Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Good Idea. Probably.

It's hardly the first notice I've seen--try watching the Weather Channel for three minutes without seeing it announced--but today's e-mail update from My Fair City got me to thinking about Earth Hour this coming Saturday. The announcement, in part:
    On Saturday, March 28, 2009, at 8:30 p.m., the City of Sioux Falls and some Sioux Falls businesses will be taking part in Earth Hour, sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund. We’ll be joining tens of millions of concerned citizens and corporations worldwide in calling for action to save our planet for future generations.

    To participate, simply turn off the lights in your home or business from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 28. This is an opportunity to slow down, use candlelight, and make a statement about the fight against climate change.
Well, yeah. In principle, I agree. I try to be green, or at least greenish. I'm replacing incandescent bulbs with CF bulbs as they burn out. (Doesn't seem "green" to me to send working bulbs to the landfill prematurely.) I turn off the lights when I leave the room. We turn down the thermostat at night and when we leave the house. We recycle, and compost, and try with limited success to gang up our errands in an effort to burn less gasoline. But to turn off the lights on a Saturday night from 8:30 to 9:30. I dunno. Too bad it's not the following Saturday. We won't be home. Indeed, the lights will be turned off from 8:30 till much later than 9:30, I'm afraid. And I'm not wild about the city's offhanded tone. "Simply turn off the lights in your home or business." Really? Is that all? And how many city offices will be open at 8:30 on Saturday night? A few, sure--the police and fire departments, the water-treatment plant, stuff like that--but it's a pretty safe guess to say that most of them will already be closed and dark, so it's a little declasse to suggest we "simply" turn off the lights for an hour. Ditto businesses. I daresay that the ones that are closed on a Saturday night will happily (and simply!) turn off the lights. And I likewise daresay that the ones that are open will not care to turn off the lights for an hour, no matter how much that helps Planet Earth or shoplifters. After a couple of paragraphs' worth of background about Earth Hour, and the promise that this year's hour will be bigger than ever, the city flings this bit of oddness at me:
    We all have a vote, and every single vote counts. Together, we can take control of the future of our planet for future generations.
I have nothing to quibble about there...except what the hell are they talking about? We all have a vote? What are we voting on? Am I supposed to gather the family together for an Australian ballot to see if we can get a majority to support shutting off the lights? We're a family of four, so the possibility of a deadlock is quite real. I went back and reread the silly thing, there's nothing in there about voting. It's as if some other message elbowed its way into this one. Well, probably come 8:30 Saturday we'll turn off some of the lights, maybe even most of them. perhaps the one or two we leave on will be CF bulbs. It's not necessarily a bad idea. It's just that I think it would work better if we all agreed to turn off the lights between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Most Despised Minority in America?

I happened upon an interesting blog post by Jonathan Lockwood Huie a little while back, "The Most Despised Minority in America." It's an intriguing thought, no? As Huie leads off,
    This is America, and we aren't supposed to hate anyone because they are a minority, are we? Actually, we have been getting better lately with regard to many minorities - but not all. Electing Barack Obama President of our United States is evidence that being black has become a respectable distinction for a significant majority of Americans. 8% of the Members of Congress are Black compared with 13% of the population - getting closer. Having one woman as a vice-presidential candidate and another as a serious presidential contender affirms that being a woman is also considered acceptable, even though only 16% of Congress is female.
He continues in that vein. Hispanics? Five percent of Congress representing 15% of the population, he says. "Being Jewish has actually become distinguished," Huie writes, "as 7% of Congress represents the 1% of the population who are Jewish. A Gallup Poll reports that only 4% of Americans have a negative view of Jews compared with 23% who have a negative view of Evangelical Christians."

What about gay people? Despite their position being "grim," Huie indicates that things may be looking up somewhat.

So then who is the most despised group in America?

Huie theorizes that it might well be
    Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, and the others who comprise the group unfortunately termed "non-believers." While "non-believer," in this case, refers to a "non-belief" in a super-human deity, it, like other negative terms, automatically carries a stigma, as would "non-white," "non-male," or "non-Christian."
As indicated above, interesting. If Huie is right--and so far I can think of no evidence to refute him--it seems only to reinforce that which I perceive so often, viz., we cannot stand the thought of someone who doesn't believe as we believe, who doesn't carry the same convictions we carry, who doesn't profess or witness or worship in the same way.

