This Year's posts

Archive for October, 2004

Jesus Politics: Softening the Heart and Tempering the Self-Righteousness

Wednesday, October 20th, 2004

From Debates, youth groups, and bridging the gap by way of Jesus Politics

I am a liberal Democrat on (almost) every issue. I’m an Episcopalian with pacifist anabaptist leanings. I teach gender and gay history. I went to Berkeley. But for all that, my life is made both richer and more challenging by my friendships with folks with whom I disagree about almost everything. (One of the men I love best in the world is a true Five Point Calvinist, bless his misled heart!) I thank God for my friends who are gun-ownin’, traditional marriage defendin’, inerrant scripture believin’, red-meat eatin’, Fox News watchin’, George Bush votin’ conservatives. I’m a better man for knowing them and being loved by them. They have not changed my core beliefs. But they have softened my heart and tempered my self-righteousness — and those are good things indeed.

America is becoming more divided

Wednesday, October 20th, 2004

I’ve found that America is becoming a very divided nation. It was not long ago that many people, especially in my generation (the younger part of Gen X), didn’t really care about politics. Now, it seems I’m talking with my friends about politics all the time. . .and I’m afraid I may lose some friends because of the Presidential election. Because I support Bush? No. Because I support Kerry? No. Because I’m not sold out to either of them. I don’t really want to vote for Nader, either, but there may be some reasonable arguements for that.

Now, I know I’m not going to really lose any of my close friends, they’re more reasonable than that. However, here in the Heartland of America especially, I feel like I’m being targeted by two warring groups. (and I like hyperbole)

Now, along these lines, there is an article in US News and World report titled A divisive campaign has rubbed emotions raw. Here’s a paragraph from the article:

Caught up in one of the most divisive election seasons since the Vietnam War (when Richard Nixon edged Hubert Humphrey by less than 1 percent of the popular vote), the LaLibertes are hardly the only ones who’ve seen politics begin to sour some of their closest relationships. Egged on by campaign rivals who have all but called each other liars and emboldened by partisan shout shows like Fox’s Hannity & Colmes and movies like Michael Moore’s finger-pointing Fahrenheit 9/11, America’s angry electorate has found it increasingly difficult to stop political disagreements from flaring into outright relationship-breakers. The depth of the nation’s polarization is the subject of considerable scholarly debate (story, Page 42). But with just a couple of weeks to go until the election, there’s little doubt that the atmosphere around America’s lunch counters and dining-room tables has grown downright prickly.

I’ve sensed this same feeling, though not to the extent that the family in the article has. I come from a rather conservative family– my dad watches O’Reilly and Hannity & Colmes and listens to Rush Limbaugh nearly every day. My mother went to high school with the Limbaughs and David Limbaugh is still a family friend (I’ve even been to his home). I, on the other hand, tend to be a political moderate. I care about the social issues that have been championed largely by the Democratic Party, yet I’m a proponent of small government, traditionally a conservative value.

So, there some differences of opinion. Yet, there’s little debate. I can’t seem to engage many people on either side of the middle in a reasonable discussion of the men or the issues. I agree with John Stewart in his lecture given on Crossfire the other night- the two sides are engaging in a war of ‘talking points’ which tend to be divisive and inflammatory. There is no real debate, no exchange of ideas, only a clash of rhetoric.

Now, for some insight into why, here’s some more from the article:

Meanwhile, the Republicans have had their own torches to carry. With the party largely transformed over the past two decades into a full-blown conservative movement, many have taken on an almost missionary zeal, led by conservative Christian members whose stands on moral issues–reinforced by President Bill Clinton’s antics–have become keystones of the Republican platform. “There’s a sense among many Republicans that their stands on the issues aren’t just about better policy choices; they’re matters of personal morality and principle,” says Bill Chaloupka, a political scientist at Colorado State University. “So anyone who disagrees with you isn’t just disagreeing, they’re insulting your core values and threatening your way of life.”

(Before I go on, note that here is also a section in the article discussing why Democrats have become more dogmatic, as well.)

I’ve experienced this phenomenon myself. When I told one of my more conservative friends that I wasn’t sure who I was voting for, he told me, more or less, that voting for Bush was a moral obligation. Why? Abortion. Hold on now, is this really an issue in this election?

Officially, Kerry is pro-choice and Bush is pro-life. However, I don’t believe Bush has done much at all the in the last four years to reduce the number of abortions in the US (the abortion rate has actually been declining since the early 90s). The only thing he could conceivably do to effect this issue is appoint a Supreme Court Justice who would overturn Roe v. Wade. I’m not going to vote for a candidate because he may have the opportunity to appoint a justice who might overturn Roe v. Wade, even if I am pro-life. I refuse to be a single-issue voter, especially on something that is so uncertain as this.

Am I jaded? Yes. Am I idealistic? Probably. Can I still bitch if I want to? Damn right, its my blog.

In closing, I quote the closing of the US News article:

“If some of my kids vote for Bush, I say go for it. If the others vote for Kerry, go for it. I just hope and pray that when this is over that they say, ‘let’s work together,’ because we desperately need to take care of our country.”

Fellow Americans, let’s be friends. We live in a great nation of great opportunity, let’s make the most of it together.

An Arguement for Nader

Wednesday, October 20th, 2004

Ok, before I even get started let me admit that I don’t know much about Nader, his politics or campaign. This blog entry is only intended to be thought provoking.

So, several days ago I was listening to an interview from ITConversations with Bruce Scneier, a security expert. He talked about a number of security related issues, but spent a good amount of time on terrorism/homeland security issues. The basic idea he was trying to get across was that we do a poor job of assessing risk.

We spend a large amount of money on homeland security. The idea is that we are trying to prevent terrorist attacks. And we’ve succeeded so far, right? No, not really. We’ve gone about 3 years since 9/11 without a major terrorist attack in the US. However, there weren’t any terrorist attacks on US soil in the 3 years previous to 9/11. So, it appears we don’t have enough data to determine whether we’re succeeding.

So, we don’t know whether we’re succeeding in stopping terrorism. However, I would suggest that homeland security is achieving its implicit goal- to make us feel safer. See, voters don’t care about and can’t really judge how safe they are. So, Bush & co. have made us feel safer.

[at this point you have to be wondering how Nader fits into this]

But have the other candidates done anything to actually make us safer? Well, Nader has. Nader has spent decades as a consumer advocate and perhaps his most notable accomplishment is getting seat-belts to be mandatory in all vehicles to the US. According to the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety over 181,000 lives have been saved by seat-belts. I know we can’t necessarily attribute all these saved lives to Nader, we can certainly say that he has made a significant impact.

So, if its safety we care about, maybe you should look at Nader. However, this entry is not intended to convince anyone to vote for Nader. I just want people to think about their decisions and not just make them out of fear.

Jon Stewart on Crossfire

Tuesday, October 19th, 2004

For those who didn’t get a chance to see John Stewart on Crossfire the other night, you need to click here and watch one of the media files. I can’t help but be moved by Stewart in the clip, as he earnestly pleads with the hosts of Crossfire.

Our Kids are in Big Trouble

Sunday, October 17th, 2004

Here’s a wonderful article over at Wired by Lawrence Lessig:

Our Kids Are in Big Trouble