August 31, 2010

Now if he will just start eating on his own

We might be in business. Streak slept here last night for the first time since last Thursday night--and he didn't sleep at all that night, so this was good. He really does seem better, but still doesn't have an appetite and is not peeing on his own. He is at our regular vet for some IV food and hoping that will give him some energy and appetite.

Still some amazing moments. Yesterday afternoon, I visited Streak at the vet and took him out for a brief walk. After, we returned to the vet's back room and I stood around with the vets, techs and assistants (all women) and chatted about Streak. We told stories about Streak and other animals we knew. They know Zorro, the next door black lab who once took me out like a linebacker tackle. They all appreciated that story. We were sharing about our love of animals and affection for them and their people. It was a good thing.

Not only that, but the vet at the emergency clinic who really helped us last Saturday came by earlier that afternoon to check on Streak. There was no requirement that he do that, but it sure made our day.

We are just going day to day, moment to moment. We got to spend some nice time with Streak this morning outside--at least before the mosquitoes drove us back indoors. And we look forward to him sleeping here again tonight. We will keep the faith and enjoy the moments.

Hell, isn't that what we always do?

August 30, 2010


Picked Streak up from the emergency clinic, paid the (gulp) bill, and took him over to our regular vet. He is still weak and tired, but if we could get him to pee on his own, we could bring him home for some rest.

I am mindful of the roller coaster theme here. We know that we will have more very tough days with him, and that means in the next weeks and months. As Zalm's loss demonstrates, the optimism can come crashing down at any moment. After all, Streak was doing just fine last Wednesday and we were confident he had his full appetite back. One night later, and he was on an IV and barely moving. And like I said, with his cancer, we know that this will not end well.

But, and I am simply trying to figure this out, the moments seem to me to be everything. And that is not just with Streak, but with SOF and my friends and family. For some reason, I think we minimize the small moments to our detriment. We want spectacular and long good times--but miss the moments over coffee, or the nice phone call, or the wonderful "give him a hug for me" from my mom. Thanks, Mom. I needed that in a big way.

I don't know. But I know that seeing my dog walk this morning--wobbly and with his hind leg wrapped--that was a nice moment. It made me smile.

I will take it.

August 29, 2010

I am seriously beginning to think that Palin and Beck are evil

The Plum Line - Beck and Palin strive for historical immortality

Their willingness to flog the politics of resentment with absolutely no concern for the people who get in the way is destructive and anti-social. Palin's claim that her son's service makes her unassailable is unbelievable. As I have noted before, John Kerry taught us that patriotism only matters when you are a coked out Republican who loves war. If you are a liberal who defends your country--that isn't patriotism.

Hmm, who would have thought that anti-Islamic rhetoric could have bad consequences?

First, we heard about the guy stabbing the Muslim cabbie in NYC. Then we heard about the church in Florida planning a "burn the Koran" day. Now this story about suspected arson on a construction site in Nashville, complete with this lovely quote from a Nashville resident:
"No mosque in Murfreesboro. I don't want it. I don't want them here," Evy Summers told the local CBS affiliate. "Go start their own country overseas somewhere. This is a Christian country. It was based on Christianity."

Wow. Who the hell thought that connecting a cultural center to terrorism simply because both included people who have a connection to Islam could have bad consequences? Who would have thought that when people like Sarah Palin and her amoral colleagues flog this--that some of their less-smart listeners might take this anti-Muslim rhetoric to heart? All of this encouraged by people who pretend to be both Christian and responsible. Greg has a great post on that, including a wonderful takedown of Chuck Colson.

But back to the reality that shouting "hey, all Muslims are somehow responsible for 9-11 even when they explicitly denounce the terrorists" will have bad consequences, Glenn Greenwald has a good take:
"The arsonists undoubtedly will be happy to tell you how much they hate Terrorism. And how there's a War on Christianity underway in the U.S. The harm from these actions are not merely the physical damage they cause, but also the well-grounded fear it imposes on a minority of the American population. If you launch a nationwide, anti-Islamic campaign in Lower Manhattan based on the toxic premise that Muslims generally are responsible for 9/11 -- and spend a decade expanding American wars on one Muslim country after the next -- this is the inevitable, and obviously dangerous, outcome."

