Benny's World

Friday, December 24, 2004

All Through the Night

I'm listening to Shawn Colvin's Holiday Songs and Lullabies on CD. The song playing as I type is "All Through the Night".

I was thinking about how this is little Jack Edwards' magic year for Santa. About twenty-something years I ago, my first born niece was Jack's age, four. My brother had a little audio story book by Disney of "A Visit from St. Nicholas", and it had a nice ring (such as you hear on Yahoo IM when you've stepped away from the chat) to indicate to turn the page. An illustrated book came with it to read along.

The fire was blazing away and only the Christmas lights were on as we gathered around in the family room. With each turn of the page, my niece got more excited about Santa coming. She was totally enthralled by the narrator and the visual of the possibility of Rudolph and the other 11 flying by to drop her off a special present. I'm not certain who had more of a challenge to get to sleep, her or my mother.

I'm glad that JRE and EAE are with their children, relaxing, not having to worry about the house on Naval Observatory Dr. It's a night for family and friends. I'm certain Jack and Emma Claire will feel it is a special night. The joy on a child's is only matched by a lonely person in a nursing home when s/he receives a visit from a loved one. Many rely on nursing staff as their extended family.

Merry Xmas to the Edwards' family, but especially to our women and men domestically and in harms way, who are available all through the night, 24 X 7. This includes moderators and admins of my favorite blogs.

Merry Xmas to my friends. I love them and cherish their friendships.

Merry Xmas to my spouse and our 4 legged critters. We love them a lot, and we are here through the night with them.

Blessings and chestnuts for all....and a cookie for Santa, who is also up all through this night.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Moral Values that Resonate

I looked at, a good site for the meanings of "Resonate"

"To evoke a feeling of shared emotion or belief: “It is a demonology [that] seems to resonate among secular and religious voters alike” (Tamar Jacoby).

To correspond closely or harmoniously: “Symbolism matters, especially if the symbols resonate with the larger message” (William Greider). "

Otherwise Borrowed from the JREG site about "Resonate":

Dr. Robin Meyers Oklahoma University Peace Rally November 14, 2004

"As some of you know, I am minister of Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City, an Open and Affirming, Peace and Justice church in northwest Oklahoma City, and professor of Rhetoric at Oklahoma City University. But you would most likely have encountered me on the pages of the Oklahoma Gazette, where I have been a columnist for six years, and hold the record for the most number of angry letters to the editor.

Tonight, I join ranks of those who are angry, because I have watched as the faith I love has been taken over by fundamentalists who claim to speak for Jesus, but whose actions are anything but Christian.

We've heard a lot lately about so-called "moral values" as having swung the election to President Bush. Well, I'm a great believer in moral values, but we need to have a discussion, all over this country, about exactly what constitutes a moral value -- I mean what are we talking about?

Because we don't get to make them up as we go along, especially not if we are people of faith. We have an inherited tradition of what is right and wrong, and moral is as moral does. Let me give you just a few of the reasons why I take issue with those in power who claim moral values are on their side: When you start a war on false pretenses, and then act as if your deceptions are justified because you are doing God's will, and that your critics are either unpatriotic or lacking in faith, there are some of us who have given our lives to teaching and preaching the faith who believe that this is not only not moral, but immoral. --

When you live in a country that has established international rules for waging a just war, build the United Nations on your own soil to enforce them, and then arrogantly break the very rules you set down for the rest of the world, you are doing something immoral.

When you claim that Jesus is the Lord of your life, and yet fail to acknowledge that your policies ignore his essential teaching, or turn them on their head (you know, Sermon on the Mount stuff like that we must never return violence for violence and that those who live by the sword will die by the sword), you are doing something immoral.

When you act as if the lives of Iraqi civilians are not as important as the lives of American soldiers, and refuse to even count them, you are doing something immoral. -- When you find a way to avoid combat in Vietnam, and then question the patriotism of someone who volunteered to fight, and came home a hero, you are doing something immoral.

When you ignore the fundamental teachings of the gospel, which says that the way the strong treat the weak is the ultimate ethical test, by giving tax breaks to the wealthiest among us so the strong will get stronger and the weak will get weaker, you are doing something immoral.

When you wink at the torture of prisoners, and deprive so-called "enemy combatants" of the rules of the Geneva convention, which your own country helped to establish and insists that other countries follow, you are doing something immoral.

When you claim that the world can be divided up into the good guys and the evil doers, slice up your own nation into those who are with you, or with the terrorists -- and then launch a war which enriches your own friends and seizes control of the oil to which we are addicted, instead of helping us to kick the habit, you are doing something immoral.

When you fail to veto a single spending bill, but ask us to pay for a war with no exit strategy and no end in sight, creating an enormous deficit that hangs like a great millstone around the necks of our children, you are doing something immoral.

When you cause most of the rest of the world to hate a country that was once the most loved country in the world, and act like it doesn't matter what others think of us, only what God thinks of you, you have done something immoral.

When you use hatred of homosexuals as a wedge issue to turn out record numbers of evangelical voters, and use the Constitution as a tool of discrimination, you are doing something immoral.

