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A Parable

In regards to the King hearings and the outrage poured in that direction, I'm reminded of a story my sensei told me in karate class when I was a kid.



A widow once lost a sewing needle.  She searched all over her house, but could not find it.  As the day drew on and the light started to fade, she moved her search outside.  She searched and searched.  She called her friends over to help her look.  They came, they helped, but no needle was found.  Finally, one of the neighbors asked a question where none of the others had.

"Where did you lose the needle? he said"

"In my house," said the widow.

The crowd groaned.  Someone asked "then why are we looking out here in the barn?"

"Because," the widow replied, "there is more light out here to look."




The funny thing about parables is that they can be read many ways.  Whenever I hear about people insisting that neo-Nazis be included in King's hearings, this story comes to mind. 

Roads Not Taken

Maybe I should have been a theologian.  It almost happened, you know. 

In Defense of Juan Williams

http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2010/10/juan-williams-busted.html

http://oregonfaithreport.com/2010/10/transcript-juan-williams-explains-himself/

(The above links are by no means exhaustive, but they are exemplars of both sides of the issue.  The first is a fairly standard piece about Juan Williams’s alleged bigotry, the other is his defense of what he said.)

Regarding the Juan Williams firing, a great number of pundits say a great number of things.  I see some defend him, others vilify him.  After reading the comments and watching the actual exchange, I’m ready to put my thoughts to paper.

First thing’s first: it was definitely a stupid thing to say.  Whether or not one agrees with Mr. Williams’s sentiment, he should have known that there would be a backlash.  What matters here isn’t that his statements were bigoted, prejudiced, or [insert loaded word of the week here], but that his former handlers think they were.  As much as Mr. Williams says that he worked for NPR for 10 years, he appears to have a poor grasp on the political culture there if he is as surprised by his firing as he indicates.

Now, on to what he actually said:



I'm not a bigot.


Uh-oh.  Most of the time when someone starts with this, you know where it’s going...

You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country.

Parroting credentials.  Fairly typical, regardless of who you are or what you’re talking about.

But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous. Now, I remember also that when the Times Square bomber was at court, I think this was just last week. He said the war with Muslims, America's war is just beginning, first drop of blood. I don't think there's any way to get away from these facts.

And there it is; that’s what the controversy is all about.  But what is Juan actually saying?  Is he calling for some kind of policy based on his feelings?  No.  Is he saying that all Muslims are terrorists?  No

All he’s saying is that he feels worried and nervous.



Reading Mr. Williams’s defense, the attempts to contrast his earlier writings about the struggle of blacks in America with his statements to Bill O’Reilly are ridiculous.  Trying to paint him as a bigot is idiotic, as he went on to acknowledge that these feelings are a problem that he will have to deal with.  He is cognizant of the nature of how he feels.  He acknowledges that it is irrational and that he needs to do something about it.  This means he is, by definition, not a bigot.  This is an integral part of being a rational and progressive human being.  Holding to him a standard of perfection of orthodox thought is despicable and a little horrifying.  We live, we learn.  His former handlers at NPR need to learn that not everyone is as “enlightened” as they are.

People can’t help the way they feel about something, only what they do about it.  Everyone experiences a gut-reaction to various events, some more strongly than others.  As is constantly pointed out, however, people are to be held responsible for their actions.  I can feel or think something awful, but until such time as I act on it, I’m no worse than anyone else.  We all have those feelings.  What matters is what we choose to do about them.

Juan Williams chose.  He was held responsible not for what he said, but what he thought.  While the realist says he got what he deserved, it was not because of his thoughts, but because of the nature of those above him.
Lord make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
And where there is sadness, joy.

O divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive-
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
And it's in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen

-St. Francis of Assisi

Foreign Policy Article

"Interests, not emotions, dominate the world of realpolitik."

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,662822,00.html

The quote at the top of the page says it all.

More Bullshit, Courtesy of My Cousin

"Due to the new precedent set by the Nobel Peace Prize committee the up coming Super Bowl will no longer be decided by the team that scores the most points, but rather by the one that gives the "best effort" and makes the most promises to do... things while on the field (actually doing said things will not matter at all). Good luck to all the conteders and be sure to give a lot of really good speeches."

Bullshit

Well hell, everyone . . . I'm going to cure AIDS, cancer, Ebola, colonize space, and bring peace to all mankind.

Where's my fucking prize?

I read the AP piece about common misconceptions.  That last little bit means nothing more than they're giving prizes for paving the road to hell.

That said, this isn't the low point of my opinion of the prize.  That distinction goes to the awarding of the prize to Arafat.

Implied Racism Cuts Both Ways

 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/05/AR2009080503876.html

Check out the article above.  It's a perfect example of one of my problems with the mainstream media.  Almost any kind of criticism leveled at President Obama is batted aside as being racially motivated.
 
At several points, the article goes into the differences between the Joker makeup worn by Jack Nicholson and that worn by Heath Ledger.  The author uses this difference to illustrate a perceived dichotomy between Nicholson's "urbane" character and Ledger's "urban" character.  
 
Mr. Kennicott then goes on to identify "urban" with "black."  
 
Here is where hte spuriousness begins for me, as Mr. Kennicott does not give me any compelling reason to bring race into it, as opposed to economics.  He goes on about the connection between inner city crime and race, even mentioning that the stereotypes and racist beliefs persist to this day despite the falling inner city crime rate (his mentioned statistic, not necessarily mine).
 
I can't help but think that some of these connections only exist because people like Mr. Kennicott continue to persist in their own form of racism.  This is the kind of self-victimization that gives us such blatantly racist programs as Affirmative Action.  By integrating such thinking into topical discussions where it does not belong, Mr. Kennicott does nothing but further damage his own (nominal) cause.