Friday, January 21, 2005

Arm's length theo-political ranting

A few less-than-fun things. Fun posts later.


Issue #1: Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Apparently, a threat to your children's morality.

James Dobson and others have come out (no pun intended) against a new animated short video that will be sent to schools to promote "tolerance and acceptance." The film, which includes other children's icons and animated favorites such as Barney, Winnie the Pooh, and Bob the Builder, will contain an updated version of the song, "We Are Family" a la LiveAid or the recent collaboration for Marvin Gaye's classic "What's Going On." At the end of the performance, the characters will encourage the kids to sign an online pledge to "respect the sexual identity of others, along with their abilities, beliefs, culture and race." Christian "leaders" (ahem) have said that this is an implicit endorsement of the so-called alternative sexualities, and that agreeing to respect sexual choice is "unnecessary" and "crossing a moral line."

Hmm. My first response when I heard this is "great, here's another protest." It will be the Jerry Falwell/"Tinky-winky" thing all over again. The Church (and her self-appointed mouthpieces) cowering in fear of the influence of a cartoon character. While I think I understand Dobson's concern (the specificity of respecting 'sexual identity' elicited a raised eyebrow from yours truly), the question comes back to: is this the battle you really want to fight? Apparently, the folks in Colorado Springs say yes.

It's interesting to note the headline in CNN's article. "Christians." Not "Christian groups." Time to get out the wide paintbrush, eh, fellas?

I wonder if the headline on 9/12/01 said, "Muslims attack U.S."

Probably not.


Issue #2: Peggy "Eeyore" Noonan's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today is a sad example of myopic naysaying. In the piece, she discusses the Inauguration events. However, when she gets to the President's speech, she called it "startling." She describes foreign policy makers as being in two starkly different camps: moralists and realists. She places the President squarely in the first camp. Here's this passage:

The administration's approach to history is at odds with what has been described by a communications adviser to the president as the "reality-based community." A dumb phrase, but not a dumb thought: He meant that the administration sees history as dynamic and changeable, not static and impervious to redirection or improvement. That is the Bush administration way, and it happens to be realistic: History is dynamic and changeable. On the other hand, some things are constant, such as human imperfection, injustice, misery and bad government.

This world is not heaven.

Noonan repeats this last line a few more times throughout the piece. While doing so, she seems to set the President's desire to change the world at odds with the "static and impervious" reality of a broken world. Fair enough.

But as I read this article, I started hearing other voices. Voices that said integration was a pipe dream. Voices that said the abolition of slavery would destroy the country. Voices that laughed when an Italian explorer claimed he could sail all the way around the world. The cautious voices of pundits and policy-makers more concerned about the safe bet than the risky dream. People more comfortable with the status quo, with accepting that injustice and oppression are "the way it is."

Noonan said that Bush's "God-drenched speech" of ambitious calls to end worldwide tyranny, in her view, "fell somewhere between dreamy and disturbing." Noonan goes on to say, " Tyranny is a very bad thing and quite wicked, but one doesn't expect we're going to eradicate it any time soon. Again, this is not heaven, it's earth."

Certainly not possible, with that attitude.

The President's final statement was that we are "ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom." A rousing finale. A eager look into a future that could bring new hope to many people.

Noonan's assessment: it was "over the top."

Her conclusion? The President is suffering from "mission inebriation"--"A sense that there are few legitimate boundaries to the desires born in the goodness of their good hearts."
One wonders if they shouldn't ease up, calm down, breathe deep, get more securely grounded. The most moving speeches summon us to the cause of what is actually possible. Perfection in the life of man on earth is not.

Notice how Noonan put words in Bush's mouth. His plea for justice and freedom became, in her mind, a demand for "perfection in the life of man on earth."

Funny, earlier this week, we celebrated another man who had an "impossible" dream, a dream that "all God's children" could come together in harmony. Impossible as it sounded at the time, it hasn't stopped us from pursuing it, even to this day. Maybe the only reason some dreams are impossible is that people with the power to bring change listen to voices too bound by doubt and resignation to see beyond what is, to what might be.


Thanks for reading. As a reward for your patience, here's a link to video of Napoleon Dynamite reading Dave Letterman's Top Ten. (NOTE: This is in no way an endorsement of CollegeHumor, which can have some pretty raunchy stuff on it. You've been warned.)

(Video Hat-tip: USA Today Blog.)

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