I'm normally loath to pass along forwarded e-mails, but a good friend sent me this essay by the Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong, and I thought it worth sharing.
Understanding The Christian Roots of My Political Depression By Bishop John Shelby Spong
The Republican Convention in New York City forced me to face the fact that my feelings about the Bush Administration have reached a visceral negativity, the intensity of which surprises even me. So I decided to search introspectively to identify its source. Is it simply runaway partisanship? That is certainly how it sounds to many who make that charge publicly, but that has not been my history. I did not react this way to other Republican presidents like Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford or Reagan. My feelings are quite specifically Bush related.
I first became aware of them in 1988 when George H. W. Bush's campaign employed the Willie Horton ad against Michael Dukakis. This dirty trick was successful and the insinuation entered the body politic that to be the governor of a multi-racial state where all were treated fairly meant that you favored freeing black criminals to commit murder. Lee Atwater, mentor of Karl Rove, devised that campaign. The Willie Horton episode said to me that these people believed that no dishonest tactic was to be avoided if it helped your candidate to victory.
The next manifestation of this mentality came in the South Carolina primary in George W. Bush's campaign in 2000, when the patriotism of John McCain was viciously attacked. It appeared that five years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam was not sufficient to prove one's loyalty to America. The third episode came when the operatives of this administration destroyed Georgia's Senator Max Cleland in 2002, by accusing him of being soft on national security, despite the fact that this veteran had lost three of his limbs in the service of his country. Each of these attacks brought defeat to its victims but they also brought defeat to truth and integrity.
In 2004 we have seen the pattern repeated. John Kerry, a veteran who served with honor and distinction in Vietnam was told in countless surrogate ads that his service was not worthy and that his three purple hearts and his Silver Star for heroism were cheaply won. For a candidate who ducked military service by securing a preferential appointment to the Texas National Guard, part of which was served in Alabama, this takes gall indeed.
Then Senator Zell Miller, his face contorted with anger, recited a litany of weapons systems that he said Senator Kerry had opposed. What he failed to say was that most of these military cuts were recommended by a Secretary of Defense named Richard Cheney in the first Bush Administration! The last time I looked, the Ten Commandments still included an injunction against bearing false witness.
Yes, other campaigns bend the truth but these tactics go beyond just bending, they assassinate character and suggest traitorous behavior. When that is combined with the fact that this party does this while proclaiming itself the party of religion, cultural values and faith-based initiatives is the final straw for me. I experience the religious right as a deeply racist enterprise that seeks to hide its intolerance under the rhetoric of super patriotism and "family values." For those who think that this is too strong a charge or too out of bounds politically, I invite you to look at the record.
It was George H. W. Bush who gave us Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court, calling him "the most qualified person in America." Thomas replaced Thurgood Marshall, who had been the legal hero to black Americans during the struggle over segregation. Clarence Thomas, the opponent of every governmental program that made his own life possible, is today an embarrassment to blacks in America. To appoint a black man to do the racist work against black people is demonic. Consistent with that pattern, this administration entered an amicus brief against the University of Michigan's Law School because in the quest for a representative student body that Law School used race as one factor in determining admissions. The strange 'Orwellian' rhetoric again was deceiving. "We want America to be a nation where race is not counted for anything and all are to be judged on merit alone." Those are fair sounding words until one factors in centuries of slavery and segregation, or the quality of public education in urban America which just happens to be predominantly black. Next one cannot help noticing the concerted Republican effort to limit black suffrage in many states like Florida where it has been most overt, and to deny the power of the ballot to all the citizens of Washington, D.C. Does anyone doubt that the people of Washington have no vote for any other reason than that they are overwhelmingly black?
Only when I touched these wells of resentment, did I discover how deeply personal my feelings are about the Bushes. I grew up in the southern, religious world they seek to exploit. I went to a church that combined piety with segregation, quoted the Bible to keep women in secondary positions, and encouraged me to hate both my enemies and other religions, especially Jews. It taught me that homosexual people choose their lifestyle because they are either mentally sick or morally depraved. I hear these same definitions echoed in the pious phrases of those who want to "defend marriage against the gay onslaught." Are the leaders of this party the only educated people who seem not to know that their attitudes about homosexuality are uninformed? People no more choose their sexual orientation than they choose to be left-handed! To play on both ignorance and fear for political gain is a page lifted right out of the racial struggle that shaped my region. Racism simply hides today under new pseudonyms.
