Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day Greetings and Other Miscellanea

Happy Father’s Day to all the other Dads out there. Unfortunately, I live apart from my children but still manage to stay close to them by keeping the lines of communication going. The key is to be there emotionally. Just as it is all to common for fathers to be there physically but not emotionally, it is also possible to remain emotionally accessible to your children even when you are separated by a long airplane ride.

In other news…I have started my one class for the summer. I am at that point one’s college education where you’ve nearly run out of classes that you need or are even remotely interesting. The one class I found was on Middle Eastern history. This should be an interesting one. I certainly have opinions on the historical roots of what is going on in that part of our planet but I also know I do not have all the facts yet either and may very well find out I am mistaken in many things. I have already chosen the subject for the obligatory “paper.” My research question will be:

“Why are fundamentalist Islamic movements are so strong and why there seems to be such a lack of progress in democratic movements in Middle Eastern countries and are they related?”

This should be an interesting topic to explore. Stay tuned for updates…

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Hundreds of channels, and they're all crap!

I am a documentary junkie, I admit it. Not too terribly long ago there were fairly reliable sources for such programs on networks like The History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and A&E. Now these networks are filled with shows like Ice Road Truckers, Axmen, and Dirty Jobs. If I were trapped to a desert island and had a chose between an overly-credulous UFO show and a show about high school dropouts working shit jobs, I’ll pick the UFO show.

I am a snob, I admit. It is not that I do not appreciate the essential work such people do in our modern economy; I completely agree with the sentiment of the opening lines on Dirty Jobs, where the host/narrator speaks of the jobs “that make civilized life possible for the rest of us.” To my mind though, these shows place these people on a pedestal and carry the not-so-subtle message that “you don’t need to be smart, you don’t need to study or do well in school; as long as you are willing to sweat like a pig and grunt like a “real man” (even if you are female) you will do fine and people will respect and admire you.”

Wrong, wrong, and wrong! Having done my share, I know there is nothing to be ashamed of in honest labor. However, documentaries ought to elevate our awareness of the world around us and our aspirations within it. Above all else, my respect for people is determined by the quality of what goes on in the space between their ears and that is what documentaries ought to foster.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Final Primaries

At the moment, I am living in one of the last states to hold their primary elections, South Dakota. I grew up here but was absent, except for short visits, from 1983 until 2005. With the Democratic race going right down to the wire, South Dakota voters (at least the Democrats) are the recipients of much unaccustomed attention from Senators Clinton and Obama. This attention is probably a good thing if it serves to overcome voter apathy and get people fired up for the whole informed self-government thing.

Though I am not registered with any political party, I certainly won’t be voting Republican. Nor am I terribly enthused about the Democratic contenders. The lengths the Democratic candidates have gone to in bending over backwards to appeal to “people of faith” have, quite frankly, appalled me. Sen. Obama announced on May 31st that he has withdrawn from membership in the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago after repeatedly having to distance himself from the incendiary rhetoric of its pastors. The mess he got himself into with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright would likely not have risen to the pitch that it did if he was not straining to place what ought to have been private piety on public display.

Senator Clinton is equally guilty of “public displays of piety” (PDP’s). In the same way that public displays of affection (PDA’s) that get out of hand can make one want to shout “Get a room!,” going overboard on the PDP’s make me want to shout “Take it to a church!” Of course, I do not think that anything Sens. Clinton or Obama could do would set as dangerous a precedent as Sen. McCain choosing Mike Huckabee, a minister that wants to rewrite our constitution to conform to biblical law, as his running mate. That pairing would give us a Commander-in-Chief and a Pastor-in-Chief.

What I would like to see (I know, keep dreaming) is a candidate that replies to the first question about his or her religious opinions by saying something along the lines of:

“Article 6, Section 3 of the United States Constitution specifically prohibits any ‘religious test’ for public office. I submit that your question constitutes just such a test and violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the Constitution. At best, merely asking the question highlights your ignorance of the Constitution, and at worst it represents a deliberate attempt to subvert the Constitution, which is about the most un-American thing I can imagine. It is for the reasons I have just given that I refuse to answer the question.”

I realize that this is not going to happen and that leaves me less than sanguine about the future of our free Republic. As Edward R. Murrow, who saw this coming, said...“Good night and good luck.”