Poetry and pragmatism
Dear President-elect Obama,
Hi. How are you? I know it’s been a while since we last spoke, but I assure you that I’ve completely gotten over the fact that you didn’t pick me to be your running mate. The guy you picked didn’t do any damage, so all good, I say. In fact, I’ve been pretty well-disposed toward you these past six weeks, unlike that nasty Angry Left® I read about in the papers and those Centers for Advanced Criticism kinda blogs where disgruntled Clinton supporters pretend to be somewhere to the left of Joe Hill. Your cabinet has been meh-to-OK with me so far; I remember that at this point sixteen years ago, Bill Clinton hadn’t gotten around to doing much more than practicing his presidential signature, so I’m glad to see a Democrat taking the transition seriously. And though I’ll never invite Robert Gates to guest-blog, I’m willing to see him at stay Defense over the short term if (and only if!) you’re really going to withdraw from Iraq.
But we have to talk about your inauguration. Seriously: Jamie (he’s my son, you know) has been home sick the past couple of days, so I haven’t had much time to read or write, but I did notice two striking things yesterday afternoon when I checked my Internets. One was that you’d asked poet Elizabeth Alexander to read at your swearing-in ceremony. Dude, that is, like, absolutely the coolest thing ever. Way cooler than Maya Angelou or Robert Frost, seriously. Infinitely cooler than Miller Williams, too. Good call, Mr. President-elect dude. Very, very good call.
And then, a few minutes later, I heard this news about Dr. Rick Warren giving the invocation. My god, man, what are you thinking? Rick Warren alone undoes all the good of Elizabeth Alexander and Aretha Franklin combined. Yes, I know you have your talking points, full of the usual stuff about how you disagree with him on some issues but not others, and how your inauguration will be really diverse, and how you are “committed to bringing together all sides of the faith discussion in search of common ground.” (Ye gods! That’s an actual quote from the executive director of your Inaugural Committee!) But you know what? When someone tries to strip gays and lesbians of basic human rights and
bears false witness lies about the reason why, there isn’t any common ground to search for. Really. Don’t bother. Don’t waste your time and my patience. If, back in ‘64, LBJ had been sworn in alongside someone in the “faith discussion” who opposed what they used to call “miscegenation,” and who claimed that proponents of interracial marriage were infringing on his right to free speech, we wouldn’t call that “bringing together all sides” and “searching for common ground” today. We’d call it . . . uh, what would we call it? “Shameful,” maybe, if we were being kind.
Look, Mr. President-elect, I hear you’re a pragmatist. I can respect that; I’m a pragmatist too. We ought to get together and talk about Dewey and Rorty sometime. So I’m not going to tell you that Rick Warren’s homophobia is an affront to human decency. I won’t remind you that the LGBT community is still hurting, badly, from Proposition 8, and doesn’t need another kick in the teeth just now. I’m not going to direct you to People for the American Way, who point out that Warren “has recently compared marriage by loving and committed same-sex couples to incest and pedophilia,” and I’m not going to suggest that this is a form of batshit fundamentalist wingnuttery that shouldn’t be anywhere near shouting distance of a Democratic administration, no matter how much the wingnut in question loves him some poor people.
Instead, I’m going to ask you, on pragmatic grounds, what is to be gained here. In searching for that elusive common ground, you’ve basically courted the people from those districts that actually went more heavily Republican in 2008 than in 2004—you know, those old white people living in the Smoky Mountains and the Ozarks, the GOP’s only remaining base. The people you’re “reaching out” to here don’t respect you and never will. What’s more, many of them will be dead in a couple of years, and they’ll go to their graves clutching their Left Behind books and spitting at the sound of your name and the Muslim Marxism it stands for. And meanwhile, you’ve alienated pretty much everyone who voted for you. That doesn’t seem very pragmatic to me.
Maybe you’ll tell me to calm down, chill out, and remember that this is only a symbolic thing; the question of who delivers the invocation at your inauguration has no policy implications whatsoever. It’s not like Clinton with “don’t ask, don’t tell,” or Bush with just about everything. Well, that’s true—this is purely symbolic. But that’s my point: because Warren’s appearance is purely symbolic, the insult here is completely gratuitous. Or worse: because it’s not pegged to any specific policy, and because there is no “common ground” to be found here (see above), the symbolism speaks all the more clearly. Think of Ronald Reagan kicking off his 1980 campaign by invoking “states’ rights” in Philadelphia, Mississippi. A purely symbolic gesture—and all the clearer because purely symbolic.
See, with a guy like Gates, you can plausibly argue that we need to transition smoothly and put someone in charge of Iraq withdrawal who knows his way around DoD. With your economic team, you can argue that we need to transition smoothly from the hell-in-handbasket economy we have now to the purgatory-in-knapsack economy of the future. But there’s no parallel argument for a guy like Rick Warren: no one out there is saying “we have to transition gradually from the open homophobia and bigotry of the Bush Administration to the utopian egalitarianism of the Obama Administration, and Rick Warren is part of our carefully phased withdrawal from homophobia. After all, if we move too fast on LGBT issues, we could wind up with man-on-dog situations and people divorcing their spouses for box turtles.” There is no one—really, trust me on this—no one you need to placate with the transitional figure of Rick Warren.
By contrast, the selection of Elizabeth Alexander wins you all kinds of good will among the sixteen Americans who read poetry. It’s like tapping Bleeding Gums Murphy to be the official saxophonist of the inauguration, and thrilling everyone within KJAZZ’s twenty-eight-foot listening radius.
So, Mr. President-elect, as a fellow pragmatist, my advice is simple: dump this Warren guy. I hear he’s a friend of yours; all the better! Part of being a pragmatist at the Presidential level involves dumping “friends” who are wingnutty bigots who piss off nearly every single one of your supporters. And who, besides Warren himself, will be upset at the dumping? Well, you may get a severe tut-tut from David Broder, who’s spent the past sixteen years searching for that bipartisan common ground between Dick Armey and Barney Frank. But that’s about it. And you can establish some real common ground—namely, between you and your supporters—by having Elizabeth Alexander deliver the invocation instead.
You say she’s not a minister? Great! All the better better! We could stand a little healthy secularism in Washington right now. And it would be good for poetry, too – sort of like the lightning that struck KJAZZ’s broadcast tower and boosted the station’s signal so that all of Springfield could hear the work of Bleeding Gums Murphy.
How about it, Mr. President-elect? Do the pragmatic thing.
Good to see you feel like doing something again, Michael—but I’m sorry that it’s venting your spleen at this inexplicable move by B. Hussein O. Actually, I’m not at all sorry, since I’d rather read your spleen than anybody else’s spleen, or liver for that matter. I keep waiting for shoes to drop on(or be thrown at) my tentative optimism for the next administration, and this feels like a size 12. With dog poo on it.Posted by on 12/18 at 12:09 PM
If I may invoke Rordmeier’s Law of Happy Unintended Hypothetical Consequences here, I actually think something positive could come out of this (since Obama is unlikely to publicly disinvite Warren). Namely, with the passing of Falwell and the fading relevance of Dobson, Warren is the natural heir apparent to the leadership of Virulent Religious Batshittery as Political Ideology. And Warren is a dangerous man to have in this position precisely because he doesn’t seem as scary as the old crowd, even as he holds most of the same despicable ideas (see also Huckabee). Yet this continued association with Obama will damage his credibility with the Religious Right, and will dampen his influence over the political footsoldiers. I’d rather have Rod Parsley be the red, spittle-flecked face of the Religious Right in this country than someone who seems reassuring if one isn’t paying attention. Now if we can just get concern troll Jim Wallis to go away…
Unfortunately, this doesn’t let Obama off the hook for the shameful choice, unless he somehow hit upon precisely the above reasoning, in which case my hat is off to the new Machiavelli. Now, I do think this might help him a tiny bit on the Near Right, where it’s probably reassuring to see Norman Lear’s Stalinist anti-religious PFAW yelling at him. Sure wish he’d start thinking of the Near Left at least as much, though. It’s rough getting an advance taste of “It votes in 2012 for the Dem, or else it gets the hose again.”
