Thursday, July 29, 2010

Checkbook Christianity excuses Arizona's fascist law

(Jesus driving the moneychangers from the temple. Rembrandt, 1626. Wiki commons)

Apropos the situation in Arizona, a few questions:

Why is it that those who claim most loudly to be Christians also complain most loudly about a supposedly Christian nation (it’s not, but that’s another column) allowing immigrants, legal or illegal, into the nation? I refer, in fact, to some comments on Facebook this morning in response to a Johnson City Press article regarding the judge who put the brakes on Arizona’s juggernaut toward becoming an armed camp where only white Anglo faces need appear.

Do they not in fact believe that Jesus of Nazareth fed a crowd of thousands from a few loaves and fishes? If they do believe that he did―and further believe as they claim that the living Christ is among us―then why do they not think the immigrants in their “Christian country” will be provided for?

If they believe, also, that God is the source of all, as they claim they do, why do they not believe that there will be enough to go around, enough for them and enough for immigrants, legal or illegal? Is their God, then, a limited God?

Many have said that, “Oh, yes, I sure enough believe in Christian charity. Why, I give through my church to buy blankets and such for poor folks.”

However, charity with the checkbook absent charity in the heart is no charity at all, and is, further, about as far from the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as it is possible to get.

It might also interest the Checkbook Christians to note that they are no more than the distant, rapacious, disconnected, greedy Wall Streeters they so love to vilify. If one’s only aim in life is to have enough wealth to write the check for whatever―from humongous yachts to ten buck drops in a bucket of need and misery―there is no difference. None at all. As the Wall Streeters were merely protecting their lifestyle, so the Christians practicing checkbook charity are protecting theirs. When you add to it laws such as those in Arizona, you’ve got something arguably worse than what Wall Street did…because it is in the name of God. At least the bankers were honest about it; they did it in the name of greed.

But, but, but….I hear them saying, all in chorus. No buts. If a Christian is not practicing compassion and charity in his or her heart as well as via his or her pocketbook, that person is no Christian at all, no follower of the man or myth known as Jesus of Nazareth. It cannot be both ways. Either one is charitable in all ways, or one is not a Christian. Amen.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


(Above, protest over BP's oil spill. Wikipedia commons)

In the old movie Silk Stockings, comrades from Russia visiting Paris find certain happiness there, but greatly fear they will be punished for their capitalist desires by being sent to Siberia. They sing a cute little song in which the refrain is "Siberi-eerie-eeria!"

Would it be wrong to say, "Tony, sweetheart, maybe you should watch the movie and learn to sing"?

But he probably won't have time. Tony Hayward, the Mrs. Malaprop of malfeasance in corporate PR, may be too busy to attend US Congressional hearings concerning the BP oil spill, he says. Poor "demonized" Tony was unable even to take a demotion and a sidewise dressing down without adding lip to it all, without showing once again how totally superior he feels to everyone else. Why the board at BP put up with it is something of a mystery to me; surely they had other choices among executives who might not have been so objectionable in their hubris. Surely there were others who wanted a 2 million-dollar-a-year paycheck. Surely.

It may take Hayward a while to figure out how to insult the Russians as thoroughly as he has insulted Americans. Or maybe he'll just be out buying fur outer garments; why not? He probably cares as little for non-human endangered species as he does for the endangered humans in the Gulf States.

How many oil wells are there in the tundra that could explode and bring disaster to another fragile ecosystem?

There is no possible excuse for this man.

A few weeks ago, an American/British geologist I was speaking with said he thought Tony's unfortunate pronouncements, such as the one about wanting his life back, were just the ignorant natterings of a former British public school (that is, in US English, private school) boy.

Nah. The man is a toad. He's a zero who kissed the right bottoms to rise to the top. Even his boss admitted today that the US second banana, although a "little rough" around the edges, was not the walking, talking disaster Tony Hayward is.

Hayward, if we are lucky, will become the poster boy for corporate crassness, for overweening greed, for absent compassion...for everything that is wrong in the post-Reagan, post-Enron business environment that has been one of America's most popular exports the past two decades or so. With luck, business schools will use his behavior as the road-map on how not to drive profits and create a well-regarded company. One hopes they will point out that while BP is partially American, Hayward is all Brit, although he certainly did his graduate work in American brashness. Indeed, he excelled. No matter; the US exported it, Tony learned it by heart, and it's about time to cut the heart out of that particular mode of corporate behavior.


"Tony, sweetheart: Can you maybe just go quietly to the tundra and shut the hell up? While you're at it, just put your feet up on your shiny empty desk, rest your hairy empty head, and think about anything you want. But for God's sake, don't actually DO anything. Paying you to do nothing, as obnoxious as your golden parachute is, will be a lot cheaper than having you preside over messes that other corporate dimwits might emulate."

You can see the sheet music for Siberia and hear the tune here.

