Who can forget Mitt Romney’s fateful campaign line, “Corporations are people too, my friend?” It was just the kind of rhetorical faux pas that reinforced the developing narrative of Romney as a soulless plutocrat.
Who can forget Mitt Romney’s fateful campaign line, “Corporations are people too, my friend?” It was just the kind of rhetorical faux pas that reinforced the developing narrative of Romney as a soulless plutocrat.
I’m not a Catholic woman, but Mrs. Lowe Down is, and she’s with me on this: The Church wouldn’t have nearly as many institutional problems if women had more of a leadership role in its governance.
One cardinal from Ghana or someplace was recently quoted as saying that the Devil was present in the church at this time, and that it needed someone young and strong to fight him. It seems to me that the Devil always has a field day when a few good old boys get together and pull up the ladder to the tree house behind them. For starters, egos run rampant and they immediately set about trying to arm-wrestle one another, figuratively speaking, to find out who’s top dog. Smart decisions are rarely made under these conditions.
Women would not only have a moderating, calming influence (nobody wants to look like a jackass in front of them), but they would also tend to keep the focus off testosterone and on achieving the stated goal, which is the selection of a leader with a steady hand who would safely navigate the vessel of Holy Mother Church through the turbulent waters of iniquity.
The argument has always been that Jesus surrounded Himself with men to be His disciples, therefore He must have felt that only men were worthy to carry on the mission of His church. I think the reasons for this were societal, and not because He wouldn’t have picked a woman had the mores of the time not been so restrictive. In those days, honorable women tended the home fires. The only kind of woman who could wander around with a bunch of unemployed men back then was a prostitute — shunned by polite society — and it’s significant that Jesus chose one of these to be among His entourage. Chances are she gave Him some wise advice about how to run His ministry while she was busy washing His feet. And then there’s the Virgin Mary, without whom there’d be no Church, no Vatican, nada.
Surely the time has come for Rome to consider entering the twentieth century, now that we’re already well into the twenty-first. The Holy Spirit doesn’t discriminate by gender. Why should Man?
Here in America, the land of the free, we freely pass laws designed to showcase our detestation for those unlike the majority (for example, my former home state of Oklahoma passed legislation banning Sharia Law⎯as if it were a real threat to the Sooner State, or as if the legislators even knew what it was they were outlawing). The same with sanctimoniously titled and thinly disguised legislation like the “Defense of Marriage Act.”
With all due respect, the Pope’s recent pronouncement that same-sex marriage undermines the future of humanity only tells us that His Holiness spends too much time cooped up in Castel Gandolfo.
When you tick off the biggest problems the world faces, you realize that the issues that really undermine the future of humanity⎯like climate change, hunger, poverty and the pollution of our resources--are the result of overpopulation. The Catholic Church, thanks to its stance on birth control, is doing everything it can to exacerbate this problem. You’d think that gay couples, which tend with some exceptions to adopt children when they want to start a family, would be something the Church might welcome as alleviating in some small way the sufferings of the flock.
First off, I’ll tell you what I always say to the checkout clerk when she sees my credit card and asks the inevitable question. “Yeah, I’m the owner’s nephew,” I respond. “You know about my family discount, right?”
She never believes me, either.
There’s a reality show on cable TV I haven’t seen, called “All-American Muslim,” which follows five Dearborn, Michigan, Muslim families around in the course of their daily lives. The theme, I understand, is that they are no more or less American than non-Muslim families. It’s a popular show, which is a good thing, because it gives the correct impression that being a Muslim has nothing to do with being un-American or subversive.
I like to think of South Florida as a social laboratory because there are so many of us who are transplants and transients that we’ve created a heterogeneity of culture, background and religion almost unknown in other communities.
Life is a little different here, as evidenced by our annual spats over whose religious symbols ought to be allowed to appear next to whose, or whether they ought to appear at all. The cities of Boca Raton and Weston, fed up with the contentiousness, have taken the radical step of eliminating them altogether, like mothers who ban crayons around the house because the kids can’t be trusted to use them responsibly.
If there ever were an argument for fairly drawn state legislative districts, this is it.