Sigh. If only we’d gone with the spouse of the man who signed DOMA into law. She’s chummy with Billy Graham, who could probably have been wheeled to her inauguration.
Anyway, so much for commenting while
drunksleep-deprived.Posted by on 12/18 at 12:45 PM
"imaginary Aretha song intro”
to all my friends in the LGBT community, looks like we finally got ours so this one’s for you....
launches into a “Respect”
I dunno. You could say we don’t even need an invocation since there may/may not be a God and until we know for sure why do it. But a legitimate response would be not “why” but “why not” (Pascal’s wager and all that.)
Perhaps you now see why you wound up #2 on the Veep selection process behind Mr. Biden. (note next to Mr. Berube - intelligent, articulate, but somewhat inflexible on the need to be inclusive of neanderthal worldviews)
But seriously the real threat here is not people leaving their spouses for box turtles. It is the real possibility of the demand that a man, woman and a box turtle be collectively joined in holy matrimony.
you may now rub the shell....Posted by on 12/18 at 01:01 PM
oh yeah one more thing, the Godfather rule…
“keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”Posted by on 12/18 at 01:03 PM
Here’s the comment I left at Pandagon:
Remember when Bush would make the fundies sit in the cold in Lafayette Park while he gave them “good phone” from across the street?
You’re in the park now..
Obama will do this because he can afford to do it. It’s wrong for him to do it. And perhaps politically expedient for him to do it. But there seems to be no true downside for him if he does it.Posted by Roxanne on 12/18 at 01:46 PM
Obama is unlikely to publicly disinvite Warren
Dang, you mean I wasted my morning writing this? That wasn’t very clever of me. Or pragmatic. But hey, if Obama did hit upon the reasoning of your first paragraph, he is truly an Evil Pragmatic Genius.
you may now rub the shell...
Yowza! I hear turtle wax leaves a hard shell finish.
But there seems to be no true downside for him if he does it.
I’m not so sure about that. The Donnie McClurkin fiasco cost him some LGBT support and goodwill last year, and this is much worse. And it’s not as if the Near Right, delighted with Obama’s refusal to listen to Norman Lear’s shock troops for socialism, are going to join the ranks to build SUPERTRAINS and establish single-payer health care. I just don’t see the payoff here, pragmatistically speaking.Posted by Michael on 12/18 at 01:58 PM
The Rick Warren move will only work if Obama does something pragmatic and right about LGBT rights in his first term. But based on his quiet stance and few public statements about gay rights, I’m not too hopeful.Posted by on 12/18 at 01:59 PM
The Purpose Driven Inauguration.Posted by on 12/18 at 02:02 PM
I agree with everything you wrote here, even though I don’t imagine there’s any real difference between one Sky-Fairy Conduit and another. Obama’s a Sky-Fairy guy, so he needs one of these charlatans to perform the Boogery.Posted by Jason B on 12/18 at 02:08 PM
You did not waste your time. Spleen venting is not only good for the spirit, I make it part of my regular exercise program.
Single-payer health care would be a great trade-off, if it were to work out that way. Meanwhile, we just have to revel in he schadenfreude of having a POTUS-elect with HUSSEIN in his name. Bwaa-ha-ha-ha.Posted by jazzbumpa on 12/18 at 02:33 PM
Dang, you mean I wasted my morning writing this?
I just don’t see the payoff here, pragmatistically speaking.
Well, I’m not saying it’s a great way to get more folks on board with a progressive domestic agenda. I’m just presuming that someone thinks it makes sense in mercenary terms: to wit, a slight shift in the voting attitudes of the Near Right, to provide potential further margins in 2012 outside of the Left Below set. And if LGBTs get you-know-whatted under the you-know-what, isn’t that a small price to pay for minisculely* more secure reelection chances? (By the way, I’m being sarcastic.)
Yowza! I hear turtle wax leaves a hard shell finish.
Chicka-Wow Chicka-Wow Wow!
(*A perfectly cromulent word)Posted by on 12/18 at 02:36 PM
If and only if B. Hussein Al-Bama somehow uses this shitty gesture as cover to repeal DADT (or, I guess, DOMA), then I’m cool with it. But that seems like a reach at this point.Posted by on 12/18 at 03:05 PM
"The Purpose Driven Inauguration.”
Yeah but if the turtle lovers have there way it will be:
“A Tortise Driven Life”Posted by on 12/18 at 03:25 PM
If and only if B. Hussein Al-Bama somehow uses this shitty gesture as cover to repeal DADT (or, I guess, DOMA), then I’m cool with it.
You know, we should probably create a separate file somewhere for sentences that begin “if and only if” and take “Obama” as their subject. Because they’re beginning to pile up. If and only if Obama named Ken Salazar to Interior as cover for issuing the most sweeping environmental regulations ever (while getting an actual Democrat to replace him), then I’m cool with that, too.
Captcha: respect. This one’s for Elliot @ 3, turtle-obsessed as he is.Posted by Michael on 12/18 at 03:42 PM
"Obama’s a Sky-Fairy guy, so he needs one of these charlatans to perform the Boogery.”
It never ceases to amaze me how liberals who have for years excoriated those on the right for their intolerance and bigotry can so easily take up the mantle of those they despise.
Here’s a little tip...speaking with mockery and derision about people whose only hellish trespass is believing in God makes you no better (or less a demagogue) than a Christianist who hates people for no other reason than committing the hellish trespass of being gay.
Wise up.Posted by on 12/18 at 04:23 PM
Actually, John, until such derision is used in campaigns to strip “Christianists” of their civil rights, or as the motivation for beating Christians to death or gunning down Birthright employees, it’s not even remotely equivalent. And it’s getting pretty fucking tiresome to be repeatedly flogged with that false equivalence in a country where members of one religion almost exclusively give inaugural invocations and benedictions, while an open atheist can’t be elected dogcatcher. Maybe you should ask God to give you the strength to endure mockery and derision by a small politically-impotent segment of the population, perhaps the greatest persecution ever faced by religious believers.Posted by on 12/18 at 04:34 PM
Eat my ass.
captcha: course--as in “main”Posted by Jason B on 12/18 at 04:53 PM
More substantively, I don’t much care what someone believes until it impacts others. When a bigot’s belief causes them to beat a gay man to death merely because he’s gay (or vote against him being able to marry the human he loves), I mock. When a portion of the inauguration address endorses one cult in violation of the First Amendment, I mock.
