Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

Why I Would Prefer Not To (Talk To My Brother)

May 25, 2017

Guns and butter, part of the political choice. Butter comes from the milk of a cow which grazes on the earth. Guns originate with metallic ore, part of the composition of the very same earth that nourishes the cow. Both are a product of human ingenuity and skill, labor and work. Guns and religion, part of today’s American politic. Unlike guns or butter, religion is never considered a “product” of human ingenuity and skill, labor and work. Religion, by definition, is not of this earth though found extensively upon it, and only within the social make up of its human inhabitants. Many human-like behaviors, social or individual, are “found” with other creatures populating the earth. Religion has yet to be identified as one of them. Religion is not attributed to ants, ospreys, whales or the great apes. Today, the American politic swirls around loyalty and fidelity. Religion without these is not. Religion, not being of the earth, begs a different origin. The Judeo/Christian creation myth charges humans with dominion over the earth. It likewise requires fidelity and loyalty by doing what you are told. This link of loyalty and fidelity with “to do what you are told” runs deep within Western social evolution. It is fundamental to law, military organization and government institutions – the stuff of politics. It is not integral to the free market though capitalism is lost without it – the stuff of violence. Religion placates the disparity. For those who have done what they are told, loyalty bestows the social self esteem that bonds a brotherhood. Semper fi. In this all, the gun is very telling. Within the cliché of “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is the creation origin account that humans have been given dominion over the earth along with the onus “to do what you are told.” The implication of human ingenuity and skill, labor and work having some say has no cotton with this religious perspective. Guns and religion differ fundamentally from guns and butter in that they are not the same. Guns and butter are products of human interaction with the earth. Guns and religion compliment each other, make demands on each other, excuse each other. Religion sanctions the human to differentiate the gun from any intent. Since it is of the earth over which humans maintain dominion, the gun is unintentional. Only humans are held responsible to do what you are told. And killing is telling some being to die. Along with cows, the gun is part of the dominion humans have been given over the earth, as it (the gun) is of the earth. The gun is simultaneously exceptional in that it enables dominion over the earth. Religion privileges its use by providing an alibi, an excuse. “To do what you are told” is just such an alibi. Loyalty becomes sacrosanct within this brotherhood of the gun. “To do what you are told” now has become a, if not the, political choice. To which Herman Melville’s Bartleby responds “I would prefer not to.” What other response is there when politics has become guns and religion?

Move Over Golden Calf, There Is A New American Idol

May 11, 2017

The other morning, as part of the ongoing reality TV show called Our Government, an interviewed Texas congressman justified the apprentice president’s firing of the FBI director by saying James Comey was getting too much face time on TV. As FBI director he shouldn’t be so popular. News broadcasters, who make up the interviewers, often attribute the apprentice president’s electability to popularity, on being a populist. Recently Ohio’s Secretary of State and newest Ohio Governor wannabe spoke in Newark on Monday the 8th (Husted addresses Newark GOP on Ohio governor’s race, Newark Advocate’s Sydney Murray, 5-10-17). Covering the speech Mr. Murray writes: “But before he entered a life of public service, he was adopted as a baby and grew up in a working class family in the small town of Montpelier, Ohio. At one point, Husted said his dad lost his job and they had to leave Ohio, something he doesn’t want for anyone else’s family. “I want to help Ohio. And more importantly the people, with a bright future, and no matter how you grew up, I wanna make sure that Ohio is a place where you can live the American Dream.” Husted said.” On 5-7-17, writing for McClatchy, Julie Carr Smyth headlines “Ohio elections chief Jon Husted joins 2018 race for governor”. Ms. Carr Smyth reports “Capitalizing on divisive remarks that came back to haunt high profile Democrats, the Republican says Barack Obama was right when he said midwesterners cling to religion and guns and that Husted’s family “would firmly fit in Hillary Clinton’s ‘basket of deplorables.’” Clinton used the reference in her presidential campaign against Donald Trump, whom Husted voted for.” Analysis of these short bits of insight shows that in addition to voting Jon Husted intends to emulate the apprentice president’s formula for success. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! And like the apprentice president’s penchant for exaggeration and hyperbole, he likewise intends to outdo the current governor’s formula (being a mail man’s son from McKeesport Pa. aw shucks and all). Analysis finds this all creates a new form of reality show government, where the contestants for public office will each try to out populist the other. This revival of the American Idol campaign for popular support will leave the discerning electorate aghast at the derogatory costuming of contestants, the various made-up sets masquerading as the current conditions of the state of Ohio, capped by each idol’s uplifting songs of redemption for a future state-wide resurrection. “no matter how you grew up [with or without guns and religion], I wanna make sure that Ohio is a place where you can live the American Dream.” Amen.

