Monday, November 30, 2009
(Did I mention that 'due to the H1N1' horror, parishioners at an Edina RCC are welcomed to nipponically bow toward each other--for minimal skin-on-skin interface? [The age-old Catholic schizophrenia concerning the regulation of erotic encounters is unmistakably echoed in our bowing, which has a clumsily blasphemous feel.] You're aware they removed the bells a few years back too, right?)
By contrast these Lutherans positively ignite with wakeful, mentally involved mutual well-wishing. The place is about half full, with much percussive/Carpentersy schmaltz coming from the paunchy rockers. The gurgling water is incessant and genuinely irritating. I take this to be a somewhat conservative, middle-brow Eden Prairie church; these are its soul rebels. It's a younger demographic, scrubbed and presenting. (And that's what you're doing at church, isn't it--making an effort to allow a reasonably non-inquiring neighbor to believe that you believe the bible is inerrant--even the stupid parts?) People respect you more when they've determined your belief in this set of fantasies is sincere.
Anyway, hours later I was rehearsing an anti-religious diatribe with X2. The minister's sermon had mentioned some couple who'd given birth to a horribly ill baby 'so they had to have the baby baptized immediately because who knew what might happen next?'
It wasn't clear whether the minister was endorsing this idea--that unbaptized babies suffer some horrific Jesus-endorsed butchery in the afterlife--though he didn't categorically denounce it. It reminded me again of one of the more disturbing beliefs that hadn't yet entirely faded during my upbringing. To believe that god looks differently upon the 'souls' of baptized and unbaptized dead babies seems predicated upon a belief that god is stupid, no? Anyway, after thinking about this and imagining the way people of my parents' generation/milieu grew up--their insistence on immediate baptism was driven not by their secret belief that god = shit, but by their unexamined assumption that god is almost certainly capricious and arbitrary and particularly unconcerned about the welfare of those unbent by emotional terrorism.
Anyway, that part of the peroration didn't bother X2, but then I spoke about Immanuels' detailed 'prayers for the sick' (the bulletin actually lists people by name, with their specific predicament). And I thought, how could someone think that praying to god could have any effect on the progression of an ill person's disease? I mean, have you not observed friends or relatives endure the most ghastly, painful, ill-timed and slow deteriorations? Any omnipotent, all-loving entity which allowed this stuff (and the Congo) to go on would be quite easily and incontrovertibly judged, to my satisfaction anyway. (No mystery whatsoever.)
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Dr. Maureen Hackett--she of the 'lower-middle class home'--is running for Congress. The photo above comes from her website, showing one sentence from the quotations potpourri otherwise known as The Eden Prairie Veterans Memorial, our ostensibly guilt-assuaging little ransom note of a monument.
This quotation: '"THE SOLDIER ABOVE ALL OTHER PEOPLE PRAYS FOR PEACE, FOR HE MUST SUFFER AND BEAR THE DEEPEST WOUNDS AND SCARS OF WAR." -DOUGLAS MACARTHUR'
Let me confess: I am not overwhelmed with admiration for Gen. Douglas MacArthur. I went to the quotation's source today, and read MacArthur's 1962 Thayer Award acceptance speech, delivered at West Point, entitled Duty, Honor, Country. (The title is Army's motto.)
In the short talk, MacArthur issues forth in a traditional vein--at once mystical and martial-- fetishizing each of the three words in his title, as if each were self-revealing and inherently inextricable from any action in which US soldiers partake. The three words require no explanation; no legitimate debate could divide Americans over their interpretation. Duty, honor and country magically suffuse the American soldier's soul (explicitly including those who fought on behalf of the Confederacy).
MacArthur begins his speech in a reverie, describing the American fighting man in 'platonic ideal' form. 'They died, unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts...' '[T]he soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind.'
So the first half of the speech is mostly crazy BS, in other words.
At this point MacArthur takes a number of interesting turns, telling the cadets to stay out of politics and defending political debate among civilians, while not acknowledging the subordination of the US military to civilian management. MacArthur implicitly suggests that the civilian politician and the military leader operate within non-contiguous domains--a malignant falsehood especially dangerous to a democratic system.
In the speech, MacArthur sees war as some discrete obligation handed to the US military without any possibility of illegitimate use, or any temptation to intervene that might tug at politicians persuaded of the very infallibility which MacArthur insists is the US soldier's birthright. Within MacArthur's schema, the military leader plays no role in encouraging or discouraging the decision to go to war--another dangerous error.
