A Gored Ox

I recently read yet another story illustrating the assumption of rightness and privilege, and the prevention of thinking by religious fundamentalists, Christians mostly, in the United States.  Two young men, one twenty-three, and the other, twenty-five, had been enrolled in the University of Tennessee.  Each had become derailed by booze and drugs, and had dropped out.  Each of them had turned their life around, with the help of friends and family, but, by themselves.  The very fact of their addiction was proof to the Godly, of their allegiance to Satan, especially when it became known that they were both atheists.  Their rehabilitation was ignored.

They both re-enrolled in university and were doing well.  As study material for a Civics course, they went to observe sessions of the State Legislature.  In direct contravention of a law, passed by an earlier Legislature, there was a pre-session prayer to “God, and Jesus”.  They filled out the necessary form, and waited to ask a question of the floor.

When it came their turn, they suggested that the group refrain from breaking the law, and do away with the opening Christian prayer.  Half the legislators merely laughed and ignored their legal request.  The opinions of the other half ranged up to having them ridden out of town on a rail.  Their signed form is a legal document and is supposed to be placed on file, but nobody seems to know just what happened to it.

They said they knew going in, that nothing is ever accomplished via the request form, but procedure must be followed.  They found a lawyer, and, funded by an atheist group, he took their case and sued the Legislature.  They say that they were surprised by the amount of support for their cause, including from some “good Christians.”  Without the facility for objective thinking, it is almost impossible to see a problem from the inside.

Some incensed citizens have said that there will be a huge bang, when they hit the bottom of hell.  Here’s where some of the lack of thought starts.  If, as accused, they are doing the Devil’s work, wouldn’t they be welcomed to Hell and given a union steward’s position?  The ironic point is that, if they don’t believe in God, they don’t believe in a Satan, to work for.

All they requested was that there be a minute of silence, so that each person present could communicate with their personal Deity, in their prescribed manner.  The law states that, either there be no prayer, or a vague, non-denominational offering be given.  They want the law of the land, and the rules of the Bible, to be obeyed.  In the Bible, Christ said, Even as ye have done unto these, the least of my brothers, ye have done unto me.  In regards to the law, Christ also said, Render unto Caesar, that which is Caesar’s.  Apparently even Caesar is too preoccupied with privilege, to render.

The Bible-belt Christians’ ox has been gored, and they have come roaring back, as usual with great passion but absolutely no thought.  Someone has had the temerity to challenge their position of privilege, and By God, we’re not going to take it, no matter what the law says.  One of the boys says that most of his family, at least accepts what he is doing, but his grandma is so disappointed by what she believes is occurring, that she won’t even speak to him.  He finds it ironically amusing that she always insisted that he obey all laws, not be selfish and think of others.

Karl Marx said that religion is the opiate of the masses.  When Jesse, The Body, Ventura was governor of Minnesota, he learned the difference between truth and tact.  He paraphrased, and said that Christianity is the refuge of weak-minded, weak-willed people who can’t think for themselves.  He got shat on, in great volume, and from a great height, by his constituents, not necessarily because he was wrong, but because the faithful don’t like to be reminded of their failings.

There is a story about an Arab whose camel sticks his nose in the tent to get it warm, and the Bedouin does nothing about it.  Then the camel sticks his whole head in, then his shoulders, then his chest, and each time the Arab does not force him back out.  Soon, the entire camel is inside the tent, and the Arab is forced out into the cold.  This is akin to what the fundamentalist Christians are doing now.

If someone tries to shoo the religious camel back out of the tent, the hyper-Christians claim they’ve lived there all along, and they have the right to stay.  They make the unsupported claim that the country was founded, “on Christian Principles.”  Most of the Founding Fathers, who could think strongly and clearly enough, to midwife a new nation into existence, could be described as Secular Humanists.  Even those who were good Christians, were wise enough to see the advisability of separation of Church and State.

Someone recently tried to have the two words, “under God” removed from the pledge of allegiance.  Immediately, the thumpers were all over it, claiming that the phrase was, “always there”.  It meant nothing to them that the “Good Christian” president, Dwight Eisenhower violated the Constitution, and had it inserted as recently as 1958.  The same thing is happening with the phrase, “In God we trust,” on coins and bills.  It’s not that there is anything particularly wrong with these words; it’s just the insistence by the fundamentalists that they are infallibly correct and no-one else should have the right to express a contrary opinion.

It’s a good thing that there are a few Secularists, confrontational and vocal enough to gore a few of these sacred oxen, to demonstrate that people other than Christians have legal, social and political rights, even if it’s just the right to be left alone.

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Multicultural Festival

The family all had a big, interesting, informative day on Saturday.  The son worked all night, and stopped off at the downtown Kitchener market to pick up some eggs and bread.  The social engineers have pretty much ruined, what used to be a great experience.

The market used to be inside a warehouse-type building and outside, in what was a parking lot during the week.  The city could only realize income for two days a week on this building, so they sold it to a developer, and moved the market to the bottom level and meeting room of a new parking garage.

