McCain: Off the Rails

In an amazing rally today, the McCain campaign showed that it was running off the rails completely. At one point he began to tell his audience something, and then decided, "Never mind." At a pivotal moment, he called for Michael - I mean "Joe the Plumber", to come on stage, and then learned that Joe wasn't actually at the rally. And then, in the middle of his speech, he said something that sounds a bit like, "abrgjik". I kid you not. Listen to the speech. I replayed it a few times, because it sounded so very odd. It sounded like suddenly, he was speaking the language of an outer space alien. Which frankly, raises far too many truly frightening scenarios for me to contemplate.

And yet, for all of these rhetorical errors, that was not the most glaring nor revolting mistake of the speech. In McCain's bid to try to make American tax law, McCain's past policies, and Obama all sound socialist, McCain is now bringing up an old radio interview of Obama's, where Obama also used the R-word- redistribution. But here's where McCain has entered truly dangerous waters.

In this interview, Obama very clearly is speaking of the legacy of slavery. He speaks of how the civil rights movement lead to freedom for blacks, and the right to vote, but didn't redistribute income- and this still remains to be done. He speaks of mistakes the founding fathers made- as everyone acknowledges who has any understanding of the ammendment process in the US constitution. This is of course particularly true with ammendments like the 14th.

I recognize that some conservatives feel that everything is now right with the world, between races, and in regards to civil rights. I suspect- I hope- that those conservatives are a minority even among conservatives. Most recognize that one of the horrible legacies of slavery has been lingering racism and a continued relegation of the majority of blacks to the lower economic classes. Beyond that, there is the slightly more controversial proposal of compensation for slavery. After all, not only was there the broken promise of "40 acers and a mule", but all the wealth in terms of human productivity that was stolen from African lands, and stolen from the Africans themselves, made into slaves. To date there has been no true payment to those defrauded by the American government and American people. But the proposal is not so controversial that is has not been considered by the American Congress at times.

Some combination of these issues is what Obama was obviously referring to in his radio interview. From the context, I suspect that it was more of the former- establishing economic parity between the races in America, to remove the blemish and stain of slavery that shackles us all- rather than the more touchy issue of compensation. He was trying to seek a more just society, and make up for the wrongs that America has perpetrated on her citizens of colour.

And this...this is what McCain was referring to today in his speech, when he said that Obama was being socialist.

Before McCain denigrates calls for racial equality, it might be helpful for him to remember the immortal words of Frederick Douglass.
No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck.


Palin/McCain Anti-Semitism

Have you heard? Yes- they went even further. A blatant, public display of the anti-Semitism of the Palin/McCain campaign.

Today, they started speaking of Obama's close association with Professor Rashid Khalidi. Now, in this case, unlike with William Ayers, he actually has a relationship- Rashid and Barack are friends. Rashid's not an advisor for Barack, but rather a fellow parent at Obama's school. And Dr. Khalidi is not only a professor of Arab studies, but has the prestigious Edward Said chair at Columbia. (Dr. Said was perhaps the world's foremost historian of Middle Eastern studies.)

Now Palin is accusing Dr. Khalidi of being a spokesman for the PLO, which she calls a terrorist organization. Therefore, according to Palin and McCain, Obama is, they think, again fraternizing with terrorists. So let's go over the facts, shall we?

The PLO is not a terrorist organization. It is an organization fighting to liberate the Palestinian people. It has at times turned to violence, and in the distant past, was terrorist. It has renounced those activities. I know that hard-line Zionists will disagree with this, but this blog post isn't written for them. The PLO now runs the Palestinian government, and Israel deals with them. The PLO was also dealt with directly by Presidents Clinton and Bush I. Governor Palin, do you also accuse President Clinton, President Bush, and Israel of fraternizing with terrorists? (Yes, I know you salivate for the first, but do you honestly go all the way?) And surely the governor knows that the designation of the PLO as a terrorist organization by George II is very controversial, and many, many foreign policy experts consider the designation incorrect? Well, actually, perhaps she's not aware of that.

