Saturday, October 25, 2008

This Time, One More Time, With Feeling... (Repost)

(I wrote this after the last presidential election, and I decide to revisit it before this one... here's hoping!)

November 3, 2004

Election Day dawned chilly and grey. I walked to my polling place with my umbrella, heart in my throat, as it always is when I go to cast my ballot. It’s exciting and daunting, every time, due to its grave importance and the great responsibility that freedom brings. I nervously ticked off the yard signs and bumper stickers, thinking about Election Day 2002, the loss of Paul Wellstone, and Election Day 2000, the loss of faith. The lines at my polling place were long, even at 7:30 in the morning, but the spirits were high, and people seemed excited to be there. This is America, and it is exhilarating: standing in line to cast my vote with my neighbors, in the gymnasium of a community center.

The following morning, I was forced to ask myself why bad votes happen to good people.

Has it come to this? Is the cloud of rhetoric so thick that it cannot be dispersed? Have voters become so convinced that “moral values” are more important than their own economic self interest, that the trend cannot be reversed? Are moderate Republicans so bound to The Party that they cannot see the damage being created by intrusive, big government policies and fiscal irresponsibility? Do we, as Americans, truly believe that the legislation of morality should be the domain of the government? Should all of this occur at the expense of our public schools, our public health, our civil liberties, our clean air and water, our wild lands, our national security?

What are we supposed to do now? Do we throw our hands up and become part of the new exodus? Do we grace foreign lands with our intelligence and creativity, our activism and our love of social responsibility, thus abandoning America to its seemingly chosen fate of becoming a post-modern Gilead?

I for one thought that there would never be a time when I would consider leaving this country due to frustration or disgust, or a simple mistrust of both the government and the governed. Today, I am not so sure. It is hard to wade through the morass of contempt and acid resentment that I have been feeling these four years and see that the United States still has the chance to fulfill its promise as a democracy. It is hard to retain a relentless and naïve positivism in the face of an overwhelming radical-conservative agenda that threatens the idea of American democracy at every level, reviling the very idea of public life and public service at the same time that it seeks to control them.

Certainly some amount of indignation will need to be expressed as we continue, as more aspects of the public sector arrive on the chopping block, which they inevitably will. We need to be more aware, more involved, and more critical. We need to be demanding of facts and honesty; we need to be in touch with our local, state, and federal officials. We need to craft and hone our arguments so that we are prepared when confronted by those who believe this represents a sea change. We need to have a working and whole understanding of the motives and modus operandi of the Neo-conservative machine so that we can explain it to people without sounding hysterical. The facts are on our side; we simply have to know, understand, and articulate them. We have to appeal to people’s hearts when it comes to moral issues on which we sense that there is ground to give, and refocus the moral arguments that are divisive—refocus that energy onto the real problems: the reality of people’s lives; the reality of the situation. Move their minds, if at all possible, just the slightest degree away from the issues of abortion, or gay marriage, or god, or guns. How does the Left win back the hearts and minds of the very people that used to form its base? Not all that long ago in our history, it was possible to be an evangelical Christian and carry on a crusade for social justice.

We all know the facts: tax breaks to the top one percent of Americans, crippling and alienating foreign policy, massive corporate welfare, deficit spending, a bloody and needless war that could continue for years, and an enormous and intrusive federal bureaucracy. We all know that true national security depends upon a strong infrastructure; state, local, and federal governments with integrity; and citizens with job security, health care, civic pride, a healthy environment, and an adequate safety net in case life should throw them a curve. Distrust of government does not foster a strong nation. And a government that plays cruel politics and uses showy euphemism and down-home talk to cover up disastrous policies will only, in the end, foster distrust.

We cannot continue to posit ourselves as leaders of the free world even as we erode our democracy in America and chip away at the foundations laid in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. How can we "export freedom" even as we diminish it here at home? If he is concerned about the security of this nation, The President should strengthen our domestic job base, extend assistance and hope to those who have been laid off or who are struggling to meet their daily needs, support and fund our public schools, release federal monies for support of state and local law enforcement, develop an energy policy based upon long-term needs, and pursue a foreign policy of cooperation and consistency. A nation with such might and so many resources has overwhelming possibility as a force for good both within its own borders and in the larger international community, instead of conducting itself like the biggest bully on the playground. Our national security lies with our citizens and our strong history of democracy and fairness.

Are we ready to throw that last shovelful of dirt on the grave of the American Democratic Experiment; sing an elegy for our beloved separation of church and state; speak a eulogy for the cherished separation of powers? Because that is what leaving would mean. I want to be a voice for optimism, if only to convince myself that something can be done for the better. We have been manipulated by fear into our present situation; that self-same fear cannot lead to defeatism. Yes, we are exhausted. This campaign was long, arduous, and spiteful. And somewhere in the back of our heads, we know that another one is around the corner. But we are the people who need to take a deep breath and then use it in defense of America; in defense of our liberty, our freedom, our history, and our future.