After twenty years, their contract with the owner ran out, and the space was required for parking for a 24/7 call center.  They designed and built a new market building, a couple of blocks down the street.  This monstrosity has all the glamour of an airplane hangar, and they are having trouble getting shoppers to come, and vendors to stay.  The number of parking spaces, underground, is limited, and auto paint and scrapes on almost every concrete pillar, indicate why people won’t come back.

The son got home about ten to eight and turned the car over to us.  We picked the daughter up and headed for the (Mennonite) farmers’ market at the northern edge of our twin city.  With acres of parking and outdoor vendors, this market has thrived, partly from the failure of the downtown market.  We bought some fresh meat and produce, had coffee and doughnuts, and then hit a half a dozen stores in that area, dropped the daughter and her stuff off, and were home just before two.

Kitchener holds a yearly multicultural festival, and we all wanted to attend.  They started it on the July First weekend, but that is Canada Day, a holiday, and many people wanted to go camping, or to a cottage, so they moved it back to the weekend before.  The son was supposed to have gone to bed early and got a few hours sleep, but he was up when we got home.  Nothing unusual in that.  The wife and I went to bed after three AM and were back up at seven.

The festival is held in a big park, right downtown.  It’s three blocks by three blocks, with streams and a lake with fish and wildfowl.  I dropped the wife and her crutches, along with the son, at the front gate.  You couldn’t get a parking spot within a half mile, with a gun, and they are frowned on.  A city trail, which used to be a railroad line, runs through the back end of it.  The daughter lives just off that trail, three blocks away.  I drove to her place, parked, and the two of us returned, her on her power wheelchair.

The City probably intends it as a social bonding and cultural acceptance exercise, but the unifying force I see among the licensed attendees, is commerce and capitalism.  It’s almost amusing to see a meditating Buddhist monk, hoping you’ll pay money to learn how he achieves Nirvana.  With your money, that’s how!

Many local ethnic groups set up food tents, so that you can sample their cuisine.  They use the profits to finance various groups and projects.  At the front of the park was the city’s tent, handing out information and site maps.  Then there were two mobile ATMs and, down both sides of the field were food tents representing Pakistani, Indian/Sri Lankan, Jamaican, Filipino, Turkish, Ethiopian, Zambia/Tanzanian, Vietnamese, Salvadoran, Greek Cypriot, Turkish Cypriot, Chinese, The Islamic Council, Muslim Women and Vietnamese Buddhists.  I started with a Gyro plate from the Turkish tent, and later tried a sample plate from the ZamTan folks.  Gyro is actually a Greek term.  The Turks should call it doner, but, whatever sells.

It’s a good thing we learned how to make Salvadoran pupusas after last year’s visit.  There was a huge line-up there.  The pupusas are really popular, but their service staff were the least organized.

Many of these groups also had commercial/information booths further back.  You could buy carvings, clothing, henna tattoos, jewellery, toys and other assorted gewgaws, too numerous to mention.  Aside from the blatantly ethnic, there were a lot of social-awareness groups.

The Regional Police had a shop.  The local publicly funded radio station had a remote broadcast booth.  There was an organization called Unlearn, an anti-violence, anti-bigotry, anti-the usual suspects way of doing things, group.  Sort of an Occupy For Intellectuals.  The Free Thinkers, whose meetings the daughter and I occasionally attend, had a booth.

There were also; The Art Gallery, the Symphony, African/Caribbean Awareness, Non-Violence Council, the local Transit Authority, English as a Second Language, Falun Gong, Injured Workers Support, the Library, a geo-caching group, all three major political parties, Hare Krishnas, ice-cream cranked out by a tiny, one-cylinder motor, a coffee-house for adults to relax and Tales For Children, who would watch kids and entertain them for busy parents.

A fourteen year-old girl, who gets let off a school bus several miles out in the country, had a speeding garbage truck bank off the back corner of her stopped bus, and smash her into a field, recently.  She’s an hour away, in a specialty hospital.  The entire local Mennonite community is backing her and her parents.  There was a booth selling ribbons, rubber bracelets and shirts to help finance anticipated huge care fees, if she survives.  We got our bracelet at a Mennonite meat store that morning.  I just hope the entry fee was waived for them.

The native-Canadian Indians held a pow-wow.  The Lutheran Church was there.  The Catholic Church was represented by five Jesuit priests in long black cassocks.  They looked as warm as the Arab women.  I saw one Arab female….well, actually I didn’t.  An amorphous, mobile, little black mass with a half-inch slit at eye level, covered with Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses.  Clothing ranged from there down to hot, (mostly) young things wearing so little fabric, there was barely enough room to hang the for-rent sign.

We got home about seven PM.  By that time the son had been up for 24 hours.  He immediately headed for bed and the wife and I had a two-hour nap before I started this post.  I can hardly wait for next year.