Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Where Was Jesus at the Debate?

By my dear friend and colleague, The Rev. Dr. Robert Dahl, Holland, MI

Where were justice, peace, compassion, love, generosity, social responsibility, a willingness to share and care and promote the common welfare in evidence at the Tea Party Republican Debate in Florida, September 12, 2011?  

In a phrase, where was Jesus among all these people, the majority of whom would probably consider themselves Bible believing Christians? 

Who was that short fellow who looked as if he may have been of Middle-Eastern descent standing outside the building surrounded by security guards, the one easily profiled as a terrorist?  Is that why he was outside?  Not allowed in?  What is he saying? Fear not? Nobody inside could or wanted to hear. 

If I heard the derisive catchphrase “Obamacare” once, I heard it countless times. It seemed as if the candidates couldn’t wait to get it out of their mouths.  Tell a lie often enough and the people will believe it, in part because they want to believe it.  Working class, middleclass whites buying the lies of the insurance companies supported by big contributors and lobbyists to the candidates who gladly passed them on to the gullible crowd.  And the carousel merrily went round and round. 

After much health care reform bashing by the candidates, moderator Wolf Blitzer asked the candidates what should happen to a 20 some-year-old citizen who didn't have health insurance who contracts a serious health condition and requires extensive medical treatment?  People in the audience shouted to let him die.  They actually did that. 

"In as much as you have done to one of the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto me,” said Jesus. 

Hypothetical Tea Party joke: A thirty something Jesus has no health insurance and contracts a serious health problem requiring extensive medical treatment, what would you do?  

Answer: Let him die because we know he can come back to life all fixed up. 

Is it that stupid?  Is it that heartless? Is that about the cruelest?  It was about at that level. 

What I saw that evening as the camera panned across the audience were very few Hispanics and blacks.  What I saw was a whole lot of white people who seemingly only cared about themselves and probably not even the people sitting next to them.  They want it all.  I thought I was watching an old Cecil B. DeMille movie showing the mobs in the seats of the Roman coliseum with thumbs pointed down and blood lust in their eyes. In the arena, the President of the United States knelt before gladiators with swords in their hands. Really, it was that scary.  

Where do these people come from?  Why are they so mad?  What are they afraid of -- losing the myth of their Beaver Cleaver world, not being able to wish upon a star anymore, forfeiting what they think is birth-rightfully theirs to a hoard of foreigners who don’t look like they do, don’t worship at the same places as they do, don’t eat the same food as they do, don’t have the same native tongue as they do?

Panelists called for English to be the national language and the people roared their approval.   

Why don't they care about anyone but themselves, and perhaps more importantly why don't they understand how much all government, local, state and federal provide the vehicle though infrastructure, safety nets, food and drug safety, clean air, clean water, electricity and gas to power their homes, local, state and federal recreation areas, etc. for these people to function on a daily basis and have beautiful country in which to take a vacation in a beautiful park at very little cost?

None of these people could live one day without all the government aid they receive from taxes received for the purpose of helping everyone. And if any of them had any of those things taken away they, would scream bloody murder.   

A young member of the audience stood and asked the panel how much of every dollar earned belongs to the person who earned it.  Shouts could be heard coming from the audience that all of it does.  

A friend of mine, in light of that question, asked how much of what a person earns belongs to the privilege of being a citizen of the United States.  To paraphrase a TV commercial, “Priceless.”

These are extreme individualists who feel cheated and that everyone but them is getting all the goodies.  These are "gimme, gimme, gimme" people.  

I heard shouts of glee for capital punishment.  I saw a "my country right or wrong" mentality, but a hate for the government of their country. 

It just went on and on and on.

I saw a mob mentality, and vengeance and hate.  
I wondered what it would take to move these people to violence. 

They want their cake and they want to eat it, too.  

And the candidates?  They fed the frenzy; they whipped up the crowd; they pandered to the base instincts of those who sat in the seats; they said what they thought their fat cat contributors sitting at home sipping brandy and laughing at the spectacle on the screen would want to hear; they told half truths and pure fabrications and they pulled numbers out of the magician’s top hat; they said things they probably don't believe just to get the vote; they wanted to give the audience what they came for; they wanted to give the audience the cake they claimed.  They were oh, so cynical. 

Only Ron Paul got a pie in the face of boo’s for telling the truth about American militarism and it’s economic costs.  How dare he “tread on us”! 

What didn't they give them?  A reminder that we are all in this together and that we all need to remember that the thread that runs through all religions and all caring societies is "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Oh, by the way, I didn't see the Buddha or Mohammed or Lao Tzu or Moses, Confucius, Martin Luther King, Jr. or Gandhi, either.  

And I wondered how much of all this summer of our discontent is fueled by the question that nobody wants to consider.  In this Tea Party Express is there an unnamed, unacknowledged but insidious, systemic and endemic racism roaring down the track transporting these whites to rebellion over the fact that a mixed blood person sits in the hallowed walls of the Oval Office, an office previously only occupied by one of them? 

Jimmy Carter named it early on to a cacophony of protests, one such protest even coming from the present occupant of that very office. Are we in a state of denial? 

And finally, why did CNN give all this time to this debacle?  Ratings?  If so, I contributed to it and wasted an evening that I could have used more productively watching Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations."

As the hall emptied following the “debate,” I thought I heard a faint echo of Entry Of The Gladiators by Julius Fucik, used as theme music at every circus, “Ya…da…da..da..ya..da..ya..da..da..da…,” and saw the departing figure of P.T. Barnum, wearing his signature Penguin tails and a cigar in his mouth.  I could hear him laughing as the lights went out and the door shut.

The circus was moving on to the next town.  

Saturday, September 10, 2011

America - the Not-So-Innocent

This is a tough thought for Americans to consider ... from the get-go, America has been driven by a superiority attitude (we're better than England and all those "other countries," and we can do no wrong, even as we're eradicating Native Americans and their buffalo), a sense that we're a godly nation (and anyone who opposes us opposes god), all of which blinds us to the more complex nature of our story, a story like that of any other nation - driven by self-interest and an adolescent desire to be innocent, blaming our ills on others, and hungry for oil.
overheard: Thousands died on September 11, 2001. As a result of the US response, hundreds of thousands have died. Who will stand up for them in the midst of all the patriotic posturing this weekend? - Jason Barr