Florida’s overwhelmingly Republican legislature is planning to revisit the hoary school prayer issue. It isn’t because our elected public servants care that much about religion. This is for back-home consumption. If the United States Supreme Court would allow them, they’d pass a law making the New Testament a required course for the FCATs without batting an eye.
It’s win-win, as far as they’re concerned. They can self-righteously pontificate about the importance of religion and prayer in a child’s upbringing, conveniently ignoring that children have plenty of places outside of school to develop their spiritual identities… like church, for example (I didn’t say “temples,” or “mosques,” because we all know that isn’t the brand of spirituality they’re talking about). Cynical? Shux, cain't even spell the word. Jus' lookin' out for our kids, that's all.
So this is what it’s all about. This is what the supporters of the Defense of Marriage Act have been so passionately protecting: The right of Kim Kardashian to make a multi-million-dollar TV spectacle out of a supposedly sacred act, then void it at her whim seventy-two days later.
Meanwhile, George Takei⎯better known as Mr. Sulu on the original Star Trek series⎯was on the tube last night. He came out many years ago, before coming out was even cool. Last night, he shared that he and his partner had been married in all but name for twenty-four years. Yet, in his state, he is not legally allowed to sanctify that bond in the same ceremony so spectacularly and ostentatiously sullied by Ms. Kardashian.
Talk about having the whole shebang blow up in their faces! Back during the height of Weinergate--or Twittergate, or whatever silly name you care to put on it--Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid and the rest of the Democratic congressional leadership were falling all over themselves to railroad America’s favorite exhibitionist out of office.
They could perform with such sanctimony because they knew with certitude--to borrow one of former Congressman Weiner’s more famous utterances--that his district would remain in Democratic hands, as it had since the 1920s. There is no grandstander like a pol who can pontificate risk-free. Had Weiner’s NY 9 been less politically reliable, the calls for his resignation would, no doubt, have been much more muted.
It’s only human nature, when something occurs that offends our sensibilities, to round up the usual scapegoats. It happened again with the Norway tragedy. Evidently the Norwegians suffer from the same prejudices the rest of us do. They reflexively assumed at first that the perpetrator was a Muslim extremist, and, like the rest of the world, were surprised to find out he was a Christian anti-Islamist.
A corollary to this mindset is the reluctance to apply the word “terrorism” to terrorist acts perpetrated by non-Muslims. You rarely, if ever, hear the phrase, “Oklahoma City terrorism,” while “9/11” and “terrorism” are terms forever conjoined.
This concerns a picayune local story, but like so many local stories, it has national implications.
Normally, we touchy South Floridians save the religious antics for the holiday season, but this year the ACLU jumped the gun. It has written a letter to Plantation, FL officials indicating that their public holiday display, featuring only a nativity scene and a menorah, is still out of compliance with the Constitution because it leaves out symbols representing all the other religions of the world.
Last month, when the New York State Legislature passed same-sex marriage, I drew a similar cartoon that sought to point out the inappropriateness of judging a whole group of people based upon the way they were born.
To judge them thus is exactly the same as judging people because of the color of their skin. It’s a convenient dodge to assert that being gay is a matter of choice; that enables the so-called righteous among us to then class it as a sin of commission, and thereby apply their arbitrary rules to it. Condemnation is the natural next step.
The U.S. Constitution, civics teachers like to say, is the defining document of who we are as a people. I would prefer to say that it’s the definition of the people we strive to be.
It’s when we tend to follow our natural herd instinct, rather than act like the inspired residents of the shining city on the hill, that we most need to refresh our memories as to the spirit behind our guiding charter. For the individual citizens of a nation to be truly free, the whole must be tolerant of, inclusive toward, and blind to differences between its parts. It’s right there in the establishment clause.
So if you’re the neighbor of a proposed mosque in West Boynton Beach, a mosque that is to be constructed on land that has been zoned specifically for a house of worship for years, it’s a little late to start complaining. You can’t suddenly decide that a mosque wasn’t what you had in mind, that you’d rather see a church or a temple next door to your development. The Constitution, basically, says, “Tough.”
If you look hard enough, you can find an upside to almost anything, even the End of Days.
