Sunday, October 31, 2004

Stassen revisited

The American Thinker has more on that Olympian theologian, that ethicist from Ephesus, that son of Dionysius the Areopagite, Glenn Stassen, Lewis B. Smedes professor of Christian ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary in Southern California.

When we last checked in with Prof. Stassen, he was trying to persuade pro-lifers to vote for Kerry, because, he implies, Democratic social policies produce fewer abortions than Republican restrictions on such activities as tax-paid funding of abortion and the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion. What we found was that Prof. Stassen misrepresented his pro-life bona-fides, juggled preliminary figures and based his reckoning on economic statistics that didn't even have a clear correlation with abortion, much less proving causality. After researching my post, I learned that reached the same conclusions (and in greater depth).

In our continuing saga, Prof. Stassen has now descended from Mount Olympus to give us deep thoughts on how war is not healthy for children and other living things. Fortunately for all of us, Jim Arlandson at The American Thinker has thoroughly fisked Prof. Stassen on this topic as well.

Being an honest partisan is an honorable pursuit: stating one's reasons for supporting a candidate, making the case, seeking to persuade. But Stassen is not an honest partisan. For one thing, he is not honest. Beyond his arguments thought, trying to hide his partisanship behind a facade of the wise theologian who looks down from above all those petty political concerns, he actually lowers himself to the level of a political hack.

I don't care if Fuller has a leftist for its ethics professor, but Michael Moore might be about equally balanced.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Trick or treat from Osama bin Laden

So Osama bin Laden thought he'd give the American electorate an October surprise. I suspect that it won't turn out the way he wanted.

Apparently, Osama couldn't pull off a train explosion, as his minions did in Spain, so he gives us a threatening video tape. Will it work? He said, "I don't mess with your security, but if you mess with my security, I'll mess with your security." Will anyone in the United States forget that we didn't mess with his security before 9/11?

So who gets the October surprise? I hope it's Bin Laden.

Kerry's 'conscience'

In "Abortion: the swing issue?," Paul Kengor, author of God and George W. Bush, lays out the differences between Bush and Kerry on abortion.

He gives a rundown on the Bush record on abortion, including some facts I could have guessed but didn't know.

Then he compares Kerry's adamantly pro-abortion position--pointing out that Kerry says he is guided by his faith on poverty, the environment and "equality and justice," but not on abortion.

And then he drops a little gem from Kerry that I had never heard:
"Consequently, abortions should not have to be performed in tightly guarded clinics on the edge of town [, he told the Senate in 1994]; they should be performed and obtained in the same locations as any other medical procedure...."
If you read the code words, you have Kerry promising an assault on the conscience clause, which means that medical providers who object to abortion may yet be forced to perform it. Recently Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman was on the same track when she launched a broadside against applying conscience clauses to hospitals, including Catholic hospitals. She complaining about a House measure to protect medical workers from being required to perform or refer for abortions. Naturally, Goodman is outraged, because for her it is incomprehensible that anyone would object to killing a child before birth.

But Kerry looks smarmily at the camera and says, "I repect your belief. Look. I was an altar boy. . . , but . . . ."

But the abortion lobby has a stranglehold on the Democratic Party and has been systematically chasing pro-lifers from its ranks. Pro-life candidates cannot even get a hearing on a national level in the Democratic Party.

Until 9/11 abortion was the defining issue of our time. Since 9/11, national security has risen to the top in urgency, but the abortion wound festers--an issue as fundamental to who and what we are as a nation as slavery was. The slavery issue was finally resolved by a long and bloody war. The Leftists' anti-Bush animus may be, I believe, more about abortion than war, since Clinton's wars never bothered anybody, but Bush has made real inroads against abortion.

The Blogroll Please! Anna's Inklings

Anna's Inklings is a new Orthoblog by Carrie, wife of longtime Orthoblogger Karl T. She's a new mom (baby not yet born) and involved in the new Sophia Academy, the Orthodox school in Portland. She's already shown a facility for starting cross-blog conversations, so I'm looking forward to future discussions.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

I don't know how they did it

But those wily guys at Adeimantus got in on a conference call with Kerry, Rather, Pinch and little Johnny.

Very enlightening.

At least his rights aren't being trampled

Some people should be in Guantanamo.

The man on the ABC terrorist tape speaks English with an American accent:
US intelligence officials believe the man on tape may be Adam Gadhan -- aka Adam Pearlman, a California native who was highlighted by the FBI in May as an individual most likely to be involved in or have knowledge of the next al Qaeda attacks.

According to the FBI, Gadahn, 25, attended al-Qaida training camps and served as an al-Qaida translator.

The disturbing tape runs an hour -- the man simply identifies himself as 'Assam the American.'

HAT TIP: James

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Too holy to vote

I've run across a number of Christians who proclaim themselves unwilling to vote for either major presidential candidate, because neither comes up to their standard of holiness. It might be that Kerry is pro-abortion and Bush is pro-war or pro-capital punishment or a Protestant (a Catholic woman I know has this objection to him), or that Kerry is pro-abortion and Bush is actually a big-spending liberal who doesn't obey the Constitution either.

To these people, I say with all due affection and respect, get over yourself. Jesus Christ has never run for office in the United States and never will. I know quite well that the perfect candidate is one that will agree with me on every issue, but I don't expect to find one.

We are facing the most important election of the past 50 years and people are willing to throw away their votes on the Constitution party or the Libertarians (I'm not complaining about the people who vote Pacific Greens or Ralph Nader; that's Kerry's supporters' problem).

The 1972 Libertarian candidate for president has endorsed Bush. He says:
"There is a belief that's common among many libertarians that there is no essential difference between the Democrat and Republican Parties – between a John Kerry and a George W. Bush administration; or worse: that a Bush administration would be more undesirable. Such a notion could not be farther from the truth, or potentially more harmful to the cause of liberty."
What sent me off on this rant was running across the laughable Constitution Party candidate for Oregon State Treasurer (formated as much as possible like the original):
Carole D. Winegarden
Occupation: Wife; Home-school mother; business owner

Occupational Background: Treasurer; Accountant; Licensed Tax Preparer; Carpenter

Educational background: David Douglas H.S.; Mt. Hood C.C. [Community College]; Portland C.C.; B.C.T.I. [whatever].

Prior Governmental Experience: voter


As your state treasurer I will uphold my oath to both the Oregon and United States Constitutions. Therefore, as an elected official honor bound to this oath, I could not in good conscience sign a check to fund abortion, as is now being done. All other expenditures, such as programs that benefit illegal immigrants, would be reviewed and funding cut off, if found to be unconstitutional. [She doesn't mention it, but she's apparently running for Justice of the State Supreme Court at the same time.]

