Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ryan, Lies and Racial Overtones

From good friend and able writer, The Rev. Dr. Robert Dahl, a good preacher and a keen observer of American craziness:


Paul Ryan said in his speech last evening "Everything is free but us."  Who is the "us"?  Yes, looking at the crowd, that became clear.  He finally got to the race baiting!  It wasn't exactly a great grammatical line, but it was effective at pitting "us" agin' "them." 

He's good, he's real good, he's the best deliverer of the convention so far perhaps with the exception of the Governor of New Mexico, but he is a race bater -- another white child of privilege (Yes, in spite of his father's early death, the family is the most prominent in his home town.) talking about "the way we were" in white, semi-rural, safe, Andy Griffith, Aunt Bee, Opie, Mayberry land and how what we were and are is about to be taken away from us by those who get everything for free, the freeloaders, which is what I think he was saying.  Draw your own conclusions as to what that code language means.     

As a speaker?  He was coached well and intensely over the last couple of weeks by, as I'm told, the best coaching that money can buy. He was really, really, really good at delivery -- the staccato lines, swift alliterative bullets, this and that faster than speed, zingers against the opposition, one liners, pregnant (no pun intended) pauses, gestures, facial expressions, cute smiles, winks, shrugs, co-opting fine quotes of great ethical leaders for his own purposes, appeal to God with a God crowd for justification of his positions, all form and no substance and many lies (as fact checkers have determined).   No one has thrown red meat like Ryan at this convention.  But when all the analysis of the speech is done it will be shown that the speech will not have lasting effect but will have been an aborted effort.  And why?  Because of the phony baloney content.  

He was preaching to the proverbial choir, but if the intent was to win over the five percent independent vote, assuming that five percent is intelligent enough to examine the facts, the speech will backfire.  Hopefully, independents are looking for truth and, if so, they will be turned off by deceit.  

It reminds me of my speech classes in college and the emphasis on the importance of delivery for the professor.   I pooh-pooh-ed it and then Shakespeare set me straight with the speeches following Caesar's death in the tragedy Julius Caesar.  One side (Brutus) swayed the masses not by content but by delivery. Delivery is very important. The other side (Antony) swayed the masses with both delivery and content.  My objection then and still is that content is more important than delivery but I have to acknowledge that delivery is important in giving a speech.  

I have concluded that delivery is incredibly important for both good and ill, but that only delivery and integrity of content is ultimately good and that which will ultimately persevere.  

Might I offer as an example a young Austrian with incredible oratorical skills who was able to tell falsehoods to a needy, needy, humiliated people to move them to the horror of mass murder?  However, the oratory of Churchill and Roosevelt, which combined delivery with the power of truthful content, won the day, the civilization and the future.   Do you see why I, a preacher and a former adjunct professor of preaching, still favor content?

I stand in fear of the great orator and what false appeal to fear can do.  I appreciate the great poet.  I stand in awe of the one who can combine the two -- great oratory and great poetry, and I don't mean the canned kind of poetry, but the poetry of truth as experienced in the mythic, metaphor,  simile and sometimes even the literal.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ann Romney, June Cleaver, Harriet Nelson

From my dear friend, Bob Dahl:

What I just thought of is that Ann Romney's speech at the GOP convention in Tampa, Florida was at root anti-contemporary women  and anti-Mitt!  

Basically, in describing him she was describing a workaholic deal-maker while she told the audience that the moms hold it together -- like moms that stay home and wait to give the kids an afternoon snack and help with the homework and hop in the car to get them medical attention if needed.  And then she said that Mitt would WORK tirelessly for you, day and night.  Actually, I think I  heard some undertones of resentment.  If so, wouldn't that be telling?

What I heard her saying was "I love you, 1950's version of white, suburban moms.  I love you June Cleaver; I love you Harriet Nelson. I love all of you 1950's white, suburban mothers. I am one of you."  
What I didn't hear her say was, "I love you, career woman mom, working for self-fulfillment and to make ends meet. (In all fairness, she did passingly mention single working moms.) 

