Go Pastor Boyd

July 31, 2006

I found a great article today in the New York Times about St. Paul Pastor Gregory Boyd’s recent stand against Religious Right control over the politics of evangelical Christians. Many of you may remember the popular book, “Letters from a Skeptic,” published by Boyd in 2000, which featured an ongoing correspondence between Boyd and his agnostic father. Anyway, this is an excellent article that demonstrates what a sacrifice it is for a church leader to take this sort of stand. I really admire him for this. Click at the end of this quote for the link.

“America wasn’t founded as a theocracy,” he said. “America was founded by people trying to escape theocracies. Never in history have we had a Christian theocracy where it wasn’t bloody and barbaric. That’s why our Constitution wisely put in a separation of church and state.

“I am sorry to tell you,” he continued, “that America is not the light of the world and the hope of the world. The light of the world and the hope of the world is Jesus Christ.”

Amen to that last part!



July 30, 2006

If you are interested, check here for blips on all the community columnist for the 2006-2007 rotation. It’s not highly exciting, but there are some interesting-sounding people. More soon..

dowding the president

July 27, 2006

It’s fairly obvious, but for those of you who aren’t aware, my father and I are completely opposite when it comes to personal politics. We debate all the time on this blog, but it’s all in good humor and I think it provides a nice intellectual outlet for both of us. As is expected then, the Maureen Dowd quote in my previous post raised his eyebrows, and my response started to get long, so I thought I’d make it into a post.

Three points that I will bring together in the end in a witty and insightful way (I hope):

1. I hate rhetoric. I value open discussion, open-mindedness and hearty dialogue. I love when people can consider all sides of an argument, think through the issues and then come to a conclusion. I like to listen and be listened to, and I don’t respect those who are unable to listen to both sides without becoming judgmental and haughty. Nor do I respect those who speak in grand, vague, expansive terminology without the balance of facts, truth and real-life experiences.

2. I find people who will never admit to being wrong generally disagreeable and untrustworthy. Part of being a restaurant manager is the uncomfortable task of confronting people when they have screwed up. I can instantly respect someone who owns up to their mistakes, but rarely trust someone who I know to be lying. Yesterday I got pulled over for speeding on my way to the gym. When the cop came and asked me about it I basically said, “Yeah, I know I was speeding.” He responded, “You’re the first honest person I’ve talked to today, everybody else has got an excuse,” and then he let me go.

3. I think it’s totally natural for people to change their mind about important issues. I have personally changed my mind about a myriad of issues during the past five years. I sleep well at night knowing even if I am wrong about some things, I am considering them, and I believe myself to be a personally honest person. Does that make me dishonorable? Morally unsound? As was said during the Bush-Kerry fight of 2004, “wishy-washy”? Frankly, I don’t care, because I know that I am being honest with myself, and honesty is everything to me. I think my values have grown and developed over the past few years. I am a better friend, a more accepting person, slower to judge. I am terribly imperfect, but so are we all. We are all human for God’s sake, and the fundamentalist rhetoric of some of our nation’s leaders just disgusts me.

A few weeks ago I heard the president speaking about the Middle East conflict and general nation-building. His rhetoric was so unmistakably religious it sickened me. He spoke of bringing light into the dark corners of the world as if the U.S. was the literal messiah. Strayed as I am from religious ties, I still don’t want to hear my politicians claiming God’s will or favor on what seem like senseless, misguided attacks on a country that, albeit had a ruthless dictator, but was certainly no worse than the governments of North Korea, Iran, our “ally” Saudi Arabia and several African countries. Yet we aren’t attacking their infrastructures, we aren’t attempting to bring peace and light and joy and the American way to North Korea, and any well-read person knows that their citizens are far more repressed than the citizens of Iraq have ever been. I am not advocating more conflict, I am just trying to make the point that based on Bush’s rhetoric, we ought to be invading a lot more countries.

So I have a lot of suspicion about Bush in general. His ties to big oil, his alliance with Dick Cheney, former board member for Halliburton (currently making millions upon millions in Iraq), his lack of transparency, the planned audiences to answer questions “the right way” at townhall meetings, his use of religious rhetoric, they all rub me the wrong way. I’m not saying other politicians don’t rub me the same wrong way, they do, but the fact is Bush is the president. He should be held to the highest level of scrutiny of any person in this country. He should be without blame, he should be honest, he should be open. There are no weapons of mass destruction, Iraq could be sliding into civil war, we have lost thousands of American soldiers and directly and indirectly caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis, and our president still speaks as if this is a noble and justified war.

I’m afraid if I knew Bush in person, I would not stand by him. I would not be friends or want anything to do with a person so mired in controversy over potential personal gain for himself and his friends regarding this war. It would be one thing if he had an explanation, but unfortunately, all the American people are allowed to hear from this administration is the rhetoric.

thoughts on two subjects

July 26, 2006

I found out I will be writing about once per month for the Journal Sentinel. There will be 25 Community Columnists and one of them is published on the editorial page every day except Sunday. We are to write mainly about state and local issues with the occasional national and international piece thrown in.

I’m not sure if we pick our own subjects or if there are guidelines on that yet, but I am really excited. I will be paid “a pittance,” $25 per column, although I would happily do it for free. I have to go in later this week to get a head shot taken and my biggest fear is probably to look really bad for the photo. Later on when I am home I will post the articles I submitted on a separate page that will be on the links column under Pages. To be honest, they aren’t my best work, but since some of you requested, I will post them for a while.