But, some will say, the PLO was once a terrorist organization, and once terrorist, always terrorist. Have you ever heard of the Irgun Gang? It was an extreme Zionist organization, which used exceptionally violent means to form the State of Israel back in the 40's, including bombings and murder of civilians. The terrorist designation was done by Britain, which at time controlled the Palestinian Mandate. Nearly every Prime Minister and President of Israel was at one time associated with this gang. But perhaps Palin still considers them all terrorists as well? Or perhaps she feels that sometimes governments make mistakes in designating freedom fighting groups as terrorists?

Oh, and lest I forget- Dr. Khalidi has never been a spokesman for the PLO, or the Palestinian government. He does speak of the right for Palestinians to be free, and that attacks by Israel on Palestinian civilians are a violation of international law. He has said that Israel has occupied the Palestinian territories. He has spoken against Zionist groups who seek to silence free speech and debate on these issues. All positions that most of the world accepts- accept for some in Israel and America. All legitimate viewpoints, that reasonable people can disagree on, including Barack Obama.

I understand that Sarah Palin and her running mate might not agree with Dr. Khalidi. But they seem to have taken a page from George II, where, if anyone doesn't agree with them, they are a terrorist. This is nothing short of academic oppression. Palin and McCain don't want anyone speaking out against the practices of Israel. But more than that, they seek to silence them, just like the Zionist groups that Dr. Khalidi speaks against. They not only don't agree, they not only don't want to hear the opposing viewpoints- they seek to label the opposing viewpoints as "terrorist", so that the worst appellation in modern America is applied, and the other no longer has a voice. And since President Carter has also pointed out flaws in the Israeli government, even to the point of calling their system apartheid, because, as Carter says, you tell a friend when they are going wrong, one would have to assume that Palin would also consider President Carter a terrorist.

Let us be clear. Palin and McCain again seek to go negative and attack Obama. This time they seek to attack Obama by saying he is a friend of someone who has supported Palestinian state and human rights. They seek to call this man a terrorist and falsely claim he spoke for the PLO, and then they seek to claim the PLO is terrorist. They do this because they believe that anyone who speaks against injustice in Israel and Palestine, anyone who speaks for the Palestinians, is wrong, is colluding with terrorists, and should be silenced. It is not just that you must support the rights of Jews and Israelis (certainly something should all support), but for Palin and McCain, the rights of the Palestinians should be limited.

My friends, there is a name for this. It is anti-Palestinian. It is anti-Arab. And since Palestinians are Arab, and Arabs are Semites, it is also Anti-Semitic. Probably not any worse than being racist, but it's good to call a spade a spade.

Vote Palin-McCain. The Anti-Semitic Ticket.


McCain's Pro-War Stance

I've noticed something at McCain and Palin's rallies. They almost always not only thank the veterans, but ask all veterans to stand up so they can be applauded. McCain and Palin repeatedly speak of the "real" Americans- those who've sacrificed and fought in wars for their country. Their motto is "Country First".

And something disturbing has emerged. Obama at one point was much more anti-war than he is now. Now he seems to be more against only the Iraq War. But he is on record of repeatedly rejecting war, and coming out against it, advocating it only when necessary. Most previous American generals and military leaders have a similar viewpoint. Eisenhower warned of the dangers of the military-industrial complex. Most military leaders might believe that war is necessary, but it should always, always be avoided, because "war is hell".

Yet, I have not heard a similar viewpoint from McCain. I could be wrong. But I can't recall him at any time speaking against the horrors of war, and how we should avoid it at all costs, because it is so evil. He and Palin speak so glowingly of the veterans at his their respective rallies, I begin to wonder what place pacifists like myself would have in a McCain America. Though Obama believes war is necessary, I definitely get the feeling that he respects the values of pacifists and is willing to listen to them. With McCain, I get the feeling that he would consider me un-American and a traitor, and his America would be better off without me in it. Is there a time that he has come out in support of nonviolent action? Is there a time when he has spoken out against war itself?