A roller coaster ride

We went to see Streak last night and then again this morning. Last night was a little sobering and this morning the same. To be fair, when we have seen him, he has been on his pain meds and a little groggy. Last night he did walk a little with us, and that was nice. This morning, he was pretty subdued, but we still had some nice time with him.

We are going to wait and see how he is tonight and then meet with our regular vet tomorrow. As we learned yesterday, hours can make a difference.

We will see.

August 28, 2010

Finally, some good news from the vet

Today has been an unbelievable ride. This morning, we went to the emergency clinic (where Streak spent the night) with the full belief we were going to see our buddy for the last time. The reports from the vet had been negative--same, but pain worse, etc--and we had no interest in making him go through another night like the one before.

But when they brought him in, it was clearly a different Streak. His eyes were wide open and alert and focused on us. Still not happy, but a big difference from last night's bleary eyed stare. It didn't take long for us both to say, hey, this is not what we expected. In talking to the vet, we realized that the previous shift was operating from less information and we decided to run some blood work and do an Xray. The xray was because the vet was concerned Streak's abdomen was distended and there might be a tumor there.

Noon, we learned that for the first time in days, Streak's white blood cell count was up. Just a bit ago, we learned that the Xray was negative and that Streak had even walked on his own. Last night, that was inconceivable.

We still have a Streak with cancer. We know that. But we also know that we have enjoyed our moments with Streak, and we have hoped we would have a few more moments. We don't know what the next step is with chemo, and we don't know what that will bring. But we know that we have him for now.

And for tonight, that is enough. Hell, it is more than enough.

August 27, 2010

Rough night--updated

Streak had a really awful night last night and is at the vet right now getting some fluids and some anti-biotics. The chemo took its toll, we think and his energy is really, really low. At this point we don't know if this is it, or if we will have some more good days. We are hoping for more good days.

So keep a good thought for our little guy today.


Had thought that he might be doing better with some fluids, but the vet says he is still really struggling. His white cell count is just so down right now. We are going to take him to an over-night clinic so he doesn't get dehydrated again and see where we are tomorrow.

August 26, 2010

The Stimulus as Investment

A very interesting look at the diversity of projects included in the stimulus. Timely, as Republicans ramp up their criticism of anything from the government.

But reading through this, you get a sense of two things. One, that Obama is truly a pragmatist--something his critics on either side often miss. And Two, that this is the first time since the Interstate Highway Act or the NASA missions, that we have decided to invest in things that might actually make Americans better off. Not just better off in some vague way, but might allow them to have healthier lives and even possibly more economic opportunity. I truly am amazed that the conservatives I know seem to only value tax cuts and privatization--as if that will accomplish the same thing as a good investment in a long term issue. The Interstate Highway Act did that, and I would argue translated into billions upon billions of private wealth.

Yet it is hard to imagine Republicans of today backing such a bill.

Glenn Beck rewrites civil rights history

As a history educator, this makes me sick. As an American citizen, it makes me want to cry.
Glenn Beck rewrites civil rights history - "'We are on the right side of history! We are on the side of individual freedoms and liberties and, dammit, we will reclaim the civil rights moment. We will take that movement -- because we were the people who did it in the first place.' -- Glenn Beck, on his nationally syndicated radio program, May 26."

We have seen this over the last few years, with people like Beck and other conservatives trying to rewrite the past. And I kind of understand that. After all, with all due respect to my conservative friends, conservatives have fought every major expansion of freedom in American history. They fought against the civil rights movement, and resisted efforts to expand economic and political roles for women.

The problem now is that for most Americans, those are assumed successes. No one outside the Klan really thinks that we should return to public segregation, or wants to push women out of the work place or voting booth. How then do you address the fact that your political movement resisted those advancements?

There seem to be a few options. For some, like Robert Byrd, you acknowledge that your opposition was wrong and you work to atone for that. For others, you simply move on with the knowledge that civil rights was good, and you choose to not address it. And then there are the modern conservatives steeped in the Glenn Beck and David Barton school of history--you just make stuff up. You say that conservatives were the ones who fixed racial and gender discrimination against the opposition of progressives. After all, progressives are actually "socialists" in Beck's world, so are inherently evil.

This is part of the problem we all face. I have to say we would be in a better position had grownup conservatives stood up to this shit when it started rather than looking the other way because of the positive electoral gains. The chickens are coming home, however, and the Republican party is going increasingly toward this anti-intellectual, counter-factual world where the past is just something to restate so you look better.

