Monday, July 30, 2007

Barry Bonds is a poor sport

Poor Barry Bonds; he can’t do anything right.

As Mr. Bonds approaches the ‘most coveted’ milestone and record in all of sports (the career home run record set by Hammerin’ Hank Aaron of 755), I thought it would be appropriate to dwell on what could have been.

I don’t actually mean what could have been without steroids or what could have been in different eras or with different people. I mean what could have been with Bonds, this year.

Remember back to those great early 90’s Saturdays when Bonds paired with Bobby Bonilla to be the scariest 1-2 punch in baseball for the Pirates? Remember the MVP awards, the incredible talent, and all of the hoopla over his move to San Francisco? At one time, Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey, Jr. were the class of baseball. They could hit for a high average, hit the ball to anywhere on the field or out of the park, played stellar outfield, batted left-handed, and each had the sweetest swing you could watch. They could even run, making them the most frightening ‘dual-threats’ you could find.

Those far gone days were magical. The slender Bonds was, give or take Griffey, the best player in the game. If he had retired in 1999 or 2000, he would have been a Hall of Famer, even without milestone numbers. The way he played, the MVP, the All-Star balloting, everything. His surliness with the media was forgiven by the beauty of his game.

In 2000, a much larger Bonds hit 49 home runs, his career high. Then in 2001, he hit 73, making McGwire’s 70 look pathetic, and becoming the third person in 4 years to pass the previous record of 61, this time by 12. Instantly, 73 home runs became appalling. For the first time, people started to notice that Bonds looked different, that the game looked different. In 2002, the steroid scandal broke with the former MVP (and recently deceased) Ken Caminiti’s interview with Sports Illustrated and the ‘coming out’ of Jose Canseco as a user. Steroid talk was everywhere, and the game’s biggest sluggers were put on notice. Major League Baseball didn’t do much, and in the years since, they have done very little more. But Bonds could have changed things.

Bonds’ 2006 was awful. He was still recovering from the injury he took that erased most of the previous season, the season that he was to threaten Aaron’s record. His knees bothered him, he looked foolish fielding his position, and his batting average dropped 100 points from just four years prior. His contract was up. He stood at 734 home runs and had only Aaron’s 755 to beat. He should have retired. He should have been graceful. Hall of Fame reporter, Peter Gammons would have called it heroic. It would have been seen as an honorable thing to do. He would go down in history like Sandy Koufax, or Jim Brown and Barry Sanders in football, as leaving the game while he still could. It would have been a show of respect to Aaron for what he did and how he did it. Hall of Fame voters would've voted him straight away. The public may have even forgiven him the steroid controversy. He would already enter the Hall with a ridiculous walks record, the single season crown, and the public memory of his being the most dangerous hitter of his era (even if it is the steroid era, that is still saying something). Baseball would be able to close the book on the steroid era with some ridiculous records, but would be able to slowly evolve into a steroid-free sport. But Bonds couldn’t do it.

San Francisco buckled and signed Bonds again, this time to a $16 million one-year deal. Apparently dollar signs and a record-fueled media campaign was worth the tarnish on baseball. Baseball has never really investigated Bonds, nor have all of the materials linking him to steroids and HGH prompted action to prevent Bonds’ assault on the record. But still, it was Bonds’ opportunity. He could have walked away with dignity. He could have held his head high. He could have earned the respect of the nation with a seemingly selfless act. It would have punched his ticket to Cooperstown and given people the opportunity to write pieces about Bonds’ good character, but instead, we are left with the truth: Bonds is incredibly selfish, incredibly inconsiderate, and incredibly stupid. What is the purpose of fame, accomplishment, and breaking records if you are despised for it all? People love the hard-workers that fall short more than they like the cheaters that achieve big things! How can he not know this? How can he not care? Achievements aren't personal, but public! This is all public!

