Saturday, December 13, 2008

An Anti-Abortion Advocate Takes it Back (Well, sort of)

I love it when people make me think, no matter which side of the abortion debate they're on.

Frank Schaeffer

Frank! As A Former Pro-Life Leader How Dare You Support Pro-Choice Obama?

Dear Republican and Pro-Life Friends,
Thanks for the spittle-flecked emails as well as for the polite queries. Yes, I am aware Obama is pro-choice. Yes, I'm still pro-life. I also believe that with Obama in the White House that there will be less abortions in America than with the Republicans in power.

As you know I was a lifelong Republican until I reregistered as an Independent in 2006, after I just couldn't take the Rove brigade's dirty tricks, lies and slime any longer. When I worked to get John McCain nominated in 2000 I went on many conservative and religious radio shows to plead his cause. I started edging away from the party after seeing the filth the Bush crew got away with.

I know rather a lot about the politics of the "life issues." And I know you know that is true because you are calling me a traitor for supporting Senator Obama because of my leadership in the early stages of the pro-life movement.

You also know that without my late Evangelical leader father Francis Schaeffer's and my work (teamed up with C. Everett Koop) there would have been no Evangelical/Republican pro-life movement as it emerged in the mid 1970s. And on a personal note, having gotten my girlfriend pregnant when we were teens, I also know a little about the heartache that goes along with a very unplanned pregnancy. Fortunately we received the sort of support that made keeping our daughter Jessica possible. It could have gone another way.

That said...I know (as you pro-lifers do if you're honest) that the Republicans have milked the abortion issue, as have the Evangelical and Roman Catholic leadership, for every dime it's worth for fundraising, votes, power and empire-building, without changing much if anything. As I said, I also am fully aware that Senator Obama is pro-choice. I think his pro-choice views are out of character with his otherwise generous and enlightened world view.

The pro-life cause poisoned many of us who were part of it. Me included. It led to self-righteous hubris that extended to a general attitude of hate toward the "other." For instance power hungry strivers such as James Dobson and Pat Robertson took the passion generated by the pro-life cause and fueled their wholly illegitimate war against gay Americans with it, not to mention their multi million dollar empires. Our cause became all about power over other people, money and the muscle to win elections, not about the good of unborn babies and women.

I describe this corruption in my book, CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back. I explore what happened to us as we were lured by politics and money. So lots of folks who are in the Evangelical/Republican/Roman Catholic establishment and who are still earning a good living through the culture wars hate my book (and me) for spilling the beans.

Just for the record: my annual income was a lot bigger and more secure within the Evangelical fold than without. The big bucks in America are all about selling God, as Rick Warren, James Dobson or Joel Osteen can tell you, not earned blogging for lefty sites such as Huffington Post or writing novels as I do now.

That said... First, a nod to reality: even if Roe were reversed (it won't be no matter who is president) the abortion pill and the acceptance of at least some types of legal abortion by most Americans guarantees there will be access to abortion. Besides, on a state-by-state basis abortion would remain legal in most states no matter what the court does. And as we have seen the Republicans haven't really changed anything in thirty years.

So what do we who find abortion abhorrent do if we want to deal in reality rather than fantasies and slogans of winner-take-all propaganda? The reality is that we need to foster a climate in which we can reduce the number of abortions and also keep the moral -- rather than legal -- debate alive.

We can't do this by concentrating on politics, or silver bullets such as trying for that one magic court appointment. It's the "holistic" approach that is really what's important if our goal is to reduce the number of abortions rather than just "win" political games.

The effort to reduce abortions will be more possible in the Obama era than in a continuation of the hardhearted Bush presidency with McCain. This is all about tone and moral leadership, not law.

At heart of the abortion reality is this: we are a consumerist society with a heart of stone when it comes to the poor, who account for four times the national average of people having abortions, mostly because of economic needs that Republicans don't lift a finger to address. And we still denigrate women and female sexuality.

Meanwhile we face global catastrophe if we keep on the path we are on that the Republicans have put us on. And Obama promises real change on the environment, education, the economy, the military and foreign affairs, all of which need to change, not as a luxury or choice or option, but as a matter of national survival.

I guess that having had my Marine son John go to war for George W. Bush concentrated my mind on the seriousness of this election. McCain won't do more than provide another four-to-eight years of Bush. Our planet and country can't endure that. And our military is disintegrating under the Bush doctrine, which is: "You all go shopping while we ask a few Americans to go to war again and again and again and again..."

For all you sanctimonious Evangelicals out there, also note: when it comes to squeaky clean family values, Senator Obama -- not Senator McCain -- should be your role model. The Republican right wants us to draw back in horror from Obama because he is pro-choice, but this is the same group working to get a philanderer who abandoned his wife because she had a disfiguring accident, elected.

It isn't just a matter of voting for Obama. Americans who want there to be a country left in which to argue our issues must vote against McCain. As his support for the Bush lies about Iraq shows McCain is hung up on his own version of post-Vietnam traumatic stress disorder. This is a man who would take our civilian culture down in flames and sacrifice it to his sense of death-or-glory military "honor." How do you "win" a wrong war? McCain will make the world more dangerous. You think Bush was a cowboy? Just try McCain.

I say this as the proud father of United States Marine. I say this as someone who believes that we should be in Afghanistan where my son served, fought and risked his life for us all. I also say this as someone who believes that when it comes to pro-life issues in the most comprehensive sense, that President Bush, Dick Cheney and the neoconservative/Republican establishment have needlessly killed tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis and over 4000 American servicemen and women.

I use the words "needlessly killed" advisedly. When you send men and women into an unnecessary and unprovoked war-of-choice for spurious reasons that then turn into outright lies, you've murdered them. And George W. Bush has sanctioned torture, contravened the Geneva conventions, and has lied to the American people about all of it.

Bush has destabilized the world. The latest evidence of this is the fact that Russia attacked Georgia. In the climate of Bush's aggression, where is our moral standing to criticize Russia? McCain offers no alternative. These too are life issues.

There's no point arguing about abortion, capital punishment, women's rights, gender equality or any other issue -- no matter how important -- while the ship of state is being torpedoed by the Commander-in-Chief. We can't afford more of this. Our honorable military can't endure more of this. Our economy can't endure more of this. Our Earth will not survive more of this. Bush and his look alike shill McCain have to go.

When it comes to the issue of abortion there is another side besides legality/illegality: the nature of our country.

What kind of care do we provide to mothers and children? What is our educational system like? Is healthcare available to all? Do our preschool programs and everything from paternal and maternal leave to the economic well-being of our country come first? Or do we argue about abortion rights while we live lives of such supreme selfish decadence that the nature of our country means that no matter what we do with the laws about abortion life will not be valued?

The Republican leadership is not pro-life. They are simply against abortion for reasons of political expediency. They are also for torture and military aggression. And they chose a literal executioner for president; a former governor who has more blood on his hands than any other modern American governor; Mr. Texas-sized, Capital Punishment-with-no-mercy-no-pardons hang em' high himself.

The Republicans have contributed to climate change by coddling oil companies and car companies and ducking the hard environmental and energy policy questions for thirty years. They have literally sold our country to the highest polluting bidders from the Saudis to the Chinese. Therefore the Republicans have literally risked the ability of our planet to sustain all human life born and unborn. So much for human life values.

Who will help us to become a nation that values life -- abortion rhetoric aside? Obama.

The contrast could not have been more clear than on August 16 in the interview between pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church and Obama and McCain. Obama gave real and thoughtful answers, often trying to explore a moral question deeply. McCain offered nothing more than canned applause lines and anecdotes from his tired simplistic stump speech.

McCain fed pre-programed red meat to the Evangelical faithful who were packing the auditorium, but not much more. He parroted all the "right" lines about abortion, the same empty phrases Bush, parrots, Bush's father parroted and Reagan and Ford parroted.

"When does life begin?" asked Warren. "At conception!" shot back McCain.

The Evangelical crowd goes wild! See?! That's our guy!

And where do the tired canned pro-life "correct answers" get us? Nowhere.

I will be voting for the presidential candidate who seems most authentically exercised about our devastating problems and who is ready to not only address them but to provide the inspiring leadership that will move my fellow citizens and I to do something about our terminal situation. I'll be voting for the man that has also inspired the world more than any national leader in my lifetime.

