it’s really sad and pathetic to see so many of my atheist friends leaping over a media statement he made regarding evidence against God. Why? Because Hawking is not a theologian. Every time I’ve heard him mention God it’s been like God were some missing particle or force in physics, the primum movens. And now it seems that, since he’s found the first cause “irrelevant” then he sees no place for God. That, simply, is just poor theology. Yet, that’s the kind of theology most atheists I know tend to buy.

And it is quite simply hypocritical. If I were to come out strong with a controversial statement from the Pope or Kirk Cameron regarding something science related, I’d be bombed with declarations that those men aren’t real scientists and therefore have no ground to talk. And that’s true. Yet, religion and theology in this society tend to be treated as subjects that anyone can speak of without any formal education. If anything, I think a lot of people are even more skeptical of “experts,” because they are “too deceitful” and feel it’s better to trust religious matters to non-experts like Richard Dawkins.

It’s plain foolishness is what it really is. Just some experts stepping way out of their field to come kick a theological dead horse. It’s fundamentally no different than if a bunch of bishops started talking about how stupid scientists and their calorics and philogistons are.