Why do I give the governance I seek the tedious (and perhaps ridiculous) name “A Politics of Properly Balanced Tensions?” Because I believe law, properly crafted, is in the realm of wholly unselfishly-viewed interests that compete or conflict. Selfishly-made law, that creates bridges to nowhere and special exemptions for well-connected corporations or industries, are beyond the pale and won’t be dealt with here. Properly-made legislation is not totally guided by reason (due to the limitations of reason). It should be divorced from the chaos of emotional tangles, and allow for a wide field of diversity, thus rather objectively trying to meet a wide range of people's legitimate needs. And because I think that understanding any important political issue involves looking at things from all aspects and different vantages; appreciating the concerns of those who differ from you in how they think and what they believe; making compromises; respecting the human condition with all its insanity and mess; getting the incentives right; and always looking toward what will work best in the long run.
Let us look at the ten issues Bill of IOC examined, in order, plus two additional issues, Immigration and Terrorism. I will look at four today, and four matters in each of the next two days in this planned three-part series.
1) Universal Health Care. Having worked for a TPA -- a third-party administration company -- admin’ing health-care trusts, I have a well-informed and somewhat different vantage in looking at the matter. A prime issue to me is the rather nonsensical situation where individuals become dependent on the business they work for to provide them health benefits.
Though most companies are in large insurance pools of various sorts that share the risks associated with employee illnesses, many are not. And those that are not allow perceptions based on the supposed health care costs of job applicants to weigh in on their hiring decisions. This can greatly disadvantage people will health challenges competing in the job market. People who have movement difficulty or vision or hearing impairment are less likely to get employment in our current system. As well, overweight people; women, especially young women; senior men; and African Americans will be less likely to be offered jobs than they otherwise would be due to subtle discrimination against perceived big users of health-care benefits. All of society suffers when the best person for a job doesn’t get the position for reasons that are not directly related to the tasks of the job.
It is also inappropriate for a person who has health challenges that are readily apparent on the jobsite to be at risk for termination directly because of the cost to the employer for health maintenance.
While there are laws and programs meant to protect ill or injured employees, in the real world employers allow what they know to affect their decisions and rather easily get around the law. And to the degree employers have to pay employee health costs, health-challenged employees are at an unfair disadvantage in the workplace and job market.
Consider, as well, all the added cost companies have for any employee vis-à-vis alternatives like buying machine replacements for staff or having work done outside the US in developing countries. Since the burden of health care is borne by companies instead of the state here in America, companies are incentivized to seek means to do their business in ways other than hiring expensive human labor to perform tasks. If the state was wholly responsible for people’s health, employees would be more valuable “commodities” in the marketplace of "doers of tasks." Because of our long string of huge trade deficits, we need to find means to level the playing field to ship fewer jobs and more goods overseas. Otherwise, America has a future of decline.
In order to make things more fair and because it helps those most in need of good health and makes hiring people less directly expensive to employers, state-run Universal Health Care makes much better sense than our current system. There are “incentive” challenges to implementing such a system. Hypochondriacs or just generally fearful people with plenty of time to kill can be set loose to clog hospitals with their gripes of very minor or non-existent ailments. Co-payment policies -- such that state hospitals are run like HMOs -- might be just the thing to deter people with no real need of care from getting in the way of those with ailments that would benefit from the services of a doctor.
In a comment to his post, Bill of the IOC says he would want a non-governmental organization [NGO] of some sort running a vast American Universal Health Care system. I don't see that this would be a good idea. Medicare and Medicaid have good records as government-run programs. The government is the institution that is responsible, so they must run it, in my opinion. The Canadian system should be our model.
2) Gay Rights. Bill Harryman makes the point that civil unions (and not marriage, which he views as outside the purview of the state and being, for both homosexual and heterosexual couples, in the province of religion) should be made available to all adult citizens as a matter of equity. I fully agree; this is the route to end discrimination against homosexual couples. But I would add that government should also not be in the business of discriminating against single people. Society has an interest in seeing to the education and happiness of children, and should exceptionally direct resources to that end, but should not have a preference in the makeup of families -- allowing single people, couples, sets of adults, all with or without children, to exist in households without some groups/configurations receiving special tax or legal benefits that come from the state.
3) Limited Capitalism. I believe that capitalism is very necessary -- due to its efficiency -- but needs to be regulated and tamed to protect consumers and correct for wildly unjust income disparities. Today in America, the system is rigged, giving special treatment to insiders who have influence with politicians. Ours is a politics of Social Darwinism rather than one that seeks fairness and a carefully-crafted matrix of incentives to keep capitalism in check to be a proper force for economic activity. I think it truly is the case that today soldiers are sent to die in Iraq to profit Halliburton and oil company executives. It is an insane old world.
We should also allow some laws that correlate effort with income. This is not “income redistribution,” but a correction to income misdistribution. Just as there are minimum-wage laws that guarantee that the poor among us are not de facto slaves, there should be laws that cap or heavily tax income of those with huge salaries who, necessarily, come by their wealth from networks of influence. I have to ask: What effort could any individual possibly make that could justify an income of $10 million per year? Show me anyone who could sweat enough to justify extracting that much wealth from our collective economy in one year. We should end the grotesque theft from the common weal that is today allowed.
4) Decriminalizing Drugs. I think that society has to come to the right balance in dealing with drugs. People, especially young adults, will experiment and society should have a proper understanding of that and allow some latitude for people’s strange behavior, desires and mistakes. At the same time, society should deter behavior and use of substances that endangers the overall peace, security and happiness of the population. Plus, we must be sensitive to the destruction American use of drugs causes overseas, in nations like Afganistan [heroin] and Columbia [cocaine] that are corrupted due to American demand.
I would like to see a study of where we are with suppressing drug trafficking in the US nowadays, with an effort to quantify the pain/good that can be done by various protocols in allowing/suppressing trafficking.
Tomorrow, Part II: Foreign Policy; Ethics in Politics; A Department of Peace; The Environment.
For instance, Romney argued, the fact that his church forbids him to drink alcohol does not mean that he, as a public official, should seek to deny other people the right to drink alcohol. He, like any good public official of faith, is able to separate his faith from the duties of his office without being untrue to either. Furthermore, he argued, the fact that his church forbids its members to encourage or participate in abortion does not mean that he, early in his term as governor, violated his church's prohibition by vowing to uphold existing law allowing abortion.
