My Naivete is Probably Showing

Here’s the thing.

I’ve read and watched a lot about this rally Glenn Beck had last Saturday, mostly because I’m curious. People are fascinated by Beck (or repulsed by him, take your pick). As with so many figures in public life today, he seems to be incredibly polarizing.

My FIL loves Beck. He watches him religiously. We talked briefly about the “Restoring Honor” rally that took place over the weekend.

“He’s the real deal,” my FIL said.

“But the real deal of what?” I asked. “He’s really a successful TV and radio commentator. He’s good at his job. Beyond that, I don’t know what his motivations are.” And I didn’t say it to be argumentative. Beck, much like conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, has a fanatical following — which is fine. Each to their own and all.

Beck has said himself that he’s in entertainment, not politics. The tenor of the Restoring Honor rally seems to back that up.

The point of the rally seems to be that Glenn Beck wants to bring religion “back” to this country.

Theoretically, I have no problem with this. In practice though, I don’t know 1) that religion needs to be brought back to this country and 2) what that looks like.

Let’s take, for example, prayer in schools, which one of the attendees mentions in this video from the rally. (Some people seem pretty reasonable here, and some scare the poop out of me, but, again, to each his own.)

Okay, so we all decide we want “prayer back in school.” Well, most of us want that. A vocal minority of parents of children in public schools do not want prayer in public schools because they themselves are atheists or agnostics or — I don’t know — Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons (like Glenn Beck!).

Since I like the idea of prayer in school, I have actually elected to send my girls to a private, Catholic school, so they can learn about our religion alongside of computer, science, English, math, and Spanish. I don’t know how we reconcile prayer in public school. I think kids who want to pray or have a Bible club/class should have that option. (I find it hard to believe that kids raised in religious households don’t say some silent prayers before pop quizzes or lunch periods they share with bullies, public school or no.) It’s true, though, that I don’t think prayer should be imposed on anyone. I have distinct memories of the one or two non-Catholic students in my high school being excused from school masses without any fuss on anyone’s part (as far as I knew).

Also, the idea that we have to “get this country back to the principles on which it was founded”? Good in theory, maybe not so much in practice. Our country was founded by landed white men, many of whom owned slaves and didn’t think women should have rights outside of the home, and they were very particular about separating church from state — primarily because they didn’t want the STATE to suppress the practice of RELIGION. Freedom OF religion is what’s in the Constitution, not freedom FROM religion. That’s been quite taken out of context lately — I don’t really know when that started, taking prayer out of public school or the realm of government in general, but this brings me back to the fact that I have the choice to send my children to a school where they are not only free to practice the religion I am raising them in, but encouraged to do so. And beyond that I can vote for whom I choose and practice whatever religion I choose. Those two things are not in any way contingent upon each other.

Finally, America rebelled against England because they protested the idea of “taxation without representation”. Well, for good or ill, we have representation out the wa-hoo now. Every year brings us some type of election or another, from local school boards to state governorships to our national leaders in Congress and the White House.

I don’t know where I’m going with this, I truly don’t. But it’s been making my  head hurt for the better part of two days now, thinking about it. My FIL doesn’t like the direction in which this country is moving, and I read and see a lot of fear about America becoming a “socialist” country, and of course, there are people who STILL think Obama is a Muslim — and they are not just backwater racist people; guys, there is a higher percentage of independent voters who now believe Obama is a Muslim than when he was running in 2008. (He’s not, by the way. Has everyone forgotten the brou-haha over Rev. Jeremiah White?) And don’t get me started on the Islamic center in Manhattan, which will have a mosque in it. Just don’t.

I voted for Barack Obama, and I am not sorry I did. I think he’s doing the best he can with what he has. He’s inherited a mess, and he’s trying to get this country out of it. It’s true that it’s not going so well so far, and on top of he economic crisis he was handed, he’s had an environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico that is siphoning a lot of resources away from his administration. He’s gotten combat troops out of Iraq, and he’s still working on the war in Afghanistan. He knows that al-Queda — not Islam — is the enemy. I still have the highest respect for him because I think he is smart and because I think he wants the best for ALL of America.

People truly believe he and his administration are ruining this country ON PURPOSE. And I don’t get that at all. I don’t understand the Tea Party and Mama Grizzlies, or for that matter, liberals who don’t think Obama’s doing enough. What more do you want him to do? Really? He’s not a super hero; he’s just a really smart guy who’s (again) doing the best with what he’s got.

See? No idea where I’m going. I don’t understand political discourse in this country any more. Or what passes for “discourse”. I don’t know how to fix what’s broken; that is why I vote for the leaders I do. That’s their job. I truly pick the people I think can do the best job. We don’t have a great political system, but we have the best political system in the world. I wish it weren’t two-party because I think that truly limits “we the people” and our voices.

Anyway, I’m going to publish this in all its incoherent glory. If you have something to say, go for it.

18 thoughts on “My Naivete is Probably Showing

  1. I’m right there with you.

    I especially liked, the “Freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion.”

    Our law is founded in a lovely ideal: popular vote. Yet now is practiced in the ugliest arena: popular opinion.

    Campaign fundraising, commercial journalism, and corporate greed have all been resorted to manipulating opinion through the path of least resistance: fear. The language of fear poisons every brain in earshot of a cable news network, barstool, radio advertisement, and most powerpoint presentations.

      • If I listen to a Pirates game in my car at night, I find this on my radio the next morning. All fears are justified.

        I just never know what action an intelligent person can take, to actually do something about all this this problem, without joining their sick game. So while I’m not buying into their scare tactics, I live frozen by another fear.

