April 21, 2008 - April 14, 2008
Funny Enough. The Pope arrived in the United States, so Bill Maher decided to blast the Catholic Church from his little HBO pillbox calling the Pope the author of the sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church and a former Nazi.
I could call Bill Maher names, but that's not very instructive and Mr. Maher's comments betray a very old and very deep American prejudice against the Catholic Church. It's seen in a colonial children's game called Hang the Pope and continues on to this very hour (visit CatholicLeague.org and review the past few years' of press releases). When a Catholic Church was constructed in South Carolina in 1873, the local paper referred to it as a papist fortification for the troops of an enemy.
So, Mr. Maher is nothing new.
Had the Catholic Church taken pedophiles and homosexuals among its ranks to a dungeon in the Vatican and beaten and starved them to death you can hear the hue and cry that would go up about the barbaric institution. As it is, the hue and cry is about the complicity with and encouragement of sexual predators by the barbaric institution.
You see, any stick will do when bashing the Catholic Church.
What is the real problem? In a word incarnation.
The incarnation is what sets Christianity apart from all other religions. It is in the name of Jesus Christ as Emmanuel God with us.
The ancient Greeks could not tolerate this violation their world of perfect forms coming down and being corrupted by flesh and blood. It was simply impossible.
The incarnation is also a scandal for other religions that don't like mixing the divine with the human.
Incarnation is carried across two millennia and very close to your home by the Catholic Church as it asserts that it is an institution created by Jesus Christ to perform His work on the earth among men. This work is to be performed by men. Its visible, earthly, flesh and blood leader is the Pope who is protected by the direct supervision of the Holy Spirit to speak unerringly on faith and morals and her priests are empowered to bind and loose on earth with the authority that their actions on earth will be honored and binding in heaven.
It is with this level of incarnation that the Protestants take their leave. For them it is okay that Jesus Christ is God become man, but for God to work and be among men in the form of an institution with a telephone number, an address, and a website? Impossible. For Protestants and others alike, there are just too many bad Popes; too many bad Bishops; too many bad Priests; too many bad Catholics they're just so, so, so human. Disgustingly human. And, accordingly, cannot be divine.
So the protestations against the Catholic Church are, at their root, protestations and absolute revulsion at the thought of the incarnation. God cannot be here for here is too base, too defiled, too absurd, too unjust, too unfair too human.
Consider it isn't that all the faults and all the horrors you see aren't there, it is that they are there and they are part of the message of Christianity. It is that God is here as close as He can get to man and that you can actually get close to Him as close to Him as you dare.
Welcome to the United States, Pope Benedict.
. Quite unbelievably, some of the conservative
bloggers are actually debating whether or not Obama gave Hillary the
finger in the clip above. Like Ed
Morrissey of Hot Air:
What a crock. All you need do is listen to his patter immediately
afterward. He is deliberately saying nothing -- a series of slow,
throwaway phrases designed to give the audience an opportunity to enjoy
and extend the impact of the gesture. In this instance, he's no
sanctimonious preacher but a standup comic milking a dirty joke.
I also loved Morrissey's bottom line answer to his own question about damage: "Probably not, although its not exactly classy. In fact, it might have a charm all its own, a warmth and humanity that certainly doesnt come out when Obama debates."
Please. Charm? A gesture that could only be considered subtle by a junior high-school boy? Warmth and humanity? What would Morrissey call mooning the principal from the windows of the team bus? A miraculous moment of shared spiritual communion?
All of this against the backdrop of the Pope touring America, where "warmth and humanity" were exhibited not by a crude gesture symbolizing sexual penetration at a political rally but by the quick kiss of an infant's forehead during the recessional from a solemn high mass.
Just because a lot of us may have felt like flipping Hillary the bird from the sofa in front of the TV doesn't mean we want a presidential candidate to do it, slyly, in public, in reaction to the first time he hasn't been treated worshipfully by the press in attendance.
There is a difference between public and private behaviors. Yeah, most politicians have had their unguarded moments, including Repubs like Cheney and McCain, when a mic caught them delivering an F-word or equivalent to the face of someone who had angered them deeply. Doing it from a public platform and not even face to face but like a sneak at a distance is infinitely less acceptable. What would our mass media be talking about today if Pope Benedict had made public reference to Bill Maher's slanders and scratched the papal nose with his middle digit? Well, they probably wouldn't be talking about anything else, not even the midwest earthquake.
