Thursday, August 16, 2012

Olympic Medalists: You Didn't Win That.

The USA Olympic Team will come home from London with forty-six gold medals to their credit.  That’s quite an accomplishment.  While each one of these winners is undoubtedly  proud of their achievement,  they shouldn’t get too cocky about what they’ve done because using President Obama’s rationale, they didn’t win those medals.  Somebody else made that happen. 

Based on similar remarks that the president made on the campaign trail awhile back, here is the speech President Obama will likely make to the assembled USA Olympic Team when they visit the White House upon their return from London:. 

There are a lot of Olympic Gold Medal Winners, successful Americans who agree with me --  They know they didn’t -- look, if you’ve won an Olympic Gold Medal, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own.  I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. 

     If you are an Olympic Gold Medal Winner, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in the track field and swimming pool that you trained on.   If you’re an Olympic Gold Medal Winner -- you didn’t win that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The track and field complexes didn’t get invented on its own.  Government monies created the track and field complexes so that all the athletes could benefit from them..

     The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.  So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together.  That’s how we funded the GI Bill.  That’s how we created the middle class.  That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam.  That’s how we invented the Internet.  That’s how we sent a man to the moon.  We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.  You’re not on your own, we’re in this together

To those who think I’ve taken his remarks out of context, this is the official transcript from the White House website.  I’ve modified the text only slightly, changing the context of the speech from “business owners” to “Olympic Gold Medal Winners”. 
 I rather doubt that Michael Phelps would give much credit for his success to the contractor who built the swimming pool and even less credit to the designers of the Golden Gate Bridge or Hoover Dam.  President Obama seems not to understand the difference between social infrastructure and individual acheivement.  Not only are they completely different concepts, they have completely different goals.   The simple fact is that both the baker who’s mixing batches of dough at 4am and the athlete who’s swimming hundreds of lap every week really are doing it on their own.  It’s not something we’re all doing together.  Their success rightly belongs to them.  That’s the very thing we admire about them.  Despite what Obama might believe, they really did win that medal or build that business. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Thus Spake Susan B. Anthony

Our country has a long history of political leaders invoking God.  Even in our postmodern paradigm the majority of citizens are still theists of one sort or another, so the idea that our elected officials would invite God’s blessing on our nation at the end of a speech or appeal to his benevolence during times of national distress raises few objections.  Nor do most people object if our politicians reveal that they speak to God during times of private prayer or meditation.

We don’t mind if politicians speak to God.  We begin to worry, however, when they say God speaks back.

 Let’s be honest about it, they’re politicians. It’s not likely they’ll bump into the Almighty unless he works for a lobbyist on K Street or shows up at one of their campaign rallies.  So, if a politician announces that God is telling him or her what to do, my first reaction is “Keep that fool as far away as possible from the switch that launches our nuclear arsenal”.  Seriously, do YOU want your senator voting on bills based on a late-night vision he had with a deity after a cocktail party with apple martinis and spicy nacho dip?  Probably not.   

That’s why this video baffles me.  If we’re uncomfortable with the idea that politicians would actually listen to the voice of God and act on it, what should we think about our civic leaders having conversations with ghosts?

In the video, Nancy Pelosi once again recounts the story of how she fell into a trance during her first White House meeting as Speaker of the House with then President G. W. Bush and it wasn’t Bush that had her enraptured.  It was the ghosts of Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth.  Apparently Nancy really likes this story, since she keeps telling it over and over, usually in commencement speeches at women’s colleges (I guess women entering the workforce need to be aware of paranormal political experiences). 

In the video Nancy says, “He’s (Bush) saying something to the effect of we’re so glad to welcome you here, congratulations and I know you’ll probably have some different things to say about what is going on--which is correct. But, as he was saying this, he was fading and this other thing was happening to me."
“My chair was getting crowded in," Nancy says. "I swear this happened, never happened before, it never happened since."
"My chair was getting crowded in and I couldn’t figure out what it was, it was like this," she continues.
"And then I realized Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Alice Paul, Sojourner Truth, you name it, they were all in that chair, they were," she says, convincingly. "More than I named and I could hear them say: 'At last we have a seat at the table.' And then they were gone.

 So, to recap, in her first meeting with the President of the United States in her capacity as the leader of the legislative branch of our federal government, Nancy is trying to pay attention to what’s going on but the president’s voice fades away as “this other thing was happening to me” and she settles into some sort of psychic trance while listening to dead feminists who are all trying to fit into the same chair.   

No reports ever surfaced that furniture levitated or coffee cups went flying across the room, so it’s safe to assume that this impromptu séance was relatively benign, although rumors persist that on occasion Nancy can turn her head in a 360 degree circle.

I’d like to believe that this is simply a quirky allegory, Pelosi’s personal metaphor about the journey of women’s rights.  The problem with this theory is that Nancy seems to really believes this stuff occurred.  In the video she says, “I swear this happened, never happened before, it never happened since."

 She’s quite animated and lively in her descriptions and I get the sense that she thinks this really happened  – that she was being chatted up by dead people during a White House meeting, that the ghost of Susan B. Anthony gave her a high-five in the West Wing.

That’s bizarre, even for Washington.  I prefer my elected representatives to limit their activities on my behalf to the land of the living and when possible, just this side of the supernatural.  After all, as a Virgo, my astrological chart says my main personality trait is rational thinking and analysis.  Who can argue with that?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Gay Dads and Fast Food

During the month of July, I spent a substantial portion of my “dining-out” time (and money) at Chick-Fil-A.  I purposely patronized the business in response to what I perceived as hypocritical intolerance by individuals and groups who purport to uphold the concept of tolerance, but most importantly as a response to attempts at political suppression of free-speech rights against a private company by elected officials in various municipalities.
During that same timeframe, Luci and I also spent a substantial portion of our remodeling budget for the master bedroom at another company, JC Penney.  How is that relevant?  Well, let me share the following with you.  JC Penney is adamantly in favor of gay marriage.  In fact, this ad appeared a couple of months ago in their Father’s Day sale.
It’s an ad featuring a real-life same-sex couple. The ad features Todd Koch and Cooper Smith hugging their two young children. The copy reads, "What makes Dad so cool? He's the swim coach, tent maker, best friend, bike fixer and hug giver -- all rolled into one. Or two."  Similar ads appeared in Mother's Day ads.
Do I think that JC Penney’s management hates evangelical Christians?  Of course not.  Do I think this ad somehow undermines traditional values? In my view, that idea seems ridiculous.  Only a shallow, convoluted, inverted kind of thinking would arrive at that conclusion, the same kind of thinking that would conclude that Chick Fil-A “hates” gays.  I’ve managed to spend a whole lot of money at both Chick Fil-A and JC Penney lately, even though I agree with one and disagree with the other.  Regardless what I believe about gay rights and gay marriage, I believe even more strongly that tolerance and free speech and an honest respect of diverse opinions and social value systems can’t be a one-way-street.