The Big Religion Speech

December 7, 2007 § Leave a comment

I am going to break from my usual “I don’t blog about politics”  idea and I am going to talk for a moment about Mitt Romney and the Big Speech.   I really enjoyed the Anchoress’ take on it which you can read here:  On Mitt Romney’s speech.  I wanted to add just a little too what I have heard said so far. 

Mitt Romney is not just a rank and file Mormon.   This is not your typical goes on Sunday for Sacrament meeting, holds a calling at the local ward, does his home teaching and pays 10% of his gross income to the church.  Mitt Romney was not a pew warmer.  Mitt Romney was a Stake President.  In fact he was MY stake president when I was a member of the Cambridge first branch/ward back in the early 1990s.  For those of you unfamiliar with the structure of the LDS church each local congregation is led by a Bishop or Branch President, above them is a Stake President.  The stake President is roughly equal to a Catholic Bishop. 

While I can see the eagerness of the comparisons between Kennedy and Romney (religious minorities running for high office) I can’t believe that the media has ignored this crucial difference.   Kennedy was a rank and file Catholic; Romney has been part of the LDS hierarchy in a rather pronounced way.   To “advance” through the ranks in the LDS church you don’t need to go to a seminary or be ordained.  The Mormon church in fact prides itself in the fact that it is locally and regionally led by  “lay ministers” and that all male members hold the priesthoods of the LDS church.  Men are “called” from among the local worthy members by those above them in the hierarchy. 

On a sort of funny personal note if Romney faces Hillery  in the general election it will be the first time I have actually met both major party canidates (I met Hillary back in 1987 in Arkansas — and intensely disliked her).   I agree with the assessments that Romney is bland.  He is bland, jello-salad sort of bland.  I don’t get fired up about him at all, and I would have a hard time voting for him, but I would hold my nose and do it.

 I am not worried about Romney being Mormon.  I wouldn’t care if he was Buddhist, Islamic or believed in the Blue Martian Monkey Cult.  Intelligent people can and do balance the demands of faith and the secular world.  In fact most of us to it all day every day.  I don’t see any one’s faith as an issue to them holding public office a long as they understand that the USA is not a theocracy.   I would rather vote for someone who is honest and forthright about their faith or lack of faith than someone who dissembles or claims it to be only a personal matter.   Romney is at his best when he says:

“There are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers – I will be true to them and to my beliefs. Some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it. But I think they underestimate the American people. Americans do not respect believers of convenience. ”

That sentiment is exactly what I would want to say if I was running for office and the topic of my faith came up.  I love my faith, I believe my faith, I live by it, it forms me.  If you don’t like that so be it, I am not stepping down from that.  And I really wish he had closed with that because just about everything else he said jumbled it up.  Romney seems to be saying that the most important issues to the faithful are issues where the faithful agree.   That is not the case and smacks of ignorance or worse indifference to the profound differences that exist in the faith community today.  Yes, we have similar values on many things, no there is not a substantial agreement on MANY important issues, especially social issues.

I suppose being Catholic I am more cautious about the separation of Church and State than many Christians.    It is a very powerful thing to think that as a Catholic the Constitution of the United States specifically disallows a State Church.  We will never be subjected to the horror of the Church of England or the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association  where the state controls our faith and turns it to its own ends.  In America I can say I am a Roman Catholic, loyal to my faith, loyal to Rome and that in no way diminishes my patriotism and my patriotism doesn’t infringe on my faith.  That is what religious liberty means. 

That is why I oppose “prayer in school” or religious dogma being taught in any form–I basically don’t trust the government to get that right.   But at the same time there is a plurality of faith in our nation and  I don’t mind someone wishing me Happy Hanukkah or sending me a Solstice card, I don’t want to have to curb my Merry Christmas either.  Carve wisdom from all our faiths deep in the stone of our public buildings, light our buildings in any array of lights for whatever occasion the population of town or city desire,  celebrate it all, celebrate us all, but don’t drown me in the drivel of “we all are all on the same path.”  for we aren’t.  There are differences, some of the seriously profound and important.  By playing down the differences too much we reduce each faith’s individual character.   Mix enough colors together long enough and you loose them all.

By Romney talking overly much about the commonality of faith he looses the bit of color he has.   I would much rather have heard Romney wax eloquent about the fact that, although he believe his own version of Christianity with all his heart he can respect that others view God differently and he does somewhat pull this back together near the end of his comments where I agree with Mr Romney and Samuel Adams.  I don’t care what your faith is, I don’t care what your personal beliefs about God are I can pray with you.  I MAY look at your faith as a guide to how you might vote on issues I feel are important.  I certainly won’t vote against you because you were my stake President once upon a time,  even though our faith paths diverged many years ago. 

I don’t blog about politics

November 5, 2007 § Leave a comment

But I do on occasion blog about gender issues.   There are three posts at the Anchoress that are well worth reading this morning.    Read “Mean Reporters dare ask Hillary real questions“,  “Stupid Men, Stupid Parents, Stupid Madison Avenue” and the most recent “Tony Snow make some great points“.

