pages

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas

At one point I was intending to write this entire ridiculously ambitious essay about the true meaning of Christmas and stuff like that.

I was going to integrate history and cultural significance and commentary on the state of PC crap and pap.

I grant you this. We celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, to be redundent in the titles. We celebrate the birth of our Savior in Betheleham and we know that it is His sacrifice whic set us free.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and may God bless you all.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

The Disconnect Between Hollywood and America

from Imprimis July 2002

Pat Sajak


Pat Sajak was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1946 and attended Columbia College. Hired at his first job in broadcasting in 1967, he left college in 1968 to volunteer for the Army and was posted to Vietnam, where he served as a morning disc jockey on Armed Forces Radio. Following his discharge, Mr. Sajak's broadcasting career brought him to television station KNBC in Los Angeles, where he performed weather duties and hosted a weekend talk show. Wheel of Fortune creator Merv Griffin hired him to host the then-daytime game show in 1981, adding the syndicated evening version in 1983. Since then, the program has been the most watched show of any kind in syndication. Mr. Sajak's honors and awards include three Emmys, a People's Choice Award, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In addition to his broadcasting career, he owns a radio station in Annapolis, Maryland, a television production company (in association with Sony Pictures), a music publishing company and a record label. He has performed readings with, and guest-conducted for, the Dallas, Pacific and Florida Symphony Orchestras, and serves on the boards of the Claremont Institute and the American Cinema Foundation.

The following is abridged from a speech delivered at Hillsdale's All-College Spring Convocation, held at the College Baptist Church, on April 4, 2002.

Here in this quiet, peaceful corner of Michigan, you might not have a sense of your importance in the world. I come from a community that has the opposite problem. Because it is so big and so powerful, so great and so well-known, it has an exaggerated view of its significance. That community is Hollywood. Not Hollywood, the town. Not much Show Business actually goes on there. Most of the studios are spread around other Southern California communities, like Culver City or Burbank. But I mean Hollywood, the Entertainment Mecca -- which includes parts of Southern California and New York City, and, because news has become entertainment, some of Washington, D.C., as well.

While I work in Hollywood, I live elsewhere. My family and I live in a quiet suburb of Annapolis, Maryland. The kids go to school there. They live near their grandparents -- my in-laws -- and most of my neighbors care very little about overnight ratings, box office grosses and sweeps weeks. We don't hate L.A. In fact, we like it, and we spend a great deal of time there. But I happen to have a job that allows me a great deal of flexibility, and that gives me the luxury of living a real life in addition to my fake one.

You see, one of the dangers of my business is that it has the potential to fill you with a distorted view of life and of your importance in it. And it's understandable in a way. If you are part of a successful enterprise, people treat you very well. They send limos for you. They tiptoe around you. They pretend that the most outlandish or inane things you might say are important and quotable. Drugs? Adultery? Alcoholism? Deviant behavior? Don't worry. You go on Oprah-you cry-people call you heroic for being so open-and your career soars to new heights.

You're treated importantly, so you must be important. Suddenly your views are not just your own private opinions; they become part of the public record. They quote you on Entertainment Tonight and in People magazine. You can endorse a candidate, fight for a cause, call people names -- it's pretty heady stuff. The world waits breathlessly for your next pronouncement.

Rosie O'Donnell -- a daytime talk show host -- goes public with her sexual preference, and she is lauded as brave. What exactly is brave about that? First of all, who cares? And what's brave about getting the chance to be interviewed by ABC and landing on magazine covers? I characterize it as bravery-as-a-career-move.

I don't mean to pick on Ms. O'Donnell, but it's just another example of the self-importance that Show Business can bestow on you -- the idea that your sexual preference matters to anyone other than your immediate family and your partner, or partners, seems rather silly to me.

Speaking of silly, Alec Baldwin, an actor, recently compared the election of George W. Bush to the terrorist attacks of last September. This is the same Baldwin brother who promised to leave the country if Bush were elected. Sadly, he reneged on that one. Baldwin also went on Conan O'Brien's late-night show during the Clinton impeachment to say that Illinois Republican Congressman Henry Hyde should be shot -- along with his family.

Do remarks like that get you chastised in Hollywood? Ostracized? Marginalized? No, it's Alec Baldwin. He's an actor. He's in Show Business. He's important.

The silliness and outrageousness that emanates from Hollywood comes from non-performers as well. Ted Turner once mocked his employees who had ashes on their foreheads for Ash Wednesday as "Jesus Freaks." Mr. Turner, a self-proclaimed protector of human rights, apparently has his limits.

Filmmaker Rob Reiner -- a cofounder of Castle Rock Entertainment -- is reportedly upset by what he sees in many films these days, and he plans to do something about it. In fact, he's so upset about this thing, anyone who wants to depict it in a Castle Rock film must meet with Reiner first in order to justify its inclusion.

So what's got Rob so upset? Gratuitous violence? Casual sex? Disrespect toward Christianity? Bias against Big Business? Is that what he wants to cut down or eliminate? No, of course not. That would be censorship. He wants to get rid of smoking. There's too much smoking in movies.

To quote Mr. Reiner, "Movies are basically advertising cigarettes to kids." No knock on Rob. In fact, I agree with him. But why is smoking open to censorship and not these other issues? And what happened to Hollywood's argument that movies and TV shows don't cause bad behavior, they just reflect it? Or is it merely a health issue? But surely, health is involved when it comes to violence and casual sex. The answer is, there is no answer. It's just Hollywood being Hollywood. It's monumental hypocrisy. Kids can't pick up bad habits from what they watch... oh, except for smoking.

You see, if you complain about what you see as excesses on the screen, you are a book-burning prude who wants to tell everyone else how to live. You are a censor. You have no right. That is a right saved for the wise. They know better. They are important.

It's the same kind of nonsense that brings celebrities to "Save the Earth" benefits in eight-mile-per-gallon limos. Or that allows them to make a public service announcement urging recycling -- filmed at their 20,000 square foot homes. They can lecture to you and you should listen, even if they don't, because... well, because they're celebrities. They're from Hollywood, for goodness sake-and you live in Michigan!

I could go on with a laundry list of silly and hypocritical things said and done by some of my fellow Show Business luminaries, but the point here is not to make them look silly. They're perfectly capable of doing that without my help. The larger point is the disconnect between the realities of this nation and its people, and the perceived realities of many in the entertainment community.
I don't mean to sound too harsh -- or hypocritical. After all, I seem perfectly happy to have cashed my checks for the more than 30 years I've been in television. And I'm not exactly working on the Dead Sea Scrolls. I do make a living by selling vowels and spinning a giant multicolored wheel! So who am I to be pointing fingers? Well, I'm just someone who wants to feel prouder than he does -- as proud as he once was -- about what goes on in his industry. And that's why I spend only part of my time around it. I need to step back occasionally. I think it does help me see the world more clearly.

And that's the irony of it all. Whether it is from my home in Maryland or from your classroom here in Hillsdale, you -- in a very real way -- are more aware of what this nation and this world are about than the supposedly well-connected and in-tune people who inhabit our media culture.

Former CBS News-man Bernard Goldberg has written a best- selling book called Bias, in which he maintains that the real problem with the media is not a bias based on liberal vs. conservative or Republican vs. Democrat. It is a bias based on the sameness of worldview caused by social, intellectual, educational and professional inbreeding. These are folks who travel in the same circles, go to the same parties, talk to the same people, compare their ideas to people with the same ideas, and develop a standard view on issues that makes any deviation from them seem somehow marginal, or even weird.