There is irony, in a country that so many citizens insist is a "Christian nation" in the notion that those who disagree, or who question, or doubt--those who will admit to such a thing--must be silenced if they can't be persuaded. Why irony? Because Christianity itself was once such a contrarian, unacceptable notion.

How soon we forget!

Make that "Certain" Catholics!

There are today any number of news items and blog posts that all follow this line, from Alison Go's "The Paper Trail" at
Go writes:
    Barack Obama will give commencement speeches at the U.S. Naval Academy, Arizona State, and the University of Notre Dame this year. The Naval Academy has received the news with, and Arizona State actually moved its ceremony to accommodate the president.

    But when the president isn't sticking it to a certain Naval Academy graduate and Arizona senator, he's riling the Catholic community at Notre Dame. Critics say that Obama's honorary degree is an affront to the school's Catholic teachings, citing the president's stances on abortion, gay rights, and embryonic stem cell research. Groups like the Cardinal Newman Society and the Pro-Life Action League have encouraged all Catholics to flood the university with phone calls and to sign online petitions (which have tens of thousands of signatures already).

And so on. Read it all here.

In posting Go's item to, I had to add this comment:
    I would prefer it had she said "extremist Catholics" or "wacky-doodle wild-eye right-wing Catholics," for clearly not ALL Catholics are dismayed by this possibility, but so it goes. Meanwhile, as a Catholic and an alum of another Catholic university, I plan to drop a note of support to the president of Notre Dame.
Whence comes this absurd notion that we must listen only and forever to those with whom we agree on every subject?

And where do we find such people?

And how do we grow in our own opinions, beliefs, faith, etc., if we fear to test their weight against those of others?

And what does it say about our opinions, beliefs, faith, etc., if we fear to test them?

What does it say about ourselves?

What does it say about our attitude toward higher education when thousands of noisy people insist that the University of Notre Dame invite to its commencement only people who will parrot the party line--as understood and espoused by the noisy thousands, for they are always certain of their rightness in any matter (just ask them)--and who offer nothing that might challenge their preconceptions or shake what must be their very wobbly "convictions"?

What does it say about our attitude toward America and American democracy that such people would insult the leader of the free world because he holds some opinions that are contrary to our own?

What does it say about the bottomless hypocrisy of right-wing fanatics that they will spew and froth about an invitation extended by Notre Dame to the President of the United States, ostensibly because he is pro-choice, when they were notably silent on the subject when another Catholic institution, Boston College, heard from then-Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice...who also is pro-choice? (See Andrew Sullivan's post, "The Double Standards Of Theocons," in today's Daily Dish.)

Well, it says there's a lot of two-facedness, a lot of silliness, a lot of headline grabbing (I know: I'm not helping), and not a whole lot of Christianity obvious in the anti-choice movement.

To his credit, the president of Notre Dame, Father John Jenkins, has yet to capitulate to the noisy, frothing ones. According to an item in The Observer Online:
    University President Fr. John Jenkins responded to criticism regarding the announcement of President Barack Obama as the 2009 Commencement speaker by clearly making a distinction between honoring the president and supporting his political views.

    Jenkins made it clear in an interview with The Observer Sunday the University does not "foresee circumstances" that would cause Notre Dame to rescind the president's invitation.

    "We have invited the president and he's honored us by accepting," he said.

The article further says:
    "We are not ignoring the critical issue of the protection of life. On the contrary, we invited him because we care so much about those issues, and we hope for this to be the basis of an engagement with him," Jenkins said.

    "You cannot change the world if you shun the people you want to persuade, and if you cannot persuade them show respect for them and listen to them," he said.

Quite a far cry from the wild-eyed crowd, whose red-faced response to contrary opinions seems always to damn, to decry, and to shun.

Especially if those opinions are held by a member of the Democratic Party. President of the United States or not.

I like Sullivan's conclusion to the nonsense:
    Seriously who do these people think they're persuading any more?