The State Of The State Of Ohio’s Opioid Epidemic

April 6, 2017

A blizzard of angst filled soul searching follows the presidential election, current administration, continuing to this day with “how did this happen?” Etc. Many are not so surprised, more bemused in that all of this was in plain sight. Intentions as well as actions today are simply a continuance of what was stated, promised, and actively displayed before. ‘Nuff said. Within his recent (4-4-17) State of the State address, Ohio’s Governor John Kasich’s lips pronounced “Ensuring that we have the basics in place — fiscal strength, lower taxes, proper regulation — opens the door for us to sell our state across the nation and across the world.” This mantra was repeated multiple times, even more through fragments. Sounds pretty clear. No mystification of priorities, intent, or course of action here. He also had this to say about Ohio’s Opioid drug epidemic, though he didn’t call it that (Name thing I guess. Been there, done that with the current pres’): “Last year, Highway Patrol troopers had their largest single heroin, meth and prescription pill seizures. Ohio was one of the first states to create prescribing guidelines for doctors. We’ve linked our medical providers into our pharmacy system to slow doctor shopping and for the first time we’re registering pharmacy technicians. We’ve expanded access to the overdose-reversal drug to first responders, pharmacies and families of those addicted. And we created Start Talking! to encourage more adults to talk to children about the dangers of drugs. In all, we’re spending nearly $1 billion a year.” And “That’s why today I’m asking the Third Frontier Commission to provide up to $20 million to help bring new scientific breakthroughs to the battle against drug abuse and addiction. These funds will target existing, proven ideas that simply need an extra push to be brought to the fight — ideas like using a simple device that connects to someone’s ear that can relieve pain and block the effects of opiate withdrawal.” Finally “We love our children and care about our neighbors, so we’ve got to deliver this message to them: “Don’t do drugs or you will destroy your life and you will destroy the purpose for which the good Lord created you.”” Not a word, or dollar, for rehabilitation. Analysis considers the implications of this abdication of leadership, the vacuum formed by Kasich’s overriding priorities, intent, and course of action. Indeed, historically US public health epidemics have been met by an equally public response of sanatoriums, recovery centers, and public health initiatives (all notably absent with the governor’s approach). History has lectured us extensively on what happens in a leadership vacuum (South East Asia, Syria/Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.). Add to that Kasich and the GOP’s historic preference (and reliance) on a religious response to education, social welfare and public health concerns. Here is some of what Kevin Lewis O’Neill writes in an essay entitled “On Hunting” (Critical Inquiry Spring 2017):