Plus, you seem to be equating “mockery and derision” with “hate.” Not the same thing. I mock and deride (sometimes good-natruedly, sometimes not) family and friends. They’re adult enough to take it, because they know I love them. Hate? That’s a different animal, as mds points out more gracefully than I did.Posted by Jason B on 12/18 at 05:02 PM
Hey, we proved three weeks ago, in comment 25 on this thread, that liberals are the truly intolerant ones when it comes to homophobia. It should be no surprise that we’re just as bad as hateful Christianists when it comes to mocking people of faith.
Though I must add that I find Jason B’s reference to the “Sky-Fairy” offensive because it belittles my faith in Moloch as my personal
savioragent of vengeance and destruction.Posted by Michael on 12/18 at 05:13 PM
This thread is dangerously veering off course. We need to stay focused on the turtle issue.
captcha “ill” as in “Do you (state your name) take this turtle in sickness and in health...”Posted by on 12/18 at 05:15 PM
Moloch is your agent? That explains the cover of Rhetorical Occasions.Posted by on 12/18 at 05:22 PM
False equivalence is pretending that in order to have a tolerant attitude one must first receive tolerance from their opponents. Sorry, but it doesn’t work like that. Intolerance is as intolerance does (sorry for the Gumpian phraseology). Just because people belong to a “small politically-impotent segment of the population” does not absolve them of acting like assholes.
Perhaps one of the reasons that atheists can’t get elected dogcatcher is because they are too fond of mocking theists for believing in sky-fairies and virgin births. People don’t like having their core beliefs openly mocked and ridiculed - no matter HOW thick-skinned.
I am not equating mockery and derision with hate. I am comparing intolerance with intolerance. You seemed to be as intolerant of the views of theists as they are intolerant of atheists or other groups they don’t understand. You are correct that more often their intolerance leads to hate and violence, but don’t delude yourself into thinking that just because YOUR intolerance doesn’t bear that fruit that it isn’t a similarly poisoned seed from which equally flawed thinking will grow.
I never heard that the best to reach an accord with people you disagree with was to ridicule their position and then excoriate them further for not being tough enough to deal with your mockery. You should write a book on this style of new diplomacy.Posted by on 12/18 at 05:22 PM
Soory. I should havde included my usual disclaimers for believers of Moloch, the Invisible Pink Unicorn, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. My bad.
And Elliot is right. What about the turtles?
Also: “natruedly?” WTF is wrong with me?Posted by Jason B on 12/18 at 05:24 PM
If, back in ‘64, LBJ had been sworn in alongside someone in the “faith discussion” who opposed what they used to call “miscegenation,” and who claimed that proponents of interracial marriage were infringing on his right to free speech, we wouldn’t call that “bringing together all sides” and “searching for common ground” today. We’d call it . . . uh, what would we call it? “Shameful,” maybe, if we were being kind.
Well actually, considering that you brought up LBJ ‘n all, I remember one of the Obama campaign’s particularly disgusting maneuvers. Ya know, race based slurring of opponents. It was the time Obama, being young ‘n all, was comparing himself to JFK, the people’s president. The Clintons responded by pointing out that JFK couldn’t get anything through Congress. It took a regular, journeyman politician, not a Camelot prince, to get the dreams of Martin Luther King somewhat closer to reality. The Obama people flipped, implying racism in the Clinton statements and claiming they said that LBJ did what MLK couldn’t, which was never what the Clinton’s said or implied.
Strange though, at the very same time, Obama, the great defender of MLK, was saying that he greatly admired Saint Ronald Reagan, and how Reagan, when he ran for the presidency, united America and Americans. Obama wanted to unite America in the same way. Of course Reagan actually began his campaign in Philadelphia Mississippi, site of the infamous murder of three civil rights workers working for the very same dreams that MLK talked and dreamed about. Reagan spoke about “state’s rights,” which was never much of a dog whistle issue. Everybody heard the “keep the coloreds in their place” sound of “state’s rights.” Reagan was the good uniter and the Clintons were bad and racist.
I think it was about then that I realized that the Obama Generation was more like the Obama nation though I was never taken by the hope-a-dope routine.
Obama was a better choice than John McCain. Yay. They’re about comparable in terms of adhering to espoused principles. But Obama’s a better politician.
Hope dreams and lottery tickets. They keep me goin’.
P.S. I almost forgot. “Get well quick” to Jamie.Posted by Amos Anan on 12/18 at 05:26 PM
I never heard that the best [sic] to reach an accord with people you disagree with was to ridicule their position and then excoriate them further for not being tough enough to deal with your mockery. You should write a book on this style of new diplomacy.
You should read up on a guy named “Diogenes of Sinope.” Some of us follow that path, no matter how ill-advised it is.Posted by Jason B on 12/18 at 05:26 PM
I’ve decided to believe that everything Obama does that upsets the left is just brilliant in some way we are missing. (After all, he won the presidency with dark skin and a funny name, and that’s a hell of a thing. I mean, really.)
Maybe this is a bone he’s throwing to the far right so they’ll be busy chewing on it when he starts to do things that otherwise would make them snarl and snap.
And maybe he knows that quieting them down is crucial to his success, and thus worth offending us, because we won’t stay mad once he starts doing good stuff.
I may be disappointed somewhere down the road, but for now I’ll believe and be happy.Posted by MisterC on 12/18 at 05:26 PM
You know, I heard a rumor on this very blog that despite what everyone has believed ever since mds asked to bear Chris Clarke’s children, mds is actually a turtle. Not that there’s anything wrong, etc.Posted by Michael on 12/18 at 05:26 PM
"Though I must add that I find Jason B’s reference to the “Sky-Fairy” offensive because it belittles my faith in Moloch as my personal savior agent of vengeance and destruction.”
I respect your decision to pay homage to your lord and savior Moloch, Michael. Although personally, if I were looking for a destructive deity to genuflect to, I would go with Astarte - fertility, sexuality AND war. You can’t beat that!Posted by on 12/18 at 05:27 PM
"You should read up on a guy named Diogenes of Sinope.”
That explains a lot - another cynic. I hope for your sake that you don’t also follow Antisthenes, and adopt a rigorous ascetic lifestyle.Posted by on 12/18 at 05:31 PM
I hope for your sake that you don’t also follow Antisthenes, and adopt a rigorous ascetic lifestyle.
There are worse fates. But I don’t mean to derail this thread. Suffice it to say Diogenes was more in line with the Christian ideal than Rick Warren is.
I nominate Diogenes to deliver the oogedy-boogedy address.Posted by Jason B on 12/18 at 05:36 PM
Thanks, John S. Actually, I like the job this thread is doing of bringing together all sides of the faith discussion a lot better than I like Rick Warren.
And Amos Anan @ 24, thanks for your good wishes. As it happens, Jamie is feeling kinda miserable today, worried that he’ll miss the dance tomorrow night as well as the hockey game at which he is supposed to be equipment manager. So I’m sitting with him right now as he effectively subjects me to a Spongebob SquarePants marathon.
As for LBJ, RWR, HRC, and BHO: at this humble and infinitely fair blog, we think that Clinton’s remark about how the civil rights movement needed an LBJ to translate the movement into law was perfectly reasonable, and that the Obama camp’s reaction was opportunistic and overblown; and that Obama’s remark about how Reagan was a transformational president was completely uncontroversial, and that the Clinton camp’s response was opportunistic and overblown.
Captcha: union, as in “there is power in a.”Posted by Michael on 12/18 at 05:53 PM
"Actually, I like the job this thread is doing of bringing together all sides of the faith discussion a lot better than I like Rick Warren.”
For what it’s worth, Michael, I couldn’t agree more.