We will all suffer from this. As I keep saying, when the grownups regain control of the GOP, we will all be in better shape. Then we can go back to arguing about tax rates and the size of government, instead of listening to idiots claim that white conservatives passed the Civil Rights act or that Obama is trying to insert government control into Medicare. Enough with the stupidity, and enough of conservatives looking the other way.

August 25, 2010

Muslims and America

I had difficulty sleeping last night and so did a lot of thinking until I dropped off. One of my Facebook friends had a conversation about the "mosque" that included this sentiment from one of her friends, "this them using our freedoms to poke us in the eye."

It finally dawned on me that for most Americans who are upset about this "mosque," Muslims are foreigners they distrust. Obvious, perhaps, but a key point. Yet, the Imam that Fox News is up in arms about (Feisal Abdul Rauf) is an Arab American. As I pointed out on FB, "our" freedoms are actually "his" freedoms too.

As I keep saying, this is a sentiment that Bush tried to keep repressed and not encouraged. Perhaps it was because he did a lot of fund raising among Muslim Americans, or maybe it was because he genuinely wanted to curry the favor of moderates. But the conservatives of today have decided that there are no moderate Muslims.

And once again, conservatives wrap themselves in the Flag, claim ownership of 9-11 and of religious freedom, as if the only way others get access is through their good graces.

August 24, 2010

Anti-Muslim rhetoric exactly what Al Qaeda wants

There are times when I really fear that so many conservatives have failed to even think through the basic logic of their world. Why would you undermine your own legal system in response to terrorism, when you know that the terrorists' goal is to disrupt our, oh right, system of government.

As I wrote the other day, I think the conservative response on this "mosque" has proven that I can no longer expect conservatives to bottom out. There appears to be no low they won't willingly embrace if they think it will win an election or even win a media cycle. Even if that means flogging racism and encouraging it to flourish.

And it isn't just those who might be, as Sherman Alexie jokes, "ambiguously ethnic" who might appear as a Muslim to a crowd predisposed to believe that there are no moderate Muslims and we should fear them all. Those people are in immediate danger. As these hostilities spread and Fox and Palin and others fan the flames, something bad is going to happen at one of those. Hell, I read the other day that a church in Florida is planning to burn Korans. Why? Because they are assholes, I think, but mainstream conservatism has said that we can, in fact, tar all Muslims with the extremists.

But as I started to say, it isn't just those who might look foreign or Muslim who need to fear this, but our entire national security apparatus. As this piece suggests, true radicals are gleefully telling possible recruits "we told you so, Americans hate Muslims" and are trying to recruit Americans who are displaced by this. Or moderates who want very much to believe that we are not anti-Muslim.

So to those who wrap themselves in the flag and brag of their patriotism while they do this, I say you are an idiot and a fool. You undermine our very safety and the safety of your fellow man.

And finally, since so many of the people who have told me that the "mosque" should move, and who seem to think that Palin is some kind of "moral values" maven, I remind them that someone somewhere noted that it was super easy to love your friends and hate your enemies.

Gee, I wonder who that was?

A must see from Jon Stewart

For the record, I think the people on Fox can be both evil and stupid.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Parent Company Trap
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

August 23, 2010

WWJD anyway?

Why, of course, he would fly a flag to celebrate his racism. This, of course, courtesy of one of my idiot friends from high school. I pointed out in the comment that it was neither a mosque nor at ground zero. I expect to be unfriended and will be glad.

Monday anger

First day of class, and a Monday, so I am in a mood. Added to that, and Streak is not feeling well this morning. That makes me unhappy. I know this is par for the course, but it still sucks. He has shown some appetite, so we are hopeful that this will pass.

On that note, btw, thanks to everyone who has commented or emailed me about Streak. The community of friends helps lighten the load, and I can't tell you how much we have appreciated the nice words.


But to the central point eating at me this morning. I read this story on NPR about Anti-Islamic Rhetoric On The Rise and felt a little sick. I think we all expected a rise of anti-Islamic sentiment after 9-11, but it didn't happen as bad as we feared because, I now see, for one key figure. George Bush didn't allow the Republican party to openly embrace racism. I still think he was a terrible President, but he may be the best the party can provide right now.