Bonds could have saved Baseball in the midst of the steroid issue that is currently threatening the very future of the game. One selfless act could have saved us all. But Bonds chose selfishness, which threatens everything, including the sport and the record he’s breaking. Thanks, Barry, for all of that old magic that you seem hell-bent on turning to dust.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Filibusters for everyone!

The most interesting tactic in the Congressional arsenal is the filibuster. The filibuster is a word we all know, despite its relative irregularity. Merriam-Webster defines filibuster as: “the use of extreme dilatory tactics in an attempt to delay or prevent action especially in a legislative assembly”.

Of course, this parliamentary maneuver is intended to impede progress so as to prevent the majority from ruling. What stops the minority from using it constantly? Decency, and the threat of one’s opponents when the tables are turned.

Filibusters regained place in our recent discussions as they were used or were threatened to be used in the 109th Congress by Democrats to block the nomination of two Right-Wing justices (John Roberts and Sam Alito). We can see now that these two are very fair men, who seriously weigh the issues, and show no political favoritism to anyone, except corporations, conservatives, and anyone trying to exploit anyone or anything else. And they certainly wouldn’t side with you if you are in the bottom 98% of income, if you are a person, if you support such frivolous things as human rights and the environment.

Republicans marked these threats of filibusters as being more than obstructionist, but the lowest of human actions. Democrats were evil for attempting to prevent such upstanding, I’ll just say it—perfect young white men from taking the bench. This was the only story of the last four years (outside of elections) that could push Iraq off of the front page. Not the story about two Right Wing (Perfect [ting!]) judges, but that those evil, despotic, raging Democrats that were in the minority were going to take their toys and go home! The audacity! [and NBC wonders why nobody watches network news anymore]

But something happened after the Democrats demolished the Republicans on election day: Republicans instantly forgot the previous two years.

Just seven months into the 110th Congress's two-year term, legislation in the Senate has been slowed or blocked completely by conservative filibusters a total of 42 times amounting to "[n]early 1 in 6 roll-call votes in the Senate this year." If the current pace continues, by Jan. 2009, conservatives in the Senate will have attempted to filibuster more than 150 times -- nearly three times more than any Congress in the last 50 years. In comparison, legislation was delayed or blocked by filibuster only 52 times in the whole 109th Congress. [excerpted from The Progress Report, July 23, 2007]

Yes, filibuster is the new tactic de jour for Congressional Republicans, including the public attack dog during the Supreme Court discussion, Sen. Orin Hatch.

There is one threat that would certainly break Republican will, a move to the Left. As long as Democrats dance around the center trying to cherry-pick Republicans, they can remain as a block, making the Democrats look bad. But if Democrats become a legitimate alternative—we don’t only redeploy from Iraq, but we make this part of our Mideast Peace initiative and to strengthen domestic programs, devastated by the tyranny of Republican rule, Republicans would have to either side with a winning strategy or align with a failed President. Democrats are making it too easy on Republicans to defy Bush publicly, but vote in his best interest. Right now, it shouldn’t just be Bush and Cheney that are impeached, but the Republican leadership in Congress.

Here's an interesting note: this past week, a federal judge by the name of John D. Bates ruled that he would not hear the case of Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson against the Vice President on jurisdictional grounds. This decision, which didn't speak to the case itself, was heralded as a win for the Bush administration.

The case itself was a defamation lawsuit based on VP Cheney's leaking of the identity of the covert CIA agent, Valerie Plame as retaliation to public statements made by her husband, Joseph Wilson. We all know that story, and yet Republicans, even after the opposite was revealed in investigations (proving their propensity to lie [not just mislead]) continue to suggest that Ms. Plame was not a covert agent. The investigation (by Patrick Fitzgerald) has proven that she was.

But the interesting note in this is that the aforementioned judge Bates is actually the same guy that sided on a second high profile case with...(drumroll please)...Vice President Dick Cheney! He threw out the case that would have forced the VP to disclose the members of his energy task force.

This guy, if he isn't Cheney's hatchet-man is turning out to be further evidence of the tampering this administration is willing to do to erode fairness and justice in our nation.

