Can I tell you something. Got to tell you one thing. If you expect the freedom that you say is yours prove that you deserve it. Help us to preserve it or being free will just be words and nothing more.
Kansas, 1974
Showing posts with label culture commentary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label culture commentary. Show all posts

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Racist Nature of Cotton Balls

Yes I said cotton balls. Apparently dropping cotton balls outside of an establishment known to be frequented by black people is a hate crime. And here I thought it was at worst littering.
Arrests Made In Mizzou Cotton Ball Incident: 2 Students Suspended After Their Arrest
Two students have been arrested in connection with the incident where cotton balls were left overnight outside the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center on the campus of the University of Missouri-Columbia. Very early Friday morning, someone threw cotton balls outside the Culture Center. The offensive act sparked a town hall meeting on the Campus Monday night. At the meeting, students discussed what to do in response to the racist display. Police investigated the incident as a hate crime.
What to do about cotton balls on the sidewalk? Trample them into oblivion or pick them up! All that drama over cotton balls. I'm trying to imagine a mind fragile enough to be offended by cotton balls on the sidewalk. I don't have a very good imagination for this kind of thing. If this is the quality of thinker that colleges and universities are turning out (that cotton balls on the side walk are funny or offensive) we're in more trouble than I thought.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Resisting the "Taint" of Autism

The news has hit the main stream media that part of the proposed revisions destined to be in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) include incorporating the current category of Aspeger's Syndrome, along with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) and a few others, into the larger Autism Spectrum Disorder category. All in all I think this is a good move that will result in more accurate diagnosis and better access to services for individuals who currently have autism related diagnoses but not the label autism.

While I haven't yet come across objections to doing away with some of the other diagnostic labels such as PDD and PDD-NOS there seems to be some criticism of the changes with respect to Asperger's Syndrome. The one criticism that I find most irritating is the complaint that this change will "taint" Asperger individuals with the label of autism. The complaint rears its ugly head in this NPR story, Asperger's Officially Placed Inside Autism Spectrum, as well as the comments.

Now as a parent of autistic children I'm sure you can see the problem I have with this particular objection to the changes in the DSM. It is that perceived "taint" that has been attached to autism. There is nothing wrong with being autistic. That taint that some fear has nothing to do with who autistic people are or what they can accomplish. It has everything to do with looking down on people who are different, unworthy others.

Objecting to the proposed DSM changes on the grounds that one does not want to be associated with those autistic people only serves to reinforce an ugly stereotype of autistic individuals. Rather than play along with the stereotype that autistic people are stupid, helpless or otherwise undesirable this is an opportunity to push back against the prejudice. There is a wide range of autistic ability that includes those who are currently diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. It covers those who can fake "normal" well enough to escape close scrutiny and those whose intelligence is valued enough for "normal" folk to over look their quirks. It covers those who the thoughtless and unimaginative call "low functioning", mostly because they don't utilize spoken language, but are anything but "low functioning".

Roy Richard Grinker, an anthropologist who studies the anthropology of autism, writes in an op-ed column titled, Disorder Out of Chaos, in the New York Times that,

Almost everyone with Asperger’s also fits the profile of the more classic autistic disorder. Indeed, in the current diagnostic manual, a child who has good language acquisition and intelligence qualifies as autistic if, in addition to having restricted interests and problems with social interactions, he has just one of the following symptoms, which are common among children with Asperger’s: difficulty conversing, an inability to engage in make-believe play or repetitive or unusual use of language. Even the best available diagnostic instruments cannot clearly distinguish between Asperger’s and autistic disorder.

People who now have a diagnosis of Asperger’s can be just as socially impaired as those with autism. So Asperger’s should not be a synonym for “high functioning.” Likewise, people with autism who are described as “low functioning,” including those without language, can have the kinds of intelligence and hidden abilities that are associated with Asperger’s — in art, music and engineering, for example — and can communicate if given assistance.