I am a candidate that serves and obeys the Lord Jesus Christ, and with His help will strive to glorify His name as State Treasurer.
The idea that this woman thinks she can be treasurer of Oregon because she managed the family checkbook is almost as amusing as it is maddening.

But wait, her husband is running for U.S. representative: His prior governmental experience is "disappointment."
If you don't vote for what you believe in, you'll NEVER get what you want!
It's the Jiminy Cricket political creed: If you just wish hard enough, your dreams will come true. You don't have to try to persuade anyone who doesn't already agree with you. You don't have to get trained in the field; you don't even need to acknowledge the need for training--being disgruntled is qualification enough. Just throw your money and your vote away on lost causes, and then you can feel righteous that you've never "compromised," never supported anything less than perfection.

As if God is keeping copies of your ballots, and if you vote for an achievable improvement, you'll get a stick in the eye at the last judgment. No wonder so many people think Christians are idiots.

Spare me the righteous.

Bus people 3

He's a black man in his late 30s, six feet four, 280 or more, wearing a gray and red Columbia Sportswear jacket and an Oakland Raiders watch cap, with hoop earrings.

He carries on a loud conversation with the bus driver about where to get a good steak.

He whistles the Ray Charles song, "You Don't Know Me," beautifully but sporadically, as if it's playing in his head and sometimes burbles out.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The Blogroll please! The Alto Section

Ann Campbell is an Orthoblogger, a friend who lived in Portland for a year or two? (I have problems with time) before she moved away to work on her master's degree at St. Vladimir's Seminary in New York.

Ann is theologizing about what it means to be a woman in the cosmos and in the Orthodox Church. She's not one of these fish-without-a-bicycle people, so her ideas depart from the polarized no man's land of most of the current debate and wander into some new territory.

I am proud to say that I suggested that she blog. I am even more pleased that she took me up on my suggestion.

Monday, October 25, 2004

The 'pro-life' Kerry vote

Carrie asks, Isn't it Ironic....: "Many of my Christian friends (who are pro-life) are voting for John Kerry. When asked about how they can justify voting for a candidate whose voting record in the Senate clearly shows a pro-abortion stance (he voted against the ban on partial birth abortions and voted against legislation to enact a 'Lacy Peterson law' which would charge criminals who kill a pregnant woman with 2 counts of murder) my friends reply 'well, the president will never be able to overturn Roe v. Wade anyway, so I'm not going to make it a central issue'."

If the election were less important, I would be inclined to toss the observation into the large box labeled "Go Figure." But it is important. I don't think it's an overstatement that this may be the most important election of the past 50 years. And the right to life is part of why.

First, I agree with Carrie's--and my--pro-life friends that abortion is not going to be made illegal nationwide in the next four years, regardless of who is elected. I would like to see the unborn protected under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. That isn't going to happen, probably not even in my lifetime.

Nevertheless, there is a possibility that Bush will appoint the Supreme Court Justices who eventually overturn Roe v. Wade. There is zero possibility that Kerry will. And with several justices approaching retirement, the next four years with a Kerry pro-abortion litmus test will set the agenda for at least a couple of decades.

It's not a sure thing, and justices chosen by pro-life presidents, such as Souter and O'Connor, don't lead pro-lifers to optimism. Optimism is not necessary for hope.

And if Roe v. Wade is overturned, what then? More work. Because abortion will return to each state legislature, to allow, ban, regulate. Mississippi will look very different from Minnesota, and California from South Carolina, and Missouri will become a test case looked at by Montana. Oregon legalized abortion in 1969, and if Roe is overturned, pro-life Oregonians will still have a long road of argument, persuasion, activism and politicking. Welcome to government of the people, by the people and for the people.

But at least, if we have a president who believes in judicial restraint, in the original role of judges, we might get some who will let laws stand in the states where the legislatures write them, instead of finding a "right" to abortion in emanations of the penumbra surrounding the Bill of Rights.

Otherwise, we may as well disband the legislatures, fire the president and place crowns on the heads of the black-robed regents who know better than the voters what's good for us.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The Blogroll, please! Allah Is In The House

With Allah we enter the ranks of the Mighty Bloggers.

Allah is one of a handful of bloggers who have raised satire to an art of ironic role playing, and Allah, the creator of worlds, is also the master of Photoshop, with an awareness of what's going on in the political scene that makes him seem omniscient. (Does Allah have a day job?)

But I found, when I e-mailed him about using a post for an editorial idea at my day job, that though his blog is an awesome blog, the mysterious Allah himself was more grateful than amused. Humility seems to run rampant among the bloggers I've had contact with, even the Mighty.

I supposed I should point out, for the linguistically faint-hearted, that Allah sometimes uses words formerly not allowed on the radio.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

The Blogroll please! Adeimantus

Adeimantus is a team blog started by a Houston attorney.

Posts range from WSJ-quality social commentary to classic Photoshop and satire.

They've accomplished a lot with their a blog, which has been around less than six months. I check in with them several times a week and always find something unique and bracing.

I wish I knew how to pronounce the name, though.


Blogiversaries are a good time for reflection, time to ask ourselves what we're doing here in front of the keyboard in our pajamas (OK, sometimes it's true) while the floors go unswept and the to-do lists grow longer. Mine is coming up on Oct. 29, and on my first day, I wrote "This is an experiment, to find out if I have anything to say." I changed the blog name after that (I'll stick with this one), the design sometime later (it'll change again if I ever get time), and the abiding topic a number of times after that.

I've done the quizzes, cast about for topics, gone link-fishing; I've written posts that I thought were important contributions to the discussion (of one thing or another) and others that I expected just to be an off-site storage for something I wanted to keep. I've learned some HTML and some Photoshop and have written for publication more or less every day. Overall, what I've gained from blogging is more valuable to me than the time I've put into it that I "should" have used for other things.

I've been interested in my readers, all 6,048 of them -- where they come from, why (if) they come back, whether they find my stuff too long, too short, too boring, too time-consuming, too ponderous, too frivolous, too pious, too irreverent (probably alternately all of the above) -- what they're looking for and whether they find it. Some are my face-to-face friends who want, for some reason, to know what I'm thinking about today. Others are in distant cities and check in frequently, and their return is more of a compliment than I can describe.

I got my first comment spam last week and deleted it with real pleasure; it was the passing of a milestone (for bigger bloggers, managing spam comments is probably more like the passing of a kidney stone, but I'm not there yet).

But the left side of this site--the blogroll--gives me more day-to-day pleasure than the right, so over the next week or few, I'll introduce the bloggers I read and why. I'll go alphabetically, so as not to miss anyone.

Friday, October 22, 2004

The Elvis factor

Professional optimist and Kerry supporter Thomas P.M. Barnett opines that Bush will win because, "I have said it before and I will say it again: the more optimistic candidate wins national elections." (He says it longer and in more detail--a worthwhile read.)