The complete download costs a few bucks, but it might be a nice parting gift for dear Tony if you care to waste more money on this nowhere man.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

To the apologists for George W. Bush who couldn’t find their own nose in the dark

Someone, sometime, invented matches.
Someone else found that one could chop wood and apply matches to it and, if it happened to be dry enough, it would burn.
Someone else discovered that black stuff oozing up from the ground in various places could be made into a number of liquids that would burn if heated.
Someone discovered houses could be made from wood, and people could take shelter inside.
Someone else discovered that one could burn either different pieces of wood, or in a properly constructed container, some of that black liquid and make the house warm.
All this was good.
And then one day, someone else…someone stupid or evil or reckless or suffering from a lack of empathy with his fellow humans, in short, a sociopath…came along and decided to open the valve on the container holding the black liquid and let it run through the house. Then he decided to strike a match, set a piece of wood on fire, and throw it into the house.
Kaboom! He was so pleased with his creation! He had taken three things that are quite harmless, even helpful, by themselves and combined them in such a way that a horrific event and sorrow and loss and years of rebuilding would result, and nothing would really be the same again. While the stupid, evil, reckless, sociopathic man delighted in the truly impressive mess he had created, the onlookers were a lot less overjoyed.
The land the house had been on had been scorched, and would retain for eternity the odd bit of charring, the smell of fire when a rock was overturned. The people would retain sadness at their loss, even as they rebuilt. Their cat was nowhere to be found. They hoped he had escaped, but the cages of their hamster and birds were charred, twisted bits of metal with carcases inside. Their dog’s body was found under the timbers that had fallen on their charred bed, next to his favorite toy, as if he had taken it with him, seeking comfort from the people. They suffered, thinking their beloved pets would think they had done this to them on purpose, when, of course, they had not. They had simply not noticed the stupid, evil, reckless, sociopathic man in their midst. 
Aside from the lives destroyed, their favourite comforting things―things they really liked and enjoyed and used and had acquired through their toil―were gone. Worst, of course, was the fact that other living beings they had loved were gone, and the pain of thinking of them in their terror and seeming abandonment tore at the people’s hearts. And now, of course, they would have to use the money they had saved to build another house.
But they were afraid. The man who had opened the petrol tank and tossed in a lighted match was still around. He had powerful friends who thought he wouldn’t burn their houses if they just kept him from being arrested for burning the little wooden house, the house the people loved so very much, the house that had sheltered them and allowed them to sing and dance and learn and love, and care for other living things.
There was nothing the people, the householders, could do. The man’s friends were too powerful; the householders feared that if they spoke up, they would lose their new house, too. But they knew, sooner or later, the stupid, evil, reckless, sociopathic man would burn another house. And if that stupid, evil, reckless, sociopathic man got too old to wreak the havoc he enjoyed so much, another would spring up to take his place.
But the householders would not act. They would not even blame the stupid, evil, reckless, sociopathic man for their misery; they couldn’t. It was too painful. So they deflected the evidence of their failure to lock their door against him by saying it was not him, that someone else had invented the matches, wooden houses and oil products, and that it was unfair to blame him.
Certainly, they refused to see that they had failed to lock their doors against the stupid, evil, reckless, sociopathic man; they refused to take responsibility for their own mistake. It was too painful to think that, because they had seen the stupid, evil, reckless, sociopathic man’s appearance as a friendly guy and failed to recognize the devil within, they had allowed the disaster to happen. It was too hard to understand that their own lack of vigilance allowed their happiness and comfort and future to be destroyed, along with the lives of living things they had loved. 
They could not accept that they had enabled the author of the greater part of humanity’s misery at the moment to put all the diverse and individually neutral factors together in such a way that the world caught on fire and took with it their hopes and dreams, and the hopes and dreams of a great many of the world’s people.
And yet, it is true. No one else brought all those disparate parts, harmless on their own, together in a wild conflagration speading through a heartsick world, weakening the strong, killing the weak. No one else, just George W. Bush, with the complicity of millions. Only George W. Bush created strife and misery and wanton killing and abuse and poverty unmatched in the modern era by being the only person to combine independent harmless elements―of politics, of finance, of culture, or religion gone awry―into an incendiary pile of his own making. Only George W. Bush―no one else―opportunistically perverted innocent actions others had taken to maliciously rend the fabric of nations.
George W. Bush did not single-handedly cause the current disastrous conditions in the United States and the world. As has been accurately pointed out, President Clinton signed some of the legislation that allowed the financial meltdown. George W. Bush did not fly a plane into the Twin Towers, but he did make a big show out of hunting down the son of family friend’s the bin Ladens, failing miserably to find their wayward son, but destroying multitudes in his a priori useless attempt. George W. Bush did not create Saddam Hussein; doubtless he didn’t like him, or else perhaps he liked Hussein’s oil more, and destroyed a nation and a culture and goodness knows how many antiquities…not to mention, of course, soldiers of many nations and civilians of one ancient civilization who had begged him in vain, as had Karla Faye Tucker, for their lives. And he laughed at them, as he laughed at her.
And he laughs still.
George W. Bush lied. He lied so that we wouldn’t notice that it was he, and he alone, who took the matches and tossed them into a house he had filled with flammable liquid. He lied so we would be fooled into looking elsewhere―at stem cell research, at bowdlerized religiosity, at down-home folksiness, at his sneering buffoon of a craven vice president, at his grandstanding in various militaristic costumes claiming his patriotism while gutting his nation fore and aft―while he burned down the houses of nations.
It is the duty, first and foremost, of an existentialist to connect the dots in human activities. It is the duty of an existentialist, if that existentialist believes truly that existence precedes and supersedes concept, to act on behalf of existence. It is the duty of an existentialist to shed light on lies because whatever compromises the human condition compromises all there is. It is a more fundamental, more basic belief than the more prevalent belief in God as author of all that is. But it is not one, ultimately, that is at odds with bona fide spirituality, a spirituality that identifies the inimical and celebrates the good.
It is at odds with religions that pass off execrable actions as sins to be forgiven rather than unethical acts to be noted, prevented in future, even temporally punished. Forgiving execrable acts is giving tacit permission for their repetition; pointing them out again and again and again is the only reasonable response, until a sufficient mass of people begin to understand the enormity of the offences against them, against their personhood and everyone’s personhood, and demand cessation and reparation. Forgiveness is immaterial; recognition of evil is essential. Taking action against evil is highly to be desired.