Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The truth of the matter

Back in November, my mother ran for tax collector of Clay Township as an unopposed write-in, and naturally she got the position. Despite her support of free choice. What does a tax collector have to do with women's rights? Nothing, of course. But while my mom stood outside the township building and talked to voters, a man apparently approached her and asked her if she was pro-life. My mother's surprisingly level-headed response was that she herself could never live with getting an abortion, but she felt there were situations in which the procedure was acceptable. The man considered this, then went inside to vote; on his way back out to his car, he stopped with my mother again, informing her that he did not vote for her, because she supports the murder of innocents. As tax collector.

But it didn't matter because my mother, the baby-killer, won anyway with an overwhelming majority of votes (seriously, like eighty-four or something), and so last week she had to go to the Lancaster County Courthouse and be sworn in as a civil servant. My dad went with her, and at her swearing in ceremony, he was appalled. Why? Because she was given the option to swear on a Bible. The option. Meaning she was not compelled to, she could have sworn on anything, or on nothing.

My father was incredulous. What could just plain swearing achieve? If you didn't swear on a Bible, then what was the point? That made it so you had to tell the truth. Apparently. Or what? Be struck by a lightning bolt and sucked straight down into Hell? It was a sign of where our country is headed, he told me, shaking his head. And I agreed; we are growing more and more diverse and less and less superstitious with every generation. What would the point of me, as an atheist, swearing on a Bible? If I'm not going to tell the truth on my own, putting my hand on a book that I don't put an ounce of faith into isn't really going to influence me to do any better. What about a Muslim or a Jew or a Zoroastrian? They might as well swear on a ham sandwich, I said, for as much good as it would do to swear on a Bible. To which my mother's friend who was over responded that an adherent to the Jewish faith probably wouldn't go for the ham sandwich thing. Touché.

I've never really understood the whole swearing on the Bible thing anyway. Especially for people who are being accused of murder or embezzlement or just about anything that involves dishonesty, hate or violence to have done in the first place. As if they'll have a moment of clarity when they see the book; it sends a shock up through their arm to remind them that the Ol' Surveillance Camera in the Sky has, indeed, got its red light on. If you need to touch the Bible to make you tell the truth, you've got some bigger issues at hand to deal with first. Because you are a sociopath. And you probably shouldn't be on the stand for anything.

As for me, if I ever need to take any kind of oath, I think I'll bring my own book for the ceremony. You can have your Bible or your Qur'an, but the only thing that is going to make me be a little more truthful is Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle. What book would you swear on? Let's make this interactive.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Why do horrible things happen to good people?

In an effort to waste no time whatsoever in becoming the most insensitive fucking person in the world about the massive earthquake that leveled much of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, infamous hate-mongering televangelist, Pat Robertson, has spoken up. Who is to blame for this horrible tragedy? Well, the Haitian people, of course. But not because they're harboring homosexuals (they're not) or because they are filthy heathens (they're Catholic, close enough), two things that Pat has been quite outspoken about his God's distaste for in the past. No, you see, to understand the reason God is punishing the tiny island nation of Haiti, you have to have a bit of a history lesson. Stick with me here, I promise it pays off.

The island of Hispanola, the narrow landmass that makes up Haiti and the Dominican Republic was once populated by the Arawak Indians, a culture probably most famous for being enslaved by famed world explorer, Christopher Columbus in the late 1400s. In the centuries that followed, the island became a stopping place in the international slave trade and was eventually divided into the basic regions that we see today, amongst the French (Haiti) and Spanish (Dominican Republic) military forces that occupied it. However, there were still some indigenous Haitians hanging around (how troublesome!) and in late 1700s, they started to revolt against the French for independence. The fighting would not cease for over a century, and the French military, led under the control of Napoleon Bonaparte, and on the ground by his brother-in-law, General Charles Leclerc, eventually fell to the rebel forces of the slave rebellion.

A pretty amazing story, not? A handful of slaves revolt against one of the most powerful militaries in the world and come out with the upper hand, emancipation, and liberation. Really a story of hope, that the downtrodden can fight back their oppressors and find freedom and liberty of their own. Inspirational, really. How could have such a rebellion succeeded? It's almost like they'd have needed a divine hand to assist them.