They think they have diversity in their midst because they take pains to hire a representative mix of gender and race. But there is no diversity of thought. On the great social issues of our time, there is an alarmingly monolithic view held by what has become known as the "media elite." You can bet that the New York Times is careful about how many women it hires, but you can also bet that it is not very careful that these women hold diverse views on issues they'll be writing about, such as the environment, gun control or abortion. My guess is that a pro-life view within the walls of the Times is a pretty rare one. And the same holds true on the entertainment side. It is just assumed that "right thinking people" hold certain views. If you don't... well there's the problem. How can you portray people fairly in film or on TV if you think their attitudes are so foreign?

How can you write about people fairly if they seem so out of touch with what you are used to in your everyday life? That might help explain why religion is rarely depicted as a natural part of life in the average sitcom or drama series, despite the fact that tens of millions of Americans say that it is important to them.

At a dinner party in Los Angeles recently, our hostess was about to say some grudgingly kind words about President Bush and the way he was handling the War on Terror. She prefaced her remarks by saying, "Now I know everyone at this table voted for Al Gore, but ..." Well, she knew no such thing. She just presumed it. It's what "right-thinking" people did. This "false reality" is a phenomenon that permeates media circles.

It's the phenomenon that caused Pauline Kael, former film critic for The New Yorker, to remark after Richard Nixon's election sweep in 1972, "I can't believe it! I don't know a single person who voted for him." This was a man who won in 49 out of 50 states, and she didn't know one person who voted for him. And I don't think she was dealing in hyperbole. She simply had never met those people. She couldn't believe they really existed.

It's the phenomenon that allows the media to "rediscover" patriotism and heroism in the wake of September 11, when those of you in Hillsdale, and millions of others in St. Louis, Cleveland, Salem, Phoenix, Cheyenne, and a thousand other cities and small towns, know that those traits never went away.

It's the phenomenon that explains Hollywood's disdain for Big Business. You read about it in the newsmagazines and see it in the movies. Big Business is bad. The people who run these businesses are heartless, often criminal, brutes. There is no regard for the little guy. Thousands are laid off while the greedy business executives reap windfall profits. Never mind that some of the biggest and least-competitive businesses are in entertainment. They merge, they lay off thousands, while stock options accrue to the top executives. Top talent at networks and in movies get tens -- even hundreds -- of millions while so many of their co-workers, the little people they care so much about, lose their jobs. They simply don't see the contradiction. They are above it.

And, perhaps worst of all, it's the phenomenon that allows movie studios and television networks to program with an utter disregard for your kids and your communities. It's not that they're evil people. They have kids and they care about them. But they see no connection between what they do and the results of what they do. And, besides, you're not really families and communities. You're ratings, demographics and sales.

You see, they are -- for the most part -- clueless. Clueless about this country and its people. Clueless about you. And they are afraid. They are afraid of the new technologies-afraid of the dwindling numbers of viewers or readers or listeners... afraid for their very existence. So, don't you see, they have to do what it takes to survive. They must survive. They are important. Who do you people out here -- the ones they fly over on their way to the other Coast for meetings -- who do you think you are?

Well, you are this country. You are its future. And I think that's a very good thing to be. The world can look mighty dark and forbidding at times. But how exciting to be in a position to help change all that. And you're at the center of it. The center is not Los Angeles or New York. The power is not in Hollywood or Washington. The power is here.
Oh, you may end up in one of those other locations, but look what you will bring with you. This place. Its ideals. Its strengths. Its traditions. You will have spent these formative years in a setting where ideas can be discussed and treated with respect. Where the great traditions of this nation and its cultural heritage have been passed on to you... and, through you, will be passed on to countless others.

No matter how you eventually make your living or where you live your life, your time here at Hillsdale helps assure that you will have a positive impact on your generation. That strikes me as an excellent start on your legacy.

I will take a small part of Hillsdale with me when I leave. I envy the big part that each of you will carry throughout your lives. This resource -- this power -- is reality. Not the media's version of it. And you possess it. Use it wisely. Thank you.

Reprinted by permission from IMPRIMIS, the national speech digest of Hillsdale College (www.hillsdale.edu).

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Getting the College Experience That They Paid for...

Two students attending Wells College are suing the institution because when they applied it was a women's college, and the school is starting to accept men.
The students seek preliminary and permanent injunctions to stop the school, founded in 1868 as a woman's liberal arts college, from admitting men before fall 2008. The suit also seeks undetermined punitive damages and "any other such further relief as the court deems just and proper."
The freshmen will graduate in 2008. One of the claims is that after the decision was made to convert the school from a single-sex college to a coed one, the place was still being marketed by its recruiters as a women's school.
"We're asking for very limited relief," Carmen said. "We just want the women who applied to, and were accepted by, a woman's college to be able to graduate from a women's college."

If that is actually what they were sold and what they (thought to have and were led to thought to have) paid for, then they are certainly in the right to sue for this cause and in this instance; I'd root for them.

Blogs For Bush/GopBloggers Blog Roll

Monday, December 06, 2004

Virtual Space Time Machine

Superior Diversity

Believe it or not, but the Bush Presidential Administration actually is more culturally and ethnically and racially diverse than NPR, that bastion of liberal progress.

What's that say?

I brought this from Instapundit and was pointed to that from the Corner. Glenn Reynolds summarized a Time interview and press release. NPR has a stronger percentage of white guys and stuff. Which sounds more stereotypically Republican?

The stereotypes are not altogether correct here; and the representation of minorities isn't always a priority for the Left, unless we wish to pretend that the NPR is a format for the political Right in this country.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Linking to PVP with Style Can Be Difficult

Scott Kurtz has taken down the link from the PvP homepage to his icon and banner page, filled with graphics that he suggested we use when linking to his comic strip. Fortunately the page still exists, and memory of the URL led to it here.

Not only can we link to PvP, but it's possible to do it with style.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Lexus is ripping off SNL

A year or so ago (perhaps even a few years) Saturday Night Live's opening commercial-sketch, the first one after the monologue as always, was a rip on the Lexus company and/or their Christmas advertisements.

The typical Lexus advertisement during the Christmas season, which has started I do not know how long ago, has a generous soul leading a loved one outside, usually a wife or an offspring, blindfolded or eyes covered until there's a great reveal: an automobile complete with giant red ribbon on top, tied all around. The red ribbon is of course freakishly large and is something ridiculous to find on an automotive vehicle even on that day or season. In real life the item in question is so unusual that a person finding that on the new car would ask, within the first minute where the heck did the bow come from. I can assume, personally, that the recipients ask that in the next minute after the commercial would end; I never have and I don't care.

The SNL skit was one of their first-skit-after-monologue psuedo-commercials, as I mentioned before, and it progressed logically. Automotive vehicles as presents may not be too much of a shock in an affluent household, but a giant red bow on top is quite odd; I would also be shocked if my rent-a-car was driven up to my home wrapped in brown paper (as Enterprise used to advertise, I recall). The SNL skit, accordingly, had the woman's first reaction being a question regarding the bow and its origins.

This year the Lexus commmercial has the family step into the living room to find the Lexus SUV with the red bow on top... the wife asks where the bow came from and never marvels at the gift itself. Lexus does it further than ever before because the vehicle is in the living room. It's cute how the son wonders how the car got there and looks up the chimney just to insure the presence of Christmas magic of some sort. The second Lexus commercial is set in a ribbon-in-a-bow factory on the red ribbon line as production suddenly turns from small ribbons to the large type. From normal to freak is a fast transition. It's different; it's mildly entertaining and it answers the original SNL question... and they asked the question themselves to insure continuity and not to confuse people.

This takes everything full circle. The parody is addressed, answered, recongized, then ignored, used, and duplicated. Saturday Night Live may have been plaguarized, or even acknowledged behind the scenes; it does at least mean that humor makes a difference. I'm waiting for (and fearing) the Martha Stewart Topless Christmas Special once she's released from prison.

