7/31/2014

In Brief: Quotes That Mean as Much Now as When They Were First Said (With a Photo for Context)

The quote is from a just-released recording of former President Bill Clinton speaking to a group of business people in Melbourne, Australia, on September 10, 2001 (or "One day before everything changed forever and we lost our country"). Clinton was talking about how he might have been able to get to Osama bin Laden: "I nearly got him. And I could have killed him, but I would have to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and kill 300 innocent women and children, and then I would have been no better than him. And so I didn’t do it."

You can tease that out and say that killing those 300 people would have created even more terrorists. Or you can say that those people were accessories to bin Laden by their proximity and that Clinton was a hypocrite because of other missile strikes he ordered or that Bill Clinton was a pussy whose inaction helped cause 9/11 (and then you can merrily go fuck yourself).

The photo is from the Gaza Strip in the last few days. The context is how intractably screwed people are when they don't give a shit about those innocent men, women, and children:


7/30/2014

Democrats Are Totally Making Money Off Impeachment Talk and It's Awesome

Speaker of the House John "If You Don't Think I'm Drunk All the Time, You're Not Paying Attention" Boehner had one of his outrageous outbursts of outrage yesterday, one of those spasms of anger that must make playing golf with him like having lunch at the Home for Abusive Husbands. He insisted, goddamnit, "This whole talk about impeachment is coming from the president’s own staff and coming from Democrats on Capitol Hill.  Why? Because they're trying to rally their people to give money and to show up in this year's election...We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans."

And he's totally right, except for the parts where he's wrong, like the fact that impeachment talk has been floating among the House teabaggers for months, if not years.

But, fuck, yeah, Democrats are using that shit to raise money. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has unleashed a stalker-like string of emails to supporters, each one more desperate and hysterical than the last, attempting to squeeze your wallets dry.

From "Nancy Pelosi": "If Boehner has his way, we might as well kiss all hope goodbye for the remainder of President Obama’s term." Today, "Nancy" scared us with "Boehner is clearly trying to get his chance to drag the President's good name through the mud."

From "Paul Begala": "This is no laughing matter. These are the same Tea Party Republicans that managed to shut down the government last year. They’re going to keep coming up with new ways to sabotage Barack Obama’s presidency. And for these guys, impeachment would be the pinnacle of Republican sabotage." The email was subject-lined "I'm Pleading" for extra pathetic effect.

There's a gentler note from "Michelle Obama," a leaderly one from "Barack Obama," and "Joe Biden" threatening to skullfuck you if you don't give money. 

And then this one, which reminds us that "Biden" and the "Obamas" emailed us because "They need your help because it's a critical moment" that might "lead to Barack Obama's impeachment."

So, yeah, the DCCC is fluffing the threat of impeachment like a merry gay porn set intern working the prick of a nervous leading man. And, yep,the chance of actual impeachment is somewhere between alien invasion and Nobel Prize-winning Kardashian. 

But you know what? It's still more in the realm of reality than what the GOP has been raising shit-tons of cash on. Has Obamacare straight-up murdered anyone? Have hordes of immigrants and Hottentots come streaming over the border to give us Ebola and decapitate our cops? No, but the Republican Party has made mucho coin off these lies and many more.

So it's awesome that the Democrats have found a scary, realistic-sounding hyperbole to raise cash on. It would be just beyond words for Republicans to have their asses handed to them because of fearmongering on our side.

7/29/2014

Right-Wing Delusions, Part 1: Your Stupid Idea Is Stupid

Oh, dear, dumb, oppressed right-wingers, searching hither and thither for places to call home, good god, but you come up with some stupid, stupid shit to cling to, like a brain-damaged rat on a turd flushing down a toilet.

1. Apparently, Facebook was not a friendly home for at least some repellent anti-LGBT sentiments, so a couple of ambitious conservatives decided the time was right to take on Big Zuckerberg and launch a "patriot"-friendly place where you can freely like photos your inbred cousin posted of Barack and Michelle Obama's heads on monkey bodies. ("See? It's funny 'cause they're black!" you can comment.)

What might such a service be named? "Farcebook" is a little obvious. Of course, you'd name it "Reaganbook," after the greatest president ever to raise taxes, cut and run from the Middle East, and order people around him to break the law. Of course, your motto would be "We are tearing down walls" even as you support building a damn fence on the border with Mexico. Oh, and, of course, you would steal the colors, font, and layout of Facebook because you might not have built it, but fuck everyone who did. And when you get sued for copyright infringement, you can claim that you're just an innocent victim, like all your pussy fellow conservatives.