And Jason B, it is entirely safe to say that either Diogenes (or Antisthenes) were likely better at living up to Christians ideals than Rick Warren.
Rick Warren is a fraud, a bigot, a very poor Christian and a charlatan to boot.Posted by on 12/18 at 06:01 PM
Here’s a little tip...speaking with mockery and derision about people whose only hellish trespass is believing in God makes you no better (or less a demagogue) than a Christianist who hates people for no other reason than committing the hellish trespass of being gay.
I’m with John 4:23, actually. I mean, belief in the Christian God, or any supernatural demiurge, is clearly, on the face of it, delusional. But do we mock the delusional? Well, yes, we do. But we shouldn’t.
It’s true that people with delusions do sometimes threaten to cause harm to themselves or others. My late friend Bill, for instance, my roommate when I was 18, decided that he was a character in Fahrenheit 451 and panicked at the existence of my book collection. He started burning them on the stove and called the fire department for help. They showed up before he hurt himself or burned the place down, and carted him off somewhere where he couldn’t hurt anyone via his delusional behavior.
And so ought we act when the delusional threaten harm to others, whether through public stonings, sati, repeal of marriage rights or intrusion into private health care matters. They need our help. We ought to evaluate their individual cases, then retain the option of kindly, but firmly, ensuring that the truly troubled souls can’t hurt anyone. The fact that there are millions of high-functioning sufferers of this particular delusion, who can comport themselves positively in human society while remaining subject to illogical convictions about Ba’al or Jesus or whatever, merely shows that the delusions need not be malignant. Perhaps a killed-virus form of religion can be developed.
In any event, this is the last place I expected to see mocking of the delusional. (Or at least the delusional who aren’t Lee Siegel.) Shame. Shame, I say! Just because people dismiss the objective metaphysical fact that it’s turtles all the way down is no reason to treat them like pariahs. They are merely people who should be avoided when possible.
captcha: anti.Posted by Chris Clarke on 12/18 at 06:18 PM
Hey! Turtles all the way down isn’t delusional! It’s Pratchett, and therefore exempt from the laws of science, logic, good sense, and . . . other things.
Except insofar as good sense applies to appreciation of genius fantasy satire. To that it is still subject.Posted by Jason B on 12/18 at 06:52 PM
I have to agree with amos anon...are we really surprised?!? I’m not a conservative, nor am I a Hilary supporter in hiding, but I think a lot of people let themselves be deluded by the repition (compulsion?!?) of “change” and “yes we can.” That is, while Obama was speaking in front them. The rest of the time, he was already flying out to mega-churches to garner support. If what we wanted was a clearer separation of Church and State, we chose the wrong candidate. Too late now, but YEAH it’s historic!!!
And to an earlier point… if I were to buy into a deity, especially one of destruction, it would HAVE to be Kali. Come on! All those arms!!!Posted by Derek T. on 12/18 at 06:56 PM
And meanwhile, you’ve alienated pretty much everyone who voted for you. That doesn’t seem very pragmatic to me.
I’m with you there. I’m beginning to think we may need an Avenger.Posted by on 12/18 at 06:57 PM
The lazy religion-bashing by some folks above obscures the relevant point. There are plenty of interesting and reasonable people who could have been asked to invoke.
Michael is right that this is important because it’s symbolic; I suggest that the problem is not that there *isn’t* much political payoff but that there probably *is* a political payoff. The question is who is being paid off at whose expense: Obama seems to be uniting around the heteronorm. It’s not just marriage rights in the abstract. Warren’s *opposition* to gay marriage hinges on dehumanizing lesbians and gays and denying their ability to make family bonds, a basic part of being socially human.Posted by on 12/18 at 07:09 PM
OK, I’m convinced. The turtles and I could be so happy together. I mean, I can’t see me lovin’ nobody but you for all of my life. . . .Posted by Michael on 12/18 at 07:12 PM
- Posted by Michael on 12/18 at 07:16 PM
Lazy? I’ll have you know that religion bashin’ is hard work. It’s hard work!
Captcha: deal.Posted by Chris Clarke on 12/18 at 07:19 PM
More seriously: I smell Emanuel in this. Obama’s announcing Cabinet appointments this week. The whole inaugural invocation thang, as rotten and insulting and back-stabby of the base as it is, has a distinct flavor of “look! behind you!” to it.Posted by Chris Clarke on 12/18 at 07:24 PM
Religion-bashing? Lazy? My home this is.
There are plenty of interesting and reasonable people who could have been asked to invoke.
I guess “reasonable” is usually a relative term, but I’m not sure it applies in this context.
Now that’s lazy.Posted by Jason B on 12/18 at 07:25 PM
Sorry in advance for the fact that I can’t link text very well but I can’t resist noting this website: http://www.turtlesallthewaydown.com/Posted by on 12/18 at 07:36 PM
"I mean, belief in the Christian God, or any supernatural demiurge, is clearly, on the face of it, delusional.”
Would you deem science and mathematics as delusional, as well?
In mathematics, there is a set of numbers known as imaginary, usually denoted by the variable i. This unit is essential in a variety of sciences, particularly in the field of physics. Now just because a mathematical unit is neither a real or rational number does not mean that it doesn’t exist. Mathematics is NOT a closed intellectual system and there are many unsolved problems and theorems. But math allows for the existence of (currently) unexplainable phenomenon while attempting to express the phenomenon in a comprehensible way.
I believe the concept of God can be expressed similarly. God is an imaginary and complex mathematical number (if ever there was) that belongs to a data set that while currently immeasurable and observable may still exist. Just as theoretical physics proposes equations to explain certain phenomenon (like black holes) that we cannot see or measure.
Unless you want to argue that belief in black holes or the theory of relativity are equally delusional, then I suggest the core of your argument is deeply flawed. As far as I am concerned, it is entirely possible that God exists in a non-Euclidian plane and belongs to an imaginary data set which is not Borel measurable which I will express as:
G = i∞
Where ∞ is the sum of an infinite series that diverges in the specific sense that the partial sums grow without bound.
I hope you don’t know any cosmologists, because I’m pretty sure your notion that phenomenon that are neither observable or measurable are “delusional” would piss them off.Posted by on 12/18 at 07:54 PM
John, if I say that soup cans are ugly, and you postulate that soup cans are very similar to raincoats in that they keep moisture on one side while impeding its progress to the other, you have not thus demonstrated that I think raincoats are ugly, and I can safely disregard any warnings from you that I ought to look out for hate mail from the Columbia Sportswear people.Posted by Chris Clarke on 12/18 at 08:00 PM
- Posted by Chris Clarke on 12/18 at 08:13 PM
Chris, that is some fantastic mental masturbation but it does little to address, well, anything. I am postulating that just because something is unobservable and immeasurable does not automatically mean that it does not exist. You have categorically rejected the thought process that led many a scientist or great thinker to theorize about something existing (i.e. gravity) that they were incapable of proving in a measurable way.
It seems that you are ideologically married to the notion that God does not exist, and therefore we come to the usual impasse. I have no problem accepting the premise that there is no God, but as usual, you seem incapable of accepting the premise that God could exist.
But of course, I am the one who will be categorized as a close-minded ideologue.