Life goes on. If Lexus wasn't theming their commercials during the Christmas season and tying in their bow idea every year then it wouldn't be right. I expect that like I expect the Pink Panther to sell insulation and Snoopy to sell insurance. For it to be otherwise would be unnatural.

Comment-Update:
John (12.75.254.221)
Haven't seen the SNL reference, but I was trying to figure out who the target is for the Lexus in the Living Room spots (they spend *lots* of research dollars before producing/airing such a thing).

Must be high-earner husbands with idiot trophy wives - who else could relate? Certainly not an intelligent wife, trophy or otherwise.

The ad is quite insulting to women (as well as the middle class and poor, really).

What an achievement!
Tuesday, December 28, 2004, 11:27:34 PM

PETA versus Jews

What else can I say? The group of quasi-militant vegetarian wack-jobs "that in an advertising campaign once compared the slaughtering of chickens to the murder of Holocaust victims, is taking aim at one of the world's largest kosher meat processors." Basically following Jewish ritual practice in slaughtering kosher meat is still enough to incur the wrath of the "animals are people too" club, simply because it's meat involved.

Comments-Update:

David Fiore (69.208.240.121)
what is your point? does ritual killing make it "okay" in your book? or do you just not care about animal rights? which brings me back to--what's your point?

you just wanted to use the word "whack-jobs" didn't ya? and you didn't feel it would be right to apply the term to any of the pro-lifers you do agree with... so instead we get more reactionary whacking off from you... terrific!

Dave
Tuesday, November 30, 2004, 4:48:06 AM
David Fiore (69.208.240.121)
what is your point? does ritual killing make it "okay" in your book? or do you just not care about animal rights? which brings me back to--what's your point?

you just wanted to use the word "whack-jobs" didn't ya? and you didn't feel it would be right to apply the term to any of the pro-lifers you do agree with... so instead we get more reactionary whacking off from you... terrific!

Dave
Tuesday, November 30, 2004, 4:48:06 AM
Chris Arndt (35.12.18.180)
I used the term wack-jobs because they're the sort that strip naked, paint themselves orange and striped and sit in cages to protest the circus.

They're wack jobs because regardless of whether or not an animal has rights they'd put an animal on a pedestal equal with human beings.

What I just ate thirty minutes ago establishes my attitude towards animals.
Tuesday, November 30, 2004, 7:27:22 PM

Libertarian4Truth (146.145.44.10)
Let PETA and the Rabbi's alone do what they want. They both have the right to do so. Rabbi's can still butcher just like humans have been doing for many many many moons. If you are a PETA member, the answer is simple, don't eat meat.
Sunday, December 05, 2004, 5:28:42 PM

Chris Arndt (35.12.26.144)
PETA members can't do that. That's a thing for normal vegetarians.

To live and let die (sorry, couldn't help myself) isn't enough for PETA; there's a cause involved.
Sunday, December 05, 2004, 6:38:11 PM

David Fiore (69.208.240.121)
exactly
Sunday, December 05, 2004, 10:14:09 PM
Chris Arndt (35.12.18.178)
Exactly what?
Monday, December 06, 2004, 2:25:26 AM

David Fiore (69.208.240.121)
there's a cause involved.

a moral cause.

a question of ethics

can you understand that?

Dave
Wednesday, December 08, 2004, 10:19:26 AM


Arndt (35.8.191.208)
Are we talking in broad generalities?

Or are we really talking about PETA?

I'm not defending totalitarian governments as opposed to nation-wide economic depression, are you defending PETA in place of what?
Thursday, December 16, 2004, 3:40:41 PM

Monday, November 29, 2004

Evenly Baked

To get a full tan one either goes starkers, or he goes hi-tech!

One questions whether a specialized photochromatic material really makes it worth forgoing nudity.

Radical Islam in America

from May Imprimis 2004

Stephen Schwartz


Stephen Schwartz is a journalist who has published articles in the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Weekly Standard, the New York Post and the Toronto Globe and Mail. He is also the author of the best selling book The Two Faces of Islam: Saudi Fundamentalism and Its Role in Terrorism (Anchor, 2003).

The following is adapted from a speech delivered on February 25, 2004, at a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar in Naples, Florida.

When the horror of September 11 happened, Americans experienced a great deal of confusion and heard a great deal of speculation about the motives for anti-American terrorism. It was natural for most of us to assume that we were attacked because of who we are: because we are wealthy, because we are a dominant power in the world and because we represent ideas that are in conflict with the ideas of radical Islam. Many also assumed – wrongly I think – that it had mostly to do with the Middle East and Israel. But almost immediately a very interesting fact emerged: of the 19 suicide terrorists on September 11, 15 were subjects of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Why is this important? It is important because these were not poor people from refugee camps on the West Bank or in Gaza. These were not people who had grown up feeling some grievance against Israel and the United States because they lived in difficult conditions. These were not people from the crowded and disrupted communities of Egypt or Pakistan, or people who had experienced anti-Islamic violence in the last 20 years and had therefore turned against the United States. These people had grown up in the country that Americans often think of as our most solid and dependable ally in the Arab world – the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Thus the question arose: Why would Saudis be involved in this?

Related questions followed: What does it mean that Osama Bin Laden is a Saudi? And that so many members of Al-Qaeda are Saudis? Why is it that Al-Qaeda is essentially a Saudi political movement? And that 25 percent of those detained in Guantanamo are Saudis? Why is it that a country the U.S. had favored, to which the U.S. had delivered an enormous amount of wealth through the purchase of oil – a country that the U.S. had protected militarily, and whose young people have been educated in America for many years – why was Saudi Arabia, of all countries, so connected to the attacks of September 11?

Osama Bin Laden and Saudi Arabia

Many in the United States bought into Osama Bin Laden’s propaganda when he claimed to be outraged that American troops were stationed on the “holy soil” of Saudi Arabia. In fact, American troops were never stationed on Saudi “holy soil,” because Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, and Dhahran, the area where most U.S. troops were stationed, are not Islamic holy sites. The only holy places in Saudi Arabia, from the Muslim perspective, are Mecca and Medina – and there were never American troops in either of those cities. The only time foreign troops were sent to Mecca or Medina was in 1979, when a group of Muslim radicals took over the Grand Mosque in Mecca and the Saudi government sent in French paratroops to kill them.

We are accustomed to hearing that Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda look on the Saudi royal family as just as much an enemy as the U.S., and that they want to overthrow it. But the truth, as I first pointed out in the Weekly Standard about a month after September 11, is that Osama Bin Laden has never called for the overthrow of the Saudi royal family. What he calls for is a change in their policies. That is, he calls for what he would consider a more Islamic policy. The fact is – based on my contacts and interviews with Saudi subjects both inside and outside the kingdom – Osama is essentially a product of the Saudi regime, and in particular of the hardliners in the regime. And so the message of Osama Bin Laden on September 11 was also a message from those Saudi hardliners, and the message was aimed at their audiences.

First, it was a message to the United States saying, “Don’t ask Saudi Arabia to change, because if we change, this is what you’ll get – instead of us, Osama.”

Second, it was a message to the people of Saudi Arabia – a fundamentally rational people. Many Saudis are on the Internet. Many have satellite dishes. And they are surrounded by a crescent of normalizing countries: Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the Emirates, Oman, Yemen – countries that certainly are not as progressive and prosperous as Florida, but that are on their way toward becoming normal modern countries. And yet Saudis live in a country – to cite but one of several examples of stifling backwardness – where women are not allowed to drive. So Saudi society is a society demanding change. And the second message of September 11 was to the Saudi people in response to their yearning: “Don’t try to make changes because we radical Islamists still have enormous power, and it is a destructive power.”

