Sister Novena's PortaPulpit
freedom, liberalism, movies, and truth

Saturday, September 04, 2004
The Politics Of Division

I have to make an admission: I don't actually give a shit about politics.

Yes, it's true; in spite of everything I've written here (much of it for the sole purpose of needling my lovely-but-Republican mother), politics ranks very, very low in my list of personal priorities. Scattered around this planet are the ruined remains of civilizations, each of which had their own political issues and tensions; no doubt the politics of their day seemed vitally important, even end-of-the-world decisive, to them at the time, but to us they are simply the subject of passing interest, perhaps the topic of a few paragraphs in a mind-numbingly dull text somewhere. My point being, while the world can waver between peace and conflict, stability and chaos, better- and worse-off, at the end of the day, none of this actually means anything. The art, religion, and philosophy of those times has, more often than not, lasted far longer than the politics; if any human endeavor is worth staking your life on, it's those, and not their bastard cousin, politics.

But it's so hard not to get wrapped up, even if to become so is ultimately a destructive process. I do not hate Republicans -- what a stupid thing that would be -- I merely disagree with them. We'd be much better off if we could discuss our differences like adults; we'd likely discover, I suspect, that we have a great deal in common. The problem is, we all recognize that if those who best represent our views don't fight back against every meaningless, petty, stupid little criticism now, we'll never get an opportunity to put some of our principles into action.

But what are those principles? My liberalism is based in some pretty simple ideas, and contrary to popular belief, those ideas are not solely altruistic. What I believe, essentially, is this:

Every person has a fundamental right to education, for as long as he or she is willing to put the work into their intellectual advancement. Education should be free -- or at least very low-cost -- to everyone from childhood through their advanced degree. Schools should be well-funded and teachers respected; society should recognize that education is the literal foundation of our future wellbeing. This is not only about the individual's benefit; a society of educated, thoughtful, skilled people is good for everyone, and over time everyone will share in the cultural and economic benefits of a well-educated, literate population.

Every person has a fundamental right to health care throughout their lives. This is based in a belief that every person has a contribution to make, but can only make that contribution if they are healthy and well. The medical community has a right to pursue any research and treatment options they deem worthwhile; decisions should be made only by the patient and their doctor. We can make even advanced medicine more affordable for everyone if we do so as a community, and ultimately universal healthcare -- by whatever means -- is of benefit to everyone.

Every person has a fundamental right to complete and absolute freedom of thought and expression. Ideas are never, in and of themselves, harmful; the supression of even odious ideas, on the other hand, is the beginning of a relativism that can ultimately put worthy ideas in jeopardy. A stable, thoughtful society should have no reason to feel threatened by any challenging idea.

Every person has a fundamental right to dignity and equal rights in every respect. A disapproval of how another person lives their life is not reason to withhold or restrict their rights. Nobody has a right to make any decision regarding another person's choices in life.

Corporations should be free to do business as they see fit, but like every member of a community, also bear a responsibility not to do harm, whether physical or economic, to other bodies or individuals.

Society does have an obligation to look after the basic needs of their weakest and poorest. Again, this is not simply altruistic; a society in which people are assured that they will not be entirely abandoned is a stable society, and everyone benefits from a stable society.

Everyone should be free to follow any faith freely, or to follow no faith at all.

Our country must remain mindful of its place in the greater world, and realize that the greater good also extends beyond our nation's borders. The abuse of natural resources and the environment will eventually hurt everyone; the protection of the same will be of benefit to future generations. We have an obligation to think of their needs as far as we're able, as well as those of our neighbors.

The communal good -- local, regional, national, and international -- is as important and valuable as personal interest; compromise and balance between the sometimes-opposing values should be possible in all issues.

Notice what's not included here: I don't condemn capitalism, I don't want to push atheism on anyone, I don't want to take anyone's guns away. I agree that in some respects, well-meaning liberals have gone unnecessarily far where behavior and personal restriction are concerned. And I doubt, really, that many conservatives will have serious objections to any of these... the last item, about the communal good, might perhaps raise some hackles, but I would remind anyone who dislikes it of this point: I, as an individual, will be much more comfortable with your personal gain if I feel reasonably well-assured that it will not infringe on my own wellbeing. This isn't about carrying the load for anyone, it's about respecting your neighbors.

At the same time, it seems that a good deal of this has resonance in the ideas that conservatives have embraced as their own: personal responsibility, not infringing on the personal rights of others, and the economic wellbeing of the people. It would just be nice to hear a conservative agree that these ideas aren't crazy, aren't foolish, and that we liberals and progressives might be making some good points. I also invite any conservatives reading this to make their own lists of basic principles, so that perhaps we can find the commonalities between them.

That would be cool, right?
5:20 PM ::
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Thursday, September 02, 2004
Over-Zell-ous

Okay, so the headline pun's a bit obvious; sue me.

