Monday, January 17, 2022

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2021

Today we set aside to recognize the contributions of a man to the cause of equality.  A recognition of the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his contributions to non-violent protest, equality, and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

An ordained Baptist minister, you can see the inspiration he drew from the commands to love the Lord your God above all, to love your neighbor as yourself, and to love your enemies.  His call for non-violence from Jesus' instruction to turn the other cheek.

He serves as a reminder to us that we are all derived from one creator; that there is "neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."  We could add to that list that there is neither black nor white.  

And he reminds us that our founding documents declare that "all men are created equal" and it is our job to hold our country to that truth.  

"All we say to America is, "Be true to what you said on paper." If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn't committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right. And so just as I say, we aren't going to let dogs or water hoses turn us around, we aren't going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on."

------------------------------

"There can be no gain saying of the fact that our nation has brought the world to an awe inspiring threshold of the future. We've built machines that think and instruments that peer into the unfathomable ranges of interstellar space. We have built gargantuan bridges to span the seas and gigantic buildings to kiss the skies. And through our spaceships we have penetrated oceanic depths and through our airplanes we have dwarfed distance and placed time in chains. This really is a dazzling picture of America's scientific and technological progress. But in spite of this something basic is missing. In spite of all of our scientific and technological progress we suffer from a kind of poverty of the spirit that stands in glaring contrast to all of our material abundance. This is the dilemma facing our nation and this is the dilemma to which we as clergymen and laymen must address ourselves. Henry David Thoreau said once something that still applies. In a very interesting dictum he talked about improved means to an unimproved end. This is a tragedy that somewhere along the way as a nation we have allowed the mean by which we live to outdistance the ends for which we live. And consequently we suffer from a spiritual and moral lag that must be redeemed if we are going to survive and maintain a moral stance.


[...]


And the words of Jesus are still applicable. What does it profit a generation, what does it profit a nation to own the whole world of means televisions, electric lights and automobiles and lose in the end the soul. The words of Jesus are still true in another sense. Man can not live by the bread of colored televisions alone but by every word, the word of justice, the word of love, the word of truth, every word that procedeth out of the mouth of God. And the problem is that all too many people in power are trying to get America to live on the wrong thing. And this is why we are moving in the wrong direction. This war is playing havoc with our domestic destinies for all of these reasons. We are fighting two wars today.


[...]

And so I say we need your support and we expect it as we move on into this area and I want to thank you for the support that so many of you have continually given. As we were marching today, some 5,000 strong, I thought about Selma because I could look around and see so many who have marched with us in Selma, and from Selma to Montgomery. And we are still marching and we are still moving. And I give you my commitment today that I plan to continue. Someone said to me not long ago, it was a member of the press, 'Dr. King, since you face so many criticisms and since you are going to hurt the budget of your organization, don't you feel that you should kind of change and fall in line with the Administration's policy. Aren't you hurting the civil rights movement and people who once respected you may lose respect for you because you're involved in this controversial issue in taking the stand against the war.' And I had to look with a deep understanding of why he raised the question and with no bitterness in my heart and say to that man, "I'm sorry sir, but you don't know me. I'm not a consensus leader.  I don't determine what is right and wrong by looking at the budget of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference or by taking....  Nor do I determine what is right and wrong by taking a Gallup poll of the majority opinion."  Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher of consensus but a molder of consensus.  On some positions cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right."

Martin Luther King, Jr., A Proper Sense of Priorities, February 6, 1968

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

What good does it do us, what does it profit us today to remember the man, to post quotes from his life, if we are not actively working towards change?  Are we honoring his legacy if we pretend his struggle existed only in the past?

Since 1994, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day has been recognized as a day for service.  The only federal holiday to be a day on, not a day off, reflecting our responsibility to each other.  This Martin Luther King, Jr. day, may we be active supporters in the cause of justice, of mercy.  May we be taking positions because our conscience tells us that it is right.  May we truly be in service to all.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Thank You For Being a Friend

"Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a confidant

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say

Thank you for being a friend!"

I'm not exactly sure when it started.  I know I watched some episodes when they originally aired and I remember that period.  We certainly watched that era of sitcoms in our household growing up and I remember the ones around them.  Empty Nest, Nurses, Blossom.  And I remember enjoying it at the time.  

At some point though, The Golden Girls became my go to comfort television show.  It was that way in college, law school, and living on my own.  When I had cable, it was so easy to turn to the Hallmark Channel or Lifetime and catch a re-run.  I even went through it when we had Hulu and rewatched several seasons.  