Think about it. Consider the appalling amount of personal and absolutely vitriolic abuse President George W. Bush has taken in the last seven years. What sort of stampede of condemnation and disdain wouldn't have followed such a juvenile response by the Commander-in-Chief to the equally juvenile assaults he has been required to endure? (Just today, Drudge reports that Mayor Bloomberg is 'excited' about electing an 'adult' president. So maybe GWB should rise to Obama's level and flip one at NYC's incredibly pompous figurehead?) It may be unfortunate for some to think about, but one of the principal responsibilities of the man or woman who occupies the most powerful leadership post in the world is to be a glutton for punishment. They are required to take everyone's meanest, dirtiest, and most vengeful shots without responding in kind. In simpler terms, they have to be real grownups, even more than most of us grownups can manage. What they can't be is little shallow snots who react to a cheap shot or two like a 15-year-old cheerleader who goes all Old Testament on her MySpace page when a BFF steals her boyfriend.
Ed Morrissey should be ashamed of himself. Oddly enough, one of the story links at Hot Air today might help him put this in perspective. It's about a YouTube clip by twenty-somethings intended to make us realize that John McCain is older than dial telephones (not really). Except that there's also reference to the real average age of those who are responsible enough to vote consistently.
I may not like Hillary, but she's a grown woman. In comparison, Obama seems like a self-obsessed Y-Gen chick.
. We read Wade Pelham's post
about the long history of anti-Catholicism, and despite the opening
subhead, it just didn't seem "funny enough" to us.
We feel like Otter in "Animal House." What's called for here isn't a nuanced theological discussion but a "really futile and stupid gesture on somebody's part." You know. Ad hominem. Almost nothing whatever to do with the Pope and Catholicism and Nazis. Because what Maher said didn't have anything to do with those things either.
Faithful readers will recall that we outed him almost exactly three years ago as a SCAM. Part of that outing was publishing the fact that he was the son of a Jewish mother and a Roman-Catholic father. (He's also basically a midget, but we'll leave that out of it for now.) So why does he have a mindless hatred of Roman Catholics and a scarily constant paranoia about Nazis lurking in the weeds waiting to do him in?
ONE... TWO... THREE... FOUR... got it yet? Oh!!! He's a screwed up little prick who hated his father and had a weird love-terror-victim response to his relationship with a mother expert at suffering and smothering.
It's rumored that he's going to apologize for calling Pope Benedict a Nazi, but not for what he said about RC-ism as a cult of child molesters. Hmmmm.
Why the one and not the other? After all, we covered the abundant evidence of Pope Benedict's Nazi past here at this site. There's hardly any need to back off on that count. But apologizing for something -- anything -- makes you a kind of martyr. The persecutors are already lining up.
Would Mommy be proud of her little (um, very little) baby for his
martryrdom in the name of a (quasi)religious cause? Would it make him
feel, for once, that he was standing on a point of principle as opposed
to pandering for laughs with the crudest possible jokes an untalented
Cornellian could devise in the process of trying to piss off his hated
father on national television?
Sure she would. Mommy always loved her little halfwit sociopath. It was Daddy who always knew better than to approve a vicious pint-sized monster just because his own cursed semen was involved.
Work it out, Bill. Maybe somebody out there actually admires you. But even the people who slap you on the back know you're a creep they wouldn't want anywhere near their own private lives and beliefs.
Aaaaaah. That feels better than all the religious rhetoric. A lot better. Which almost rhymes with Otter.
. Yes, all Americans are American and every part of America
America, but the events of the past week have shown that there's a big
part of our nation Senator Barack Obama knows precious little about.
The above map illustrates the problem. Much of his childhood and youth
was spent in Hawaii, outside the continental United States. After
finishing his private schooling there,
he went to exclusive Occidental College
in Los Angeles for two years before transferring to Columbia University in New York
City. He remained in New York for a while before moving to Chicago's South Side, which has been his home
since, except for three years at the Harvard Law School and
attendance at a handful of votes over the past four years in the U.S. Senate in DC.
It's obvious he's worked hard and thinks he knows a lot about America. It's also obvious that there are some gaps in both his knowledge and his life. For example, does this look like a man who knows anything about having fun?