Moreover, large epidemiological studies have demonstrated that mild symptoms of autism are common in the general population. In particular, scientists have found that family members of a child with autism often exhibit isolated autistic traits. With autism, as with many medical diagnoses — like hypertension and obesity — the boundary lines are drawn as much by culture as by nature. Dividing up the workings of the mind is not as neat and orderly as categorizing species.

I've long held the opinion that autism is far more common than anyone currently realizes. Given the frequency with which isolated autistic traits occur in the population I'd say that we are all a little bit autistic. So the "them" that some do not wish to be associated with is more like an "us".

Left Brain/Right Brain also discusses the proposed changes to the DSM.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Green Police

You know, "Escape the draconian rule of the green police by buying our cool green car" doesn't really strike me as good pr for environmentalists or the car. Americans have a bit of a history of starting revolts over stuff like this.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"93% won't copy and paste this"

This is a meme that seems to be making the rounds on Facebook status updates these days
Please put this on your status if you know someone (or are related to someone, or are someone) who has AUTISM. My wish for 2010 is that people will understand autism is not a disease; people with autism are not looking for a cure but for ACCEPTANCE...... 93% won't Copy and Paste this, will YOU make this your status for at least one hour?
Now for the most part I agree with the sentiment expressed. Autistic individuals are not broken or diseased and for the most part do not want a cure. Many in fact find the implications of curing something that is such a significant part of who they are to be quiet disturbing, as do I. Autistic individuals do, however, want to be treated with respect same as anyone else.

I want to comment though on that last little bit of the status update, "93% won't copy and paste this." It's a common feature with these kinds of status updates that often ruins a perfectly good status update for me. It always makes me think of grade schoolers on the playground daring each other to go up and touch the fence of the neighborhood curmudgeon's house. Who comes up with these "X% won't copy and paste this" claims? Makes me think of the saying, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. Slap a number on that bad boy and all of a sudden it looks more official, more compelling.

I hope there is a grad student somewhere working on a dissertation on the manipulation of people through status updates on Facebook. That would be a fascinating read.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


I cringed when I heard the opening lines of this story on NPR, In Quiverfull Movement, Birth Control Is Shunned. I don't consider myself one of the quiverfull but with four kids I've gone over the arbitrary limit of two that some consider acceptable. I always have to resist the urge to roll my eyes whenever someone incredulously comments on how many children I have. One of these days I am going to respond to, "Why do you have so many kids?" with, "Well killing them or abandoning them for someone else to raise weren't really options for me so I had to suck it up and raise them myself." (I really wish that people would stop and think before interrogating me about to my choice to have the children I have about how they sound to someone who may not be able to have any.)

Those confused as to why I have "so many" kids certainly don't understand the nuances of allowing for divine intervention in family planning. If God really really wants you to have children nothing will stop that sperm from meeting that egg even if said meeting occurs half way around the world in someone else's body long before you realize you even want to be a parent (adoption for those who didn't follow the metaphor).

Now on to this quiverfull business. I know many families that, like my own, consist of more than the acceptable (to many of those commenting at the NPR site) 2 or less. Some might consider themselves some sort of quiverfull taking joy in having more than society's accepted number of children. And while they try to teach their values to their children they seem to understand quite well the trials, tribulations, and joys of parenting.

I'm not going to say much about the predictably distressed, bordering on hysterical (in the chicken little sky is falling sense of the term), comments bemoaning the evil, ignorant, racist, etc. etc. fundamentalist extremists who are over populating and destroying the planet and the country by having so many children and mooching off of the government to take care of their surely dysfunctional twisted families. I wish that was an exaggeration of the tone of the comments but it is not. The adherence to vaguely Malthusian theories of population growth (bringing to mind unpleasant images of Brave New World) and suggestions that the government should do something to penalize people for having "too many" children like China (with their forced abortions, selective abortions of baby girls, and villages full of boy children but no girls) really give one pause. But I am more interested in the reported claims of the quiverfull movement mentioned in the story.

Perhaps the most unfortunate thing reported in this story is the following,
"The womb is such a powerful weapon; it's a weapon against the enemy," Campbell says.

