The Paper Washed in the Blood of My Handy Red Pen

We would rather be ruined than changed,

We would rather die in our dread

Than climb the cross of the moment

And let our illusions die.

                        — W.H. Auden

I graded a paper tonight written by a self-proclaimed Christian student whose essay declared her fear about Barack Obama’s presidency.  Apparently, the main reason he frightens her is because he wants to bring peace to Palestine and Israel.   I had to wonder — do Christians no longer believe in peace?  Has peace become something that we should be afraid of?

This student’s paper went on to berate and belittle “those people” (Muslims) and explains how “we Americans” are right not to trust them.  She also perpetuated the lie, which I thought was long ago put to rest, that Barack Obama is a Muslim.  President Obama has declared his Christian faith about 200 times more than he should have needed to.  Is it now Christian to call someone a liar?  More importantly, have we crossed a de facto line into having a religious litmus test for holding public office?

I had to fight the urge to write in huge red letters on the last page “This paper is racist drivel and right-wing propaganda!”   But, my professorial authority stops just shy of ad hominem attacks.   Instead I simply pointed out the flawed premises upon which she had based her argument and then used all kinds of big words to explain her small grade.

My response to her paper, however,  did not remain completely limited to a critique of her style, tone, and mechanics.  I pointed out that I had been an American long before she was, and she certainly did not speak for me when she used such generalizations as “we Americans.”  Nor did I believe she was accurately representing the approximate 7,000,000 Muslim Americans who had an equal claim to the title of Citizen.

I recount this here especially for those of you who do not live in the general vicinity of Red Jesusland from whence I hail.  You might find it alarming and even mildly shocking to discover that this way of thinking is not only present, but bountiful here in the South.

When did ignorance become a tenet of faith?  When did “us versus them” become the standard for those who supposedly follow the dude who ate and talked with “them” every chance he got?  When did a religion of love become so dependent on having a group to demonize?  (And I know this is true, because I’m a member of one of those groups.)

I was raised in Christianity, but left it years ago.   Now I realize that’s not altogether true.  It did quite a bit of leaving too.

I Hope They Have CNN in Heaven

I have been contemplating for days now just how I would achieve some semblance of balance once this election is over.  This blog was intended to be far more high-minded than a daily discussion of mere politics.  But I believe that everything has a bearing on the spiritual journey.  Our evolution doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  I assumed that my 12-step program for this political addiction would begin on Wednesday (with step one, a belief in a Higher Office).

And then Toot died.

I heard it this afternoon right as the news broke on MSNBC.  Barack Obama’s ailing grandmother had passed away in Hawaii.  I thought about what a difficult day this must be for him, but I also thought about my own grandmother who passed away 22 years ago.  Sometimes I still talk to her, especially on a starry night when I have a lot on my mind.  I certainly still feel her energy and remember her spirit.  How intensely must Toot’s presence be felt in Senator Obama’s private moments on this night.

It seemed impossible to surpass the profound symbolism of Obama’s Democratic National Convention speech taking place on the 45th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Yet, this feels bigger somehow.  The people who raise children, be they parents or grandparents or other loving adults, pour more than money and time and expectation into them; they imbue them with their own spiritual stuff, strength of character, and internal compass.

It seems immensely sad that Madelyn Dunham did not live to hear a news anchor say, “We can now safely declare that Senator Barack Obama of Illinois will be the 44th President of the United States of America.”  But, perhaps Toot just wanted to make sure she had the best seat in the house for this show tomorrow.

And on starry nights when there is much on his mind, I feel certain that Barack Obama will feel her all around him and seek her counsel once again.

Joe the Plumber Wins American Idol

On the campaign trail on Friday, John McCain introduced Joe the Plumber as “an American hero” and “my idol.”  Oh, where do I begin?

First, what has this guy possibly done to warrant “American hero” status?  Perhaps over the course of his life he has rescued a cat from a tree or coached a Little League team or bought Girl Scout cookies.  He might have even done truly brave and heroic things that we don’t know about, though I doubt it; I’m sure the GOP would have dredged up that bit of information and played the soundbite over and over again, ad nauseum, perhaps with Hank Williams, Jr., singing yet another poorly rewritten version of “Family Tradition” as the background music.  Joe the Plumber might just be a decent fellow, but lying about a fake company he’s going to purchase doesn’t exactly qualify him for a Congressional Medal of Honor.  (Oh, how many tangents could I go on here?  The who-ever-thought-putting-Hank-the-Neanderthal-Williams-Jr-on-stage-at-rallies-would-improve-the-Republican-image tangent?  Or perhaps the why-do-so-many-white-men-who-make-$40,000-a-year-vote-like-they’re-CEOs tangent?  But I digress. . . )

The worst part of this particular piece of McCain Campaign hyperbole is that while we have tens of thousands of true American heros risking their lives in a Middle Eastern Vietnam, our great senatorial war hero is giving similar status to an unlicensed plumber.   Mothers of soldiers all over this country should be put off by that.  (Including Sarah Palin and Cindy McCain.)

And “my idol“?  Forgive me, but, are you shitting me?  Now Joe has been elevated above the legions of service men and women, firefighters, police officers, and Good Samaritans.  Apparently, he has joined the ranks of Mother Teresa, Gandhi and, in McCain’s personally acknowledged pantheon, Ronald Reagan.  (Pardon me while I recover from the fact that I just put Mother Teresa, Gandhi and Ronald Reagan in the same group.)   At this rate, Joe needs more than just a publicist and a record deal; he needs disciples.

While Barack Obama campaigns with Bill Clinton and Al Gore and receives the endorsements of Colin Powell and a whole slew of Republican defectors, John McCain is laying the groundwork for Joe the Plumber: American Hero as the next Lifetime movie of the week.  And McCain wants to question Obama’s associations?

I’ll write more later.  Right now I’m late for a meeting with my publicist.

Warm Regards,

Deb the English Teacher