Category Archives: Political Comment

Dishonest Punditry Sickens Me!

CNN “political ticker” blog is reporting that Rush Limbaugh is urging his “ditto-heads” to vote cross party lines, participate in the Democratic Primaries in Texas, Ohio, and elsewhere, and vote for Hillary Clinton:

(CNN) – As Hillary Clinton battles to keep her presidential bid alive, she may be getting help from an unlikely source: conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh has been actively urging his Texas listeners to cross over and vote for Clinton in that state’s open primary Tuesday, arguing it helps the Republicans if the Democratic race remains unsettled for weeks to come.

“I want Hillary to stay in this…this is too good a soap opera,” Limbaugh told fellow conservative talk-show host Laura Ingraham on Fox News Friday. He reiterated the comments on his Monday show and replayed the exchange with Ingram. (The entire CNN blog entry can be found here.)

A few decades ago when I was in school, we were taught in civics classes that when we got old enough to vote, we should “vote our consciences” and cast our ballots on the basis of our convictions. That’s what I still believe. Democracy works when voters do so. When voters manipulate the system by doing otherwise, by crossing party lines and voting for the other party’s weaker (or perceived to be weaker) candidate … when they do as Limbaugh is urging, democracy does not work. It is perverted.

Rush Limbaugh likes to claim he is some sort of outstanding patriot. In my opinion, he is anything but! In urging the sort of electoral conduct described in the CNN blog, he displays a lack of patriotism, a cynical disrespect of the institutions of our republic, and a contempt for our country and its democratic ideals.  His suggestion is punditry at its worst.  It is dishonest and it is sickening.

If you are voting in a primary today, I hope you will vote your conscience, vote your convictions. Don’t try to manipulate the process. Let the process work, even if it works eventually to a result contrary to your own politics. That’s the nature of a true democracy!

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Raga Nostalgia (revisited)

Driving home from the office this morning, I was listening to my favorite “oldies” station and they played a song by The Who entitled We Don’t Get Fooled Again. It was (and still is) one of my favorite rock songs. The lyrics are:

We’ll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again

The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that’s all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain’t changed
‘Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
No, no!

I’ll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I’ll get all my papers and smile at the sky
Though I know that the hypnotized never lie
Do ya?

There’s nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Are now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
Don’t get fooled again
No, no!

Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

And as I listened to (and sang along with) that great old song, I thought about my post asking what had happened to all the youthful idealism of my generation …. and realized how prophetic The Who had been. “Meet the new boss … same as the old boss.” And as Pogo once observed, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

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Raga Nostalgia

I was watching the movie Gandhi on some cable channel the other day.  Ben Kingsley does such a great job in the title role.  It is a wonderful movie, and I was feeling nostalic about it and remembering when I first saw it.

But the nostalgia that I was feeling most is that of a 55 year old liberal from the late 1960s and the early 70s.  As I listened to the tabla drums and the sitars in the soundtrack … I wondered whatever happened.  What happened to our idealism?  What happened to “flower power” and “the summer of love” and all that?  How did the me-decade of the 80s, the trickle-down economics of the Reagan era, and so on erase all of that?  Why did we let it?

One of my best friends in college had waist length red hair and big bushy beard and smoked a lot of weed … and after we graduated he started buying up the little houses we had rented in suburban San Diego, and by the early 90s he was a millionaire … and I’ve heard recently that he is now on Sen. McCain’s election committee.  How did that happen?

I went off to business graduate school and then law school and then seminary … and somehow I never lost that liberal idealism.  Why did others lose it?  Where did we go wrong?

I asked these questions of an on-line community to which I belong.  One member facetiously suggested that the answer is “brain damage” but I don’t think that’s really it.  Another echoed my question, “I wonder that, too.  And I wondered where the outrage was when we went into Iraq, where was all the idealism and protest and the young energy to fuel it?”

Another suggested the answer might be found in Scripture:  “Might the answer be in part of Sunday’s RCL Second Reading, 1 Timothy 6:10 – ‘The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil’ (or variant translations of that)?  Money and power (or its close ally, influence) are very powerful and addictive drugs with a heady scent that attracts many.”

I suppose that might be it … possessions, status, “stuff” (as George Carlin called it) are very addictive.

Still … when I listen to the ragas in Gandhi and remember listening to Ravi Shankar (or even the Beatles), I still wonder what happened to our youthful idealism….

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Bush Administration Bans Barth, Dulles, Niebuhr…. An Idea.

If you also think the policy reported by the New York Times is idiotic, why don’t you join me in writing to the Bureau of Prisons to protest it?

Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First St., NW
Washington, DC 20534

Let them know what you think!

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Bush Administration Bans Barth, Dulles, Niebuhr…. Idiotic!

The New York Times is reporting that the Bush administration has decided to limit the religious reading material available to inmates of federal prisons. Apparently afraid that some religious texts might foment terrorism, they have created “approved lists” of religious books. Says the Times:

The Bureau of Prisons said it relied on experts to produce lists of up to 150 book titles and 150 multimedia resources for each of 20 religions or religious categories — everything from Bahaism to Yoruba. The lists will be expanded in October, and there will be occasional updates, Ms. Billingsley said. Prayer books and other worship materials are not affected by this process.

