Friday, July 3, 2009

Independence Day thoughts

I’ve been at work on Independence Day every year of my working life, and will be again tomorrow, so I don’t give much thought to the traditional recreational activities associated with it, and generally take the grouchy view that the holiday is little more than a flimsy excuse for non-service sector people to get an extra day off from work (even when it’s on a Saturday). I do, however, like to affirm my patriotism which expresses itself in two major forms: 1) my appreciation for and willingness to fight for our country’s remarkable and resilient Constitution, and 2) my concern and compassion for our military personnel abroad who are in increasing danger as both of the wars enter new phases. Things I don’t do: festoon the house in flags and placard my car with “support the troops” stickers. The first is a phony me-too gesture and the second is useless.

A(nother) moronic political event has happened in my temporary home state that seems well-timed for this holiday. It’s often said that the people get the leaders they deserve. If that is true, then the people of Oklahoma must be some real scumbags. Or at least two thirds of them, the percentage of the electorate that tends to vote for the likes of Jim Inhofe and Sally Kern. Let me tell you about Sally Kern, because you will not have heard of this slavering beast since you do not live here. She’s an OKC-area state legislator who made some news last year with her insistence that homosexuality is a worse threat to America than terrorism. Yesterday she conducted a press conference unveiling her Oklahoma Citizens Morality Proclamation. If you can stand to read this prose-form turd (it’s torture), and if you can get past the first paragraph with all the lurid religious boilerplate, complete with eighteenth-century-style capitalized nouns as if it’s the Declaration of Independence, you will notice two things:

1) It is laced with both direct and indirect references to homosexuality. This is my favorite passage: “WHEREAS, deeply disturbed that the Office of the president of these United States disregards the biblical admonitions to live clean and pure lives by proclaiming an entire month to an immoral behavior.” Aside from the gibbering dumbassity of that statement’s apparent meaning, please note also its clunky syntax, its amateurish style, its near incomprehensibility. The whole document is like that.

2) It is one of those typical, ever-more-common attempts to make a raving nutcase Christian fundie statement sound like it would be endorsed by the Founders by means of cherry-picking quotations or creating dishonest paraphrases of things that people like Thomas Jefferson said. It has become a standard line from the fundies that America is a “Christian nation” founded by “Christians” (and so should always be a country only for Christians, by which they means racists and homophobes—make no mistake: this is a publicly acceptable cloak for white supremism and neo-fascism with all their attendant prejudices such as anti-Semitism, gay-bashing and Muslim-baiting).

Here’s something that Thomas Jefferson—the Founder of Founders, non-Christian deist and the author of the document that Kern’s proclamation parodies—said about it: “Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.” Here’s something else: “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” And he said many, many other things about the topic, not one of which ever endorsed a position the likes of which Kern and her baboons in human guise proclaim. In fact, he was so doubtful about the usefulness and veracity of the Bible, he famously created his own version of it by excerpting the passages that he liked and discarding the rest. Jefferson was no fundamentalist and neither were his contemporaries. Yet this myth persists and is propagated once again by Kern’s stupid proclamation. No real American historian (and by “real” I mean a PhD-holding published professor at an accredited non-sectarian college or university who has studied history from primary sources) advocates or would even be bothered to consider this fundie revision of American history. Let me say that again in a slightly different way, just to make sure that my meaning is clear: the exact number of real scholars who believe in the Kern concept of American history is as follows: zero. It’s one of these made up, phony-baloney debates that the extreme right makes their whole domain of discourse. They make up a debate topic and then blab about it on the 700 Club and their silly grunting radio shows until the general public starts thinking that it’s a real debate. Another example: Creationism. No debate exists about this among scientists—none at all—and hasn’t for a century, yet the fundies have created one and have convinced the majority of Americans (who don’t study it and don’t really know much about it) that there is some kind of epic debate in the realm of science that will be settled in their favor any day now. Another example: Torture. No debate exists about this among people who have studied it, yet the majority of people have been persuaded that torture is a valid debate topic and that on Independence Day, our great nation can somehow remain great if we engage in such behavior.

On Independence Day this year, I am making my own proclamation, or maybe it could be called a secular prayer: “WHEREAS Stupidity has beset and overwhelmed the Nation and the People and eaten out our Sanity, we strive for the Restoration of Reason to the Land.”

[The images are of Marines in Helmand Province (Afghanistan) and Sally Kern in OKC (Dumbfuckistan) asserting her Constitutional rights...that those troops are defending. Hardly seems fair.]

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Anonymous said...

The hardest facet of this, for me, is that a majority of the people in my day to day life, who are decent human beings, buy into this way of seeing the world. It's comforting, I guess.

The biggest science fiction story in the world is the one in which someone has a direct line to a personified God. And the thing is: no one does. It's just a fiction. So that being the case, and it is the case --we may be religious people, but the building block of that is faith and hence the inerrant fact that we simply do not know. Hence faith is fine, for one's self, but applied to others and it becomes an insanity-- ... so that being the case, the question, to my mind, becomes: how good do you treat your fellow human being? Do you honor them? Do you ascribe to them the same rights and dignity you expect for yourself?

The answer for these people is 'no', and the justification is their holy book, or rather, their interpretation of.

Jesus said a lot of good things. The meek shall inherit the earth. Love your neighbor as yourself. I can get on board with that. There's a lot of good to be found in all these holy books, but not one of the people spoken about, Jesus, Abraham, Siddhartha, Krishna, would have been a damn bit of use programing your vcr.

One hopes religious leaders wake up to the fact that these words were written long ago by men. To whatever extent a religion refuses to amend itself to the greater understanding we have of ourselves and our world, that religion relinquishes itself to irrelevance.

Okay, rant off. Have a great 4th everyone.


Anonymous said...

First off, I'm still unsure why you are in that crazy state Chris, but I guess it is good to have people represent in the lands of the confused and oppressed.
Secondly. When it comes to branches of religion, just looking back with a few ounces of logic makes things seem clearer. What do religions want...more followers, more people to support them and do things their way. So obviously, in general, hetro couples will have more children that could grow up to be like their brain dead/washed parents. Therefor it makes sense to try to make same sex couples outlawed, because they are considered dead ends, since they are not pumping out more kids for this facists to use in their wars etc.
If this does not work they are always good scapgoats. They should be thankful they have found someone to pick on, since it is harder to insult people of different ethnic backgrounds these days.

Mike Griffiths

Christopher Fletcher said...

The reasons that we moved here would be too long and tedious to explain right now (and wouldn't make much sense anyway), but we did make a serious mistake as far as our assumptions before the move. Most of the entire country, regardless which state you are in, consists of vast swaths of ignorance. It had, however, been my experience that the larger urban centers were islands where one didn't need to take the full brunt of it. Before this I lived for a decade in St. Louis. Most of the rest of the state of Missouri is much like Oklahoma but one can find havens in the city centers where most of the people live. In this state, it is also true that most of the people live in the cities, but they happen to also be mostly right wingers. Not what we expected. Also, I never pictured that the attitudes of such people would actually wear on me directly like it does here. I was used to being able to ignore them by not needing to have any direct contact with them. Not so here. I had not been the target of open direct-to-my-face homophobia since I was a teenager, but it's pretty routine at my day job where the other people are supposedly adults. But then again, each time that I go to work, it appears that I also pass through a time portal to the 1980s


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