Thursday, December 29, 2005

Archie Bunker's Bar and Grill...

Tom Ullum claims he doesn't discriminate and that the sign posted outside his bar is meant to be "tongue in cheek", but the Ohio Civil Rights commission doesn't think it's funny. The sign greeting potential customers as they visit the Pleasure Inn in Mason, Ohio reads: "For Service Speak English". Nice touch. Quite droll. If Ullum's tongue was in his cheek when he posted this sign it must have been to pack his wad of Skoal because I don't detect the wit. The Civil Rights Commission ruled that the sign was discriminatory and ordered Ullum to take it down but the stubborn barkeep can, and probably will, appeal the ruling. Don't be surprised if this one ends up in Washington before too long.

The sign reveals a level of ignorance that is actually quite comical. Some people equate this to the "Whites Only" signs that used to adorn businesses throughout the country before Civil Rights became a national priority, but I don't see it that way. Ullum's intent is to champion English as our national language, but the sign has little impact on those who don't speak English because it's unlikely that they would be able to read the sign. What kind of idiot puts up a sign written in English in hopes of discouraging non-English speaking people from seeking services? Does Ullum have a sign posted designating a Blind Only parking area? Hey everybody let’s all grab lances and pick fights with windmills!

The whole ordeal has sparked a lot of commentary amongst the good old white folks in Ohio. Redneck sensibility has reared its ugly head and people have talked about everything from how our country is being stolen from us right under our noses to the arrogance US tourist are subjected to overseas. One woman wrote a letter describing her recent trip to Mexico and how she was rebuffed time and time again with the expression "No Comprende". I think the editor who published it in the local paper had to wash the bullshit off his hands.

Americans are often treated like royalty overseas with business owners bending over backwards to learn our language and offer us all the assistance we require. It's not because they love us; they enjoy our money and it's only good business to make the people with money happy. Even the French go out of their way extending hospitality to Americans who visit their country. As much as we like to joke about their aloofness, the French are fantastic hosts and put up with a lot of American arrogance. In those rare instances where US tourist are treated badly it's often because the tourists in question are behaving like idiots. When you travel overseas it's OK to be a little ignorant of that country's customs, but one should never be rude. Americans are notorious for berating our hosts with great lines like “DO YOU REALIZE I AM AN AMERICAN CITIZEN!” During the Olympics in Barcelona, Spanish merchants talked about how Americans struggled with the tradition of Siesta by pounding on doors in the middle of the afternoon to demand service. That sort of thing doesn't go over well.

And nobody is stealing the country. We have been listening to ignorant people complain of this supposed conspiracy since 1789. Back in the 1850's the Irish were stealing America then in the 1900's it was the Poles. In the 1980's we fretted over the Japanese trying to sneak in and buy the country out from under us. It's funny how we never seem to remember that we're claiming ownership of stolen property in the first place.

What makes this country great isn't the people who are here, it's the people who come here. The homogenization of cultures and customs is what shapes our nation and makes the United States truly unique. Instead of taking the defensive and demanding that our newest American citizens master English we should be reaching out and making them feel welcome. If that means learning a dozen words in a foreign tongue, or keeping a translation guide handy, so be it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

What Would Jesus Do?

When you examine the life and the teachings of Jesus Christ you get the impression he was a compassionate man with tremendous humility. The accuracy of these accounts is highly suspect as there were certainly those who had much to gain by exploiting his following, and twisting those facts to suit their needs, but I believe that the historical evidence supports the existence existence of Jesus Christ. So yes, I believe in Jesus.

However, I am still an atheist. I don't believe that Jesus was a deity or the son of a supreme being. I don't even believe in a supreme being. However I understand enough about Christianity to know that most of the people claiming that they are Christians aren't practicing a religion that Jesus Christ would have wanted anything to do with.

That's what makes this hostile brand of Christianity so prevalent today so frustrating. The irony would be amusing if the ramifications weren't so dangerous. Jesus Christ made a name for himself by denouncing in the Jewish church the same sort of institutionalization we see in Christianity today. Consider the hot button issues of the day:


I don't know why this matter is of such pressing importance to Christians. If homosexuality is such a horrible sin, why didn't God take the time to mention it to Moses when he wrote the 10 Commandments. Did Mel Brooks get it right? Did Moses actually drop third tablet? And what about the Seven Deadlies? Homosexuality isn't mentioned there either. Even if you can find some passage in this bible that condemns homosexuality, I seem to recall something about not judging other people. Somehow I think that Jesus wouldn't be overly concerned about homosexuality.