The lists are broad, but reveal eccentricities and omissions. There are nine titles by C. S. Lewis, for example, and none from the theologians Reinhold Niebuhr, Karl Barth and Cardinal Avery Dulles, and the influential pastor Robert H. Schuller. (Read the whole article here.)

A colleague wonders about this action: “Why they didn’t just ban the problems and leave the rest, I don’t know. Idiotic.” She’s right. Like much, if not all, of the actions of this administration, this move is idiotic!

It’s also unconstitutional, but when did that ever bother the current US administration?

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The Fourth of July

Happy Independence Day!

This is the month we Americans celebrate the declaration of our country’s independence from the Crown of England and the beginning of the Revolutionary War that actually secured that independence. The freedoms that we enjoy and usually associate with this holiday weren’t actually won in that war. Many of them were already enjoyed by British subjects (but often denied to colonials) and they weren’t formally guaranteed to American citizens until the adoption of the U.S. Constitution and its first ten amendments more than a decade after the founding of the Republic! (The Constitution was ratified on June 21, 1788, and actually took effect on March 4, 1789. A “bill of rights” of twelve articles was proposed on September 25, 1789; ten of those articles were ratified on December 15, 1791, forming the “Bill of Rights” known to us.)

So, on July 4 many of us will enjoy parades and fireworks displays (or perhaps they will be, as our community’s will be, on the evening before the 4th); many will participate in family gatherings and picnics or barbecues. Probably very few will take part in church services even though Independence Day is a “prayer book holiday” with its own “propers” (lessons and prayers). That doesn’t stop people from confusing the symbols of nation and church, however.

Flag-garbed Angel NightlightIn the nearly six years that have followed the terrible events of last September 11, 2001, there seems to have been a lot of such “symbol mixing”. For example, I recently found the graphic shown on this page – a stars-and-stripes garbed angel night light… Other “mixed symbols” I’ve seen have included stars-and-stripes decorated crosses, and American flags with the field-of-stars replaced by a cross. My favorite (or perhaps I should say “least favorite”) “mixed symbol” is on a t-shirt marketed in a Christian magazine. It is an American bald eagle flying in front of a cross trailing a banner from its beak; on the banner are the words, “God so loved the world….”

All of these “mixed symbols” are based on the notion that America was founded as some sort of “Christian nation.” I must confess that I’ve never quite understood what that means. As a student of religious history, I’m painfully aware that most of the influential “founding fathers” were not particularly “orthodox” in their religious beliefs (even the ones who were active members of the Anglican-Episcopal Church!) Benjamin Franklin, for example, was a deist who believed that God set everything up and got the universe started, but otherwise took no interest in it. (This is the “clockmaker” image of the Almighty.) Thomas Jefferson, though he was active in his local Anglican congregation and even served on the Vestry, did not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ! He even published an edited version of the New Testament from which any mention of Christ’s divinity was removed! So it seems rather unlikely to me that such folks intended to found a “Christian nation.”

Instead, they founded a “pluralistic nation” in which those of every religion (and those of none) enjoy freedom of conscience. The First Amendment declares: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” We are free to speak our minds, to worship (or not) as we choose, and to confront our government when we believe it has done wrong. It is for this, not for the founding of a “Christian nation”, that we should give thanks! These rights of conscience are rare among the societies of this world and we should all be grateful that we have them.

Our Book of Common Prayer collect for Independence Day stresses this focus of our thanks: “Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.” (BCP 1979, p. 242)

May you enjoy all the freedoms of the day this 4th of July!

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Bumper Sticker Philosophy

A lot of people express themselves through bumper stickers. Today I saw this one which I’ve now found you can get at CafePress.com

Bumper Sticker

I suppose that may be (sadly) true. But part of me wonders whether it can be … I think that, Cold War concluded or not, there is still “the button,” that terrible icon of the total destruction of the world by nuclear holocaust. Probably, if some mad person wanted to do so, we could kill our enemies faster than we seem to be making them, but that would entail killing everyone else … and if anyone was left they’d more than likely thinking themselves the enemy of whoever pushed that button (us, I guess).Bumper stickers are interesting things. My daughter has one on her car which reads

Remember, you are UNIQUE, just like everyone else.

It’s a good thought. Everyone is unique and, in that, we are all alike. I remember a friend relating an argument with her teenage son about a mohawk haircut he’d gotten (and died blue), after several minutes of heated discussion he ended it all by exclaiming, “I just want to be different, like everyone else.” It stopped his mother cold … and when they both realized what he’d said, they started laughing.

Perhaps that’s the wisdom of expressing oneself in bumper stickers. They reduce these serious matters to (usually) humorous and even (sometimes) ridiculous statements and allow us to laugh at our philosophies which we otherwise take so seriously.

Back a few years ago, when Bob Dole was running for president, I was rector of a parish in northeastern Kansas and, unlike many of my parishioners, was not a Republican and was not enamored of our senator. I put a bumper sticker on my car which read

Not everyone in Kansas loves Bob Dole.

It actually says nothing about my own politics nor does it in anyway criticize Mr. Dole — but, my oh my, did that bumper sticker get some heated comment.

My wife doesn’t approve of bumper stickers. It seems to me, on the other hand, that they are a good and legitimate exercise in public expression.

But it does sadden me that we are creating enemies so rapidly …..

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