The Episcopal Church is active, despite what you might hear on the news...

I received an e-mail last week from The Episcopal Public Policy Network. It began thusly:

Already this year, you've heard a lot from us about the U.S. farm bill – the legislation that governs U.S. agricultural and food policy – and the need for reforms that will strengthen rural communities and fight hunger at home and abroad. The House Agriculture Committee is giving final consideration to the bill this week, and – despite the advocacy of an unprecedented alliance of faith groups and antipoverty advocates around the country – all signs indicate that calls for farm-bill reform have fallen on deaf ears in the committee. This means that the cause of reform is now in the hands of the full House, and that it will be critical over the next few weeks for every member of the House to hear from constituents that the status quo is not good enough. It will also be critical to ask lawmakers to press House leaders to stand with the champions of reform.

As I read this, a thought occurred to me: what is the place of lobbying? In 2005 and ’06, there was a media-wide discussion of the place of lobbying to Congress in the midst of and the aftermath of the Abramoff lobbyist scandal. We heard all sorts of things about lobbyists, including that the problem isn’t lobbying, but the money involved. Defenders of lobbyists (and K Street) pointed out that lobbyists are issue-minded groups that are a government official and politicos best source of information. In a nutshell, lobbyists need access to Congress so that their issues are heard and that Congress can be informed.

This compelling reason has highlighted something else: the weight different lobbyists hold. The Episcopal Church has been actively pursuing sensible amendments to the farm bill that account for workers’ rights, fair wages, and support for independent, local farmers. Big agro-business has been opposing these amendments. As you can see from the above quote the latter has won at this stage.

Today, I have realized the utter simplicity of this issue. We think it’s complex, and we act as if there are really many facets to consider, but there is really only one thing, and it is the same as the Jack Abramoff scandal: money. Big Agro-business has it, and they are bribing Washington. The Episcopal Church, with many more compelling reasons, both intellectually and ethically, are being ignored. The sick part is that the media will pretend as if the Episcopal Church was never involved. I have heard conservative pundits suggest that the Churches didn’t do anything to stop the invasion of Iraq, but the mainstream protestant churches joined with the Roman Catholic Church to oppose it before a first shot was fired. What weight has the Church shown?

It is about money. More precisely, it is about revenue. Newspapers and network news programs, under the crush of needing to be profitable (nothing to do with journalistic integrity) have avoided any controversy that may adversely affect them, which has included showing the outrage shown by all but the extreme right. For Congress, it is about the impact of branding by the media and media-savvy pundits (remember the never-uttered ‘quote’: I invented the Internet?) that has control over our politicians and Congress. Our media is running our country and who is increasingly running our media? Rupert Murdoch.

If there were any indicator more important and more ignored than the study that examined the 2000 election coverage, it has not been seen. This study showed that approximately 3 out of 4 times that Vice President Al Gore was discussed in a story, brought up on the nightly news, or described in the newspaper, it was in negative tones. This was in direct contrast with then-Governor G. W. Bush who benefited from positive stories 3 out of 4 times.

Next time you hear somebody suggest that the Church isn’t active or that the Episcopal Church needs to take a stand on something, send them to or tell them that you know different. It is up to us to be the agents of change, not corporations.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Supreme Ignorance

Attorneygate as many have thankfully refrained from calling it got a new wrinkle this week. The attorney-firing scandal that has caused some serious investigation over the last several months is back with a bit that should be interesting to everyone, but will likely not get noticed/will get buried behind lesser headlines.

You know what I’m talking about, right? Attorney General Alberto Gonzales authorized the firing of several federal attorneys, in the middle of high-profile cases, for what they described as ‘performance reasons’. These same attorneys, which were supposedly inept, had successfully prosecuted and convicted either big business or Republicans. At the same time, the White House is caught with its respective pants down when it is revealed that they have put in a litmus test for federal judges that makes, not only conservative thought, but White House approved, neo-conservative, pro Bush White House ideologies that will impair their ability to try cases fairly. That scandal.

