Saturday, July 26, 2008

Stray Kitteh: A.D. VII KAL. AVG

Last week I was walking Katrina out to her car, when from under a shed peeked a small pair of glowing eyes. It was roughly midnight, and pretty dark, but the kitten stepped forth into the garage light. It didn't come close, but just looked at me. I talked to it for a few minutes before returning to the house.

I didn't really think I'd see her again.

I went to get groceries about four days ago, and upon my return, the kitten emerged from nowhere and followed us to the door of the house. Half-starved, she quickly gobbled down the food we gave her. She also seemed to gobble down the attention -- for a wild kitten, she was sure sweet. We weren't sure what to do with her. We stayed outside with her in the backyard all night, taking care of her and playing with her; she hated my dogs, and my cat hated her, so she could not stay inside.

She certainly has spirit! And she seemed to have the attitude of a Cockney orphan, to boot. The kitten is pretty tiny, but seems to think she can take on the world. When she got her energy back, after having eaten, she decided it would be fun to attack every little thing that moved in the back yard . . . up to and including myself. It is a frightening sight indeed to see a 2 lb. kitteh stalk you from behind a shed, and then charge your shoe. Her little charge is adorable, too. When attacking, she runs kind of sideways. Katrina says it's because her back feet move faster than the rest of her. :P

The kitten, hereafter referred to as "The Tribble" decided to stick around. To say safe, she made a home in our tree in the back yard. That is to say, the Tribble hides twenty feet up in the tree and then desperately meows later until I come and get her down. Then, she goes right back up. Over the course of a couple of days, she remained around the yard. She grew attached to us, and we to her. During the days when it grew windy or rainy, she would hide under the neighbor's shed. It never took much to find her, because the moment we stepped out the door to look for her, she would run out to greet us.

Feeding time makes the Tribble very happy (Not only does she look like a tribble, but she eats like one). I guess happy is really an understatement. When I walk out the back door with a plate of food, she would come to the nook in the tree and whine until I got her down. Once I had ahold of her, she squirmed frantically to get down and charge her food dish. I decided to try and feed her ham, which was perhaps a mistake. By that I mean she loved the ham so much that I could not feed it to her fast enough, and my fingers were mistaken for said pork product. Cyrano Jones lied -- this Tribble has teeth! And she was not above climbing my leg in order to get to the ham faster.

All in all, it's been a tiring few days. I've devoted most of my time to taking care of this kitty, going outside continuously checking on her and worrying that she'd wonder onto one of the nearby busy streets. Katrina, my Mom, and I all really wanted to keep her. But sadly, as I said, my current pets and her were not compatible and Katrina's family wouldn't allow her to keep a kitteh in the house. Trying to find a home for her was hard. Katrina's dad even offered to install an underground electronic fence to perhaps keep the Tribble in their yard. But, they live out in the woodsy hills where a lot of predators live. Kitties and Coyotes do not mix. The story is sad, but has a happy ending. My mom found her a home with one of her friends. I don't know them all that well, but they are good people. They wanted a pet for some time now, and are all very happy to have her. Katrina and I were, well, devastated to see her go. Deep down we wanted to her to stay around . . . she touched all of our hearts pretty deep. In the end, though, we knew she needed a good home, and she got one.

Within a couple of hours, mom heard from her friend. The Kitteh had warmed right up to them and made herself right at home at their house. She was relaxing and playing, and hiding in dark places ready to jump out and attack feet. Mom is close with her friend, and she said we could come see the kitty any time we want. I am glad for that, and glad she has a loving home, but I am really going to miss going outside to feed her and getting her out of the tree.

funny pictures
She is now the star of her own LOLCats picture. Make sure to click on her and vote!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Populus: Kalendis Iuliis

It's the Kalends of July.

I can't decide if June went by terribly slow, or flew by rapidly. It feels like just yesterday it was May, but then again, this month has also been a grueling long series of natural disasters. Bah Oh well, Iowa has thrown us yet another completely unpredictable curve ball and has given us relatively nice weather this week. Honestly, I'm in a bit of shock. By this time of year, the heat and humidity in Iowa is nauseating, at best. However, there has been coolness in the air, and nice breezes to offset the hotter times. Maybe Gaea's making up for that whole flood and tornado business.