This is akin to my friend Susan's "Elvis factor": In every presidential election, either the Republican wins or the candidate with the highest Elvis factor. What exactly is the Elvis factor? Well, if you have to ask, I'm not sure I can explain it, but for my occasional visitors from Pakistan (that's a joke--Pakistanis probably know more about Elvis than Berkeleyites), I'll lay out a couple of the essentials--it's a down home, manly quality, with an edge.

Clinton had it. Andrew Jackson had it. Nixon had zero, but he was a Republican. Between Ford and Carter, Carter had slightly more of it. Go through the list. It works all the way back to the earliest days of the Republic.

Back to the present: between Bush and Kerry, who has the Elvis factor?

I'm afraid to be too optimistic (it's a private superstition of mine--that if I expect an outcome too complacently, it won't happen), but Bush seems to lead in both optimism and Elvisism.

We'll see.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A Bush hit piece aimed at undecided pro-lifers

Here's a piece that deserves a thorough fisking: Why abortion rate is up in Bush years.

This piece is appearing all over the media and the Internet and purports to show why pro-life voters should support abortion extremist John Kerry.
I, Glen, am a Christian ethicist, and trained in statistical analysis. I am consistently pro-life. My son David is one witness. For my family, "pro-life" is personal. My wife caught rubella in the eighth week of her pregnancy. We decided not to terminate, to love and raise our baby. David is legally blind and severely handicapped; he also is a blessing to us and to the world. Gary Krane is an investigative journalist.
Stassen is a longtime proponent of abortion rights within the Southern Baptist denomination. He signed a 1977 document, "A Call to Concern," which called for Southern Baptists to oppose "legal abolition of any and all abortion." He signed onto the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights in the late '70s. At the American Academy of Religion meeting in 2004, he presided over a program on ethics, religion and social services titled "Celebrating the Work of Larry Rasmussen," the same Larry Rasmussen whose book Ethics for a Small Planet was published by The Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health & Ethics and had an introduction written by Rosemary Radford Ruether, a founding director of Catholics for a Free Choice.

"Investigative journalist" Gary Krane is a Democratic operative who went looking for a Flash animator recently. He wrote: "I am an investigative journalist whose team has recently discovered that in contrast to the Clinton years when abortion rates dropped every year almost 2% per year, they have leveled and in some states gone up significantly. This is a bombshell that could decided this election, because about 50% of undecided voters are pro-life! We want to get this bombshell out as fast to as many people as possible, but of course have no funds. Will you help??"

I've got questions about their statistics, but right now I'm just point out that these are not the dispassionate observers that they pretend to be.
We look at the fruits of political policies more than words. We analyzed the data on abortion during the Bush presidency. There is no single source for this information -- federal reports go only to the year 2000, and many states do not report -- but we found enough data to identify trends. Our findings are disturbing.
It's true that the data are sketchy. The Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, goes only to 2000, as does the information at the Centers for Disease Control, both showing downward trends to 2000.
Abortion was decreasing. When President Bush took office, the nation's abortion rates were at a 24-year low, after a 17.4 percent decline during the 1990s. This was a steady decrease averaging 1.7 percent per year. (The data come from Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life using the Guttmacher Institute's studies.)

Enter George W. Bush in 2001. One would expect the abortion rate to continue its consistent course downward, if not plunge. Instead, the opposite happened.

We found four states that have posted three-year statistics: Kentucky's increased by 3.2 percent from 2000 to 2003. Michigan's increased by 11.3 percent from 2000 to 2003. Pennsylvania's increased by 1.9 percent from 1999 to 2002. Colorado's rates skyrocketed 111 percent. We found 12 additional states that reported statistics for 2001 and 2002. Eight states saw an increase in abortion rates (14.6 percent average increase), and four saw a decrease (4.3 percent average).
I found the site Krane was working from: William Robert Johnston has done fine research into the question. As Stassen and Krane said, most states do not have figures past 2000.

Johnston says, however, "For U.S. states, abortion ratios and percentages are based on abortion figures from different sources with different completeness; the mixed figures are not reliable time series."

Undaunted, the authors continue their political hit:
Under Bush, the decade-long trend of declining abortion rates appears to have reversed. Given the trends of the 1990s, 52,000 more abortions occurred in the United States in 2002 than would have been expected before this change of direction.
Note the year. If I remember correctly, something important happened in 2001 that affected the U.S. economy quite strongly, and it was not caused by the presidential administration. Nevertheless, the unemployment rate for 2002 ranged from 5.6 to 6.0 percent, lower than in 1990, when the abortion rate was at its historical plateau.
For anyone familiar with why most women have abortions, this is no surprise:

Two-thirds of women who have abortions cite "inability to afford a child" as their primary reason (Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life). In the Bush presidency, unemployment rates increased half again. Not since Herbert Hoover had there been a net loss of jobs during a presidency until the current administration. Average real incomes decreased, and for seven years the minimum wage has not been raised to match inflation. With less income, many prospective mothers fear another mouth to feed.
Yes, the unemployment rates increased from their bottom in April of 2000, but they are still in range with the rates of the Clinton administration, and lower than much of that period. Bush is not responsible for a recession that began before he took office, nor for the effects of 9/11.

But we were talking about abortion. Children beyond birth are also expensive; would the authors justify their murder as well?
Half of all women who abort say they do not have a reliable mate. And men who are jobless usually do not marry. In the 16 states, there were 16,392 fewer marriages than the year before, and 7,869 more abortions. As male unemployment increases, marriages fall and abortion rises.

Women worry about health care for themselves and their children. Since 5.2 million more people have no health insurance now than before this presidency -- with women of childbearing age overrepresented in those 5.2 million -- abortion increases.
As interesting as these women's reporting is, it has limited pertinence to determining social policy, because there's no way of knowing whether their assessment is correct. Would they have enough money? Would they have enough support? Could they find adoptive parents for their children? They don't know because they didn't try. How much does rationalization enter the picture? How much ignorance?
My wife and I know -- as does my son David -- that doctors, nurses, hospitals, medical insurance, special schooling and parental employment are crucial for a special child. David attended the Kentucky School for the Blind, as well as schools for children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities. He was mainstreamed in public schools as well. We have two other sons and five grandchildren, and we know that every mother, every father and every child needs public and family support.
If public support a la John Kerry is what is required to reduce the abortion rate, let's do a quick and dirty look at that bastion of sophisticated social policy: Canada. Johnston reports a Canadian abortion rate of 24.3 percent in 2000 (so we don't know what the Bush Administration did to the Canadian abortion rate either), compared to--hold your hats--24.4 percent in the United States. There's plenty of reason to implement a Canadian social-welfare system.
What does this tell us? Economic policy and abortion are not separate issues; they form one moral imperative. Rhetoric is hollow, mere tinkling brass, without health care, insurance, jobs, child care and a living wage. Pro-life in deed, not merely in word, means we need a president who will do something about jobs, health insurance and support for mothers.
It tells me that the authors are a couple of shills for the Democratic party who don't give a rip about the innocent unborn.