I do not like the underhanded way that much of this exchange was recorded during commercial breaks in the radio program and then subsequently released, presumably without Mr. Romney's permission, to the media when Mr. Romney apparently did not know that he was being taped. However, I think Romney--despite the fact that I do not want someone with his views on abortion, gay rights, universal health care, the Iraqi war, and other matters to be president--handled himself rather well, and it was interesting to get a behind the scenes glimpse of what he is like when he is upset and thinks the camera is off. The fact that he can disagree with someone without becoming irrationally and unpleasantly disagreeable speaks positively for his character and, I think, his capacity to exercise judicious self-control under the pressures of the presidency.
Nevertheless, I question Mr. Romney's view that the teachings of the Mormon Church, which he claims to embrace, are irrelevant to his suitability to be president, and I further wonder whether we should not give more consideration to the religious beliefs of ALL political candidates before we support or vote for them.
If someone, no matter how accomplished he might be, were running for president who claimed to believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, or Zeus, we would surely consider him much more of a candidate for the mental ward than for the presidency of the most powerful nation on Earth. There is no way he could get elected, and, I would think, rightfully so. For who but a fool or a nut could, as an adult, believe in such ridiculous fiction?
But then, how much less ridiculous is it to believe, among other things, that in 1830 a man was guided by an angel to a book composed of golden plates buried in the ground near his home in upstate New York, that this book chronicled the history of pre-Columbian Israelites who settled in the Midwest and became the principal ancestors of the American Indian peoples, and that Jackson County, Missouri was the Garden of Eden? Well, the Mormon Church teaches this, and Mitt Romney, as a self-professed devout Mormon, presumably believes this and many other equally if not more dubious teachings. Should such beliefs disqualify him from high (and, for that matter, low) political office? Why would the believer in the Tooth Fairy be disqualified by his belief and not Mitt Romney by his?
And why wouldn't a fundamentalist Christian who believes, among other things, that Satan, disguised as a snake, tempted Eve to eat the Forbidden Fruit which led to the corruption of humankind and all of nature; that God drowned the whole world except for the contents of Noah's Ark; and that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, never did anything wrong in his whole life, walked on water, materialized food out of nowhere, raised the dead and performed other genuine miracles, died on the Cross to atone for our sins, and bodily rose from his tomb to visit his disciples and then ascend to heaven; and that a domain of unimaginably excruciating eternal agony awaiting those who disobey divine commands is compatible with a Supreme Being of perfect love, justice, and mercy be disqualified for the presidency or any public office by his or her beliefs?
Clearly we do not disqualify fundamentalist Christians from elective office on account of their incredible beliefs, and it is remotely possible that Romney could be the Republican nominee and eventual president of the United States despite his equally if not more incredible Mormon beliefs. But is this how it should be? I really do not see an essential difference between belief in a literal Tooth Fairy and belief in the literal God of the Bible or Book of Mormon. Yet we, the public, draw a huge, if poorly articulated, distinction between the two. Even those of us who think the Bible and Book of Mormon are literal nonsense accept this distinction. But on what basis? And is it, perhaps, time that we stop doing so? And if we do, what then? Do we refuse to vote for any candidate who claims to believe in the literal teachings of any mainstream religion? If so, would the candidates who remain be any better qualified for political office?
Buddhism or the Buddhadharma is different than becoming a good person. Because when you want to become a good person, when you want to do good, you become a purpose, you have a purpose of being good, of what you think is good. So we even have to transcend that.
Studying Zen is not becoming a good person, but becoming a human being. When you become a human being then you are naturally ... you realize your basic goodness. Even ourselves are basic goodness. Then you realize the basic goodness of others. That's goodness.
So, It's not doing good things for people. Becoming the selflessness in serving people is one of the greatest rewards.
-- Jakusho Kwong-roshi
The above is taken from a interview clip that appears in a video set called "Religions of the World." The fifty-minute film on Buddhism is wholly unimpressive -- lots of film scans of murals and small statues spinning in front of a black screen. But interview clips of Kwong-roshi, the founder, with his wife, and Zen Teacher at Sonoma Mountain Zen Center in Santa Rosa, California; Prof. Lewis Lancaster, PhD, UC Berkeley; and Dr. Rina Sircar of CIIS are very worthwhile.
I love what Kwong-roshi says about goodness in the quote above that I snatched from the film, and not because [or solely because] it justifies me being a jerk from time to time. I think that many people who are new to Buddhism [and even some who have been at it for a long time] approach our religion with the idea that by being gooder than good and holier than thou they win in the competition of being Best Buddhist.
But that's not so -- at least from a Zen approach. The way I look at it, Zen is fundamentally a search for authenticity.
And, by the way, Kwong-roshi is curiously the most ordinary yet appealing individual you are likely to ever encounter. Much like the Dalai Lama, you are given to immediately believe anything this gentle man says.
I am what you would probably consider to be politically "liberal." But I enjoy your program nevertheless because of your consistently intelligent and respectful discussion of so many substantive issues. I am also increasingly convinced that philosopher Ken Wilber is correct when he claims that there are valuable insights stemming from both "right" and "left" political perspectives and that it is wise to seek to integrate these perspectives and their insights. I have found you to be an outstanding spokesperson for a political perspective and for corresponding insights that I have largely shunned until recently but am now giving much more consideration and am struggling to incorporate into my own worldview. That is, as a result of listening to programs such as yours and Hugh Hewitt's and of reading "conservative" writings such as one finds on clinical psychologist-philosopher Robert Godwin's remarkable One Cosmos blog (by the way, one could say that his frequent mention and praise of you persuaded me to give you a serious listen), I have found myself developing a political and more general perspective that is less dogmatically "liberal" and, I would like to think, more reflective of a reality whose complexities transcend staunchly liberal and conservative understandings. I thank you sincerely for the significant role you are playing in this ongoing transformation.
However, I would like to take respectful issue with some of your comments during your opening hour of today's program. First, you said that Karen Armstrong is wrong to assert that all religious fundamentalisms are essentially equivalent in theory and practice. If I understood you correctly, you maintained that there is no moral equivalence whatsoever between Christian fundamentalism that will tolerate criticism and even outright mockery of its teachings and Islamic fundamentalism that will murder people for any perceived disparagement of the faith. I do not necessarily disagree with you here, but I would ask whether you think that hardcore Christian fundamentalists would be much more tolerant than hardcore Muslim fundamentalists if they lived in a society where they had the power to impose their views on everyone. I am inclined, rightly or wrongly, to believe that if Christian fundamentalists held unchecked power in this country, they would not necessarily be all that much more tolerant of mockery, criticism, or even substantive dissent than are Muslim fundamentalists. And if this were true, would fundamentalist Christianity REALLY be that morally superior to fundamentalist Islam, or is it now simply prevented by legal force from doing what it would otherwise do? It would be fascinating for you to discuss this on your program sometime, and especially if you could have Karen Armstrong on and discuss all of this with her. I, for one, would love to hear her explanation and defense of her claim that most religious fundamentalisms are equivalent.