The Washington Post yesterday revealed that the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, who successfully convicted of former Vice Presidential aide Lewis “Scooter” Libbey in the CIA leak investigation, was on a similar list. It said:

[A] former Gonzales aide had placed Fitzgerald's name on a list of prosecutors who had 'not distinguished themselves' in March 2005, just after Fitzgerald had indicted former GOP Illinois governor George Ryan and as he was investigating the leak of the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame.

“[N]ot distinguished [himself]”? Are you kidding me? This guy is top-notch and super-professional. He is also nowhere near a liberal. His track record was stellar and garnered high praise from all circles. All circles but the White House, which meant, not the Attorney General. The man’s boss. The guy that is in charge of prosecuting for the country. The guy who sees to it that bad men go to jail and good men remain free. This guy.

You may not see this as a big deal: I’m sure CBS won’t. But the truth here is the proof in AG Alberto Gonzalez’s politicizing and improper conduct. In any other sector, in any law firm, or in any state government in this country, Gonzalez would have been fired, blacklisted, and then prosecuted and convicted. Except that he gets to choose to stay, and as the President’s former personal lawyer, he will have the (limited) protection that Bush can offer him.

So, here is yet another example of the depths this administration is willing to go. This is another injustice that this White House will get away with. This is reason enough for impeachment. But instead, we’re probably just going to wait it out. Wait and hope that the next one doesn't take advantage of us.

Fat chance. Bush has set the new standard, and the Supreme Court is siding with him. The executive will only get more powerful now.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A response to Orombi

Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi, the leader of the Anglican Church in Uganda recently wrote a piece for the journal First Things. He made the following claim:

The younger churches of Anglican Christianity will shape what it means to be Anglican. The long season of British hegemony is over.

He also stated:

The preface to the Book of Common Prayer states, "It is a most invaluable part of that blessed 'liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,' that in his worship different forms and usages may without offense be allowed, provided the substance of the Faith be kept entire; and that, in every Church, what cannot be clearly determined to belong to Doctrine must be reffered to Discipline."

And yet, despite this clear distinction, contemporary Anglicans are in danger of confusing doctrine and discipline.

This second statement embeds the imperialism inherent in the spread of Christianity throughout the world into the very teaching, suggesting that British culture has heretofore been the main informant of the church’s discipline. This, of course, is the primary source of defense for his statements, and the wedge with which he will separate himself from the West. This of course comes out in the crucial statement:

So let us think about how the Word of God works in the worldwide Anglican Communion. We in the Church of Uganda are convinced that Scripture must be reasserted as the central authority in our communion. The basis of our commitment to Anglicanism is that it provides a wider forum for holding each other accountable to Scripture, which is the seed of faith and the foundation of the Church in Uganda.

He isn’t merely suggesting that Scripture is the central authority, but the tool by which he is able to condemn his neighbor. He suggests that the very basis for giving Scripture primacy is to “[hold] each other accountable”. It isn’t to maintain Christian love or to propose a proper relationship or to even know God better—it’s to smack your neighbor upside the head. He then suggests that this “is the seed of faith and the foundation of the Church in Uganda.” Using Scripture as a club is the seed of faith? Your church is founded on aggressive, violent use of Scripture?

But Orombi spends the majority of the article defending the Ugandan form of Anglicanism and rejecting all other streams. His words, which would seem to be intended for North America, hit all of the church that isn’t missionary-founded. This creates an intriguing divide. He further narrows down belief to these two elements:

Theologically, Ugandan Anglicans share much in common with our evangelical brothers and sisters, yet we have retained the historic threefold order of ministry: bishops, priests, and deacons.