So if I should love and admire MacArthur, his Duty, Honor, Country speech hasn't won me over. Were I a candidate for federal office, I can't think of any non-strategic reason for quoting him.
RTWT; let me know what you think, oh masses.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
No. Kihne argues that Al Gore supports the anti-GW movement in pursuit of ulterior motives, since he's made large investments in green technology. But many rich people put their business investments in alignment with their ideological interests. Kihne offers nothing to her non-fanatic readers, to persuade us that Gore's enthusiasm for the green movement is insincere.
What if a medical researcher, over a long career, invented an anticarcinogenic regimen that resulted in the halving of person-years lost to cancer? Along the way, we learn that the researcher has made large investments in anticancer technologies. Would Sheila Kihne argue that the researcher's hypocrisy now merits ridicule?
What if the researcher were later exposed as a lifelong, closeted cigarette smoker? Would that make her a hypocrite whose opinions on cancer ought henceforth to be disregarded? Of course not--it simply wouldn't matter.
A general rule applies to civil discourse: We assume sincere intentions unless we can provide clear, convincing reasoning for withdrawing that assumption. Sheila Kihne simply doesn't observe this basic tenet of gentlepersonhood--and it shows. It's too bad that the primary beneficiaries of her political activism haven't yet seen fit to distance themselves from her. Kihne's support should embarrass them.
Monday, November 23, 2009
We have a factual dispute. I asserted that British/American culture values military heroism less than it did 1-3 generations ago. In assessing my cultural observation, Mitch's personal feelings on the matter are irrelevant, no? I mean, if you asked me whether more Americans support the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, it would be weird for me to lash back at you about my torrid affection for the former. (Berg's 'millions and millions more like me' seeks to answer a request for a fraction with an integer--a basic argumentative fallacy.)
On to Mitch's second item today: What kind of public art should Londoners display on Plinth Four? I answer 'good art'; Berg replies 'traditional, heroic, military statues' [I paraphrase]. Mitch goes on to argue by asserting his own purer intentions--'tacitly intended to cheapen and mock the larger work of art of which that one lousy plinth is a part'.
Earlier Berg accused me of being 'selectively reverent' and I responded by proudly embracing his epithet: Yes, I'm selectively reverent. Guilty as charged, sheriff. Then, not 'getting' his own misunderstanding, Berg responded with a faintly octogenarian 'I'm not being selectively reverent. I'm being a critic.'
Mitch Berg does somewhat cross the line, however, with his 'Just because context exists doesn't mean we have to destroy it.' A political master-of-the-universe beats me to the punch with the apposite Ulrike Meinhof quotation. I hate America!
Sunday, November 22, 2009
I'd asserted that--'within the cultural churn'--military heroism isn't valued as it once was. So I was making an observation about American and British culture; I thought that was clear. Mitch responded by asserting that he values military heroism very much, as do many of his teammates. So Mitch isn't responding to my assertion, he's distinguishing between the value he puts on military heroism and the value he perceives I place on it.
If--after this clarification--Mitch actually wants to claim that anglosphere culture generally favors military heroism just as much as it did one, two or three generations ago, fine. And perhaps we might even find evidence and research assessing this very point--obviating the need for any shouting match.
If you're joining this dispute late, Mitch Berg noted earlier that Trafalgar Square has three permanent statues and one which the city changes regularly. Today's London has put some challenging works up on the fourth plinth--such as Allison Lapper Pregnant--by Marc Quinn.
The plinths traditionally elevate monuments to heroism--and military heroism was long considered heroism's highest form. The traditional military hero is the leader of men--the fighter whose actions did most to bring about victory. (So even John McCain--from the traditional viewpoint--would be a very unusual candidate for plinth placement.)
Allison Lapper Pregnant asks us to reevaluate our traditional notions of what it means to be heroic. Mitch's comment sought to mock pieces such as Allison Lapper Pregnant, referring to 'the vapid post-ironic noodlings of the "artistic" children of an era that's long since forgotten why the personalities and heroism were needed in the first place.' In quoting Berg's dismissal back to him, I'm mystified as to how he can chide me with 'keep your stereotypes to yourself'.
None of which is to deny that Mitch and I have an honest, real disagreement. When I see Allison Lapper Pregnant up on Plinth Four, I find it expressive of our age and provocative and appealing. Mitch believes that the Keith Park statue makes the far better choice. We can discuss that disagreement dispassionately, I believe, without dogmatic pronouncements.
In his second comment on my previous post, Berg wistfully notes 'Selective reverence is an interesting trait.' But since everyone's reverence is selective, I would reply to Berg thus: 'Selective reverence is an uninteresting trait.'