What about "I love you, welfare mom living in one of the worst neighborhoods in America with the knowledge that your sons will either be dead or incarcerated by 19 and your daughters may be trapped in the world's oldest profession.  I love you, welfare mom, caught in a vicious cycle, trying to break out without a break, being attacked by payday loan companies like Bank of America and gouged by salary theft if you do happen to get a minimum wage job flipping burgers. I love you, welfare moms, just like Jesus loves you and weeps for you and yes, Mitt's going to do something for you so you can have a chance at the American dream and your kids will be safe"?

But, hey, she did look nice in a 1950's white, suburbanite mom way.  

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Appeals Court Blocks Graphic Anti-Smoking Images

Smoking causes billions of dollars in damage every year - to life and health and to the American work force. If tobacco were newly discovered today, it would be an illegal substance.

I find it interesting how the First Amendment is more and more used to defend corporation as if they were people - oops, that's right. They are people, aren't they, thanks to the SCOTUS and its right-wing ideologues, and they can sell us anything without risk, and if they're making money, even better. After all, profits are the American Way. It's all about money and greed and some fantasy of prosperity.

This appeals court is weighted by Bush-era appointees; it's ideological leanings are evident in virtually all of its decisions - highlighting, once again, that the greatest influence a president has is in the appointment of judges.
I welcomed the graphic images - let people see what they're doing. We don't need to let our citizens live in a cloud of innocence; if these ads caused one person to quit, and one young person to not take it up, then it's worth it.

To hell with the tobacco companies; they are pigs! Old man Duke, in the 20s, knew that cigarette smoking was dangerous, and prohibited his children from smoking. Did it stop him from growing tobacco and making cigarettes? Of course not. The man was a pig. And he tried to atone for his sins by building Duke University - on the bones of dead Americans; dead from smoking.

America's love affair with Big Biz is leading us down a path that can only end badly. Money is our god, and greed is our piety.

Smoke away America; cough your fool heads off. And hats off to the Bush judges who are as blind as bats and careless with the wellbeing of the nation, forfeiting their right to be judges.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

All Economies Behave the Same

All economies behave in much the same way - like the game of Risk: sooner or later, there's only one player left, and they have it all. Without regulation to sustain good wages and jobs for the middle class, money migrates to the top - the wealth concentrated in the hands of the few and the rest of the society struggling to make ends meet.

The genius of FDR was to provide the "artificial" constraints that allowed the development of the Middle Class. Yes, WW2 was a huge boost, along with strong unions and Social Security, both of which are deeply hated by the wealthy who see unions and SS as an affront to their initiative and rights.

It's a sad, sad, day for America. We are witnessing the unravelling of our greatness, and the GOP is cheering it on for reasons that make no sense, not to even then - hence all of their strained rationales and bizarre grandstanding, while hiding behind "their love of the newborn," "their regard for motherhood and marriage," "their faith in American," and "their desire to restore our greatness."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Challenging the Episcopal Dean of Cathedral Church of the Advent

The Episcopal Bishop Kee Sloan of Alabama, voted in favor of the new ritual for the blessing of same-sex unions, but won't allow priests in his diocese to perform it.

I quote from the article:

The Rev. Frank Limehouse, dean of the 3,400-member Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham’s largest Episcopal church, said his church will not "bless any sexual activity outside of a marriage between one man and one woman."
"The Bible is clear about this," Limehouse wrote on his church's website. "If anyone who declares the Bible teaches otherwise, then I wouldn’t doubt his or her sincerity, but I would have to question their training in biblical interpretation.”

In response, I wrote the following email to Mr. Limehouse:

Dear Pastor, 

You've managed, in just a few words, to dismiss those who favor gay marriage as ill-trained in Scripture and faithless. 


That's mouthful pastor.

I'm one of those with whom you disagree.