Look at how the rest of the GOP is using this "mosque" story to gin up bigotry and racism. There is really no other way to look at it, it seems to me. This is a major party stepping out and openly embracing racism and bigotry. Not fighting it, not trying to negotiate with the racists in its midsts, but openly flogging it. That is beyond reprehensible and beyond irresponsible. I think it might, in fact, be an act of evil. Note, I am not calling these individual Republicans evil people. But when Sarah Palin constantly pushes the falsehood that this is either a mosque or at "ground zero" she does so to encourage anti-muslim sentiment--and that is an evil act.

I used to think that the Republican party was filled with a bunch of mostly reasonable people with a few outliers. I am starting to doubt that as I see them turn right and practically don the white hoods in celebration. And when they give me their "Christian" message, I throw up a little in my mouth.

We are way past the time for the grownups to step up.

August 21, 2010

Musing about grief

This morning has been rough. It is better now, but this morning was the first time that Streak really seemed sick. Perfectly understandable given the chemo he received yesterday, but it hit me very hard this morning. Luckily our neighbors were around and have gone through the same thing--they talked us down. Well, really talked me down. SOF was really strong this morning.

But all of this has me thinking about grief and what exactly I am grieving. Of course there is the obvious of losing a friend of 13 + years, and I get that. It might be obvious to others, but it struck me the other day that much of my grief over Streak was the lost past and the memories of me, SOF, Alafair, and him together. I remember him running with great abandon and reckless ease. I always referred to him as one of the most athletic dogs I have ever known. Fast, quick, and able to jump and balance--had he a decent trainer for a friend instead of me, he might have learned a few more tricks. Now I see him struggling (and this was before his diagnosis) to negotiate the hardwood floors. I miss those times. Those things are already gone, mind you, reminding me of a John Fullbright song with lyrics close to "cherish these moments, they are already leaving." Regardless of Streak's current condition, in other words, a big part of my grief is about what he represents--where we were when he joined us, and the memories we have in common. As SOF said in her great comment, this little guy has done more than just be our friend, he has pushed us out into the neighborhood to meet and greet. We know so many more people who live around us because of our dogs. Inadvertently, through this blog, Streak has pushed me out into the broader world and allowed me to meet so many of you who read here.

There is some good news there, I think, though it is hard to see when he is struggling. If I can make sense of what has been lost, and what hasn't, I think I will be better for it. Knowing that some of those issues of grief will occur even if Streak were to have a miraculous healing takes some of the pressure off. And looking at the many positives that are embedded in those memories makes them less painful. And the tough parts of those memories will be tough regardless.

Not that there won't be many more tough moments. That is part of life. But maybe if I can examine grief a little more, that will be good for me.

Anyway. Hope you are all well. Hug your family members--no matter how many legs they have, and enjoy your friends and neighbors.

August 19, 2010

A post I didn't want to write

When I started this blog, I whimsically named it after my dog. I am not sure I thought I would keep blogging, but here we are 6 years later. I started out blogging as "Streak's Friend" and then morphed into just using his name. He didn't seem to mind.

Over the weekend, we noticed a lump and took him into the vet Monday morning. She was pretty sure it was a lymphoma, and this morning I received confirmation of that. We will start some chemo tomorrow morning and the best-case scenario is somewhere around 6 months of good time. He is nearly 14, and we knew this wouldn't last forever.

I always struggle with this situation. Part of it is that I have friends struggling with illness or who have lost people close to them. I have lost several relatives of late and others are ill. Part of it is growing up in a ranching family where animals came and went. So I struggle with my grief for my dogs, even though they are clearly part of SOF and my family. We spend more time with them than any other beings. I know for many readers, I don't have to justify my grief here, but I also want to show a little perspective. 14 is pretty good for a dog, and we have been lucky to have him this long.

Last fall, Streak had some really weird episodes of screaming as he awoke. We thought we were going to lose him then. When he improved and actually returned to normal, SOF referred to it as the "bonus round." And we have enjoyed the bonus time with him--I can honestly say that. Not a day or week has gone by that we haven't remarked that we are lucky to have our little devoted buddy with us. He loves us "fiercely" (as a friend said), and we love him right back. I think he has taught us some pretty good life lessons.

The good news is that we don't have to say goodbye to him today. We get more bonus days. And we will enjoy them. But I am also very sad today.