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Three days ago Kevin Rudd--Australia's Labor PM--issued an apology 'to the Forgotten Australians - the half a million children raised in institutions, orphanages and foster care throughout the last century.' Nine hundred people assembled for the public apology, which was accompanied by an air of contrition, remorse and catharsis. Many attendees were themselves abuse victims.
Since people so frequently issue false apologies, we take a skeptical look at statements offered in apologetic form. Does the pardon-beggar show real regret? Does she acknowledge the gravity of the offense? Does he show a real willingness to confront the internal errors which led him astray? And--after the apology has been issued--does the person appear to be living the apology out?
What if--a month after Mr. Rudd's apology--a well-dressed crowd assembled for 'Australian Children's Day', and the Prime Minister gave a speech that included:
"On every day and at every time, Australian parents and guardians have shown the world the the very best of Australia."
If you were among the numerous abuse victims who'd just been 'apologized to' by Kevin Rudd, you'd likely feel nauseous were he to issue that sentence. Were you among the victims, you'd feel played were Rudd to ever subsequently make such a public statement. Saying such a thing would reveal that Rudd's earlier 'apology' was in reality nothing but a political stunt.
Are we sorry for anything our military has done, over the years? Emphatically, yes. Our intervention in Vietnam and Cambodia alone was extremely unjust, killing millions. (Even adjusting for the countries' disparity in population--our Vietnam intervention was many times more harmful than Australia's state-sanctioned child abuse.)
'In every war and at every turn, our veterans have shown the world the very best of America.'
Why would Paulsen publish such an absurd falsehood? Because Paulsen believes his constituents want to be lied to--that's why.
So...who to put on Plinth 4? Mitch believes that Trafalgar Square is a monument to heroism--and therefore a traditional military hero's statue ought to be displayed there. Someone on the order of a Nelson or a Park.
That claim is false--Trafalgar Square, built originally as 'King William IV's Square'--was not originally designed as a cenotaph to heroism. (That purpose was added later--by a generation once accused, by fuddy-duddies, of cavalierly breaking bonds with its forebears.) Purposes for cultural edifices have a pronounced tendency to morph about, as the decades pass--as human-made things tend to do.
That said, Berg implicitly suggests originalism should require today's Londoners to maintain Trafalgar Square in a way that Lord Nelson would like. But 'each generation drives its plow over the bones of the dead,' as Camille Paglia says. In maintaining our public amenities, we should do what makes sense to us. Berg apparently considers all contemporary art 'vapid post-ironic noodling.' (And if he's looking for serious contemporary artists who share his cultural and ideological predilections, his pessimism is quite justified.) In any case, he's misidentified the original purpose of the park. But even if he were right, I'm not sure why it should change our decisions today.
Berg then posted another comment, this time suggesting that if we can change the purpose of Trafalgar Square, why shouldn't others consider changing monuments to racial equality and the equal citizenship of gay people?
In other words, because our assessment of one inherited cultural value--military heroism--has sunk far, within the cultural churn, shouldn't that require us to devalue antiracism and gay equality too? (I vaguely recollect an old saying concerning babies and bathwater, Mitch.) No, that wouldn't make sense.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
My web surfboard recently alighted upon Lashing Back The Waves of Stupid, by local Big League Blogger Mitch Berg. Berg--displaying Trafalgar Square--says the 'tribute to Lord Nelson and his epic naval victory at Trafalgar is one of the signature sites in one of the world's great cities.' [Quotation was unlinked as originally published.] Three of the plinths at Trafalgar are permanently occupied by famed British heroes.
"The fourth of the plinths," Mitch writes--"built in 1841, has never been permanently occupied by a statue. Over the years, it’s been the scene of stunts, demonstrations, and often occupied by temporary statues, some of them debuting on the plinth before being put in their permanent locations. Some of them were of genuine British heroes; others, during the height of London’s longtime socialist wackjob mayor Ken Livingstone, were more, er, unconventional. "
Berg goes on to slam Mary Wakefield (in her anti-sex ed op-ed) for displaying insufficient reverence for plinth-4's current fertilizer-collector, Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park. In response, I wrote:
'In his Honor: A History, James Bowman discusses a former denizen of Plinth # 4: Alison Lapper Pregnant, by Marc Quinn [see up top]. I disagree with the Bowman/SITD pining for the old ‘heroic’ ideal. We are genuinely quite removed from Plinth 1-3 take on ‘heroism’. We’re aware of our need to puff ourselves up and have therefore become skeptical when our representative adopts the heroic register, as when Erik Paulsen
In my next post, I'd like to respond to some of the blowback I received for that paragraph.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
A politician who believes abortion to be equal--in sheer moral depravity--to gunning down a family member in cold blood would advocate a permanent, national ban on the practice. If you view abortion as simply another mode of murder, you'd want a person choosing to undergo an abortion to be severely punished, just as society punishes any other murderer. Am I overlooking something?