The smarmy self-righteousness of the ethics professor takes the cake though: "Congratulate me on not killing my blind son." Congratulations, Prof. Stassen. I wonder how the boy would feel about being used to promote the candidacy of a man who opposed the ban on partial-birth abortion and who has promised his pro-abortion supporters that any judge he appoints will keep the "right" to abortion in place.
Glen Stassen is the Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, in Pasadena, Calif. He can be e-mailed at

Krane is an independent investigative journalist in Philadelphia.Readers can write to him at 151 Tulpehocken, Philadelphia, PA 19144 or

I'm sure the authors would be happy to hear from us. Oh, and Gary is looking for a chick to go canoeing with after the election is over. He's going to need a break.

Monday, October 18, 2004


Either of these two reasons would be sufficient to vote for George W. Bush this year. Together they drown out every other pro or con.

  • The life issues:

  • Kerry is in favor of abortion without any restriction, including puncturing the baby's head with scissors and sucking the child's brains out.

    Bush is opposed to killing for the sake of convenience. He has ended government funding of abortion, signed the partial-birth abortion ban and held the line against government funding of embryonic stem-cell research.

  • Safety and security:

  • After 9/11, most of us understand that we have an implacable enemy -- ruthless, brutal and determine -- that wants to destroy our people and our culture. Kerry thinks the best way to fight this enemy is with international summits, waiting for the next attack so that Le Monde will say, "We are all Americans!" and then dispatching Inspector Clouseau to find Osama bin Laden so that Kerry can kill him with his bare hands. Kerry's zigzagging between UN symposia and Rambo rhetoric lurches between useless and delusional.

    Reasonable people might disagree with Bush's decision to take the fight against terrorism first to Afghanistan and then to Iraq, but reasonable people haven't come up with an alternative. Bush gives a hopeful, even inspiring, vision of human rights and freedom taking root around the world, beginning with people who have been under some of the most repressive regimes around. Will we win? I don't know, but I know that with Kerry we will certainly lose.

    Sunday, October 17, 2004

    On history and stories

    Our priest gave a sermon today about the difficulty of ascribing meaning to specific events in history, whether national or personal, especially events of loss. Why does a child get cancer? Why do terrorists destroy the Twin Towers? Why does America declare war on Iraq? Why (not his example, but I doubt he would disagree with it) do four hurricanes hit Florida within a month?

    The answer is in how we tell the story. My friend Barb observes that judgment is the flip side of grace, and that observation is related to the fact that in the Hero's Journey, the archetype at the core of every story, victory lies at the other side of death. I was thinking about the sermon and stories and history in the Liturgy today, when the words popped out at me: "remembering the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven and the second and glorious coming . . . ." That action, remembering those things, is the key to finding God's work in every instance, good or bad.

    To say that the way to Resurrection is through the Cross is not to say that the parents of a dead baby deserve their pain, nor is it to say, "Cheer up and get over it. Everything's hunky dory." The cross is the cross, and if the suffering is not real, then it's not suffering. The sufferer stands at his own crossroads--choosing the way of life (which passes through death to life) or the way of death (which passes through denial into bitterness and delusion and comes to a dead-end outside the wall of paradise). And the message, the route of that choice is the story.

    The story, however, comes afterward, at the appropriate time. It's a rare parent of a dead child who can see the glimmer of the resurrection in the midst of it, and it's a heartless "comforter" who expects the grief-stricken to do so. In fact, only a person who doesn't want to enter into the suffering--to experience "compassion"--would ask the sufferer to buck up and move on immediately. The Church gives a period of 40 days for the most intense mourning. In fact, the Church gives 40 days for all kinds of transitions--for mourning, for a mother to stay at home with a newborn, for the repentance of Lent, for the preparation of Advent--and 40 days seems to be a number written deep into our being: on a nature show about wolves, scientists observed that a wolf pack mourned about six weeks for one of its beta males who had died.

    At some point, the story is written--whether literally written or the oral history of a family ("Your older brother died before you were born, and now he's praying for you") or the private inner story each of us tells ourself each morning on the way about our day ("I survived that trauma, and this is the strength I bring to the world because of it"). Or the opposite: "What I owned was taken from me, and now the universe owes me recompense for my loss."

    America's slaves used to draw strength from the story of Moses and the Exodus; they appropriated that story as their own. The story put their suffering in context; it helped preserve the perception of their human dignity (not that the dignity could be lost, but its perception is important); the outcome of the Exodus gave a possible outcome for their slavery; and when a novelist took up their story and put a slave in a Christ-role, Uncle Tom's Cabin helped fire a movement that would lead to their freedom. By putting their story into that context, they were ennobled, and we all are, by the strength, dignity, culture and yet more stories that come out of it.

    Hosea lived the story of God's abiding faithfulness, but he lived it and illustrated it through humiliation and suffering. By living the story, he offers another iteration of the story for the next person who finds himself in a similar situation and wonders, "Why does God let this happen to me?" Looking to Hosea doesn't answer the "why?," but it can answer "how?" How can I live with this? How can I find meaning in the midst of it? In fact, that meaning may be exactly the answer to the "why," rather than something along the lines of "because you're such a schlemiel that you deserve it."

    We haven't found our story for 9/11 yet. We don't know the end of it--whether a new birth of freedom in the Middle East or the dark night of Sharia imposed throughout the West. We know a few stories--"Let's roll!", the NYFD heroes, private persons who either escaped or died in the attacks. But we haven't finished the big story that will explain it all for our children. Maybe it will take 40 years instead of 40 days. But the answers, when they come, will take the form of a story.

    Thursday, October 14, 2004

    The logic escapes me

    A commenter at Observations from an Empty Well has elicited a heavy sigh:
    Call me a one issue voter, but I'm going Kerry for the simple reason that he wants to let the Patriot Act expire without renewal.

    He is pro abortion, which is abominable, but the judges in this country wouldn't let president Bush ban even the amazingly unholy 'partial birth' abortions, so I see no diference between having the one in office versus having the other on that matter.

    The Patriot Act is the scariest thing I've ever encountered. Anyone who will let it die without reviving it has got my support on those grounds alone.
    Let me see if I understand this correctly.

    Because the U.S. Supreme Court has blocked repeated attempts to regulate abortion in this country, including Congress' ban on the "amazingly unholy 'partial birth' abortions," the writer is going to vote for the man who has been part of the party obstructing the nomination of U.S. judges in a manner that goes beyond the intent of the Constitution, and for the man who will nominate the next generation of pro-abortion ideologues to the Supreme Court.