When you favor the death penalty, and yet claim to be a follower of Jesus, who said an eye for an eye was the old way, not the way of the kingdom, you are doing something immoral.

When you dismantle countless environmental laws designed to protect the earth which is God's gift to us all, so that the corporations that bought you and paid for your favors will make higher profits while our children breathe dirty air and live in a toxic world, you have done something immoral. The earth belongs to the Lord, not Halliburton.

When you claim that our God is bigger than their God, and that our killing is righteous, while theirs is evil, we have begun to resemble the enemy we claim to be fighting, and that is immoral. We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us.

When you tell people that you intend to run and govern as a "compassionate conservative," using the word which is the essence of all religious faith-compassion, and then show no compassion for anyone who disagrees with you, and no patience with those who cry to you for help, you are doing something immoral.

When you talk about Jesus constantly, who was a healer of the sick, but do nothing to make sure that anyone who is sick can go to see a doctor, even if she doesn't have a penny in her pocket, you are doing something immoral.

When you put judges on the bench who are racist, and will set women back a hundred years, and when you surround yourself with preachers who say gays ought to be killed, you are doing something immoral. I'm tired of people thinking that because I'm a Christian, I must be a supporter of President Bush, or that because I favor civil rights and gay rights I must not be a person of faith. I'm tired of people saying that I can't support the troops but oppose the war.

I heard that when I was your age, when the Vietnam war was raging. We knew that that war was wrong, and you know that this war is wrong--the only question is how many people are going to die before these make-believe Christians are removed from power? This country is bankrupt. The war is morally bankrupt. The claim of this administration to be Christian is bankrupt. And the only people who can turn things around are people like you--young people who are just beginning to wake up to what is happening to them. It's your country to take back. It's your faith to take back. It's your future to take back. Don't be afraid to speak out. Don't back down when your friends begin to tell you that the cause is righteous and that the flag should be wrapped around the cross, while the rest of us keep our mouths shut.

Real Christians take chances for peace. So do real Jews, and real Muslims, and real Hindus, and real Buddhists--so do all the faith traditions of the world at their heart believe one thing: life is precious. Every human being is precious. Arrogance is the opposite of faith. Greed is the opposite of charity. And believing that one has never made a mistake is the mark of a deluded man, not a man of faith. And war -- war is the greatest failure of the human race -- and thus the greatest failure of faith. There's an old rock and roll song, whose lyrics say it all: War, what is it good for? absolutely nothing. And what is the dream of the prophets? That we should study war no more, that we should beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks. Who would Jesus bomb, indeed? How many wars does it take to know that too many people have died? What if they gave a war and nobody came? Maybe one day we will find out. "

Blessings to you, Reverend Myers on Rte 66, OK...thanks for this speech...

Movies that Resonate

As I blog, my spouse is watching "The Passion" on DVD. He wanted to see it when it was first released, but he knew I would not go see it on a big screen after I had heard it was so gory. Generally I can handle graphic violence on video or tv better, if I find the movie is worth viewing.

I arrived home about an hour ago, and he was watching it. I asked why he didn't wait for me to see it. His reply, "Doesn't matter. Don't bother. It's still too gory for you." When they got the last nails into Christ on the coffin, even my DH gasped (he just said when they flipped over the cross, and the Romans had to ensure the nails would stay in by pounding their backside).

On some blogs, there has been talk about the year of "The Passion." Today's article by Frank Rich in the Arts Section of the NYT also discusses the Year of the Passion.

I don't see the movie as anti-Semitic or particularly overly Catholic either. I see it as more of culture of sacrafice in order to get to heaven and be with God. This could translate to suicide bombers, those who belong to cults (e.g. Jim Jones) or some Christians (such as fundamentalists or those who take Catholicism literally). It seems to resonate with some, while others find it offensive. DH just said (now that it's over) that it resonated with him because he thinks it probably was that awful, and that some folks are that vicious.

He's right in one sense, look at Abu Ghraib. We tortured, but most of all, humilated the prisoners there.

Another thought: if one thinks about it, "Fahrenheit 9/11" had the same effect of resonating with many and offending many equally. I've not stated my opinion on F 9/11 as I've only seen the first half of it on DVD, and I've read Moore made several changes to the DVD version (mainly to correct some errors).

In general, I stay away from strongly pro-Christian movies and muck-raking films, like "Fahrenheit 9/11" or its counter parts on the other political side. Many like them; that's fine. But if the FCC allows "The Passion" to get on national tv without fines as opposed to showing "Saving Private Ryan" or "Schlindler's List" because of the nudity, graphic violence, or language, then we may discover that the FCC is too much on the side of Christian fundamentalists, or perhaps, they may be anti-Semitic. Let's hope that if graphic violence on tv is abhorred, then the FCC (and we) should be fair to all films or documentaries.

Even Holiday Shopping Has Gotten Political

Some Put Money Where Their Politics Are
By Jeffrey Marcus
Special to The Washington PostSunday, December 19, 2004;

Raven Brooks is making his Christmas list, but he is less concerned with what to buy than where to shop.