He's smiling, sure, but he couldn't be more completely out of his
element having to play a game he knows nothing about while everyone
watches him making an ass of himself in a suit. He scored a 37. Now,
lots of people are bad at bowling, but they at least know a few
reliable tricks for getting out
of bowling when their personal dignity is on the line. (Damn, guys, I'd
love to but I jammed my finger in a skeet shooting accident
yesterday...) It's this kind of utter ignorance of one's surroundings
that landed Dukakis in that tank and John Kerry in the big bunny suit
And it's even more dangerous now with the reign of YouTube. Obama's
bowling has already been immortalized in less than flattering clips.
We want to help. It's entirely possible that Barack Obama could become president of the United States. He needs a crash course in ordinary American life as it is lived in what conservatives call the Heartland and what liberals call Flyover Country. His campaign has taken him to many destinations in this vast area between the coasts, but business trips are no way to learn anything about a place and its people. You're lost in a blur of planes and hotels and rushed meals and not much time for anything but endless handshakes, forced smiles, and hitting your appointments and the airport on time. It's even worse when you're the absolute center of attention, always expected to be the star performer at a dead run. No wonder he thinks the whole country is filled up with needy people who are all expecting the government to solve their problems.
There is a way to help him out before Inauguration Day (if that's what's in the cards). Time is clearly in short supply on the campaign trail, but the need is also great, which makes it worthwhile to run some risks. We propose that Obama employ Saddam's old stratagem of finding a double who can fill in for him on the campaign trail -- just on weekends, mind you -- and use those two precious days every week between now and January to make the acquaintance of his countrymen. We're sure there are talented actors who could handle the Saturday and Sunday appearances without arousing too much suspicion. (Who watches the TV news on weekends anyway?) For example, we're willing to bet the amazingly talented Don Cheadle would be willing to help.
Which would leave Obama free to become Barry the Everyman, footloose in
We also have some suggestions about what the 'course of study' might
Pennsylvania seems to be pretty much of a blank slate for him. A good place to start might be the state parks, where it turns out there are thousands of people enjoying the outdoors with their families in dozens of ways that don't all involve guns, including backpacking, canoeing, fishing, golf, rollerblading, wildlife watching, and picnicking. Of course, there is hunting, too, but there's also an educational family-appropriate activity in which guns play an important part but hurt no one -- like the Civil War Reenactment at Neshaminy State Park next weekend. Which reminds us that it might be worthwhile to take the tours and meet the embittered Americans who show up at Gettysburg and Valley Forge. Going to a Steelers game would be permissible (too urban perhaps), but it might not be quite as insightful as spending a leisurely spring evening at a minor league baseball park, say, the Reading Phillies, or better yet, the Little League World Series in Williamsport this summer. For a glimpse of how (un)friendly ordinary whitebread Pennsylvanians are to people who aren't just like them, Lancaster County is an excellent place to visit. Eager-beaver retailers and the Amish seem, oddly enough, to have developed a mutually profitable co-existence, and for city boys who have never seen horses used as everyday transportation, the experience can be transforming.
Obama lost Ohio, too, didn't he? And no doubt thinks they're as benighted as the Pennsylvania folks. But Ohio isn't all Cleveland and Akron and dying auto plants. There are all kinds of places in the state where one could discover towns full of optimistic and friendly people, but we'd suggest one in the beautiful Miami River Valley. Dayton's representative of so much. It's where the Wright Brothers came from, using their entrepreneurial talents to turn a bicycle shop into one of the most important and technologically advanced industries in human history. Dayton's Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is named in part for them, and Obama might go there to see the moving exhibits at the Air Force Museum and perhaps take in the family-filled spectacle of an air show. And if he finds that too militaristic and noisy he can leave early and head for one of the great hot-air balloon events that dapple the Ohio skies with so much color.
If he's still anxious to leave Ohio -- and if he timed it right --
Obama could arrange to be in the town of Defiance on August 9 for the
last day of the Longest Yard Sale,
which runs 630 miles from Ohio to Alabama. It's a fine way
to meet people and see capitalism at work with nary a regulator or
bureaucrat in sight.
Truthfully, Obama could discover natural wonders, historical attractions, and abundant family activities of the sort described above in every state that isn't wall-to-wall with urban sprawl. If he'll bother to look, he'll find that it isn't just Ivy graduate students who go to museums, botanical gardens, open-air art festivals, and outdoor concerts featuring every kind of music. We've focused a little more attention on Pennsylvania and Ohio because they've been so rudely stereotyped as helpless losers in recent weeks. It's not true of them any more than it is for the residents of any other state. So we'd encourage the undercover Obama to visit as many flyover states as possible.