Second, you argued that Robin Williams has shown no moral courage in mocking Christianity but not Islam after 9-11. A caller disputed your claim by stating that Robin Williams has done extensive routines mocking Islam and Islamic terrorists, and I suspect that he is correct. For instance, in just a cursory YouTube search, I found this.
Third, you asserted that the entertainment industry has displayed no moral courage in its failure to offer post 9-11 entertainment that realistically depicts the immoral savagery of Islamic terrorists. The same caller who disputed your claim about Robin Williams countered that "Hollywood" has in fact produced many movies that disparage Islamic terrorists. You replied that even if this is true, it has done so more in terms of comic book scenarios and caricatures than realistic depictions, and it has not been true at all since 9-11. Well, I do not watch a lot of TV or see many movies, but I am aware of several films and TV programs produced since 9-11 that have provided reasonably realistic and unflattering portrayals of Islamic terrorists. Among them are the acclaimed movie United 93, the Showtime two-season miniseries Sleeper Cell, and several seasons of the very popular Fox drama 24.
Furthermore, even if it were true that comics and the entertainment industry in general readily criticize and mock Christianity but not Islam in the wake of 9-11 out of fear for their safety, I wonder if YOU would dare to criticize Islam on your radio show or in your writings if you truly believed that doing so placed you and your family in serious jeopardy from Islamic terrorists. And if you did not speak out against Islam under these circumstances, would you be any less of a "moral coward" than others in the entertainment industry who criticize what they feel safe in criticizing and refrain from criticizing when they think it could lead to deadly violence?
Dennis, I am grateful for your radio program and for the time you have taken to read this overly long letter, and I wish you peace, prosperity, and happiness.
This is how Dennis responded:
Thank you for the very thoughtful letter. It's an honor having listeners like you.
Some quick responses:
1. Christian fundamentalists often ha control in America and never imposed anything like an Islamic intolerant regime here.
2. Robin Williams did indeed make fund of suicide bombers. That's relatively easy and not comparable to making fun of RC priests in general.
3. United 93 was a documentary-film of one flight. And a great service it was. And it was a rare exception.
4. I have been very critical in both writing and radio of the Islamists, and frequently think of the danger it can put me in.
All the best,
I appreciate the fact that Mr. Prager took the time and trouble to respond, especially given the fact that he must be swamped with e-mail every day. However, I still wonder if Christian fundamentalists would not be far more repressive if they had unchecked power, if Robin Williams and other comics have not made much fun of Islam and Islamic terrorists since 9-11, if there have not been numerous "Hollywood" films and TV programs since 9-11 that paint Islam and Islamic terrorists in an unflattering light, and whether Dennis Prager truly feels endangered (say, the way Salman Rushdie undoubtedly feels endangered) for expressing the views he does about Islam and Islamic terrorists.
It has become a big story. As well it should be. On May 9, 43-year-old mother of three Edith Isabel Rodriguez died on the waiting room floor of the Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital ER in Los Angeles. She died after lying there for 45 minutes writhing in pain and vomiting blood from a perforated bowel. Nobody helped her. In fact, the only attention she received was from a janitor who periodically mopped up the blood, and from her boyfriend and another patient who called 911 to have Rodriguez transported to another hospital that would help her. Their urgent pleas were rejected and rebuked.
MLK-Harbor is a county hospital for mostly indigent patients. It has a sad history of negligent practice and patient neglect. It tried to pass off Rodriguez' death as that of a "quasi-transient" with a history of drug abuse. That may have been true enough, but it told only a small, whitewashed part of the story. The ER surveillance camera told a larger, much uglier part. Those who have been allowed to see the video say that it revealed Rodriguez' entire ordeal in harrowing detail. It showed her agonizing on the floor. It showed her vomiting blood. It showed the janitor making his rounds to mop up the blood. And it showed the shocking indifference of the ER staff to her plight.
"Here's a person crying for help. Will no one help?" asked noted bioethicist Arthur Caplan. "What kind of a society are we when we can't even render aid to someone who's in their own blood and vomit on the floor and you're mopping around them? It's a kind of morality tale of a society gone cold."
Indeed, what kind of society are we? And what do we do about it?
I believe that incidents like these are not the result of any one cause. They result from many interrelated psychological, social, and cultural causes. Consequently there is no simple solution to the problem. I believe that part of the solution may be deterrence. That is, the hospital personnel who callously let this tragedy happen should be exposed to the public, prosecuted to the fullest extent possible, sued to the limits of their personal responsibility, and permanently barred from the healthcare field.
But beyond that, I believe that we need to see that video, learn everything we can about this awful story and others like it, make ourselves more sensitive to the pain, suffering, and needs of others, and realize that what happened to Edith Rodriguez could happen to us or to someone we love someday if we let it.
But me, I’m rather fascinated by how strange the best and the worst of us are. And l love trying to formulate a kind of “behavior set” or logic matrix that might explain the wondrous [or goofy or inane] behaviors of others.
An aspect that I sometimes see in people that I find admirable I call “situation saving.” These are people who step in to save people when they make an unfortunate faux pau or otherwise say something ignorant or inappropriate or goofy. Now, I don’t mean any of this in a kind of meta-sense. Most of the transactions that I observe are small; they happen, are forgotten and life moves on.
AN EXAMPLE: This morning I stopped in a one-man clock-repair shop, just as it opened, to get a new battery for a watch. [Yes, I’m a dinosaur. I wear a watch. Leave me alone!] While waiting for my watch to get taken care of [Which should have taken just a scant minute!], other customers came in with minor problems that the repair guy tended to without charge: straightening a numeral on a lady‘s clock; removing a link from a fellow‘s watch; then, directing the lady, who’d returned, to a cell-phone store she was eager to find. When my battery-replacement thing was done, and the guy had told me the charges, a very reasonable five bucks, I said, “Boy, you’re very busy this morning, but not making much money. Hopefully some good-paying business will come in -- a guy with a busted cuckoo clock or something.” The repair guy was flummoxed on how to respond to the odd thing I said! I was sticking my jerky nose into his business! The repair guy FAILED to save the situation.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, kind reader: I was a jerk and the repair guy was basically kind-hearted. This is true; this is so very true, but it misses the point. The repair guy did not have the presence of mind to save my sorry ass when I said something stupid. He didn’t have “situation saving” moxie.