I lived in Lynchburg, Virginia, before Jerry Falwell rose to national prominence. He was a race baiting segregationist to his core. Liberty Baptist College began as a segregation academy. Super patriot Falwell condemned Nelson Mandela as a 'communist' and praised the apartheid regime in South Africa as a 'bulwark for Christian civilization.' I have heard Pat Robertson attack the movement to give equality to women by referring to feminists as Lesbians who want to destroy the family, while quoting the Bible to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment. The homophobic rhetoric that spews so frequently out of the mouths of these "Jesus preaching" right-wingers has been mentioned time and again as factors that encourage hate crimes.
I am aware that the former Chief Justice Roy Moore of Alabama, famous for his attempt to place a three-ton monument of the Ten Commandments in his Montgomery courthouse to the delight of southern preachers, is on record as saying that "homosexuality is inherently evil."
I lived through the brutality that greeted the civil rights movement in the South during its early days. Congressman John Lewis of Atlanta can tell you what it means to be beaten into unconsciousness on a "freedom ride." I remember the names of Southerners who covered their hate-filled racism with the blanket of religion to enable them to win the governors' mansions in the deep South: John Patterson and George Wallace in Alabama, Ross Barnett in Mississippi, Orville Faubus in Arkansas, Mills Godwin in Virginia and Strom Thurmond in South Carolina. I know the religious dimensions of North Carolina that kept Jesse Helms in the Senate for five terms. Now we have learned that Strom Thurmond, who protected segregation in the Senate when he could not impose it by winning the presidency in 1948, also fathered a daughter by an underage black girl. I know that Congressman Robert Barr of Georgia, who introduced the Defense of Marriage Act in 1988, has been married three times. I know that Pat Robertson's Congressman in Norfolk, Ed Schrock, courted religious votes while condemning homosexual people until he was outed as a gay man and was forced to resign his seat.
I know that the bulk of the voters from the Religious Right today are the George Wallace voters of yesterday, who simply transformed their racial prejudices and called them "family values." That mentality is now present in this administration. It starts with the President, embraces the Attorney General John Ashcroft and spreads out in every direction.
I have known Southern mobs that have acted in violence against black people while couching that violence in the sweetness of Evangelical Christianity. I abhor that kind of religion. I resent more than I can express the fact that my Christ has been employed in the service of this mentality. My Christ, who refused to condemn the woman taken in the act of adultery; my Christ who embraced the lepers, the most feared social outcasts of his day; my Christ who implored us to see the face of God in the faces of "the least of these our brothers and sisters;" my Christ who opposed the prejudice being expressed against the racially impure Samaritans, is today being used politically to dehumanize others by those who play on base instincts.
David Halberstam, in his book on the Civil Rights movement entitled The Children, quotes Lyndon Johnson talking with Bill Moyers right after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had passed by large margins in the Congress of the United States. This positive vote followed the arousing of the public's consciousness by the Abu Ghraib-like use of dogs and fire hoses on black citizens in Alabama. Klan groups, under the direct protection of Southern State Troopers and local police, had also attacked blacks with baseball bats and lead pipes in public places, which had been seen on national television. Moyers expected to find President Johnson jubilant over this legislative victory. Instead he found the President strangely silent. When Moyers inquired as to the reason, Johnson said rather prophetically, "Bill, I've just handed the South to the Republicans for fifty years, certainly for the rest of our life times."
That is surely correct. Bush's polls popped after his convention. It is now his election to lose. The combination of super patriotism with piety, used in the service of fear to elicit votes while suppressing equality works, but it is lethal for America and lethal for Christianity. It may be a winning formula but it has no integrity and it feels dreadful to this particular Christian.