In the course of his visits he should try some simple things that can be done in just about any small town or hamlet:
Spend a couple of hours at Lowes or Home Depot or the local hardware store. Watch men and women buying tools, paint, parts, and fixtures for the unending home improvement project that so many Americans devote years to accomplishing.
Hang out at the local garden center this spring and observe the zeal with which families select perennials, trees, peat moss, and mulch for the beautification of their yards. When they leave, they're going home to get their hands dirty with the kind of work that can't help but make one ponder God and creation. If one asked politely, I'm sure a homeowner might let a city visitor experience the sensual delight of cutting the lawn and smelling that perfect green smell of fresh-cut grass.
Drive outside of town through some back country roads and discover the roadside stands where, depending on the season, there's asparagus, strawberries, corn, squash, tomatoes, peaches, and beans for sale next to a stash of plastic bags and a box with a slit in the top for you to put the money in. These are the original self-serve operations and they're still working.
Go to church. Not just the ones you know, or think you know, but others too. Attend a Jewish bar mitzvah. A Jewish wedding, a Polish wedding, an Italian wedding, a Methodist wedding, etc, etc, in the same town, and see how many of the guests you recognize from one of the others. Go to a Catholic christening and a Catholic funeral -- not the media kind where politicians show up because someone has been horribly murdered and the cameras are rolling, but just some parishioner who has died -- and listen to what the priest has to say on each occasion. Isn't this a kind of social gospel, too, without the ranting and the anger? Go to any event advertised on any church billboard -- supper, breakfast, chicken barbecue -- and see if you're not warmly welcomed and treated despite being an utter stranger.
Make sure to be in some small town anywhere on Independence Day and ask someone where the nearest fireworks and big-time celebration are being held. Go. Have a beer. Talk to people. Have fun.
Seek out the hobbies, amusements, obsessions, and avocations that live under the surface of flyover America. Hitch a ride on a Harley-Davidson poker tour. Go to a dog show. A county fair (and make sure you don't miss the 4H exhibits or the junior riders competition). Find a classic car show in any town's WalMart parking lot. Go fishing with some old guys in a bass boat on a cedar lake at dawn. Go to an antique auction in the country. Roll the dice and pick one of a hundred thousand small-town street fairs to wander through on a nice Saturday afternoon. Check out the local historical society. Go to a rodeo outside of Texas. Sit in the stands for a whole little league game. Seek out a Halloween hayride. At Christmas-time volunteer to go carolling with a local church group, sign up for the candlelight tour (whatever it consists of), or ask any stranger on the street the location of the "house with the most Christmas lights." And, uh, yeah. Go bowling. You'll be surprised how many people are willing to teach you. Same with darts, golf, shooting, motorcycling, and home carpentry.
Explore the universe of local charities and charitable acts. The AA meetings in all those church basements. The priests, ministers, rabbis, ordinary folks, and therapy dogs who visit the hospitals and nursing homes. The animal rescue organizations that run on a wing and a prayer. The small companies, churches, and local associations that gather up toys for the needy at Christmas or supplies for disaster victims at home and abroad. The volunteer fire departments and fire police in every single town, village, and hamlet in the whole country.
Do everything and go everywhere you can to acquaint yourself with the incredible richness, variety, vitality, curiosity, generosity, and optimism of life in these United States that isn't a function of some government program or agency. You'll find it's almost infinite. Of course you'll meet a jerk or two along the way and some diehard pessimists, but they won't be the rule. They'll be the exceptions who will probably want to bring up politics without being asked. Try not to let them ruin your day. Or your month or your year. Try very hard to remain focused on the challenge of reveling in the amazing kaleidoscope of American life.
Then come back, Mr. Obama, and tell us of your devout belief in bitterness and the overwhelming mandate of government to intercede in peoples' lives for their own good.
It's a tight schedule. But Obama really can't afford not to do it. And the country can't afford to elect him if he doesn't.
Could somebody get Don Cheadle on the phone...?
Hey, I found a country with real internet! My last port of call, whence
I posted my last entry, didn't. Or they did, but it was run by
Western Union, using the old telegraph lines.