He could have said “Yeah, hopefully either an expensive cuckoo clock will come in for me to overhaul, or a grandfather clock that had fallen down a long flight of stairs.” And then my point wouldn’t have seemed so crass, and me and the repair guy could’ve smacked palms in a high-five and gone about our happy days
Now, again, here, I know what you’re thinking, kind reader: Maybe -- even probably -- the guy takes his job quite seriously, loved clocks, got into his business because he admired well-made, perfectly performing clocks and he would be in pain to see a busted cuckoo clock or a badly damaged grandfather clock. He’s sort of a clock physician: His mission in life is to restore timepieces to good health.
Oh, all right. Sheesh. I have to admit your point, dammit, reader. You are probably quite right. Indeed having observed the repair guy for the five or ten minutes I was cooling my heels in a chair waiting for my battery thing to get taken care of, I could see he was extraordinarily pleasant and thoughtful. Just the type of fellow who is likely to admire the excellence of well-constructed clock innards. Probably, yes, he would grieve to see any badly damaged exquisite timekeeping machine. Indeed, the walls of his small shop had interesting and downright lovely clocks of different sorts all about. He did give off clock-loving vibes.
So, how about this: The repair guy could have changed the subject abruptly to save my embarrassment. He could have said, “Why, Tom, I’m having a great day, so far! Don’t you fret about me! And I must say, this Fossil Avenger you wear is quite nice. What a joy for me to handle it. It’s an heirloom!”
Oh Kay. Oh Kay. I know what it is you’re thinking. Reader. A Fossil Avenger is crap. If the watch guy delights in fine timepieces, he cannot, with any integrity, say anything nice about my beat-up old watch. The guy should have been flummoxed, you’re thinking. There simply is no way to save a jerk like me in the hairy situation I’d gotten myself into.
You know, reader: You are no damn help AT ALL. I go to all this trouble just to tell you a little bit about my day and I have this list of many, many aspects of people’s personalities I find interesting and want to share and HERE YOU’VE GONE AND SPOILED EVERYTHING!
You can just take your nitpicky little mind and point your beady eyes at SOMEBODY ELSE’S BLOG. I’VE HAD IT. I QUIT THIS POST. IT‘S OVER. Why couldn’t I have imagined you saying nice, soothing things, Reader? What's wrong with you!? GET OUTTA HERE!
If you had a dispute with someone, you were straightforward about it. You might face your opponent down at high noon in the middle of the main street in a dual, seeing who’s quicker drawing his gun [which isn’t too cool or compassionate, to be sure], but at least it was face-to-face, without any behind-the-scenes skullduggery involved.
Eisenhower’s point in his speech was clear to people of the time. Joe McCarthy and his Senate committee were ruining lives with accusations that individuals were Communists or Communist sympathizers. McCarthy was always hyperbolic and emotional in his claims without having the evidence to back up what he said. He went after the Truman Administration, choosing it as a target for obvious political advantage. Later, he went after the army in what was likely mostly an attempt to embarrass Eisenhower.
People endeavoring to benefit from Buddhism should be straightforward in what they say and should avoid trying to deceive others or being two-faced. We should use words that are appropriate, that create a fair impression in others’ minds of what we believe to be true. We should neither be weasels nor use weasel words. It is easy to be seduced into using words that are not the closest thing to the truth because we want to hype what we say to get the listener or reader to feel our passion or recognize the importance of what we are saying. But doing so we may easily veer away from what is true and leave others with misinformation.
In theory, we should be straightforward when presenting an idea and not concern ourselves with the outcome of issues, or decisions people make from the information we provide. If we divorce ourselves from the future, we can respect the reality of what is happening immediately in front of us. We can be objective with facts. But I say that this is all “in theory,” because reality often deals us complications where we feel certain that absolute veracity would be a mistake. That the truth would be misused by others. Or, that a bit of embellishment might add something to make others better understand us. We cannot easily divorce ourselves from a desire that the future turn out in a way that we perceive clearly to be best. But Trust in Mind [The Hsin Hsin Ming] sagely tells us, "The Great Way is not difficult / for those who have no preferences."
I think that Right Speech, one element in the Eightfold Path, is a warning to avoid skullduggery, the bad habit of being tricky in the way we do things. We can and should judge the situation we are in and try to do what is best -- which only in very unusual situations might include being less than fully forthcoming in what we say [and do], and being less that fully truthful.
It’s a matter of heart. But it is also a matter of not trying to control others and in leaving room [or, better, leaving it completely open] for things to turn out different from how you would like.
Anyway. These issues have been in my thoughts lately, dealing a little with Right Speech that is being delivered from my mouth and fingers and dealing a lot with the bad habits of others in my meatspace these days.
Skullduggery is also, perhaps, the key to understanding the Bush Administration. They simple can't seem to deter themselves from acting in sneaky, non-forthright ways. It seems to me to be the core of all their problems. They cannot do something well, thoughtful and planned when being devious is always an option
That's all I have to say. Down from the soapbox I step.
Both Justin of American Buddhist Perspective and Shokai of Water Dissolves Water are negative toward the effort in Thailand to have Buddhism declared the nation’s official religion. Both see Buddhism losing itself rather than gaining any kind of beneficial hold on people’s hearts.
Nationalism and religion can be a toxic brew. Mettanando Bhikkhu, an Oxford-educated monk, worries that Thailand could go the way of war-torn Sri Lanka, whose hawkish clergy block any concessions to the Tamil rebels. In the 1970s, when Thailand was seen as the next domino to fall in South-East Asia, a prominent right-wing monk said it was fine to kill communists. As Thailand's southern insurgency worsens, the risk is that its Buddhists may again forget one of their precepts: that all life is sacred.
By enshrining one religion, including Buddhism, you open the door to exclusivism and hostility toward other religions, which is contrary to Buddhist tolerance and inclusivism.
Shokai and Justin likely are right. Still Buddhism has seen halcyon days, under the reign of Ashoka on the Indian peninsula, in Cambodia sixty years or so ago and during the Golden Age of Zen in China and for a period in Japan and in Korea and in Mongolia and in a country, now perhaps lost, that inspired the idea of Shangri-la. With the notable exception of Sri Lanka, Buddhism has done well in history as an official religion.
And I have to say that I think it would be magnificent if by some miracle the United States were to suddenly steer toward Buddhism en mass and pass a constitutional amendment making Buddhism the state religion. Wouldn’t that be cool? Wouldn’t that be swell?
Sure. A country inspired by the Buddhism commonly practiced in America would be a bit whacky and impractical and bring in a resurgence of some New Age nuttiness, but it would be refreshing, too. And inspiring and hopeful.
