Being Wrong Does Not Equal Being Evil

Balderdash.  Poppycock.  Nonsense.  Rot.  Etc.

I’ve picked up from multiple sources in the conservative media speculation that President Obama might have purposely engineered the Gulf Coast oil spill as a means of discrediting oil-based energy and convincing people of the need to make a major shift to alternative energy plans.  While he does clearly want to focus more on “green” energy, we must make no mistake about this dangerous accusation: it is irresponsible, reprehensible, and unacceptable. 

It bothers me that so many on both sides of the political spectrum are comfortable slapping grossly wild labels on those on the other side.  One might not have liked George W. Bush’s administration, but he did not deserve to be called an empty-headed warmonger for eight years.  Similarly, President Obama deserves the same basic decency in our treatment of him.  Are people really suggesting that he might have manufactured a crisis that has cost many human and countless animal lives, and will surely devastate the environment and parts of the economy for years?  That’s not civic discourse, that’s not criticism–that’s childish demagoguery of the very worst sort. 

Many have unfairly linked Obama to this oil spill personally, comparing the crisis to Bush’s public connection to Hurricane Katrina.  But suggesting that he purposely caused the oil spill is far, far worse.  Implying that Obama created this oil spill is no more reasonable nor humane than the “truthers” who swear up and down that Bush was behind 9/11. 

I strongly disagree with many of Obama’s policy positions, but that does not make him a monster.  At the very least, we need to give the benefit of the doubt to those with whom we disagree.  Even if the worst fears of the Right about Obama are true and he really does have a hidden agenda to socialize our society as much as possible, I’m sure that he’s at least operating out of a good faith desire to help people and strengthen the country, not destroy it and sabotage our way of life.  Such groundless assumptions about the motives of others are both warped and counterproductive. 

We need to keep the criticism of politicians on the politics, not on shadowy speculations that they’re evil.  I would hope that especially after seeing how half the country treated George W. Bush, that we conservatives would show more professionalism in our analysis of his successor.  Obama may very well be a bad president, but that does not make him a bad man.

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Anti-Semitism Continues to Rise

Six months ago, I wrote about seeing a resurgence of anti-Semitism in the world, and in the last half year it has gotten worse. 

Last month, scholar David Horowitz spoke at UCSD and, during a question and answer session, confronted a young woman who asked him why he identified her student association with terrorists.  Horowitz turned the question on her and asked her to denounce Hamas, the internationally labelled terrorist organization in charge of Gaza which calls for the destruction of Israel in its charter.  When the woman demurred, Horowitz directed another question at her: are you for or against the destruction of Israel?  She said she was for it. 

Watch the video:

(Incidentally, the answer to the student’s question about ties between her student association and terrorist networks is well documented, such as here.)

Of course, since then we’ve seen the international controversy over Israel’s raid of a Gaza-bound flotilla, Continue reading

Star Wars As a Dispensationalist Allegory

It’s a common quip that Mormon nerds love to make analogies between their church and Star Wars.  Short of some of the generic ideas about faith in the series, though (“I don’t believe it!” “That is why you fail.”), I haven’t actually seen much commentary from anyone linking the two. 

Now, Star Wars is not exactly deep theology, but after the release of the dreadful prequel trilogy, I did notice that the overall story arc meshes with our understanding of history pretty well.  In short, the original saga tells the story of a Restoration, while the newer three episodes go back to tell the story of the Apostasy.  In Episodes IV-VI, truths and powers that had been lost by persecution and rejection are slowly brought back to life as a new generation of heroes are called upon to start the work over.  Episodes I-III go back to show us just how those truths and powers were lost.  In fact, I started making this connection when I saw Yoda and Obi-Wan talking, and Yoda confessed that the Jedi Order was weakening and was not as close to the Force as it had once been.   I immediately pictured a late-first century meeting of church leaders to discuss the growing distance of the Spirit from their organization.  When the Jedi were exterminated in Episode III, I saw Apostles being beheaded, run through, and crucified head down. 