August 15, 2010

Fareed Zakaria--a voice of reason on the NY mosque

Fareed Zakaria: Build the Ground Zero Mosque - Newsweek. Not surprisingly, Zakaria makes a strong argument for the mosque as exactly what our policy since 9-11 has attempted--to encourage moderation.

I am thoroughly disgusted by the Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich bigotry on this issue. It is clearly an attempt to make political points by playing on American fears of all things Muslim, and is exactly the kind of technique that demagogues like, rather than leaders. Or hell, in all honesty, I think if Bush were still in office, he would say the same thing as Obama did--that the mosque should be built because we are a nation who believes in religious freedom.

But tell that to the Republican party busy running off a cliff in an effort to out-conservative their fellow Republicans. I honestly expect them to call for forced deportation of all Mexicans and Muslims, or even to call for the creation of internment camps until the end of the war on terror. That is the direction they are headed, rather than the moderate and tolerant tack to the middle.

Obama is calling on us to be better people. The Republican leadership is asking us to give into our fears and become lesser people and a lesser nation.

"Don't NAACP Me"

Been thinking about race today. First, while listening to an NPR show (Here and Now), heard a great interview with Dr. Marybeth Gasman about her experiences as a white professor who studies African American studies and the fact that she finds that whites ask questions about blacks that they would not ask a black professor. Very interesting stuff. Here and Now introduced the segment with the story about Dr. Laura deciding that she could say the "n" word as many times as she wanted because, that is what you hear from black rappers on HBO all the time.

I really didn't know that Dr. Laura was still on the air. Her ignorance on this issue was as clear as her ignorance on, well, just about every other issue. White privilege blinds so many people. They can't even see the issue of race clearly, because, while they understand that racism is wrong, they somehow think that it is mostly an issue of the past.

Dr. Gasman (with a real PhD in her field, as opposed to Dr. Laura's in an unrelated field) addressed many of these issues in a very cogent and thoughtful way. The most shocking for me, besides the common and rather ignorant question of "why would a white person study African American studies" was a white person who said that he didn't "get" why African American boys might find Obama's election empowering.

Seriously, dude? I can't think of a better example of white privilege than that--that white males can't even consider that every other President looks more like them than any black youth, yet they can't see the disconnect.

As many have noted, the problem with America right now is that there are no racists--or that is how it is framed. Racism has been redefined in many minds to the virulent Klan member shouting epithets. As a well-behaved white person, I am supposed to believe I am above racism? So many of my friends seem to think they are. I am less convinced--both of their racial consciousness and my own. I see my own racism when my mind goes to stereotypes when I see someone of color. I know that when my brain wants to be surprised at the well-spoken African American woman at the store, or when that same brain reaches for the door lock when I see that large hispanic male at the corner.

My sense is that most conservatives, and most Americans, just want to jump past the race conversation. They really don't want to look at how race has framed our entire history. It has always called to mind Seinfeld's Kramer when he decided to stop talking. His vow of silence ended a few seconds later when he hit his knee, but he responded, "starting now!"

Most conservatives want to erase the past, or lump it all into some bad story they don't want to read. Racism, then, becomes a thing only of the past rather than something we all struggle with. We should, in their thinking, live in a color-blind world where race is meaningless, as if the entire history of our country doesn't reveal that as a lie.

I think most whites in this country better start thinking about race, because in the next 50 years they are going to learn to live a different existence--as a minority. Perhaps their fear comes from the realization that for most of our history, whites in America didn't treat minorities very well, and they fear that when it is their turn, they will be treated as the minorities of the past. I don't think that is true, but all the more reason to be curious about other cultures and applaud those who work to break down barriers.

Think of that the next time you see a Tea Partier with a "send Obama back to Africa" sign, or watch Sarah Palin speak on the mosque in New York. Or perhaps we should remember a verse from the Christian Bible about treating others as you would want to be treated.

August 11, 2010

Fascinating look at Gingrich and what is wrong with our politics

And a disturbing refresher of some things I had forgotten, including his attack on Speaker Jim Wright, and his ability and willingness to demonize his enemies:
"He became a master of wedge issues, calling Democrats unpatriotic, accusing them of sympathizing with communists, even blaming them for Woody Allen's affair with Soon-Yi and Susan Smith's murder of her children in South Carolina. To badger the moderates in his own party, he called Bob Dole the 'tax collector for the welfare state' and threatened House Minority Leader Bob Michel of Illinois with extinction."
Of course, every Republican has taken after Gingrich and has decided that it is not only acceptable to call Democrats unAmerican, but expected.