Just imagine [as John Lennon is wont to say] that Bush has left office and the US takes the dive and goes All Buddhist, All the Time, in every quadrant, tickling even the coldest of American hearts.Envision these cultural changes in quick response to the passage of a constitutional amendment in America making Buddhism the national religion:
- There are more university freshmen in 2008 majoring in tonglen than in accounting.
- Miracle Grow announces its new ad slogan: “Make your plants happy.” But the product and the ad campaign meets political opposition from the new Feral Plant Institute.
- In December, the Buddha Claus at Macy’s in New York suggests to children that they make good use of the toys they already have and experience the joy of sharing with other children rather than getting their parents to buy them gifts in the store’s toy department.
- People start swallowing metta vitamins for their well-being and that of those around them.
- McDonald’s new Happy Meal is a vegetarian sandwich with a baked potato and spring water.
- To solve the Tibet issue, we give the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people the state of Utah.
- To solve the Israel-Palestinian issue, we vacate the state of South Carolina and move all the people of Israel there. Perhaps the Israelis will be able to walk to South Carolina after God parts the Atlantic.
- And, because we love the prior residents of Utah and South Carolina, we give them Canada, and give the former Canadians Greenland, an island that will be green again, soon, thanks to global warming.
- Worried about what to wear today? Your problem is solved. There is only one thing to wear: the robe.
- No need to formally meditate. All of life is its own meditation in the suburbs of All-Buddhist America. The insects cooperate. The kids behave. The dog feels a responsibility to work for his food. Samsara is nirvana? Screw that! Nirvana is nirvana in America!
- There’s a new, better meaning to “Oh, say can you see, by the dawn’s early light.”
Why do blacks get more leeway in what they say about whites than vice versa? For that matter, why do women get more leeway than men, gays more than straights, workers more than bosses? Simple: Human nature always sides with the less powerful. When the little guy hits the big one, it's audacity. When the big guy hits the little one, it's cruelty.Thus, according to The Rules, Imus crossed the line because he picked on the women basketball players of Rutgers who were weaker [in the sense of not having ready access to a megaphone to respond and in the sense of being regular people rather than savvy celebrities]; Imus was being a bully. This comports with what Gwen Ifill, Washington Week host and NewsHours senior correspondent, wrote on the matter in her Op-Ed piece in the New York Times. The Rutgers players were anonymous, noble innocents when they felt the lash of Imus's tongue. Many years earlier, Imus called Ifill, a black woman, "a cleaning lady" when she was the White House reporter for the New York Times. But Ifill wasn't upset by being the target of an Imus attack.
I haven’t talked about this much. I’m a big girl. I have a platform. I have a voice. I’ve been working in journalism long enough that there is little danger that a radio D.J.’s juvenile slap will define or scar me.Many people, including especially reporters who interviewed Rev. Sharpton in the late stages of the Imus meltdown, have made a quick leap to encouraging condemnation of Hip Hop artists whose lyrics are frequently violent and hateful toward black women, and wondering why this massive, continual, wholly mean-spirited hatred isn't the greater offense? Why is Imus publically pilloried while Young Buck, Mims, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg and Rich Boy are building music careers and amassing wealth by expressing hatred toward [i.e., bullying and encouraging the oppression of] black women?
Pitts doesn't get into it, but conflating Imus with the Hip Hop artists confuses the issue. First off, while the artists are worthy of much condemnation and have gotten a lot over the years, it should not be part of an excuse for Imus's behavior. Besides, just because Imus used Hip Hop phrasing, doesn't place the Imus and Hip Hop usages in the same context. As student Daniel E. Herz Roiphe wrote in the Harvard Crimson a few days ago,
The desire to evaluate comments independently of their origin is understandable -- there is something disconcerting about holding people of different races to different standards in the name of promoting racial tolerance and equality. But ... [t]he race, religion, and ethnicity of a person are all significant factors in determining the offensiveness of what he says or writes. Meaning is inherently dependent on context. The same words, used by different people in different circumstances, carry entirely different connotations.The same logic was an important message in Randall Kennedy's book, "Nigger," which I reviewed in this blog last December. The N-word is likely to be the height of being inflamatory when used by a white person to taunt a black person, while in the confines of an all-black audience it may carry a benign -- and sometimes friendly -- meaning. The Supreme Court, too, is very atuned to the importance of context of words in decisions it has made regarding taunts and abuse. As Oliver Wendel Homes wrote in one case, albeit not about race, but stunningly appropriate for our topic here and used by Kennedy a couple of times in his book,"A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged; it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and time in which it is used.".
... Even the staunchest advocates of equal opportunity racism must admit that contemporary culture grants a special leeway to pulic figures who mock their own ethnic goup. It is hard to imagine that a white Dave Chappelle would have much success casually tossing around the n-word on national television. Similarly, if a gentile comedian told us to "throw the Jew down the well," it would lead to an uproar, but when Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat character did, it landed him a hit TV show and an Oscar-nominated film.
In a new development, Rush Limbaugh, with the tone deafness that has brought him vast wealth, has been airing on his radio show a parody song called "Barack the Magic Negro," played to the tune of "Puff, the Magic Dragon." Here's what a Chicago Tribune blog, The Swamp, says of it: "The audio clip features a comedien imitating the singing voice of the Rev. Al Sharpton, bemoaning Obama's popularity with whites, who will, the lyrics predict, 'vote for him and not for me cause he's not from da hood.' "
Since Obama is not a regular citizen, but a political rockstar, he cannot complain, how ever mean-spirited, or even racist, the audio clip may be. In accord with Pitts's The Rules, Limbaugh is being audacious [The Audacity of Dope!], rather than cruel toward Obama. The parody does cause collateral damage [I.e., in the military-bombing sense: Harming innocents close to its target.] by casually lampooning the black community in toto, using conservatives' ignorant stereotypes of how it functions. Indeed, according to a Crooks and Liars website post, black employees at radio stations that air the parody are "up in arms."
Pitts believes that Sacha Cohen's free pass from the public to engage in the "humor" that he uses comes from him making himself the joke. Thus, there's no bullying. Wrote Pitts, "With [Sacha Cohen's character] Borat as with Archie Bunker before him, the humor is constructed such that they themselves are the butt of the joke. We are invited to laugh at their ignorance."
I mostly disagree. I agree that the most of the public gives Borat a pass. This comes, I believe, from a sense the viewers have that they are insiders to Sacha Cohen's jokes. Since he is himself Jewish, he is "allowed" to say the most outrageous things about Jews while playing the character of an ignorant simpleton, raised in a fantisized backward culture. The public gives Sacha Cohen licence to be silly and goof on people. But oftentimes Borat is very much a bully, humiliating people by tricking them into revealing their ignorance or bigottedness, while he acts as an innocent or as their friend. It says something rather ugly about our culture that we are not yet wise enough not to chorkle at the pain of others, whatever their foolishness.