Here's how it works. They're still training telegraph operators out here. I didn't have the heart to break their obselescence to them. You write out their email in longhand, along with address and password information, and they hop on the old signal clicker thing. From there your message, letter by letter in Morse Code, goes across the ocean to some non-profit on the other end. For a while, there was a huge network of telegraph wires going out of Asia that had long ago been cut loose from America, floating in the Atlantic. This confederation-- I forget their acronym-- of Peace Corps types and amateur radio fanatics got a grant from the UN to sail out, grab the wires, and hook them up to a call center where unpaid volunteers hand-translated the morse code back to text.
One of these selfless missionaries must have developed a hand cramp or something, because the last three paragraphs of my last essay didn't show up in the post. I'll spare you the lengthy recap. It's not like you need me to tell you Lou Dobbs is a sham ideologue, or that conservative commentary has become simply another career option for broadcasters, like becoming the sports guy on local news or issuing traffic reports from the helecopter. That's simple math.
Even with the internet difficulty, I was having a great trip. Until my good friend and (inside joke -- sorry) noted novice Gordo Seclorum sent me the above picture attached to this tersely exuberant email: "I FOUND ONE". It's a '68 Mercury Monterey with yacht deck paneling, as seen on Wikipedia. I printed this picture out and put it in my wallet months ago.
He couldn't have more expertly killed my world traveling buzz. We've talked about finding this gorgeously opulent car, this stunning artifact of sledgehammer class, the way scientists talk about finding the unified field theory. Instead of enjoying partying across the globe, I've spent the last few hours pining for home, so I can mortgage my blood to get behind the wheel of this beautiful beast. Gordo knows how to chum my waters, and now I've got a taste for a very different type of journey: The American Road Trip.
I'm drifting again. Any Mercury from that era will have more horsepower than any two of its contemporaries, with ten times the noise. Imagine screaming down Route 66 in that. It'd cut the country open like a [dull--ED] scalpel. I could speed [trailing blue, blown-engine smoke and felonious levels of ugly high-decibel exhaust sounds--ED.] to impoverished inner-city schools where I'd be able to preach to the innocents about a better time and a bygone age. When men were men and [thanks to 4.000-lb agglomerations of incompetent spot-welding--ED.] generally suffered more hearing loss than today's average 12-year-old girl with a 3-oz iPod.
That might be a hard sell, come to think of it. Depends how "inner" we're talking.
Anyway. South Africa. It's almost too arbitrarily high-tech to be that interesting in a backpacking context. That's interesting, in that it contrasts w/ the rest of the world's largest inhabited land mass. The poor people are poorer, way poorer than back home, including that sick-looking alley right behind my apartment where even the cats won't eat what the Mi-ou Chinese restaurant flings onto the pavement. That's something I've set a date to think about on my PDA. Circa 2013 (after the Mayan Apocalypse). But the black people here are totally smug and pleased with themselves about not killing all the whites when apartheid ended. It's bad of me, I know, but I can't stop wondering what would happen if the UN or somebody air-dropped 40-million DVDs of Saw IV into this powder keg. (Only, who'd spring for the 10-million DVD players you'd have to air-drop next?) (Or the extension cord you'd need to plug those DVD players into the ass-end of Europe, which is where anyway? In the bottom of Sicily?) Oops.
If that's the socket that provides all the energy to Africa, I'm thinking it really is time to get out of here. I mean, I love murderous Afrikaaners who hate everyone that doesn't resemble a parboiled beet as much as the next person, but what the hell are we going to do when some goombah in Sicily trips over the cord and all the lights in Africa go out? I don't know any fucking Dutch. My guess is, they know plenty of American and don't like what they've heard anyhow.
Do you think if I explained, very very politely, to American Airlines that I have an absolutely-not-to-be-broken appointment with a Mercury Monterey in one of the most left-handedest state of the union, named after one of the founding fathers no less, that they'd make an exception to their total anti-transportation strategy of the past few weeks, and let me go HOME?
VROOOOOOOM!!! Or is that too pushy? VRoooooom? How about vrooooooooom? Please?
What if I also agreed to submitting tamely to the abuse the Old Man is certain to give me about the Monterey?
[Your ticket is prepaid and waiting at Johannesburg--ED.]
Okay. You win. But I'm going to kill that Silarkey shit. Got it? I don't take crap from nobody but real Afrikaaners.