Senator Paul Wellstone

Monday, October 20, 2008

Keep Your Gays Off My Marriage (repost)

(note: I posted this on another blog of mine on in April of 2006, in response to now-Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's views. With all the talk of Prop 8. in CA, I decide to revisit it. Also, I usually only have one hand to type with due to the baby, so this is easier than something new.)

Someone has to help me out here:
How does having more people in love weaken the power of love?
How would creating more marriage make marriage less meaningful?

I am sorry to be behaving with the innocence of a child and the logic of a sane adult, but I just don't get it.

If I was tired of the "Marriage Debate" during the 2004 election, I am becoming weary to the point of blithering anger at this point.

There is a battle going on here in Minnesota in which a few radicals (Let's call a spade a spade: these people are radical, not conservative) want to put in place a constitutional ban on "gay marriage" that would also include banning "any legal recognition of domestic partnerships and civil unions or any 'legal equivalent' of marriage." Which means that the few benefits that do exist here for same-sex partnerships would go away right along with the hope of anything more.

That's sweet.

I bet Jesus is smiling right now.

Of course, it's a republican chick from an affluent bedroom community who has been trying to walk this pampered little pooch for a couple of years now. She wants to "protect traditional marriage." Don't these people have anything else to worry about? Apparently if Rick and Tom get married, or Susie and Michelle, this lady's marriage to her man will somehow be less meaningful, begging the question, how meaningful can it possibly be now?

Before I pitch an apoplectic fit that starts with "WHO CARES...?" and ends with a dull thunk as I pass out from emotional confusion on my heterosexual living room floor within the context of my heterosexual-about-to-be-legally-recognized-by-the-state-relationship, I'd like to know what makes me so special? Show me a constitutional reason why my relationship gets to be different from anyone else's? I mean, I think it's a pretty good relationship--really good, not to toot my own horn or Pete's (that's against the law, too), but because he has a penis, and I don't, that means we can legally be married? That's not really much of an achievement (sorry, Pete. No offense).

It just seems like such a waste of righteous anger. You're a dude, and you don't want to marry a dude? DON'T. This is America. You don't have to. You're a kristian, and you think being gay is wrong? Fine! Don't be! See: Declaration of Independence/Inalienable rights/"life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Last time I checked, we are not living in a theocracy, and we are actually fighting wars overseas so that other people don't get to, either. We don't have a state religion or even a state language, for that matter. We have an official bird, that we almost poisoned into extinction, but our government does not tell people how to worship (ok, ok, I know this is all only "in theory" lately). All that "In God We Trust" and "under God" malarky was added in the 1950's (even then, it does not say which God.). These kristians can yak all they want about "My Bible this..." and "My Bible that..." Whatever. My favorite book is Wuthering Heights, but that does not mean that I get to make other people dig up and hug their dead lovers or force children to marry each other and live in seclusion on the wasted moors of northern England. Just because some people believe that the Bible is a divine text does not make it so. Just because some people believe that their translation of that "divine text" says that marriage is between one man and one woman, does not create a basis for a Law in the United States of America.

Many of our ancestors came here to get away from that sort of oppression.

The thing is, it's important to try to stop these people before we slide completely into a theocratic corporate oligarchy, but this is really a smokescreen issue, as far as I can see. Like abortion. The Konservatives are using a scattershot technique on socially liberal thinkers to keep us from being able to devote our focused attention on any one issue. You want to stop drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? We'll ban abortion in South Dakota! War in Iraq? No! Were banning gay marriage! They toss out these social issues to get people all rankled while they gather power and money to themselves. In the end, in this country, those are the things that really matter. I don't believe that the Bush Administration cares one whit about gay marriage and abortion. They care about corporate welfare, power grabs, tax breaks, influence, and cronyism. They let the state senators and lesser minions do the dirty social politics work.

I am not gay. I am not going to turn gay if I watch Ellen or spend too much time with drag queens or see Brokeback Mountain. I don't think I am going to want to marry a woman any time soon (planning one wedding is quite enough, thank you.) On a very base and selfish level, this issue does not affect me. But I don't live that way. Any attempt to diminish my fellow Americans diminishes me and diminishes this country. Denying basic rights to other Americans makes me less of an American. And less of a human. What happens to others matters to me. I live in a country that used to encourage self-reliance as a tool for being able to help others, but it seems that self-reliance has turned to selfishness.

It does not matter to these people what actually happens to their fellow citizens as long as those citizens are living by a specific, enforced, neo-fundamentalist religious code. Living in squalor with an abusive boyfriend and a new baby when you are 17? At least you did not have an abortion! We saved you from hell! Are you in the hospital, dying of a terminal illness and want to leave your estate to your same-sex partner? Too bad! You don't deserve to because your choices are evil and you are going to hell!

After all, Jesus is only happy when people are hurting because they brought it on themselves.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

"Left Behind" Sanity

This is old news. Of course it is. I would have to quit my job in order to write about everything I want to write about. Because never in my memory has there been so much appalling behavior on which to comment, and never in my memory has the American citizenry appeared so ovine. One of the most questionable bellwethers in the herd is the “Left Behind” franchise: 16 “novels,” 5 graphic novels, a music CD, 3 movies (and a fourth on the way), 40 kids’ books, a video game, and there’s more. The official website is as commerce-driven as any dot-com, and the founders of the franchise are rolling in Christian capital. The faithful have pocketbooks, and they are going to use them.