Campbell has 35 grandchildren. She and her husband stopped at six kids, and it is her great regret.

"I think, help! Imagine if we had had more of these children!" Campbell says, adding, "My greatest impact is through my children. The more children I have, the more ability I have to impact the world for God."

A Christian God, that is. Campbell says if believers don't starting reproducing in large numbers, biblical Christianity will lose its voice.

"We look across the Islamic world and we see that they are outnumbering us in their family size, and they are in many places and many countries taking over those nations, without a jihad, just by multiplication," Campbell says.

First the womb is most certainly not a weapon. To my knowledge it is never described as such in the Bible. The womb is a place for nurturing life. We do a grave disservice to women and the God who created us when we try to make it be any thing else.

Raising godly children can indeed have an impact on the world for God but I am reminded of a story told by one of the elders of my church about his childhood Sunday school teacher. She taught several generations of children about God touching an unknown number of people through her students' lives down through the years. Her quiver is full as far as I'm concerned but to my knowledge she had no biological children.

Children are a gift from God to be nurtured and cherished as an exercise in demonstrating God's unconditional love to another. Parenting (and otherwise caring for children) is as close as a mere human being can come to catching a glimpse of what it must be like for God in his relationship with humanity. Frankly parenting can be a bit of a crap shoot as you never know what kind of kids you're going to get, what kinds of issues they'll face in life, how receptive they'll be to whatever values you try to impart, or whether any of it will stick with them through out their lives. But I think it is limiting God to think that your greatest impact for God comes through having lots of biological kids (adoption is not mentioned anywhere in the story).

The notion that biblical Christianity will lose its voice if Christians don't start having lots of kids is preposterous and certainly speaks to a limited understanding of the sovereignty of God. Since its inception people have tried to stamp out Christianity. Along the way Christians themselves have dealt some serious blows to their own witness in the world. But still the word of God and faith in him persists.

Sad to say but often Christianity endures in spite of Christians rather than because of us. I can't help but think of the numerous times the Israelites were defeated in the Old Testament accounts of their history because they took their eyes off of God and went chasing after other things. Who's to say that the perceived losing of the Christian voice is not by God's design? I am also reminded of this passage from 2 Chronicles 7,
13When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.

I know it is popular in some circles to blame any misfortune that befalls the nation, or any given group therein, on unsaved folk sinning but the sins of those who claim to be the people of God are also a source for God's judgment. Note that the prescription for forgiveness and healing of the land involves things like praying and turning from wicked ways but not having lots of babies so that in a few generations there will be enough like minded people to take over cities and governments for God as mentioned in the story.

God doesn't need our piddling efforts to draw people to him. How ever you define "the enemy" God doesn't need us to defeat said enemy. Remember that we are talking about the same God who had Gideon go up against a superior force with a handful of men and had them inflict serious damage on their foes before they ever struck a blow (see Judges 6-8 for Gideon's story).

As a side note Christians would do well to consider Gideon's story when trying to discern God's will for him concerning moving against the Midianites. I have heard sermons where Gideon was criticized for his lack of faith in repeatedly asking for a sign from God before he went up against the Midianites. But there is something to be said for diligently considering if the venture you are about to embark upon really is God's will for you. Too many Christians use doing God's will as a cover for simply following their own path.

Finally there is this from the beginning of the story,
"When we first got married, we actually didn't want children," Kelly's husband, Jeff Swanson, says.

But then the Swansons began to notice that the Bible was very high on big families. And Kelly says that she and Jeff decided that God knew how many children they could handle.

I've also heard this kind of reasoning used to support polygamy. The thing that I always notice about those large families in the Old Testament is how totally dysfunctional so many of them were. Murder, rape, incest,jealousy, and all kinds of nefarious machinations as various members of those large families jockeyed for status and power. This is not to say that all large families are totally dysfunctional or that small families are better. The Bible gives examples of whatnot to do as often as it gives examples of what to do. We should carefully read the Bible and think critically to discern the difference.