I have two new reviews up at Destroy All Monsters: The cool Japanese exploitation flick Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter, which takes advantage of its low budget and low expectations to sneak in some social commentary, and the wacky Hong Kong comedy Kung Fu Zombie. With a name like that, you know I've gotta love it.
I'm a big fan of the Evil Dead series. I think I like the second one best for its perfect blend of comedy and horror. As I discussed in last year's recent review of the influential Hong Kong flick Mr. Vampire and my just-posted review of the wacky Kung Fu Zombie, comedy and horror are hard to mix, but when a director is successful, each enhances the other. I recently bought the director's cut of the final film, Army of Darkness, and I agree that it's more consistent with the previous two films, especially where Ash's ultimare fate is concerned. That said, I really do like the framing device the producers insisted be substituted, and you just gotta love the film's closing line (courtesy this fine Evil Dead sound archive).
The awareness of anime in the mainstream media continues apace with this two-part look at hentai, or sexually themed, anime at MSNBC. (But really -- "toon porn"? What an idiotic monicker that is.)
It’s impossible to definitively gauge the appetite for cartoon copulation on the Internet, but anecdotal evidence indicates it is strong and growing.
The number of sites featuring adult cartoons has soared from just a handful five years ago to many hundreds today, with surfers paying as much as $39.95 a month for rights to view the illustrations and animation behind the credit-card window.
I have one word for the writer of this article: Usenet. Sheesh. Talk about "anectdotal evidence!"
Still, while about as well-informaed as any instance of the mainstream media covering covering fringe culture, it at least makes the general public aware of the existence of said fringe. (I may have mentioned before, my first exposure to hentai anime was back around 1987, courtesy an unsubtitled tape of Cream Lemon: Pop Chaser at a sci-fi convention in my home town of Louisville, Kentucky.) For a better scoop on hentai, I recommend Wikipedia's entry for the curious. And here are two relatively tame examples of hentai imagery -- as anyone with access to Google's image search can attest, it can get much more explicit. I presume these images are snipped from a hentai computer game; if you're curious about those, let Something Awful dissuade you.
"We had inconsistent information, and we did not inform others in the community of gaps in our intelligence," Tenet said. "The extraordinary men and women who do magnificent work in the CIA are held accountable every day for what they do, and as part of keeping our faith with the American people, we will tell you when we're right or wrong." Tenet called the war on Iraq "wrong" in a speech Wednesday night to 2,000 members of The Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan at Lake Michigan College's Mendel Center. He did not elaborate.
Despite proclaiming to be "as forthcoming as I can," Tenet made light of a question about whether or not the United States made an error in committing intelligence to the search for nonexistent WMDs in Iraq rather than exploring terrorism elsewhere.
Tenet apologized for being rude but did not answer the question.
Even after the final report of Charles Duelfer to Congress saying that Iraq did not have a significant WMD program, 72% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq had actual WMD (47%) or a major program for developing them (25%). Fifty-six percent assume that most experts believe Iraq had actual WMD and 57% also assume, incorrectly, that Duelfer concluded Iraq had at least a major WMD program. Kerry supporters hold opposite beliefs on all these points.
Similarly, 75% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda, and 63% believe that clear evidence of this support has been found. Sixty percent of Bush supporters assume that this is also the conclusion of most experts, and 55% assume, incorrectly, that this was the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission. Here again, large majorities of Kerry supporters have exactly opposite perceptions.
I really haven't been following the baseball post season too closely, but since I tend to root for the underdog, I was mildly hoping that the Boston Red Sox would shake their way out of the doldrums in this year's matchup against the Yankees. After the BoSox won the fourth game in the series, after dropping three to the Yankees, my thoughts were pretty much echoed by someone on the team heard on NPR -- at least it wasn't a shutout.
I got home from Tae Kwon Do class Wednesday night, though, and my father-in-law had the game on. I was surprised to see the Sox up by like 7 or 8 runs in the second inning, so I stuck around and watched the game. Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox on a miraculous -- and record setting -- comeback.
