May 30, 2012
Recently I went off on a rant about the number of Christians who don’t even really know what their own religious text actually says, citing the lack of awareness/understanding of Peter’s vision in Acts as my prime example. I thought of that when reading Fred Clark, who has way more cred than I do on the subject, and so I wanted to point to him and say, “Look! See! This is what I was talking about!”
About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. Then he heard a voice saying, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.’ The voice said to him again, a second time, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven.
A little bit later, Peter draws this conclusion about the vision: “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.”
Fred Clark expounds on the different interpretations of that passage (i.e. the one that sees the story as just a rationale for why Christians don’t have to keep kosher, versus the one that reflects what the story actually says) here. A sampling:
Consider, for example, the purpose of Peter’s vision. It wasn’t sent because Red Lobster was about to bring back “endless shrimp,” but because of the people who were about to knock on Peter’s door. The author of Acts makes sure we don’t miss that point, writing: “While Peter was greatly puzzled about what to make of the vision that he had seen, suddenly the [impure, uncircumcised, bacon-loving Gentile] men sent by Cornelius appeared. They were asking for Simon’s house and were standing by the gate.”
I suppose it could be argued that stating that there’s only One True Way that Acts 10 can be interpreted, I’m no better than those against whom I would argue: I’m still using a particular religious text as a mere tool to argue for my particular point of view. At the same time, though… I dunno, it seems to me that if you’re going to go around calling yourself a biblical literalist and that kind of thing, it might be worth looking at what the bible actually says. And furthermore, the stories we tell one another mean things, things that have resonance beyond the literal words on the page or images on the screen. Dracula was about more than just a dude who consumed blood to survive. Dystopian novels aren’t just purely imaginatory exercises; they offer commentary on our world as it currently exists.
What we have here is not just a failure to communicate; it’s a failure of imagination. And as always, while I respect the rights of people with whom I disagree to believe whatever it is they believe, in the privacy of their own homes, in their places of worship, etc.—when they start bringing it into the public sphere and trying to create public policy based on who they believe is clean and who is unclean, well, I’m going to have something to say about that.
February 12, 2010
Kansas senators endorsed a plan that tells federal lawmakers to stay off their turf.
Senators voted 33-7 in favor of a nonbinding resolution (SCR 1615) Thursday that asserts the state’s sovereignty under the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The resolution takes aim at the federal government for taking a bigger role in everything from education to health care.
I’m kind of wondering where these senators were when No Child Left Behind came around, if they’re really so concerned about the federal government interfering with state sovereignty where education is concerned — but maybe I’m being too harsh. Maybe they were up in arms about that, too, but since I didn’t live in Kansas at the time, I wasn’t aware of it. At any rate, it gets better (and by “better” I mean “more horrifying”):
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, asked what statement the resolution might make about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The resolution calls for compulsory legislation to be repealed.
“Would this language indeed say that those federal acts should be repealed?” he asked of Sen. Tim Owens, whose Judiciary Committee brought the bill to the full Senate. “That that would be the opinion of the Kansas Legislature to repeal those two acts?”
Owens, an Overland Park Republican, said that was a possible interpretation.
“I find that very troubling,” Hensley said.
Yeah. Me too. I have a bad feeling this is going to become a “red state” trend, if it isn’t one already, and while I appreciate that the resolution is nonbinding, I think it has troubling implications, particularly with regard to issues of civil rights.
E pluribus what now?
July 2, 2008
What the hell is with the obsession those who insist on gender conformity and/or those who oppose gender identity and expression inclusive legislation seem to have with bathrooms? It seems to apply to conservatives in general (“the ERA will lead to unisex bathrooms!!”), but I continue to be kind of amazed that the biggest pushback against equal rights for trans people tends to focus on public restrooms. Autumn Sandeen posted last week (emphasis in the original):
Bathrooms are the opposition issue with gender identity and expression inclusive, federal employment legislation. I expected that to be an issue, but it’s really clear from the two opposition witnesses it’s going to be the main opposition point regarding any employment legislation that addresses gender identity and expression. Basically, I’m anticipating that there is going to come some standard response messaging to be generated by the non-profits addressing the issue, and/or changing the subject back to addressing the real issue of blatent discrimination against LGB & T people.
Personally, I’m not squicked out by the idea of unisex bathrooms, so these sorts of arguments tend to lose me immediately. I’ve never been shy about ducking into the men’s room if the line for the ladies’ is ridiculous and things are getting urgent, and I’m absentminded enough that I’ve come thisclose to walking into the men’s room (perhaps even to the point of opening the door, seeing urinals, going “oops” and turning around), so, unisex bathrooms? Wev.