2. There really is a high school student in Richmond, Virginia, named "Alecsys Brown," whose parents oughta be slapped for misspelling her first name. (Mom: "Let's name her 'Alexis.'" Dad: "I like it. How do you spell it?" Mom: "It starts with 'Alec,' like that actor...") And Young Goodwoman Brown has a cause: Bring back the proper mascot for Douglas S. Freeman High School.

So Brown started a petition for their team, the Rebels, to once again feature a grey-uniformed soldier at its sporting events. Now, she's not crazy. She doesn't think they should go back to the days when the mascot carried a rifle and a Confederate flag. No, it should just be the soldier in the big moustache wearing, well, a grey uniform. The petition has gotten over 1000 signatures.

Brown doesn't see it as racist at all. As she explains it, "I think he really represents us as the Southern school that we are...Since Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy, a Southern soldier really represents us as a school." Indeed, if you can't imply that it would have been better if your black classmates had remained slaves, what is freedom for?

One question, Alexi...sorry, Alecsys: You do realize that the Confederacy lost, right?

Big Thanks to the Hippy

Last week, for three days, Andrew William Smith, aka @presbyhippy, aka Teacher Preacher, aka Teacher on the Radio, took over this here blog thingy while the Rude Pundit indulged in a mucho-needed time away from political fucknuttery.

Now, some of you may wonder, "Huh. I thought this here blog thingy was stone cold atheistic. What gives with this Christian bullshit?"

The easy, dickish answer is "Umm, my blog, fuckers." But the Rude Pundit specifically wanted Andrew to write because he thinks we do a disservice to our causes by separating ourselves into worshipers and heathens. As Andrew demonstrated repeatedly, and it's something that religious people everywhere would do well to remember, the seeds of much of modern liberalism have been sown in houses of worship by the churchgoing left.

Let's not belabor the point. Instead, scroll down and read his stuff. Sometimes the rudest thing in this sad world is unabashed love.

7/28/2014

California's Dry Fucking


That up there is a canal that is used "for routing flood water" through the farms of Merced County, California. In 2006, it was full of water and the ground around it was green. It's dry now, in case the dust devil in the back there didn't indicate it. But it's not just dry. It's also sinking.

"The ground is sinking because farmers and water agencies throughout the Central Valley are pumping groundwater heavily from far beneath the Earth's surface to make up for the lack of rain...And if the sinking isn't stopped, everything from house foundations to railroad lines - such as the high-speed rail planned for the valley - could suffer." Oh, and it might undermine a dam.

Californians gets between 40-60% of their water from underground aquifers. When they dry up, there is no gushing rainstorm that'll fill them up as the state goes through its worst drought ever, one that has no end in sight.

The people of the state are getting fucked without any lube, a dehydrated, uncomfortable fucking, by a nation and a world that has refused to do anything significant about climate change. And if California is fucked dry, then the rest of us will get fucked by produce prices and more.

(Note: The Rude Pundit is just back from a fine, fine part of a week in the mountains, hiking to waterfalls and riding rapids. He's still a little fuzzy from too much nature, but water is definitely on his mind.)

7/25/2014

I Was a Teenage Pacifist, Kumbaya!


[Rude Pundit is still on vacation. @presbyhippy Andrew William Smith still filling in.]


I was a teenage pacifist. Weaned on Martin Luther King and John Lennon, I don’t remember not knowing the words to “We Shall Overcome” or “Give Peace A Chance.” If we’re holding hands, I cannot use my hands to hit you. If we’re singing together, I am not shouting at you.

I was a teenage pacifist. There might have been a brief time around 12-years-old when I thought perhaps I could give violence a try. A friend and I disagreed about the interpretation of a book (sick literary nerd that I am), so I suggested we settle the disagreement with a duel. Dumb idea. He was much bigger than me. One hit, I was down. That’s just to say my pacifism always had a practical side, not wanting to get my butt kicked, but this did not stop me from thoroughly developing my inner hippy, all about love and peace.

Pacifists in North America have some privilege, insofar as the police and the military like to suggest they are protecting your right to be pacifist. That changes when you engage in a direct-action campaign against atrocities being planned or carried out by your government. In the process of nonviolent civil disobedience as taught to us by the likes of Thoreau, Gandhi, and King, pacifists can lose their privileges. We go to jail, which is a rite of passage for pacifists. We need to be willing to do hard time or die to defend our right not to kill, otherwise we might not really be pacifists. As a teen and 20-something, I tried just that and managed to do a little jail time and leave that period of my direct action career without a criminal record.