Anyway . . . I've been observing people a lot again lately. People-watching has always been a hobby of mine. I've always had a keen interest in observing human interactions. Anyway, the hobby has been a bit put off since I graduated college and am around significantly fewer people than the thousands I saw every day on campus. Also, since then, I've felt like I've been in a big rush to nowhere, and even trips to the store seem rushed for no reason. I stopped paying attention to the people, finding myself simply irritated at most of them.

So over the last couple of days there were a couple of people I happened to randomly "bump" into that just seemed interesting. It feels like something about them snapped me out of that tense state of indifference I have developed over the last year and got me to paying attention again. People are indeed interesting.

Today Katrina and I went on a little walk. Well, we do that a lot lately actually. But today we were skulking about near the river trying to catch a bunny. A Jamaican guy approached us and started talking. He was dirty, and at first appeared to be homeless. He was interesting, and seemed really nice. He initially asked me where he could go to buy t-shirts (in the downtown area of Waterloo, there are very few places to clothes shop, and he had no car). We spoke for a while, and it turned out that he was an illegal immigrant. He had lived somewhere else (I don't know where) and had to flee due to a raid, and didn't have time to gather his belongings (hence the need to buy new clothes). He was hired by a company to come up to Waterloo to do temporary manual labor fixing flood damage. He had tried to go clothes shopping at a nearby place where the guy working there was being a smart-ass and stereotyped him, trying to push a Bob Marley shirt.

Then the day before, we were shopping at Target. Behind us in line at the checkout was a family. There were several girls. One of which was maybe 14 years old. She looked like the typical annoying teenage girl. With her was her younger sister; maybe 9 or 10 years old. This girl, by contrast, appeared far more intelligent. She stood straight, and wore glasses. She bore a serious expression, perhaps even one of contempt for her surroundings. The annoying older sister spoke, in that annoying teenage girl fashion.

"Oh my God, that's the same kind of suntan lotion that Clair uses!!! Yadda yadda blah blah yadda!!!"

To which the young girl replied in a monotone adult voice, "Hmmm. That's interesting. Did you really need to tell me that?"
Katrina and I just looked at each other, with a grin. We were in a little bit of amazement. Could it be that we had actually encountered a child that didn't irritate or creep us out? One that was perhaps as cynical as us? Nay, one that might even surpass us in contempt for stupidity?? I think if it were possible, we would have adopted the child then and there and raised her to be one of our unholy minions of the night.

Anyway, I digress. These two interesting people that we encountered within two days got me thinking of something I realized a long time ago; it's a strange thing, looking at a person for a first time. It's very common for people to sum somebody up in a matter of seconds, and judge them only based on their behavior in that exact moment, as if their existance was a mere snapshot in time. I don't think people ever take the time to wonder who made someone what they are.

The Jamaican guy, and the little girl . . . They were very different from most people you usually meet. It is interesting to wonder what their story is, people. What made them who they are? The Jamaican guy on the surface looked homeless, and lower class. He was an illegal immigrant on the run. But he was articulate, and seemed sensitive. Maybe not the most educated, per se. But his face bore a certain wisdom. He was obviously facing a difficult life right now, but still seemed friendly and nice. What shaped him? Where will he go next? And the little girl . . . her sister was the typical bubble-head, seeming devoid of any sophistication whatsoever. The mother just looked totally apathetic to what was going on. What shaped this little girl? What made her so serious and contemptuous of stupidity? Where did she learn that cheeky sarcasm? Not only where did she learn it, but where did she learn to deliver it with such timing and mastery?

People are very interesting, and very complex. And they become even more so when you look at them as a sum of experiences and influences. When you start to look at people that way, you find you understand them more. They appear more "three dimensional" and less like paintings and snapshots in time. They churn and bubble, and are organic.

