To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.
And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.
No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the “doughnut hole” and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal?
We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.
There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to murder your grandmother? Or – more exactly – with somebody whom your voters have been persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother?
There are certainly legitimate criticisms to make of the stimulus package as potentially being too large and generating too much additional debt to be added to our already staggering national debt. There are even more legitimate criticisms of how the various bailouts the government has been handing out to banks are more likely to help the proverbial Wall Street than Main Street (God, I hate that cliche, but got sucked in to using it anyway).
But comparing Obama to Hitler and his policies to advocating white slavery just shows the hypocrisy of the right. The right made political hay every opportunity it got when the left compared Bush to Hitler, labeling the comparison hopelessly and irredeemably offensive from 2002-2008
“What is amazing here is how much political capital Obama has spent in the first six weeks,” said Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. “And against that, he stands at the end of this six weeks with as much or more capital in the bank.”
By comparison, the Republican Party â€” which resisted Obama’s recently passed stimulus plan and has criticized the spending in his budget â€” finds its favorability at an all-time low. It also receives most of the blame for the current partisanship in Washington and trails the Democrats by nearly 30 percentage points on the question of which party could best lead the nation out of recession.
President Obama, we are told, usually arrives in the Oval Office a little before 9 a.m., some two hours later than his predecessor, George W. Bush. This enables him to read the newspapers before coming to work (as F.D.R. and Reagan also did) and to spend time with daughters Malia and Sasha before they go to school. â€œI have never seen him happier,â€ Mr. Obamaâ€™s longtime adviser, David Axelrod, told The Times.
When Mr. Bush moved in, he exercised his presidential decorating prerogatives and asked his wife, Laura, to supervise the design of a new rug. Mr. Bush loved to regale visitors with the story of the rug, whose sunburst design, he liked to say, was intended to evoke a feeling of optimism.
The rug is still there, as are the presidential portraits Mr. Bush selected â€” one of Washington, one of Lincoln â€” and a collection of decorative green and white plates. During a meeting last week with retired military officials, before he signed an executive order shutting down the prison at GuantÃ¡namo Bay, Cuba, Mr. Obama surveyed his new environs with a critical eye.
â€œHe looked around,â€ said one of his guests, retired Rear Adm. John D. Hutson, â€œand said, â€˜Iâ€™ve got to do something about these plates. Iâ€™m not really a plates kind of guy.â€™Â â€
President-elect Obama has said that he will sign the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) shortly after assuming office. The act would strike down local and state laws related to limiting abortion, parental notification and such. This act might also be used to force doctors, nurses and other medical personal to either perform abortions and/or refer women to doctors that do. According to some reports, President-elect Obama may even sign FOCA as one of his first (and therefore most closely scrutinized) initiatives as president.
That would be a huge mistake.
Please note: I’m an Obama fan, a one-time lifelong Republican who voted for Mr. Obama and wrote extensively in support of him here, probably as many positive heartfelt words about and for Mr. Obama as any other blogger on this site.
But here’s my question for the President-elect: Why start Round Two of the culture wars as one of your first acts as president?
Now, we probably shouldnâ€™t jump on the guilt by association bandwagon (as Obamaâ€™s opponents were wont to do during the election), but there are significantly safer, more neutral, and more politically correct (forgive me) selections for an inaugural companion. And this news of the Warren selection is right on the heels of other questionable behavior by Obama â€” notably, his cabinet choices. Having a cabinet and set of advisors that even Cheney agrees with should send up little red flags all over America.
Someone should ask Obama about what part of â€œchangeâ€ we must have misunderstood. Is this country about to be run by the old administration in sheepâ€™s clothing?
Beyond the irony of its outcome, Mr. Obamaâ€™s unusual decision to inject himself into a statewide issue during the height of his presidential campaign was a reminder that despite his historic ascendancy to the White House, he has never quite escaped the murky and insular world of Illinois politics. It is a world he has long navigated, to the consternation of his critics, by engaging in a kind of realpolitik, Chicago-style, which allowed him to draw strength from his relationships with important players without becoming compromised by their many weaknesses.