As a middle-aged activist with a career and responsibilities I did not have when I was trespassing on military sites, I tend to prefer prayer as a form of direct action, and this modifies my pacifism. I would allow the police to defend me in a crisis, but I also know the police may arrest me or kill me. Idealism tends to get renegotiated as your hair turns gray.

Today, I feel powerless to stop the horrible atrocities in several hot spots of the middle East, so I pray for peace. This approach gets bad press from more militant activists, yet to out-of-hand bash the whole singing and holding hands bit has become a cliché all its own! I know this blog has a dark humorous streak on most days, but it’s sometimes okay to just balk on the bitter part and say enough with the snark and irony and cynicism already. Maybe we really need to hold hands and sing "Kumbaya"?

Even in the passionately optimistic book Love Wins (to which I referred yesterday), the Christian author Rob Bell makes a snide aside about salvation not really being “a universal hugfest where everybody eventually ends up around the heavenly campfire singing ‘Kumbaya,’ with Jesus playing guitar.” 


I’ve always thought that thees cynical remarks about a spiritual-woowoo-hippie-peacenik utopia where we-all-hold-hands-and-sing-“Kumbaya” should not be used so dismissively when others sincerely set out to achieve a cosmic vision of unlimited grace, pure peace, and perfect love.

As cheesy, easy, or breezy as some might say it sounds, this wonderful and scandalous and radical message of love locates at the core of the canon. Standing in a circle, holding hands, and singing “Kumbaya” may not instantly usher in world peace or even the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, but I maintain that it would be a good place to start.

I am not a middle-aged pacifist with the convictions of a teenage pacifist. I am a middle-aged peacenik who accepts moral compromise daily. I can think of some situations where self-defense makes sense or where I would allow those so professionally-trained to use force on my behalf. But I am also aware that the guns could be turned against me. I still don’t own a gun, still see flight as better than fight. Love and light are still the most radically disarming forces I can imagine as operative in the universe, and their practical application has yet to be fully tried.

You may not want to sing “Give Peace A Chance,” “We Shall Overcome,” or “Kumbaya.” Such actions may not stop the bombs and brutality in Gaza or dismantle the prison industrial complex or stop institutional racism or end mountaintop removal or guarantee civil rights for LGBTQ friends or provide access to birth control and abortion services for women. You may have had enough of praying for “peace” in a world that preaches it often and practices it rarely. I get that.

Yet somewhere, someone has ended a conflict with forgiveness or made friends with an enemy and somewhere, someone is better for it.

I cannot believe the Rude Pundit asked me to pen these blogs for the last three days, but I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Peaceout!



7/24/2014

A Christian Confesses to the Atheists

[Your regular Pundit is on vacation! This is @Presbyhippy filling in!]

It came across my social media feed the other day that several states still have wording on the books to prohibit atheists from serving in public office. At least one article I consulted suggests that federal freedoms would trump those limits from ever being enforced, should an atheist ever attempt a campaign in one of those religiously steeped places, but it’s a chilling comment on the theocratic tendencies in United States culture that such laws ever existed.

In my experience, the debates and dialogues between skeptics and sincere believers tend to focus on who holds the correct viewpoint and searching for the most logical way to refute one’s ideological or theological opponent. Since I don’t see this as an argument that should or could be “won,” I sometimes tire from the stridency I see on all sides. In my experience, people in love with their own rhetorical convictions and persuasive powers can be found in religious communities and atheist circles alike.

These difficult but entertaining conversations got a much needed change-of-pace when Chris Stedman released his book Faitheist and began to seek out “interfaith dialogue” between atheists and theists. Stedman suggests, “I work to promote critical thinking, education, religious liberty, compassion, and pluralism, and to fight tribalism, xenophobia, and fanaticism. Many religious people are allies to me and other atheists in these efforts—and a good number of them cite their religious convictions as the motivating factor behind their work. I am far more concerned about whether people are pluralistic in their worldview—if they oppose totalitarianism and believe those of different religious and nonreligious identities should be free to live as they choose and cooperate around shared values—than I am about whether someone believes in God or not.”

Thinking about Stedman’s inclusive perspective and living in a state with discrimination against atheists on the books, I realize I probably have been guilty of disparaging remarks against those whose humanistic beliefs are in the minority here in the South or using my beliefs as a form of social credibility in this religiously-shaped culture. For this, I am sorry.

Further, I’d like to confess some of my motives for embracing personal spirituality and religion as a collective practice. I’d like to confess why I am not an atheist.