I think the quiverfull movement is more a product of unique cultural forces within a certain subset of American society. Nothing more nothing less.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I'm a "Far Left Stalinist"

According to Michael Savage that is.
Radio host Michael Savage incites protests with autism comments
WOR said they couldn't be held responsible for what Savage says because he is a syndicated host broadcasting out of San Francisco. "We regret any consternation that his remarks may have caused to our listeners," the station said.

On the air last night, Savage said his comments were "ripped out of context" by "far left Stalinists."

He said he was talking about kids who were "misdiagnosed," but repeated his contention that most children who are called autistic aren't really sick.

The comments on the article are just lovely. So are the comments on a lot of other post and articles I've read. Apparently the opinion that autistic kids (no one seems to realise yet that those kids you know, grow up) are just rotten kids with rotten parents is pretty popular. Lovely. So much for autism awareness. It seems that most people would rather autism, and autistic individuals not exist, so they comfort themselves with the delusion that it is all faked, bratty kids (again ignoring the fact that autistic kids grow up to be autistic adults), a result of bad parenting (apparently this means not heaping enough verbal and physical abuse upon your kids), an over zealous medical establishment looking to make money off of gullible people (there are people making lots of money off of autism but they're not your family doctor, pediatrician, or big bad pharmaceutical companies), a ploy to get goodies from the government (I wish they'd let me in on the secret), or some combination there of.

Savage autism.
Savage's Comments Infuriate Autism Community
Michael Savage, autism comment

It's interesting how some people would rather take pot shots at liberals and conservatives than actually discuss the substance, or lack thereof, of Savage's remarks as is happening in the comments on this post, This is why Michael Savage is the most hated conservative in America. There are also a few over/mis-diagnosis, bad kids, bad parents comments thrown in for good measure. I wonder if any of these people know what's involved in actually getting a diagnosis of autism.

People who have more intimate experience with autism, as in being autistic and/or caring for autistic individuals, have their own opinions on the matter.

Is this guy for real?
Savage indignation
Conservatives Need to Get a Clue
Savage Language, To What End I Do Not Know
Savage Language, Cont’d
A Little Autism Education for Michael Savage
Micheal Savage - bottom lip trembling
Ignoble Savage

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Parenting Adults

I've noticed that some people have a hard time parenting their adult children. It seems that sometimes parents don't realise that their little babies will grow up (or have grown up) to be adults. One of the things that I admire about many of my friends with adult children is that they recognise that the parenting approach has to change as a child grows older. They may not always get it right (which they freely admit which is another thing for which I admire them) but they do recognise the need to approach their adult children differently. So I found this rather interesting to listen to, When Should Financial Independence Begin?. It seems that a lot of parents and their adult children are having difficulty with that transition from child to adult.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Family

I listened to parts of this Diane Rehm interview with Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. I haven't got much to say about it except that every time either of them mentioned the family I thought of these guys.

Be afraid, be very afraid.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Are College Degrees a Waste of Money?

From NPR earlier today:
Are College Degrees a Waste of Money?

Author and career coach Marty Nemko argues that when kids are not adequately prepared for college, they are simply wasting their time and money on four years of college-level course work. "College is a wise choice for far fewer people than are currently encouraged to consider it," he writes in his article, America's Most Overrated Product: the Bachelor's Degree.

The majority of students entering college today are unprepared, Nemko explains, "When you hop into a cab or walk into a restaurant, you're likely to meet workers who spent years and their family's life savings on college, only to end up with a job they could have done as a high-school dropout."

It's a good question to ask. Taken together with this, College students stumped by X + 2 = 4, it really makes you wonder about the value of education these days.

One thing that a college degree is guaranteed to get you is a mountain of debt. Everything else is up in the air. A few callers to the NPR show noted that taking up a trade (instead of spending significant amounts of time and money on college) is nothing to sneeze at. Indeed, just think about the amount of money college educated folk shell out to the likes of the mechanic and the plumber. But if you can't solve X + 2 = 4 you're not likely to be any good at either trade.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Cosmic Zit

Cross posted at Say Anything: Reader blogs.