Major League Baseball's American League championship series between the New York Yankees and archrival Boston Red Sox is leaving Wall Street staffed with bleary-eyed baseball fans who've been glued to their TV sets during three marathon games in as many nights.
On Monday, the Red Sox beat the Yankees in the longest game in League Championship Series history. The game, which took 5 hours and 49 minutes, ended at about 11 p.m.
... "Everybody is exhausted. People are walking around like they're zombies. I don't know if we can take much more this," said a Boston trader, who did not want to be identified. "And it's not just traders. Analysts, fund managers, it runs the gamut. We're all tired."
While your endorsement of President Bush was not unexpected, it did not go far enough to admonish him for making mistakes. What leads you to believe that he would consider admitting the failures of his administration when he has yet to admit any mistakes?
Whether intended or not, Gary Varvel's editorial cartoon (Oct. 17) was ironic in portraying Bush in a gas-guzzling Hummer and John Kerry in a VW. It was on point, too, about the reasons behind this administration's failed policy on oil.
I was not surprised to read your endorsement for re-election of George W. Bush; as a long-time reader of The Star, I expected no less. I was stunned, however, by the tortured reasoning that led to this endorsement. After correctly spending most of the editorial detailing the failures of the Bush presidency and why he should not be re-elected, you endorse him nonetheless because Sen. John Kerry offers "untested and poorly defined leadership."
We have had four years to test Bush's leadership and we know where he has taken our nation and our world. That leads any thinking person to foresee four more years of the same from him. How could Kerry do worse?
The Star's endorsement of President Bush speaks of hope that a second term would enable him to do those things he said he would do in his first presidential campaign.
He promised then to be a uniter, not a divider, and to be a compassionate conservative. But the country is now more polarized than it has been since the Civil War. The Star hopes Bush will acknowledge his errors, listen respectfully to differences of opinion, and remedy his mistakes -- all things he has thus far refused to do.
What we can expect is more of the same. We can expect more clean-air initiatives that allow increased pollution, more healthy forest programs that encourage clear cutting, more tax cuts for the rich while those of modest means continue to struggle, more "ownership" programs for health care programs and Social Security that allow those with wealth to control the marketplace while leaving others to fend for themselves. We can expect an unending occupation of Iraq and an ever-expanding federal deficit.
Elect a Democrat who can once again make America respected in the world, restore fiscal sanity and return us to an era of balanced budgets.
Bruce L. Pearson Bloomington
The editorial board's lukewarm endorsement, with the obvious flaws noted by these readers and myself, coupled with its publication of several letters that make those flaws clear to those who didn't get it the first time, leads me to suspect that the local paper did, indeed, endorse Bush largely because it was expected to, not because it's enthusiastic about four more years.
There's also a letter making a great point to counter Bush's frequent characterization of Kerry as a "Massachusetts liberal":
Yes, John Kerry is a Massachusetts liberal. Remember, it was a group of Massachusetts liberals who met at Concord Bridge in April of 1775 and fired the shot heard round the world.
Update:Professor Cooper calls the editorial "perhaps the most grudging endorsement I've ever read" and agrees that "the proposition [that Bush must correct his errors in a second term] directly undermines the very trait that forms the basis for the Star's preference of Bush over Kerry." 'Nuff said.
Yesterday a package arrived bearing a six-inch plastic Gigan figure by Bandai I'd ordered off of eBay.
Since Cecilia has the Mothra figure, Naomi has the "burning Godzilla" (from Godzilla vs Destroyah, which we gave her so she'd have a Godzilla that's clearly different from Cecilia's), and I have the excellent figure of the 1954-era Big G, the arrival of Gigan completes the set. Sw33t!
House of Horrors has an interesting profile of Ed Gein, the true-life inspiration behind horror flicks from Psycho to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to Silence of the Lambs. Warning: His story is not for the squeamish, and there's a disturbing black-and-white photo of a murder victim discovered on Gein's property.
Work is good right now, but I'm much more busy than I've been of late. I've been assigned to a new validation project while my current one is on hold. I'm working onsite, and lack an internet connection while I'm there (horrors!), so posting will likely be restricted over the next several weeks. This time, though, it's all good; I'm busy, but much less stressed than I was ten months ago.