There are worse things than America being liked and therefore safer. Would you rather have non-Americans waving our flag or burning it?

In the best of all worlds we would be living in a country in which no one had an abortion. We would be living in a country in which there was never capital punishment. We would be living in a country that would have addressed the legacy of our racist past and racist present so that we would not have a disproportionate number of black men and women locked in our prisons. We would be living in a country where people calling themselves Christians would not hate gay people. We would be living in a country that never went to war except as last resort for self defense. We would be living in a country where education and opportunity was every American's birthright. But we are not.

The question is: Who can best help us to the realization of the real American Dream?

The Republicans only offer consumerism as a debased sort of "freedom." This is the freedom of "me" and "I." This is the freedom of pigs rooting at a trough.

As a born-again Christ-centered believer Obama offers a spiritual vision of life founded on the Sermon On the Mount. It is the freedom of "we." It is the same view of freedom that my Marine son learned in boot camp: that the person standing next to you is more important than you are. That concept of freedom is more in keeping with valuing all human life. It will create a climate more friendly to mothers and children.

As I listen to Senator Obama speak, as I see the selfless altruistic energy he has generated in a whole new generation of young people, as I think about the ethical, caring culture he would like to foster with healthcare for all, a revamped and reenergized educational system that includes the arts, history, poetry and all those things that make life worthwhile, as I think about the wars my son's brothers-in-arms are still mired and dying in because of the hubris of the Republicans, as I think about the crying need to restore our standing in the world, as I think about the scandalous way in which the Republicans have manipulated people, including the most sincere Evangelicals, Orthodox and Roman Catholics, to get their votes, while not actually doing anything about the issues they care most about, yes, I am ready to for a change.

In Obama's America arguments for compassion for the unborn and all the other "least of these" will resonate regardless of Obama's stance on the legality of abortion. Roe is not the point. Our hearts are the point. The unborn like everyone else will do better in a country that puts people, the earth, and our future ahead of greed, oil company profits and jingoistic rule by fear.

I will be voting for Senator Obama and am fighting for his election because I am pro-life.

Frank Schaeffer is coauthor of HOW FREE PEOPLE MOVE MOUNTAINS-A Male Christian Conservative and a Female Jewish Liberal On A Quest For Common Purpose and Meaning. He is also author of CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ahh, Memories

You can find these on YouTube - also, there is apparently a DVD available from KWCH that has some of the episodes of Santa's Workshop with ToyBoy. I would LOVE to have that for Christmas, wouldn't you?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

An article from Newsweek

I thought this was so well-written I had to share.

Our Mutual Joy
Opponents of gay marriage often cite Scripture. But what the Bible teaches about love argues for the other side.

Lisa Miller
From the magazine issue dated Dec 15, 2008
For feedback on this story, head to NEWSWEEK's Readback blog.

Let's try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. "It is better to marry than to burn with passion," says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script?

Of course not, yet the religious opponents of gay marriage would have it be so.

The battle over gay marriage has been waged for more than a decade, but within the last six months—since California legalized gay marriage and then, with a ballot initiative in November, amended its Constitution to prohibit it—the debate has grown into a full-scale war, with religious-rhetoric slinging to match. Not since 1860, when the country's pulpits were full of preachers pronouncing on slavery, pro and con, has one of our basic social (and economic) institutions been so subject to biblical scrutiny. But whereas in the Civil War the traditionalists had their James Henley Thornwell—and the advocates for change, their Henry Ward Beecher—this time the sides are unevenly matched. All the religious rhetoric, it seems, has been on the side of the gay-marriage opponents, who use Scripture as the foundation for their objections.

The argument goes something like this statement, which the Rev. Richard A. Hunter, a United Methodist minister, gave to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in June: "The Bible and Jesus define marriage as between one man and one woman. The church cannot condone or bless same-sex marriages because this stands in opposition to Scripture and our tradition."

To which there are two obvious responses: First, while the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman. And second, as the examples above illustrate, no sensible modern person wants marriage—theirs or anyone else's —to look in its particulars anything like what the Bible describes. "Marriage" in America refers to two separate things, a religious institution and a civil one, though it is most often enacted as a messy conflation of the two. As a civil institution, marriage offers practical benefits to both partners: contractual rights having to do with taxes; insurance; the care and custody of children; visitation rights; and inheritance. As a religious institution, marriage offers something else: a commitment of both partners before God to love, honor and cherish each other—in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer—in accordance with God's will. In a religious marriage, two people promise to take care of each other, profoundly, the way they believe God cares for them. Biblical literalists will disagree, but the Bible is a living document, powerful for more than 2,000 years because its truths speak to us even as we change through history. In that light, Scripture gives us no good reason why gays and lesbians should not be (civilly and religiously) married—and a number of excellent reasons why they should.

In the Old Testament, the concept of family is fundamental, but examples of what social conservatives would call "the traditional family" are scarcely to be found. Marriage was critical to the passing along of tradition and history, as well as to maintaining the Jews' precious and fragile monotheism. But as the Barnard University Bible scholar Alan Segal puts it, the arrangement was between "one man and as many women as he could pay for." Social conservatives point to Adam and Eve as evidence for their one man, one woman argument—in particular, this verse from Genesis: "Therefore shall a man leave his mother and father, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh." But as Segal says, if you believe that the Bible was written by men and not handed down in its leather bindings by God, then that verse was written by people for whom polygamy was the way of the world. (The fact that homosexual couples cannot procreate has also been raised as a biblical objection, for didn't God say, "Be fruitful and multiply"? But the Bible authors could never have imagined the brave new world of international adoption and assisted reproductive technology—and besides, heterosexuals who are infertile or past the age of reproducing get married all the time.)

Ozzie and Harriet are nowhere in the New Testament either. The biblical Jesus was—in spite of recent efforts of novelists to paint him otherwise—emphatically unmarried. He preached a radical kind of family, a caring community of believers, whose bond in God superseded all blood ties. Leave your families and follow me, Jesus says in the gospels. There will be no marriage in heaven, he says in Matthew. Jesus never mentions homosexuality, but he roundly condemns divorce (leaving a loophole in some cases for the husbands of unfaithful women).

The apostle Paul echoed the Christian Lord's lack of interest in matters of the flesh. For him, celibacy was the Christian ideal, but family stability was the best alternative. Marry if you must, he told his audiences, but do not get divorced. "To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): a wife must not separate from her husband." It probably goes without saying that the phrase "gay marriage" does not appear in the Bible at all.

If the bible doesn't give abundant examples of traditional marriage, then what are the gay-marriage opponents really exercised about? Well, homosexuality, of course—specifically sex between men. Sex between women has never, even in biblical times, raised as much ire. In its entry on "Homosexual Practices," the Anchor Bible Dictionary notes that nowhere in the Bible do its authors refer to sex between women, "possibly because it did not result in true physical 'union' (by male entry)." The Bible does condemn gay male sex in a handful of passages. Twice Leviticus refers to sex between men as "an abomination" (King James version), but these are throwaway lines in a peculiar text given over to codes for living in the ancient Jewish world, a text that devotes verse after verse to treatments for leprosy, cleanliness rituals for menstruating women and the correct way to sacrifice a goat—or a lamb or a turtle dove. Most of us no longer heed Leviticus on haircuts or blood sacrifices; our modern understanding of the world has surpassed its prescriptions. Why would we regard its condemnation of homosexuality with more seriousness than we regard its advice, which is far lengthier, on the best price to pay for a slave?

Paul was tough on homosexuality, though recently progressive scholars have argued that his condemnation of men who "were inflamed with lust for one another" (which he calls "a perversion") is really a critique of the worst kind of wickedness: self-delusion, violence, promiscuity and debauchery. In his book "The Arrogance of Nations," the scholar Neil Elliott argues that Paul is referring in this famous passage to the depravity of the Roman emperors, the craven habits of Nero and Caligula, a reference his audience would have grasped instantly. "Paul is not talking about what we call homosexuality at all," Elliott says. "He's talking about a certain group of people who have done everything in this list. We're not dealing with anything like gay love or gay marriage. We're talking about really, really violent people who meet their end and are judged by God." In any case, one might add, Paul argued more strenuously against divorce—and at least half of the Christians in America disregard that teaching.