Sarah Palin does not equate abortion with murder--she accepts that it's a legal option women have:
"According to the Anchorage Daily News, during the final 2006 Alaska gubernatorial debate, "The candidates were pressed on their stances on abortion and were even asked what they would do if their own daughters were raped and became pregnant. Palin said she would support abortion only if the mother's life was in danger. When it came to her daughter, she said, 'I would choose life.'" "
When Palin learned of her fetus' Down syndrome, she has admitted considering terminating the pregnancy. And in her unintentionally hilarious interview with Katie Couric, Palin emphatically brushed aside any discussion of jailing 'murderers':
"If you're asking, though, kind of foundationally here, should anyone end up in jail for having an … abortion, absolutely not. That's nothing I would ever support.""
Would Palin oppose a 75¢ fine on women who commit this grave crime? What would her preferred punishment be? Would she designate such an offense a misdemeanor or felony? ('Misdemeanor murder' has a vaguely oxymoronic sound, no?)
Angela Berger soldiers on with her Sarah Palin rhapsody:
"Talk about someone walking the walk. She was provided a perfect situation in which to stand up for what she believes and not abort her Downs Syndrome baby, as 90% of people do nowadays. Yes, 90% of Downs Syndrome kids are aborted, which is why you see very few of them under the age of 15. "
But no serious adult could praise Sarah Palin for her antiabortion opportunism, could one? Remember: Palin doesn't consider abortion to be 'murder', she advocates no punishment for women voluntarily undergoing illegal abortions, she does not staunchly forbid her daughter from having an abortion--and while she wants the law of the land to ban abortion for everyone, it's still okay for Sarah Palin to consider the option.
While we may praise women who choose to go forward with difficult pregnancies, we shouldn't condemn those who decide to terminate. And while we praise 'special needs moms', I find it difficult to extend said praise to SNM Angela Berger--who doesn't simply embrace the option for herself--but seeks to force all expectant women to relinquish the termination option.
While intentionally misrepresenting Sarah Palin's statements on abortion and advocating her own back-to-the-Stone-Age position on women's rights, Berger merits nothing but ridicule and condemnation.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
FNR's current post is a bit of an embarrassment, sadly. Referring readers to this Wall Street Journal piece, Kelley writes:
"It provides a unique look at our president through different eyes than we're used to looking through: the eyes of the world vs. the eyes of the American mainstream media, which falls to its knees in worship at the very mention of his name."
So Kelley looks to The Wall Street Journal for a clearer, 'outsiders look' at America--boldly end-running that predictable, old 'American mainstream media' channel. What a gutsy individualist!
Further, the article she cites concerns the difficulty Obama faces in converting international goodwill into diplomatic success--it does not evaluate international perceptions of the USA, nor does it contrast domestic and international media perceptions of Obama, as Kelley misunderstands.
(Kelley's central, underlying point--that foreign reporters take a cooler view of Obama than does the American MSM--also has it back-asswards, of course.)
Recently I've been getting several robo-advertisements posted into my comments section every day, for prescription medications mainly. Deleting the stupid advertisements was getting time-consuming, so I just updated my comments setting to require commenters to log in. Anonymous comments remain welcome; the comments section is still censorship-free, unlike--say--that of The Semiliterate Dogmatist™ or Not Angela Berger™.
Friday, November 13, 2009
People were seated at tables in groups of ten when I straggled in an hour late. Jones--portly, tenor--was at the lectern, calling on participants who volunteered a descriptive sentence about themselves which might easily be misinterpreted were it applied to a person o'color, were I to guess the assignment. People preened forth, each outdoing her predecessor with racial progressivism.
Jones' goal in this activity is to assist Eden Prairie milquetoasts achieve something he inauspiciously calls cultural competence. A short while later Jones goes through his seven take-home points, i.e. Look For & Embrace Differences, Learn American History, Stand Up For Equity And Against Discrimination, etc. There is a certain air of the political reeducation lockdown, I grant you. We applaud politely and leave.
I'm guessing most participants are achieving a work related check-mark for attending the event. Anti-discrimination education could be a valuable thing, I suppose, were it less of an ideological truncheon and/or signalling device.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
The other day I surveyed local right-wing bloggers and noted they'd written about the event--though their ideas were idiotic at best. (One might nevertheless praise their consistency on that score.)
