Running Scared: Observations of a Former Republican
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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

posted by Jazz at 4/22/2003 10:06:00 AM


Thought for the day: Prophets Link

I've been doing some research into the history of various religions these past few days. I think I'm detecting a pattern.

Every two or three hundred years, a person comes along who gains widespread attention by spouting off all manner of radical ideas and theories. These innovative concepts generally follow a similar theme:

Wouldn't it be a neat idea if we all just stopped killing each other?

Maybe we should play with our own toys and stop trying to steal other people's things.

Would it be so horrible if we all treated everyone else as nicely as we'd like to be treated in return?

Can't we all just get along?

Inevitably, as soon as they are finished speaking, someone else will publicly label this person as a "prophet", or a "savior", or some similar term. Through some apparently universal law, this labeling requires immediate action in the form of hauling the newly anointed messiah off to places unknown and either nailing them to something, burning them at a stake, stoning them, drowning them, shooting them, imprisoning them, or otherwise eliminating them through the horrific method du jour.

Are we as a species not one iota more socially enlightened now than we were four thousand years ago? Has there been no progress made? Are we genetically incapable of learning from past blunders?

These are dark times. I'm wondering if there's another prophet coming around the corner.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

posted by Jazz at 4/20/2003 11:41:00 AM


When the press attacks the freedom of the press Link

I have always enjoyed, or at least been enlightened by, the weekly syndicated columns of Thomas Sowell. Being a republican of somewhat moderate (mustn't say the "L" word) leanings myself, I often find that I'm nodding my head in agreement with his observations on politics and the world in general. Given the high regard in which I hold him, it was all the more shocking to read his April 18th column.

This piece was nothing more than a blatant attack on CNN, along with the rest of the media in general, for providing coverage of dissenting opinions on the American invasion of Iraq. To quote a few lines from this column,

Perhaps nothing so epitomized what is wrong with the media as Wolf Blitzer of CNN "reporting" on the war in Iraq, talking not about what had happened but about something that had not happened. No one had yet found weapons of mass destruction, he said, even though it was almost a month since the war began.

More than ignorance is involved, however. There has been a systematic and persistent emphasis on the peripheral and negative aspects of this war in most of the media. Not only have the editorial office heroes fixed their attention on the little picture, they have accentuated the negative, such as collateral damage during the war and looting by civilians in captured cities.

How could anyone possibly not see such accounts as being worthy of news coverage? While you would question the truth of this statement if all you watched was FOX coverage of the war, it is not the job of the media to act solely as a cheerleading squad for the West Wing and the Pentagon. Not everything goes perfectly in any military action. This is a given. However, when there are failures, shortcomings, and items that paint the United States in a less than glowing light, the media still needs to be there showing the public all sides of the story.

Mr. Sowell goes on to say,

The more the polls have shown overwhelming support for the war and the president by the American people at large, the more the media cover anti-war demonstrations and provide a forum for those who organize them.

This was, perhaps, the portion that made my jaw drop the most. It was certainly bad enough when the president acted so condescending and dismissive towards protesters in the United States prior to and during the early days of the war. His attitude was quite clearly one of annoyance, regarding the protesters as an unfortunate nuisance which must be tolerated because of those pesky first amendment rights. Never once has he indicated that he has given a moment's consideration to Americans who are concerned that this administration has committed grave acts of diplomatic bungling, and that our foreign policy currently has the rest of the world, including our alleged allies, sitting on pins and needles in fear of us.

The president has also repeatedly been caught by aides making comments about how he wishes that reporters would stop "asking so many silly questions" about the state of the war and our relationships with other countries and the United Nations. President Bush has done a very effective job of shutting down any media access to the West Wing over the course of the invasion. The one and only "press conference" he has held since the bombs began to fall was fully scripted. None of the established reporters who cover his appearances and ask "tough questions" were allowed to speak, and all the questions and answers were, by White House admission, written in advance. Since that time, Mr. Bush has not deigned to emerge from his ivory tower to answer any further questions, leaving that onerous task instead to Ari Fleischer, among others.

To have a seasoned and respected commentator like Thomas Sowell come out in favor of such a news blackout and blatant attempt at Washington control of public opinion through the media is a very disturbing sign. Mr. Sowell is obviously of the opinion that the administration's handling of the situation in Iraq was done in a correct fashion. It is clearly his right to feel that way. However, chastising the press for showing that it is far from a unanimous opinion in this country is adding to the problem, not the solution.

posted by Jazz at 4/20/2003 06:32:00 AM


Where did we get Easter? Link

I really need to tear myself away from all the coverage of Iraq and Washington again, and turn my attention to the Easter holiday which is now upon us. I do not wish to give anyone the impression that I am against religion. Quite the opposite, in fact - I'm a big fan of religion, and religious history in particular. I've read on the subject extensively and watched more specials on Discovery, TLC, and National Geographic than I could count. They have produced a plethora of shows on the histories of various religions, prophets, and saviors, and I've been lured in for each and every one of them. Kind of sad, I know, but everyone needs hobbies.