Jesus talked a lot about not throwing stones and removing the log from your eye. To condense his teachings into succinct modern vernacular, Jesus was trying to say mind your own business. The expression 'Love each man as though he was your brother' is a call to treat everybody with compassion, not a condemnation of homosexuality.


Christians are stupid because they think Republicans really want to ban abortion. Republicans like abortion because they can milk it at each and every election. It's a smoke and mirrors issue. Moderates don't feel strongly enough about a woman's right to choose to side with the more liberal Democrats so the Repuiblican candidate can pander to the pro-life crowd by taking a pro-life stance. Then they can dodge the issue until the next election. They won't ever overturn Roe Vs. Wade because then they'd have to discuss real issues like healthcare, social security and taxes in great detail.

Again, this is a mind your own business matter. If you believe abortion is a sin then don't do it, and if somebody else has one they'll have to answer to God. You don't have to butt in. I doubt Jesus would have wasted his time on this topic. Somehow I think that god would be more forgiving of the women having abortions than he would of those who would bomb a family planning clinic.


Why are we even talking about this subject in this day and age? The Bible hadn't been written in Jesus' day, but many of the stories in it were widely circulated in one form or another and I am sure that Jesus and many of his contemporaries took a lot of those stories with a grain of salt.

It wasn't all that long ago that people believed that the Earth was the center of the universe and that the sun was a small ball of fire that revolved around it. Any reasonable person accepts the fact that the Sun is a rather massive ball of fire that is actually 93 million miles away and that we revolve around it. The bottom line is that our beliefs change in direct proportion to what we learn. There was a time when I used to believe in Santa Claus, but on my 28th birthday my Mom finally let me in on the truth.

Evolution doesn't answer all the questions, but it is a plausible scientific theory and makes a lot more sense than the fairy tale outlined in the bible. Perhaps there is something to this Intelligent Design idea, but until you establish a scientific argument for Intelligent Design it can't be offered as science in our schools. Nobody has established any scientific logic for Intelligent Design. It's underlying theme is that Evolution doesn't explain everything. That's not science, it's circular logic and there's no place for it in our schools. There's a big difference between a scientific theory and what we lay-people tend to call theories. In science a theory requires a little more effort than a six pack of Miller and a hair-brained idea.


We mock Islamic extremists for Jihadism, but American Christians are caught up in the very same theocratic pandering that has crack pots like Osama bin Laden convincing young Muslims to trade their lives for Allah's love. Jesus would have been disgusted at such a display of religious extremism, but would have been more disappointed in the response of those who worship in his name. Christianity is a religion of introspection and compassion. Whatever happened to turn the other cheek?

I'm not insinuating that we should not defend ourselves against terror and respond to an attack by doing nothing, but Christians should not be invoking their faith as we go to war. It's shameful that political leaders would conspire to exploit superlative concepts such as good and evil in the context of this war on terrorism and it is abominable that religious leaders would allow religion to become a part of something so violent.


Can you believe that we actually had people complaining about the use of so-called secular greetings such as "Happy Holidays"? Some of those generic phrases were created by Chrsitians to keep the commercial frenzy of the holidays out of the spiritual celebration of Christ's birth. Now, because some conservatives have made the subject of moral values a rallying cry, people are suddenly overcome with this desire to impose Christianity on everything. Jesus told people to pray in the closet. He ridiculed public expressions of faith as insincere...why is it so many Christians seem to miss that little tidbit?

I understand that Christmas is a major Christian ritual,regardless of its ties to Pagan rites, but somehow I don't think that waiting in line for an x-Box 360 has anything to do with Jesus. The wise men did not bring Madden 2006 to Bethlehem.

There's nothing wrong with religion as long as it's personal. Somepeople need the rigid structure of a dogmatic theology to guide them on their spiritual path, others prefer a less confining approach and still others don't need to fret much over their beliefs, opting to contend with more tangible issues. To each his own. The problem with religion is that it is too often publicly exploited by political and religious leaders who hope to parlay faith into power. Throughout history religious corruption has been a devasting force. From Islamic Jihad, to the Spanish Inquistion, to the Crusades nothing good has come from the combination of religion and politics. Let's not head down that dangerous road again.

In short, don't worry about my relationship with your god.