But some of the most interesting stuff comes from his second wife--the one he was having an affair with when he was bashing Clinton for his lack of values. She notes that he asked her to marry him before he had even gotten a divorce from his first wife--the one that he delivered divorce papers in her hospital bed. Turns out, that when he left his second wife, he did so in the same pattern.
She called a minister they both trusted. He came over to the house the next day and worked with them the whole weekend, but Gingrich just kept saying she was a Jaguar and all he wanted was a Chevrolet. " 'I can't handle a Jaguar right now.' He said that many times. 'All I want is a Chevrolet.' "

He asked her to just tolerate the affair, an offer she refused.
Amazing. The people lecturing us on values, remember?
He'd just returned from Erie, Pennsylvania, where he'd given a speech full of high sentiments about compassion and family values.

The next night, they sat talking out on their back patio in Georgia. She said, "How do you give that speech and do what you're doing?"

"It doesn't matter what I do," he answered. "People need to hear what I have to say. There's no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn't matter what I live."
This man is a sociopath.

August 10, 2010

Our divided country

I recently had a very painful exchange with a distant relative. Actually not a blood relative of mine, but family. Or so I thought. I had a lot of respect for him--even as I disagreed on many, many, many issues. He served in the military and with distinction, and that always earned him some respect on my part. Hell, I thought I treated him with respect the entire time. Even when he espoused ideas I found problematic.

During the Bush years, we were able to talk. He grudgingly acknowledged some issues with Bush, and graciously acknowledged that I had been closer to the truth on Colin Powell's fractured relationship with the Bush/Cheney people.

But then the 2008 election and President Obama, and the relationship dried up. At first, I just thought it was a job and location change for him. But after some prodding, he emailed me the other day to tell me that he hadn't maintained the email discussions because, well, read it:
have not continued our dialog because I know I would feel discouraged if, after what has been happening to our country for the past year+, you are still endorsing Obama's policies and our steady march toward socialism, corruption and the rending of our Constitution. If I am wrong about that, please let me know.

I loved the baited and leading questions, and the way that he took cheap shots at anyone who supported Obama.

(Side note, can anyone explain where the "corruption" meme comes from? I understand the charge of socialism, even though I think it is completely wrong. But where do they get the idea that Obama is corrupt? Or that he is "rending the Constitution?" I guess that last part may come from the Republican suggestion to have an insurance mandate, but where is the corruption? Not saying that there isn't some in the administration. Every administration has some bad apples, and that will come out. But this guy was a big Bush supporter and you would have to agree that there was a tremendous amount of corruption in that admin, most notably in the regulatory agency overseeing mines and drilling.)

Anyway, his response was obviously disheartening. I had tried to maintain a civil discourse only to be told that if I supported Obama I was against the constitution. Someone else in his family had said that of course the President deserved respect, but not Socialists, so Obama was beneath respect. And the upshot was that a relationship that I thought had some measure of mutual respect was only a one-way street. I wasn't family (distant or not), but merely a liberal--and now that Obama was president, I deserved the same response: derision and disrespect.

I disliked former President Bush as much as anyone around me. I thought (and think) that he was in over his head and hopelessly incompetent for this high of a job. I think he allowed truly sociopathic people to get us into two wars and to undermine much of our social safety net and regulatory system. But I tried, really, really hard, to engage with Bush supporters in person and through email with a modicum of respect. I will concede that I sometimes lost my temper, and often used my blog to vent, but I tried. I don't even see those on the far right as trying. And that makes me sad.

Senator Ted Stevens killed in plane crash

I am sure everyone has seen the news now, but former Senator Stevens has been confirmed as one of the fatalities from a plane crash in Alaska. I could not stand that man and thought him to be one of the more toxic members of the GOP when he was in office, but I hate to see these kinds of events. I think, reading more about Stevens, that he had made some pretty important contributions in his earlier days, but had become old, bitter and corrupt. It happens.