I know that, for me, the books have just been noise in the background. They are wildly popular and have sold millions of copies (65 million, by’s count) and are eagerly devoured by a certain segment of the population, but I really had no idea of their nefarious nature. I have never read one, and no, I never will. There are too many good books out there that I have yet to read, and I am not about to toss Harry Potter aside in favor of a book that starts out like this:

“Rayford Steele had to admit that the first time he saw a bear and then a leopard moving about in public, something niggled at him to keep his distance, to not show fear, to make no sudden movements. But when he saw the bear and the cat cooperate to climb a tree and make a meal of leaves and branches, he was emboldened to trust God for the whole promise. It wasn't just he who had become a vegetarian. It was true of all former carnivores.”


The series, in case you have not guessed, comes out of the Book of Revelation and the concept of the “end times.” This is also old news. There has always been a sector of every population throughout human history that believed it was living in the end times. At some point, one of them may be right, I suppose, though I myself think it will be the end of humanity, not the end of the world itself, and it will be more of a whimper than a bang. There has also always been a sector of the population actually hoping for the end times and the second coming; even trying to bring them about. This behavior seems to fly in the face of prophecies that are destined—fixed by future events, but it’s easy enough to explain away inconsistencies when you are basing all your ideas upon improvable beliefs and will, in any case, always fall back upon the Bible as the revealed word of god and the ultimate “so there.”

It would be easy for me to wander off on a tangent. The whole hot mess is ripe with things to bemoan, criticize, debunk, and mock. The fact that many of our policymakers believe in this stuff or are listening to people who believe in this stuff (the people who wrote it, in fact) is downright terrifying, especially when you start to pick it apart and translate it into actual policy decisions. But what started me out here was the Left Behind videogame. That’s right: “Left Behind: Eternal Forces” is available for you to purchase for only $19.99. In it, you can lead the Tribulation Force against the Global Community Peacekeepers. In case you are wondering, the “Tribulation Force” is the good guys and the “Global Community Peacekeepers” are the bad guys—the anti-christ’s army, as a matter of fact. See, this is after the rapture, and the anti-christ has reorganized the United Nations into the Global Community. The Global Community is a one-world government that seeks “peace for all mankind.”


Apparently, in this game, resorting to violence that is not in self-defense lowers your “Spirit Level.” You raise your spirit level by converting civilians (who are actually not called converts but “Friends”), who you then train to spread the truth. Your spirit level will also be lowered if you are exposed to any of the Global Community’s rock music or secularist propaganda. If your unit’s spirit level gets low enough, it will switch sides unless you pray. It’s a scary world; after all, you are up against rock stars, activists, cult leaders, gang bosses, and soldiers who are being trained in “College.”

Clearly, I would not succeed at this game because I already went to college, my husband is a rock star, I am an activist, and, oh yeah, I don’t believe in god, so praying is pretty much out.

If you want more information, there were a couple of FAQ’s on the website: one for the mainstream media and one for the Christian media. Although now, there is just the “Mainstream Media FAQ.” This question was on the Christian Media FAQ, but now it is listed with the others on the “Mainstream Media FAQ:”

“Are guns used by Christians against non-Christians? Why or why not?
The storyline in the game begins just after the Rapture has occurred – when all adult Christians, all infants, and many children were instantly swept home to Heaven and off the Earth by God. The remaining population – those who were left behind – are then poised to make a decision at some point. They cannot remain neutral. Their choice is to either join the AntiChrist – which is an imposturous one world government seeking peace for all of mankind, or they may join the Tribulation Force – which seeks to expose the truth and defend themselves against the forces of the AntiChrist.”

So… yes? I think that perhaps what they meant to write was “Yes, guns are used by Christians against Nonchristians because the Christians are right and the Nonchristians are wrong.” One of the forces of the antichrist is the unit type called the “Secularist,” which is a unit that specializes in deception.

A review by addresses the guns a bit more clearly, stating: “Many groups have made inaccurate statements about this game that need to be corrected. For one thing, it is not particularly violent. While there are violent aspects of the game, the game makes it clear that shooting is the last resort. Second, it is not hateful to other religions. It does have an agenda, and I think you need to know that going in, but there's no bashing of other faiths.”

This review says that it is not hateful to other religions, but what it clearly means is what it says in the second sentence: there is no overt bashing of other faiths. Dividing the world into Christian/Nonchristian and Christ/Antichrist is the same black and white “us vs. them” that is inherently hateful. It turns people into opposites and pits them against each other. Characters in the video game don’t need to be running around screaming that “Muslims are evil” in order to create an atmosphere of hate.

In the end, I doubt that I will be running out to purchase this video game, as I have no game console and think that video games in and of themselves are rather pestilential regardless of whether or not they are spewing such simple and morally destructive messages. I’d rather pick up a book.

And it won’t be “Left Behind: Kingdom Come.”