Third, the same message was intended for Muslims all around the world: “Don’t challenge our control over global Islam.”

Wahhabism in the U.S.

The ideology of Saudi hardliners is, unfortunately, of great relevance even inside the United States. One doctrine of Islam dominates in Saudi Arabia: It is called Wahhabism. Wahhabism is the most extreme, the most violent, the most separatist, the most expansionistic form of Islam that exists. It’s a form of Islam that not only lashes out at the West, but that seeks to take over and impose a rigid conformity on the whole Muslim world.

What then of America? Islam was new in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s. Then, because of changes in the immigration laws, the American Muslim community suddenly became much larger. Most Muslims who came to the United States were not Arabs. The plurality have been people from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. And as Islam originally emerged as a major religion in the U.S., it – unlike other American religions – didn’t have an establishment. A disparate group of Muslims arrived and established mosques in various places. They represented different ethnic groups and lacked any structure to bring them together and unite them. But that didn’t last long. And why? Because the Saudis decided to create an American Islamic establishment based on the radical doctrines of Wahhabism. In order to bring this about, they created a system of organizations that would speak for American Muslims to the government and the media and through the educational system and the mosques.

One can learn a lot about how the Saudi-backed Wahhabi establishment in the U.S. works by looking at how it came to speak for all of Islam in the American media. It did this by creating a set of organizations. One of the most prominent is called the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). This group was allegedly set up to be a kind of a Muslim version of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League. That is, its stated goal was to protect Muslims against prejudice and stereotypes. I was working in the newsroom of the San Francisco Chronicle at the time, and I was struck by CAIR’s approach with our reporters and editors. They didn’t come to the newspaper offices and say, “We’re Muslims; we’re here now; this is our holy book; this is the life of our prophet Muhammad; these are the holidays we observe; this is what we believe in, and we’d like you to report these things accurately.” Rather, they came and they said, “We are a minority and we suffer from discrimination. We suffer from hurtful stereotypes. We know that you are good liberal reporters, and that you want to avoid inflicting these stereotypes on us. So whenever you do a story on Islam, you should call us first and make sure it is correct.” And, of course, that meant “correct” according to Saudi-sponsored Wahhabism.

There are other such groups. One of them is called the Islamic Society of North America. It is directly controlled from Saudi Arabia, and openly owns 250 of the 1,200 main mosques in the United States. But this is just the tip of the iceberg: My research suggests that a full 80 percent of American mosques are under the control of the Saudi government and Wahhabism. This does not mean that 80 percent of American Muslims are supporters of Wahhabism – only that their mosques are controlled by the Saudi Wahhabis. There’s a range of such organizations. Many we don’t hear much about, including some of the worst; for example, the Islamic Circle of North America, which acts as a kind of extremist militia among Pakistani Muslims and has a very bad reputation for threatening, intimidating and enforcing conformity in the Pakistani Muslim community.

Other Areas of Wahhabi Influence in the U.S.

There are three other areas where the Saudi government and its Wahhabi ideology have gained tremendous influence in the U.S. The first is in the American prison system. With one single exception, all of the federal and state chaplains representing Islam in American prisons are Wahhabis. That is, they are certified by groups originating in Saudi Arabia; the curriculum they follow was created in Saudi Arabia; and they go into our prisons and preach an extremist doctrine. This is not the same as saying that they go into our prisons and directly recruit terrorists – although there have been cases of that. But anytime you go into a prison – an environment of violence, obviously populated by troubled people – and preach an extremist doctrine, there are going to be bad and dangerous consequences.

The second area is in the military services. Every single Islamic chaplain in the U.S. military has been certified by Saudi-controlled groups – which means that our military chaplains also hold to Wahhabi doctrines. Is it surprising, then, that we had the incident of the Muslim solider in Kuwait who attacked his fellow soldiers? Or the problems with military personnel at Guantanamo? Or the Muslim military man in Washington State who was trying to turn over useful information to Al-Qaeda?

And finally there is the problem with what are known as the Islamic academies: Islamic elementary schools, middle schools and high schools throughout the U.S. that are supported by Saudi money and preach the Saudi-Wahhabi doctrine – in some cases to Saudi expatriate children living here, but in many other cases to Muslim children who are U.S. citizens.

What to Do

This seems a very dark picture. On the other hand, there are some fairly simple steps to take to solve the problem.

First and foremost, it is important to support the federal and state governments in a sustained investigation of Islamic extremism in our country. That means not falling for the propaganda claim – made by groups like CAIR – that investigating what’s happening in mosques, and the literature being distributed in mosques, somehow violates religious freedom. It is not a violation of religious freedom to prevent extremists from using religion as a cover for sedition and criminality. To the contrary, preventing this is necessary to the defense of religious freedom. So it’s absolutely necessary to support the FBI, the Justice Department, and other agencies who are investigating the extent to which Islam in the United States is under the influence of anti-American, anti-democratic extremists. And it is important that they are empowered to perform these investigations with laws like the Patriot Act.

Second, we must identify and support the moderate and patriotic Muslims in the United States who oppose Wahhabism and all it stands for. Many Muslims fit this description, even if we rarely hear of them.

Related to this, we should hold the media to account for its coverage of these issues. How many times have we heard the question since September 11: “Why is it that more Muslim leaders didn’t speak out against this abomination?” Actually, many Muslim leaders did speak out against terrorism and in support of freedom, but they weren’t heard in the media because their message didn’t fit the mold that the media likes to impose on this story. Thus, for instance, we didn’t hear from a Muslim leader in Chicago – the Mufti of the Bosnian Muslims in America – who is a very influential man, who loves America, and who, the day after September 11, said, “No Muslim living in America should support any of this. Everybody should do everything possible to stop it. If you hear about it in your community, tell the FBI about it and organize against it.” Instead, what the media covered were angry Muslims blaming America’s support of Israel and other misleading factors.

I say to my fellow journalists, “Why don’t you go to countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, West Africa, Morocco and Bosnia? Why don’t you go and interview the Muslim leaders who support the West, who are against terrorism and who are willing to stand alongside the United States?” Recently (as I have written in the Weekly Standard), I went to Uzbekistan and interviewed three Islamist defectors, two of them from Al-Qaeda. These interviews suggest that although the leaders of the Islamist movement are extreme, murderous and fanatical, the foot soldiers in the movement are just like foot soldiers in other extremist movements. They get involved in this movement for reasons that are not ideological, and often become disillusioned. One man I spoke to defected from a group connected to Al-Qaeda when he saw that he was being used to commit atrocities against his own comrades. At the end of the interview, I asked him if he had anything to say to Americans. “Yes,” he said, “I want you to tell President Bush there are a lot of us out here who are ready to stand alongside America to deal a death blow to these monsters, these terrorists.”

As this story indicates, there is reason to be optimistic about the war on terror around the globe. But let us also not forget, in the course of conducting that war, the importance of employing law enforcement to stem the influence of Saudi-supported Wahhabi extremism in our own country.

Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, the national speech digest of Hillsdale College, www.hillsdale.edu.


Comment-Update:
Rose (http://blog.peiratikos.net/) (216.196.138.57)
While I don't want to argue with you over Muslim attitudes and beliefs, I think this article is entirely wrong about ISNA, the Islamic Society of North America. At least at its Indiana headquarters and I believe in general, ISNA has been led primarily by Pakistanis and Kashmiris and I have never experienced a "radical" side. ISNA is a major force in working toward Muslim ecumenism, including holding yearly summits with Catholic bishops. I'm always saddened to see allegations against this group of people I've known and liked, but at least this is minor compared to the slurs from National Review.
Monday, November 29, 2004, 7:39:02 AM

I thought Rose was a little off her rocker to call the stuff from National Review "slurs".