I think it might go back to McCain's experiences in the war. Most of that experience was as a POW, being tortured. And understandably, and laudably, he was against the US torture policy (until recently). But he was fighting in that war for only a few months. He was not leading people in wartime, nor fighting face to face. His experience in war was dropping bombs on faceless targets, crashing planes, and being imprisoned. It may be that, unlike other great military men, he has not had the first-hand experience to recognize how awful war is, and how often we must work to avoid it at all costs.

The McCain/Palin motto is "Country First". It never seemed so shocking until I saw it on a Christian friend's car. As Christians, we are called to place Kingdom First, far before the country. I know it's the McCain motto, and this friend is for McCain, but there is still something deeply disconcerting about seeing this espoused by someone following Christ. When we put Country First, we fight wars, because there are times when we have to kill to defend the country's land, honor, freedom, or wealth. When we put Kingdom First, we resist not evil, but turn the other cheek, saying that I will love my enemies, even to the point of giving up my right to be right and my right to property, so that I might pursue real shalom and peace. Certainly neither candidate fully understands this. But the impression is undeniable that McCain's reluctance to speak about his commitment to Christ is paralleled by his reluctance to speak against strife and war itself.


How Low Can McCain Go?

Let us review. McCain and Palin create a climate conducive to fear and hate-mongering, suggesting that Obama is tied to terrorists, and receive a groundswell of hate speech and shouts from their supporters in reference to Obama, including, "Terrorist!", "Kill him!", and "Off with his head!" A veteran and sufferer of the Civil Rights Movement, John Lewis, points out that this is very similar to his experiences with George Wallace's campaign, where a climate of racism and hatred were encouraged. McCain's campaign then complains, not about the racism of their supporters, but about Wallace's comments. Wallace states that he went too far, and does not think Palin and McCain are racist, but rather that their action or inaction have encouraged a very frightening climate of racism at their rallies. Obama agrees, saying he felt Wallace went too far. Later, McCain finally says something briefly at an Obama rally, saying he is not Arab, but rather a "good, family man", which evidently is mutually exclusive with being Arab. McCain then calls on Obama to denounce Congressman Lewis', though Obama already said he thought Lewis went too far, and McCain was saying racism was being brought in the campaign by those pointing out the racism in McCain's supporters.

It can't get any worse, right? You can't expect the McCain campaign to go further into the mud and vile filth of the gutter, right? Never fear, the McCain campaign will not fail to disappoint.

Today, we find out that, because a supporter of Obama has pointed out the racism of some McCain supporters and the climate of fear encouraged by the McCain campaign rhetoric, the McCain campaign now feels that they are now justified in bringing up Reverend Jeremiah Wright again. Yes, that Wright- the one McCain said he'd never bring up. Until he was way down in the polls, and realized the only way he could win was to continue his anti-maverick streak of embracing racism and all the dirty politics that Karl Rove and George Bush previously used against him. Yes, that Wright, who Hillary Clinton had previously brought up in her own racist attacks, pointing out his errors because he was deep in the black preaching tradition.

Do not doubt. Reverend Wright preached nothing new, nothing different from what you find in black churches throughout America, and have heard for 150 years. Awareness of the black preaching tradition would make that clear, but sadly, few whites have the benefits of this experience. So Hillary just had to bring up some quotes out of context, to use them to attack Obama. And now, McCain, smacking his lips in the uncomfortablness of deceit and the joy of denigration, has apparently decided that, because his racism encouragement was called out, he is now justifed in turning to further racist attacks.

So again I ask, Mr. McCain, how low can you go?


Preying Prayers

I don't use this word lightly. This pastor really was stupid. But he's not someone to make fun of, because the hate-mongering he used to prep the crowd for McCain is terrifying indeed.