Religious objections to gay marriage are rooted not in the Bible at all, then, but in custom and tradition (and, to talk turkey for a minute, a personal discomfort with gay sex that transcends theological argument). Common prayers and rituals reflect our common practice: the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer describes the participants in a marriage as "the man and the woman." But common practice changes—and for the better, as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice." The Bible endorses slavery, a practice that Americans now universally consider shameful and barbaric. It recommends the death penalty for adulterers (and in Leviticus, for men who have sex with men, for that matter). It provides conceptual shelter for anti-Semites. A mature view of scriptural authority requires us, as we have in the past, to move beyond literalism. The Bible was written for a world so unlike our own, it's impossible to apply its rules, at face value, to ours.

Marriage, specifically, has evolved so as to be unrecognizable to the wives of Abraham and Jacob. Monogamy became the norm in the Christian world in the sixth century; husbands' frequent enjoyment of mistresses and prostitutes became taboo by the beginning of the 20th. (In the NEWSWEEK POLL, 55 percent of respondents said that married heterosexuals who have sex with someone other than their spouses are more morally objectionable than a gay couple in a committed sexual relationship.) By the mid-19th century, U.S. courts were siding with wives who were the victims of domestic violence, and by the 1970s most states had gotten rid of their "head and master" laws, which gave husbands the right to decide where a family would live and whether a wife would be able to take a job. Today's vision of marriage as a union of equal partners, joined in a relationship both romantic and pragmatic, is, by very recent standards, radical, says Stephanie Coontz, author of "Marriage, a History."

Religious wedding ceremonies have already changed to reflect new conceptions of marriage. Remember when we used to say "man and wife" instead of "husband and wife"? Remember when we stopped using the word "obey"? Even Miss Manners, the voice of tradition and reason, approved in 1997 of that change. "It seems," she wrote, "that dropping 'obey' was a sensible editing of a service that made assumptions about marriage that the society no longer holds."

We cannot look to the Bible as a marriage manual, but we can read it for universal truths as we struggle toward a more just future. The Bible offers inspiration and warning on the subjects of love, marriage, family and community. It speaks eloquently of the crucial role of families in a fair society and the risks we incur to ourselves and our children should we cease trying to bind ourselves together in loving pairs. Gay men like to point to the story of passionate King David and his friend Jonathan, with whom he was "one spirit" and whom he "loved as he loved himself." Conservatives say this is a story about a platonic friendship, but it is also a story about two men who stand up for each other in turbulent times, through violent war and the disapproval of a powerful parent. David rends his clothes at Jonathan's death and, in grieving, writes a song:

I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
You were very dear to me.
Your love for me was wonderful,
More wonderful than that of women.

Here, the Bible praises enduring love between men. What Jonathan and David did or did not do in privacy is perhaps best left to history and our own imaginations.

In addition to its praise of friendship and its condemnation of divorce, the Bible gives many examples of marriages that defy convention yet benefit the greater community. The Torah discouraged the ancient Hebrews from marrying outside the tribe, yet Moses himself is married to a foreigner, Zipporah. Queen Esther is married to a non-Jew and, according to legend, saves the Jewish people. Rabbi Arthur Waskow, of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia, believes that Judaism thrives through diversity and inclusion. "I don't think Judaism should or ought to want to leave any portion of the human population outside the religious process," he says. "We should not want to leave [homosexuals] outside the sacred tent." The marriage of Joseph and Mary is also unorthodox (to say the least), a case of an unconventional arrangement accepted by society for the common good. The boy needed two human parents, after all.

In the Christian story, the message of acceptance for all is codified. Jesus reaches out to everyone, especially those on the margins, and brings the whole Christian community into his embrace. The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author, cites the story of Jesus revealing himself to the woman at the well— no matter that she had five former husbands and a current boyfriend—as evidence of Christ's all-encompassing love. The great Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann, emeritus professor at Columbia Theological Seminary, quotes the apostle Paul when he looks for biblical support of gay marriage: "There is neither Greek nor Jew, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ." The religious argument for gay marriage, he adds, "is not generally made with reference to particular texts, but with the general conviction that the Bible is bent toward inclusiveness."

The practice of inclusion, even in defiance of social convention, the reaching out to outcasts, the emphasis on togetherness and community over and against chaos, depravity, indifference—all these biblical values argue for gay marriage. If one is for racial equality and the common nature of humanity, then the values of stability, monogamy and family necessarily follow. Terry Davis is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Hartford, Conn., and has been presiding over "holy unions" since 1992. "I'm against promiscuity—love ought to be expressed in committed relationships, not through casual sex, and I think the church should recognize the validity of committed same-sex relationships," he says.

Still, very few Jewish or Christian denominations do officially endorse gay marriage, even in the states where it is legal. The practice varies by region, by church or synagogue, even by cleric. More progressive denominations—the United Church of Christ, for example—have agreed to support gay marriage. Other denominations and dioceses will do "holy union" or "blessing" ceremonies, but shy away from the word "marriage" because it is politically explosive. So the frustrating, semantic question remains: should gay people be married in the same, sacramental sense that straight people are? I would argue that they should. If we are all God's children, made in his likeness and image, then to deny access to any sacrament based on sexuality is exactly the same thing as denying it based on skin color—and no serious (or even semiserious) person would argue that. People get married "for their mutual joy," explains the Rev. Chloe Breyer, executive director of the Interfaith Center in New York, quoting the Episcopal marriage ceremony. That's what religious people do: care for each other in spite of difficulty, she adds. In marriage, couples grow closer to God: "Being with one another in community is how you love God. That's what marriage is about."

More basic than theology, though, is human need. We want, as Abraham did, to grow old surrounded by friends and family and to be buried at last peacefully among them. We want, as Jesus taught, to love one another for our own good—and, not to be too grandiose about it, for the good of the world. We want our children to grow up in stable homes. What happens in the bedroom, really, has nothing to do with any of this. My friend the priest James Martin says his favorite Scripture relating to the question of homosexuality is Psalm 139, a song that praises the beauty and imperfection in all of us and that glorifies God's knowledge of our most secret selves: "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." And then he adds that in his heart he believes that if Jesus were alive today, he would reach out especially to the gays and lesbians among us, for "Jesus does not want people to be lonely and sad." Let the priest's prayer be our own.

With Sarah Ball and Anne Underwood

© 2008

Thursday, December 04, 2008

I love these actors and actresses!

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Monday, December 01, 2008

Reflection on Thanksgiving

Well, I'm back in Champaign - and already I am wishing for Christmas vacation. Who knew that being gone for a simple week would be so complicated. Plus, I hate unpacking! But it is worth it because I had a great Thanksgiving break and holiday. In honor of that, I thought I'd put aside politics and debate and just do a nice highlights page - cause everyone loves highlights right?!

My Thanksgiving Break Highlights (these are in no particular order)

1. Movie with Jackie, Taylor, Alyssa, and Colin - the movie was Twilight and this was the second time I saw it. Certain parts were just as hilarious. But it was far more fun just hanging out with them. Plus, Colin was the only boy in our group, seeing a chick flick, and I think that's just very classy of him.

2. Having lunch with Jackie at Olive Garden and reminiscing and basically getting a chance to catch up.

3. Thanksgiving dinner with the family, and laughing so hard it hurt because dad was telling all his old, really hilarious stories to Nick.

4. Watching Nick make pies in the kitchen and talking with all the kids on Wednesday night.

5. Seeing Twilight with Ramee and laughing so hard it almost hurt! Also, alcohol.

6. Hanging out with all my friends from high school (almost all). It felt like old times, if we had gone out to Old Chicago and drank while we were in high school. But it was so fun to see everyone and laugh until it hurt - literally HURT - to keep smiling. It was good to see you all!!!! Kay, your ring is beautiful and you still suck for not wearing the shirt!

7. Spending time with Nick, who I never get tired of spending time with and already miss, even though it's only been 8 hours.