I wonder what people might have thought of Katrina and I today. As I said, we were sneaking around trying to catch a bunny. We've done that the last two days, actually. What do people think when they drive by? Why is that devilishly handsome guy and his terribly cute girlfriend running around in circles around that bush? Wait, is that a bunny they are chasing? They are adults! WTF?! Would they take an insta-snapshot and just assume we were idiots? Or would they venture to guess that there might be something more complex behind it?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

George Carlin: Requiescat in Pace

We lost a cultural icon tonight.

George Carlin died of heart failure. He was 71.

I don't normally put much stock in celebrities, particularly actors. So why does the death of this comic bother me? Carlin was more than just a comedian. He was a brave man; one who fearlessly attacked ridiculous cultural institutions and expressed views that were unpopular. He shamelessly took on controversial issues and taught us to laugh at them. He never pulled any punches, and his direct, blunt attacks lacked any subtlety in favor of knocking his targets directly on their asses.

I've struggled throughout my life, dealing with constant bullshit. It was always the kind of bullshit you weren't supposed to put up with -- you were just supposed to accept it (e.g. dealing with religious zealots and drama-nazis who can't help but let their neurotic emotional states invade your life). George Carlin took things like these head-on, and called them out . . . and made it funny, to boot! Fighting to deal with such things, it was an inspiring to see someone like him be so unafraid to strike stupidity down in its place. I can honestly say that seeing some of his routines eventually gave me the strength to drop the pretense and take these things on, in my life, myself. I don't put up with crap anymore, and am quicker to call bullshit when I see it, and I think I owe some of that to him. I think it would be accurate to call him a bit of a hero of mine. I'm glad I was able to see him in person before he died.

Thank you George, for teaching us that bullshit is bad for us, and thank you even more for showing us that we can take it on. We'll miss you.

George Takes on Religion

George Defrags the Ten Commandments

George on Countdown

Friday, June 13, 2008

Curses . . . IDVS IVNII.

I was just thinking about curses. You know, terrible curses. Curses aren’t things people think about much anymore, really, are they? It used to be that people feared curses. It’s kinda like curses were old-world drama. Now we fear drama – it’s all about drama. If Sally does this, or Shelly does that, it’s going to cause drama. Drama drama drama. We've become Dramaphobic, and rightfully so. Drama sucks. It was not always so . . . back in the day, if Sally pissed Shelly off, it was on. And by on, I mean, Shelly would totally curse her ass.

It used to be God (or The Gods) cursed people too. But now apparently God only does good things . . . (Notice that people thank God for everything good that happens, but don’t blame God for anything bad that happens . . . unless of course the Westboro Baptist Church is involved, in which case God is still cursing everything). Back in the day though, if things were not going right, you knew that the Gods cursed yo ass.

They’ve just fallen out of popularity, curses. I think they should come back. Wouldn’t that make everything all better? Well, maybe not better, but certainly less complicated. Imagine a world where all of the high school drama disappeared, and everything was more straight forward. If your BFF stole your boyfriend, you could just totally curse them. No more need for dramatic Facebook wall battles, or socially eviscerating your enemies on Myspace. Just nab a bit of their hair, or maybe a couple of their nail clippings, grab a few scented candles, and ZAP!

But if this were the case, I think the curses should be at least sort of mild. Do you ever notice that when you read a book, or see a movie, that the curses are always “terrible?” Literally, “terrible.” They always say, “They were inflicted with a terrible curse.” The word “terrible” is always emphasized with dramatic voices, sometimes even rolling the r’s. You will never see a pirate movie where some important captain figure says, “Upon the crew was bestowed a curse most mild!” And this somewhat cursed crew, who would be slightly annoyed by a mild curse, would not likely go on any big adventures to end their faintly inconvenient plight.

Not that I have a problem with terrible curses, mind you. Nothing gets your point across by making someone into an undead zombie until such time as they return coins to a chest, or making their fields unable to yield crops, or perhaps slaughtering all the first born children of a nation. And nothing says “I love you” like making a person unable to bear children, or maybe striking them blind.

But the punishment should fit the crime, methinks. So I definitely think mild curses are the answer. A). Mild curses are more original. B). Terrible curses are more befitting a drama queen, and really who wants that? C). Mild curses can be a lot more fun and leave more room for creativity. Imagine the mischief!