Earlier today, before McCain arrived at the rally, a pastor gave an opening prayer, astounding in it's mixture of religion and politics, lack of basic understanding of other faiths, lack of basic understanding of Christian theology, and level of hate.

The pastor, Arnold Conrad, "prayed":

There are millions of people around this world praying to their god — whether it’s Hindu, Buddha, Allah — that his [McCain’s] opponent wins, for a variety of reasons
Well, actually, Hindu is a person who follows Hinduism. It's not the name of a god. Buddha is not a god, except in folk Buddhism practices where he's elevated to that level. Allah is the Arabic word for "God". Arab Christians use this word when they pray. You know, something like our use of the word "god" which we took from the head of the Germanic pagan pantheon so we'd have a word in English.

Don't get me wrong. I believe there is a place for saying, "My god is different from your god." If I'm looking to nuances in theology, I can say at some point that my God as a Quaker is different from the God of a Baptist. He's still the same God, of course, but because we perceive him in different ways, in very nuanced different ways, he is different. While acknowledging this difference, I in no way question the salvation of the other, and I affirm that our two Gods are, in truth, the same entity. But a Christian who focuses more on the wrath of God will have a slightly different God than I do, for we all create God in our own image.

As to "they" praying that Obama wins- well, there are some good reasons they are praying that Obama wins. Part of that would be that they don't want to be bombed anymore. There's also good reasons that they are praying to different gods than the Muslim-Judeo-Christian God- namely, because they don't believe in that god, so it would be difficult for them to knowingly pray to him.

And what if the non-Christians do pray for "the other guy"? Since when did that mean God wouldn't listen to them? If they are more in line with the values of the Kingdom than the so-called followers of Jesus, why wouldn't Jesus listen to their prayers instead? Or do we have a God so foolish that he says, "I know you guys aren't praying for what I want to happen. But since you claim my name, I'm going to subvert my entire process and the future of the planet, just because you signed up on a dotted line."? God hears all prayers. He cares about the Kingdom, and not just the Church. And he offers the Grace to extend a listening ear and answering hand, even while we were yet sinners.

Then Pastor Congrad goes on to pray:

And Lord, I pray that you would guard your own reputation because they’re going to think that their god is bigger than you if that happens. So I pray that you will step forward and honor your own name in all that happens between now and Election Day.
Talk about your shock and awe. Now this pastor is trying to create a dichotomy between peoples. He's a divider, not a uniter. That's not the Spirit of Jesus Christ. He's preying on the fears of The Other that have risen in America since 9/11. If the rest of the world likes Obama, well, he must be bad, just as John McCain said. This will certainly not enhance America's reputation in the world.

I'm not a big fan of pretending to pray when you're actually preaching. Contrary to his written comments to CNN, this was in no way a heart-felt prayer. This was preaching (to the converted). This was pretending that you're having a conversation with the Almighty, when really you're trying to sway other humans in the room. It is an insult to God to do this, to pretend, to act in one way. It is hypocrisy. Which makes me wonder, where were the people listening to this prayer and willing to stand up and yell out, "Blasphemy!"? The Age of Martyrs it appears is long past. We no longer have Christians in the U.S. willing to stand up for Christ and speak Truth.

For what kind of God is it that needs us to defend his honor? Rest assured, his reputation will in no way be besmiched if Obama wins, or even if McCain wins. God's reputation will be intact. Pastor Conrad's God seems to be the one of Star Trek V: Search for God. It is arguably the worst Star Trek movie ever made, but it has its moments. Principle among these is the end, wherein they find God, and he is happy, for he can use their starship to finally return to his children throughout the galaxy. In one of the most memorable lines ever uttered in Trek lore, Captain Kirk says, "Excuse me. Excuse me. I have a question. What does God need with a starship? Really. I want to know. What does God need with a starship?"

The answer, of course, is that God, if he truly is God, doesn't need a starship in the slightest. His plans will go forward, with or without us. The theologically correct answer is that he allows us to participate in his plans, for he knows we will experience greater delight by doing so, and that is what we were created for- to experience Joy in him.