8. Thanksgiving food!!!!

9. Having lunch with Dr. Owens and Angie Gumm at Jimmy's Diner and talking about history and classes and gossip.

10. Seeing the family. 'Nuff said.

Monday, November 17, 2008

First installment

We have a pro-choice president. But there are still people who are anti-choice. I know what their arguments are and try very hard to listen and take to heart their point of view. I know that some don't believe me, not that it matters. But now that we have a pro-choice president, the anti-choice movement is up in arms. They're afraid: that FOCA will get passed, that we'll get "radical" judges, etc. and they're planning on a bigger push to make abortion illegal. That's their right of free speech of course (remember, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU!) and I always enjoy hearing arguments and debating the issue. But abortion WAS once illegal. And a lot of women, on both sides of the issue, seem to have forgotten the past, and why so many people pushed for legal abortions - to help women and save women's lives. So I thought that I'd publish this experience from a doctor who dealt with illegal abortions in the past. If nothing else, it will help pro-choice women remember WHY we support reproductive rights, and maybe it will help anti-choice people (or anti-abortion people, as there is a difference in my mind) figure out how they can be anti-abortion, get rid of legal abortion, AND save women. I hope that makes sense. I'm hoping to add more of these first-hand experiences, that's why I titled it "first installment." Also, a toast to Dr. Fielding. I think you're a hero for sharing your experiences.

Repairing the Damage, Before Roe
by Waldo L. Fielding, M.D.

With the Supreme Court becoming more conservative, many people who support women’s right to choose an abortion fear that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that gave them that right, is in danger of being swept aside.

When such fears arise, we often hear about the pre-Roe “bad old days.” Yet there are few physicians today who can relate to them from personal experience. I can.

I am a retired gynecologist, in my mid-80s. My early formal training in my specialty was spent in New York City, from 1948 to 1953, in two of the city’s large municipal hospitals.

There I saw and treated almost every complication of illegal abortion that one could conjure, done either by the patient herself or by an abortionist — often unknowing, unskilled and probably uncaring. Yet the patient never told us who did the work, or where and under what conditions it was performed. She was in dire need of our help to complete the process or, as frequently was the case, to correct what damage might have been done.

The patient also did not explain why she had attempted the abortion, and we did not ask. This was a decision she made for herself, and the reasons were hers alone. Yet this much was clear: The woman had put herself at total risk, and literally did not know whether she would live or die.

This, too, was clear: Her desperate need to terminate a pregnancy was the driving force behind the selection of any method available.

The familiar symbol of illegal abortion is the infamous “coat hanger” — which may be the symbol, but is in no way a myth. In my years in New York, several women arrived with a hanger still in place. Whoever put it in — perhaps the patient herself — found it trapped in the cervix and could not remove it.

We did not have ultrasound, CT scans or any of the now accepted radiology techniques. The woman was placed under anesthesia, and as we removed the metal piece we held our breath, because we could not tell whether the hanger had gone through the uterus into the abdominal cavity. Fortunately, in the cases I saw, it had not.

However, not simply coat hangers were used.

Almost any implement you can imagine had been and was used to start an abortion — darning needles, crochet hooks, cut-glass salt shakers, soda bottles, sometimes intact, sometimes with the top broken off.

Another method that I did not encounter, but heard about from colleagues in other hospitals, was a soap solution forced through the cervical canal with a syringe. This could cause almost immediate death if a bubble in the solution entered a blood vessel and was transported to the heart.

The worst case I saw, and one I hope no one else will ever have to face, was that of a nurse who was admitted with what looked like a partly delivered umbilical cord. Yet as soon as we examined her, we realized that what we thought was the cord was in fact part of her intestine, which had been hooked and torn by whatever implement had been used in the abortion. It took six hours of surgery to remove the infected uterus and ovaries and repair the part of the bowel that was still functional.

It is important to remember that Roe v. Wade did not mean that abortions could be performed. They have always been done, dating from ancient Greek days.

What Roe said was that ending a pregnancy could be carried out by medical personnel, in a medically accepted setting, thus conferring on women, finally, the full rights of first-class citizens — and freeing their doctors to treat them as such.

Waldo L. Fielding was an obstetrician and gynecologist in Boston for 38 years. He is the author of “Pregnancy: The Best State of the Union” (Thomas Y. Crowell, 1971).

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

It's Over!

YES WE DID!!!!!!!!!

I was so proud of being an American yesterday. I imagine I'll be posting about this topic for awhile, but I honestly don't have a lot of words. When they announced it last night, I burst into tears I was so happy, so relieved, so excited. I was wishing I was in Grant Park and kicking myself for not organizing a group to go up there and celebrate with the new President-elect. And I have to say, I'm so proud of Americans too, not just for voting for Obama, but for voting at all. We had the biggest turn-out in a century! That's incredible! And I really have some major pity for those who DIDN'T vote; I think they've missed out on being a part of history, at least in action.
Also, I have to say McCain's concession speech was beautiful and also gave me teary eyes. So - YAY! YAY! YAY! YAY! YAY! YAY! YAY! YAY! YAY! YAY! YAY! YAY!

This is only the first part - you can check out the rest of it on YouTube.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Tree-hugging liberal

I am proud to be a tree-hugging liberal. I realize this might not be completely accurate, especially today, but I thought it was kinda funny and I needed a laugh cause Nick had to leave today and I miss him.

A day in the life of Joe Republican

Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of water, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to ensure their safety and that they work as advertised.

All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance - now Joe gets it too.

He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe's bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.

Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for the laws to stop industries from polluting our air.

He walks on the government-provided sidewalk to subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe's employer pays these standards because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union.

If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he'll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn't think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

It is noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FDIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime. Joe also forgets that in addition to his federally subsidized student loans, he attended a state funded university.

Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards to go along with the tax-payer funded roads.

He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers' Home Administration because bankers didn't want to make rural loans.

The house didn't have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification.

He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn't have to.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn't mention that the beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day. Joe agrees: "We don't need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I'm a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Kids and Zingers

When kids bring God to dinner

Humanist Network News
May 4, 2005

"What's that Communion thing Grandma does at church?"

It's one of those zingers kids like to hit you with at the dinner table, usually while you're focused on someone else's spilled milk, or the smoke suddenly billowing out of the oven. And as mealtime zingers go, I guess it could be worse. (Take "My snake just escaped!" -- for example.)

For humanist parents, zingers involving religion -- and especially those involving religion and relatives -- are rife with both opportunity and risk. The wide-open potential of such a moment is undeniable: without even trying, here you've got an opening to discuss not only the extended family's religious beliefs, but the reasons you don't share them. To a humanist parent, this is something like going to McDonald's and discovering prime rib on the menu. But let's face it -- with careless handling, even prime rib will cause food poisoning. If your extended family is really religious, like mine, dealing with a zinger thoughtlessly now could turn the next family reunion into one giant Unhappy Meal -- the kind that generates belches for years to come.

If religion dominates the present and children are the future, the fateful intersection of religion with childrearing might be one of the most important topics today. Scientist Richard Dawkins himself takes it on in his April 28 article for Salon, [See: The atheist (story by, April 28, 2005).] He criticizes parents who give their kids religious labels like Catholic or Muslim, noting, "We wouldn't dream of speaking of a Keynesian child or a Marxist child. And yet, for some reason we make a privileged exception of religion."
(Section deleted by me)
I do agree with him, though, about the harm of molding children to conform to the expectations of an inherited faith....
(Section deleted by me)

But some might also ask if we're kidding ourselves. Don't we freethinkers also give our kids ideas about "the cosmos, life, and morality" when faced with a zinger like the one above? Are we, too, guilty of labeling our kids?

I certainly hope we are raising our children to know about our values -- and without apology! -- but I do think there's an important difference between religious parenting and what most humanists practice. The goal of religious parenting is to raise a child to follow the family faith, using authority and revelation as resources. The goal of humanist parenting is to raise a child to craft her own lifestance, using reason and free inquiry as her resources. One assigns the child's religious identity; the other expects him to develop it himself.

As a Catholic child (and therefore a victim of "label abuse," according to Dawkins), I received plenty of instruction on what to think about the universe and my place in it. Whatever questioning occurred did so within strict boundaries involving church authority and the presumption of a supernatural realm (both strictly outside the limits of scrutiny). My husband was raised in a similar way by Southern Baptists.

For our own children, however, authority and faith were simply not reference points. As humanist parents, my husband and I gave objective, common-sense justifications for the ideas we offered our kids. We were careful to distinguish fact from opinion. And we tended to describe rather than endorse -- even when presenting thoughts we do endorse for ourselves, personally. "Some people believe..." and "We think..." were phrases our children heard frequently.