LOLPosted by on 12/18 at 08:14 PM
Yeah, I mean: aren’t there other, leftier evangelicals he could be courting and elevating to prominence? Jim Wallis, say? I don’t love the guy in all respects but at least he’s not like this guy on gay rights.Posted by belledame222 on 12/18 at 08:17 PM
Chris, you really should read your own material:
“Although black holes cannot be seen directly, the hot material swirling around super-massive black holes can be observed.”
The black hole itself is still neither observable or measurable - even if the effects of it are. But that does not categorically prove what the black hole actually is; that is still purely theoretical. One could similarly argue that even though God is not directly observable, the effects of its existence can be.
You should be a little more cautious throwing around newly published scientific theories as scientific fact - especially if your goal is to try to make a theist look like a dogmatic fool. But hey, at least you didn’t link to Popular Science.Posted by on 12/18 at 08:21 PM
...I don’t -think- (wrt Wallis). eh, what the fuck ever, I’m...disappointed but not crushed, since I never got hugely enthusiastic about him -personally- to begin with. (The change from fucking BushAdmin, yes, and still very much so, that).
I suppose y’know he might think...it won’t -directly- earn him any cred with the diehard haters, but if, I dunno, Warren subtly starts preaching things like “hey, Obama’s a gopd guy” instead of “Obama is the spawn of Satan,” maybe it’d at least tamp down on the -number- or the -volume- of rabid foaming haters, somewhat. Whether there’s any truth to this having such an effect on the churchgoers (after all, they many of them listen to other sources besides Warren) is another question, of course. And meanwhile, well, there’s the rest of us, aren’t there.
Time will tell.
Also, it is hard to believe that anyone rightwing evangelical who’s softened by this won’t come roaring back all the more furious if/when Obama does anything else policy-wise for Teh Ev0l Gayz; does he think they wouldn’t notice or something? Or that we won’t, if he stabs us in the back there too?Posted by belledame222 on 12/18 at 08:26 PM
Excuse me, folks. but all talk of the competing claims of religion and science will have to stop now, because tomorrow my American Scientist review of Alan Sokal’s book goes on line. I’ll link to it here, of course, and we can carry on the discussion of skepticism and faith then.
In the meantime, as Wittgenstein once said: back to the rough ground! Back to the turtles!
Also, if Obama were interested in a prophetic pragmatism, he could always have reached out to this guy.Posted by Michael on 12/18 at 08:32 PM
Yeah, really. How on earth can you unite people by legitimizing one of the people working hardest to divide us with hate and fear? Where’s the pragmatism in that?
MKKPosted by on 12/18 at 08:40 PM
Welcome back, Mary Kay! Good question, too. Here’s Jesse Taylor’s take: “What I don’t get about Obama’s insistence that we must overcome division by legitimizing those who divide us is that there are thousands upon thousands of religious figures who don’t divide the way that Rick Warren does. It’s the wholehearted embrace of the old right-wing complaint that calling out intolerance is the actual intolerant act in motion.”Posted by Michael on 12/18 at 08:57 PM
It’s intolerance all the way up.Posted by on 12/18 at 09:06 PM
Rick Warren thinks you’re a Nazi.
“Of course I want to reduce the number of abortions,” Warren told Beliefnet Editor-in-Chief Steven Waldman ...
“But to me it is kind of a charade in that people say ‘We believe abortions should be safe and rare,’” he added. “Don’t tell me it should be rare. That’s like saying on the Holocaust, ‘Well, maybe we could save 20 percent of the Jewish people in Poland and Germany and get them out and we should be satisfied with that,’” Warren said. “I’m not satisfied with that. I want the Holocaust ended.”Posted by on 12/18 at 09:06 PM
Thanks Michael—I’m always reading I just don’t always have any comments. And life had been, you know, lifey lately. Yeah, I read Jesse’s comment—it’s what helped formed the email I just sent to several members of the transition team. Pandagon is the Best! Even if they are all a bunch of young whippersnappers.
MKKPosted by on 12/18 at 09:12 PM
It’s intolerance all the way up.
That. Is. Awesome.
And it’s most intoleranty at the top, I suppose.
captcha: lay, as in . . . no, I can’t do it.Posted by Jason B on 12/18 at 09:12 PM
Oh, good grief. Now we’re back to the “science is just another religion” canard? I was going to make a Sokal-ed joke, but MB was too quick for me, as usual. By, er, more than half an hour, in fact.
Having been a physicist in a previous life, John, I’ll be sure to let my peers know that gravitational effects aren’t measurable. The deflection of starlight hasn’t ever been observed, nor has anyone ever been able to solve G m1 m2 / r^2 for an unknown mass, and general relativity’s explanation for the precession of Mercury’s perihelion was just an amazing coincidence. It’s all just airy-fairy faith, too. Okay. Now, given your less-than-stellar assertions about observation and falsifiability in cosmology, I’d be inclined to dismiss pretty much everything else you have to say, especially since the science and faith spiel is bog-standard trolling on the subject. Meanwhile, flinging shit at Chris Clarke makes me inclined to tell you to, er, step off. But I’m biased, since he’s the other father of my child.
Perhaps one of the reasons that atheists can’t get elected dogcatcher is because they are too fond of mocking theists for believing in sky-fairies and virgin births.
Yes, I’m sure that’s the explanation. If it hadn’t been for mean ol’ Sir Richard Dawkins, retconned “Christian nation” mythology wouldn’t have become so popular in the early nineteenth century. Which of these buttons is the emoticon for eye-rolling, again?
Anyhoo, life will go on, Warren Invocation or no. Merry Christmas, everyone! I’d go with “Happy Holidays” instead, but a major television network keeps mocking and deriding me about it.Posted by on 12/18 at 09:16 PM
And it’s most intoleranty at the top, I suppose.
*ALL* the way up.Posted by on 12/18 at 09:30 PM
"speaking with mockery and derision about people whose only hellish trespass is believing in God . . .”
Wow, was I under a mistaken impression. Looked to me that the mockery and derision were directed at loathsomely biggoted people who made themselves rich and famous by playing on other people’s petty prejudices. Hence the use of the word “charlatan.” Or so I thought.Posted by jazzbumpa on 12/18 at 09:30 PM
I’d go with “Happy Holidays” instead, but a major television network keeps mocking and deriding me about it.
Shit. I’d been sure that being mocked and derided wasn’t that big a deal. Then John S. assures me that it is, but I still can’t buy it. But now I understand, because a lefty-secularist invokes the same phrase. I’m convinced. Hee hee.
By the way--my biggest problem with theists is this perpetuation of the belief-as-choice meme. It’s nonsense, of course.
I’m looking forward to reading Michael’s review. Plu--Hooray for references to Wittgenstein.
(Damn, Wittgenstein and Rorty on the same blog? Might I just set up a cot here?)Posted by Jason B on 12/18 at 09:34 PM
You have a hellishly keen eye, jazzbumpa. Strangely keen.Posted by Jason B on 12/18 at 09:45 PM
Excuse me, folks. but all talk of the competing claims of religion and science will have to stop now,
Geezis, Michael, could you KNOCK please? I was in here mentally mastur… um, I was busy.Posted by Chris Clarke on 12/18 at 09:47 PM
The cots are just there to your right, Jason—we do Wittgenstein and Rorty on this blog all the time. OK, not all the time. But those two are, like, my Most Important Intellectual Influences Ever. One of them gave me the inspiration for a somewhat whimsical post on another blog, and my essay on the other can be found on page 25 of this ginormous pdf.Posted by Michael on 12/18 at 09:52 PM
I would have loved to hear Cornell West do the invocation. That would have been absolutely awesome.