Rather than blog about the various interesting reactions to the recent news that removing thimerosal from vaccines hasn't had the expected effect on rates of autism or to the new studies that have identified different genes involved in autism I decided to browse the galleries at HubbleSite. A much more relaxing, up lifting, and perspective correcting exercise.

I call this image the Cosmic Zit. NASA calls it, Outburst from Comet Tempel 1. "In a dress rehearsal for the rendezvous between NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft and comet 9P/Tempel 1, the Hubble Space Telescope captured dramatic images of a new jet of dust streaming from the icy comet. The images are a reminder that Tempel 1's icy nucleus, roughly half the size of Manhattan, is dynamic and volatile."

They call this one the Cat's Eye Nebula. That's a fanciful enough description for me. "Observations suggest the star ejected its mass in a series of pulses at 1,500-year intervals. These convulsions created dust shells, each of which contain as much mass as all of the planets in our solar system combined (still only one percent of the Sun's mass). These concentric shells make a layered, onion-skin structure around the dying star."

This Red Prism In The Heavens is also known as Dying Star HD 44179, the "Red Rectangle," Sculpts Rungs of Gas and Dust. This ancient dying star has an interesting story. "The star in the center of the Red Rectangle is one that began its life as a star similar to our Sun. It is now nearing the end of its lifetime, and is in the process of ejecting its outer layers to produce the visible nebula. The shedding of the outer layers began about 14,000 years ago. In a few thousand years, the star will have become smaller and hotter, and will begin to release a flood of ultraviolet light into the surrounding nebula; at that time, gas in the nebula will begin to fluoresce, producing what astronomers call a planetary nebula."

This star stared dying 14,000 years ago. It's got several thousand years to go before it's done. I wonder what humanity was doing 14,000 years ago? What will we be doing when this star is finally done with dying?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Religious Leaders and Politics

Cross posted at Say Anything: Reader blogs

Iowa's Christian Conservatives Seeking Candidate

I'm not sure which is more irritating, media stories framing religious involvement in politics as religious leaders telling their followers who to vote for or the religious leaders, particularly Christian religious leaders, who think that is appropriate to tell their followers who they should vote for. The pastor interviewed was very careful to note that what he was talking about was what was important to him in deciding who to vote for and to note that those are likely to be things that are also important to other Christians.

As much as the media spends time talking about how religious leaders, particularly Christian leaders, instruct their followers who to vote for I wonder how often that actually happens. The whole notion bespeaks the stereotype that religious people just follow along where they are lead. Any Christian religious leader is free to stand up and say which candidate they are going to support and why (hopefully not in the pulpit because that is not what it is for). Every Christian is free to completely ignore them. I know I do. At this point certain religious leaders have been so much more involved in politics than in anything else that their endorsement of any candidate is an indication for me to take a more skeptical look at said candidate.

Friday, October 19, 2007

This is why I won't fly

Most fake bombs missed by screeners. Not because I'm afraid of being blown up. But because I don't see the point of wasting all of that time and money, being stripped of my water and lip balm, possibly being stranded in an airport or an a plane without food or water, or subjecting my children to all of that, in an effort to keep me safe while actual bomb components still make it onto a plane.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11, 2001, Do You Remember?

Over the weekend a flier from a local furniture store came in the mail. It seems that they will be having a big clearance sale on September 11 this year. I know Americans have a habit of thoroughly commercializing every holiday and every day of remembrance but isn't it a bit early to be doing this to 9/11? I'm really not interested in remembering those who died that day buy going on a shopping spree. Are you?

As I searched for images to include in this post I became unexpectedly emotional. The photo of Father Mychal Judge's body being carried away from ground zero had me sobbing as if I were watching the towers fall for the first time.

Father Judge "Out of the wreckage of the south tower, first responders carry the body of Father Mychal Judge, the FDNY chaplain, to St. Peter’s Church. (Photograph by Shannon Stapleton / Reuters)"

I have always found photos of those running to the scene to help and those working to save lives that day and the crater in the earth that is all that is left of United flight 93 most moving.