What seems funny to me is that what separates us today (besides oceans) is ideology, not practice. The above telling statement points out the chasm of difference between the so-called ‘Global South’ and the rest of the communion. Orombi’s attempts to suggest that he’s in the mainstream and that his is the moderate opinion come off like the Bush Administration when asked about Medicare reform. Orombi is suggesting that our practice and canonical resemblance in maintaining the episcopate is the only commonality between Uganda and the West. Does Anglicanism real boil down to this? The answer, of course, is YES! Orombi’s inability to recognize this is both striking and disappointing. Relationships with other denominations and faiths that recognize the richness of Christianity and the principles of our faith help remind us of who we are to be. To pigeon-hole ourselves into narrow definitions of Christianity, informed not by a corporate history, but of a solely national (and missionary) perspective, is our most dangerous tendency. Like the Archbishop, the American church has attempted to show the influence of its origins have had on the debate, though he seems to have interpreted this suggestion as a slap in the face.

This missionary identity not only serves to inform, but serves to interpret the Archbishop’s understanding of apostolic ministry, suggesting that the only way to interpret the great commission is through missionary work. This view is, of course, as he might say ‘incompatible with Scripture’, for the example shown us in Acts is of different interpretations. Look no further than to compare Paul with James. Clearly, Paul covered the most real estate, converted the greatest numbers, and served the Lord zealously. James’ ministry was Jerusalem. Paul could only cover most of the Mediterranean because James was in Jerusalem. Global ministry allows for different ministries, different understandings of evangelism, and different understandings of obedience to God. Missionary ministry, as understood in a Ugandan context is not the only or ‘true’ interpretation of Scripture any more than ‘the frozen chosen’ is. He further argues:

In the absence today of such a convenient infrastructure, the future of the Anglican Communion is found in embracing the key Reformation and evangelical principles that have had such an impact in Uganda.

So here’s the real question: if this is the only way of finding our future, how do we keep “key Reformation and evangelical principles” paramount while also maintaining the ‘centrality’ of Scripture? How can we keep two things central? Reformation and evangelical principles aren’t the only way of understanding Scripture, nor are they the most obvious! Rt. Rev. Orombi is setting forth an ideological agenda that he is passing off as the only means of understanding the Word of God. And he thinks Western thinking is Gnostic…

I do not intend to make my response to Orombi toxic, nor do I intend to encourage ill will. I am solely interested in the hypocrisy, inconsistency, and willfully politicizing of Lambeth as a means of punishing, humiliating, and breaking up the West, most notably the Episcopal Church. This article that the Archbishop has written is intended to defend his decision, and the decision of the bishops of his diocese, to not attend the September meeting of the American House of Bishops. This stance, directly related to the stance that ‘the Global South’ has taken of non-attendance flies in the face of the very nature of Church, the origins of the Episcopate, and the Scriptural tradition of the church being represented by its bishops in communion. By discouraging some bishops from attending, or by avoiding attendance oneself, s/he is not only disrupting communion, but willfully jeopardizing the fundamental principle that binds the church together! Further, the grave insult that may only be directed at God and likewise to Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit at withdrawing from Eucharist with one’s partners in Christ, or worse, to use the Eucharist as a weapon or a means of ‘discipline’*, must be understood as an act of aggression. Regardless of Orombi’s theology, which we remember is there to hold other Christians accountable, this offense is the nuclear warhead of responses. This is not the first choice of the rational, but the last resort of the wicked. For the Archbishop to use this offense so willingly is both frightening and pitiful. I pray that the Spirit may help him see another way and that its reconciling love may fill his heart.

*I choose to use the word as Orombi does in his article: a telling alternative use of the word that further muddies his argument that the West is confused over the nature of doctrine and discipline in the Church.

Friday, July 13, 2007

A New Party

We must strike while the iron is hot!

As we can see, most Congressional Republicans are (at least privately) questioning the policies of the Bush Administration. Many distanced themselves from him in the 2006 election and more are distancing themselves today. Defections from the Right over leaving Iraq are showing the weakening strangle-hold Conservative ideologues have had on power in Washington. In some ways, this is a new day.