It seems like the most compelling aspect of the bathroom argument is the idea that allowing people to go into the bathroom that fits their gender identity could lead to predators having easier access to their potential victims. However, that doesn’t really fly for me. Is the idea that only women who were born with women’s genitals belong in the ladies’ room really the only thing keeping predators out of the ladies’ room in most places?
Furthermore, as Autumn points out in this post, trans women are potential victims just as much as other women – if not more so, given the fact that they’re trans people.
Also, it seems to me that unisex bathrooms would actually benefit a good number of people, such as parents with kids of the opposite sex (when is the official cut off date for when a woman ought to stop bringing her son into the ladies’ room with her?) or people with disabilities who have caregivers of the opposite sex. And goodness knows that if I broke both my arms (dog forbid!), I’d rather have Evil Bender helping me out in a public bathroom than a stranger.
Much of what this boils down to is the fact that I believe trans people are real, complete human beings who are deserving of the same rights as anyone else, along with protections because they’re a frequently-abused minority. I’d wager a guess that the people who are doing the pearl-clutching over the issue of bathrooms believe that trans people are sick people with crazy ideas that they need to be talked or medicated out of (and if that doesn’t work, maybe the ideas can be beaten out of them…). And I’m willing to bet that at least part of our respective viewpoints have been shaped by whether or not we’ve actually met and gotten to know any trans people. So it seems like in spite of the fact that bathrooms are the opposition issue, it’s really just a red herring (though I suppose that was perhaps a given, hmm?).
February 7, 2008
The title question is more or less rhetorical. My real question on the subject is this: did they hate them this much in 2000? I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to the other side of the aisle at that point; indeed, I was less politically aware in general. I do have one McCain memory from that primary season, though. He’d been asked a question that boiled down to, “What would you do if your daughter got pregnant out of wedlock?” His answer, if I recall correctly, was something to the effect of, “We would sit down and have a discussion as a family.”
I remember neocons being up in arms about that response, as if any answer short of “I would force her to have the baby! Young people have to learn that sex has consequences!” constituted a betrayal of the “Pro-Life” cause. I on the other hand, was fairly impressed. I think he answered the question that was actually asked, first of all, and furthermore he answered it the way I think a real person (as opposed to someone who’s sold his soul to the political machine) would answer. I’ve always been far enough to the left that I had a very hard time imagining a scenario in which I would actually vote for McCain, but his answer that day gave me a certain amount of respect for him.
Unfortunately, the pandering to the right he’s done since 2000 has completely eroded that respect. From my perspective, McCain seemed to be a viable candidate in 2000, and he’s only moved further to the right since then. I understand that he has some stances that are unpopular with the neocons, but that doesn’t seem to me to explain the animosity they’ve been exhibiting toward him.
Still, if McCain is the Republican candidate, and neocons decide they’d rather vote for a Democrat than McCain, then who am I to argue?
January 1, 2008
I’m getting to the point where I almost fear for the next person who uses the phrase “politically correct” in front of me. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot since November, when it came to light that Santa Clauses in Australia were being told to say “ha ha ha” instead of “ho ho ho,” ostensibly because someone had decided that the latter was degrading to women. This, of course, was like a beautifully wrapped present to Fox News (I’m not linking, but their story comes up first if you do a Google search for ho ho ho), who jumped on the story as an example of political correctness run amok.
Here’s the thing, though: the story wasn’t true. It wasn’t hard to guess at the truth, considering that I’ve never met a single person who thinks Santa is using a slang term for prostitute, but, again, it was exactly the sort of story Fox News et al wanted to hear.
At close to the same time, there was an argument over at Evil Bender’s place about race as a biological category (as opposed to a social contruct), which came about not too long after James Watson’s offensive comments about Africa’s prospects. Those were both situations in which the politically insensitive/incorrect — politically correct binary came into play. People who objected to what James Watson said were characterized as being overly concerned with political correctness, which is to say that we didn’t really disagree with what James Watson said, but just with how he said it, or with the fact that he’d said it at all. As if we progressives are perfectly okay with racist ideas as long as you don’t express them out loud. But of course, I’ve read Stephen Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man (and couldn’t recommend it more highly), so the reason I object to what James Watson said was because I disagree, not because I think he should have phrased it in a nicer way.
A section in the Wikipedia entry on political correctness sums up my feelings/suspicions nicely:
Some commentators argue that the term “political correctness” was engineered by American conservatives around 1980 as a way to reframe political arguments in the United States. According to Hutton:
- “Political correctness is one of the brilliant tools that the American Right developed in the mid-1980s as part of its demolition of American liberalism….What the sharpest thinkers on the American Right saw quickly was that by declaring war on the cultural manifestations of liberalism – by levelling the charge of political correctness against its exponents – they could discredit the whole political project.”