I'm well-trained.

I'll not defend my faith; that belongs to Christ himself.

But I will challenge you.

You could have simply said, "As I read the Bible, here is where I stand." Though perhaps the hardliners want more than that.

I read the same Bible you do, and yet we come to different conclusions. 

That's how God designed this whole thing.

So that we can never retreat into some unassailable position, but have to bear responsibility for our decisions of faith, and especially our ethical decisions. To claim an authority above all question is the stuff of inquisitions and fanatics.

I quote Bonhoeffer:

The responsible man acts in the freedom of his own self, without the support of men, circumstances or principles, but with a due consideration for the given human and general conditions and for the relevant questions of principle. The proof of his freedom is the fact that nothing can answer for him, nothing can exonerate him, except his own deed and his own self. It is he himself who must observe, judge, weigh up, decide and act. It is man himself who must examine the motives, the prospects, the value and the purpose of his action. But neither the purity of the motivation, nor the opportune circumstances, nor the value, nor the significant purpose of an intended undertaking can become the governing law of his action, a law to which he can withdraw, to which he can appeal as an authority, and by which he can be exculpated and acquitted. For in that case he would indeed no longer be truly free. The action of the responsible man is performed in the obligation which alone gives freedom and which gives entire freedom, the obligation to God and to our neighbour as they confront us in Jesus Christ. At the same time it is performed wholly within the domain of relativity, wholly in the twilight which the historical situation spreads over good and evil; it is performed in the midst of the innumerable perspectives in which every given phenomenon appears. …. … responsible action is a free venture; it is not justified by any law; it is performed without any claim to a valid self-justification, and therefore also without any claim to an ultimate valid knowledge of good and evil. Good, as what is responsible, is performed in ignorance of good and in the surrender to God of the deed which has become necessary and which is nevertheless, or for that very reason, free; for it is God who sees the heart, who weighs up the deed, and who directs the course of history.

Your congregation needs to be helped along the way to embrace the faith rather than hide in it, to accept the risk of decision-making rather than deferring the decision to some outward authority that absolves the believer of responsibility.


Tom Eggebeen, Honorably Retired and Interim Pastor
Calvary Presbyterian Church
Hawthorne, CA


If you want to write to Limehouse, here's the address I used:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Horatio Alger Stories Energizes GOP

From my good friend and fine writer, Bob Dahl:


Unfortunately, it seems many, many Americans live with the Horatio Alger stories as reality and truth.  This is the group that wants desperately to go with Romney and Ryan's view of life:  individualistic, pull yourself up by your bootstraps Ayn Rand capitalism.

Some of these, the most vulnerable, are the group described by John Steinbeck in a 1947 interview:  

“Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

This is a target group in this election for the Democrats and there are thousands upon thousands of these Americans who will vote against their best interest because they don't want to give up the illusion.

Sometimes reality is so hard to face, but facing it is the only way to reality. 

We don't get anywhere without each other.  It's the social contract with America.  

I sit penning this because of my ancestors, wife, father, mother, children, relatives, friends, teachers, church, pastors, physicians, dentists, private and public scholarships and grants, social security when my dad died, social security, medicare and medicaid for my mother when the funds ran out, state health insurance obtained by employees and teachers bargaining collectively and all the other benefits I have as a citizen of the USA.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Self-Made Man

Yup, I made me, and I'm damn proud of it. No help from the government, not even Mom or Dad or my bro, much less God. I did it all. And if you knew what was good for you, you'd start making yourself, right now. No more handouts from parents, friends, or anyone else, for that matter. And tell God to take a hike, because you're doing it your way, all by yourself. And one day, you'll be damn proud of that, what you made of yourself, all by yourself, with help from no one. And, by the way, did you know that "help" is a four-letter word? Get help from no one, and if anyone asks for help, tell 'em to go to hell. They're too damn lazy to work, so who cares. Yup, I'm damn proud of making me me, all by myself.