Feeding the Persecution Complex

It has come to my attention that tonight, in an exclusive one-night engagement in select movie theatres, a movie called The Insanity of God will be screened for all paid ticket holders.   

I confess that I like the title.  When I looked into the movie, I quickly lost the initial hope that it might point out some of the more ridiculous claims of the bible (and maybe other religious texts, too).   You know, a reasonable and maybe entertaining follow-up to movies like   The God Who Wasn’t There or Religulous.   Boy, was I wrong.   

The movie is apparently based upon a book of the same title, referred to with the adjective of “best-selling”.   A quick check on Amazon reveals two unique incidents of the book through its various selling partners, one of which has five reviews and one with over 1000. (1,118 as of this writing).   By comparison, How To Avoid Huge Ships has more reviews, despite the sarcasm in most of them.   

Somehow I doubt that this book sells or has sold all that well, especially outside of the circles to which it has been marketed.  Maybe even within those circles.  

It’s weird.   I do agree that persecutions of members of minority faiths and the faithless around the world, is a serious problem.  In recent years, there has been an uptick in machete attacks on secularists in Bangladesh.  ISIL is committing genocide against Christians.   The Donald Trump presidential campaign is feeding distrust and hatred towards Muslims and Sikhs.   

But let me make it clear that Christian missionaries are not heroes and are not to be looked up to.   It’s one thing to practice your faith, but it’s something completely different to try to impose your beliefs where they’re not wanted, welcome, or even appreciated.   

It’s one thing to travel to a place that’s been ravaged by war, famine, or natural disaster and offer food, water, shelter, clothing, medicines, and other basic necessities.   That’s a good idea and should be encouraged.   But to attach a religious worldview — a message that basically says “believe in my god or suffer more” — to those gifts is rude, presumptuous, and makes people question your intentions.   

How about doing a good deed because it’s a good thing to do?   I know from personal experience that helping the needy, offering as little as a hand to a complete stranger, makes you feel sufficiently good and is truly its own reward.   For an easy (and quite simple) example, I keep a set of jumper cables in my car at all times.   Although I don’t know the exact number of times I’ve used them, I have overwhelmingly used them more often to get other people’s cars going than I have for my own car.  

When I hear stories of missionaries getting kidnapped, injured, or even killed while on a mission to some place in Africa or Asia, my heart goes out to their families and friends.   But their fate was somewhat predictable.  They were asking for trouble.   Kind of like wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt to a Donald Trump campaign rally in Mississippi.   (Or even an Obama hope shirt).  

The insanity of god?   No.  More like the insanity and stupidity of some of his followers.  


The Privilege of George H W Bush

In my recent blog entry on presidential qualifications I remarked that the pre-presidency of George H W Bush rivaled that of Hillary Clinton today.   

While true, it underscored something that’s been nagging at me for nearly 30 years.  If you look at his resume in the box to the right of the preamble of the Wikipedia page about him, you see something very interesting: a lot of different posts for relatively short terms, at least until he was elected Vice President in 1980.   Indeed, by the time he was elected Vice President, he had lost as many elections (US Senate in 1970, republican presidential nomination in 1980) as he had won (US congress in 1966 and 1968).  From a pure electoral history, his resume was quite thin.   Add in the truism that people don’t actually vote for the vice presidential candidate on a ticket, and you can discount the elections of 1980 and 1984 as being not so much victories for him as they are victories for Reagan.  

Bush was the first sitting Vice President to be elected president since Martin Van Buren in 1836, although Nixon does deserve the honor of being in between the two if you take out the word “sitting” and add in a footnote about not rising to the presidency following the death of the president.  (Take out the footnote and you can also add Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman, and Lyndon Johnson.)

The path to the presidency is usually through elective office, not appointments to powerful positions.  Or, if not elective office, then career military service, usually after attainment of the position of general or admiral.   While Bush did have some elective office experience, it was pretty meager.  He served two terms in the House of Representatives in the minority party in both terms.  While this was before the so-called “Hastert Rule” which basically strips the minority party of having any say in what will get voted on, it still doesn’t wield a whole lot of clout, politically.   (At least Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) was a senator…)

Bush’s path definitely was quite atypical by most standards.  