If Harold Camping and his disciples are right, and Rapture arrives tomorrow afternoon, then those of us sure to be left behind won’t have to put up with those irritating holier-than-thou types anymore. We can spend the three-hundred-odd days left to us reading Darwin’s Origin of Species and doing some good honest sinnin’ without the self-righteous legislating morality into our lives through their minions in the Republican Party.
We’ll be able to do what we want with whomever we want in our own bedrooms and marry anybody we want, regardless of the other person’s gender. Women will have unfettered access to abortions, if they find them necessary, without the morality police prying into their personal lives.
Hey, talk about bait-and-switch. We didn’t elect these guys to go up to Tallahassee to try to singlehandedly repeal Roe v. Wade. They told us they’d create jobs, jobs, jobs. The only job openings I see in our state’s future are for sonogram technologists.
They know this is their chance, their golden moment when all the planets are in alignment⎯a Republican Cabinet, huge Republican majorities in both houses of the legislature, and a governor who would happily sign legislation forbidding people from traveling too far out to sea because they might fall off the edge of the earth, if it were placed before him.
Maybe the electorate is beginning to tire of the relentless talk about jobs, the economy and the deficit. If we Americans are known for anything, it’s the brevity of our national attention span.
Lately, we’ve been hearing the siren call (some call it “dog whistle”) of some old, familiar themes—mostly enunciated by Republican presidential hopefuls seeking to burnish their appeal with notoriously culturally conservative Iowa caucus-goers.
There’s been a resurgence of the hot-button social issues in congress, too, in the form of an attempt to cut Planned Parenthood’s budget, and the decision by the house to go ahead and defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court (since that amoral faux-Christian foreigner in the White House won’t do it).
What the Westboro Baptist Church people are doing is so repugnant, so outside the bounds of human decency, that many of us hoped the Supreme Court would blow them out of the water.
Surely, we thought, their vicious hate speech and bizarre antics at military funerals⎯mocking the idea of military service to one’s nation and subjecting the families of the dead to further misery⎯constitute an abuse of the First Amendment.
Navigating their way through this fog of anger, however, eight justices of the Court realized that the beauty of the First Amendment lies in the fact that it can’t be abused. Other than crying “Fire!” in a crowded theater or inciting to riot, just about anything goes.
There are two kinds of “American Way.” The one we prefer to dwell upon is the one based on idealistic principles like fairness, equality, and opportunity. The Bill of Rights embodies this kind of American Way. It’s the kind that prompts a tightening of the throat when we hear God Bless America being sung.
The other is the characterization we all too often tend to slide into as a nation: vindictive, xenophobic, paranoid, isolationist, racist, willfully ignorant.
While our better sides define our nationhood by a concept and not by race, ethnicity, religion or culture, our worse sides find that we need an “other” to demonize in order to achieve that warm “e pluribus unum” feeling. There was a time when the “other” was black, and we repressed him. Or he was an Indian, and we massacred him. Or he was a Communist, and we ruined him professionally and personally. Now, our most convenient goat has become the American Muslim.
When my grandmother hit her mid-nineties, it became too much of a hardship for her to hoof it the three blocks to the Polish church every Sunday. Instead, the priest came to her house once a month with his little bag to hear her confession and administer the Holy Eucharist.
There in her living room, beneath the hand-tinted photograph of the man she knew as Jan Pawel II⎯who occupied the second position in her pantheon of heroes just beneath Liberace⎯she made her confession in Polish, presumably because God would think she was trying to fudge it if she did it in her limited English.
It didn’t take long. She once said to me, “I old lady, ninety-six years old. What’s left to confess?”
Still, she did it regularly. It was important to her, and I’ve never seen a lady more at peace with her life and her maker than Nana.
This cartoon is pretty self-explanatory, so I won’t muddy it up with more commentary.
In an act of cross-pollination that would bring tears of joy to the eyes of the Sun Sentinel’s online editor, our award-winning business writer Paul Owers will be posting the above effort on the blog he co-authors, House Keys, as a Christmas gift to his long-suffering readers.
I say “long-suffering” not because of Paul’s writing, but because his job is to chronicle in exquisite detail the flounderings of the South Florida real estate market, which is one of the engines that drives our local economy. Well, it would be, if somebody hadn’t stolen the spark plugs.