Someone starts talking smack about you behind your back? Looks like it’s time they started having uncontrollable gas! And what if Shelly told Shirley’s secret to Sharon? Well, Shelly was due for an acne outbreak anyway! And as for that BFF who stole your boyfriend? Well, the BFF could always miss a period and have an “Oh my God, I’m pregnant!” scare while the boyfriend begins to suffer from a combination of erectile dysfunction and frequent premature ejaculation. And as for that otherwise really cool and awesome friend that you have who just keeps picking on you . . . his Ipod could stop working and start showing that little frowning Ipod icon.

Yes, I am still trying to figure out who cursed my Ipod.

Now doesn’t this sound just a little bit better than some of the drama that most of us try to avoid on a daily basis? What would have more impact? Deleting Shelly from your Myspace friends? Or cursing her Myspace and deleting all of her friends? And besides, in a world where everyone fears being cursed, people are bound to be nicer to each other.

Well, in case I’ve given anyone any ideas (or fears), know that I am going to start selling charms and amulets to protect against curses. If anyone fears mage-drama, do contact me and I’ll hook you up . . . just as soon as I make one for my Ipod. My charms are guaranteed, for the most part, and come with a certificate of authenticity. My prices are very fair, and in this curse-filled world, how can you afford to be without one?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Ad Somniare Gladiarum et Loricae: A.D. VIII ID. IVN.

Ad Somniare Gladiarum et Loricae: To Dream of Swords and Armour

I was having an email conversation with a friend last night and it really got me thinking about some of my hobbies, and why I have them. It kind of dawned on me, a little, about how I think I have unwittingly fulfilled something of a childhood dream.

I've been collecting medieval, renaissance, and ancient weapons for the last nine years. I started actively participating in swordplay almost eight years ago, and in that time I started both collecting and making my own armour. Between what I have bought and created, I have many pieces of medieval and ancient armour, and then in my weapons collection I have over 30 pieces. I actively use these things, too.

I think it all started with a little movie I loved as a child. Bedknobs and Broomsticks. It's an endearing little tale about some English children who end up under the care of something of a foster parent who ends up being a witch. (What is it with English stories always having orphaned or abandoned groups of children having to deal with strange adults??). Anyway, this movie takes place during World War II. If you've seen it, you might remember the scene where the witch uses her Substitutiary Locomotion spell to make all of the suits of armour in a museum come to life, and fight off a small Nazi incursion. There was something ominous and scary about dozens of empty walking suits of knights' armour marching like zombies towards a group of confused Nazis. The loud clanging of the steel, the empty stare, and the repetitive deep chanting of, "Traguna Macoides Tracorum Sadis Dee."

This is what started it for me; the fascination with armour, anyway. From that point on, as a child, I would draw countless pictures of plate armour. I had my toy swords and my plastic shields, and I wanted to know how it felt to wear and fight in real armour. Armour never really failed to capture my imagination, but it always seemed a forgone conclusion that knight's armour was not something realistic to expect to have in the modern real world. I kind of left that all behind by the time I was a teenager.

But then I started collecting medieval weaponry when I was 18. It was kind of a random thing, really. At that point I was collecting interesting Celtic artifacts and musical instruments, and was trying to get ahold of all kinds of interesting "old world" things. The weaponry collection began with a single nicely made hand forged bastard sword (second from the right in the photograph). Before I knew it, I had a small collection, and was involved with performing in Renaissance Faires, and involved in a Medieval Reenactment group. Here I was, a young adult, wearing armour and swinging swords at people . . . and getting injured fairly often in the process. You've never had your ribs broken, until you've had them broken at sword point!
(Left: My first four swords, resting on one of my unfolded kilts).

It was a quite exciting time, really. I was living out a childhood dream, but never really consciously thought about that. It is odd that I never really associated my childhood fantasies with this new hobby. It was, after all, a serious and expensive adult hobby. Friends in the group trained me to fight, and others trained me to make armour. I was making my own chainmail, soon thereafter, as well as leather armor and splintmail. I never quite had the time, skill, or equipment to make the full steel suits or anything terribly advanced. No, those pieces had to be bought from people who really knew what they were doing!