So when Nixon, and then Ford, nominated Bush for some very powerful positions, what was the basis of these appointments?  The answer seems fairly obvious: he was the son of a powerful senator.  Indeed, a mere four years passed between Prescott Bush’s retirement and George’s first election.   One wonders if the death of the father was at least partially a basis of the nominations of the son.  

George H W Bush had — and still has — enjoyed an exceptional amount of privilege in his life.   It led him to the highest office in the land at a pivotal point in world history.   I do find it interesting that, when future historians look at his term and his legacy, they’re likely to see it as mostly unremarkable.  His presidency can be summed up with the first Iraq war, most-favored nation trading status with China, and NAFTA.   And maybe Manuel Noriega.   He’s not likely to be viewed as a major player with the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the Soviet Union.  

That seems fairly consistent with the fact that he struggled with what he called the “vision thing” for why he even wanted to be president.  

And that same privilege is what led two of his children to seek the presidency, one who achieved it and one whose failure to achieve it could be the stuff of a Greek tragedy.   

They don’t need to apologize for their privilege but nobody can deny that their privilege probably doesn’t guide them to the wisest decisions.  

This family should be the stuff of textbooks.  

What qualifies a person to be president?

There’s an article over at Slate that asks how liberals would respond if the choice for president were between a liberal version of Donald Trump (they use Sean Penn as their example but it could be anyone on the political left who is sufficiently famous outside of the world of politics) and the likes of Ted Cruz or Rick Santorum.  It’s a fascinating article and definitely worth the read.   

While I haven’t tried making that particular argument, it raises a good point.   I have been making two related arguments, though, that tie in a little bit with this, and that also represent arguments I wish those on the left would stop making.  

The first is with regard to Donald Trump’s qualifications to be president.   This has nothing to do with whether or not he should be president but instead to whether he meets the criteria put forth by the constitution: since he is over age 35, a natural-born citizen who has lived the last fourteen years in this country, and is not term-limited under the 22nd amendment, he checks off every necessary box to be president.  That says absolutely nothing about whether he deserves any votes, but he does qualify.   Then again, so do I.  So feel free to vote for me.  

The other argument is about Hillary’s experience putting her in a good position to be president.   Eight years as First Lady, eight years as a senator, and four as Secretary of State, and yes she does have a fair amount of experience.  (It’s questionable whether that makes her the most experienced in history, as President Obama said during the convention a couple of weeks ago; even in recent memory, George H W Bush rivaled her experience when you figure that he was Vice President for eight years, after having been head of the CIA, ambassador to China, and a congressman; and that’s not even getting into the fact that he was a senator’s son…)  But when it comes to the presidency, how much experience is ideal?  We have a lot of respect for many presidents who had relatively little experience (Lincoln, JFK, Obama and many others come to mind) and many of the presidents with the most experience actually rank among our worst (Buchanan, William Henry Harrison, Hoover).  The simple truth right now is that no amount of experience can truly prepare a person for the presidency.   There are only five people alive today who can honestly say that they’re currently prepared for the needs of the presidency.   Three of them are term-limited and therefore can’t seek the office and the other two are both in their 90s.   

The simple truth is that the American political right doesn’t actually have someone to vote for this year.   If Trump represents anyone, it’s himself (and white supremacists and Nazis).   And that could happen to the left in a future year.  Some might vote for Hillary.  Some might vote for Trump.  Some might vote third party and some might not vote at all.  Is that a consequence of the uneasy coalition that is the modern Republican Party?  Many pundits have been talking about the demise of the party for some time.   Not that I’d expect any party to be absolutely uniform in their views, but the religious and economic conservatives really don’t have enough in common to hold them together, other than saying they’re “not liberal”.  

Would I vote for Sean Penn?  I don’t know.  I voted for Al Gore in 2000 and sent him an email afterwards where I said that he should not take my vote as an approval of his campaign or candidacy.   I just felt that Bush would’ve been a disaster for the country.