Sunday, November 28, 2004

thePopa on Identity Crisis

Recently on the Dixonverse Board John Popa posted his impressions of DC's big-sell super-event Identity Crisis.
MY Identity Crisis Thoughts (Spoilers out the whazoo)

So I was sitting home last night and my roommate had set 'Identity Crisis' 1-6 by my door and I plowed through the whole thing.

My DCU background is that I've read most everyone of these characters at some point or another so while I may not be experts on their continuity or the ins and outs of their histories, I like to think I know who everyone is, what they do and what they're like. (Some of the obscure villains are lost on me, though.)

If there's something to like in this mini-series, it's lost on me.

I'm all for new ideas, new interpretations and even harder takes on classic super heroes. If a writer has a new idea and the publisher wants to do it, I think they should go for it.

I don't think this mini-series is a good idea. It's one thing to do a more intense Batman story as there's the *possibilkity of that in the character, it's one thing to take Animal Man and put him into a different situation than we're used to seeing him as not a *lot* of people have a deep-rooted history with Animal Man and no one's done too much with him anyway.

It's ANOTHER thing to say 'all the time you've been reading these heroes and seeing them be the best we expect from heroes, all that time they've been brainwashing one another and mind wiping their identities from super villains, all for the greater good of protecting their families.' I don't think this idea jives with the stories that have been put forth this entire time or with how the characters have reacted to moral dilemmas otherwise.

I don't think personally that super heroes with public identities would be putting their families at great risk. As others have noted, police officers rarely in real life find their families hounded by criminals (although I'm sure it's happened.) But my personal thought is that I don't think deep down that super villains would REALLY want the heroes specifically *going after* them on such a personal level. I think the villains are trying to get away with things and don't appreciate the heroes stopping them but I don't think that they want the heroes chasing them down with a vengeance. I think the super villains, especially the small and petty ones, would realize that's not a good way to keep their freedom or, for that matter, their physical health.

So I don't think even the retcon of having Sue raped and having Dr. Light *vow* way back then to do these horrible things to super hero's families is as resonant as the writer must think it is (and, no, just making something really uncomfortable to read is not the same thing as creating dramatic tension.)

As for the constant rumors (and now strong implication) that the culrpit here is a good guy gone bad, honestly I hate it. This isn't pro wrestling where you should be turning a guy whenever his character needs a boost. Super heroics is a heart-and-soul proposition, good people become good guys, bad people become bad guys. I don't see people flipping back and forth, especially established characters, being something that can be pulled off in a way that's satisfactory to the readers. At the end of the day: these heroes face life and death drama all the time, to say that there's one *more* thing that could drive them evil (barring magic or mind control) is a tough sell to me. Six issues into this story, I'm not sure what one-issue explanation could possibly elevate and make sense of the scenarios put forth in this mini-series.

I also think DC in putting forth this sort of story is forgetting something important about the way super hero comics are read: at the end of the day, readers *like* their super villains. We know what we're reading is entertainment and with the villains appearing as often as the heroes around the universes, there's a certain affection we get for the bad guys in comic books. Sure if The Joker were *real* we'd give him the same respect we give, oh, Ted Bundy. But he's NOT real and we allow ourselves to be more morbidly entertained by his shenanigans in the world of fiction. There are people who like Batman's clever and original group of villains more than they like Batman himself. But when you start getting into stories of rape, no one's going to want to read a story where that guy's the villain. No one's going to want to see that guy *almost* beat Superman. No one's going to want to associate with a villain like that. I have a sketchbook I take to cons where all I get are sketches of villains -- why would I want a Dr. Light sketch now? On that intangible level the character's been ruined.

As for the meat of the work itself. As most of you know, I'm all for comics being denser, slower reads with more depth in the captioning and the dialoguing, as well as the plotting and the character interaction. But all the monologues in this book are just a writer explaining that which he's not otherwise showing. Don't TELL ME Wonder Woman gave a powerful and moving eulogy, WRITE a powerful and moving eulogy and I'll know what it's supposed to mean.

I don't like the art either -- I'm not sure Morales is getting the faces over very well, a lot of them are long and their expressions look strained and awkard.

This mini-series is still trapped in the notion that making super heroes more 'realistic' makes them better but it's just proving the opposite true. These are not the characters to tell this story with. We know them too well and we can tell they're being shoe-horned into a contrived backstory that we'd never believe. Making it *so* intense is just a cover to force the heroes to act the way they are but, really, the justification isn't actually there. The writer's just putting it there, whether the characters want it or not.

So, no, I'm not especially sold on 'Identity Crisis,' especially if the whole point of the thing is to give credibility to the concept of secret identities. There's certainly a debate to be had regarding the plausibility of secret identities in today's world and today's super hero universes but just making the villains and the heroes this ugly isn't addressing that question in the slightest.
I haven't exactly been a thorough reader of the limited series thus far, but as it goes I agree with Mr. Popa.

source IP: 24.93.213.10
Posted on November 20, 2004 at 05:50:00 PM

Comments-Update:
Jim Treacher (http://www.jimtreacher.com) (68.58.58.240)
The thing that bugged me, in the three issues I bothered to read: IC assumes an intimate familiarity with every single DCU character, more familiarity than I have. I just couldn't follow a lot of the backstory. And yet it totally futzes with those characterizations and the tone of those stories. Having Sue Dinby raped and murdered is like having Nora Charles raped and murdered. It's completely at odds with almost every story that's featured her. I think he said it really well: Just because something's unpleasant doesn't mean it's better.

Not to mention all the howlers. I can see the Elongated Man on a stakeout, okay, but maybe the woman who projects a 4-foot fan of flame from her upper torso should have stayed home? From the STAKEOUT?

Although it's so bad, it actually makes me curious to read one of Meltzer's best-sellers. So he's got that going for him.
Tuesday, November 30, 2004, 1:45:16 PM

Chris Arndt (35.12.19.165)
I enjoyed First Counsel.

Although for as "fast-paced" as they say Meltzer is, I think I skipped something in the middle.

The beginning is good, the ending is logical. What's worse is that the prose is good enough that no matter what quality the story is... you're enjoying the reading and can't stop, regardless of how you feel about the plot. I'm not spoiling the ending of the only Meltzer novel I own or read.

George Orwell did that too; 1984 is a downer that I could not put down.
Thursday, December 02, 2004, 1:30:23 AM



Thursday, November 18, 2004

Missions Statements

One little fart asked why I was posting on political issues when my blog is on the Comics Weblog list.

The simple answer is that it's my weblog and I will post about what I want to. There is comics commentary farther back in the history of AD but to be honest there are few clear (albeit stringent) limitations on what can be posted here.

The anonymous little turd-monkey could also be apparently peeved that I have a weblog with a large amount of political-themed content listed on the Comics Weblog directory.

I am a reader of comic books and the blog got steered into a particular course by the elections; I will not apologize for that. When I get less time I post less and thus the priorities for some topics get altered by what I can do. There are repercussions, of course, my blog was taken off of the Roll at Thought Balloons, I assume because the focus had shifted apparently more permanently toward the realm of my political interests. The other possibility is that the content was Conservative in view and bias and that turned off Kevin Melrose, the blog's owner.

I'm alright with that. He originally put a political weblog on his Roll because its author was a self-evident comics reader (I posted comments on his blog) and fan and even savant; he apparently never read the at-the-time limited content. I shifted to comics posts because my blog was on his Roll and I felt that there was a tiny bit of responsibility to provide actual content of that sort.

I will still post on comic books.

As it is I don't entirely see the problem with me not being exclusively about comic books with this blog. EveTushnet.com is on the Comic Weblog Updates list and it doesn't even cover comics as much mine does, although when she does write about comics, it's generally more intelligent than what I spew.