If you wake up in the morning with a case of what Alan Greenspan once called “irrational exuberance,” one glance at Paul’s blog will immediately set you back in balance. I work about six feet away from Paul, and by the time he’s through doing the phone reporting for a story you want to slit your throat. Frankly, I don’t know how he manages to maintain his sunny demeanor in the face of such relentless bad tidings.
In any case, the black humor of this drawing, I feel, is a perfect fit. Since our readership probably doesn’t overlap much, we thought it might be a good idea to give each other’s blog a holiday plug.
And on that note, I’d like to wish my readers a better year in 2011. I think we all deserve it.
As sure as bullets fall from the sky at New Year’s, here in Florida Thanksgiving means the start of religious protest season.
Yes, the holidays tend to bring out the essence of who we are as a people…petty, vindictive, parochial and selfish. What can I say that hasn’t been said already?
Well, there’s this: the Florida Turnpike Enterprise has now banned holiday displays of any kind from its tollbooths (which until now have been provided at their own expense and initiative by the toll-takers, presumably to add a little joy to an otherwise distasteful operation for all parties) because some Christians complained that Halloween decorations were Satanic.
My favorite is today’s legalistic twist from the Catholic League out of New York (we Floridians are perfectly capable of stirring up our own teapot tempests without outside interference, thank you very much), which has weighed in with a complaint that the City of Boca Raton, by placing a menorah, a Christmas tree and a “Happy Holidays” sign alongside one another in a public building is practicing discrimination against Christians.
If you subscribe to the notion--as I do--that people fear what is alien to them and demonize that which they fear, then it would follow that education and exposure are the best antidotes for this poisonous formula.
There is a theory (not original with me) that the reason the coastal states, such as California, Oregon, Washington and those in New England tend to be the most progressive politically is that their port cities were exposed from their inception to commerce from around the world. With commerce came broader intellectual horizons and familiarity with foreign cultures. With familiarity came appreciation and respect.
The interior states, conversely, did not benefit from direct contact with the outside world. They were by nature more insular, grew to maturity in a cultural echo chamber, and as a result are less tolerant today of thoughts and influences unlike their own.
Maybe this is an overly general assessment, but I could not help but think of the above when I heard that Pastor Jones (as of this writing, still a “standby” Quran-burner…evidently there’s a continuing problem with static in the lines between God and His humble servant) bragged that he had not read the very book he intended to destroy. Nor, he claimed, had he ever met a Muslim until yesterday.
When I lived in Oklahoma decades ago, there was a minister very high up in the hierarchy of the Southern Baptist Convention who allowed as how God Almighty did not hear the prayers of a Jew, because those prayers were not routed through Jesus Christ.
Rather than condemn him, some Jewish groups got together and sent him on an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel for a couple of weeks. He came back a changed man, and publicly repented his earlier statements.
When we do not feel threatened, we Americans are, at heart, an inclusive people. Maybe that kind of exposure is all we really need to regain familiarity with our true nature.
When the Founding Fathers bequeathed upon future generations the perpetual gift of the First Amendment, they probably gave some thought to the downside.
Unlimited free expression, while clearly the cornerstone of a strong democracy when made use of by responsible citizens, also cleared the soapboxes for all manner of speech: seditious, hateful, ugly and divisive.
Evidently, they decided that the positives outweighed the negatives, that a society rendered strong by the exercise of individual freedoms would be better able to withstand recklessness within its ranks without having to resort to dreaded (and self-destructive) censorship.
The fact that the nation has been having a lively debate about the intention by a small church in Gainesville to stage a mass burning of Islam’s most holy scripture is testimony to the Founding Fathers’ wisdom. While the behavior of these people repels us and makes us wince, it is behavior we must endure for the sake of our collective welfare.
Muslims around the world who do not appreciate niceties like our guarantees under the Bill of Rights assume that by allowing the burning to occur, the United States is tacitly condoning the act. All Americans will be tarred by it.
If you have any doubts about that, just think for a moment how many Americans believe that all Muslims are terrorists, based on the acts of a handful of madmen back in 2001, and how many of us have been mailing copies of the Quran to Gainesville to help fuel the flames.