There was many a night where I would turn on The Golden Girls, lay on the couch after a long day, and fall asleep as the episodes played.

The thing is, it's a deceptively good sitcom.  And it works because of the well created characters found in Dorothy, Sophia, Blanche, and Rose.  Each of the characters is perfectly crafted, and the actresses bringing them to life are at the top of their game.

There's one episode in particular that never fails to make me laugh, and it's a bit with Rose and a Saint Olaf Story.  It involves a herring circus.  The delivery makes it clear that the actresses are struggling to keep their composure through the story.

Betty White played Rose Nylund perfectly.  It always remains interesting that White was originally envisioned for Blanche Devereaux, as it was similar to the role she played on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  Rue McClanahan was originally intended to play Rose, as it was similar to the role she played on Maude.  Both eager not be typecast, they took the suggestion of the director and switched roles at the last minute.  

I'm so thankful they did, because White was able to bring out such a well rounded character in Rose Nylund.  She brought the naivete and innocence required for the role, but also grounded it in warmth, sincerity, and earnestness that quickly shown through.

Her career is littered with such roles, particularly in television, making her honorary title, the "First Lady of Television" quite fitting.  She was the first woman to produce a sitcom, one of her first starring roles in Life with Elizabeth.  The dual natured Sue Ann Nivens on the Mary Tyler Moore Show.  Ellen Harper Jackson on Mama's Family.  A great supporting role opposite Leslie Jordan on Boston Legal.  The judgmental caretaker Elka Ostrovsky on Hot in Cleveland.  

She was the oldest person to host Saturday Night Live after a successful Facebook based campaign.  The spot garnered her a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress on a Comedy Series.  She earned a Guinness World Record for the Longest TV career by an entertainer (female) in 2014 and then again in 2018.  She received eight Emmy Awards, three American Comedy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, and a Grammy Award.  She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and has been inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.

She was a comedy genius and her spirit will be missed greatly.  Both as an actress and comedian, and as an activist and philanthropist for animals.

Ms. White passed away on the morning of December 31, 2021, the end result of a stroke she had on Christmas Day.  She would have been 100 years young tomorrow.  Ms. White was preceded in death by her husband Allen Lunden.  Lunden passed away in 1981.  White remained unmarried following Lunden's death, saying, "Once you've had the best, who needs the rest?"  She always believed she would see him again.

Rest in Peace Betty White; may your love story be continuing.

Thank you for being our friend.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

The Obsolete Mind

"You walk into this room at your own risk, because it leads to the future, not a future that will be but one that might be.  This is not a new world, it is simply an extension of what began in the old one.  It has patterned itself after every dictator who has ever planted the ripping imprint of a boot on the pages of history since the beginning of time.  It has refinements, technological advances, and a more sophisticated approach to the destruction of human freedom.  But like every one of the super-states that preceded it, it has one iron rule: logic is an enemy and truth is a menace.  This is Mr. Romney Wordsworth, in his last forty-eight hours on Earth.  He's a citizen of the State but will soon have to be eliminated, because he's built out of flesh and because he has a mind. Mr. Romney Wordsworth, who will draw his last breaths in The Twilight Zone."
Rod Serling's opening narration for The Obsolete Man
The Twilight Zone, Season 2, Episode 29, June 2, 1961

The Twilight Zone keeps becoming more and more prescient.


Indiana, like several other states, is debating new legislation ostensibly aimed at removing bias from education.  Labeled "Education Matters," Senate Bill 167 and House Bill 1134 create a system in which teacher's lesson plans must be posted by June 30 for the following year and available to parents to review, curriculum must be determined by a committee composed of 40% parents and community members and 40% educators, allow parents to opt their child out of any part of the curriculum they desire with a simple request, prohibit educators from repeatedly interacting with students on social-emotional issues without prior parental consent, and prohibit teachers from providing any qualitative assessment on a host of categories.

There are a lot of sections of these bills that are getting attention.  For example, the bill includes:

Chapter 1.5 Diginity and Nondiscrimination in Education
Sec. 2 (a) In accordance with IC 20-33-1-1, a state agency ..., school corporation, or qualified school shall not include or promote the following concepts as a part of a course of instruction or in a curriculum or instructional program or allow teachers or other employees of the school corporation or qualified school, acting in their official capacity, to use supplemental instructional materials that include or promote the following concepts:
(1) That any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation is inherently superior or inferior to another sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation.
(2) That an individual, by virtue of their sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.
...
(5) That an individual's moral character is necessarily determined by the individual's sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation.
(6) That an individual, by virtue of the individual's sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation.
(7) That any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, responsibility, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual's sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation.
...