The only reason that one can justify Warren Ellis's weblog being on the list is that he writes comic books, as the subject and very nature of his blog have nothing to do with comics (supposedly it's a research blog). Elayne Riggs posts politics as much as I, post for post, but since she updates more often than I she posts about politics more often than I; her husband is an inker. That her politics swings left is what probably helps her fit fine within some people's hearts and minds. I need not mention that Peter David more than occasionally takes the focus off of his spectacular work, and as is his perogative, on whatever he wants, including televisions, his personal life, other facets of his professional life, and his leftist political views. In essences, to justify the existence/presence of a lot of the weblogs on the Update feed one has to stretch the definition or qualification of just what a comics blog is.

The majority of those strictly comics-themed blogs on the list are redundent, anyway. By definition and by the nature of the beast, the more comics blogs we get the fewer there are that are truly exceptional and the fewer there are that are worth stopping at.

AD is pure self-indulgence. I won't always indulge in being redundent; Chris Hunter has a weblog that occasionally functions for linking the apropriate and interesting.

Monitor Duty is another weblog I post to occasionally. The number of occasions has decreased because of software-incompatibility concerns. The mission of Monitor Duty, and the primary topic focus of MD is comic books, and of course instances in other media that relate. We cover comic books, genre television, genre film, and adaptions of comics material within other media; there's also an unhealthy interest in Michael Moore. A solid number and high percentage of writers on the Monitor Duty staff are political and social Conservatives and more than a few of those are actual Republicans. The owner and editor, Michael Hutchison, scores even higher on the Libertarian Purity Test than I. The writers do take liberties with adding political angles and filters, and lenses to their posts and stories now and again (I have noticed that some people have removed Monitor Duty from their Blog Rolls, presumably and in some cases explicitly because of occasional Conservative political content and the fact that some of the writers are right-wingers). Actually those who removed MD from their links for political reasons are doing a stupid thing for stupid reasons; the political content on MD is very minor and very sparse and in addition it does serve as good news feed/portal regarding comics.

One of the reasons that I post sparsely on comic books on AD is because as a Monitor Duty staff member I should post on comics there; so I have little of that to post on Apologies Demanded; it is not redundent in the face of Monitor Duty. Invariably I shall post comics news on MD but shall still use AD to just position general comic book-centered commentary.

Mind you, or mind anyone, that philosophy, theology, and science occasionally take place on this weblog, not politics, political theory, world news, election fever, or comics.

As it is, a little overt right-winged attitudes never hurt anybody; and unless your attention span is minimal, it doesn't hurt you to zip from the Updates feed to AD, find a political post, discover that it doesn't interest you, and zip back to the Updates feed with minimal complaint.

And eventually I will comment on the crappy Amazing Spider-Man story with Gwen Stacy's Goblin love-children, and the Spectacular(?) Spider-Man story development with "organic web-shooters", as people have taken to calling them.

Unemployment Issues? Look Small

Paul J. Gessing takes shots at our state (Michigan, for inattentive) pegging it for the unemployment record (we are the only state in the Union to lose jobs) and other problems.

Many leftists are and were quick to blame the POTUS for problems in our state. That's the focus of morons. President Bush may have had policies which were better for our State than the ideas (heh) of Senator Kerry; that's not the issue. The fact is that each part of government carries with it its own responsibility, and for the state of the state we have to look to state government.

Governor
Granholm and even our largely Republican legislature.

Gessing mocks the legislature's movement against term-limits (something which was "citizen-driven" but I remain against, when it's convenient). The legislature is spending an inapropriate amount of time, indeed, to that issue, especially for a "'lame-duck' session." There is much to fix.
In the past year alone, the Republican-dominated legislature has delayed a scheduled income-tax cut by six months (costing taxpayers $77 million), raised cigarette taxes by 75 cents ($300 million annual cost to smokers), hiked the tax on Detroit’s casinos from 18 percent to 24 percent (costing $49 million), boosted driving fees and penalties (cost of $115 million annually), sped up the collection of county property taxes, and generally avoided steep cuts in state government spending.
The unusually high gasoline taxes is generally what drives people to cross the southern borders just to fill their tanks, and to avoid the sin taxes, buy their cigarettes too. While they are down there fireworks are purchased; it's a good ol' family trip.

The taxes are bilking families and businesses and attempts to dodge the taxes are not only illegal but causes the state to lose revenue. "According to... the Mackinac Center, delaying the income-tax cut alone cost Michigan 2,948 jobs in 2004." Let's not pretend that that doesn't cost the state. Unemployment on this scale becomes both a symptom and a cause for further problems. "High taxes are not the only element slowing the state’s economic growth — so are high labor costs. Michigan has the second-highest per-unit labor costs in the nation. This increases the price of goods made there, putting Michigan employers at a disadvantage and discouraging new employers from setting up shop in the state." We have less companies present to pay taxes because no sensible company will want to pay the taxes as they are, if they have a choice.

The only problem I have with Gessing's assessment is his label of Michigan as a "'blue-state'" as if we have "shifted left-of-center on the political spectrum". There are economic/fiscal problems, yes, but this not exactly a liberal-dominated state in any tangible sense. Despite the electoral votes going to Senator Kerry, an almost-majority of citizens voted for the President and a majority of the counties went to President Bush; the majority of Michigan, as far as population and especially as far as land and industry goes, is more of the so-called "moral values", blue-collar, right-wing Republican or Christian background. Basically speaking, we're hicks. Michigan traditionally goes to Democrats because of Detroit and the Lansing Metropolitan area. The populations centered in our few major cities, combined with a few fringe citizens in the Red counties, are enough to throw off our State to the Dems, but our culture is hardly centered in our one actual major city. There will be more on that later.

To Say What One Means but to Mean what One Doesn't Say

or as Bart Simpson put it... "Damned if you do, damned if you don't."

That's giving examples of a paradox. The paradox is the flipside, the standard by which one discovers oxymorons.

As that is Oxymoronica details, chronicles, lists a good number of paradoxical sayings and lists common oxymorons, which are phrases.

Thanks to The Commisar for the tip.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Re-Defining the Morality Buzzwords for Liberals' Sake

The Democrats (or rather the Secular liberals) want to re-train the language in order to as David Limbaugh recounts and analyses it, re-claim morality, at least in the Biblical sense.

"Conservatives don't claim that same-sex marriage and abortion are the only moral issues. And I wish liberals would quit superciliously asserting that only they care about the environment, war and peace, poverty, and health care." Conservatives don't take to a morality that conditionally excludes abortion and marriage protection as issues and it's disingenuous to say that "Civil rights" is a tenet of Liberalism, let alone that Conservatives aren't humane enough to possess considerations of the environment, poverty, conflict, and the human condition.

One cannot claim God as a source of inspiration and then exclude many of His tenets from your own doctrine unless you are either a dishonest creep or a follower of another god.

Regardless of what good our Father demands we do, it's the good that He demanded that we do, ourselves, as individuals with free will. Conservatives (Christians and otherwise) examine the social issues and economic issues with an eye towards effectiveness over the ideal. We don't dismiss healthcare and poverty as concerns. We "believe their approach to poverty is actually more compassionate because it is more effective. And it is largely liberals who reduced market forces in health care, which led to much of the escalation in cost. And liberal darling Bill Clinton, after feverishly campaigning to solve the forty million uninsured problem, didn't put a dent in it." It's a matter of role, purpose, and success over the sanctity of how it gets done. The ideal surrounds the result, never the process, except in the case of secular Liberals.
"Frank [Turek] said, essentially, that Democrats can't understand why they lost on moral issues when they are the champions of the downtrodden and social justice. 'Democrats don't understand what the New Testament declares is the main purpose of government. According to Romans 13:4, governments are instituted by God to punish wrongdoers — to protect their citizens from evil. … Democrats have it exactly backwards. They are more apt to want to 'understand' the terrorists, while they lobby the government to do what the church should be doing — helping the poor.'"
So does that mean that God is a Libertarian?