    All this because the candidate says that he will allow the Patriot Act to lapse (even though he voted for it).

    And this great defender of the Constitution (who voted for the Patriot Act before he decided to let it lapse), when challenged by 527 groups working against his candidacy, attempts to use the Federal Communications Commission to shut them up.

    But he's going to receive the vote from Alexey, because the Patriot Act is the scariest thing Alexey has ever encountered.

    I can't answer for the quality of Alexey's scary encounters, but the Patriot Act doesn't rival the Alien and Sedition Act during the American Revolution; it doesn't meet up with the suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, nor is it as extreme as the Japanese internment. It's also not as scary as Sept. 11, 2001.

    The Patriot Act allowed the FBI and CIA to talk to each other, to attend public gatherings and read their enemies' web pages, to have the same powers to stop prospective bombers that they currently have to stop drug dealers and money launderers. Of course, ever since they threw Michael Moore and Barbra Streisand into federal prison, the Left has been understandably nervous.

    Oh, wait. Michael Moore is still depositing his royalties?

    Michael Moore's face is scarier than the Patriot Act.

    Wednesday, October 13, 2004

    What would happen if we used the pacifist's methods?

    Fr. John McCuen writes:
    And yet I can’t help but wonder how the world might have been changed if, after the terrorist attacks of 9-11, we had responded, . . . not striking back by declaring a war in which force meets force; but by saying, in words and deeds, “You cannot defeat us. No matter what you do, you shall not change our way of life. We shall prevail, and you shall not stop us.
    Actually, we did that after the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. And the U.S.S. Cole. And the bombings in Lebanon and Sudan. And the taking of hostages in Iran. (Well, we tried to do something in Sudan and Iran, but the actions were so ill-planned and half-heartedly launched that they didn't accomplish anything but the deaths of our own people.) We didn't do anything about the murderers of Leon Klinghoffer; and the murderers of the 17 Israeli athletes eventually went free.

    I respect pacifism, but pacifists should acknowledge that the methods of pacifism do not necessary lead to victory. More often, they lead to defeat. The pacifist does not sully his hands or his soul fighting the murderer, the rapist, the school bomber or the Nazi. The pacifist leaves Saddam in power and his sons in charge of the Olympic team and the rape rooms. The pacifist understands that suffering can lead to great spiritual depth and so does not try to keep evil from triumphing over the innocent. Or he will try, using words, and if words don't work, he will use more words. And if those don't work, then more words yet. It may not work -- yet more people die -- but the pacifist's conscience and hands are clean.

    If sin is evil, if murder destroys the soul of the murderer, then is it any gift to the murderer to be allowed to act unchecked? I know the answer I would give to that question, but I'm not a pacifist.

    Bus people 2

    The No. 35 Macadam bus stopped outside an elementary school and picked up 27 fourth- and fifth-graders on their way to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. There were parents with them, each with six kids to keep count of, and a teacher in his mid-30s, carrying a clipboard.

    They were good kids--they weren't hitting each other or calling each other names or committing destruction. But they were excited, and they raised the bus energy by about 400 percent. Some had never ridden the city bus before. I was near the front, where the girls sat. They all wanted to ride standing up and hanging onto the straps, as they'd seen in the movies, but they weren't quite tall enough for the straps, and so they kept jumping up to touch them. When the bus began to get crowded, a couple of the girls did stand up and found that keeping their feet while the bus was in motion was harder than it looked.

    A boy came up from back of the bus after he started to get motion sick. I told him a funny story about a dog, the late Strider, who went to sleep standing up after a hiking trip, and he told me about a dog, which he'd seen on a home-video TV show, that raided the refrigerator. He said his brother had sent in a video to that show, and the show had run it. When I asked what the video was about, he told me he couldn't say. It was a family secret. But his mom was in it, and she had just gotten out of the shower, and her hair was all messed up.

    He and his family had taken a Southwest trip recently that seemed to overlap ours a little bit. He asked if I had ever been to Las Vegas. Yes, just recently, I said. Where did you stay? Well, actually the hotel didn't honor our reservation and was going to charge us an extra $50 to stay there, so we didn't stay. The same thing happened to his family, he said (travelers, take note; apparently your Las Vegas reservations are worthless). But they stayed anyway, and he was impressed with the sights.

    Anyway, while they were on their trip, he and his mom and dad and brother were waiting for a table in a restaurant; the signal that their table was ready would be a buzzer. My seat companion made up a story for his family about a kid who farted so loud that the people in the next table over thought it was their buzzer. Just as he got to the part of the story where he was going to say the kid farted, the buzzer went off!

    They all got off at the first stop downtown, my seat companion calm and cool and slow and the last one off. He went out the back door as the teacher, clipboard in hand and a worried expression on his face, popped back in the front door for one last look over the passengers' faces to see if he'd missed any.

    Tuesday, October 12, 2004

    One author's utopia is another author's hell

    The "wise" Macintosh in Spider Robinson's The Callahan Touch has a utopian recipe for existential misery, if not species suicide.
    I dream of a world where humans have so little fear, so little to fear, that fear loses its obsessive fascination for them, its addictive rush. A world without superstition and ignorance and the ever-present risk of extinction souring and spoiling sleep and making paranoia seem a sensible attitude.
    What's wrong with this "ideal society" is the same thing that's wrong with the book: no conflict. The book is one big party, raucous laughter, misunderstandings leading to new friendships, every conflict resolved in the space of a chapter or two. Ho hum.

    Human beings with no problems will create problems. If they live in safety, then fear has a greater, not a smaller, fascination for them.

    Fear can either sour joy or be the dark backdrop where it shines, depending on the person's means of dealing with it.

    Traction is friction. Conflict is character in movement. Argument, practiced honestly, is indispensable to the pursuit of truth.

    And paranoia can be a sensible attitude, if they are out to get you.

    Don't cry for me, George W.

    I've been a fan of Deborah Tannen's for a long time. I've read four or five of her books on communication styles and learned a lot about listening and hearing differences deeper than language.

    Maybe she should go back and reread her own 1990 book on men's and women's conversation styles. In that book, she said that neither sex was wrong in its conversation style, just different, and that both needed to try to understand the other, so that better communication would occur.

    Well, men's conversation style isn't so good any more:
    Perhaps it was not by chance that it was a woman who asked the president, at the town hall debate last Friday, to list three instances in which he had made wrong decisions since taking office. If women react to Mr. Bush's made-no-mistake tactic the way they react to it when it is used by men in their lives, a majority may well be more angered than reassured.
    Unless, of course, it's Kerry who doesn't apologize. Because when the microphone passed to him during the debate, he didn't ante up with his own regrets and apologies, but continued point out where Bush went wrong.

