Digital Chum - Virtual fish guts and other nonsense

Washington

Sarah Palin and the political spotlight

Sarah Palin - Going Rogue Back in 2008, during the presidential campaign, I wrote about Sarah Palin in a post titled “Folksy” doesn’t belong in the White House. By that point, I’d gotten enough information about Palin to make up my mind about the election and her poor qualifications, anti-intellectualism, and “folksiness” disqualified her for my consideration, costing McCain my vote.

Since that time, Palin has turned into a Republican darling for reasons that only reinforce the new Republican image; an image that emphasizes (and practically glorifies) lack of education, dogmatic dismissal of science, hate-fueled misinformation, and general ignorance. Republicans used to be the party of fiscal responsibility… the party of smaller government and lower taxes… the party that wanted to keep government as unobtrusive as possible. I liked that. Now, it’s the party of “no,” the party of science denialism, the party of right-wing, fundamentalist religion, the party of self-righteous moral proselytizing and intrusion into private, personal matters, the party of selective free speech (free speech as long as it’s speech of which they approve), and the party of unwavering faith in misinformed, spiteful “leaders” like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity.

I digress.

Palin has worked hard to maintain her position in the Republican spotlight and recent polls show she has fairly strong support among Republicans when it comes to presidential contention. That indicates the lamentable state of the American voting public.

Christopher Hitchens wrote a piece for Newsweek about Palin’s appeal to “populism” and her constant denigration of the “Washington elite.” Says Hitchens…

Sarah Palin herself can apparently never tire of contrasting her folksy provincialism with the pointy-headed intellectuals, and with those in the despised city of “Washington,” where her supporters want—it would seem against her own better instincts—to move her.

It’s an interesting point. Palin rails against Washington and the “elite” but seems to have a strong desire to become a Washington insider herself… as if her poor qualifications actually make her more qualified. She is (again from Hitchens)…

[…] anti-Washington except that she thirsts for it, and close enough (and also far enough away to be “deniable”) to the paranoid fringe elements who darkly suspect that our president is a Kenyan communist.

Palin, by any rational standard, is “out there” in her views on a number of issues… not the least of which are creationism and the exorcism of witches. Her statement that she hopes our soldiers are being sent to Iraq on a “task that is from God” is also disturbing on a number of levels. Someone with her purported beliefs should not be in charge of this country if we are to be successful… and free.

Hitchens concludes (and I agree)…

Sarah Palin appears to have no testable core conviction except the belief (which none of her defenders denies that she holds, or at least has held and not yet repudiated) that the end of days and the Second Coming will occur in her lifetime. This completes the already strong case for allowing her to pass the rest of her natural life span as a private citizen.

Here’s hoping for that.

First Ammendment Wins in DC Protest

From John Moltz comes a link to an interesting perspective of the recent Washington, DC “Tea Party” protest march. He links to Matthew Yglesias’s website with the following quote.

As was the case with the bulk of the protesters, there was very little sense that anyone had any actual specific complaint with Obama’s health care proposals. That one woman loves the confederacy. This guy thinks guns are great and diversity is stupid. Many protesters feel that abortion is murder and/or that Barack Obama is in league with terrorists. But nobody had a sign urging the president to adopt more stringent cost control measures, or slamming the concept of regulations to require insurers to cover people with pre-existing medical conditions.

I don’t know if that’s valid criticism or not since protests (on pretty much any issue by any group) generally tend to be more about displaying slogans than offering solutions.

Photo via ABC News The signs I’ve been seeing in the photos I’ve viewed seem to express opinions on a pretty wide array of issues… including taxes, the deficit, ACORN, lies, socialism, Hitler, health care, and God. Some signs seemed to be well thought out by intelligent people. Some signs were obviously not. Some were absurd.

Again, I think that’s probably the case with almost any protest. You’ll find signs by sincere, intelligent, knowledgeable people alongside signs by folks who have good intentions, but are just running on pure emotion and don’t really know too much about the issues… alongside signs by people who are certifiable whack jobs. The signs will run the gamut from concern to anger to disgust to outrage to blind hate.

Most of the reports I’ve read about the protest this past weekend are saying that the crowd was exceptionally well-behaved. I haven’t read anything about any “incidents” occurring that would mar the gathering. That (in my book anyway) is a real plus for this protest.

Whether I agree with some or all of the protestors is another issue altogether, but I’m glad I live in a society where this kind of gathering is allowed to happen. There are some things about this country I think are wonderful and some things I think are pretty messed up, but freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are two of the great things.

I’m sure President Obama would agree with me.

A Better Approach

At the beginning of last month, I wrote about the Freedom From Religion Foundation‘s sign at the Olympia, Washington capitol building, stating that I wasn’t all that pleased with the approach they took with the wording of the sign. Since then, I’ve read a lot (and I mean a lot) of commentary about that situation and have decided two things.

First, I think the point of displaying the sign wasn’t to further atheism, per se, but was more to demonstrate the point that government buildings shouldn’t be hosting religious displays of any kind. Not only was the FFRF’s sign displayed, but because of the “open door” policy required due to the Alliance Defense Fund’s lawsuit, there were displays requested  for other “religions” as well (Pastafarianism, Festivus) including an application by the Westboro Baptist Church to put up a sign declaring that “Santa Claus Will Take You To Hell.” It turned into quite a fiasco which, to anyone who wasn’t too incensed to miss the point, demonstrates in grand fashion just why religious displays have no place in government buildings.

Second, I still don’t think it was the best approach. FFRF’s stated goals are (from their bylaws) “to promote the constitutional principle of separation of state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.” I think both of those goals are admirable and could have been accomplished in a way that would have brought far less scorn to atheists.

I read this article today by David Gleeson (who has a similar view about the situation) and was impressed with his suggested alternate message.

At this season, may reason triumph over fear and superstition, and may we renew our commitment to life, love, and the bonds of our shared humanity.

That’s good stuff.

David makes a number of other good points in his article as well and I especially agree with him about the absolute statements in the FFRF’s sign. Dan Barker of the FFRF should know better. Lack of evidence does not necessarily mean lack of existence. It might. It might not. We don’t know and we cannot possibly know… for certain. Claiming to know with certainty cripples us in the same faith-based trap as religion. Based on the evidence (or lack thereof in this case), I can believe there is no god, but I cannot know there is no god.

So David’s softer, more positive message is a winner in my book. I think it would have been a much better approach. It  probably still would have stirred up enough controversy to make the “separation of church and state” point, but it would have done it without putting another black mark on atheists.