Actually, it means of course that God made everything so that it had a purpose. When something is present or functioning outside its purpose then it isn’t really functioning at all. When that’s not the case then typically something is being misused to the detriment of something. Libertarians would agree with Romans 13:4.

That brings up one idea to my mind? Does government cross the line between “Separation of Church and State?” Regardless of belief in God or even the existence of God, and despite ultimate source, the mandate of the Church has always been to help man. The church is here on Earth to help people and as Christians our charge is to render mercy and aid and even hope. We’re supposed to help. Frankly the church is good at it. Whether or not there are converts in every case (there aren’t) the church has been helping feed and clothe the sick and such for over 2000 years. Despite the millennia of practice being humane the current drive by secularists is that Christians are unqualified. Churches are the most qualified. We are here, or they are here to do His works and His will and that involves action and positive effects.

Therefore if the State is running programs like Welfare and such is it not violating the Separation of Church and State when it does so? It is co-opting the purpose of another aspect or pillar of society. The problem is that Government humanitarian aid is less effective than any other kind. The State is only 228 years old so far and it has not adopted the role of steward of the human condition for even half that long. The secular institution of the State doesn’t affect help upon people well enough. The Church’s only function, aside from any holistic purposes, is to render aid.

The President’s Faith-Based Initiative to fund Churches for the purposes of helping people and not converting them is not a violation of the Seperation of Church and State but a fulfillment of it. The State is subsidizing an institution for the purposes of helping people thus the people are helped effectively and the Church’s purpose is obeyed.

The State is not spending money on an ineffective method towards meeting an ideal condition; the State does not waste the citizens’ money and the people are helped.

Ultimately Liberal morality, if it ever becomes re-defined as that, is the government working towards an idealistic end but failing; Conservative notions see the good but wants it to get done! What good is being a champion that fails? I’d rather see it happen without the fanfaire. That is a horrible idea: morality should not be trying to achieve the good; morality should about the protection of life without worshipping the quest, the journey, the method, or the work that achieve the protection itself. Morality isn’t about means; it’s about ends.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Civil Unions: Compromise or Surrender? from November 2004 Imprimis

Midge Decter
Author and Social Critic


Midge Decter's essays and reviews have appeared over the past four decades in a number of periodicals, including The Atlantic, the American Spectator, First Things, National Review, the New Republic, the Weekly Standard and Commentary. She has published five books: The Liberated Woman and Other Americans; The New Chastity and Other Arguments Against Women's Liberation; Liberal Parents, Radical Children; An Old Wife's Tale: My Seven Decades in Love and War; and Rumsfeld: A Personal Portrait. She has been the executive editor of Harper's, literary editor of Saturday Review, and a senior editor at Basic Books. From 1980 to 1990, she served as executive director of the Committee for the Free World, and from 1990 to 1994 she was a distinguished fellow of the Institute on Religion and Public Life. She is currently the president of the Philadelphia Society and a member of the boards of trustees of the Heritage Foundation, the Center for Security Policy, the National Forum Foundation/Freedom House, the Institute on Religion and Public Life and the Clare Boothe Luce Fund. In 2003, she was awarded the National Humanities Medal.

The following is adapted from a lecture delivered on September 14, 2004, on the Hillsdale College campus, during a five-day seminar on the topic, "Marriage and the Family."

The term "civil marriage" or "civil union" has become a euphemism for both the legal and social legitimation of homosexuality. In the current public conversation the phrase no longer means the wedding of a man and woman conducted by a civil authority - a town clerk or a justice of the peace or a judge. In that old sense of the term, of course, every legal marriage is a civil one, because the ministers and priests and rabbis who conduct weddings according to the established rites of their respective religions are at the same time acting with full civil authority to do so. The fact that so many of the fully sanctioned marriages in recent years have turned out to be too casual and thin-blooded to hold out for very long against the trials of real life is nothing to the point. For while the number of easy-come, easy-go marriages in our midst speaks to the failure of spiritual education in this great, rich, lucky, but somewhat spiritually impoverished land, there has not until now been any kind of real assault on what marriage is supposed to mean: one man, one woman, formally and officially joined in the hope of becoming a real family.

Today what is being called "civil marriage" is a kind of trick of language, a term used as a political euphemism for surrendering to the most recent demand of the homosexual rights movement. For now what it is intended to mean is that the mating of two men or two women must be regarded by society as equally hallowed. The surrender to this idea has taken place very quickly, and I think we cannot understand it without going over the history of how we got here.
Homosexual rights is an idea that began to assume the force and energy of a movement hard on the heels of the women's movement (which itself, of course, gained energy and force from the civil rights movement that preceded it). It began with the demand that homosexuals no longer be considered pariahs, bedeviled by the authorities and viewed with unconcealed discomfort by many of their fellow citizens. In the abstract, this demand seemed very reasonable, particularly among people still stung by the shame of the country's long history of both attitude and behavior toward the blacks. The movement was what you might call a smash success - perhaps because it was the third in a row and thus was presenting its case to an already softened public, or perhaps because to assent quickly to the movement's claims made it a lot easier to avert one's eyes from homosexuality itself. In any case, rapid is the word.

Let me tell you the story of two parades. Some years ago my husband and I happened to be strolling through midtown Manhattan on a sunny afternoon when we came upon a large and noisy crowd lined up on both sides of Fifth Avenue. We had quite forgotten that that Sunday was the day of the annual gay pride parade. It was, as the kids say, a very "in your face" occasion. A number of the men had made-up faces and were dressed in satin evening gowns, blowing kisses to the crowd from the backs of open cars. The parade passed by St. Patrick's Cathedral, and some of the marchers ran up the front steps of the cathedral virtually naked and proceeded to express their opinion of the Church by going through a repertory of obscene gestures (the following year the cathedral was barricaded). We left wondering how all this would sit with the city authorities. If they had any views of the matter, they kept them to themselves.

A number of years passed, and last June one of my daughters and I were running an errand downtown on a Sunday afternoon, and again, all unthinking, we happened on this year's parade. As we approached the corner there hove into view a large, simply decorated float on which were seated a group of people, including children, smiling and waving to the crowd. The sign on the float announced that its passengers were representing the Episcopal Archdiocese of New York and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. As the old commercial for Virginia Slims cigarettes had it, "You've come a long way, baby."

Put on the Defensive

In the years that stretched between those two parades, the country had been confronted with the phenomenon of AIDS, a mortal disease that at the beginning of the epidemic in America was contracted in one of two ways: either a common form of homosexual mating or the use of dirty needles for injecting heroin. And AIDS, it will be remembered, was for a time threatening virtually to decimate the male homosexual community. Though at first there was a good deal of lying about the problem of AIDS - "We are all at risk," said the sympathizers and those raising funds for medical research to find a cure - the lie could not be sustained for long. Heroin addicts, prostitutes, and recipients of tainted blood aside, among homosexuals it was and is spread through a kind of blind and rampant promiscuity that had been growing ever more blind and rampant in certain institutions of the homosexual community, primarily the bars and the bathhouses. In any case, what the Cathedral of St. John the Divine was revving up to embrace, Mother Nature was obdurately rejecting. The impulse of compassion for the discriminated against had become so habitual that rather than expressions of horror, what the discovery of AIDS elicited from the community of the sensitive was a great outpouring of sympathy. Though AIDS was a disease contracted by a species of sexual behavior that might have straightened the curls of many a fashionable lady to hear about, the issue was spoken of in polite circles as a kind of mysterious tragedy that struck out of the blue. And finally, men dying of the disease were not merely pitied but positively beatified among the artistic community in both song and story - song and story, indeed, in which the word "angels" figured heavily.