All along, ‘real’ Republicans have been concerned with Bush’s overspending, producing wild deficits. Many more have shown concern for their own tendency to over-earmark bills under Tom DeLay and Hastert leadership.

Some conservatives are even figuring out that the oligarchy created by mega-corporations is not only worse than big government, but goes against conservative principles. This is my point.

I said before the 2004 election that had Kerry turned populist, things would have shifted. I have been arguing for ages that the one thing that Democrats and Republicans are identically wrong on is the corporate position in our economy. Adam Smith, in the Wealth of Nations, the textbook of free-marketers also suggests that any group big enough to be a corporation is in itself a monopoly. Free Market economics as played by the United States is unsustainable as a national position (it won’t last the century, let alone half that time), compromises the fundamental principles of democracy: one person=one vote.

This is further muddied by the Supreme Court’s ruling that corporations are people; which also means that they are people that don’t die, are comprised of other people, and have a means of producing their own wealth that individuals don’t possess. Combine that with ‘money=free speech’, and you have cocktail with disastrous consequences for our corporate health.

The Democratic Party, for the last century has been on the side of the populist. It has been the party of the hard-working middle class. It has also been the party of inclusion and empowerment, strengthening the influence of minorities (racial, ethnic, sexual, etc.) for the betterment of society. It has also been the party of togetherness and betterment of our society. With the tide turning against corporate influence, its about time that Democrats stake claim to their true populist roots. Don’t satisfy yourselves with unions, but take policies that abandon corporate tax cuts, but encourage local production and distribution. If they don’t, the Republicans will. Outflanked, where will that leave the Democratic Party?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Beware! It's out there!

I’m sure you’ve seen it. That thing lurking on the edge of public consciousness. That thing that takes hold of selective bright young thinkers who push it on the public like street drugs. That thing that makes the smart speechless and the dumb captivated. That thing that grabs hold because there are some instances when it is true. Watch yourselves; it’s the return of the LITERALISTS! (cue the music: dunh dunh dunh DUNH!)

It seems now that literalists are everywhere. People that are otherwise bright, successful, jovial people are in the clutches of this pack of radical separatists. It is the sort of thing that should have made people laugh in 2000 when Bush campaigned on a “compassionate conservative” platform (for the record, this is an ironic statement, not just because conservatives aren’t by-and-large compassionate, but because the nature of conservatism is isolationist and separatist—it is hard to show compassion to a person when you are shutting the door on them).

You may be wondering ‘But Drew, what’s wrong with literalism? You take things literally a lot! Literalism isn’t evil!’ and you would be correct to think that. But that is the allure of literalism—it’s black-and-white, no-nonsense, overly-simplistic rationalizing. Literalism by itself (which is what I’m talking about here) is like trying to solve a crossword puzzle by only working on the Across questions or delivering mail to odd numbered houses on streets named after presidents. There are a multitude of true, appropriate, and rational responses to the world—suggesting that one stands above the others is ridiculous. Secondly, the fact that I sometimes use literalism says more about the quantity of other interpretive methods than it does about literalism. Lastly, literalism can’t be evil as an ideology, but it is often used to the exclusion of other things, which puts us all in danger.

The Constitution of the United States does not say anywhere that I can’t where blue. Nor does it say that I can. A rational, well-rounded person (as has nearly every Constitutional scholar agreed) would take this as a matter of free-speech—something in the Constitution. A literalist on the Supreme Court (four of the nine members of the Supreme Court think this way; that’s 44%) would ideologically be forced to confront that interpretation of free speech. As it is neither ‘speech,’ nor is it a color that denotes any specific inclination or expression, it could not be suggested that I am saying anything by wearing blue. If the government suddenly outlawed blue, a near majority of the Supreme Court would find ideological grounds to support that law, instead of declaring it unconstitutional.

This example is ridiculous, and we know that the four justices in mind (Scalia, Thomas, and Bush appointees Roberts and Alito) wouldn’t do that. But what if that same thinking is tested on murder cases, civil rights cases, and affirmative action cases? That’s going on now! And they’ve had the ‘swing’ justice side with them nearly every time.