Brooks is one of a small group of frustrated Democrats who met while commiserating online after President Bush defeated Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.). Disenchanted and desperate for a voice, they started The two-week-old Web site lists the political contributions of major companies to encourage people to shop at stores and buy products from businesses that supported Democratic candidates.

To read the rest, click here. It's from the Washington Post( registration req'd but free).

The point of the story is that even web sites that claim to know which stores are "blue" conflict with each other about which stores are "red" or "blue".

Jay Dix of Slate found an interesting piece in the LA Times recently whereby the "Red" shoppers reports that in North Carolina and elsewhere, conservative Christians are putting their money where their mouths are, launching campaigns to boycott stores that greet shoppers with "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." "It is apartheid in reverse—the majority is being bullied by the minority," says the pastor who organized the boycott. "If they want the gold, frankincense and myrrh, they should acknowledge the birth of the child." One store owner was glad to be given permission to say "Merry Christmas" again. "Christians are out of the closet," he said.

Blogged Down

This post is borrowed from the Washington Post. The op-ed is by Michael Kinsley, former editor of Slate (practically a blog for its time), and now editorial editor of the LAT. He takes an opposite view from the WSJ editor who admits to be a blogophobe that I posted a couple of weeks ago.

If you're going to peddle opinions for a living, self-assurance is essential. If you don't have it, you need to bluff. People don't want to read a lot of "Oh dear, this is so terribly complicated, I just can't make up my poor little mind . . . ." Many's the pundit who has retired on full disability after developing a tragic tendency to see both sides of the issue.

Rarely, though, does even the most self-assured commentator on public affairs (i.e., George Will) inflate certainty to the level of a mathematical proof. It's happened to me only once, on the subject (unfortunately) of Social Security privatization. Not, perhaps, the most glamorous topic on which to waste the gift of certitude. But, to borrow philosophically from our secretary of defense, you make do with the epiphany you have, not with the epiphany you might wish or want to have.

I won't bore you with my mathematical proof that Social Security privatization can't work. Not quite true: I will bore you with it, but not until next week. Right now I have something more exciting to bore you with.

Like you, I'm sure, I try to be a good sport about the inexplicable fact that other people sometimes disagree with me. What other choice is there? The nonsense that other people think is often amazing and always disappointing -- but at this late date it's not really surprising, is it? And other people are disappointing in so many ways. What's one more? For all I know, you yourself may even disagree with me about this or that, and I may disagree with you about the other. It's everywhere.

And other people are so stubborn! Possibly unlike you, I actually get paid to try to convince people that I am right and they are wrong, and thank goodness I'm not paid on the basis of results. It's almost enough to make you consider the possibility that other people are right and you are wrong. Merely considering this possibility is therapeutic, if you don't make a habit of it.
But when you're sure of something to a mathematical certainty, everything changes. It becomes supremely irritating that other people continue to debate the issue as if there were some doubt. It is enraging that some people even act as if certainty belonged to the other side. This general failure to acknowledge that the issue is settled and the argument over is even more irritating when you have explained it all in columns and editorials over the years. Nor does it help when the president himself passes up every opportunity to accept your airtight logic, as Bush did in pushing partial privatization yet again at his White House economic conference this past week. The gentle explanation that the president may be unfamiliar with you and your logic is, oddly, not comforting.

That conference was the last straw. Last week, to vent my frustration, I sent an e-mail to some economists and privatizing buffs saying, look, either show me my mistake or drop this issue. Refute me or salute me. Disprove it or move it. Or words to that effect.

As an afterthought, I sent copies to a couple of blogs (kausfiles.comand What happened next was unnerving.

A few days later, most of the big shots hadn't replied. But overnight I had dozens of responses from the blogosphere. They're still pouring in. And that's just direct e-mail to me. Within hours, there were discussions going on in a dozen blogs, all hyperlinking to one another like rabbits.

Just so I don't sound too naive: I am familiar with the blog phenomenon, and I worked at a Web site for eight years. Some of my best friends are bloggers. Still, it's different when you purposely drop an idea into this bubbling cauldron and watch the reaction. What floored me was not just the volume and speed of the feedback but its seriousness and sophistication. Sure, there were some simpletons and some name-calling nasties echoing rote-learned propaganda. But we get those in letters to the editor. What we don't get, nearly as much, is smart and sincere intellectual engagement -- mostly from people who are not intellectuals by profes- sion -- with obscure and tedious, but important, issues.

Why the difference? Length, for one. I'll be hard-put, next week, even to summarize my own argument, let alone discuss those of others, in the space available to a columnist. Letters get even less space, if they are published at all. Certainty that what you write will get posted is surely another factor. It's nice to know you're not wasting your time. Ease is important, too. You can send your views electronically to a blog in less time than it takes to find a stamp, let alone type a letter.

Most interesting, though, is how the Web enables people who are scattered physically around the globe, who share an interest in a topic as naturally uninteresting as the economic theory behind Social Security privatization, to find one another and enjoy a gabfest. Webheads like to call this phenomenon "community." I used to think that was a little grand and a little misleading. Populist electronic conversation mechanisms like blogs and Web bulletin boards are more about the opportunity to talk than about the opportunity to listen. But that may be true of physical communities as well.