It goes without saying that there are homosexuals who are not and have never been activists, who do not storm the streets, who do not frequent the bathhouses, and who keep their sex lives - as most of the rest of us do - to themselves. But in the current debate these homosexuals are, alas, irrelevant. They are neither the stuff of which movements and flamboyant public gestures are made, nor are they people whose ambition is to overturn the conditions of ordinary, everyday life.

Eight years ago, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act, which states in so many words that marriage is a union between one man and one woman. Imagine: a congressional act that certifies something - more properly, reminds us of something - that one might have thought should need no reminding. Just think of it: a defense of marriage - not from a galloping divorce rate, not from marriages more easily sundered than many business contracts, and not from the idea put about some years ago by the women's movement that marriage is no more than a form of indentured servitude for women. No, the members of Congress who proposed and then passed this Act were defending marriage from the already looming demand that it be redefined to include homosexual coupledom. As we now know, the act was insufficient to hold off the assault from the idea that marriage be defined as an act of commitment between any two people of whatever sex. Imagine again: many of the leading defenders of marriage in the land propose that we - at least the citizens of three-quarters of the states - include among the articles of the Constitution a statement that denies definitively the demand that homosexuals be granted the legal right to marry.

Thus doth compassion, combined with a certain willful blindness, make cowards of us all. A culture grown sick with the refusal to uphold common wisdom - not to speak of common sense - sinks to requiring the services of politics and politicians in the face of difficulty.

The Real Stakes


Because the question of homosexual marriage has at this time been left in the hands of judges - mere legislation having proved to be of little avail against the forces of activism - we have been treated to the sight of homosexual couples celebrating outside of courthouses and city halls in such places as San Francisco and Boston. By the way, and not surprisingly, it seems that a number of the male couples admitted they had no intention of getting married - it was merely their having won the battle that they were there to celebrate - while every one of the female couples declared their intention to marry. I say not surprisingly because - some might think it impolite of me to point out - homosexual men are essentially no more like lesbians than heterosexual men are like the women whom they either merely pursue or marry. In short, men are men and women are women, whatever their sexual proclivities. Which brings us to the nature of modern, that is to say, voluntary, marriage.

In the contemporary world, marriage is the result of a voluntary agreement between two people that they will swear to make a home together and be faithful to one another. It is, in other words, a deal. Cleave unto me, says the man, and I will cherish and protect you; cleave unto me, says the woman, and I will make your life comfortable, bear your children, and be faithful to you. Of course, this deal is sometimes - nowadays, indeed, fearfully often - honored in the breach. Nevertheless, it is the best arrangement ever devised for those, meaning all of us, who are considerably lower than the angels. Nor is it merely happenstance that so very large a number of these deals are consecrated by formal ritual in houses of worship, where they are blessed in the name not only of the state but of God.

Female homosexuals who have achieved coupledom tend to approximate this arrangement far more closely than do male homosexuals - even those male homosexuals who remain together for life (and who are, by the way, many, many fewer in number). Why is this? Because, again, women are different from men. They wish - correction: need - to be monogamous and faithful; it is in their nature. Men, on the other hand, in the most elementary sense of the nature of males, have impulses to promiscuity. A woman says to her prospective mate, "Be faithful to me and I promise that I will make it worth your while." It is a bargain men who marry not only agree to but in a very important sense are saved by. Being women, lesbians are most often given to a facsimile of this same deal. Moreover, they can be, and often are, mothers and thus inclined to stability. Men who are sexually attracted to, and even truly love, other men have no such exchange to make. In an all-male society, promiscuity is thus the norm. And as things have grown easier and more comfortable for men to be openly, often flagrantly, homosexual in our ever more tolerant society, the promiscuity of the bathhouse and orgy has become ever more the norm. Hence, for example, the wildfire of HIV and AIDS (and now, I am told, certain even newer forms of venereal disease). That is why the right to marriage, fought for with every weapon at their command by homosexual men, would - or must I say will - be largely acted on by lesbians.

Why, then, are these men fighting so hard for it? The answer is, the right to legal marriage that they are demanding is not about them - it is about the rest of us. It is, and is meant to be, a spit in the eye of the way we live. And whatever the variety of efforts to oppose it - another law or even a whole set of laws, let's say, or a constitutional amendment - none of it will matter unless and until all the nice and decent people in America begin to understand that we are in a crisis, and it must be up to them to sustain, and with all good cheer defend, the way they lead their lives.

The Best Defense

I tend to oppose a constitutional amendment because I fear the oh so easy use of that great document to deal with problems that arise from this society's sloth and unwillingness to face the mess that has become of our culture in general and the issue of sex and family in particular. It would be a shame, I think, if we had to tinker with so rare and precious an inheritance as our Constitution because people who hate the way we live storm the streets while others try to look away. Also, we should keep in mind the nature of politicians. A key part of their job is to keep people happy. Indeed, doing so is the way most of them got that job in the first place. That is why only a very few moral heroes among them risk being frowned at by their constituents, or worse, making them angry. There is no sense in anyone's complaining about this; it is in the nature of our political system - and it is the best system that has yet been devised by man. But politicians simply do not - I would even say cannot - make useful arbiters of cultural problems, let alone spiritual ones like this.

Let me return to the idea being proposed by some that we invent a kind of second-level marriage - call it "civil union" - that would provide homosexual couples with certain legal and financial marital rights without the full standing of heterosexual marriage. I am not against allowing a homosexual to be his partner's legal heir, for instance, or to be granted official status as rightful partner in a hospital emergency room or other such things. But this idea of creating a new level of marriage - call it whatever you want - smacks of the congenital passion of politicians to invent a compromise where none will serve. For it is not compromise that the homosexual rights movement is after. Nor do they even want the standing in the community that heterosexuals have. They are radicals. What they want is not a room of their own; they want to bring the whole damned house down.

By now we as a society have pretty much ceased the persecution of homosexuals. They are not ostracized from polite society - and indeed, if truth be told, many of them never were. In addition, they now freely camp around to a most appreciative audience on prime-time television and, as we know, have for some time served as the arbiters of high fashion. In New York City they have a high school that has now become an official part of the city's public school system. And though they have been seen on the newscasts standing outside the San Francisco courthouse smiling and waving their new marriage licenses, it is vitally important to remember that they are the denizens of a radical movement: I will say it again, they do not want what the rest of us have - they want to bring the whole house down.

So if the lady tends to be against a constitutional amendment and opposes unequivocally the idea of civil union, what does she want? The answer is, I want us to stick up for ourselves and the way we live, be as mighty a force in the culture as we are entitled to be if nothing else by virtue of our sheer numbers. I want us to resist all attacks on the way we live, whether from our kids, our grandkids, their momentary culture heroes, or from the overpaid, mindless, sheep-like followers of fashion in the press and academic community who make so much noise in the world around us every day. In other words, let's take back our country. Let us be decent, civil and even loving to our homosexual fellow citizens; but draw the line on what they stand for and on everything else that makes light of our existence.

For the privilege of living in the most nobly founded, the freest, and the richest country in the world we owe nothing less, not only to ourselves but also to the oncoming tide of generations. We are given the choice of leaving them with a blessing or a curse. Not so many people in the world have that choice. I hope we can go down in history as having deserved it.

Reprinted by permission from IMPRIMIS, the national speech digest of Hilldale College, www.hillsdale.edu.