Perhaps the scariest thing about literalists is not the tendency to see things as black and white or as us versus them, but that they can’t allow space in their paradigm for all of the other interpretive strategies. In Biblical Studies, Critical Thinking, Literary Studies, and virtually every liberal arts class, we are encouraged to test things out, try different methods, each one contributing to your interpretation of the outcome. Even complex mathematics gives way from narrow definitions and parameters (what is the square root of 4?) to strings of equations that encourage creative and bold new visions. Every subject encourages multiple strategies for success, which is a proven and successful approach. If you apply this approach to policy and initiatives, you see the same results. Abstinence Only sex education programs produce the highest birth rates, sexual activity, and rates of STDs while programs that explain the use of contraceptives and the varying issues relating to sexual activity, including biological, psychological, and sociological reveal the greatest success.

This rant hasn’t even gone near the church, where people go to war over this issue! But what is becoming increasingly obvious is that literalism is appealing, it is easy to understand, and is often the first method we use to test something. People seem to want that simplicity more than they want the truth: that our lives are paradoxical and ambiguous. We say things like ‘I prefer prime time TV,’ knowing that others will sort of get what we mean, but not precisely. A literalist would believe, therefore, that you like everything on during prime time or that you dislike everything on during the day. A rational person should deduce that you are less interested in soaps and game shows (the predominate daytime choices) as well as morning shows and evening news programs (the predominant respective options) than you are the scripted (and now “reality”) programming of prime time. It is also safe to suggest that you probably don’t like everything on, but that you are more likely to watch CSI than Days of Our Lives, regardless of your affection for the former. If I had said ‘I only watch prime time TV,’ then these suggestions may still hold, but it invites the other option that it isn’t interest that prevents your watching at other times, but opportunity.

The insidious nature of literalism is not that it causes a person to misread the situation (which it sometime does), but that fixes it within parameters and forces the individual to turn thoughts and suggestions into beliefs. If you reason it out (through these overly simplistic methods), then you must be right, regardless of the arguments used by others. The certitude with which you stand behind your new belief is unwavering. This makes you blind and deaf to the reality around you. Sound familiar?

Friday, July 6, 2007

Fireworks and Independence

Spending the night of July 3rd at my parish’s picnic in preparation for the fireworks that night, Rose reminded me that in our 6.5 years together, I have never taken her to the fireworks. We saw a few minutes one year and caught others from afar, but never did we set out to sit through them.

This of course is my fault. I’m not a big fan of fireworks. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which are financial and environmental. A new thing occurred to me this year: I don’t like Independence Day because we never seem to celebrate independence and our struggle to find it on that day. With all of our emphasis on military interactions, it comes off as Memorial Day part 2. With our emphasis on freedom (which inevitably goes back to the old military (freedom won) and current military (freedom ‘protected’). Even attempts to re-imagine the Revolution inevitably turn to the war, not the Declaration of Independence—the moment memorialized with this very holiday.

Independence Day (4th of July) is a day to recognize heroism and courage—not the mortal kind of warfare, but the truly horrifying kind of civil and social interaction. The kind that sends people to prisons, to torture, to public humiliations, to lynchings, to mob response. Facing literal enemy bullets is not the same courage and bravery shown by those facing figurative bullets and barbs. Independence Day is about standing up against an oppressive government that doesn’t represent its people, but the wealthy beneficiaries. It is declaring both individual and corporate freedom. It is about the birth of democracy in the Western hemisphere. It is the interpretation of the oldest elements of Western Civilization to encourage freedom and justice for all people.

I still don’t mind fireworks, really. They seem to make people happy, and sometimes, they make me happy. But Independence Day isn’t a day for soldiers and warriors; it’s a day for statespersons, leaders, and visionaries; the truly heroic people that we so often demonize. Supporting the soldiers in a so-called time of war is easy; supporting the visionary ahead of popular curve takes true bravery.