You are currently browsing the daily archive for October 7, 2009.

I’m just glad that some of the Code Pink activists have the depth to listen to their sister organization in Afghanistan.  I don’t know where I fall in terms of policy in the country, but sometimes life just isn’t simple enough to accommodate an ideologically based absolutist position.  Do progressive activists really want to pull out of the country and leave girls vulnerable to the men throwing acid on their faces for showing up to school to learn how to read?  Do American feminists continue to  argue that the burka in Muslim culture context is actually a symbol of empowerment?  Bear in mind that a large number women in Kandahar, upon arrival of American troops, tossed their burkas into piles on the streets and torched them.  Afghan women, the feminists, are afraid.

Kudos to Medea Benjamin for thinking it over.  And it’s not an easy paradox – reminiscent of the progressive activists during the civil rights era who had mixed feelings about the use of National Guard to enforce integration.  Certainly her intelligence can respond to the cognitive dissonance, integrating the new data into a fresh ideological framework.  Of course, preferable would be the loosening up of dogma and the recognition of nuance and complexity.  Advocating independent thinking however carries a price.  Slogans are harder to write.  You can’t work speeches off a template of “isms” and villains.

Solidarity carries certain responsibilities.  Maybe the peace movement in general can learn to listen a little.  It’s out of practice.

The Fortuna City Council voted to install a plaque which reads “In God We Trust” on a wall in the Council Chambers.  The Council was responding to a push from an organization called “In God We Trust-America, Inc.,” which is pushing for the motto to be installed in city halls around the state.  The organization’s mission is:

“To Promote Patriotism
By Encouraging Elected Officials
To Display Our National Motto,
“In God We Trust”
In Every City Hall in America.”

Over 50 California cities have signed on, most of them in the conservatives areas of the state.  The organization insists it’s all about patriotism and not pushing religion.  As the Times Standard article suggests, there is probably safe harbor against the Establishment Clause for the motto since it’s been on our currency for half a century (during the McCarthy era when we also injected “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance – seen as a weapon  against “atheist communism”).

I’ve long thought the ACLU is counterproductively anal about religious displays on public property, and I don’t think a lawsuit is worth the effort even if it could prevail.  But I’m not convinced that this is about patriotism and cultural heritage as the organization claims.  It comes across to me as more of a “neener, neener” mini-backlash against the perceived secularization of the culture at large – as in sticking it to the (secular humanist) man.

Here’s an old Chronicle article on the founder Jacquie Sullivan who lives in Bakersfield, “the buckle of California’s Bible belt.”

The debate about what is appropriate for public agencies and officials to “express” in religious terms often starts with Jefferson’s “wall of separation letter.”  Liberals often refer to the portion preserved in the original, but omitted by Jefferson in the final draft to avoid offending people like Ms. Sullivan.  Conservatives often argue that we should ignore that part since Jefferson elected to omit it, but the point is that he personally felt it was important for the president to refrain from even minor religious expressions.

Congress thus inhibited from acts respecting religion, and the Executive authorised only to execute their acts, I have refrained from presenting even occasional performances of devotion presented indeed legally where an Executive is the legal head of a national church, but subject here, as religious exercises only to the voluntary regulations and discipline of each respective sect.

The debate will no doubt rage for the duration of our lifetimes, as the Supreme Court rulings are hardly a bastion of guiding consistency on the matter.