And let’s have Steve Earle and Tom Morello play as well. That’s exactly what the inauguration needs.
My personal feeling is that your argument that religion and science are equivalent because there are scientific concepts that are not proven is flawed. If black holes didn’t exist, Hawking never would have paid off his bet with Kip Thorne.
If we need to drag Sean Carroll away from his new duties at the department of dark energy to set the record straight we will, but it won’t be pretty.Posted by on 12/18 at 09:58 PM
They could do fine by using this version of Stand By Me as the invocation.Posted by on 12/18 at 10:15 PM
It’s these friggin’ bifocals. BTW, I always go for “hellish.” “Strangely” is a mere unintended consequence.Posted by jazzbumpa on 12/18 at 10:15 PM
Well, it made my inaugural poem easier to write, so that’s something.
Bur seriously, this is what “civility” leads to. We have an exiting administration that is known to have had an official policy of homicide and torture, and Obama doesn’t plan to do anything about it. But criticize someone for their hateful beliefs and he’s quick to say that we can disagree without being disagreeable. In other words, don’t rock the boat.
Civil people are no longer just annoying. Civility is now an active evil—the first refuge of a scoundrel.Posted by Rich Puchalsky on 12/18 at 10:58 PM
Oh, and I read the three previous inaugural poems and wasn’t really impressed. Frost had the perfect save—pretend to not be able to read his fairly hideous inaugural poem, and go back to an old standard that really worked much better. Maya Angelou might have been better if I couldn’t read how she pretentiously put caps on Rock and River. Or maybe not. And Miller Williams, well, maybe I couldn’t remember ever hearing anything about him because he has a first name for a last name and vice versa.Posted by Rich Puchalsky on 12/18 at 11:15 PM
I’m a bit late, but let me chip in. I’ve commented this at LG&M too, but I think that there’s an important fact (important enough to repeat, at least) being lost in all of this - Rev. Joseph Lowery, who is in FAVOR of gay marriage, is ALSO giving a prayer at the inauguration. Does that diminish the insult of picking Warren, too? Maybe, maybe not, but it definitely implies that Obama is, if nothing else, veiling all his intentions, rather than using Warren to telegraph that he’s actively going to fight civil rights for gay couples.
And your comments on symbols bring up an important thing, I think. The left has been SO QUICK to jump on the Warren aspect and COMPLETELY ignore Lowery that I think, in some ways, one could maybe argue that the left itself (of which I am fully and firmly a part) is giving Warren more power as a symbol than maybe he deserved or than Obama even intended. I’m not saying the pick was without symbolic power before we all started discussing this and condemning Obama so broadly. But by ignoring the “other” (sorry for lack of a better term) of Lowery, in some ways Warren’s message is getting even stronger shrift. Instead of saying, “Well, Warren’s a pain, but at least there’s Lowery, too,” we’re so vehemently against Warren that it becomes an even richer symbolic force.
To be clear, I agree that it’s an insult to the LGB&T community, and I’m disappointed in Obama’s pick, but it really seems like we’re reading what this could portend as if it were just Warren (or Warren and Robertson or whomever), when it’s not just Warren, when there are other “symbols” which may mean as much (if not more) to Obama than Warren.Posted by on 12/18 at 11:34 PM
Mr. Trend, when you invite the Grand Wizard of the KKK to the opening party, it’s not really a defense to say “But hey, I invited this liberal guy too”.Posted by Rich Puchalsky on 12/18 at 11:47 PM
Compare and contrast Mr. Berube with Mr. The Editors:Posted by on 12/19 at 12:06 AM
kinda hard to believe that you were uh mastur…
with all those turtles around???Posted by on 12/19 at 12:51 AM
I knew Obama would in some ways make a show of pissing off the left, and that his desire to include “the other side” in his importance was going to be irritating eventually. So the one thing this controversy has taught me is that Rick Warren is not gay. Like really? Who knew?Posted by on 12/19 at 01:19 AM
The left has been SO QUICK to jump on the Warren aspect and COMPLETELY ignore Lowery that I think, in some ways, one could maybe argue that the left itself (of which I am fully and firmly a part) is giving Warren more power as a symbol than maybe he deserved or than Obama even intended.
And I would like to add that The Left has been so quick to jump on the Warren aspect and completely ignore Elizabeth Alexander, as evidenced by this very thread even though I cued my readers repeatedly to give Ms. Alexander all the love in the world. Where is the love, O readers? Why has no one picked up the Elizabeth-Alexander-as-invocationer-in-chief suggestion? Could it be that no one cares about poetry—or Bleeding Gums Murphy???
After me, now: Who do we want? Elizabeth Alexander! When do we want her? At the inauguration! Why? Because the people! united around Elizabeth Alexander! will never! be defeated!Posted by Michael on 12/19 at 01:29 AM
Could it be that no one cares about poetry—or Bleeding Gums Murphy???
I care a great deal about Bleeding Gums Murphy. But he won’t be attending the inauguration, because he’s (1) dead, and (2) fictional (though at the beginning of his career, he was Presbyterian).
As for Elizabeth Alexander, I suspect Mr. Puchalsky is on to something about inaugural poem quality. Plus, I, uh, had honestly never heard of Elizabeth Alexander. In my defense, I will change the subject. Why are you still commenting at 12:29 AM EST, Professor? I know why I’m still up, and it’s not for the same reason Chris “Mental Master” Clarke is.Posted by on 12/19 at 02:14 AM
I’m starting to worry, really worry, and even feel a little shaky inside about Obama and what he might be up to.
I appreciate the way you write about this, Prof. Berube.Posted by Hattie on 12/19 at 03:20 AM
I just want to say thanks. The Rick Warren pick felt exactly like a kick in the teeth to me. And after spending most of yesterday listening to heterosexual people describe my reaction as 1) paranoid and 2) intolerant, it was nice to come home and read this entry and feel a little bit less alone.
For the record: I’m really excited about the Elizabeth Alexander pick!Posted by on 12/19 at 09:23 AM
I hadn’t heard of Elizabeth Alexander either, mds. Which doesn’t really mean anything these days: other than a few celebrities, no one has heard of any poet. There is a very large number of poets, a very smaller number of poetry readers who are not themselves poets, and no longer any kind of central publication that everyone reads. In these conditions, one might as well just mostly read one’s friends and neighbors.
Looking at the work she has online, it’s hard to say what I think of it. Some of it is clearly very good. Bewilderingly, though, a lot of it is just like the poems that my neighbors write, jumped up in technical skill. Every poet now writes a poem about whatpoetry is, and almost all of them similarly spike a straw-poet who thinks it is “all love, love, love, and I’m sorry the dog died.” Every poet writes an ancestor story around ethnicity or race. I could go on, but the point is I’m used to Internet poets being post-avant formalists of some kind, and other than some interesting things she does with using very regular line and stanza lengths and then breaking them, she writes in a style that I find unexpectedly accessible. That’s good, I guess, but I don’t get a sense of what her particular best thing is.
My favorite of the small selection of poems on her site is Stravinsky in L.A.. She does more with language there, and really picks up on something that I think recent transplants to L.A. feel visually—that overwhelming sun-drenched disconnected array of sensations.Posted by Rich Puchalsky on 12/19 at 10:00 AM
“Then John S. assures me that it is, but I still can’t buy it.”