On this Easter weekend, one item of note which I find interesting about Christianity is how it spread so fast. Remember, compared to some of the more established religions, and a few others that are nearly gone but very ancient, Christianity is a relative new kid on the block. Yet it has managed to overtake about a third of the world in a comparatively short period of time.

How do you suppose they did that? I'm certainly willing to grant that it could be because it's actually the one true religion and choice of god, because I definitely couldn't prove otherwise. But I also have a theory that it's because Christianity had some of the most incredible marketing and sales techniques imaginable. How do you spread a religion if you don't already have a massive army of soldiers to forcibly impose it on the conquered? Obviously, you simply usurp their holidays, names, and symbols and graft them onto your own faith. It's a stroke of pure genius!

I can just picture some of the first missionaries coming to the British Isles to convert the local pagan druids, picts, saxons, or whoever it was they found living there. They'd wander up in the middle of winter and find a vast crowd of people dancing naked in the fields. It's not too farfetched to imagine the following conversation taking place:

Missionary: "Say, this is wonderful! You're celebrating Christmas!"
Pagan: "Ummm... actually we're celebrating the Winter Solstice.
M: "Oh, well did you know this is also the anniversary of.... ummm.."
P: "Anniversary of what?"
M: "Well... of.... why, the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, of course!"
P: "Really? Well, that's just smashing! Care for a glass of grog?"
M: "Don't mind if I do!"
P: "Cheers!"
M: "Merry Christmas!"
P: "Ummm... well, sure.. I guess. Merry Christmas to you too!"

And off they went.

A few months later, spring rolls around, the vernal equinox is approaching, and the pagans are all out dancing naked again.

Missionary: "Well, that is certainly lovely. What's all this now?"
Pagan: "It's the Festival of Eostre. It falls on Sunday this year, coming up in a couple days. These are the rites of fertility, the rebirth of spring and the planting season. Care for a grog?"
M: "Absolutely smashing! Don't mind if I do, thanks! I had no idea you celebrated Easter."
P: "That's Eostre."
M: "Oh, Easter, Eostre... whatever. You know how my accent is."
P: "You celebrate Eostre too?"
M: "Of course! It's a very integral part of our religion."
P: "You don't say. What for?"
M: "For...... umm.... well .... what's today, Friday?"
P: "Yes, Friday I believe."
M: "Well, then... today is the anniversary of when our Savior was crucified! And on Sunday, on Eostre, err... I mean Easter, he rose from the dead!"
P: "From the DEAD, you say?! That's really something!"
M: "I'll say! Wow, today's really a nice day, eh? Good day for a celebration."
P: "Yes, a good day indeed. Cheers!"
M: "Yes, cheers. You might even say it's a Good Friday, might you not?"
P: "Well, yes, I suppose you might."
M: "Outstanding. Good Friday it is!"
P: "Huh? Well, .... sure."
M: "Happy Easter!"
P: "That's Eostre."
M: "Whatever, whatever."

And there you have it. You just need to tack on a few tapestries, nail up the odd crucifix near the holy grove of trees, and pretty soon you've got a nation full of unsuspecting converts.

Oddly, the origins of the celebration of the Winter Solstice are so obscure most people won't have a clue about them unless they are actively practicing or studying Wicca or any other "pagan" religion. Christmas has absorbed it entirely in mainstream America. Well, perhaps not quite entirely - we still sing songs with references to Yuletide, and burn the Yule Log. It seems Yule was being celebrated long before anyone had heard of Christmas.

But all I can say is, Eostre must have been one exceptionally powerful spirit of nature to have hung around for so long. She has stuck to our collective, societal memory for thousands of years.

Think about it. If you are a member of any Christian sect, or have even been within shouting distance of a church at some point, you've probably heard the story of Easter. The crucifixion, the resurrection, and the whole series of events are a part of our culture. But during all the years you were growing up, did you once wonder what was going on with all the rabbits and colored eggs? There were no rabbits or eggs in the Easter story in the bible. But they were the two symbols of Eostre, the Saxon Lunar Goddess of fertility.

And the name itself, Easter, might have given you cause to wonder. At least Christmas, as a name, makes some sort of sense to the layman. It sounds like "Christ's Mass" to the untrained ear, and it works out just fine. But, Easter? You can search the painting of the last supper for hours on end and you won't find a "Saint Easter" lounging about and passing the buttered unleavened bread. Didn't you ever wonder where that all came from?

Somewhat more obscure, but equally interesting, is the summer solstice on June 21. We picked up the Feast of St. John the Baptist right around that date. Long before then, however, it was known as Litha. It was a celebration of the peak of the Sun God's powers on the longest day of the year.

Yes, those early missionaries seem to have been the most successful marketing executives in history. They managed to take the religious trappings of every belief they encountered and dress them up a bit to make them Christian holidays. Just something to think about while you gnaw the ears off of your chocolate bunny this year. Happy Eostre, err... Easter to all.