Religion and spirituality provide daily practices as much as vigilant viewpoints, mostly about saving oneself—not so much the burden of convincing you that my religion is correct or saving you from punishment or saving the world from itself. After years as a new age, hippy, Jedi, Taoist, neopagan, etc. spiritual seeker, my reconversion to Christianity included an introduction to writers and pastors like Carlton Pearson and Rob Bell, who in their books Gospel of Inclusion and Love Wins respectively, argued against more conventional ideas about hell. Relieved of what Bell calls a “toxic” idea concerning selective salvation and pervasive damnation, my faith can be motivated by notions other than converting all my atheist friends in order to save them from hell.  

I’m not an atheist because I believe that science and humanism, complete with an ever-changing and ever-expanding base of knowledge, and all the expected subjective agency of those, would require more faith (not less) than religious or spiritual disposition. Placing faith in something invisible, unknown, eternal, universal, and intangible (something that some of us choose to name God) might actually be easier than having faith in one’s own abilities and what can be rationally apprehended at any given time.  

I’m not an atheist because in the quiet rumblings of my head and heart, in my guts and in gravity, I regularly hear the gentle inchoate voice of God. For the atheist who hears similar whispers, I imagine there are ways to explain those voices, but I am guessing some of them involve medication and perhaps even hospitalization. Many people experience paranormal phenomenon; religion and spirituality can provide a benign context and interpretive matrix for dealing with these while maintaining sanity and perspective.

I’m not an atheist because I have a problematic and paradoxical view of human nature. We all contain some spark of the divine goodness, but many of us left to our own devices are selfish, greedy, power-hungry, outright jerks. That is, for me, atheist humanism has a higher view of human nature and even a loftier moral code than expected in religion. That sounds strange, but the spiritual path of my choosing provides a narrative mechanism to explain my failures and shortcomings, a mythopoetic language of sin and redemption. One does not need to read the Adam and Eve story from Genesis as historical document to take away from it profound truths about the limits of human subjectivity and our innate craving for collective reconciliation. Religious myth, religious community, and spiritual practice broker my relationship with the harsher aspects of reality in such a way as to provide some glimpses of peace and harmony.

I’m not an atheist because I am in recovery from alcoholism and other addictions. For more than five years, trying to follow the 12-steps by the book and in the context of a supportive community, I have remained sober and my life has radically improved. Coming to believe in a power greater than myself as endorsed by the programs of recovery fits well with the progressive Christian mystic path I am currently exploring. There are lots of helpful workarounds to the God language in recovery, so that we might remain inclusive of our atheist friends, but a whole-hearted embrace of God by surrendering and letting go of my previous ideas about God turns out to work quite well for this alcoholic.

Perhaps I'm not an atheist because I am just not smart enough or good enough. Perhaps religion is just another drug, and since I cannot do the other recreational drugs anymore, it is the one that currently gets me high.  

It turns out to my surprise that lots of Christians are atheists, and the idea of “supernatural theism” to describe an all-powerful magical-dictator-in-the-sky has fallen out of fashion among progressive religious thinkers of all faiths. That said, since the mysterious side of religious faith deals not just with the God within but also with that which is entirely other and unknown, I tend to focus on what could be called a higher or more traditional view of the Trinitarian God, but I try not to do so from the realm of dogmatic domination or apologetic argument. Part of following faithfully and falling into the mystery means allowing the mystery to be mysterious. 

Like Chris Stedman, I think that intelligent dialogue between the religious progressives and non-religious activists can be a force for good against totalitarian thinking and practice, and I am so thrilled that Rude Pundit saw this blog as just such a venue for that kind of discussion.

Mentioned here: http://faitheistbook.com/

7/23/2014

My Hippy Jesus Problem

[Your regular Pundit is on vacation! This is @Presbyhippy filling in!]


Hello my name is Andrew, and I have problem with hippies and Jesus. That is, no matter how short I cut my hair or how punk is more my generation, I am an unrepentant hippy despite my sanity and sobriety. That is, no matter how much I respect Quakers and Buddhists, Taoists and atheists for the integrity of their worldviews, I am a repentant Jesus Freak despite my intellect and irreverence.

Last weekend, I attended the Forecastle Music Festival in Louisville, Kentucky, that is because I missed my annual date with the Rude Pundit at Bonnaroo, due to my activism supporting the LGBTQ and divestment movements at the big Presbyterian shindig in Detroit (which you may have heard about in my last post for this site), which happened to fall on the same dates as the Roo. On Sunday, since I missed church due a very late Saturday, I decided to wear my “JC [Jesus Christ]: the original hipster” t-shirt (see picture) that I’d recently purchased at the liberal Jesus hippy answer to Burning Man, called the Wild Goose Festival, in Hot Springs, North Carolina.