By the time Mr. Obama intervened on the ethics measure, his relationship with Mr. Blagojevich, always defined more by political proximity than by personal chemistry, had cooled as the governor became increasingly engulfed in legal troubles. There is nothing in the criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday to indicate that Mr. Obama knew anything about plans to seek money and favors in exchange for his Senate seat; he has never been implicated in any other â€œpay to playâ€ cases that have emerged from the long-running investigation of the Blagojevich administration.
â€œItâ€™s like a little yappy dog?â€ Obama asked Walters, foolishly ignoring his wifeâ€™s advice not to criticize.
â€œIt, like, sits in your lap and things?â€ queried the skeptical president-elect.
Michelle, still trying to save her husband from himself, pronounced the dog â€œcute.â€
Barack wasnâ€™t buying it. â€œIt sounds kind of like aâ€¦a girly dog,â€ he said, at which point his wife pointed out, â€œWeâ€™re girls. We have a house full of girls.â€
Except for the, well, Top Dog, who forthwith issued an executive order. â€œWeâ€™re gonna have a big, rambunctious dog.â€
as i’ve spoken of before, the “hell” topic was one of the main bones of contention i ended up having with what most evangelical christians consider “orthodox”.
i did a big study on it in 2004, and abandoned the idea of hell once i actually got my mind around what the bible actually does and does not say about it.
as i recall from my studies, hell as a concept is virtually absent from the old testament, and there are three greek words used in the new testament that were translated as “hell” in the NIV (the evangelical’s translation of choice).
together these three words are used a grand total of fourteen (14) times in the new testament.
all but two of these uses are by jesus himself.
paul never mentions it.
“hell” as christians today think of it didn’t really come to be a common christian teaching until nearly 200 AD â€” no one in jesus audience would have ever thought that you went there forever simply for having the misfortune of being born.
“gehenna” is the most commonly used word for “hell” in the NT, and while it is never “defined” explicitly, what jesus probably meant when he used it what was everyone else at that time meant by it: a place, under the ground, where there was lots of fire, and where the sun got its heat and light from as it traveled under the ground on its trip back to the east, after it had set in the west.
if jesus believed (perhaps because he had some special knowledge from the Father) that hell was not an actual, physical, place which was literally under the ground, he didn’t seem to clue his listeners in, and they certainly would have thought this was what he meant when he used the word.
at the time, it was generally believed (jewish or not) that when a person died they went into the afterlife, or hades (hebrew: sheol), where they might face some sort of judgment.
jesus’ particularly jewish audience at the time were likely to believe that the pious would get to exchange their ticket to hell for a ticket to paradise, which meant they now had TWO tickets to paradise (every one was born with one of each) and could go there, immediately.
people who had committed adultry or had led their neighbors into wrongdoing had their one paradise ticket taken away and got another ticket to sheol handed to them: no escape.
a common phrase in jewish teaching was that it would have been better to not have been born than to be one of these people.
(christians familiar with their bibles will recognize that phrasing: jesus borrowed it.)
people who had themselves sinned, but had not lead other people to sin had to spend about only about one (1) year in gehenna, and then got to go up to paradise.
note: this is not a biblical teaching, as the bible doesn’t actually ever say anything on the subject. i’m just relaying what most people who happened to grow up the descendants of nomadic desert tribes in mesopotamia happen to believe on the subject.
so, that was the belief of MOST of the people who heard jesus say:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, â€˜You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.â€™ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, â€˜You fool!â€™ will be liable to the hell of fire.”
this was RADICAL teaching on this subject.
but did he mean it, literally?
to the people who believed that gehenna was under their ground, and supplied the sun with fire, jesus said that if they are angry with their brother, they are going to go there.
surely he didn’t actually mean it, literally, right?
what about when he said: “And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.”
did he mean this literally?
so, then, in which of the three times where we have jesus quoted as talking about gehenna is he speaking literally?
if it isn’t those two, it must be this one:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. … You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?”
other times the NIV says “hell” are:
2 Peter 2:4 â€” “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;”
here, the word peter uses is “tartarus” â€” and is generally thought to be a big, dark, essentially bottomless hole.