The intent is clear.  This is the anti-"Critical Race Theory" boogey man bill.  This is really an "anti-dealing with race in anyway" bill.  It isn't even subtle.  There are provisions that prevent schools from promoting any kind of race based instruction for their teachers.  There are provisions that prohibit any kind of racial sensitivity training for school employees.  As you can see above, teachers are prohibited from taking any side in discussing this with students. It prohibits colleges from including anything related to the categories above in a teacher preparation program.  All curriculum must be approved by a newly created committee and every parent can opt out of any portion they object to with the ease of a click.

From the section provided above, teachers could not, for example, state that Nazis are bad, because Nazism is a political affiliation.  Because teachers can not even include anything above in their instruction, they could not include contemporaneous statements of people regarding their positions in the Civil War, or the Civil Rights movement.  Teachers could not discuss any kind of systemic racism, only referring to it as an individual belief.

Another section even prevents a qualified school from providing a student with ongoing or recurring consultation, collaboration, or intervention services for mental, social-emotional, or psychological health issues, or from referring a student to any such services without prior parental permission.  What's the point of a school counselor then?  

There are so many sections like this, it's almost overwhelming.  But this is not the worst part of the bill.

The worst part of the bill is not what it adds to education laws, it's what it removes.  Existing educational law has the following provision:

Section 12 IC 20-30-5-17: Sec. 17 (b) A student shall not be required to participate in a personal analysis, an evaluation, or a survey, that is not directly related to academic instruction and that reveals or attempts to affect the student's attitudes, habits, traits, opinions, beliefs, or feelings concerning:
(1) political affiliation;
(2) religious beliefs or practices;
(3) mental or psychological conditions that may embarrass the student or the student's family;
(4) sexual behavior or attitudes;
(5) illegal, antisocial, self-incriminating, or demeaning behavior;
(6) critical appraisals of other individuals with whom the student has a close family relationship;
(7) legally recognized privileged or confidential relationships, including a relationship with a lawyer, minister, or physician; or
(8) income (except as required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under a program);
without the prior consent of the student if the student is an adult or an emancipated minor or the prior written consent of the student's parent if the student is an unemancipated minor.

The new proposed legislation removes the defense of a request directly related to academic instruction and removes all of "concerning" limitations.  So the new text reads:

Section 12 IC 20-30-5-17: Sec. 17 (b) A student shall not be required to participate in a personal analysis, an evaluation, or a survey, that reveals or attempts to affect the student's attitudes, habits, traits, opinions, beliefs, or feelings without the prior written consent of the student if the student is an adult or an emancipated minor or the prior written consent of the student's parent if the student is an unemancipated minor.

Now a teacher cannot have a student provide his opinions without the prior written consent of the student's parents.  

Seriously?!?

How far does this extend?  Doesn't that just prevent a teacher from asking a student to provide any answer in English, Arts, Music, Literature, etc..?  Previously, the law was structured to have a teacher avoid topics that would be illegal to ask under other provisions of the law.  It was having a teacher avoid First Amendment issues, issues of privilege, issues of embarrassment/harassment.  Now a teacher cannot ask a student to reveal their opinion about anything without the parent's written permission.

And this strikes at the ugly heart of the proposed law - it does not view children as people.

Children, under this provision, have no independent persona of their own.  They are an extension of their parents.  And they are to be instructed in only what their parent wishes them to be instructed, so that they believe exactly as their parents believe.

A child cannot be allowed to have independent thought.  That would not do. 

Their mind is obsolete.

This is simply an extension of that primal fear that White conservatives have, of their children going off to college and being corrupted by "liberal" thought.  The fear that colleges are just indoctrinating our youth.

It was never true, but that's beside the point.  Sure, you may find a handful of professors that will sneer at conservative thought.  But that's not the reason that children would change their beliefs when they went off to college.  That doesn't happen because people are pressuring them to change their beliefs.  It happens because they go out into the world and encounter a wider world of differing thoughts and experiences.  It's because they escape the bubble of their existence and find out what they really believe, not just what they were told to believe.