Several other people died, of course, and their names are not as notable. I am sorry for them and their families. I was also thinking, when I saw this, of other crashes. I remember like yesterday the plane crash that devastated the progressive community when Paul Wellstone died. I was also thinking of some friends of mine who used to teach school in Alaska. They often tell how they flew everywhere. Stevens was headed to a cabin when his plane went down. This kind of thing happens up there.

I am sad for those who grieve today.

August 8, 2010


And you didn't even know I was gone, did you? Heh. Well, I was. Went down to Texas to an acoustic music camp where I learned from some of the best mandolin players I have ever heard. Part of the attraction of this kind of camp is really the same reason I like to go to small venues--because you can talk to some really great musicians and they are usually generous about their tricks of the trade.

Anyway. Back in town and about to go listen to some live music--this time some friends of ours.

Meanwhile, I saw this NYT story on the mosque controversy that includes one two year study that suggests that American mosques help Americanize Muslims and actually discourage violence and radicalism. One study, to be sure, but an interesting voice in the middle of what seems to be blatantly bigoted political activism from the right. I am afraid that the right is far more racist than we feared, and they seem to have not found their bottom yet.

Anyway. Hope the rest of you are doing well and that it is cooler where ever you are.

August 2, 2010

When Christianity meets Marketing

I just don't think I can say it better than Greg has here:
Sacrifice means petty moments of self-denial or sponsoring a kid for $30 a month. Salvation means Jesus died for me so I won't go to hell, or so I will go to heaven. Holiness is now rigid moralism, especially about things that aren't a problem for me: homosexuality, abortion, porn, alcoholism, etc., never injustice, envy, lust, greed, crass materialism, gossip, indifference to the world's suffering, etc. The redefinition of every word in the common Christian lexicon to fit the marketing strategies of church growth methodology ensures that the message remains consistent with the simplistic assertions, and also ensures that any theologizing about those assertions is met with suspicion and fear at best, anger and violence at worst. The consensus, using the same methodology MTV and radio consolidation used to destroy music, goes national, the ignorance is shared, the status quo is guarded, and everyone feels so fucking Christian.

August 1, 2010

What happens when your professed beliefs are opposite of how you act?

Greg's great posts continue with this one and this great sentence:
"Schaefferites use the vocabulary of Christianity with the grammar of Straussian politics."

I am reading Jackson Lears Rebirth of a Nation and the two first chapters have spurred thought in this direction. His first is about the American embrace of the redemptive nature of violence, which is a troubling historical theme in American history. I was stunned to read of a historian from the late 1880s, writing about the Pequot war, who noted--as Lears put it--that "when fighting savages, one had to fight savagely." Of course, I could not read that line and not think about the conservative defense of torture.

His second chapter, though, gets into that very American theme of greed and opportunity, and Lears points to the central contradiction between the core American Protestant beliefs and the engine of capitalism. After all, frugality, hard work, and self-sufficiency were not inherently compatible with speculative capitalism, or the magic of making money out of simply money--not out of some hard physical labor. Here, it seems was the quintessential conflict between the supposed Christian beliefs (if the blood soaked Civil War had not already raised that, btw) and the engine of the future. Rockefeller himself claimed that God had given him his money, but his entire economic fortune was built on deceit and manipulation. His partner's motto? "Do unto others as they would do unto you--and do it first."

Not Christian.

And there is the contradiction I continue to struggle with. Whereas many of my blog friends have simply walked away from Christianity--and I respect that, btw--I am unable to do so. I still believe in some deep idea of morality and principle--the phrase "WWJD" annoyed me because of the obvious market manipulation, but the idea was a valid and poignant one. (One, that clearly, the WWJD bracelet wearers who voted for Bush's torture didn't even see.)

Reading this book reminds me of so many current issues. Christians cheering war while waving the Bible. Or the unbelievable manipulation and moral vacuousness of the recent market scams that nearly brought our economy down. Nothing moral about it, but we are a long way from where our conservative Christian community could criticize in strong terms such immorality. Christianity and capitalism have become so intertwined that I dare say they can't see where one ends and the other begins. This, of course, is also not new, as the "Man Nobody Knows" of the 1920s detailed the Christ as capitalist lion tamer.

But the fact that it isn't new doesn't help. It seems to have so filtered into society that modern Christians somehow could confuse basic capitalist beliefs with the teachings of Christ.

Hell, I don't know what to believe any longer. But I know that this level of contradiction is hard to sustain.