WTC Photo Gallery

The Pentagon,
September 11, 2001 Images and Time Line

Shanksville, Flight 93 Photos

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Multiracial Identity

(Cross posted at Say: Reader Blogs.)

This is an interesting listen, Multiracial Identity in America Today.
Led by mixed race celebrities like Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Tiger Woods, race, culture and identity are changing in America. Is being multi-racial an identity all its own, or a delicate balance of old divides?

Orin Starn, cultural anthropologist at Duke University

Debra Dickerson, author of The End of Blackness

Sundee Frazier, author of Check All That Apply: Finding Wholeness as a Multiracial Person

There's not much angst in our house about what racial category the kids belong to. We've fallen into taking an "all of the above" approach when necessary. If a form that we have to fill out doesn't allow for checking multiple boxes we leave it blank or check multiple boxes anyway. On one occasion we pointed out that the categories available where in adequate for accurately describing our children.

I have no idea how others choose to categorize them and that's not important to me. I haven't got time for those of the "pick one" mentality who go on to criticize individuals if they don't make the "right" choice. What gives them the authority to impose their preferences for how one should choose a racial category on others?

In any case, I think the rise of a multiracial population in America that wants to recognize the fullness of its heritage will turn our current system of racial categorization on its head. Their prominence will illuminate the arbitrary and fluid nature of the boundaries between racial groups. It will be entertaining to watch.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Birth certificates for stillborn babies

Parents of Stillborn Babies Push for Recognition
Parents in a number of states around the nation are fighting for what they see as recognition of their stillborn babies. They want the state to issue birth certificates for their babies instead of fetal death certificates. A few states have complied.
Fourteen states have already passed Missing Angel legislation allowing the issue of birth certificates for still born babies. You can go here to find out about your state's status on this matter.

Abortion rights groups (the story specifically mentions the National Organization of Women) are concerned that this could lead to an erosion of abortion rights. The MISS Foundation which sponsors the missing angels legislation push addresses this in the FAQ section:
Q: Everyone who I talk to about this seems to want to bring “abortion” into this issue – what’s up with that? Why do they do that – and how can I get them to understand that “abortion” isn’t what it’s all about?

The arena of women’s rights and the protection of them thereof, precipitate painful verbal and political battles between legislative parties. It is very important to be clear when discussing with legislators that your personal opinion on abortion has no influence on this issue. Stillbirth is the death of a child as a result of natural causes. By definition, stillbirth excludes induced abortion.

I have to admit that I was annoyed that abortion was linked to this issue but not surprised. Thinking of aborted babies as people is clearly something that an abortion rights group would wish to avoid.

Any recognition of on unborn child as an entity deserving of any form of recognition or protection by the government brings us one step closer to the demise of abortion on demand. It raises some sticky questions. When do we become persons with rights and protections under the law? Where do we draw the line? Why? What are we before that point? What about it suddenly makes us persons with rights?

I don't think preserving abortion rights is a good enough reason to deny grieving mothers recognition of the life and death of their children.

Cross posted at Say Anything: Reader blogs.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Weird Al has got to be the most creative entertainer in a generation. I've known about this for a while now but today was the first time I've seen the video. I much prefer the Weird Al version to the original. He's up for a couple of Grammys tonight. Good luck dude!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Thanksgiving bypass

Ethan had a half day at school on yesterday so I took him and Sophia to the mall to kill some time. All of the stores in the mall have decked their halls for Christmas already. It seems like retailers aren't even bothering to "celebrate" Thanksgiving this year. They're focusing on Christmas right from the get go.

So this is Christmas huh? One never ending attempt to part people from their money for trinkets that they don't really need. All we need now are for the stories of little kids being forbidden to mention the religious meaning of Christmas and towns battling over nativity scenes and Christmas trees and it will officially be Christmas time in America.

I am thankful that I have children to teach to help me remember what holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving are really about. Tonight I got the chance to tell Ethan that Thanksgiving is a day on which we gather with family to give thanks for God's blessings. In the process I reminded myself that it is not about gorging yourself on an extravagant display of culinary excess.