For tonight, I haven't had an opportunity to read my usual blogs, or the paper, and so I have little comment. That may change a bit later, but for now I plan only one more post and then to turn in.
Interestingly, the second wallpaper at this site contains an image -- the one in the top-left corner -- not from Zombie but from Day of the Dead. It';s hard to imagine why the creator decided it was necessary to look elsewhere for a gory image when Fulci's film provides such a bounty of possibilities.
The death last week of exploitation film director Russ Meyer inspired me to try to track down a VHS copy of his classic 1965 film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (it isn't out on DVD yet...). I was lucky enough to locate one on eBay, and it arrived yesterday. Upon watching it this morning, I can say it's my new favorite movie! (Of course, I don't limit myself to just one.) Here's Roger Ebert's review of this stylish tale of violent women.
The DVD collection of the classic Universal Mummy films is now on sale, and I plan to pick it up pronto, so I may have yet another new favorite movie before long.
Fans take in a screening of Destroy All Monsters at an August Godzilla film festival.
It's a familiar plot element to fans of Godzilla films: Scholars from around the globe gather to study the rampaging kaiju. But this time, it isn't to try to combat the monster's attack on Japan; rather, it's to study the Big G's legacy of film.
The University of Kansas plans to pay homage to the giant lizard later this month, organizing a three-day scholarly conference for the 50th anniversary of his first film.
It's not just about celebrating campy creature features. Planners want to provoke discussion of globalization, Japanese pop culture and Japanese-American relations after World War II.
"I would like people to take Godzilla more seriously," said Bill Tsutsui, a history professor at the University of Kansas and author of the book "Godzilla on My Mind," which discusses the history of the monster's movies.
The conference that begins Oct. 28 will offer speeches, panel discussions and free screenings of Godzilla films, including "Gojira," the Japanese movie that started Godzilla's career in November 1954.
Atop the movie theater will be an inflatable 28-foot Godzilla balloon. Items from Tsutsui's collection of Godzilla memorabilia will be on display in the university's main library.
...Among the fans in attendance will be Andrew Kar, a technical writer from St. Joseph, Mo., who has been hooked on monster movies since childhood.
"When you're a 35-year-old man and you're still enjoying these films, you have to ask yourself why," he said.
It is time for experience and resolve, which is why George Bush should be re-elected for a second term. Without a re-election facing him, the president can move to do those things he said he would do in his first presidential campaign:
He can work to unify the country. He can listen to and respect people who disagree with him. He can acknowledge errors, and what he will do to remedy those mistakes. Accomplishing those things are what true leaders do. They are things this president must do during his second term.
And they are, of course, things Bush has shown exactly no inclination to do in his first term. (Of course, the notion that Bush has withheld enacting his agenda out of re-election concerns should also give one pause...) Really, how the Star's editorial board could imagine that Bush is any likelier to "unify the country," "listen to and respect people who disagree with him, "acknowledge errors," and "remedy those mistakes" in a second term -- to say nothing of the implication of his first term this list poses -- is quite beyond me. Rather, its editorial board indulges in exactly what it accuses Kerry's supporters -- unjustly, in my view -- of: Backing a candidate simply because he isn't the opponent.
In a break with tradition, The Tampa Tribune, a Republican standard-bearer for decades, refused Sunday to endorse anyone for president for the first time since 1964.
The newspaper has solidly supported every Republican presidential nominee since 1952, except for Barry Goldwater, but withheld its endorsement this year, calling the decision "achingly difficult" and blaming shortcomings of both candidates.
Editors instead published an unusual full-page editorial with harsh criticism of the war in Iraq and President Bush's economic policies.
"President Bush told us that he was 'a uniter, not a divider,' but shortly after taking office, his administration took a sharp right turn that has divided this country," the editorial said. The newspaper said it was "deeply disappointed" with Bush on federal spending, the budget deficit and the recession.
The Star's editorial board would do well to learn from the Tribune's example, rather than endorsing the candidate they wish were running instead of the one who is.