Such commentators say that there never was a “Political Correctness movement” in the United States, and that many who use the term are attempting to distract attention from substantive debates over discrimination and unequal treatment based on race, class, and gender (Messer-Davidow 1993, 1994; Schultz 1993; Lauter 1995; Scatamburlo 1998; Glassner 1999). Similarly, Polly Toynbee has argued that “the phrase is an empty rightwing smear designed only to elevate its user”.
April 25, 2007
Last November, the American people said they were frustrated and wanted a change in our strategy in Iraq. I listened. Today, General David Petraeus is carrying out a strategy that is dramatically different from our previous course. The American people did not vote for failure, and that is precisely what the Democratic leadership’s bill would guarantee.
Um, except that we sorta voted in that same Democratic leadership! How on earth can someone translate the results of the November 2006 election into a mandate for more troops in Iraq for an unlimited period of time?
Extended overseas deployments affecting soldiers serving in Afghanistan and other locales overseen by U.S. Central Command should help to alleviate the stress on the Army, a senior U.S. officer in Afghanistan told Pentagon reporters today.
“I’m absolutely confident that that’s going to work and that’ll manage the pressure and the stress on the force,” Army Col. Martin Schweitzer, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, said during a satellite-carried news conference.
Longer tours… means… less stress… Riiiight…
I really don’t understand what’s going on in these people’s brains.
February 6, 2007
I’ve come across Jon Swift before, and somehow I didn’t pick up on the fact that he’s writing satire. (Possibly because there really are people out there who might make the claim “Since the media is biased I get all my news from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Jay Leno monologues” and be completely in earnest…) Clearly I need to be lashed with a wet noodle. As an alternative, though, I thought I might link to his collection of Amazon.com reviews. They take criticizing books one hasn’t read to a level I’d never even considered…
June 29, 2006
By now many of my readers have already seen “family values expert” Katharine DeBrecht’s take on the new Superman movie. (If not, Shakespeare’s Sister has it here.) There’s little I can say about it that hasn’t already been said, but I did find one particular comment she made interesting: “Portraying Superman with an out-of-wedlock child and potentially breaking up a family is completely unnecessary” (emphasis added).
Hang on there. Breaking up a family? Let’s take a closer look at this, shall we?
I have not yet seen Superman Returns. My understanding of the pertinent plot points, though, is that Superman was gone for a few years, and in the meantime Lois Lane had his baby and got engaged to another man (note that that’s engaged, not married).
So, a consequence (unintended, I’m sure) of DeBrecht’s criticism is that she seems to be saying that a family can be made up of a woman raising her illegitimate child with a man who is not yet her husband. Is it just me, or does that seem to fly in the face of accepted conservative dogma of what actually constitutes a family?
My opinion, of course, is that “family” must be defined by the individuals in a family, and by them alone. It’s nice to think that someone right-wing enough to write a children’s book called Help, Mom! There are Liberals Under My Bed agrees with me, if only subconsciously.
June 14, 2006
Evil Bender posted a link to Michael Bérubé’s fantastic essay on academic freedom, and I just wanted to urge any readers of mine who don’t also read EB’s blog to read the essay (lengthy but worth it). I also wanted to take a moment to respond to an issue that’s at the heart of the so-called academic freedom movement: the idea that there are entirely too many liberals in higher education and that conservatives are discriminated against in colleges and universities. Indeed, Bérubé quotes “Kenneth Lee, a member of the far-right Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies,” who said that “The simple logic underlying much of contemporary civil-rights law applies equally to conservative Republicans, who appear to face clear practices of discrimination in American academia that are statistically even starker than previous blackballings by race.” (I’m sorry, but why do I find that hard to believe?)
By definition, conservatives are interested in supporting the status quo, in conserving, if you will, society as it is. With that in mind, it’s hardly surprising that they would not make up a large percentage of faculty at an institute of higher education, particularly in certain departments, because colleges and universities are–at least in certain departments–progressive by nature. I suspect that any majority there may be of liberal professors in this country has more to do with self-selection and career choices than with discrimination based on political beliefs.
June 6, 2006
Evil Bender recently wrote about the patriarchal attitude evident in a particular conservative Christian’s post explaining why women shouldn’t be ogled. As always, I think EB is right on, and I recommend reading his post. Indeed, this post began as a comment, but when I realized how lengthy it was likely to be, I decided to take it over to my own blog. Read the rest of this entry »