    Which is exactly why men don't apologize anyway, because their opponents use the apology as an admission of weakness. If men's communication styles are different from women's, it might be because their entire way of relating to each other is different. I learmed that from Deborah Tannen.

    Another thing Ms. Tannen may have noticed is that there are no metrosexuals among Al-Qaeda (and I have a hunch that even Jacques Chirac is a metrosexual poser, but a sort of French cowboy deep down inside, like De Gaulle). Al-Qaeda are all MEN (not that there's anything wrong with that), who think of themselves as supermen. Our Islamist enemies hate and disrespect women, and they will naturally hate and disrespect any man who communicates like one.

    Of course, they already hate everything about the West, and apologies are not likely to get past that. But respect might get them to back down eventually.

    We've had an emoting president, with a trembling lip, and "I feel your pain" (when he wasn't feeling something else entirely), and quick on the draw with apologies. He had more fun as president than anyone else in history, and while he was president, we turned our backs on the action-adventure movie unfolding around the globe and focused on our own little chick flick back home--our eight-year Oprah presidency, with its relationships and betrayal and reconciliation. Then the action-adventure came and bit us in the butt.

    Thanks. Now I'll take a president with a steely eye, a set jaw and a willingness to accept the judgment of history.

    Monday, October 11, 2004

    The mind of John Kerry

    It's the John Kerry quote all the bloggers are quoting, the gotcha statement that Kerry was so afraid of making:
    When I asked Kerry what it would take for Americans to feel safe again, he displayed a much less apocalyptic worldview. "We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance," Kerry said. "As a former law-enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life."
    The reason it's a "gotcha," though, is that it reveals an attitude toward terrorism that a lot of people find disturbing in someone who wants to be the chief executive. "We have to get back," he says, to where the terrorists were a nuisance. A nuisance. Like when yet another suicide bomber topped the news. Like when yet another hotel was bombed. If it hadn't been for 9/11, would Americans have reacted in the same way to the Madrid train bombing, the Beslan school bombing, the Bali nightclub bombing? I don't know the answer to that, but until you've experienced something, it's hard to enter into it. Before 9/11, it was a nuisance.

    The NYT article opens with Kerry leaving the Capitol after the Pentagon was bombed. He related in another context that he and his colleagues spent 40 minutes after the bombings unable to think. I can relate. It was more like a couple of days or weeks for me, but I can relate. Kerry tells the NYT reporter that he hasn't changed as a result of 9/11. The reporter at first thinks Kerry is afraid of being accused of flipflopping, but then he says:
    What I came to understand was that, in fact, the attacks really had not changed the way Kerry viewed or talked about terrorism -- which is exactly why he has come across, to some voters, as less of a leader than he could be. He may well have understood the threat from Al Qaeda long before the rest of us. And he may well be right, despite the ridicule from Cheney and others, when he says that a multinational, law-enforcement-like approach can be more effective in fighting terrorists. But his less lofty vision might have seemed more satisfying -- and would have been easier to talk about in a political campaign -- in a world where the twin towers still stood.
    All that is interesting, why should it take a good reporter to tease it out of him?
    When I asked Kerry's campaign advisers about these poll numbers, what I heard from some of them in response was that Kerry's theories on global affairs were just too complex for the electorate and would have been ignored -- or, worse yet, mangled -- by the press. "Yes, he should have laid out this issue and many others in greater detail and with more intellectual creativity, there's no question," one adviser told me. "But it would have had no effect."

    This is, of course, a common Democratic refrain: Republicans sound more coherent because they see the world in such a rudimentary way, while Democrats, 10 steps ahead of the rest of the country, wrestle with profound policy issues that don't lend themselves to slogans. By this reasoning, any proposal that can be explained concisely to voters is, by definition, ineffective and lacking in gravitas. Other Kerry aides blame the candidate and his coterie of message makers, most of whom are legendary for their attack ads but less adept at thinking about broad policy arguments. "If you talk about this the right way, then the American people, or most of them, will get it," one of Kerry's informal advisers told me. "But you've got to have guts."
    It takes "guts," not only to fight terrorists (and at the debates Kerry sounds like he's planning to go Rambo and hunt them down and kill them with his bare hands) but also to tell the electorate what you've got in mind. He doesn't really trust us to understand what's in our best interest. He has the same view of democracy in the Middle East:
    Kerry, too, envisions a freer and more democratic Middle East. But he flatly rejects the premise of viral democracy, particularly when the virus is introduced at gunpoint. "In this administration, the approach is that democracy is the automatic, easily embraced alternative to every ill in the region," he told me. Kerry disagreed. "You can't impose it on people," he said. "You have to bring them to it. You have to invite them to it. You have to nurture the process."
    What he's not observing is that our guns are not pointed at the electorate in Iraq or Afghanistan, but at the people who would prevent them from voting.

    But here's the exchange that reveals the Kerry who could become president:
    On an evening in August, just after a campaign swing through the Southwest, Kerry and I met, for the second of three conversations about terrorism and national security, in a hotel room overlooking the Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica pier. A row of Evian water bottles had been thoughtfully placed on a nearby table. Kerry frowned.

    "Can we get any of my water?" he asked Stephanie Cutter, his communications director, who dutifully scurried from the room. I asked Kerry, out of sheer curiosity, what he didn't like about Evian.

    "I hate that stuff," Kerry explained to me. "They pack it full of minerals."

    "What kind of water do you drink?" I asked, trying to make conversation.

    "Plain old American water," he said.

    "You mean tap water?"

    "No," Kerry replied deliberately. He seemed now to sense some kind of trap. I was left to imagine what was going through his head. If I admit that I drink bottled water, then he might say I'm out of touch with ordinary voters. But doesn't demanding my own brand of water seem even more aristocratic? Then again, Evian is French -- important to stay away from anything even remotely French.

    "There are all kinds of waters," he said finally. Pause. "Saratoga Spring." This seemed to have exhausted his list. "Sometimes I drink tap water," he added.
    We need someone who can actually answer a question about what sort of water he'll drink, not to mention his philosophy about how the world should be organized.

    Friday, October 08, 2004

    Where was Kerry this time?

    Again with the Zelig Candidate?

    During the debate, Kerry said: "I was in Kyoto. I was part of it. I know what happened."

    Well, was he? He is saying he was part of the delegation (that's why he knows so much about it), not just that he went on a vacation there around the same time. Is this another Christmas in Cambodia? Another "I was at the signing of the 1991 Iraq peace accords"?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

    Library people

    She comes to the library table, huge in her green coat and overfilled leggings, wheezing like a fireplace bellows, and looks at me uncertainly. I've allowed the book I was looking at to wander outside my territory on the table. I move the book and tell her that no one is sitting there, and she sits across from me and sets down a stack of books on witchcraft, tarot, astrology and palmistry. She is in her late teens to mid-20s, and her hair comes out of her scalp dark blonde, then switches to electric pink, then strawberry, then faded orangy-red where it ends just at her shoulders.