As Christmas approaches and retailers ratchet up the sales pitch I will daily and joyfully teach my children of the wonder of the birth of the son of God who gave up his life for us.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

"We always send the poor because the privileged refuse to go."

This seems particularly relevant now that John Kerry has made his "joke" that if you don't study and work hard you may end up fighting in Iraq at a college campaign stop.

Moving from the War to Law School at Yale Commentator Ken Harbaugh spent nine years in the Navy before he started Yale Law School last year. Among his new peers at Yale, he's found very few people who have resumes like his, combining both military service and an Ivy League education.

Because few have military experience or plan to join the military, notes the reporter introducing the piece. Harbaugh notes that:
The elites who shape our national policy are growing dangerously out of touch with the men and women sent to fight in their place. It is an unfortunate truth that some socio-economic groups bear far heavier burdens than others in defending this country. But for all the nuanced explanations out there the real reason we always send the poor is because the privileged refuse to go.

I thought that Mr. Harbaugh's comments were a very accurate and damning critique of how the privileged treat the military. Their snobbish attitudes have begun to bleed through to the rest of us. The sacrifices that members of the US military make for the rest of us deserve more than the distrust and pity offered because some think they are too stupid to avoid the military or not valuable enough to do something else. Just because you don't want to serve doesn't mean that no one else should.

In 2005 Tucker Carlson noted just who is in the US military (hat tip Wizbang).

Don't patronize our troops

You often hear people compare the war in Iraq to the war in Vietnam, but here's one key difference: Nobody's calling veterans of the current war baby killers. Even the most strident opponents of Iraq go out of their way to praise the soldiers who've served there. Everyone is for the troops. It's required.

Why the change in attitude? Two words: pity and guilt. Everyone knows America's wars are fought by America's poor, people with so few career options that serving in combat qualifies as a lucky break. We feel sorry for the troops because we know desperation drove them into the military. We feel guilty because they are doing what we, the more fortunate, don't have to do.

It turns out we're wrong on both counts. A new and comprehensive study of enlistment data by military analysts at the Heritage Foundation has found that the typical volunteer is both more affluent and better educated than the average 18 to 24-year-old American. That's right: The average soldier is more privileged than his civilian counterpart. And the gap is widening. As the study puts it, since September 11th, "more volunteers have emerged from the middle and upper classes and fewer from the lowest-income groups. ... Since 2001, enlistments have increased in the top two-fifths of income levels but have decreased among the lowest fifth."

But wait. Aren't poor minorities "disproportionately" represented in the enlisted ranks and the military? That's the claim Congressman Charlie Rangel and others have made repeatedly on the House floor. It's a total crock. According to a 2003 Pentagon study, "blacks tend to be concentrated in administration and support jobs, not in combat jobs." Infantry, armored and artillery units, whose members suffer the bulk of casualties in Iraq and any war, tend to mirror the racial mix of the country almost exactly.

So if enlistees aren't driven to the military by poverty and hopelessness, why do they join? For the adventure, maybe. Possibly for the experience. Maybe even because they believe in the cause.

Hard as it may be for the average congressman or newspaper columnist to believe, American soldiers aren't losers. They're adults who know exactly what they're doing and are doing it voluntarily. Pity their suffering perhaps, but don't patronize them.

Being a military veteran Kerry should have been aware of what the military has to put up with. He should have known better than to attempt his "joke". Not being in the military myself I don't really know what military life is like but I know better than to intimate that those in the military are lazy and stupid. Perhaps Mr. Kerry should just stop talking and just apologize.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Strength to Suffer the Consequences

I've been thinking a lot about sin and forgiveness lately. Why are we so willing to sin against God? Because we know that those sins will be forgiven. Why are we so unwilling to admit our mistakes to our fellow man? Because people are nowhere near as forgiving as God. More often than not you can expect to have you nose rubbed in your mistake by your fellow man. God doesn't rub it in when we make mistakes. We may have worldly consequences to deal with but we know that God will grant his forgiveness when we seek it.