Now, I'm 27. Between what I have bought and what I have made, I have an arsenal consisting of an array of Medieval, Greek, and Roman armour, including a full suit that would have been right at home fighting those Nazi soldiers. On top of that, I have over 30 pieces of weaponry. With these I have trained, and I have fought. By no means am I a master, but I now informally teach combat in various styles of swordplay. Having a minor in ancient history, whereby my crowning research project was an in-depth analysis of hoplite combat in relation to their armor, this stuff has become a very real, and very serious, adult pursuit; so much to the point that it is easy to forget the childhood dream. It is too easy at this point to view this stuff as a terribly mundane part of everyday life for me. After all, when going for walks in dangerous areas at night, it is not uncommon for me to throw on a chainmail shirt under my coat, or when walking in the woods where cougars have been known to pass through, I near instinctively grab either the chainmail, or something else. And you know that it has just become a part everyday life when you are sitting in a bar trapped in 100 lbs. of steel trying to figure out a way to comfortably drink your Heineken.

It has become habit, I think, to take it all too seriously. Not that it shouldn't, be taken seriously, mind you. I simply mean that it has been to easy to forget the childhood dream. I have spent almost a decade defending these hobbies to people as a serious hobby that I have forgotten the child inside, I think. A child can dream of gleefully riding horses, and then grow up to be a serious and devoted equestrian, and then forget the child who just wanted the joy of riding a pretty horsey. I fear that this may be what I have done with my armor.

I turn around in my chair and look around this room, and what do I see? Swords leaning up against walls -- real ones. I see the stand with that full suit of armor, and another improvised stand where I hang my homemade chainmail and a Roman breastplate. I see a helmet stood between to figurines of knights on horseback, and I see my old splintmail tucked away under the desk. I have been sitting in my childhood dream, and gods help me, but I didn't even realize it.

When I was a child, running around playing knight, I wonder what I would have thought if somebody would have come up and told me, "Someday." I think I would have laughed at them. "Someday, kid, you will have a suit like that. Oh, and swords. And you'll make some of your own armor too. And you'll teach people how to fight with it." The little child that was me, would look at this room and be completely amazed.

I think I need to revive that part of me. I can still be a practical and serious swordsman, and I can still teach. I can keep my adult hobby, but maybe let that child inside come out and play now and then. Maybe next time, instead of getting the sword down and practicing, maybe I will get the sword down and just play. About twenty years ago I had a dream, and now I live in the midst of it. It's not just a hobby, and it's not just a life. I've been involved with this for almost a decade. It's time to appreciate it for what it is. It's a dream.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Evangelical Wars Episode II: Calling Out Supremacists

Words these days, like the dollar, are getting less and less valuable. Do you ever notice how a firmly defined word can instantly have its meaning changed to fit someone’s agenda, or to make someone feel better about themselves for something they do not want to associate themselves with.

After all, our country isn’t torturing people. Sure, we’re admittedly doing something that came right out of the Spanish Inquisition, and something that we executed Japanese officers for during World War II (Water boarding). We’re happy to ignore the last 700 years where every book written in every language referred to this practice as torture. We don’t want to refer to it as torture though, because the United States does not torture. We just have Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.

Now of course violations of the dictionary aren’t illegal like violations of the constitution are . . . but they sure do make us look stupid. Not that we need much help with that, after all, while really important issues are happening all over the world and in our own country, our government is debating whether or not people lived along side dinosaurs or not.

I am seriously wondering what the Star Spangled Banner will sound like on a banjo with a few “YEE-HAWs” thrown in for good measure.

But on that note, there is another big word that people hide from the definition of, too. Supremacism. We all know that supremacism is a bad word. Who wants to be a supremacist, after all? Many will do about anything to avoid being called a supremacist anymore. Well, almost anything. They’ll do the easy thing . . . they won’t necessarily go as far as to stop being one, but they will certainly disassociate themselves with the word in order to make themselves feel better. At the end of the day, it’s easier to warp the truth to fit you than it is to change yourself to avoid an unsettling truth.