O. Ricardo Pimentel (I love that name!), Editorial Page Editor for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, told me that among the 140 submissions received, there was a high level of competition and my submissions fared very well. Albeit, I do have a journalism degree and wrote columns at once or twice per week for a year at the Daily Cardinal, so it’s not quite fair, but I was still pleased. He said they look forward to working with me. As do I with them.


Changing the subject, I read a column by Maureen Dowd today that aptly stated my dislike for George W. Bush. I don’t think she’s especially mean or caustic here, but I think what she states is so true of Bush’s aggravating ability to never waver from the things he says, good, bad, right, wrong or ridiculous. Re: the Middle East conflicts in Iraq and Lebanon, from the New York Times, from July 26, 2006, “The Immutable Bush.”

“The more things get complicated, the more W. feels vindicated in his own simplified vision. The more people try to tell him that it’s not easy, that this is a region of shifting alliances and interests, the less he seems inclined to develop an adroit policy to win people over to our side instead of trying to annihilate them.

Bill Clinton, the Mutable Man par excellence, evolved four times a day; he had a tactical and even recreational attitude toward personal change. But W. prides himself on his changelessness and regards his immutability as the surest sign of his virtue. Facing a map on fire, he sees any inkling of change as the slippery slope to failure.

That’s what’s so frustrating about watching him deal — or not deal — with Iraq and Lebanon. There’s almost nothing to watch.

It’s not even like watching paint dry, since that, too, is a passage from one state to another. It’s like watching dry paint.”

Amen Ms. Dowd.

a mojito (and a voicemail) after a long few days

July 25, 2006

I just listened to my voicemail… and there was a message that went like this: “Hi Laura, this is Ricardo Pimentel (I’m thinking, I know this name but I can’t place it).. from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (??!!) and we want you to be one of our Community Columnists….”


For those of you who haven’t been reading me that long, here’s what this is about. I just found out today and I am really excited!!!

check it out

July 21, 2006

Would you please do me the favor of watching this video clip from the Daily Show on Youtube?

I know, it starts off slow, but toward the end, there is an outrageous video of some congressional action – this is a real Kansas Senator, one of one hundred people chosen to make important policy decisions in the U.S. And the things he is saying are so ludicrous it is frightening.

I can only hope that the Daily Show somehow created this insane demonstration.

scarred for life?

July 21, 2006

A few weeks ago I attended some sessions at a conference called the Midwest Social Forum. The events took place at UW-Milwaukee, and as I described in my post on cynicism, I had very mixed views about attending. I stuck to the immigration seminars, but I still became irritated at the people who would raise their hands during the so-called Q&A sessions and give speeches about organizing protests. In one instance, the moderator actually requested that everyone please not give speeches, because there wasn’t time for that and they really wanted to panel to address questions. The first person called on came up to the front of the room and literally gave a three-minute speech. Sonofa!

Changing the subject slightly, I had a mini-flashback today: I have been protested. In 1999 I was the Opinion Editor of the Daily Cardinal, a traditionally liberal student newspaper at UW-Madison, and we’d written a staff editorial they didn’t like. (Perhaps one of the Rachels remembers exactly what the issue was here, but I’m not recalling it right now). Anyway, the day it ran 40 student activists, the same people who protested everything that was to be protested at the UW campus that year, people I had routinely interviewed and knew by name, decided that the Cardinal had wronged them.

They arrived at our office mid-afternoon, before many of the other editors were out of class. So Danielle the Campus Editor, a few odd writers and I were the only ones in the office at the start of their “sit-in.” I was basically trapped at my desk for several hours. The protesters filled our small, excessively messy office and chanted, raised their hands and gave speeches about what we had said with our Constitution-granted free speech. Danielle and I were fairly quiet. I’m pretty sure my inappropriate tendency to smirk and laugh in tense situations became an issue. The other editors trickled in to work and eventually the sit-in ended–we really needed to work on the next day’s issue, and someone convinced them to leave.

So I was thinking this be part of the root of my irritation toward these protester/activists types. I respect the issues they are trying to get across, but a stroke of realism might help them be more effective with the rest of society. But what possible good can come from protesting a student newspaper? I mean, freedom of press, come on now! So I suppose in the same way abused children may grow up to be dysfunctional adults, having been protested has made me hostile towards protesters.

I would like to say that many protests inspire me. It was amazing to watch the film of thousands walking across the 6th Street Bridge in Milwaukee and 10,000 peacefully gathered at the Capitol in Madison this spring. I believe large-scale protests turn heads. I hope some people became more sympathetic toward immigrant issues due to those demonstrations, I really do. I respect the organizers in Milwaukee, but there is a difference between that and some of the petty issues and vague, empty rhetoric I heard from some of the inexperienced activists in Madison. I don’t want to lump people into a box, but when it becomes clear that some people haven’t a clue what they are talking about, it’s frustrating. I try to stay up-to-date on issues and frequently change my mind. I think that’s good. I suppose if I were running against Bush for president I’d be slaughtered for being “wishy-washy.” However, I really want politicians, protesters, activists and those seeking political change to temper passion, justice and rhetoric with common sense, an understanding of their audience, and a bit of innovation.