This is hardly a point-by-point metaphor.  Obviously, there are huge differences between Star Wars and church history.  However, with this basic template in mind, more than few solid correspondences can be made:

Church history figure Star Wars character Shared traits
Joseph Smith Luke Skywalker Conflicted young man from an obscure, pastoral setting is called upon by events around him to rise up and form a new order—a restoration of an older, lost order
Moroni Obi-Wan Kenobi The last human survivor of the lost order, he disappears from the setting until the founder of the new order is ready, whereupon he delivers early messages to the young man and begins his training
The priesthood The Force A supernatural power that had been lost with the destruction of the old order, which is bestowed on the new founder and which he learns to use from the survivors of the lost order.  Requires faith and effort to operate.  Is treated lightly by nonbelievers
Continue reading

Highly Recommended Reading: The Last American Man

I gave Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir Eat, Pray, Love a warm but restrained review.  At the end of that book, though, I saw an ad for her previous book, The Last American Man, her biography of modern mountain man Eustace Conway.  The blurb noted that Conway had been a survivalist since his teens, and had been living in the woods full-time since 1977, in addition to such stunts as walking the entire length of the Appalachians and riding a horse from coast to coast.  I got this book quickly, devoured it ravenously, and am delighted to say that my praise for this book of Gilbert’s will see no trace of the hesitations I gave her most recent and more popular effort.  The Last American Man is easily the best thing I’ve read so far this year.

One of the problems with Eat, Pray, Love is that it often reads like an unedited diary.  This friendly casualness is largely a strength, but it can become grating when someone dwells for so long on the neurotic nuances of their own head.  My only expectation upon opening The Last American Man was that Gilbert’s gift for prose might work more effectively if she were not at the center of the action, and I was greatly rewarded–her narration of anecdotes, her sequencing of events, and her general sense of balance and perspective throughout the book are nearly flawless.  This is a top-notch biography. 

Gilbert does perhaps spend a bit too much time reporting on Conway’s love life, but if so, it’s a small fault.  The women who have factored into Conway’s life make his story richer, and show us even more of the man himself.

And Conway is the hero of this book, in any sense of the word.  Gilbert worships him, and his plain but forceful life demands our respect and esteem–not to mention that it’s seriously entertaining.  Any preconceptions you might have about Conway based on what I’ve said so far will be shattered by the deep reality of his true story.  Continue reading

Why Sue Lowden Lost Last Night, And Deserved To

It was sad to see someone with so many good qualities, someone who had herself been the target of so much unfair maligning, stoop to the level of the desperate ad that Sue Lowden ran against Sharron Angle in the final moments leading up to last night’s primary election.  I said recently that it’s a bad sign when you use the same arguments against somebody that the media machine in the other party is using, and Lowden did it.  Everybody wanted to jump onto the “Sharron Angle is in bed with Scientologists” meme, and Lowden was all too happy, it seems, to get her hands dirty, too.

The Lowden ad spoofs Angle’s investigation of a prisoner rehabilitation program that had shown some positive results.  The problem: it involved giving massages to inmates, and it was endorsed by the church of Scientology.  Angle, of course, is not a Scientologist herself–she’s a Baptist–and the program was not, so far as I know, directly related to Scientology as any kind of proselytizing attempt, but any opportunity to link your political opponents with unpopular kooks must be exploited, right? 

So when the Lowden ad mentions that the controversial program was sponsored by Scientologists, the camera pans down to show a framed portrait of Tom Cruise on a stand surrounded by candles.  The whole 30-second spot is on YouTube, but I’ve just given you the offending screen shot because I want people to focus on how outlandish it is. 

This ad, like all such ads these days, ends with Lowden proudly declaring that she “approves this message.”  Really?  You want to advertise the fact that your campaign against Angle consisted of a sleazy (and inaccurate) association with weirdos?  When Tarkanian started throwing such cheap shots at you, I said that I’d lost all respect for him.  Now it’s your turn.  You should be ashamed.  Say what you want about Sharron Angle, but at least she ran a clean campaign.