Since people are already pretty good about labeling racism when we see it, and most of us know that racial supremacism is pretty much wrong . . . who am I talking about? Well, if you’ve read my last entry, chances are that you can guess I’m talking about Evangelicals and Religious Extremists.

It's very easy for people to be offended by being called out as a supremacist. If anyone of the Evangelical persuasion is reading this, then I refer you to the dictionary of your choice. I didn’t write it . . . and I’m not going to apologize for proper use the language. The very basis of the Evangelical agenda is one of supremacism.

The definition is simple: A supremacist is someone who believes that either they as an individual, or as a part of a particular group, are superior to all others. This goes far beyond simply believing that they are right and that others are wrong (pretty much everyone does that), but often it involves a belief that a person or group should have acknowledgment of superiority and/or rights and power over other individuals or groups who they deem inferior.

If anyone still wants to dispute this, check your dictionaries. Failing that, pay homage to our one true God, Wikipedia. Because we all know, it’s helped us through more college courses than anything else.

So here’s the deal. Most people are in a bit of denial. We’re mostly in agreement that supremacism is wrong. Right? If some fool got on television and started saying that this was a White nation, and that whites should have more rights, freedoms, and have preferential treatment, they wouldd receive a great deal of flack. And rightfully so . . . So how come Evangelicals get away with it?

Evangelical ideology certainly fits the real-life definition of supremacism, after all. I’m not going into defining the theological doctrines held by Evangelicals; anyone reading this probably already knows them. Suffice it to say, it is an ideology that promotes that they hold the one ultimate truth, and that anyone who is different than this is inferior and must be changed in order to be accepted. Further, though not all Evangelicals go this far, the bulk of the demographic seeks to fight for their superiority of anyone (even those from the same religion) who deviate from some of the common beliefs (such as homosexuals). An overwhelming majority of these either hope for, or actively pursue, their beliefs being passed into laws.

It is a Christian nation, they say.

This is a disturbing line seeing as the Ku Klux Klan’s big thing is to say that this is a White Christian nation. (See their website if you’re bored and don’t mind getting a little angry . . . or a lot angry).

The big time Evangelical leaders are not the only ones saying these things. We’ve all heard the lines and seen the tactics. There is of course the aggressive recruitment policies, but then there are the aforementioned attempts to control everyone by making their beliefs into law, and then who can forget the incites to violence? Pat Robertson was quoted having said on the 700 Club, “Call me old-fashioned but I think non-believers should be manacled, publicly flayed and set afire by the Council of Elders with the assistance of the town smithy.”

Ok, now tell me ANY of this stuff isn’t Supremacism . . . and some of it pure hatred. Robertson would be pulled off the air if the words were “black people” or “Mexicans” in place of “Non-Believers.” And anyone who would dare to say “Black people can’t get married” and then try to fight that legally . . . well, do the math.

A bit historical trivia for you . . . the last laws preventing black and white people marrying each other was only taken down as recently as 1967. That’s only forty-one years ago.

I am getting very weary of this . . . I really don’t care who thinks who is right, or wrong. I don’t think people should need to view everyone as being “just as right” as they are. We’ll all have disagreements no matter what, and that’s normal . . . However, when most people think someone else is wrong, they don’t harass or threaten them, or try to attain legal superiority over them. The worst you can expect is that one party may call the other one stupid. They will not view you as an abomination, or a lesser human. Just wrong, and that’s no big deal. But the sheer arrogant attitude that stems from the Evangelical movement leaps way past that and into a big steaming pot of supremacism . . . albeit supremacism that is sometimes presented with a smiling face.

Let’s face it . . . If little Timmy is born into an Evangelical family, little Timmy is likely to be forced to go to Church at an early age. Evangelical children become born-again and accept Jesus as their savior often as early as four years old. It’s highly common to be sent away to bible camps, and go to continuous other activities to . . . um . . . teach them. By the time little Timmy is a teenager, little Timmy knows he is right, and that everybody else is wrong. He is Evangelical, which is technically a minority among Christians, and most certainly a minority in all of the world’s religions. Timmy, out of 7 billion people, just happened to be born into the right one. And he knows it. Little Timmy is right, and you are wrong. End of story.