Before I go any further let me be clear about who and what I mean when I say God. I am talking about the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, triune God of the Bible. The Hebrews called him Elohim and Yahweh, among other things. I'm talking about the God who created heaven and earth and all things therein. I'm talking about the God who made mankind in his image and then sacrificed his son for our sakes after humanity spurned him and sought our own ruin.

Karl Marx once said that religion was the opiate of the masses. Faith in God does impart certain qualities to the believer but a perpetual drugged state is not one of them. Marx thought of religion as a way for the upperclass to maintain control over the lower classes and a way for the lower classes to cope with the harshness of their lives. Far from placing them into a drugged stupor faith in God grants strength to the believer no matter what their social status is.

Knowing that we have God's forgiveness gives us the freedom to act where others would be paralyzed by fear and uncertainty. Along with his forgiveness, God's love, grace, and mercy give us the strength to bear the burdens of living in a fallen world.

God gives us the strength to be poor, the strength to be sick, the strength to be persecuted, the strength to forgive our persecutors, the strength to be merely unpopular, and the strength to love the beautiful popular people. He gives us the strength to touch the untouchables, feed the hungry, and care for the sick and dying. He gives us the strength to walk in the valley of the shadow of death and the strength to die. God gives us the strength to say, "I was wrong," the strength to bear the consequences of our mistakes, and the strength to say, "I forgive" when wronged.

Many episodes in the Bible illustrate God bestowing this kind of strength on believers. First the story of David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). David asked for and received forgiveness for his sins but the child that was a result of said sin still died. (2 Samuel 12:1-23) Adam and Eve were forgiven their sin against God but they were still evicted from the Garden of Eden never to set foot in there again (Genesis 3). Paul was forgiven for persecuting the early church but he still had to deal with the mistrust of other Christians that he had earned while persecuting them. And he himself was persecuted for his faith. (Acts 7:57-58, Acts 8:1-3, Acts 9:1-31) Peter denied Christ three times before he was crucified. But Peter later found the strength to become an influential leader in the early church ultimately loosing his own life for the Christ he had denied. (It is interesting that Jesus foresaw and made provision for this.) Jesus Christ hung between two thieves as they died. One asked Christ for forgiveness and received it but he still died that day for whatever crimes he had committed.

Faith in God is the back bone of the lowly and the lofty alike giving us the strength to suffer the consequences of evil in our world.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Sharpton on black leadership

Today's interview in NPR's series on black leadership was with Al Sharpton. I found it to be the least interesting piece in the series. I must confess that I agree with Al Sharpton's critics. I grew up in New York City during his rise to fame. I was not impressed by what I saw then. I'm not impressed by what I see now.
Sharpton: A Leader with Followers -- and Critics

...Sharpton is also known -- and criticized -- for his flamboyance. His detractors say he uses civil rights to promote his own interests.

Recently, some of that criticism came from NPR's Juan Williams, who earlier this week accused Sharpton of posturing and using the civil rights legacy for his personal gain.

For his part, Sharpton says commentators and pundits have their own agenda: to sell books.

I haven't got any books to sell and no one pays me to speak anywhere. I find Sharpton's "leadership" to be paltry. I have since I was a kid. What's my agenda?

Sharpton's comments make an interesting contrast to those of Anne Fudge, chairman and CEO of Young & Rubicam Brands, who was interviewed on Thursday for the series.

CEO Sees New Sources of Black Leadership

For decades, black religious figures and politicians have been seen as the primary leaders in the African-American community. But business figures and other role models are assuming as much of a leadership role, Ann Fudge says. She's the CEO of Young and Rubicam Brands, a worldwide marketing communications company.

"We need leaders in every segment of the whole American system to begin to make change and make a difference," says Fudge, who has been called one of the 50 most powerful women in American business. "And if I think where the civil rights movement is going, it is about that evolution. It is about redefining civil rights for our time," she tells Renee Montagne.