In this way, we did not raise "atheist children," even though both have, indeed, become nonreligious adults. We raised children who were exposed to the ideas of their atheist parents -- ideas they were free to challenge, accept or reject. We raised children who were also given information about others' beliefs and opinions, as appropriate. This would please Dawkins, I think; it turns out he is just as hard on parents who label children "atheist." I have a feeling most humanist parents would earn his approval on this score.

I started with a dining room zinger involving children, extended family, and religion. It seems only fair to invite you back to the table for the ending.

"Communion is a Christian ritual," began my answer to our daughter's question. For Protestants, I added, the Communion wafer symbolizes Christ's body sacrificed on the cross. At 10, our daughter knew the Jesus story.

"But for Catholics like Grandma," I continued in what I hoped was a neutral tone, "Communion is the most important part of their faith. It's not just a symbol: they believe the priest changes the bread into Christ's actual body during the Mass, and the wine into his blood. During Communion, people go up to the altar to eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus."

She put down her fork and stared at me in disbelief. "No way!" she said.

Really, I assured her. It's what Catholics believe. It's what I was taught to believe when I was young.

She went back to her food, quietly eating. I wondered if the discussion might be over, or if I'd somehow blown it. This was her grandmother we were talking about, after all (even though I was pretty sure my explanation and Grandma's would have been 99 percent the same). Our daughter was deep in thought.

After a few minutes she looked up from her food. "Why don't they just do a science test and find out if it's true?" she asked.

On some nights, there's just no end to the zingers a kid can throw at you during dinner.

Mary Ellen Sikes is the Associate Director and Web Analyst for the Institute for Humanist Studies.

Editor's Note: For more information on humanist parenting, click the "Parenting" tab in the left-hand sidebar that appears on every page of the Institute for Humanist Studies website, or visit:

The Institute for Humanist Studies encourages readers of Humanist Network News to forward articles freely, including to list-serves. Please read our terms of use, however, before republishing anything contained in HNN.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Personal Improvements

I have found a potential flaw in myself. I don't actually know if it's a flaw, perhaps it's a personality quirk? Perhaps it's not a fault at all - maybe it's something good?
At any rate, lately I've been trying for improvements in myself. For example, I have a tendency to procrastinate. I've been trying really hard to address this. So far, I've been MOSTLY successful. It's hard to break habits, but since this one will benefit me in school, work, life, it's not that hard to do. I'm actually kind of surprised.
Basically, I'm thinking about things that bother me, basically to find out WHY they bother me. Is it something I can overcome or is it a basic makeup of my basic personality and life outlook? I'm taking stock of myself, in other words.
And I've found that I DESPISE hypocrisy. DESPISE. I don't just dislike it. I don't hate it. I despise it. I'm sure most people would say they also dislike/hate/despise hypocrisy. So maybe I'm not alone, and this is a good trait for humans - although you've got to wonder why, if hating hypocrisy is something that's good for humans, so many people are hypocritical. I know that there are times I myself have been hypocritical. Maybe it's something you can't help being, because life is so full of gray-nothing is really black and white, and having a position about one thing can never be fully secure, there are always caveats. A person thinks and declares, let's come up with something that really bothers me: that women shouldn't work if they have kids. They argue that it's harmful to children. That women are the empathetic, caregiving sex and shouldn't work. In many cases, they argue this even as they're working themselves. This just pisses me off. At least back up what you're saying: act the way you supposedly think; especially because you're arguing that ALL women should act in a way you yourself are not acting. Anyway, hypocrisy really bothers me.
I was thinking about this the other day on the bus, of all places, because of a particular incident. There was a woman on the bus talking on her cell phone, a lovely conversation involving some guy. I must point out that she was with a friend. Now, for about ten minutes she just talked and talked on her cell phone, occasionally she would relay information to her friend. She finally hung up. Wait for five minutes. A cell phone rang and a woman answered it and proceeded to explain to her friend that she was on the bus, that's why it was so loud, and how did the other day go. The woman WHO HAD JUST HUNG UP HER CELL PHONE! turned to her friend and said - "I just hate it when people answer their cell phones and have conversations on the bus. It's so rude." I wanted to just glare at her until she could read my thoughts: you just did that, you IDIOT! But of course, I didn't. Instead I started thinking about how we're all hypocritical. Sometimes it's more blatant than others. So I'm trying to figure out how I can avoid being hypocritical: I despise it in other people, so I should definitely try to avoid doing it. Since I think it happens without people realizing it, it may be difficult to accomplish.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Flashback

Dave Barry on College

College is basically a bunch of rooms where you sit for roughly two thousand hours and try to memorize things. The two thousand hours are spread out over four years; you spend the rest of the time sleeping and trying to get dates.

Basically, you learn two kinds of things in college:

1. Things you will need to know in later life (two hours).

2. Things you will not need to know in later life (1,998 hours). These are the things you learn in classes whose names end in -ology, -osophy, -istry, -ics, and so on. The idea is, you memorize these things, then write them down in little exam books, then forget them. If you fail to forget them, you become a professor and have to stay in college for the rest of your life.

It's very difficult to forget everything. For example, when I was in college, I had to memorize -- don't ask me why -- the names of three metaphysical poets other than John Donne. I have managed to forget one of them, but I still remember that the other two were named Vaughan and Crashaw. Sometimes, when I'm trying to remember something important like whether my wife told me to get tuna packed in oil or tuna packed in water, Vaughan and Crashaw just pop up in my mind, right there in the supermarket. It's a terrible waste of brain cells.

After you've been in college for a year or so, you're supposed to choose a major, which is the subject you intend to memorize and forget the most things about. Here is a very important piece of advice: be sure to choose a major that does not involve Known Facts and Right Answers. This means you must not major in mathematics, physics, biology, or chemistry, because these subjects involve actual facts. If, for example, you major in mathematics, you're going to wander into class one day and the professor will say: "Define the cosine integer of the quadrant of a rhomboid binary axis, and extrapolate your result to five significant vertices." If you don't come up with exactly the answer the professor has in mind, you fail. The same is true of chemistry: if you write in your exam book that carbon and hydrogen combine to form oak, your professor will flunk you. He wants you to come up with the same answer he and all the other chemists have agreed on.

Scientists are extremely snotty about this.

So you should major in subjects like English, philosophy, psychology, and sociology -- subjects in which nobody really understands what anybody else is talking about, and which involve virtually no actual facts. I attended classes in all these subjects, so I'll give you a quick overview of each:

ENGLISH: This involves writing papers about long books you have read little snippets of just before class. Here is a tip on how to get good grades on your English papers: Never say anything about a book that anybody with any common sense would say. For example, suppose you are studying Moby-Dick. Anybody with any common sense would say that Moby-Dick is a big white whale, since the characters in the book refer to it as a big white whale roughly eleven thousand times. So in your paper, you say Moby-Dick is actually the Republic of Ireland.

Your professor, who is sick to death of reading papers and never liked Moby-Dick anyway, will think you are enormously creative. If you can regularly come up with lunatic interpretations of simple stories, you should major in English.

PHILOSOPHY: Basically, this involves sitting in a room and deciding there is no such thing as reality and then going to lunch. You should major in philosophy if you plan to take a lot of drugs.

PSYCHOLOGY: This involves talking about rats and dreams. Psychologists are obsessed with rats and dreams. I once spent an entire semester training a rat to punch little buttons in a certain sequence, then training my roommate to do the same thing. The rat learned much faster. My roommate is now a doctor. If you like rats or dreams, and above all if you dream about rats, you should major in psychology.

SOCIOLOGY: For sheer lack of intelligibility, sociology is far and away the number one subject. I sat through hundreds of hours of sociology courses, and read gobs of sociology writing, and I never once heard or read a coherent statement. This is because sociologists want to be considered scientists, so they spend most of their time translating simple, obvious observations into scientific-sounding code. If you plan to major in sociology, you'll have to learn to do the same thing. For example, suppose you have observed that children cry when they fall down. You should write: "Methodological observation of the sociometrical behavior tendencies of prematurated isolates indicates that a casual relationship exists between groundward tropism and lachrimatory, or 'crying,' behavior forms." If you can keep this up for fifty or sixty pages, you will get a large government grant.