    She hunches over Spells for Teenage Witches; the chubby hands that hold the book have dark dimples where the knuckles would be. She looks at the texts with an expression of profound and perplexed concentration, her eyebrows formed into ~'s over her eyes, her mouth hanging open slightly.

    The teen witch books show bright-eyed blondes--thin, tan, cheerleader types, the image of the "successful" witch. I wonder what she expects to find in the pages of those books. A job in a house with "PALM READER" in the window? Money and tans and a good figure? A paper for an English class? A glimpse of a world beyond?

    She leaves the remainders on the table: Advanced Wiccan Spirituality, Spells for Teenage Witches, Springtime Rituals Love & Celebration, The Forest of Souls.

    Of course someone could pity my unrealistic dreams when I walk away from the book I've been looking at: Screenwriting Updated: New (and Conventional) Ways of Writing for the Screen. What does she want, this pitying person could blog. Money, tans and a good figure? A job in a house with "SCREENWRITER" on her calling card? An educational opportunity? A glimpse of her world on a magic screen?

    Every shelf here contains worlds and worlds; and every pair of eyes looking at them also.

    Thursday, October 07, 2004

    Just in case she was wondering

    She said, "How can Catholics vote for a Protestant against a man who shares their faith, just because [the Protestant] agrees with the church on this one issue."

    Her interlocutor nodded and murmured agreement.

    "I've always wondered about that," she said. "And how can they support pro-abortion Republicans like Arnold Schwarzenegger?"

    What is the basis for electoral loyalty? Must Catholics vote for Catholics? Baptists for Baptists? Orthodox for Orthodox?

    If Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D., Maryland, Orthodox, pro-abortion) is running against Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah, LDS, anti-abortion), am I obliged to vote for Sarbanes?

    I don't think so.

    This is not about Sarbanes' relation to the Church or his relation to God, about the present state of his soul or his eternal salvation. I'm in no position to judge any of those things, and they make no difference anyway. If St. Basil the Great were running for the Oregon Senate, I'd consider his record and experience against that of his opponent. Sanctity doesn't prove competence--or vice versa.

    I've observed that politicians' stated religious affiiliation is frequently an anti-predictor in life issues. Reagan was Presbyterian; Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are Southern Baptist; George W. Bush is Methodist; John Kerry is Catholic. (There are Catholics who are pro-life--Henry Hyde comes to mind--but I don't know of any pro-life Orthodox). If life issues are high on your list of priorities, then you need to look further than denominations.

    If she had asked me--and maybe she was wise not to--she would have found that alhough Republicans have a reputation for simplistic black-and-white decisions, in fact, they also weigh priorities with a complicated calculus. A pro-abortion candidate who opposes government payment for abortion is superior to a pro-abortion candidate who has never found an abortion he was willing to oppose. A statement of "personal opposition to" abortion does not trump a signature on a law banning partial-birth abortion.

    Some people's view of the "common good" and "economic justice" includes leaving people as much of their money as possible to spend as they deem best.

    Some people believe that war can lead to a net reduction in mayhem and murder.

    And I may walk to the Communion cup behind Paul Sarbanes, private citizen and Orthodox Christian, and put my mark beside his opponent's name in the voting booth and not consider that I've withheld appropriate loyalty from anyone.

    She doesn't read this blog, but just in case someone was wondering.

    Wednesday, October 06, 2004

    Bus people 1

    He(?) got on the bus downtown, and he wore a uniform for [Acme] Transport with various Kerry-Edwards campaign buttons. His hair was cut in reverse mullet--short around the back and sides but the top pulled into a ponytail that hung down to the nape of his neck.

    There was a youthful, immature, even innocent quality about him, so that I would have guessed him to be in his early 20s or even late teens, but his hair was threaded with silver and he was already developing a wattle under his chin. His overall build was feminine -- not Miss America feminine, but dumpy, real-world feminine, with broad hips, small, soft hands and well-tended, squared-off nails, a fleshy face with downturned eyes behind wire-rimmed glasses and a whispy black mustache. If it hadn't been for that mustache, I'd have pegged him for a lesbian. With the mustache, he left me with the initial question mark uneasily resolved for "he."

    He was talking on a cell phone, long pauses punctuated by "Right."

    Tuesday, October 05, 2004

    What we get instead of hurricanes

    When we were in Louisiana, my daughter said she'd couldn't understand why anyone would live in Florida because of the hurricanes. I said they could be bad, though not usually this bad, but ecverywhere you go has its own share of disasters.

    When we got home, Mount St. Helens was in the news.

    The first time it blew in living memory was May 18, 1980. I remember the day, because my husband and I were in St. Louis, saying goodbye to friends, with a loaded U-Haul trailer on the back of our 1976 Chevy van. We were moving to Oregon. Gary said, "You're getting fireworks up there."

    A couple of days later, May 20 or 21 or so, we were on the high plains of southern Idaho running into a strong headwind that carried a thick pink dust. We had to stop a couple of times to wash off the radiator. I asked the clerk in a gas station if it always blew like that, and she just shrugged.

    It was the blast from the volcano.

    That first explosion blew the top off one of the most perfectly formed snowcaps of the Cascades. A pristine mountain lake is no more. Millions of board feet of timber were blow down in the blast, and 57 people died, among them the famous Harry Truman (well, not that Harry Truman, not quite that famous), who lived in a cabin on the side of the mountain and refused to leave and at least one photographer shooting the blast when it came his way. The Toutle River has never returned to its pre-volcano condition after the tons of mud and debris went flowing down it.

    In July that year, the mountain sent up another plume of dust, and we woke the next morning to what looked like an unseasonable fall of pink snow. The wind had blown the ash our way. It was a quarter-inch thick on the streets, foliage, cars, everything. Whenever the wind blew, it picked up clouds of silicon-based dust. People walked the streets wearing dust masks or bandit-style bandanas for a couple of months.

    Mount St. Helens is between Seattle and Portland in a sparsely populated area of Washington.

    The thing to know, though, is that Mount St. Helens is not the only volcano in the Cascades. Mount Lassen in northern California is fairly active; Mount Hood, about 60 miles east of Portland, last erupted in 1790, a minute ago in volcano time, and is listed as an active volcano by the U.S. Geological Survey. It's not likely to be as devastating an explosion as St. Helens, though. Mount Rainier last erupted in 1840, and it has a history of mudflows that could be devastating to the Seattle metropolitan area.