If you want to stay in the political wilderness forever - be my guest. I assure you, I can handle the mockery and derision. My delicate sensibilities won’t send me to the fainting couch over what some mean anonymous person on the Intertubes thinks about me. I just won’t VOTE for people that behave like that. I don’t regard arrogance and condescension as prized traits in my leaders (which tends to not leave me thinking too highly of many politicians).
But hey, I come from the school of thought that says people are entitled to their opinions no matter how zany I may find them. So long as those opinions don’t have a real affect on me or anyone else in a negative way, live and let live. And if I want to try and have a dialogue with people, I think it is best to try and find common ground (unless it takes me to someplace I am not willing to stand on) and not stick my finger their eyes. More flies with honey than vinegar, blah, blah, blah. I guess that’s why I voted for Obama in the first place.
So whether you believe in The Sky Fairy or The Big Bang, spinning a dreidl or trimming a tree (or absolutley nothing since you’re an atheist and neither a Jew nor a Pagan) - have a good life. We’ll be rid of Bush in a few short weeks and life will go on, but it’s a lot easier to do so (and a hell of a lot more fun!) with a little less acrimony.
Cheers!Posted by on 12/19 at 10:39 AM
My personal feeling is that your argument that religion and science are equivalent
I apologize if that is the notion people are coming away with, since I don’t believe they are equivalent in the sense that they are similar tenets in any way.
I just don’t think religion and science are necessarily in direct opposition to each other, as is often the case and the antithesis to your assertion. I think science and religion can peacefully co-exist, and that elements of one can be found in the other. Many great thinkers and scientists throughout history were religious or believed in God. Holding that belief did not prevent them from seeking to find logical and explainable solutions to the infinite phenomena that they saw in the universe around them (even before they had a concept of what a universe was).
Dogmatic and irrational thinking are not unique to religion, just as skeptical and rational thinking are not unique to science. Human beings can always fall victim to the demons of their natures - whether we are in a church or a lab makes little difference.Posted by on 12/19 at 10:53 AM
OK, time for the Sokal post!Posted by Michael on 12/19 at 01:25 PM
Darn, I was hoping that you’d tell us more about Elizabeth Alexander’s poetry, Michael, since you seem to be familiar with it.Posted by Rich Puchalsky on 12/19 at 02:19 PM
(Restating a comment I made on Silliman’s blog....)
I too didn’t know Alexander before this. The stuff on her site is good, but quite cautious—sorely lacking in eccentricity or surprise. Rich points out her cautious choice of genre/subject, but I don’t take that as seriously as the cautious diction, all from a “moderately elevated standard” bag like that of a serious essay. (The care with syllables and sound counts for me as good caution.)
It’s interesting to compare her to Joseph Lowery, say in his speech at Coretta Scott King’s funeral. Plenty of eccentricity and surprise—even deliberate hokiness, like the insistent doggerel rhymes (dare I confess they remind me of Johnnie Cochran?), turned to effect. By contrast her work reads as self-denying.
Captcha: firm, as in self-control.Posted by Vance Maverick on 12/19 at 02:24 PM
OMG! Maybe Flo and Eddie could do the invocation--to, uh, go with the Turtles, I mean. Much, much better choice than Warren.Posted by on 12/19 at 02:32 PM
I guess I’m trying to anticipate the point that an inaugural poet has to be a cautious one, practically by definition—if a troublemaker like old Lowery is good enough for the inaugural, then surely the role of the poet could be filled by, oh, maybe Baraka? Or Jay Wright?
Captcha: person. A cautious choice.Posted by Vance Maverick on 12/19 at 02:34 PM
Thanks, Vance. I knew I should have looked for it at Silliman’s, but I too often find his blog overwhelming, and his comment section underwhelming.
Elizabeth Alexander is going to get enough sniping from other poets for this that I certainly don’t want to add more. But if I was really dreaming about who I’d like to see as the inaugural poet, I guess I’d like a flarfist. Maybe Michael Magee. I could see him getting up there and reading:
The president hasn’t “Entered the Image” —
Achilles assumed when hid,
Himself among Women Puzzling questions
An old Yearning with His dad —
And really that seems as good a comment on Obama’s inauguration as anything else.Posted by Rich Puchalsky on 12/19 at 03:14 PM
I know I’m swimming against the tide here, but as one of the handful of churchgoing progressive Democrats I need to say a word on Rick Warren’s behalf. As Warren tried to make clear in his BeliefNet interview, he’s got a severely constrained view of human sexuality—sex is OK only repeat only in the context of man/woman/marriage. All other sex is sinful, which is why you see accusations that he equates being gay with being a pedophile. It was on those extremely narrow grounds that he spoke out against Prop. 8.
But against that you’ve got his social activism including AIDS support, in which capacity he reached out to Obama. As Jesus said, “by their works shall ye know them” and Rick Warren’s works are fairly impressive. So I really think we shouldn’t lump him with the nebulous & devilish “Christian Right.” He enjoys broad support among the mainstream Protestant denominations, including my relatively liberal United Methodist congregation.Posted by on 12/19 at 03:25 PM
I agree 100% with John S. that religious faith should not be equated with delusion, and that expressions like “sky fairy” are needlessly dismissive of what for centuries was the dominant intellectual tradition of the West. Of course, so is Warren, but I better stop before anyone No True Scotsmans me.
But that gibberish in #44 about imaginary numbers isn’t helping at all. I’m not even a mathematician, and that just about made me cry. i is a variable?! Everyone’s fine with the “real” numbers, but it’s somehow significant to the issue of religious faith that “imaginary” numbers “exist” as well? What does that even mean?? (Please don’t answer that.) And that equation – yikes. If you really want to build bridges, you can’t make them out of ... whatever that was. Get some new material.
Over to the Sokal post. There better be some stuff about Wittgenstein and Rorty there, or, or, well, or there isn’t.Posted by Dave M on 12/19 at 03:27 PM
Ralph: Warren may have done good AIDS work, but he only started that work after visiting Africa and seeing all the poor orphans created by the epidemic. You know, *innocent* victims. Years of thousands of deaths of adults in the US and elsewhere had no impact on him. Just the innocent children. Pfui.
I still stand by my belief that you cannot unite people by elevating and legitimizing someone who is using hate and fear to divide them.
MKKPosted by on 12/19 at 03:35 PM
Rick Warren also said that we should kill foreign leaders who insult us: it’s in the Bible. Then when asked where in the Bible that was, he gave a wholly unconvincing cite. He’s a fraud, a false Christian.Posted by Rich Puchalsky on 12/19 at 03:56 PM
I’m going to come off as hopelessly naive here, but you’ve hit on something about the conservative mindset that never ceases to astound me: the lack of any capability for empathetic imagination. Warren sees AIDS orphans in Africa and so can suddenly understand the need for AIDS work in Africa, but not at home. Nancy Reagan can support the need for stem cell research when she sees her husband suffering from Alzheimers, but not before. Dickhead Cheney has a lesbian daughter so he can sort of imagine that gays and lesbians might have some human value. Ask any of these people to empathetically imagine the needs or rights of people outside their own limited ken--whether or not those needs or rights might conflict with ideology--and they draw a total blank. What is with that?Posted by on 12/19 at 04:03 PM
I’m gonna go out on a limb here, Ohio teach, and suggest that it wouldn’t be that hard to find examples of that phenomenon to the left of center.