For my Trekkie Fans, especially Sara and Kay!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Real Americans

I have to say...Jon Stewart is hilarious.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Pledge

This is something Nick and I have actually debated before. I'm starting to come around to his way of thinking regarding the pledge, but I never thought about the viewpoint of a teacher before, so this article was very interesting.

Confessions of an Atheist Teacher: My Pledge Was a Lie

I don't exactly remember the first time I said the Pledge of Allegiance as a public school teacher, but it must have been in a classroom of twenty-seven 4th graders at around 7:55 on an August morning in Virginia in the mid-90s. We must have stood with the windows to the soccer field on our left and our Jamestown display on the right, facing the flag at the head of the classroom near the chalkboard. After that first day, I have a vague idea that a student was assigned the rotating job of "Pledge leader," getting me off the hook for the other 179. Maybe that's why my first year of Public Pledging is an elusive ghost of a non-memory.

I've met Big Brother, and it's me
Now it's two years later. I've been demoted to kindergarten -- remedial, at that. My job is to keep a hyperactive 5-year-old in roughly the same hemisphere as his classmates as often as I can. In "morning circle" he sits on my lap on the floor, both of us Indian-style, while everyone does calendar and show and share. Then we all get up for the Pledge, my little charge with great bounding enthusiasm after too much sitting still, and I stand there with him, showing him how to be a good little Pledger with his hand over his heart and the words flowing from the tip of his tongue, just like his classmates. As a good example, I stand that way too and say the words and make eye contact while he tries hard to parrot me and keep up with the others.

"One nation, under God," we both say every single morning. One day it hits me: does his family even worship a god? They live on my street, and both cars always seem to be in the driveway on Sunday mornings. But there's no mechanism for asking; absent an official request initiated by my little guy's parents, we Pledge away just the way Uncle Sam tells us to.

I realize with some amount of surprise that I feel guilty. Putting words in a child's mouth -- words he may or may not have chosen himself -- makes me feel I've overstepped my bounds as a state employee. I'm teaching -- no, training -- him to blindly, obediently say an oath of allegiance to a country -- a commitment no five-year-old can begin to understand. I've become the worst kind of Big Brother, the kind that preys on the minds of innocent little kids, shaping them to suit someone else's idea of national purpose. And pretending I believe those words myself, just to motivate him to say them too ... well, I begin to see myself as a lying hypocrite, cast in that role by my employer.

Don't tell
That same year, I'm assigned to a new supervisor in the special ed department. We get to talking during planning period and she learns that I once attended a Catholic boarding school in her home town in Maryland. She assumes I'm still Catholic, but I correct her matter-of-factly. "I'm a humanist now," I tell her. "That means I'm nonreligious."

"Oh, Mary Ellen," she says, with the sound of excited conspiracy in her voice. "I know now what our goal should be for this year -- to bring you back to the Catholic Church." Tension builds between us during the school year; this is the teacher who will evalute my performance and determine my raise, if any. I try to avoid the topic of religion altogether, but she just can't. One morning, just before spring break, she spontaneously exclaims in front of another teacher, "Jesus has risen whether you believe in him or not, Mary Ellen!"

In May, I ask to be reassigned the following year, and I am. I never tell the principal why, and he never asks, but more importantly I've absorbed a painful lesson about being a religious minority in a public school. The lesson: tell no one.

Freedom: just for students?
Fast forward to 2001. I've survived elementary school, mostly by working in the computer lab where morning exercises aren't an issue. Now, I've been promoted to high school. Five periods a day my students and I delve into Web design, HTML, and a programming language called Visual Basic. At ten every morning the school broadcast is supposed to interrupt whatever we're doing. We turn on the TV to hear the day's announcements, say the Pledge, and observe the state-mandated minute of silence.

I'm supposed to stand and model the Pledge for my students during that time, then enforce the minute of silence, but I don't. I sit at my computer, working on the day's assignments and testing my students' code. If the kids want to Pledge, and then be silent for a minute, they can do that. But I don't instruct them to, and they don't -- ever. They work, eat, and socialize, and I don't stop them.

I keep waiting for the principal to tell me that a parent has complained about my not observing morning exercises -- not even demanding silence during "the minute" -- and I wonder what I'll say if that happens. After years of "fitting in," I'm feeling liberated in the freer atmosphere of high school; I'm ready to assert my rights.

The problem is, I'm not sure I have any. It's students, not teachers, who've been granted freedom of non-participation by the Supreme Court. When you hire into a government teaching job, you agree to push the government's agenda. Right now, that gig includes an expression of religious belief I haven't held since the age of ten. What's an atheist teacher to do? What's any teacher to do? It's uncharted territory, and teachers are navigating without maps.

Testimony to the Supreme Court
By 2003, when the Supreme Court agreed to hear the Pledge of Allegiance case, I'd left behind the world of public school education. I now work in the humanist movement, where morning rituals are a matter of individual preference and never, to my great relief, involve the government's God. The entire freethought community rallied behind Michael Newdow when his case was accepted; supporting amicus briefs were filed by my employer, the Institute for Humanist Studies, our coalition partners, the Secular Coalition for America, and quite a few others. Students' religious freedom and the theme of "coercion" were common threads.

In reading these briefs, I began to wonder if the High Court has ever considered the plight of teachers forced to push the majority deity on kids as a condition of employment.

In a testimony which was eventually submitted as part of the American Humanist Association's brief, I tried to provide that perspective. I wrote: "My active participation in these daily exercises was then, and remains now, a source of internal conflict centered around deep-seated ethical principles inspired by my worldview. From my vantage point as a state employee entrusted with the care and education of its youngest citizens, my leading the Pledge by state mandate required me to choose between my professional duties and the Constitutional freedoms of my students; between a peaceful standing in my school community and the exercise of my own Constitutional rights; and between my school's standards of learning and a daily practice requiring children to abandon the critical thinking and free inquiry demanded of them in every other setting. There were no correct choices; each bore a price for someone...

"In a civics lesson, my children might have learned that oaths are solemn promises of serious intent, never sworn casually," I continued. "Instead, they innocently and blindly swore the Pledge each day, hands on heart, for no reason other than that I -- their authority figure, placed there by the state -- led them.

"I was there to show them how to position their bodies, where to fix their eyes, where to place their hands, and what words to say in rote unison -- words that were neither theirs nor mine, but had been established by their government as the orthodox expression of patriotism. My students were to repeat this ritual 180 times per school year for 13 years -- two thousand, three hundred forty Pledges per child, not counting athletic and extracurricular events."

Now that the Court has chosen not to rule on the constitutionality of 'under God,' but rather to sidestep the issue by focusing on a technicality, it's my fervent hope that more parents will step forward to challenge the 1954 act of Congress which baptized the Pledge in the name of a monotheistic God. But I hope that teachers, too, will take up the cause. To date, they've been reluctant to speak out, and some educational associations have even supported the preservation of the religious Pledge.

Arguments in favor of that phrase (including those forwarded by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in her concurring opinion) claim that 'under God' is but a ceremonial reference to our heritage as a nation founded on principles of religious freedom. But these semantic runarounds miss the real point. Teachers, more than any lawyer or judge, know that to a child, God means God. Teachers know, too, that when they use the word in an official classroom ritual, they've endorsed the idea of that God in every child's mind. It's just as simple as that.

-Mary Ellen Sikes, IHS
The Institute for Humanist Studies encourages readers of Humanist Network News to forward articles freely, including to list-serves. Please read our terms of use, however, before republishing anything contained in HNN.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Election Thoughts

Religion Threatens '08 Presidential Race



October 14, 2008

The 2008 presidential race has been the strangest and most unusual campaign in modern times. It has also involved, to an unprecedented degree, the most troublesome and dangerous threat to our political way of life, the insertion of religion into electoral campaigns. This appeared initially in the form of "guilt by association" attacks on Barack Obama because of the church he belonged to and sermons his pastor preached. Later, the same criteria were applied to John McCain because of the beliefs and statements of ministers who had endorsed him. Both presidential nominees were forced to renounce their religious supporters--one for sermonic declarations that were critical of America, and the other for spreading religious intolerance.