While I loved the fist-bumps, “great shirt dude” shoutouts, and general spiritual mayhem made by wearing this shirt instead of say, a tie-dye, a paisley tanktop, a Replacements t-shirt (they were playing Sunday), or any other festival-appropriate duds, it cuts to the core of my hippy Jesus problem.

You see, in the phenomenon known as American Jesus as exemplified by a movie of that name recently released and book by that name from a few years ago, anyone can make their move with Jesus the way that the hippies and hipsters do. So, we get: gun-control Jesus and gun-toting Jesus, gay Jesus and gay-bashing Jesus, brown-skinned immigrant Jesus and the Jesus-loving hate-monger meeting him with an unwelcome wagon at the U.S.-Mexico border. Although some illusion about the attainability of an elusive Christian unity has always been implied as a necessary component of our faith, the culture war in America all but forbids it.

Some days, it seems I have something in common in terms of core values with everyone but the Bible beating bigots in the Bible belt. My anti-war, pro-choice, inclusive, civil rights, economic justice Jesus has enough cross-references in the Bible for me to feel I am following Him in all my leftish ways, but if one day, I were to wake up and find out that the deer-hunting, cage-fighting, forced-pregnancy Christians actually were the true Christians, I am pretty convinced I couldn’t stay on the team. 

On Sundays, I pay lip service to unity with my conservative Christian friends, because I want to be open-minded around them in hopes they will be open-minded around me. But there comes a time in those conversations where one of us ends up accusing the other one of serving Satan instead, if only in our private judgmental thoughts. That’s not nice, but it’s honest.

We can trace my hippy Jesus roots back to my parents and life in the early 70s when my preschool and elementary-school consciousness made sense of my family’s devout Christian faith coupled with our unwavering support of the farmworkers, the feminists, and George McGovern or Jimmy Carter. There was a split in the roots or lineage of the hippy-Jesus tree around that time.

Both left and right Christians of the era embraced the hippy clothing and the hippy music, the hippy commune and the hippy coffeehouse. That is, the hip lifestyle that included fantastic folk and rock music or health food and homebirth and happy homegrown DIY-craftiness all but transcended politics. Yet those same hip folks could divide quite contentiously when it came to politics.

On the left side, we were connected to the Beatniks, the Catholic Workers, and the anti-war movement. Writers like the great Thomas Merton or artists like Sister Corita were prolific and eloquent voices for the people from inside Catholic orders. On the right side, what is today known as the evangelical scene embraced the street people and ex-acid heads with such an embrace that once converted they bought into the fundamentalist, simplistic, anti-abortion, apocalyptic faith espoused then by the likes of Hal Lindsay and his book The Late, Great Planet Earth and with too many late 20th and early 21st century correlations to mention.

The original Jesus hippies had an organic appeal to them before they evolved into today’s crunchy conservatives. Today’s Christian hipsters are not that different, and here in Nashville, it’s hard to tell the right-wing hipsters and the left-wing hipsters apart until you start talking books and theology and voting trends. But some of the worst views in our world today about unquestioning support for Israeli and American militarism, wishing for the end times, trying to pray away the gay, disrespecting women and the environment, and damning all other religions or non-religions to an eternal hell, these devilish ideas can be traced in America not just to the far-right evangelical Christians but from within that community to specific trends within hippie Christendom, including those who were identified with the Jesus People in the early 1970s.

Because I cannot shake my hippy dippy Jesus Freak identity, and my tastes in all natural food and psychedelic folk rock music reflect this, it’s important for me in my research about the 60s and 70s to seek out the members of the Jesus revolution in American counterculture who kept their roots on the left side of the split. We are just the kind of people you will meet at a Wild Goose type festival or see stopping the water shutoffs in Detroit and advocating for immigrant reform and worker justice.

From the fog of war and weariness of economic exploitation, it’s sometimes difficult to find Jesus as liberator and life-force and unconditional love and not so much as culture warrior, even though we often need to choose sides in these battles if we are to defend what’s left of goodness and the democratic spirit, as power-mongers of every stripe find new ways to dominate. What love and what hope do we have that love and hope will stand up to all this monstrous and authoritarian insanity? 

mentioned in the blog:
http://americanjesusthemovie.com/

http://wildgoosefestival.org/