About a year ago, Ken Wilber broke The Rules when he put up his "Earpy" post telling those critical of him to "suck his dick." Wilber is the 800-lb. gorilla of the Integral movement, and, were he truly second tier, he would be above continually poking the green meme, and being a control freak at the Integral Institute. In a follow-up post, Wilber claimed that -- ha, ha -- he was only kidding. His Earpy post was all just "a test," a prank meant to reveal others' foolishness and lower-tier perspectives. Whether or not the "test" demonstrated anything, it was also a stupid, mean-spirited thing to do, something that has cost him followers and patrons and has sent a message to his league of sycophants that their lips must never leave his butt, since The Ken will tolerate no dissent. Looking at it from the outside, Integral Institute is a mess that is neither Integral nor, yet, an Institute.
So, kind reader, if you are near Madison Avenue in the Big Apple, you can see the exhibit and be served green tea.
Here’s a money quote from an article about it all in the NYTimes Online.
Among the works in his exhibition are several three-panel paintings, nearly 8 feet wide and 9 feet tall, of a fierce-looking Daruma, each signed in the traditional Japanese manner, in Japanese characters down one side, and each with a different background, ranging from platinum and gold leaf to black glitter.
Zoolander: Well I guess it all started the first time I went through the second grade. I caught my reflection in a spoon while I was eating my cereal, and I remember thinking "wow, you're ridiculously good looking, maybe you could do that for a career."Delivered to my inbox yesterday was the sixth issue of Holons: News from the Integral World, a one-page newsletter presented by Ken Wilber’s Integral Institute. It is ridiculous in ways that I don’t think Wilberians can appreciate, since they are, hyper-ironically, adverse to self reflection. [As evinced by The Ken’s doubleback spin-around suck-my-dick blog post of a year ago, "What we are, that we see.," a test The Ken created, gave himself
Matilda: Do what for a career?
Zoolander: Be professionally good looking.
|From Wikipedia: In June 2006 Wilber wrote a controversial series of blog posts in which he used profanity, attacked critics, compared himself humourously to Wyatt Earp, and said that those offended by his postings were in the "lower tier" levels in the development of consciousness. His actions in this regard have been variously condemned as cultic, misleading, puerile, and not in the spirit of mature academic dialogue. …. Wilber's supporters have been more positive, responding, for example, that this type of discourse is appropriate for the blog medium.|
Immediately below the title banner, the newsletter says this in explanation of itself: “Holons is the free I-I newsletter, featuring news about Integral and from an Integral point of view.” Okie-dokie, thinks I. This’ll all be tippy-top concentrated mature rootin-tootin spiritual mojo. Hold on to your hat. But, ay, the newsletter disappoints.
One section is called “Around the Blogosphere from an Integral P.O.V.” I get it, I get it, I’m thinking. From an Integral point of view. What I am about to read is from an Integral point of view. But then there’s this disclaimer: “These posts may or may not meet AQAL standards, and we don’t necessarily endorse their views, but they do give a sense of the rich conversations occurring among integrally-informed bloggers.” So, I have to wonder: Why didn’t they just call the section “Around the Blogosphere from Integrally-Informed Bloggers Whom We Can’t Endorse”? And since the newsletter from its very top tells us it is all about “Integral and from an Integral point of view,” why didn’t they just ditch this section entirely?
And they should have ditched the section entirely. While the eight blog posts that are excerpted are from some of my favorite Integral bloggers, the posts that were selected are not particularly noteworthy. And, since the claim is that these were conversation-sparking posts, there should have been long comment threads that came with each post, or lots of linkbacks, but this was not the case.
The top item in the newsletter begins with this paragraph …
As the 2008 U.S. presidential race begins to take off; and as the war in Iraq continues to churn out death and suffering on a massive scale (even threatening to expand into Iran); and as dozens of other issues—global warming, immigration, the culture wars, etc.—vie for our attention and concern, the need could not be greater for an Integral approach to politics.
It's an interesting beginning, but it is all only a lead-in to what becomes a pitch to sell readers Integral Institute memberships of various access combinations that range in price from $10 to a wallet-radioactive $500/month.
One would think that Integral folks would be adverse to being weaselly in their approach to selling product. And that their prices would be consistantly modest. Instead, things seem to be geared for snagging new followers that are that tangy combo of being rich and vulnerable. Sure, there are plenty of $10 bleacher seats for the desired crowd of twentysomethings. But if you're starry-eyed with more money than you can spend and don't have much to do, then you can buy your way to a short conversation with The Ken and a handshake. It's not what Jesus would do during His second coming, but it is Ken's way of being a 21st Century guru with designs well short of being angelic.
One article is a review of Barack Obama, using his book Audacity of Hope as touchstone. The writer says, “Obama seems headed toward an integrative vision. His peculiar gift is an ability to take multiple perspectives and weave them together into a coherent and compelling whole.” Hooray, that. But if you click to read the full article at Zoosphere.com, the reviewer reveals his misgivings: “…there are some ways that Obama is not integral”, followed by a list with four elements – “He doesn’t explicitly use an integral framework”, “He doesn’t acknowledge levels or waves of development”, “He doesn’t recognize the role of states and stages of consciousness”, “He doesn’t include mysticism or radical emptiness.”
In other words, Obama doesn’t genuflect to The Cult. In other words, he doesn’t Wilberspeak. In other words, he is being real instead of being an I-I poseur. In other words, he doesn’t drive a bulldozer through his presidential ambitions in order to get I-I cred. Another factor may be that the I-I gang doesn’t want to queer things with the Clintons, Bill having sang praises for Integral Psychology during an important speech in Europe a year or so ago.
The Obama review comes beginning with this disclaimer where it appears in Holons: News about Integral and from an Integral point of view: “…this essay does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Ken Wilber or Integral Institute.”
Another feature in Holons shows cultural events ranked in the Wilberian rainbow-hued color scheme, from Integral [(1)Indigo, (2)Turquoise, (3)Teal] to the dank depths of the ugly-colored bottom tier of spiritual zest. The highest rated cultural event is The Stuart Davis Show. Stuart Davis is famously Ken Wilber’s mini-me, whose actions are the definition of Integral. Davis could put on blackface, drop to one knee and sing “Mammy” and THAT would suddenly be deemed Integral by I-I, wholly from the act of him having just done it.
What gets rated highly is the action of acting, not being. If you’re Integral and you’re not aware of being Wilbergral, you’re not Integral. Catch 22. Only by being artificial are you real.