  2. Right on, RPM. Your thoughts are not as disorganized as you think.

    Interesting to think that you may have experienced a more tolerant atmosphere in a Catholic school than you would find in almost any public sphere today.

    • Thank you. It’s terribly reassuring to know that I am making sense. Sometimes these things get to swirling around in my head, and I don’t know what direction to go in.

      As to your second point: Because of the way the Catholic church is portrayed in the media, I think people forget how tolerant it can be. Let’s take, for example, science. I would never, ever send my children to a school that seriously considered teaching “creationism”. The Catholic church — for its faults — has never jumped on that bandwagon. Indeed, to its credit, Catholic schools and churches see no conflict between the idea of evolution and God’s hand in the world. Also, as someone who was raised Catholic, I was never told that people of other faiths were “bad” or “wrong” or somehow less than I. I know that mileage varies out there, and it always makes me sad when people have a bad experience with the church. But, as it’s a human institution, and humans are flawed, I know it happens.

  3. Okay, here’s the thing. I’m Jewish. So I’m against religion being brought back to the schools — I feel that if you want your child to have a school experience that includes your religion, you should send that child to a school that teaches the curriculum you want them to be exposed to. And that feeling doesn’t end with religion. I deliberately chose this school district before I was married or had kids because they had what I want for my kids. Now that I’ve got kids who attend these schools, I couldn’t be more pleased with my decision.

    When you are a minority of any sort, being left out — even of something like a thirty-second prayer — is painful. Especially during those horrible years when life is painful to begin with. Adding on the pressure of everyone watching you leave a room, not sing a song in music class… it’s hard. It’s horrible. I know people who’ve never gotten over their anger at being excluded and made to feel different. Their anger spills out even now, as adults, and makes it difficult for everyone when the subject of religion comes up.

    All that said, I’m very much IN FAVOR of world religion being taught as part of social studies and/or history. All the major world religions. When we hide our differences (as Jews have done for centuries, fearing (sometimes rightfully) persecution), we deny ourselves and the people around us the opportunity to learn — and to see how similar we all really are.

    So maybe I ought to amend my reaction: if you’re going to reintroduce religion or prayer in public schools, why not make sure the major religions are represented? Do a Christian prayer one morning, a Jewish one the next, a Muslim the next day, and so on and so forth. Instead of making it about ONE religion, make it about them ALL.

    (of course, the people who are terrified their kids will find a different religion through this method will have my head, but that’s okay. If they’d like me to shut up, they should all buy my books so I’m kept busy writing instead of exploring my own feelings on hot-button topics.)

    • Totally agree: “if you want your child to have a school experience that includes your religion, you should send that child to a school that” includes the teaching/practice of your religion. Amen, so to speak. 😉

      I also think that teaching people about religions isn’t at all the same as asking them to participate in a particular religion or a sign that a school or government is advocating a particular religion. Religions are out there, and learning about them as a study of history or social studies would be a good idea. So we’re agreed there as well.

      Here’s my fine line: the people who are angry about “being excluded and made to feel different.” I understand your point in this context, but I think protecting people even children from being different all the time can also set a dangerous precedent. I mean, I was excluded from the soccer team (a voluntary activity, granted), and yes it does make one feel hurt and angry. But all the girls and boys that try out for soccer can’t get on the team. Again, it’s not the same thing as being asked to leave the room because the class is saying a 30 second prayer, not at all. But there are similarities, and that’s why the idea bring back prayer may be nice in theory but it’s a big ole mess in practice. “Protecting the kids” from being excluded is a wonderful idea, but how would that look in practice?

      As for those people who would have your head: they can’t have it both ways. If they say “prayer in school” they don’t get a moratorium of what prayer, not if there are a lot of religions represented at a school. As I say in another comment: “Cake or eat it.”

  4. My favorite hypocritical stance: “I want as little government as possible but I’m also going to be mad because government hasn’t fixed the economy.”
    You can’t have it both ways.

  5. I find things like the Beck rally and the Tea Party movement frightening because of all the people who are blindly following movements that are unclear. Parts of the rally I heard used the word “values” repeatedly, but no one seemed to ask “what specific values are you talking about?”

    Still, although the throngs of often misinformed followers frighten me I can’t take Glenn Beck seriously since I still remember him covering the move of the Cardinals to Phoenix as my morning show DJ in Arizona (with Jessica Hahn!).

    And if you didn’t read this New York Times article you should: Building a Nation of Know-Nothings –

    • Exactly. “Let’s put religion back in schools.” Okay, let’s. How would you like to do that? I know, let’s teach kids about ALL the world religions. There you go, religion is back in schools. (as per Susan’s comment) “Let’s bring prayer back.” Well, now, whose prayer? “Let’s get back to the Constitution.” Do you know what the Constitution says? Really? And the backdrop against which it was written? I don’t mind informed dissent and opinion. The key word being informed.

  6. Although I do agree with most of your post – I have exception to one point – the removal of “combat” troops from Iraq.

    Mr. O is going to Iraq. He has a “combat” job. Even if he is simply “embedded” in an Iraqi unit, as soon as the bullets start flying (which they will) he IS a “combat” Soldier.

    As long as ANY Soldier is over there, they are “combat” Soldiers in my opinion. The United States Military are not “Peace-Keeping” forces.

    Funny enough, his deployment has been pushed back (which doesn’t really upset me!) until some time AFTER the mid-term elections. Funny how that happens.

  7. Good post. We are on opposite sides of the political spectrum, but I think you’ve conveyed your viewpoint pretty eloquently, not incoherently at all. I don’t for a second think O is trying to ruin this country. I’m sure he loves it just as much as I do, but I have vastly different opinion on what should be done to fix things. Also, sorry about your grandma — but for what it’s worth that was a good post too.

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