Obviously, this is not the first time religion has been introduced in a presidential campaign. John Kennedy was challenged over whether he could be a practicing Catholic committed to the pope and a loyal American committed to the Constitution. In previous campaigns, the religion of a presidential candidate has been an implicit issue in "culture war" debates on abortion and gay rights. However, all past history is but a prelude to the role that religious beliefs and theology have played in the present campaign. What is important to realize is that when we use the word "religion" in our American political culture, it really is Christianity that we are talking about. It is widely accepted that an agnostic or atheist could not be elected president--even if he or she were a Nobel prize-winner and decorated veteran of Iraq. And it is still uncertain that a person of the Jewish tradition could be elected president. Nevertheless, we can be sure that this state of affairs is a direct violation of Article VI of our Constitution: "There shall be no religious test."
A candidate's religious faith may not influence his or her presidential policies; there is no such thing as a Christian tax reform policy, or a Jewish policy on immigration or a Muslim universal healthcare plan. Our founding fathers understood this distinction, and that is why they created a republic in which church and state are separate and no religious criteria determine a candidate's fitness for public office.

It doesn't matter whether this country was founded as a Christian nation. The fact is, today polls indicate that 80 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians--and 40 percent of them are "born-again Christians." To understand why so many insist on the errant claim that we were Christian in our origins, there is some interesting evidence. At the beginning of the country, nearly every colony was settled with an established religion. When Connecticut was founded in 1639, its doctrine of origin explained that the whole purpose of government was to "maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the gospel of our Lord Jesus." Most of the colonies had their established church (for example, Virginia was Anglican and Massachusetts was Congregational).

However, in 1787, more than a hundred years after the early settlers arrived, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention wrote a constitution that, in contrast to the colonies', doesn't even mention God. All but two states--Rhode Island and Vermont--had religious tests for public office, but the Constitution prohibited them. It established a nation that was neither Christian or secular. The convention founded a democratic republic where a lot of its people went to church.

What the founding fathers did not reckon with was the power of the Christian interpretation of the settling of this country to morph into a sacred narrative, a holy story line. It began with the early Jamestown settlement and its entrepreneurial adventurers, and continued with the Massachusetts Bay Colony, whose zealous Puritans held an almost fanatic belief that they were God's chosen people to found a New Israel, a "shining city on a hill," as John Winthrop predicted in his sermon to the passengers aboard the Arabella.

This sacred narrative indicated that this new nation had a calling as dramatic and soul-shaking as the one Saul of Tarsus received on the road to Damascus. That calling was a mission to bring light to the darkened masses of the world. It began as we moved across the vast expanse of this continent, destroying, dehumanizing and incarcerating the Native American population of the land--all in the name of Christianity (Protestant). It was similar to what Spain did all across Latin America to indigenous people in the name of Christianity (Catholic). This mission was so powerful and so explicitly believed by American leaders as a role for this nation that it resulted in the doctrine of Manifest Destiny. It was this belief that in the nineteenth century led to our invasion of the Philippines in order to Christianize them, and to the invasion of Cuba in the Spanish-American War (where the mythic battle of San Juan Hill helped elect Theodore Roosevelt president).

The danger of this sacred narrative is that has always been connected implicitly to our violence and wars against our enemies, who were anyone who challenged our imperial, predestined leadership in the world. Of course, one could argue that this holy story line ended with the twentieth century--except that the majority Christian church has supported every war we have ever fought, right up to the present war in Iraq. Why do you think it was so easy for George W. Bush to sell his phony war to religious people? It is because deep down some of us really believe that this nation has a calling to save the world wherever or whenever it is threatened by evildoers. It is the old "chosen people" doctrine transposed into American exceptionalism. It is our destiny still, as the "greatest and most superior nation," not to "save the heathen" but to spread "democracy and freedom," to determine who is morally fit to possess nuclear material, to decide which countries are good or evil--in other words, to be the world's leader, militarily and politically, so that all the world's people look to America for their emancipation.

The danger to our fragile democratic experiment can be seen most clearly in the way in which both political parties have now bought into the sacred narrative, meaning that one's theology is predeterminate of whether one is patriotic or 100 percent American. Is this the reason there was no public outcry when Pastor Rick Warren staged a national televised event in which the candidates were put on the spot to find out if they were truly Christian believers (he called it discovering their "worldview")? Governor Sarah Palin was spared this interrogation, but we can be sure that her "inexperience" is not nearly so dangerous as her belief that God has been preparing her for the vice presidency and that Iraq was a "task that is from God."

A New Awakening

We need a New Awakening because we've been asleep while religion surreptitiously seeped into every nook and cranny of our government. Even before the Air Force Academy scandal of proselytizing evangelicals, the Justice Department was full of Christian-trained lawyers running prayer and Bible study groups and an atheist soldier was being removed from the war zone because of threats from his fellow soldiers. If we do not believe that these are threats to our political way of life, then the danger is greater than we may realize.

No one on the present scene has been more prescient or spoken more eloquently on this subject than James Carroll, the Boston Globe columnist and author. In his book House of War and the movie Constantine's Sword, he spells out in no uncertain terms the danger that the interjection of religion and American exceptionalism poses for our democracy in the vastness of Pentagon powers and military dominance over diplomacy in our foreign policy. The flaw in Carroll's viewpoint is that he places the blame only on fundamentalist Christians, but it was liberal Democrats and moderate Christian churches that remained silent as religion was exploited for political gain.

Our American system of governing is designed for a people of incredible religious diversity. We have countless religious entities and each one has subsets. There will never be a religious consensus--and that is a good reason for the separation of church and state. Being American has nothing to do with whether we are male or female, rich or poor, the color of our skin, where we go to church or if we go to church. As Oliver Thomas, a constitutional lawyer and Baptist minister, puts it: "Being American is about the principles and ideals set forth in our framing documents.... In a word, the American consensus is civic, not religious." That is why it is out of order, inappropriate, if not a grave mistake, to force our presidential aspirants to submit to a religious interrogation in order to judge their fitness for office.

We need a national dialogue to address the issue of the ways in which we have allowed Christian beliefs to be wrapped around political positions and parties. Politicians and those who vote for them ought to be able to defend their fitness for public office and the policies they stand for solely on the "civic consensus" and not on religious beliefs, on which as a people we have no consensus.

About Rev. Howard Moody
Rev. Howard Moody is minister emeritus of Judson Memorial Church in New York City. more...
Copyright © 2008 The Nation

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Library Thing! You Make My Heart Sing!

I know we barely got started discussing my last issue, but it's depressing me a bit so I thought I'd share something much more fun. Right now, I'm working on uploading all of my books into a personal library. It's called LibraryThing, and it's totally free. If you google it, you'll be able to join free and add your books - make your own library! Also, my library catalog will be public, so all of my friends can see which books I own. Have fun with it guys, it's awesome! I've been having a lot of trouble keeping up with my catalog manually - I just have a basic Excel document with a list of my books, organized by author. Yes, that's right. I'm a nerd. You all love me anyway. And Library Thing is totally cool.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Catholic Church question

Right now I'm reading the "Philadelphia Grand Jury Report on Abusive Priests and the Cardinals who Enabled Them."
I have many reasons to be glad I am no longer Catholic. But the sexually abusive priests and the church officials who cared nothing about the victims makes me jump for joy over not having to deal with religious doubts. If it hadn't already happened, I think this would have done it. I agree that you can't blame a whole religion on some "bad apples." But I do wonder how it is that the people who protected the "bad apples," are somehow ignored. Perhaps they're not. Perhaps people really are outraged and they're really trying to do something about it (Though I haven't actually seen any sadness for the victims from the Catholics I know)- I don't know how you can get rid of a cardinal who knew that a priest was sexually abusing children - it's not like a democracy; the people can't vote him out, can they? Basically I'm outraged and I'm not even Catholic. I can't imagine how they are feeling. No on seems to talk about it, but I might be missing things. I sometimes wonder if protecting the good name of the church is what most Catholics are interested in and so the outrage is more that the media reported it? I hope that's not true. I'm sure that's not true. Even I'm not that cynical.
There's a list in the report about what the priests did to the children. I thought it might be interesting to share what the Catholic Church's representatives were (and I looked up what the church considers a priest, from the Youngstown Archdiocese - before diving into the list. According to this site, which is a Roman Catholic site, not just something I picked up off of one of my liberal web pages, a priest is "a man who is chosen by god to act as a living bridge between heaven and earth..." "Priests are living instruments of Christ the eternal priest." (I know that a lot of these kids were Catholic, so they probably knew this. I wonder what it did to their psyches and their faith to imagine that it was Jesus, as a priest, who was hurting them.) "By means of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, priests bear the presence of Jesus Christ."
If there are Catholic readers out there, please tell me if I'm in possession of wrong information.
They're all bad, but for some reason, this one made me cry the most:
- A boy who told his father about the abuse his younger brother was suffering (because you have to protect your siblings!) was BEATEN to the point of unconsciousness. And the kicker that made me cry. "Priests don't do that!" said the father as he punished his son for what he thought was a vicious lie against the clergy.
Also, it's only a partial list and I didn't include what the officials did to protect the priests.

