Sunday, December 26, 2004


Had a good holiday...I had no idea that I would like cargo pants so much...Got a pair from my dad and thought I'd get the receipt, but then put them on when I got home and found out they kick ass! They're comfy and cool-looking--I never thought so before when I'd see them hanging on the rack...

Conceptual Go-read-it

And of course my father and I had a political discussion. We had to--he mentioned that he was offended by people saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." Now if this isn't the biggest crock of shit to come along and muddy up the issues, I don't know what is.

What shocks and scares me is that someone like my father has fallen for this new conservative campaign. My father is, in a lot of ways, the smartest, most versatile person I know of. He has two master's degrees, a phD in thermodynamics, he's an excellent carpenter, he's done well with animal husbandry, he's a blueberry farmer, he has a master of divinity degree, he's spent time in Europe, Mexico, and Africa, he voted for Carter in 1980, he's for legalizing weed, he is a scientist, and on and on. But he buys into the horseshit spewed by drug addicts and sexual harrassers (Limbaugh and O'Reilly, respectively).

I told him that "Happy Holidays" is inclusive, while "Merry Christmas" is exclusive figuring that would make sense to him seeing as how the Christian thing to do is to include rather than exclude people. Acknowledging the belief systems and religious calendars of other people is not a sin, it's not wrong, it's just polite and friendly.

Oh, anyway, more on that in a minute...But I wanted to say that I was reading the Conceptual Guerilla's latest tirade--"What Do You Do With An Ugly Baby?" He does a really good job of explaining the conservative ideology and how it affects those who adhere to it and how to counteract it. Just wanted to point that out. Here's a sample passage:

You can snare a snake handler with two questions. 1. Is god omniscient -- is he everywhere? 2. Was God present when the serpent tempted Eve? He's trapped. If he says "yes," he's contradicted the account in Genesis, wherein God was absent. Conclusion: The Book of Genesis has at least one fact that is inaccurate. If he says "no," then God isn't omniscient -- contradicting a fundamental tenet of his faith. Now press him with "which one is it -- because you're wrong about one or the other?"

That's a good one, here's another that I liked because it deals with rationality vs. irrationality (which the wingnuts like to use to their advantage):

See how thorny the problems are in dealing with ideologues? You are used to thinking rationally. You may assume that other people think rationally, since you do. You view politics as a rational process, wherein differing ideas are selected on the basis of reason, evidence and common sense. Then you confront a flying monkey, and you don't what to do with him. The rules of rationality don't appear to apply to him. He is outside of your rational system. So you appear to be required to deal with him in terms of simple force -- something distasteful to you, if you are a rational human being.

Just the "Facts"...

And that's kind of what my dad and I discussed. I thought that a way we could get around talking about political issues was to talk about how we (and by extension, our fellow citizens) should talk about politics in the future. By which I mean that my father and I always end up conceding to each other that neither of us have the "facts" to back up what we're saying. That is to say, we know the facts as we see them, but we can't remember a specific book to cite right there off the top of our heads.

So I proposed that maybe we try to establish what we would use as "facts" so that our future discussions might actually be fruitful as opposed to exercises in which of us remembers our partisan screeds more completely. But when I laid out my criteria to him, he was dissatisfied with them and doubted that people such as him and me could ever really get "the facts" if there even are such things in matters of policy.

Of course my response to that was, if there are no objective facts or any objective reality, then nothing is rational and nothing makes any sense and basically anything you propose as a policy is just as good as anything else. And for that matter, why have a government or anything, if you can't ever really determine the facts?

Reason vs. Faith

I think the disagreements between my father and me come down to the age-old battle of reason vs. faith. I would argue that people need both and they are not mutually exclusive--I don't have to suspend my powers of reasoning to have faith in God and neither do I have to abandon faith in God because I think reason, as opposed to faith, should govern relations among men. And I think my father is coming to the conclusion as he ages that faith is all you can really count on. And he may be right in some sense about that. For example, everyone tries to twist "the facts" their way until you don't even know what to believe whereas your faith is your faith--it belongs to you and you don't have to justify it or subject it to the scrutiny of reason, and so in that sense, faith is all you really ever have.

But shit-a-mighty, I think we should all be able to agree that government should be run according to reason rather than faith. And forget George W. Bush--this would be true whether he was president or not. And the reason that reason is preferable is because reason requires proof. If you piss on my boots and tell me it's raining, reason tells me your piss is making me wet, not rain. I therefore know that I can't trust you.

But if I feel like I just have to "just trust our President in every decision that he makes and...just support that...and, um, be faithful in what happens," then I set myself up for being lied to. Because faith requires no proof. If people let faith rather than reason guide them in the non-religious parts of their lives, they'll find themselves being duped and taken advantage of time and again. Because what's to stop someone from taking advantage of your "faith?" Nothing, that's what.

That's exactly the problem with this country--we have too much faith in ourselves. People say, "Oh, America is the greatest country in the world--okay, we torture people from time to time, but still--the world's greatest country." Or "America--greatest country--yes, yes, there are no WMD in Iraq, but this is the greatest country."

Why not look at it like this--there is no greatest country. There are just countries and they all do some good stuff and some bad stuff. And hopefully the citizens of the countries try to keep their governments from doing too much of the bad stuff. But that whole false construction of "greatest country in the world" covers up a multitude of sins in the minds of a whole lot of people and keeps them from demanding that we do anything about our sins...

OK, I'm exhausted...gotta go to bed...

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