All that “hearts and minds” stuff we’re trying to do in Afghanistan? It’s back to Square One for us. Do not pass “Go,” do not collect $200.
Those of us who have heard the story are reminded of the famous Halloween hoax of 1938, when Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre of the Air broadcast a production of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. The radio play, disguised as a series of perfervid news reports, was so realistic that many Americans, actually believing they were under attack from extraterrestrials, packed up what they could and attempted to escape. Wells made a disclaimer at the beginning and the end, but many chose not to hear it.
This just proves, once again, that people will swallow anything if they’re scared enough. The year 1938 was a time of uncertainty and fear, just like 2010. The Great Depression had been grinding on for almost a decade, and as if that weren’t enough, Hitler looked poised to take over the world—at least all there was of it on the other side of the Atlantic.
Just substitute radical Islam (to a lot of ignorant people, the term is a redundancy) for the Nazis, and you have a vile-smelling brew of deception simmering on the current stove of state.
It does not help that there are opportunists out there willing to stoke the fires of hatred for their own immediate gain, whether it’s to win an election in a couple of months or to attract more listeners and viewers to their radio and TV shows.
What they are doing by taking advantage of the fears of those who don’t know any better is tearing holes in this nation’s fabric that will take a long time to mend, certainly longer than the span of our lifetimes.
All of us—liberals, progressives, moderates, and conservatives—rallied behind President Bush after 9/11. There were aspects to the man many of us didn’t like, but he was our leader, and we were smart enough and scared enough to know that we needed one, for better or worse.
We need one just as desperately now. Why is it so hard for some of us to accept the man who was duly elected by a majority of the people?
According to the latest news stories, Republican Party strategists are beginning to caution their candidates not to pile on the mosque issue, and Muslims in general, too heavily. It could backfire.
Grover Norquist, a member of the GOP brain trust, happens to be married to a Muslim, and he is one of those urging restraint. In fact, he says Muslim-bashing is a loser in the long run, and he’s right. To know a member of a group personally is to humanize that group.
This is one of the theories as to why Americans have become more accepting of gays, and why each year it’s a heavier lift to get people riled up against them as a campaign issue. As gays have come out into the mainstream, more and more people realize they have one in their family, one whom they love and who hasn’t sprouted horns. Why shouldn’t they have equal rights?
One thing Americans don’t like is watching somebody get bullied, just because of who they are. It might give some people a thrill at first, but after a while the revulsion sets in.
The Republican Party, while it may gain a temporary advantage for the coming election, runs a risk of crossing that fine line and starting to look like it’s simply beating up on people who don’t happen to be white, straight and Christian.
A suggestion: Dump the crazies and go back to being the Republican Party you used to be, decades ago: socially moderate, fiscally conservative. It’s probably too late for that, but if you really want to capture the all-important American Independent Middle, it’s more of a winner than the line you’re pushing right now.
Better for the country, too.
For a nation made up of immigrants and their descendents, America has a shameful record of scapegoating whole groups of its citizens and residents when the going gets tough and fear reigns throughout the land.
American Muslims ought to be saddened, but not surprised, that they are the latest group to be singled out and tarred with a broad brush. Thanks to a handful of extremist nut jobs who happened to call themselves Muslims, the majority of the nation (according to the latest polls) takes umbrage at law-abiding Muslims building a house of worship where they have every constitutional right to do so.
Mosques around the country have been firebombed and defaced with Nazi graffiti in the years since 9/11. A church here in Florida is hosting a "Quran burning" on the anniversary of the tragedy. Even the Anti-Defamation League, in an uncharacteristic move, has ignored its own “slippery slope” philosophy and weighed in against the near-Ground-Zero mosque, so intense are the emotions.
Proof that we reserve special treatment for those “not like us” exists within the span of many Americans’ lifetimes. Japanese-Americans, whether foreign- or American-born, were herded into internment camps during World War II for fear that they might act as a fifth-column if left to roam free.
Also in World War II, the conspicuous valor of the 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team, composed of Japanese-Americans who swore a loyalty oath to the United States, made them the most decorated unit in American history. Even so, they fought in Europe—not being trusted to pull the trigger against their “own kind” in the Pacific.