    I'ver heard that busloads of school kids have been heading out toward Mount St. Helens for volcano observation trips. I appreciate the impetus; it's a stunning sight -- powerful, beautiful and awe-ful, a small hint of planetary processes. But busloads of kids? It's not a tame mountain.

    Saturday, October 02, 2004

    Dinosaurs huddle together as shrews rampage

    The people who had the temerity to question Dan Rather's authority are part of a "political jihad," says Tom Brokaw, another anchor at the end of his career.
    Rather, Brokaw and Peter Jennings spoke to reporters Saturday about the abysmal lack of respect accorded journalistic royalty in this country.

    "I don't think you ever judge a man by only one event in his career," said Jennings, anchor on ABC.

    Anyway, this isn't about Rather. "News executives" (I speculate that means legal staff) had told Rather not to say anything about Rathergate while the investigation was under way.

    He did, apparently, have permission to whine about his bad treatment, and managed to raise an interesting question:
    "If the country is in dire peril, as the president of the United States says it is ... I want to be a patriotic journalist," he said. "You know that the role of the patriotic journalist is to put your fear aside, stand up, look them in the eye, ask the rough questions. But you also know that when you do that, you're going to get hammered.... So what happens is you just say ... maybe tomorrow."

    Never mind that if he had actually said "maybe tomorrow" about the fake documents, he wouldn't be in this mess, and never mind that everybody else has to learn that no good deed goes unpunished, that sometimes courage means doing what you believe in in the face of criticism, but focus on the fact that he wants to be a "patriotic journalist."

    Patriotism has become the most coveted personal quality of the 2004 election season. Kerry and his advocates earnestly protest that any criticism of their stated policies or voting record is a foul attempt to denigrate their patriotism, and in the same speech will specifically say that their enemies are not patriotic. In a speech calling for more civility in political debate, Teresa Heinz Kerry referred to "un-American traits" at the Democratic convention, though she later declined to explain what she meant by that.

    So what is "patriotism"? Is "un-Americanism" its opposite? "Anti-Americanism"? If so, what are they and how do they differ from each other?

    Is it a love of the land? If so, what is that? A feeling? Aesthetic enjoyment? Appreciation of the major landmarks?

    Is it love of the people? All of them? Even the tiresome ones who are not like us (whoever your "us" happens to be)?

    Is there such a thing as a love for the entity as a whole? A willingness to sacrifice to preserve it? What if one person's view of "preservation" seems to fit another's definition of "destruction"?

    I've been reading The Kalahari Typing School for Men. At one point, the protagonist thinks about her admirable father, and she speaks with pride about her country, Botswana, about its lack of scandal, its honor, the honesty and uprightness of the people and leadership. I know nothing about Botswana, but her patriotism--for it was certainly that--seemed of an innocent sort, the kind that Americans may have had when teachers told the story about Washington and the cherry tree. But now we know about the Trail of Tears, the scandal of Watergate and the perjury of a sitting president. We know about the Teapot Dome and the continuing criticism of the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, the Japanese internment, and on and on and on.

    There has to be a patriotism that survives disillusionment.

    But if anyone is disillusioned, it's someone like Dan Rather. He says he wants to be a "patriotic journalist," but he flings the word around as if it has a meaning. In fact, journalists have been trying to come to terms with the "patriotic" designation for a while, without much success.

    Here is a PBS NewsHour discussion of the topic from November 2001, soon after ABC News President David Westin, asked whether he thought the Pentagon was a legitimate military target on Sept. 11, 2001, replied, "I actually don't have an opinion on that, and it's important I not have an opinion on that as I sit here in my capacity right now. As a journalist, I feel strongly that's something that I should not be taking a position on."

    Jonah Goldberg compares these conflicted motivations with the World War II reporters.
    There were more than 35,000 pictures of FDR taken. Two show him in a wheelchair. Why? Because the press almost unanimously agreed that — despite the huge news value — depicting FDR as a cripple would be bad for the war effort. The few dissenting photographers from that consensus were routinely blocked or deliberately jostled by the senior photographers so as to shield FDR from embarrassment and the public from its "right to know."
    Bob Steele, director of the Poynter Institute's ethics program, wrote a column titled "Patriotism and Journalism" and didn't get any further than more questions:
    Must a journalist accept the patriotic absolutism championed by President Theodore Roosevelt? "There can be no 50-50 Americanism in this country," the Rough Rider roared in 1918. "There is room here for only 100 percent Americanism, only for those who are Americans and nothing else."

    Or, can a journalist uphold the passion of patriotism advocated by presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson in 1952? "I venture to suggest that patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion," Stevenson offered, "but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime."
    A commenter on his site makes a telling observation:
    Right after 9/11 I was working at one of the newsrooms that forbade their anchors from wearing red, white, and blue ribbons on air. The news directors' reasoning behind this was it was "taking sides". I found this insane at first, but then thought about it and realized we are totally suppossed to be unbiased and showing American bias counts. How can you trust international coverage of a station that wraps itself in red, white and blue.
    I'm not getting any closer to a definition that satisfies my own mind, but here's the Google page if you want to chase the question some more.

    If a politician can't define patriotism, he really shouldn't say that other people don't have it. If a professional journalist isn't sure whether he ought not be above all that attachment to any one country, then he shouldn't wrap himself in a flag when someone criticizes his professionalism.

    SOURCE: Allah

    Friday, October 01, 2004

    Quotidian detailia

    Today I rode the bus to work for the first time in years.

    Before the girls arrived, I worked downtown and couldn't afford the parking. I loved the bus, despite its occasional inconveniences, like being caught seemingly for hours in sweltering heat with windows that didn't open, aside from the occasional loudmouth bore, aside from the occasional obnoxious drunk--or maybe because of them even more than the quiet, thoughtful people reading or listening to music or just looking out the window.

    But when you drive from suburb to outer city with plenty of parking and you need to be back when school's out or you need to truck kids off to games or appointments or lessons, the extra hour added to each direction of the commute just doesn't work.

    But suddenly they're young adults, with jobs and driver's licenses, and I can leave them to their own devices and ride the bus to work. Even with the extra hour each way--especially with the extra hour--even with the noise and the bores and the walking--especially with the walking.

    The downtown is full of energy and life, a statuesque young woman carrying a Gap shopping bag and walking at a quick clip down the sidewalk, a woman in a Fair Isle sweater and turtleneck (on a day in the upper 70s), her brown hair cut into what used to be called a pageboy style, looking wearily into the distance, a man who reminds me of the legendary Father Bliven, a couple of decades younger, reading a book that looks from here like a travel guide (appropriate for Fr. Bliven), on a day that's in the running for Most Beautiful of 2004.

    I've got to get myself a bus bag before next week, and then it will be GOOD.

    Unrelated observation: A sign at the Greek Festival said, "Do not take alcohol off church property." I also love the Greeks.