Timmy knows this is a Christian nation because it is what he was brought up to believe. Just like little Tommy knows that this is a White Christian Nation from how he was brought up.

The fact that this kind of attitude still exists disturbs me. Well, actually what disturbs me more than the attitude is the actions . . . the coercive recruitment, and the need to have power and rights over others.

This, my friends, is Supremacism. Those who partake in it deny it, and those who are not part of it seem afraid to call them out on it. Not that I really think people should be “called out” on an opinion, per se. After all, it’s America, and we have rights. A person has a right to be an asshole if they want. Calling them out on actions like trying to control others and harassing recruitment? That’s another story.

I rather think people should call themselves out. It’s too difficult to call someone out on what they think or feel. None of us can know what is in another’s heart, truly. Enough of the mincing words . . . people are smart enough to use them. If you’re a supremacist, you’ll know it yourself if you’re honest.

The question is: What if you find yourself a supremacist? What will you do about it?

Will you reconcile with the fact that you are one? Or will you knock off the supremacism?

After all, it’s quite possible to be proud of your racial heritage without looking down at someone else’s. Can’t it be done with religion?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Evangelical Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

Salve Amici!

As I mentioned in my first entry, I enjoy engaging in discourse over controversial topics. Of the controversial topics that I enjoy discussing most, religion is by far the greatest. As I have a lot of friends who are, shall we say, "enthusiastic" about their religions, discussion of this topic has often led to a degree of drama beyond which I have a taste for. In as much as I love a good debate, we all know that most people of the fundamentalist persuasion are incapable of friendly debate. For in disagreeing with their world view, you are automatically declared as not only "wrong," but worse . . . you are evil, or an abomination, or have some kind of twisted agenda.

That's what I want to talk about today . . . The Evangelical paranoia that everything is out to get them. To disagree with them, you declare yourself their enemy. And as they view the world in "Black and white," "Good and Evil," and "0's and 1's" . . . everything is polarized. They call themselves good, therefore everything that is different is evil. And evil, as they say, is out to destroy them. Science is evil, many of them say. Evolution and its proponents are evil. And, of course, they are there to destroy Christianity.

The Phantom Menace. Fundamentalist Christianity, as the polarizing force that it is, requires an enemy. There can be no good if there is no evil in that kind of world view. It is as though Christianity can not exist unless they have enemies. They need enemies. And here in America, where there is no large scale persecution of Christians, they need to fabricate enemies. Science is not trying to destroy Christianity. It is an enemy that does not really exist. It is their Phantom Menace.

You've likely heard their rhetoric. You've likely seen them talk about how "there is no difference between religion and science." They say people worship Darwin, and they say a belief in science is as much a matter of faith as is religion. I beg to differ. This is entirely poppycock, and one of their more absurd arguments. And that's saying something . . .

In their romanticized, imagined little war, the two forces clash in an epic struggle of good and evil. In the battle, the Evangelicals cast themselves as the good guys (naturally), and they have their vast array of strategies to fight off the evil scientist villains. This array, as we all know, includes far more than just the usual "witnessing" rhetoric and attempts to recruit an army of converts. We've all seen them try to slip their biblical teachings into the public schools, calling it "Creation Science," and then try further still by sneaking the scriptures into the public science classrooms in the Trojan Horse called "Intelligent Design." They try to attack the validity of evolution, left and right, and in their smear campaign against the scientific community, they attack the morality of the scientists themselves. The whole time, they hold their banners high and praise their own righteousness. Of course their scientific counterparts do exactly the same thing . . .

. . . wait a minute. Do they?

Well, the Evangelicals say they do. But . . . do they? Or are the scientists indeed a Phantom Menace? Are they (and their actions) exaggerated to the point of absurdity in order for the religion to have the polar counterpart in their dualistic faith? They need an enemy after all . . . and as anyone who disagrees with them is declared an enemy, what does that make Science?