All we are seeing is an attempt to enlarge the bubble.  We're seeing parents desperate to keep their children under their belief system, by making sure they are exposed to nothing else.  To never have their beliefs questioned or challenged.  To never see or experience anything else.  To never have anyone disagree with them.

To make sure their children never really grow.  No challenge, no struggle, no growth.

The mind is treated as a slate to be programmed, not grown.  Education must only input facts and data, and never teach to question.  Do not encourage curiosity.  Do not encourage debate.  Do not encourage real belief in anything.

To that end, teachers must be only babysitters.  They become extensions of the parent's in providing only the instruction on topics they agree to and with.  Children are clones to be programmed with that content.

That's where we all lose from this law.  It seeks to create a generation of compliant copies of their parents.  An appeasement to keep our current balance, a detente if you will.

If there is any good news, it's that the current generation won't stand for it.  They are already calling us out on our bull, and they will see right through this as well.  They are rightfully deconstructing their faiths already and are finding the earthly representations of them wanting.  They will do the same with education.  It's already been occurring, as far too many of them see the harm that has already been done.

Hopefully, we can convince the Indiana House and Senate of their error as well.

Let's avoid that Twilight Zone if we can.

The chancellor, the late chancellor, was only partly correct.  He was obsolete.  But so is the State, the entity he worshiped.  Any state, entity, or ideology becomes obsolete when it stockpiles the wrong weapons: when it captures territories, but not minds; when it enslaves millions, but convinces nobody.  When it is naked, yet puts on armor and calls it faith, while in the Eyes of God it has no faith at all.  Any state, any entity, any ideology that fails to recognize the worth, the dignity, the rights of Man...that state is obsolete.  A case to be filed under "M" for "Mankind" - in The Twilight Zone.
Serling's scripted closing narration for The Obsolete Man

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

TCM Remembers 2021

This week seems it may be a lot of memorials.  I typically share this at the end of the year, but that was a bit full this time.  TCM always puts together a classy memorial reel, providing the most comprehensive look at the loss that film suffered in the past year.


This past years list included legends and so far 2022 is following in that vein.  There will be a couple more posts for specific individuals later this week.

Monday, January 10, 2022

A Reminder 2022

We've made it to 2022.  Through the set of Christmas posts and into the new year, and there were a lot more eyes on the posts this December than there have been over the past year.  With that in mind, it's probably a good time to give this reminder about the blog.

First, I want to thank you all for your readership and your kind words.  I remain humbled by the response.  To everyone who has let me know you are reading, ever liked a post, or commented, thank you.  It is appreciated more than you could know.  To those of you who read in silence, thank you as well.

I would also like to use this time to post a reminder of the blog rules, and to provide advance warning.  There will be blogs that will either make you mad or will upset you or challenge your position on a particular topic.  The blog is my personal writing exercise and soap box, so it will reflect my biases and my contrarian streak.  I will also likely question things that many people believe are and should be settled.  I am open to civil discourse on almost any topic.

Finally, I wanted to pass along a reminder that I have an email subscription option on the page.  With that, you'll receive an email link each time a new post is added.  There is also an RSS feed option, in case anyone prefers that method.

Further, an update of the reminders previously posted:

  1. This blog represents largely a writing exercise and an outlet for me to get thoughts out of my head.  It contains my opinion on variety of issues from serious to silly and is filtered through my experiences, biases, etc.
  2. I promise, I will post on topics that are so niche-focused, so utterly nerdy that anyone but me is going to be bored to tears.  I try to keep those to only once or twice a week and to rotate through a variety of topics throughout the week to keep it interesting.  I use the labels so that you can screen out certain topics if you want to.
  3. I will post things that you will disagree with and that will potentially make you upset.  I know I am more liberal than the majority of my audience.  Probably regarding doctrine and politics both.  These are both topics I'm going to write on from time to time.  I personally favor moderation and lean center-left, but will post on a variety of viewpoints from center-right to hard left (maybe even hard right in a few instances).
  4. I am going to be harder on Republicans than I am on Democrats.  While I am not a fan of many politicians of many different political parties, I am growing to despise what the Republican party is becoming.  And I reserve the sharpest criticism for them due to one fact above all: the perverse mixture of politics and religion that Republicans promote. Because they purport to hold themselves out as the Christian party, I'm going to hold them to that impossible standard.  
  5. I am likewise harder on churches and Christians than I am on non-believers.  Those who profess to believe have identified themselves as recognizing a higher standard.  To put it simply, "we should know and act better."  And do so based on a reading of the entire Bible.  Sadly, we all too often fall far short of this.  While I do want to extend grace to those that slip, when errors occur as abuses of power in the church  or in ways that belittle the faith they claim to hold, I will be discussing it. 
  6. I'm generally more interested in questions than concrete answers.  I think we as a collective are less curious than we should be and settle for comfortable answers when we should still be asking harder, more difficult questions.  
  7. I am completely open to disagreement and debate. Honest and open dialogue is the only way we can move forward in any civilized society.  However, I have a few ground rules for debate:
    • I will not tolerate name calling or muckraking.  When the thread resorts to calling each other racists, "liberal snowflakes," "libtards," or four-letter words, I will shut it down.  Likewise, I'm not going to let stereotypes and sweeping generalities go unchallenged.  All liberals do not want the destruction of our country, all conservatives are not bigots, etc.
    • I hope for discussion that will foster conversation, not end it.  So I expect more than "guns don't kill people, people kill people" in a discussion on gun control, for example.  I will not let those conversation-enders stand unchallenged.
    • Compromise is not a dirty word.  And likewise, I do hope people change their mind from time to time based on what they learn. Including me.
    • I follow this hierarchy for the value of information: facts, then informed opinions, then general opinions.  Saying "that's just my opinion" is going to get nowhere with me if it is not supported by the facts.
As always, thank you for reading.  Here's to the new year of posting!

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Christmas, A Summary

It's interesting how we set a couple of chapters of the Bible aside to really only teach them once a year.  We set aside everything to do with the birth of Jesus and reserve it for December.  As if that were the only time we could learn from it.  

It's odd, because we wouldn't recommend someone reading through the Bible in a year, or whatever period of time, set aside Matthew 2 and Luke 1-2 for December.  Rather we would recommend they read it and study it when they come to it. For context and for understanding.

In that spirit, I've collected all of the posts that have focused on the birth of Jesus and the religious celebration around it into this summary post.  It can serve as a reference point for me to jump back to and expand as the years progress and hopefully will prove useful to others as well.

May we not leave the power, the joy and wonder of the incarnation of the Holy Christ to one season a year.

Advent


The Nativity




The Twelve Days of Christmas (An Overview)

Ephiphany, or Three Kings Day


Saturday, January 8, 2022

To Sir, With Love

"The time has come
For closing books and long last looks must end
And as I leave
I know that I am leaving my best friend

A friend who taught me right from wrong
And weak from strong, that's a lot to learn
What, what can I give you in return?

If you wanted the moon
I would try to make a start
But I would rather you let me give my heart
To Sir, with love"


One of the great joys of watching film is discovering great filmmakers.  Not only those who make great art, but also those who live great lives.  Poitier was always recognizable, even to me as a young film viewer.  The voice instantly let you know who was on screen.  And his presence on screen captivated anyone's attention.

Over the past two years, I've really explored Poitier's filmography.  Prior to that, my exposure to him was only through Sneakers and Lillies of the Field.  But over the past two years, we've seen No Way Out, Cry, The Beloved Country, Blackboard Jungle, Edge of the City, The Defiant Ones, A Raisin in the Sun, A Patch of Blue, In the Heat of the Night, and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.  These roles meant something.  They said something.  And Poitier blazed a trail in them.

"Before Sidney, African American actors had to take supporting roles in major studio films that were easy to cut out in certain parts of the country. But you couldn't cut Sidney Poitier out of a Sidney Poitier picture."
Denzel Washington

Poitier was the first African American to receive the Academy Award for Best Actor, the first in either of the Best Actor/Actress categories.  He has received a Grammy Award, two Golden Globe awards, and a BAFTA.  He further received two Academy Award nominations, ten Golden Globe nominations, two Primetime Emmy Award nominations, six BAFTA nominations, eight Laurel nominations, and one Screen Actors Guild nomination.  In 1995, Poitier received the Kennedy Center Honor and in 2009 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.  He was also named an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 1974.  

He was an icon, an activist, and an ambassador.  He made our film better and he made our world better.  He will be greatly missed.

"Through his groundbreaking roles and singular talent, Sidney Poitier epitomized dignity and grace, revealing the power of movies to bring us closer together. He also opened doors for a generation of actors. Michelle and I send our love to his family and legion of fans."
President Barack Obama