Reason Magazine's Steve Chapman takes a stab today in Muslims and Mass Murder.
Perhaps he's insane I thought of the shooter, when first learning of the crime. But insane can mean a lot of things--from utter loss of consciousness to the simple tautology that 'anyone who shoots up a large group of people is crazy'. Tautologies explain nothing, of course--and we may at some future date have a much clearer understanding of the killer's motivations.
Since the original report, a number of views have been ascribed to Maj. Nidal Hasan. Given what we know about him, might we be able to conjure a narrative in which his crime appears rational, from the inside?
What if your immediate ancestors came from Palestine. Your society had been demolished quite recently during the creation of Israel, a western client state imposed upon the Middle East after the end of World War II. Most of the society from which your family emerged had been ethnically cleansed into a bantustan archipelago--and put under the checkpoints, watchtowers, walls and guards of an illegal occupation.
Your family immigrated to America, but your feelings toward your adoptive homeland embraced a zigzagging schizophrenia, particularly as you became aware how fanatically the USA has sided with the state that behaved--and behaves--so contemptuously toward your people back in the Old Country.
Added to the mix: America's occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan are deeply distrusted in the Middle East and around the globe. Many Muslims believe America is at war with their faith. Many Muslims in America believe they are suspect, second-guessed and insulted by the culture around them.
This is in no way meant to justify Hasan's alleged crime--and indeed, it may prove to bear no relationship to the actual development of his views. But if we seek to minimize violence in society, we ought to attempt to reverse actions which have unfairly antagonized and alienated certain ethnic groups. We ought to be trying to build a society in which people feel interconnected and socially equal.
Had we seriously reflected upon the suffering inflicted upon the Palestinian people, then and now--and made clear our deep desire to put our relationship with them back on an honorable footing--perhaps Hasan still would have shot up Fort Hood, causing such immense grief and suffering to so many.
But perhaps he wouldn't have. That alternative should still be worth a try.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
"Veteran’s Day is truly a day in which we remember the cost of freedom. The freedoms we enjoy today are the result of over two centuries of sacrifice by our men and women of the Armed Forces. Each time our nation has called, our veterans have stood up and shown the world the very best of America. Many have given their lives in the defense and protection of freedom. While this ultimate sacrifice is something we can never truly repay, it is something we must honor each and every day."
Paulsen's flowery statement requires correction--so that we might conduct our public dialogue on an unblindered, adult basis: Many American soldiers have fought and died in the service of interests other than freedom--in some cases even opposed to freedom. It is not by any means guaranteed that our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan will result in a net advance for human freedom. Human freedom was not advanced by our intervention in Vietnam.
Sometimes the US armed forces have succeeded in advancing human freedom, sometimes they've done the opposite--with much else in between. When we've sent soldiers into combat, they've paid a heavy price, with noble intent--and we should thank them for the sacrifice and memorialize those who've lost their lives in war. But were I the vet in Erik's photo-op being subjected to Paulsen's hucksterish, vote-sopping 'america+war=freedom' crap, I sure hope it would be on a day when I'd just purchased a lemon meringue pie.
Monday, November 9, 2009
In Murder Does Not Need A Label, Conservative Cravings laments our (supposedly) recent practice of dividing 'murder' into various degrees--and our still more recent addition of the 'hate crime' designation. To the Edina blogger, murder is murder--and no legal distinctions should be made among murderers. (Read her post if you think I'm kidding.)
In PC Army, Eden Prairie Republican Sheila Kihne savages our armed forces for their 'better screwed than rude' policy. Hasan's fellow students--Kihne quotes Mark Steyn--'complained to the faculty about Hasan’s "anti-American propaganda"'... But Kihne doesn't make clear what changes she would like to see in US military policy. (While praising Kihne's call for tighter First Amendment restrictions on soldiers, The Activist Next Door's servile commenter Jim complains of the indefensible Second Amendment restrictions imposed upon same.)
Elsewhere in her post, Kihne--no champion speller--takes Nancy Pelosi to task for refusing to put off the health care vote in deference to the country's hurt feelings over Fort Hood. (One minute we're too PC, the next we're insufficiently PC--you just can't please some people.)
And with her universally admired class, tact and respect, Kihne announces: 'Class, tact, respect, these things mean nothing to liberals.' [sic]
One day Eden Prairie will dedicate an equestrian statue to Sheila Kihne--mark my words.