Science does not attack religion in the same way that religion attacks science, and contrary to what we hear from Evangelical Rhetoric, there are certainly no Darwin worshipers. Let's take a look at an imagined history where Science took the same rout as religion. Imagine a world where everyone worshiped Darwin. As a dogmatic faith grew up around him, a Protestant Darwinian group broke free from them. From then on, they killed each other and fought continuously about the proper way to interpret his evolutionary theories. The Darwinians also had an inquisition where they tortured people who clung to their old world view based on a more ancient scientist, Aristotle. And of course, those nasty worshipers of Einstein eventually flew their aircraft into a pair of buildings. After all, Einstein promised them 72 theories as a reward in the afterlife.

I could go on with cynical comparisons to historical atrocities, but there really is no need. You can imagine them yourself. But on a more practical level, can you really see the two as polar opposites in this imagined war? They say people worship Darwin and Einstein. Well . . . granted, there are a number of scientists slavishly devoted to them. But be rational. Is that really the same thing? We can't confuse "Hero worship" with real worship. People do become fanatical about their heroes, whether they be some effeminate twit pop singer, to a football player. Scientists do not believe Darwin is watching them from above, answering their prayers, and they do not believe he will punish them for lack of devotion. They do not believe Einstein died for their sins, and they certainly do not believe Richard Dawkins cares about their sex life.

Folks, it's just not the same thing. When was the last time you saw Scientists lobbying to put Evolution in the churches? For that matter, when was the last time you saw scientists picketing a sermon or a mass? I certainly can't remember Scientists knocking on my door in the morning to tell me about the word of Darwin. I don't recall any BASID* groups on campus swaying and chanting in praise of Darwin or any members of Campus Crusade for Dawkins going out onto the quad and trying to hassle people to accept Richard Dawkins as their lord and savior. None of us have ever been threatened with the eternal torment for rejecting Einstein, nor has our moral character been in question for simply not reading our science textbooks.

(Ok, I concede that last one. I had several science teachers get on me for not reading my assignments over the years).

Does it really seem like a war? Do the two seem to be so similar, as the Evangelicals suggest? Not even close . . . At most, scientists will disagree with creationists. And yes, some scientists can be arrogant. But still, from even the most arrogant scientists, the worst a Creationist can expect is to be thought of as irrational. In this "war," scientists are, if anything, on the defensive. It is religion trying to invade the science class, not science trying to invade the Church.

What constitutes an attack, from the viewpoint of an Evangelical? Usually just a disagreement. That makes you the enemy and all, remember? All we want, those of us in the community of non-believers, is to be left alone, and for the Evangelicals not to expect public institutions, with the use of tax money, to push or promote a religious faith. That's pretty much it.

The notion that they can so often evoke this "War on Christianity" and lay claim to such terrible persecution is laughable. Sure, Christians have been persecuted throughout history (albeit never as bad as they have persecuted members of other religions), but for them to dramatically call what they face here in America "persecution" is not only ignorant, but frankly offensive. When a person or group claims that they are persecuted because a nation simply does not bow to them and accept their edicts as law, or does not use public funding to promote religion, then they are deluded. They are either unaware of what persecution really is (all it takes is looking at terrible things happening in the world, past and present to see real persecution), or else they are just being overly dramatic. Again, they need their menace. Even if it is a phantom.

There is no war on Christianity here in America. Especially when you consider that 75% of the nation's population is Christian. Perhaps there should be a little war. Really . . . Now I don't mean a physical war. I don't condone violence in this, and I certainly don't condone reverse-persecution. I just mean a little verbal war. In this country, Christianity is privileged beyond compare and it is awarded a great deal of respect. As a Christian, you can go on TV and say terrible, horrible things. In this country we frown on supremacism in most cases. We do not allow it on the air . . . unless of course it is an Evangelical saying horrible things about what ever group they are hating at the moment. They can call someone evil, or horrible. They can make threats, and incite violence. They can demean others, without any negative repercussions. Tell me, what do you think the reaction would be if you simply payed them back with 1/10th of the insults they gave? After all . . . they are already persecuted, and you are already their enemy without ever even trying. What would you be if you actually tried? More on that in my next blog on supremacism.

*BASID: Brothers And Sisters in Darwin . . . My little parody of BASIC: Brothers And Sisters in Christ