Well, I don't believe that, because hate and vitriol and fighting for one's life can do quite a bit for your morale--but Robertson certainly does believe it. But not how you'd expect. See, the Haitians got a divine bit of help... FROM THE DEVIL! That's right! They made a pact with the Devil, and that is how they defeated tens of thousands of French slave-traders and military men! And that, of course, is why now, three hundred years later, God decided he was pretty sick of the nation of Haiti just being poverty-stricken, illiterate, and constantly harassed by missionaries--it was time to take it up a notch and toss them a big ol' earthquake to show them he really means it. It's not God's style to just forget all about a Satanic pact to defeat the French and gain political and civil independence. Not Robertson's God anyway.

But why listen to me, a silver-tongued liberal who is twisting around the words of such a good man to make him sound horrible? Let's let Robertson do his own talking:

"True story." I couldn't have said it better, Pat. Thank you for answering my question, of why such terrible things could happen to a country of people who already are living in absolute squalor. I'm glad your God has a plan and that he sticks to it. It's an admirable trait. But I have one other question to pose to you, Reverend Robertson. Or maybe it's more of a request: Why can't horrible fucking things happen to you?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The price of kindness

Working at a local television station that does a live news broadcast twice a night, I hear a little bit about what's going on around me every once in a while. Usually a week or two late, because it's a very small, under-funded television station--but when I'm not engrossed in catching up on Lost or reading a book or just trying to entertain myself in any way other than actually watching the news in front of me... sometimes I watch the news.

Such was the case this evening, and again during the replay, and again during the late broadcast, and again during that replay, and with every reiteration of one particular story, I found myself getting angrier and angrier. A few months ago, Akron Borough, a small town adjoining my hometown of Ephrata to the southwest, was in talks to build a Christian-based drug and alcohol rehabilitation center within its jurisdiction. If you've ever read my blog before, or worse yet, met me in real life, you'll know how I feel about attaching that "Christian" word to such a venture, but all things considered, I was pretty excited that Akron was going to have a chance to build a center to help so many people. You might think a cute little town like mine would be immune to the problems of drug and alcohol addiction, because that's exactly what cute little towns like mine would love to have you believe. However, in the Nineties we had quite a heroin epidemic on our hands. So much so that our cute little town of just around 20,000 inhabitants had a clean needles program.

No matter who was to run it, this rehab center would no doubt provide a much appreciated positive influence on my town and surrounding communities--and an even better influence on the people it would inevitably help. So of course, the residents of Akron jumped at the opportunity to help out their fellow man, even threw in money to help bet the center funded and built... right?

Of course not! In fact, the organization that was working on the center has now pulled out in disgust, because the residents of Akron completely shot the whole project down. They refused to have such a thing built in their neighborhood because of: decreased property values. That's right, sons of liberty, the goodwill of mankind and the chance to help out some people sorely in need has been commandeered, yet again, by the Almighty Goddamn Dollar. Not even by money itself, but by the very idea of it. We can't have dirty drug addicts coming into our town making it "unsafe" while they work out their troubles and maybe Find Jesus to boot! Think of what that'll do to the resale value of our townhouses! Putting in that above-ground pool out back won't have done a thing!

It saddens me. I'm hardly even angry, really. I'm just so frustrated that this kind thing, when our greed overrides our empathy (if we even have any of that left at this point). It's the same thing that put a boot to the throat of our health care reform. You've heard that bill was going to get passed, right? Not in its original form--but not with a public option, not even with an early Medicare buy-in like they talked about when the bill was sounding its swan song. Let alone what should have been in the bill and wasn't, like what Congressman Kucinich included in his H.R. 676 which I really can't even say was swept under the rug when it didn't even make it to the floor. We care more about what's going on in our bank accounts and our wallets than what is going on in the bodies of our neighbors and friends. And much more than we do about the people we don't even know. They're not our problem. They'll figure something out, they just have to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. They're just lazy and if they want health insurance they'll figure out a way to get it--and if not, we'll fine them for it. No seriously, we will. Somehow, that made it into the Senate health care bill.

Money > People. Learn it, live it, love it.