I have never, not ever understood the whole “gender” issue thing.  Probably because I grew up with parents, especially a father, who never treated me like an incompetent.  But even as I stepped out into the world I “missed” all this horrible bias against women.  I work in a very male heavy field (by profession I am a programmer),  I am a proud member of the Roman Catholic church — a patriarchic  hierarchy,  I went to college, I worked low income jobs.. and honestly in all that time I have never felt discriminated against.  Occasionally “harassed” by some guy or other who didn’t understand the meaning of “No, I am busy Friday night” but I always chalked that up to their inability to understand English and my naturally irresistible good looks (yes that is a bit tongue in cheek)  and the situation was always resolved with “I wouldn’t date you if you were the last man on Earth” . 

So this thing with Mrs. Clinton bugged me, like it bugged a lot of women.  What on Earth is she doing pointing out the obvious fact that she is a woman?  Oh, I get it she thinks women will vote for her becauseshe is a woman.   To which I say “Give me a break”, really.  It is every bit as sexist to expect me to vote for her because she is a woman as it would be to NOT vote for her because she is a woman.  There is no ( or at least shouldn’t be) any kind of sisterly solidarity when it comes to politics.  Mrs. Clinton supports the murder of unborn children she does NOT get my vote.  I don’t care if she is female or not.  Because guess what?  I don’t care if she is a woman or not.  All I care about are the issues and the confidence that I have that a candidate will serve the country well.  The sad thing is that she is right in her assumption that some women will vote on gender.  This is true in main part because media and the educational system have worked very hard the last thirty years making sure that women are gender biased. 

As the Anchoress points out:  “I was raised to see people as people first, not as genders, and I have long, long since grown weary of being preached to about it.”  So what was all this indoctrination about?  Why does every kids show blare about “Girls can do anything no matter what the boys might think” and  why do so many commercials feature the “Dumb Male”  and why does every college freshman have to sit through “orientation” which is bound to include a whole speech about date-rape, gender sensitivity and the classic “good woman/bad men” talk.   The reality is that women are by nature (yes, by nature) the gathers and men can be dangerous.  

Women gather, they shop, they talk, they make community.   They raise the children, decorate the home, decide on major purchases, they dress their households, they spend the money in most homes.  (yes,  sweeping generalisations but ones that Madison avenue counts on when they market just about anything from laundry detergent to automobiles).   Women have power and they always — have it just looks a little different then men.  Men display more, they fight more, they look at conquering something as a good thing.   In order to keep men from asserting any kind of influence they have to be cowed.  And they are.  I really don’t think all these pro-girl messages have helped girls, but they have cowed boys.  Boy like to brag, compete, show one another up.  That isn’t allowed now.  Everyone has to win and excellence in anything is all too often squashed on the alter of “self-esteem”.  Boys don’t gain self-esteem by being toldthey are great.  They gain it by finishing first, building something higher, throwing something farther than they did last time or the last kid did.   By whacking the competition out of public schools we are in a sense castrating our sons… which is exactly what some gender-sensitive feminist think is a good idea.   Enter a presidential candidate who thinks attending an all girl college is good experience for dealing with an all male political field. 

I loved this quote “There are questions some media organizations simply don’t ask. For instance, is racism as bad as it was two decades ago? The answer is no(sic) If you doubt it, check out your kids. They’re refreshingly devoid of the bigotry and self-consciousness that characterized our youth. ”  I have to remark on this.  About a week ago I was talking to my husband about our children.  There is a real and marked difference between our oldest, Ashley  (15) and Christopher (8).  Ashley is much more racially conscience than Christopher who isn’t at all. 

This summer Christopher was at the pool and he made a new friend.  They were the same height, the same age, they both loved swimming and they both were named Christopher.  My son talked about how much they had in common, how cool it was that they were so alike, same name and everything.  I laughed when I was talking to my husband about it.  Our son is the palest little boy, his friend was about as dark as you could hope to meet.  This little skin color thing was so unremarkable to them that they mention it at all… there was no “We are so alike — except the skin color”  It just didn’t come up.   My older daughter is very aware or color.  But not because of us.  The big difference is this: Christopher has been homeschooled.  He doesn’t learn about racial “issues” they way Ashley did.  When Ashley was 7 she came home crying one day.  Her class had been studying the civil rights movement as part of  “Black History Month”.  What Ashley got out of the little indoctrination session was this “Why are white people so mean to black people?” with tears and guilt that she was born the color of oppression.   It has stuck with her, it changed her.  No matter that we have friends with every pan-tone that human skin comes in.  No matter that her family’s entire experience with racial bigotry has been on the receiving end (Irish and Jewish) but she is supposed to be apologetic for wrongs committed by others with whom she has no connection because the powers that be benefit from a society where the populace is divided and controlled.

And that is what burns me.  No matter the rhetoric the real root of the gender and racial divide has so little to do with real bigotry.  It has so much to do with keeping vested political and commercial interests in their cozy spots and keeping the attention away from real issues.  Sad, true and frightening.

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