I finally got to see Zell's speech (and his subsequent appearance on Hardball) tonight, and all I can say to the Republicans reading this is: thank you.

Thank you for taking Zell off our hands. Thank you for having the huevos to show what your party's really made of. Thank you for alienating tens of thousands of undecided voters. And thank you for demonstrating which party is really on the Dark Side.

The only thing that could've topped Zell's 1941-esque speech and the implicit call to the peasantry to grab torches and pitchforks and head for Boston, was his amazing performance on MSNBC not long after, in which he challenged Chris Matthews to a duel:
MILLER: If you're going to ask a question...

MATTHEWS: Well, it's a tough question. It takes a few words.

MILLER: Get out of my face.

MILLER: If you are going to ask me a question, step back and let me answer.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Senator, please.

MILLER: You know, I wish we...

MILLER: I wish we lived in the day where you could challenge a person to a duel.

MILLER: Now, that would be pretty good.
(source)

Unbelievably cool.

In any case, I do have to wonder what the hell the GOP is up to. I understand that the Democratic party's hands are not entirely clean when it comes to campaigning, but it does seem to me that by and large, the DNC was generally a very hopeful, optimistic affair. We give the American voter Barack Obama -- tall, elegant, articulate and sincerely optimistic -- and the GOP gives 'em Emperor Palpatine, complete with pallid, artificial-looking fishbelly skin:


Give in to your hate, Luke...


Does anyone seriously question which party is the one more infected with toxic rage and spite? The Bush administration, almost four years in, has nothing to show for their time but a limping economy, a vastly divided populace, pariah status in the international community, and a bloody, demoralizing, utter failure of a war. So all they can do is stand behind a podium and scream diatribes at John Kerry and hope to reel in the suckers.

It's a sad day when we have to ask:
Not every country works this way. In some countries, the commander in chief builds a propaganda apparatus that equates him with the military and the nation. If you object that he's making bad decisions and disserving the national interest, you're accused of weakening the nation, undermining its security, sabotaging the commander in chief, and serving a foreign power -- the very charges Miller leveled tonight against Bush's critics.

Are you prepared to become one of those countries?
(source)

PS: I haven't even read the transcript of Bush's speech tonight; one thing at a time, my darlings.

10:53 PM ::
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Long Wednesday

I cannot tell you how painfully tired I was for most of yesterday. My five hours of sweet oblivion translated into three hours of unsettled sleep (after getting only four hours the night before), so I was really feeling it when I dragged myself out of bed. In spite of the fact that I was probably a danger to myself and others behind the wheel, I ventured forth to Midtown for the day's shoot.

When we got to Theaterworks (which was serving as a studio for the day), we discovered that Lee was in a foul mood. He was silent and sullen, speaking to nobody except to express the most perfunctory thoughts and commands. We spent a couple of hours theorizing among ourselves what the problem was; it was a dangerous day for Lee to be stroppy, if that's the way things were going. We had a potentially-volatile mix on the set, and if Lee said the wrong thing at the wrong time, walkouts were a distinct possibility (and I am included in that number.) Cathy, who has been helping out from time to time, was brave enough to enquire quietly what the issue was; she got enough out of him to judge that it wasn't anything to do specifically with any of us, which was good enough. Still, it made for an uncomfortable morning.

Once DeVere and the other actor got there, we set to work. Given how tired I was, the conditions were almost cruel -- a dark set, the same dialogue over and over and over again; I was genuinely struggling to stay alert. But we got through the shots with minimal irritation (which was a blessing, considering), and just around 1 PM we finished DeVere's final shots in the film. DeVere hugged me so hard I got a bit light-headed; Scott, the main supporting actor, had done the same thing a few days before. It's a bit sad that leaving this film is considered cause for celebration, but I can't deny that I was envious of those who have been released from their obligations.

After DeVere left, we found we had an enormous gap between the departure of one necessary actor and the arrival of the next; the next shots wouldn't be taken for more than three hours. I passed the time by curling up on a sofa serving as set dressing for the play currently running, and had myself a nice nap on the stage. Three hours was enough to get me past the hump, and when I awoke I felt much better. We shot the remaining two scenes, and that was it for the day. Derrick (Co-op buddy and erstwhile boomswinger) and I went to the Co-op to kill a few hours before heading to the Hi-Tone to meet with DeVere and Diana to hear Doug's band chess club. When we got there, DeVere showed up with flowers... for me! They were intended as a thank-you for my work on the film -- it says something, I think, that I got flowers not from the director, but from the lead actor -- and I was genuinely touched. It was really great to feel finally appreciated; it was really, really sweet of DeVere, and very appreciated.

Doug came over and chatted a little before his band went on. I admit I had high expectations for the band, but I was really impressed just the same. This is one of those occasions -- they're happening more frequently lately -- when I wish I had more knowledge about music so that I could discuss it intelligently; as it is, all I can really say is that I really enjoyed their stuff. (I have a burgeoning band-crush on chess club now.) They do that really great thing where the music goes in an unexpected direction, which turns out to be exactly the right one... Doug said before they played that the band deserves a following, and he's damn right, they do. I will continue to encourage people to come to their shows, and maybe do some small part in helping that following to grow.