Lastly, there’s a gray box in the middle of the newsletter that reads thus: “Because Holons draws on a variety of sources, it does not necessarily represent the views of Ken Wilber or I-I. To learn more about I-I, [yada, yada, membership pitch]”
Hilarious, in a I-just-killed-the-cat-when-I-dropped-the-carving-knife kind of way. Holons is news from I-I “about Integral and in an Integral point of view” that I-I fully disavows.
I have also provided the bits of the Bodhisatvacaryavatara – as translated at the Berzin Archives, titled, there, "Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior" – that HHDL comments on.
Here’s what Shantideva wrote in “4.28” – that is, chapter 4, section 28 – in the Bodhisatvacaryavatara:
Here, HHDL's comment, quoted in Kathmandu for You:
(28) Although enemies, such as anger and craving,
Have neither legs nor arms,
Are neither brave nor wise,
How is it that they’ve made me like their slave?"
Attachment appears to you like your best friend, bringing you desirable and conducive things and situations. Anger appears to you as your bodyguard, keeping unpleasant experiences away. THEY ARE TRULY YOUR ENEMY!" (4.28) They are what brings us suffering in the end.Shantideva in "6.41" - chapter 6, section 41:
(41) Having set aside the actual (cause of my pain), a staff or the like,HHDL's comment:
If I become enraged with the person who wielded it,
Well he, in fact, was incited by anger, so he's secondary (too).
It would be more fitting to get enraged with his anger.
Even though you actually get hit by a stick, you get angry at the wielder of that stick, because you perceive the stick as a secondary cause and the wielder as the primary cause of you getting hit. In the same way, we should be angry with anger itself, because the wielder is the secondary cause and the motivating cause of anger is the primary cause of you getting hit. Therefore BE ANGRY WITH HATRED. (6.41)Shantideva in chapter 6, sections 107-108:
(107) Therefore, I shall be delighted with an enemyHHDL's comment:
Who's popped up like a treasure in my house,
Without having had to be acquired with fatigue,
Since he becomes my aide for bodhisattva behavior.
(108) It's because of its having been actualized through this one and me (having met)
That a fruit of patience (comes about);
(So,) let me award it first to him,
For he was, like this, the (earlier) cause of my patience.
"We should be happy and thrilled to have enemies in our daily lives. Without enemies, we have no chance to practice patience. In fact, our perceived enemies are the very cause of patience, which is also essential to the path of awakening." (6.107-08). It is just like Jetsun Milarepa's Aunt and Uncle. They truly showed him the kindest gift of being so extremely terrible to him that he was compelled to follow a course of events that lead him to practicing meditation so diligently that he attained perfect enlightenment in that very life.This is an admittedly goofy aside on my part ... but I am wondering if Rowlings had Milarepa in mind when she wrote Harry Potter. Harry certainly had a terrible aunt and uncle [and cousin] which were helpful to him in motivating him to be diligent in pursuit of becoming an outstanding wizard.
Ay, Rowlings likely was not thinking of Milarepa. It is a standard in fiction [eg, Dickens, Cinderella] and life [eg, MLK, Bill Clinton, Doestoyevski] to be highly motivated as a result of difficulties. But it is rare, Buddhism's gift, to find compassion after being hit by a stick.
A guide for those who journey on the road;
For those who wish to go across the water,
May I be a boat, a raft, a bridge.
May I be an isle for those who yearn for landfall,
And a lamp for those who long for light;
For those who need a resting place, a bed;
For all those who need a servant, may I be a slave.
May I be the wishing jewel, the vase of plenty,
A word of power; and the supreme remedy.
May I be the tree of miracles,
And for every being, the abundant cow.
Like the great earth and the other elements,
Enduring as the sky itself endures,
For the boundless multitude of living beings,
May I be the ground and vessel of their life,
Thus, for every single thing that lives
In number like the boundless reaches of the sky,
May I be their sustenance and nourishment
Until they pass beyond the bounds of suffering.
If I was more of a mensch, I wouldn't be adding this afterthought -- leaving the stage wholly to Shantideva. Are not S's words great?
They come from somewhere in Shantideva's "Entering the Path of the Bodhisattva."
Reading this I now know the name of the company that I will create when I win $87 million on the lotto: Abundant Cow. It is all part of my imaginary world where I am the viceroy of a publishing empire based in Monterrey with offices above an all-you-can-eat salad restaurant in a warehouse I've converted.
As I envision it, I rescue a whole bunch of troubled Buddhist bloggers and give them writing jobs that allow them to fully achieve their potential. Our online Buddhist magazine is a tremendous success, utterly destroying Tricycle, leaving it in ashes and its staff destitute and homeless and crying.
So, since I approach Shantideva's words here with an edge and bring what you might call a negative aspect to the enterprize, am I a budding Bodhisattva? Hell, sure. They can't all be perfect.
In “conventional” terms, life and everything is utterly and absolutely impossible, and yet here we are. And even if you are persuaded that we aren’t really here, or that we aren’t, there is some sort of show going on. Right now I am sitting in front of a computer monitor making words appear. There is that.
It seems to be agreed that our universe started with The Big Bang – something came from nothing. But how is that possible? How can nothing, which by definition doesn’t do anything, produce something? Nothing, before the universe appeared, should be a pretty stark and absolute nothing, wouldn’t you think? It wouldn’t even be black since there is no conception of non-black. It isn’t even anywhere since there is only not-anywhere. It is quiet beyond quiet in a non-realm devoid of the idea of the idea of noise.
And so, it seems to me, that this ubernothingness is so far beyond, beyond utter nothingness that stasis cannot be maintained. Or, that a mental concept of absolute nothingness is an idea that doesn’t and cannot have a counterpart in “reality.” Indeed, utter nothingness is the one thing there ain’t. ALWAYS, there is something sparkling. Maybe not a dimension or a speckish molecule or whisp of thought, but just a tantalizing bit of fizz. ALWAYS, somehow, some puckish speck of something that’s not nothing is in the mix.
And, it seems to me, that instead of the universe [or, the universe of universes, if you prefer] winding down and slowing up and disgorging itself of all its energy and collapsing and dying, the universe has a prejudice for change and surprise and invention. The universe is a grand magician, pulling impossible-seeming rabbits out of truly-empty hats.
Change is the only absolute, making nothing the only thing that’s not possible.
And so here we are. Here only because not being here and there not being a here is not possible.
Technorati tags: life, the universe, everything
People write and think about what’s lacking in Western Buddhism and how pitiful pre-modern Buddhism in Asia might have been, but somehow the discussion never seems to touch what is the only vital issue: what does Buddhism do for people? What difference does it make for individuals or a society that there was Buddhism in people’s lives? Instead, it seems to me, there are these conceptual swirls of dust that deep-thought Buddhologists play with that have meaning only in context with other conceptual swirls of dust and nothing ever connects with the passion play of life.