““We hunt men,” Alejandro said, “to save them.” Locked up inside a Pentecostal drug rehabilitation center for his use of crack cocaine, Alejandro participates in his pastor’s hunting parties or grupos de caceria. At the outer edges of today’s war on drugs, Christian vigilante groups scour the streets of Guatemala City with singular intent: to pull users out of sin by dragging them into rehab. And so, in the middle of the night, when the capital is an absolute ghost town, three or four recovering users drive with their pastor to the house of an active user.” “As a part of economic restructuring – which has included the privatization of state enterprises, the liberalization of trade, and the relaxation of government regulation [sound familiar?]– less than 2 percent of Guatemala’s total health budget addresses issues of mental health, with its hospitals flatly denying medical service to those patients seeking support for substance abuse.” “Pentecostal drug rehabilitation centers, when taken in the aggregate, have six thousand beds.” “Guatemala’s prisons sit at 250 percent capacity; the hospitals do not accept users; and Guatemala’s only mental institution understands drug use to be well outside the scope of its mission.” “More important than numbers, however, are the visceral truths that Pentecostal Christianity promises its people: Salvation is real; hell is eternal; and Jesus loves you. Another imperative also follows. Often stamped onto Pentecostal print media, with an allusion to sin as well as the hunt, it announces: escape for your life. One effect of this faith is a growing network of informal and largely unregulated Pentecostal drug rehabilitation centers. These sites warehouse users against their will inside of onetime garages, factories, and apartment buildings. Each has been repurposed for rehabilitation with razor wire, steel bars, and iron gates. Inside, pastors practice teoterapia, or theological therapy. This is a mix of Pentecostal theology, twelve-step programming, and self-help psychology. Its working assumption is that captivity will give way to conversion. It does not. Yet this bald fact has not slowed down the growth of these centers, and for good reason. Again, these centers provide a practical solution to a concrete problem. Drug use is up. State resources are down. And Pentecostalism is the discourse of change. [Sound familiar?] The net result is a shadow carceral system infused with Pentecostal imperatives about not just sin and salvation but also about who can be hunted and why. It is a theological construction that carries concrete consequences. Today more Guatemalans find themselves literally tied up in Pentecostal drug rehabilitation centers than locked up in maximum-security prisons.” Lest the reader think that, not being Pentecostal or Guatemalan, Ohio’s Governor along with the current US Attorney General are not in the hunt. Au contraire, “there are some thirty thousand men in Philadelphia alone with warrants out for their arrest.” (O’Neill)

Bowling For Community Connectors

December 14, 2016

Language can be revealing. The extended presidential election of the past two years speaks eloquently to that. Words matter (though not always in color). Remember the brouhaha in Florida over whether the state employees were allowed to utter “climate change”, “global warming” or none of the above? Analysis finds it most revealing when words morph into other meanings than those intended. Case in point – the word “funding” has morphed into “investment”. The dictionary meanings are not at all the same. The primary meaning given for investment is “the action or process of investing money for profit or material result”. Secondary meanings all embrace return “worth buying because it may be profitable or useful in the future” and “an act of devoting time, etc. to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result”. Funding is simple “money provided, esp. by an organization or government, for a particular purpose.” [as well as the act of doing such]. Not complicated, but notice the shift in usage: Grow Licking County seeks additional investors in 2017 Kent Mallett , The Advocate, 12-14-16 – “Nate Strum, economic development director for the Licking County Chamber of Commerce and Grow Licking County, said he’d like to see about 50 investors in 2017.” “The organization received contributions from 31 investors in 2016, including $150,000 from the Licking County commissioners. Other top contributors were: Heath-Newark-Licking County Port Authority, $25,000; city of Heath, $12,000; and $10,000 each from the cities of Newark and Pataskala, the villages of Hebron and Johnstown, Energy Cooperative, and the Newark campus of Ohio State University and Central Ohio Technical College.” Even GLC member and County Commissioner Tim Bubb got in a plug “”Grow Licking County should be invested across the county, from all sectors,” Bubb said. “It sends the right message. Early investors did so without a track record. This shouldn’t be that painful because the results are there.”” What Analysis finds painful is that over half the funding for GLC comes from sources that themselves are funded by, well, public funding. Is this a trend? In his 2014 State of the State address Ohio Governor Kasich spoke “And we’re going to launch a new initiative, Community Connectors. It’s an initiative to support the best ideas in our state for bringing together schools, parents, communities, community organizations, faith-based groups, business leaders, and, of course, our students in mentoring efforts based on proven practices. We’re going to ask you, the Legislature, to take the $10 million from casino receipts, and we’re going to ask you to create a program that will give these communities a $3 match for every dollar they put in to build these mentoring efforts.” June 2014 saw fruition of Community Connectors with Kasich signing House Bill 483. 12-14-16 The Dispatch’s Mark Williams headlines Kasich panel suggests ways to prepare Ohio kids for jobs. “Ohio Gov. John Kasich appointed a panel composed of legislators, business leaders, labor leaders, educators and others to examine ways to make students better prepared to enter the workforce. Business leaders could one day serve on local school boards in a nonvoting capacity. More internships and apprentice programs would help students learn about — and prepare for — careers. Teachers would have opportunities to spend time in the workplace to learn more about what their students need to know to be successful in the workplace. The ideas were among proposals released Tuesday by Gov. John Kasich’s Executive Workforce Board. The recommendations are meant to address, among other things, longstanding employer complaints that they can’t find people with the right skill set to fill jobs.” “One recommendation is for local school boards to appoint three nonvoting members to represent local business interests and for school officials to get involved in local business groups. The report suggests teachers could get credits as part of their license renewals for externships so that they could gain a better understanding of business needs.” Analysis notes the slippage from “funding” to “investment” by the expectations “for profit or material result.” But The Dispatch was too kind in its reporting of what those results were to be. 12-18-14 The Plain Dealer’s Patrick O’Donnell headlined Schools need a religious partner if they want any of Gov. Kasich’s student mentorship money. “HB 483, as it went into law, makes faith-based organizations an option equal to “civic organizations” and business, but not a requirement.” But “Any school district that wants a piece of that state money must partner with both a church and a business – or a faith-based organization and a non-profit set up by a business to do community service. No business and no faith-based partner means no state dollars. “You must include a faith-based partner,” United Way of Greater Cleveland President Bill Kitson, told potential applicants at an information session the United Way hosted Thursday here in Cleveland. Kitson sits on Kasich’s advisory panel for the program, called “Community Connectors,” which is taking applications for grants now.” No matter the nitty gritty of the outcome or present status, “funding” has morphed into “investment” with the emphasis on “for profit or material result.” The old joke was about “revenue enhancement” being used to elide pronouncing the word “tax.” Last word, er, joke: “Kitson noted that $10 million is not a lot of money. The United Way, he said, is spending $2.5 million to service people in 25 Cleveland schools – about a quarter of the schools in the district. Doing that for the whole district would cost $10 million – the same amount available statewide for Community Connectors – so the state program will likely tackle single schools or just a few at a time.”