- a girl, 11, was raped by her priest and became pregnant. The Father took her in for an abortion.
- A 5th grader was molested by a priest inside the confessional.
- A teenage girl was groped by her priest while immobilized in traction in hospital bed; he stopped only when the girl rang for a nurse
- A boy repeatedly molested in school auditorium, where priest/teacher bent boy over and rubbed his genitals against the boy until the priest ejaculated
- A priest regularly began forcing sex on two boys at once in his bed
- A boy woke up intoxicated in a priest's bed to find the Father sucking on his penis while three other priests watched and masturbated themselves
- Sorry, can't print this one, it's just too wrong. I'll let you find out on your own.
-Priest told 12 year old boy that his mother knew of and had agreed to the priest's repeated rape of her son.

I hesitated a bit to post this, but I got some good advice from a friend and I realized that this is fact - this actually happened, and you can't really whitewash it. You shouldn't whitewash it. And now that I think about it, I know of a few Catholics who I am sure were and are outraged - they're close friends of mine actually. But is there any place that talks about this issue, from a lay Catholic's point of view, about why people haven't been leaving the church in droves or demanding something to address the issue, or anything really, that might indicate that the people of the church are just as horrified and outraged as I am and NOT because their precious church, who apparently needs protection from people's opinions (though it is the "true" church of god and you'd think god could protect it), needs to be kept out of the media so that people's opinions about the church don't go downhill. Do Catholics care about the victims? I mean, I'm sure they must, but why does it seem that I only hear about the church protecting the priests and not these poor kids?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Thoughts on religion

I came across this the other day, and since I live in this great free country of ours and have the right of free speech, which some people are against, I thought I'd post it on my blog. I thought it was both funny and insightful. Even though I think it's funny - I'm still allowed to be a citizen, and if I so choose, thanks to the constitution, I'll be able to run for office (though I might not get elected, of course!).
Clearly, criticizing religion is bad, and if we lived in biblical times, I'd be stoned or burned or smited by god. But we don't - and besides, even if I criticized religion and someone decided to stone me, I'd imagine they'd get tried and probably convicted of murder - I guess even the bible can be wrong about morality, what a shock!
Yes, that's right, you sense sarcasm, brought on by frustration; frustration of ignorance, really, and frustration of people who presume to judge others based on their own morality, which doesn't seem that moral to those who believe that murdering all the firstborn children to punish their parents is wrong.

Top Ten Signs You're a Fundamentalist Christian

10 - You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.

9 - You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

8 - You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.

7 - Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!

6 - You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

5 - You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.

4 - You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs -- though excluding those in all rival sects - will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."

3 - While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.

2 - You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.

1 - You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history - but still call yourself a Christian.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


I'm bored tonight, so even though I'm sure you all haven't had a chance to comment on my last post, I'm going to post something more. I just wondered what people thought of some of these random questions I have when I'm bored and my mind wanders.

1. What do you think of sperm donation?
2. Do any of you know how to make pad thai? I can never find a recipe that I think is easy enough to try.
3. Has any one wondered about WHY some foods seem to taste better from a restaurant rather than at'd think it'd be the other way around.
4. Do you think insurance companies should cover Viagra?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

I'm getting a little crazy with the posts

Just in case you haven't seen them. How many of you laughed hard enough to fall out of your chair?

I love Queen Latifah!

Monday, October 06, 2008


This is a new blog I'll be linking to sometime in the future. In the past, I think we've discusses/debated/argued about the "role" of women in society and such. I thought you readers might be interested in reviving the discussion, since I never did figure out what women's natural "role" is - those of you who believe in such a thing could maybe help me? Anyway, here's the link. Feel free to peruse the rest of the sight, there are some interesting thoughts.

Moment of Zen (Who else wishes they knew ballet?)

And the link:

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Click Me!

Some people may find this offensive, but I thought it captured some of the frustration I was feeling when talking with people who are of a different mind than I when it comes to beliefs and religion and such. For the record, I'm not trying to be offensive, just working through some of my frustration and reading a lot about humanism, secularism, and religion, and one of the ways I work through it is by laughter.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Thanks Nate!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

September 27-October 4: Banned Books Week

It's Banned Books Week again and in the spirit of intellectual freedom, I thought my loyal readers would be interested to know what the top ten challenged books (and why they were challenged) and authors in 2007 were; I encourage you to read one of them and enjoy knowing you're fighting against censorship and small-mindedness. Oh, and if these don't interest you, I'll put the link to the American Library Association on my links section so you can research a bit more and find one that does.
In ending this, I was wondering: what do you think of people who challenge books, why they challenge them, would you ever do so - I mean this as a community-wide thing, not prohibiting your kid for reading something you feel in inappropriate, and what you think of censorship in general? Also, notice why these books were challenged - who do you think did most of the challenging, why you think that, are they justified in their actions (their opinions are of course, their own, as I'm firmly pro-First Amendment).
Oh, and have you ever read any of these? What did you think?

The “10 Most Challenged Books of 2007” reflect a range of themes, and consist of the following titles:

1) “And Tango Makes Three,” by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

2) The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence

3) “Olive’s Ocean,” by Kevin Henkes
Reasons: Sexually Explicit and Offensive Language

4) “The Golden Compass,” by Philip Pullman
Reasons: Religious Viewpoint

5) “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain
Reasons: Racism

6) “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language,

7) "TTYL,” by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

8) "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou
Reasons: Sexually Explicit

9) “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris
Reasons: Sex Education, Sexually Explicit

10) "The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

Off the list this year, are two books by author Toni Morrison. "The Bluest Eye" and "Beloved," both challenged for sexual content and offensive language.

The most frequently challenged authors of 2007

1) Robert Cormier
2) Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
3) Mark Twain
4) Toni Morrison
5) Philip Pullman
6) Kevin Henkes
7) Lois Lowry
8) Chris Crutcher
9) Lauren Myracle
10) Joann Sfar

Monday, September 22, 2008

White Privilege

I got this the other day and I thought it was hilarious and thought-provoking. McCain/Palin basically keeps scaring me more and more.

This is Your Nation on White Privilege
By Tim Wise

For those who still can't grasp the concept of white privilege,or who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.

1. White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because "every family has challenges," even as black and Latino families with similar "challenges" are regularly typified as irresponsible,pathological and arbiters of social decay.

2. White privilege is when you can call yourself a "fuckin' redneck," like Bristol Palin's boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll "kick their fuckin' ass," and talk about how you like to "shoot shit" for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

3. White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.

4. White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don't all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you're "untested."

5. White privilege is being able to say that you support the words "under God" in the pledge of allegiance because "if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it's good enough for me," and not be immediately disqualified from holding office--since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the "under God" part wasn't added until the 1950s--while believing that reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school requires it), is a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.

6. White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.

7. White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was "Alaska first," and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she's being disrespectful.

8. White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do--like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end to child labor--and people think you're being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college--you're somehow being mean, or even sexist.

9. White privilege is being able to convince white women who don't even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made them give your party a "second look."

10. White privilege is being able to fire people who didn't support your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.

11. White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian theological principles into government, and who bring in speakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God's punishment on Jews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you're just a good church-going Christian, but if you're black and friends with a black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on black people, you're an extremist who probably hates America.

12. White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by a reporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for asking you such a "trick question," while being black and merely refusing to give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O'Reilly means you're dodging the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.

13. White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being black and experiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred to it, a "light" burden.

14. And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing, people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, and the U.S. is increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because white voters aren't sure about that whole "change" thing. Ya know, it's just too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which is very concrete and certain.

White privilege is, in short, the problem.