Over to the Sokal post. There better be some stuff about Wittgenstein and Rorty there, or, or, well, or there isn’t.
Great. Now I’m hesitant to make that wave function collapse.Posted by Chris Clarke on 12/19 at 04:08 PM
Ohio teach: I don’t know—but it’s something that I see going along with the lack of intellectual curiosity in the folks I know of the very conservative ilk. (Most of whom are blood relatives, sigh.) I’ll think about it over lunch and see if I come up with anything.
MKKPosted by on 12/19 at 04:21 PM
Not sure EA’s poetry really works as balm to Rick Warren. Especially because it’s hella boring reading.
If we were going to pick a prominent and largely conventional public poet (but who writes about...you know...the nation and stuff), there are more compelling choices out there: Yusef Komunyakaa for one, Rita Dove for two. Of course, there’s no need for that. Obama’s a Chicago pol; he might have picked a poet whose work touches more or less overtly on the political and who’s in Chicago presently, like Chicu Reddy.
captcha: hopePosted by on 12/19 at 07:21 PM
those old white people living in the Smoky Mountains and the Ozarks, the GOP’s only remaining base.
Unless of course you head south from Rolla, swing through Salem and about half way to Eminence you turn left onto a dirt road and discover Camp Zoe during a Schwagstock weekend. Then you feel better about the Ozarks, and realize that there are way more freaks and radicals than you ever imagined (plus the ecotopia secessionists). Why there’re thousands of them thar freaky hippy people.Posted by on 12/20 at 12:06 AM
I’m going to come off as hopelessly naive here, but you’ve hit on something about the conservative mindset that never ceases to astound me: the lack of any capability for empathetic imagination.
I’ve thought that for some time now. It’s one of the key differences between right wingers and liberals.Posted by on 12/20 at 12:47 AM
Possibly, 93, but you don’t offer any examples, so it must be kinda hard. If we were playing gin rummy I’d have won the hand.
Here’s what sticks for me: about 12 years ago my brother-in-law, who’s a lobbyist with the conservative Paul Laxalt Group, hosted our family on the first of many visis to DC: National Mall, Georgetown, Arlington, and environs. A lovely week we had there. One day driving he pointed to a largish (for the area) house. “That’s where Ted Kennedy lives, worrying about the poor,” he said. We didn’t snark back, being guests and all, with kids in the car, but it struck me that it was better to have people with money worrying about the poor than otherwise, and as probably as accurate a distinguishing mark betwixt left and right as could be.Posted by on 12/20 at 08:13 AM
Love that letter, Dr. B.!
Oh, and since this seems to be the new place to lazily mock and ridicule thin-skinned persecution-complexed believers to receive in return their heartfelt holy huffing and puffing about my incivility and juvenility and counterproductivity (and all because they really, really care about my eternal soul… they do!) I leave you with my personal holiday card inscription. Happy Solstice!
is the Miscarriage
of Curiosity and Wonder.Posted by on 12/22 at 01:18 AM
This is one of the best posts about this issue that I have read on any of the blogs, and its not just the name of the author that I am responding to. As a gay man I was very disappointed by the symbolism of this choice for invocation but not entirely surprised. Obama’s stance on gay issues has always caused me pause and is far from the adjective fierce that he uses to describe it. His response to prop 8 was tepid at best and as of yet, the only large minority not represented in his cabinet or his staff is the LGBT community. I supported him gladly for many reasons and in spite of his “I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman” rhetoric, because I hoped that it was a comment made to avoid making it a wedge issue for the right to stop his election and not an actual belief of his. And he was the only one of the top democratic candidates, all who held the same man-woman belief, to say that it was possible he could change his mind about it. The Rick Warren thing was like a punch in the stomach coming so soon on the heels of the passage of Prop 8, a shocking move by Obama for its insensitivity. I’m still cautiously hopeful but it is fading fast. Overturning Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell isn’t really going to do much to make up for it either. It will just remind everyone of the last democratic president who let down his LGBT supporters. Of course the alternative of McCain/Palin was UNTHINKABLE.Posted by on 12/22 at 01:59 AM
Thanks, Rich P., for the pointer to Stravinsky in L.A.. Elizabeth Alexander has made one wise decision about her near-hopeless task, to keep it short. Maybe the Stravinsky poem will be an inspiration to her inaugural poem. Let’s hope.
And while we’re hoping, let’s hope the DC weather will be unseasonably mellow, for the sake of the two million people who’ll be standing there in order to be part of the historic vibes.
Let’s hope that a significant number of attenders quietly and with dignity turn their backs during the invocation, then turn back to celebrate what there is to celebrate.
I’ve written and read a lot about Rick Warren in the last week, but only today saw Michael’s post. Should have known it would be the most enjoyable of the many responses to the news.Posted by Nell on 12/22 at 03:35 PM
I don’t understand the comment from Another Michael Berube above. You seem to understand that Obama is against gay marriage and yet you claim that his selection of Rick Warren to give the invocation is somehow a “punch in the stomach”. This makes no sense. Why would you hold a specific view against Rick Warren but not Obama himself? Are you aware that the Rev Joseph Lowery, also invited by Obama to be part of the inaugural ceremonies, is also against gay marriage? How is it insensitive of Obama to invite people who agree with him to be part of the inauguration?Posted by on 12/27 at 02:45 AM
Obama may say he is against gay marriage but he did not compare it to incest, polygamy, pedophilia, and believes in “curing” gayness, nor did he actively participate in the passage of Prop 8. My comment about the punch in the stomach referred to the gay communities reaction of the choice of such a controversial figure and loud and powerful opponent of gay rights when their feeling were so raw, especially as the LGBT community overwhelmingly voted for and donated to the Obama campaign. We have been here before when Clinton was elected and had hope that things would get better, as far as civil issues are concerned, but Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage act and created the disasterous Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which was responsible for getting more gays and lesbians kicked out of the military than the previous policy. The LGBT community was burned by the last democratic president in this sense and are watching Obama very carefully. At this point we only have symbolism to go by and the symbolims of having rabid anti-gay pastor give the invocation is not a very positive signal, in fact it was particularly insensitive given the passage of Prop 8. That is why it was like a punch in the stomach.Posted by on 12/27 at 02:19 PM
and it has been reported that Rev. Joseph Lowery is a supporter of gay marriage.Posted by on 12/27 at 02:22 PM
Reverend Lowery is NOT a supporter of gay marriage. He said on MSNBC on the 23rd of Dec. “Well, I’ve never said I support gay marriage. I support gay rights and I support civil unions. Like a whole lot of people, I have some difficulty with the term gay marriage. Because deep in my heart, deeply rooted in my heart and mind, marriage is associated with man and woman.”
And Obama is also against gay marriage but since he does not live in California, he would not have voted on Prop 8. You mention the Clintons, both of whom ALSO do not support gay marriage. If you feel punched in the stomach then it must be quite difficult to tell exactly which democrat is doing the punching since every one mentioned here is against gay marriage.
You say you voted for Obama hoping that he really did not mean what he said about marriage, which was that it involves a man and a woman. It may be time to face the reality that he did mean it.Posted by on 12/28 at 01:55 AM
And Obama is also against gay marriage but since he does not live in California, he would not have voted on Prop 8. You mention the Clintons, both of whom ALSO do not support gay marriage. If you feel punched in the stomach then it must be quite difficult to tell exactly which democratPosted by Cheap Evening Dresses on 04/12 at 07:52 AM