James 3:6 â€” “And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.”
the word used here is “gehenna”
Matthew 16:18 â€” “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
here, the word jesus uses is “hades”, rather than “gehenna”.
hades was believed in jesus’ time to be “the afterlife” â€” and did not necessarily imply someplace horrible, though it was believed to be rather gloomy, unless you happened to get to some sort of paradise.
so, there you have it: the entire new testament’s teaching on “hell” all summed up, with some history on what jesus’ contemporaries believed on the subject.
not one time does jesus ever mention being a christian.
not once does jesus lay out specific things one must believe in order to NOT go to hell.
not once does any other new testament writer.
the bible is more or less quiet on the entire matter of hell and who goes there or does not.
of course, this is NOT a view that is embraced 21st century evangelical christian culture, with its particular version of orthodoxy, where the text must be accepted as a whole: either all true or all a lie, right?
so, then, what about anyone who doesn’t poke out their own eyeball for enjoying checking out a hot chick?
anyway, when obama says:
“I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and prostelytize. There’s the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven’t embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they’re going to hell…I find it hard that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell…I can’t imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity…That’s just not part of my religious make-up.”
…i think you’ll find its actually a very biblical view.
its almost certainly the one jesus himself held, if we are to go by what we know of history combined with his teachings on the subject.
Then my mom called. You might imagine I donâ€™t get along all that well with my mother, and youâ€™d be right. Weâ€™re cordial enough, but we donâ€™t really talk about anything meaningful. It was time for that to change. I told her about my work, and about my next project, a game that would literally change the course of history.
Then we talked about Obama. I told her that I felt Americans were living in the Matrix, working long hours, eating pablum, and dying useless for having fed the parasitic machine draining the lifeblood of a withering planet.
I told her that Obama was the first president in my lifetime I could look to for inspiration. I told her about seeing people like myself get involved in the politcal process for the first time. I told her about getting to know the truth about money, the economy, and consumption.
I told her I saw a light at the end of the tunnel, where the boom-bust cycles of exploitative capitalism gave way the steady, sustainable happiness of altruistic capitalism.
Then she got biblical, which was her undoing. No one can quote scripture like an atheist. Without getting into the full multi-hour explanation, I showed her that McCain fits the description of the antichrist much better than Obama.
Finally it came down to abortion and gay marriage. I explained that first, understand that Roe v. Wade is not a case about abortion, but about the federal governmentâ€™s ability to enforce the Constitution at the state level. Most laws are like this â€” their issues are far more complicated than will fit on a sign.
Still, it brings up a greater issue. It is not your job to govern other peopleâ€™s morality. The Bible is explicitly clear on this subject. Not only does it repeatedly warn against judging others, it also makes clear that vengeance is the exclusive prerogative of God.
You are being controlled, I told her, by people telling you how to think, how to feel, and how to act. Use your God-given mind to make your own decisions.
The Obama presidency is great news for almost everyone. It’s bad news for some odd ideological bedfellows: the Religious Right and the so-called New Atheists.
Into the all or nothing culture wars, and the all or nothing wars between the so-called New Atheists and religion the election of President elect Obama reintroduces nuance. President elect Obama’s ability to believe in Jesus, yet question, is going to rescue American religion in general and Christianity in particular, from the extremes.
There is no way to understand President elect Obama’s victory as anything less than the start of not just a monumental political change but a spiritual revolution as well.
The small smear of red on the otherwise blue electoral map looks more like a minor bloodstain on a dirty Band-Aid than anything resembling a national political party. Who voted for McCain/Palin in bigger numbers than they even voted for Bush/Cheney? Only one shrinking group: uneducated white folks in the deep south and a few folks in Appalachia. Take away the white no-college-backwoods-and/or-southern McCain/Palin vote and the Republicans would have been approaching single digit electoral college oblivion.
Sarah Palin will never hold national office nor will any Republican at the presidential level for a long time to come. Why? Because America has uneducated jerks in it but is not a nation of uneducated jerks. The Republicans are done, hoisted on the petard of their own “southern strategy.”
The Religious Right, the racists, the anti-gay hate-mongers are now not only marginalized but thoroughly out of step with even members of their own former constituency. For instance the Gordon College student newspaper (Gordon is an influential Evangelical College north of Boston) endorsed Obama this year. Many young evangelicals voted for the Democrats. James Dobson, Fox News, Limbaugh et al. were utterly powerless to do more than stir up hate. They are losing the next generation of their “base.”