I'm still trying to catch up on the RNC goings-on; apparently Zell Miller spent last night channelling the old Dixiecrats. Look for more later tonight.
5:28 PM ::
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With Us Or Against Us... With Us Or Against Us... With Us Or Against Us...

The newest terrorist-cuddling Frenchmen on the block are, apparently, our closest allies. If Blair remains silent on the matter, I'll take it as an admission that he's really regretting ever taking up with Dubya; it might restore a bit of my faith in the fundamental sanity of British government. And without sanity, really, what else have they got going for them? (Heh... I kid because I love.)

The next step, of course, would be the demonization of all things English, a sudden total amnesia regarding Britain's support, and the reappearance of the long-forgotten third verse of the national anthem:
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out of their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave'
From the terror of flight and the gloom of the grave

Be on the lookout for nationwide boycotts of English muffins and "Are You Being Served?" reruns, coming soon.
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Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Filler

Sorry for the lack of activity the last couple of days; until Thursday I'm barely going to be able to keep up with everything I have to do, much less the stuff I enjoy, like talking to y'all.

Anyway, in the hope of maintaining my daily hit count until then, I'm proud to present this bit of juvenile potty humor. If you think preachers are funny, and you think farts are funnier, boy are you gonna love this! It doesn't appear to be the original version; there was a far superior one years ago -- better expressions, and more realistic sound effects -- but this'll do for now... anyway, you get the idea.

Note: you really want a broadband connection for this; the effect is ruined on slower connections due to the RealPlayer-ish format of the file. The evangelist is the famous Robert Tilton, once described by Frank Zappa as resembling an echidna. And forgive the obnoxious-ness of the surrounding website; I find it amazing that the site is even less mature and dignified than the video file.

I got three hours of sleep last night, and now I have time for about five more hours of sweet oblivion before I have to get back to work, so I'll see you Thursday (probably late-ish.)

Oh, and locals... come to the Hi-Tone tonight (wednesday) with the rest of us to see chess club play, because apparently, from what I've been told, they rock.

That is all.

Update, Thursday, 2:20 AM: As promised, chess club did indeed rock; more tomorrow. Now I'm going to go pass out for, oh, say fourteen hours.
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Sunday, August 29, 2004
And So We Begin

It's time, kids... the convention that every left-minded person I know has been dreading is about to get underway. It's not the convention we fear -- we know what to expect from that (and it will all be dealt with on an ongoing basis in the blogosphere throughout the next three days), it's the protests. Or more pointedly, it's the response to the protests: we fear that New York City '04 will become an echo of Chicago '68. The New Yorkers I know are particularly anxious -- this is, after all, their city that's under the gun (both literally and figuratively), and the last thing they need is civil unrest in the streets.

I think, from those I've spoken to who are going, that the vast majority of people are aware of the necessity of a resolutely non-violent attitude, and they intend to keep their protests above reproach. On the other hand, there will always be troublemakers (from both sides) involved in something this big; the cops, in turn, will probably be particularly high-strung this week. We may have an advantage over Seattle in that here the cops, to a surprisingly not-small degree, are perhaps more sympathetic to the protestors' goals... although, on the other hand, cops are sort of the ultimate blue-collar Republicans: they will follow their orders from the big guys regardless of what it means for them and their community. This all seems to suggest that however peaceable the protestors are, it will be difficult to avoid trouble in New York this week. I sincerely hope that we manage it -- to name our deepest fear, nobody on this side wants to see bloodshed -- but I'll be surprised and amazed if we get through this without some ugliness.

In any case, the city as an entity is immensely pre-disposed to back the protestors rather than the invading Republican hoards. I don't know whose idea it was to have the convention in NYC (seriously, why not just have it in Baghdad?), but I bet they get fired when it's all over. Politicizing 9/11 (the only rationale for doing this) is an exceptionally unpopular activity, and without that, all they've got is a hostile city that, by and large, is solidly liberal territory. Put it this way: this is perhaps the worst week in history to be a Republican tourist in NYC. I'm glad I'm not one of 'em.

(Apparently the only people more concerned about what awaits us all in New York than the protestors are, well, Republicans... but at least our fears aren't riddled with paranoia.)

I don't anticipate writing much about the convention here -- or at least not much that's interesting, since I'm neither a) there, nor do I b) have a source there (unless Randy wants to send in some notes from the front) -- but it's going to be the big news of the week, and the nation is watching with trepidation, so it seems worth mentioning.

PS In other news, it was announced yesterday that Australia's election will take place on October 9, which is pretty much right when Smithers predicted it would be. So 10 points to him for calling it. Maybe (hint, hint) he'll post something about it sometime, eh?
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