Meanwhile, a German-American named Eisenhower (an Anglicized spelling of a word meaning, “iron mine worker”), was promoted to Supreme Commander of Allied forces in Europe.
No loyalty worries there. Wonder why?
There are so many dramatic aspects to Wednesday's federal court ruling overturning California’s ban on gay marriage.
My favorite is that David Boies and Ted Olson, liberal and conservative superstar attorneys, respectively, were adversaries in one of the most consequential legal battles of our time: Bush v. Gore in 2000.
To argue their ultimately victorious case against the ban, they banded together as two Americans whose primary concern was the civil rights and equal protection under the law of their countrymen and –women. The right of gays and lesbians to marry, both assert, is not and should not be a Democratic vs. Republican issue, or a liberal vs. conservative issue.
My other favorite is that in ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, Judge Vaughn R. Walker noted that our rights under the Constitution ought not to be subject to votes of the people, which might take them away. This is why they are called “rights,” and why they reside under the purview of the judicial system, not the caprices of society.
He also said that California (and by extension, the rest of the country) had no beneficial interest in banning same-sex marriage, according to findings of fact. Just because the concept may be repugnant to some on moral or religious grounds is not enough to deny a group of Americans the same rights that others have.
Let us remember that not so long ago, the idea of blacks marrying whites was repugnant to some on moral and religious grounds. People live and die. Society progresses. Perceptions ultimately change.
Human rights do not.
This is such a sensitive topic, with honest feelings on all sides, that it’s easy to appreciate everyone’s point of view.
If we are ever going to move past the controversy (now legally, if not emotionally, resolved for the time being) over the mosque located near Ground Zero, we will have to cut through the blinding fog of hurt, anger and fear engendered by the 9/11 attack.
First, it will take a leap of clear thinking on the part of some of us, but we should not confuse the religion of Islam with the motivations of the 9/11 terrorists. To hold all Muslims responsible for the attack on the twin towers is no different from holding all Roman Catholics responsible for the terrorist acts of the Irish Republican Army in Ulster.
Second, those who will build this mosque are Americans. As Americans, they feel the hurt and anger just as deeply as the rest of us. There is an argument that American Muslims, in addition, feel a sense of betrayal that a belief system they cherish was perverted and used as an excuse for an inexcusable act of violence. We must not forget that there were innocent Muslim victims, as well, in the towers when they were hit.
Maybe it’s best to approach this as a test of our will as a people. We can never prevent all terrorist attacks, but we can prevent a terrorist victory by exercising our own strength of character. Let the mosque be built, and let us embrace it. By doing so, we will show the world that we refuse to give up the principles of freedom upon which this nation was based, even in the face of direct attack.
Other peoples will take notice, and the terrorists, while having achieved a tactical objective nine years ago, will have lost the war.
Since the doctrine of Christian forgiveness and absolution is grounded in the concept of self-examination, open acknowledgement of one’s sins through confession, and repentance, one would think that the Church⎯of all places⎯would appreciate the value of unburdening itself of the effects of its transgressions by exposing them to the light of day.
But that flies directly in the face of another Church priority, which is self-preservation, a corollary being maintaining an image of infallibility. Ironically, it is this monolithic attitude that results in the self-infliction of far more damage from the steady drip of new revelations.
Whatever you think of the institution, as long as it resides in the custodianship of mortal men, it will reflect their mortal shortcomings, which appear to be legion.
When Jesus said to Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my church,” it’s a safe bet to assume He wasn’t talking about stonewalling.
The Dalai Lama must be hopelessly naïve to come down here peddling that stuff about the family of man, how each of us is one with the world, and how we should be compassionate to our neighbors.
Wake up, Pal. This is South Florida, the land of scam or be scammed. Darwinian Interstates. Cut in line or you’ll miss the signal or, worse, the early bird special. Litter as you please. When in doubt, sue. If possible, live in excess, and--even better--destroy the environment in the process. Treat others as you would have them treat you, which is to take no prisoners. Share and share alike, but me first.
No, he isn’t naïve—he’s nuts. Either that, or he knows exactly what he’s doing, and why we so desperately needed his visit.