A Rose By Any Other Name

November 28, 2015

In a self-promotional ad for his presidential candidacy, Marco Rubio proclaims “What happened in Paris could happen here.” The line is meant to be provocative, call attention to Rubio’s particular vision for America, etc. Political pundits would all agree it is meant to leverage foreign policy as difference. An essay published by The Hedgehog Review (“Soul Survivor” by Dominic Green) begins with “Reports of the death of religion have been exaggerated.” The essay is almost more power point than statistical exegesis, with various charts and tables citing recent statistical studies on the shifts in American religious involvement – affiliated (with an organized religion), unaffiliated, Christian, etc. From the standpoint of considering the demographics on the basis of espoused belief, it would appear Americans are becoming less religious. But, from the standpoint of practice, Green points out that Americans are as religious as in the past, if not more so. Instead of membership and regular attendance at a traditional church in order to improve one’s life, it is at a fitness gym. Rather than large revivals and meetings of that sort, crowds flock to celebrity events (at one time the Grateful Dead were described as the world’s largest unorganized religion). In place of a mandatory homogenous belief regime for membership, schools and employers now insist on a positive attitude, holding workshops and educational classes to ensure implementation (Shades of Pastor Norman Vincent Peale!). Charitable virtues are fostered through participation in walkathons and “run for the cure’s” – an amalgam of festivals, pilgrimages and giving alms. Etc. All of these are performed with religious fervor while underlying beliefs are various and multiple. Appealing to belief, Rubio insinuates that terrorism is happening “over there”. And “it won’t be over, till it’s over, over there” (from a World War I song, the war to end all wars). From the standpoint of practice, what’s been happening in Paris (and Europe) has already been happening here, for quite some time at that. The latest manifestation happened just yesterday at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs. As our current president iterated after a previous such attack, it seems these types of incidents continuously reoccur every so many weeks. From the perspective of belief, Timothy McVeigh’s heinous act in Oklahoma was notably the most significant terror attack by Americans on Americans. From the perspective of practice, the cumulative outcomes of continuously recurring mass shootings of Americans by Americans indicate something much more insidious. Senator Rubio’s self promoting ad touting his exceptional astuteness, re: terror, is completely misleading. What happened in Paris is already happening here.