Without question, pre-modern Buddhism in the myriad ways it was practiced in southeast Asia, or wherever, is markedly different from the Internet-enriched [or, Internet-deformed, if you prefer], scattered-sangha experience of Westerners. As well, the societies in Asia – either long ago or today – are vastly different than iPod-carrying Buddhists bopping around Manhattan or Peoria in their Volvos taking their kids to ballet rehearsals or soccer practice.
But it strikes me that comparing different people’s Buddhism practice cannot begin to have any meaning unless there is an assessment of what the payoff is. What does Buddhism do for people? What is the value-added boost? and what ought it be?
Now, I’m not really meaning to criticize Danny and Jeff. Likely, they are already beyond, beyond, far beyond where I am with my thinking and practice. Perhaps there are Sanskrit terms and mega-polysyllabic nouns in the rich jargon of Bigtime-Buddha-Speak that compare kenshos with compassion, the rewards of chanting with the charms of a really cool haiku. I don’t know. And maybe there’s a unit of measure, called the Jolly, that, like an SAT score, can be used to assess the value of a sutra or a sangha or a saturnine snarl of dogma. I don’t know; I don’t get around much. All I do know is that I believe in “Leave no Buddhist Behind” legislation that might come up with some kind of objective test of what the hell is going on on this great blue spherical future Buddhaland of Bliss.
The great John Ishmael Ford wrote a tremendous sermon for this Presidents Day weekend that alights on the idea of nimbleness of thinking that he attributes to Lincoln’s success as a highly compassionate and successful politician during particularly trying times. This nimbleness idea is perhaps a goal, or, at least, an intermediate goal, that Buddhists could have. It correlates more than a bit, I think, to the idea of being Integral [see the text at the top of the sidebar on this page] that this blog addresses.
Unless Buddhism is transforming people’s worldviews, I don’t know that it is any more worthy a way for folks to spend their time than vid games or solving Sudokus. And, unless assessments of what is put forward as Buddhist practice is measured against transformations of mind, I don’t see that it means anything.
What's the payoff? Where's the beef!?
It seems to me that we all can too quickly fall for the empty calories of a bunch of platitudes that can be embroidered on doilies. "Truth, justice and the American Way" could end up being a Buddhist religious credo -- and would anyone be the wiser if the green tea is still hot and biscuits are tasty?
Jeff Wilson tells us at one point in his interview, "U.U. Buddhism displays the liberal religious concern with direct action to improve the social conditions of other people, a Buddhist application of the U.U. principles: 'Justice, equity and compassion in human relations,' and 'The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all.' Thus you get an engaged Buddhism that respects the individual conscience and appreciates the gift of community."
Not good enough! I want suped-up Buddhists. Super-charged Buddhists. Buddhists that have Hemi V8 engines.
Buddhists be nimble. Buddhists be quick. Buddhists jump over the candlestick.
Technorati tags: nimbleness, Buddhism, value-added boost
I had just signed up as 57th in line requesting Coulter’s new book Godless: The Church of Liberalism at the Sacramento library. It's not a book I want to buy; it's one I can wait for. But, serendipitously, an hour later, AOL provided the first chapter of the book in pdf format, which is fourteen pages of ripe Coulterspeak, fully enough to assess the flavor of this woman’s spiel. I don’t need to see a whole book, I’ve decided.
It was a surprise for me. She is an old-timey comedian – like Henny Youngman or Bob Hope with rat-a-tat-tat shtick, full of groaner jokes zipping along at breakneck pace, and sometimes letting fly something quite funny or something that seems to expose the squirrelly nut-pile of beliefs of Liberals as contrary to commonsense.
Other than her being conservative, there isn’t much to set her apart from the writing for Jon Stewart or Steve Carrell or Lenny Bruce or George Carlin or Richard Pryor – except that she doesn’t come up with truly dazzling flourishes of funny and that she persists in the same relentless attitude of “hating them” and never ever finding humor about herself or those on her side of the political fence.
It was also a surprise to me that her humor is what I would characterize as “moderately rude frat boy.” She’s conservative and lays claim to being God-respecting and straight laced, but she seems to delight in humor about toilets, ugliness and liberal sex.
Here’s a sample of Coulterspeak:
Liberals beatify health, no-smoking, camping, non-fossil-fuel travel, organic foods – all while creating exotic new diseases in pursuit of polymorphous perversity. Don’t be confused by your capacity for reason! We’re just apes. A chief ingredient of the liberal religion is the beastialization of humanity. So on one hand, we have to give up SUVs, snowmobiles, and outdoor plumbing, but on the other hand, at least we get the funky beastial behavior.What is hard to understand is why she is being treated as a political pundit, when she is not disguising her act of being a funhouse clown. When her book came out, she was immediately on the Today Show, interviewed by Matt Lauer, and graduated from there – where she defiantly defended her insult of 911 widows – to the cable political yak shows. I know she’s been on the shows of O’Reilly, Harrity, and Scarborough, and I saw her on Hardball quite seriously interviewed by guesthost Nora O’Donnell.
In her book, Coulter is constantly saying things that, if taken seriously, are stinging insults. Here are a few from her new book’s first chapter.
- [Liberal’s] worship of physical perfection is more grotesque than Hitler’s notion of the Aryan.
- Instead of seeking wisdom, liberals desire to be seen as clever by being counterintuitive, crazy and outré. They have an irreducible fascination with barbarism and will defend anything hateful – Tookie, Mumia, Saddam Hussein, Hedda Nussbaum, abortion, the North American Man/Boy Love Association [and] New York Times columnist Frank Rich.*
- Liberals used to tell us they were teaching fisting to fourth-graders because “kids are going to have sex anyway!” (Yes, “fisting” is exactly what it sounds like; have a nice day!)
- Colleges pick up where the public schools leave off, inculcating students in the religion of hating America and hating God.
Coulter has no business being passed around on the political talk shows because she is not serious; she appears wholly as a comedy act. The fact that the political shows book her is what’s awry here, but it’s not her fault, she doesn’t disguise what she is about.
It’s not her fault that Woody Allen and Harry Shearer and Jay Leno aren’t asked to appear on Hardball and she is.
Ann Coulter is admirable. Really. She is working a vein of satire that no one else is. Hooray for her. If we accept her work as performance art, it is something anyone can enjoy or admire.
* Of course, I am liberal and this clever post is counterintuitive, crazy and outré, in defense of something seen as hateful – Ann Coulter. Go figure.