Pastor Conrad, God's reputation won't be hurt by who wins the Presidency. Do you know what will hurt God's reputation? Prayers like this. And only because people will get confused, thinking that God and his followers happen to be on the same page. Pastor Conrad, I think you may be right. My God is not the same as your god.


President Palin? (No, the other one.)

Today, in the ongoing Troopergate investigation, it was revealed that Governor Palin's husband, Todd, repeatedly tried to get government officials to fire his former brother-in-law. The problem is, Governor Palin didn't know a thing about this.

I'm fine with a spouse being involved in governing with the governing spouse. I thought it was very cool that Hillary was so involved in President Clinton's government. But there was no doubt who was in charge- the one elected President. I'm glad if Todd is involved with Palin's work. But it raises other rather disturbing issues.

The Religious Right is far more comfortable with Todd being involved with Sarah than they were with Hillary being involved with Bill. This is just blatant sexism. There is this belief that it's just fine if the man who wasn't elected is involved with government, but not if the woman who wasn't elected. Remember all the screams of rage that the Religious Right had at the thought of a woman (Hillary) having actually work to do when Bill was President.

This also raises the question of how well Sarah Palin governs. Todd is involved- great. But Todd is involved, and Sarah doesn't know what Todd is doing?!? That is the clear testimony he gave today. (I'm assuming he's not lying.) That means that her husband is going around doing things in government, and the Governor has no knowledge of it! Let us leave aside the question of what kind of marriage this is. What kind of Governor is this? How can we trust her to be Vice-President if she has that weak of understanding and control as Governor?

But it gets far worse than this. For, if McCain were elected, we all know there is a great chance that he would die in office, of old age. If we elected McCain, we are also almost assuredly electing a President Palin. And many are disturbed with this notion, because we have no idea who the real Palin is- we've known her for five weeks, with few interviews or opportunities to get to know her. But now, it would appear that precedent would suggest that a Vice-President or President Sarah Palin would also involve substantial work by a First Gentleman Todd. And his behind-the-scenes work would evidently be rather unknown by a President Sarah Palin.

If she's going to be elected, and if she might be President, and he will be working in government without the knowledge of the sitting President, we, the public, have a right to know about this guy we wouldn't be electing but would be running the nation. Which brings us to a rather urgent question. Who is Todd Palin? And when do we start vetting him?


'Eid al Fitur?

Today is one of the high holy days of Islam, 'Eid al Fitur. After thirty days of fasting from food and drink, Muslims around the world celebrate with three days of feasting. But you wouldn't know it if you were in the U.S. government.

I have no problem with Congress taking the day off for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. Well, that's not true. I have a great deal of difficulty with Congress stopping what it's doing in the middle of an economic crisis, just to celebrate a holiday. I don't care if it's Christmas or Easter- if it's an emergency, you keep on working.

But let's bypass all that. Let's say that Congress is doing its job when it doesn't do what we sent it to do, but takes extra vacations. Why, pray tell, was there no mention of the rather major holiday that a minority of Congress celebrates? Today was 'Eid al Fitur, the second most important holiday in the Islamic calendar, the equivalent of Easter if you're Western, or Christmas if you're of the Orthodox Church. Sure, only two congressmen are Muslim, as opposed to over thirty who are Jewish. But since we're obviously not looking at percentage of members in the holidays that Congress chooses to honor, why in the world did they ignore a major holiday celebrated by over a billion people around the world? Perhaps because they only pay attention to the percentages of their constituents. Understood. The most recent demographics for the U.S. put the number of Muslims as the second largest religion in the U.S., ahead of the Mormons and the Jews. Some disagree with these figures, and say that the number of Muslims is only the same as the number of Jews. Which leads me back to the question.

What prevented Congress from stating that they were taking a holiday to honor not only Rosh Hashana, but also 'Eid al Fitur, which happened this time to fall on the same two days? What message were they hoping to send by this glaring omission?