On Double Standards

Remember when Bush was president of the US? Remember how people would make fun at him and basically call him a monkey? That wasn’t good or right; I think we can all agree on that. I personally disliked the man’s policies, actions, and his Texas cowboy impersonation annoyed me. It seemed–and in retrospect is almost certainly–a fa├žade put on to endear him to the common man, whoever that is. I think he did a lot of evil during his time as president. I don’t think he was a good president at all, and I’m pretty sure in retrospect however many years from now his time in office will be viewed as dimly as it is now.

That said, I have a right to disagree with the man. I have a right to talk about him and what he does. I don’t have to agree with George W. because I’m a Christian and he claimed to be a Christian, or because I’m supposed to be a conservative, or because he’s a world leader, or because I know a bunch of people who just seemed to like the guy through thick and thin.

They would tell me, “Dan, I know he’s got his issues, but you still have to respect him for who he is.” This is borne out in scripture as well as just making good sense. The office deserves honour even when the man filling the office doesn’t exactly engender respect. They would point to a bunch of people saying some pretty stupid things and dumping on the guy and his party and his intelligence and whatever. And they would tell me these people are doing something wrong.

I agree. So where’s that respect and tolerance now?

Where’s the spirit of respecting the office and not going around calling the president stupid, or saying he’s just a media icon, or attacking him because he’s on the wrong team? Where did that go? Or does extending the sort of grace and love to the president of the US only apply when you’re talking about the other guys? That’s the sort of double standard designed to shut other people up. I can’t really think of a better way not to have to hear bad things about a guy you like.

Having a president from the other team is really a crisis of morality for conservatives, seeing how closely the evangelical establishment is tied the conservative Republican party. It’s a crisis of, How do I act when I’m on the losing side? And from what I’ve seen, the character of Evangelical America is pretty ugly. If anything its uglier than the unwashed, unchurched masses that voted for Obama.

Which is sad. It’s another reason the church shouldn’t be involved in political brinkmanship. There’s nothing like politics to bring out the bad in some people. I know I’m like that. I said some of the same stupid things about Bush and made some pretty unkind remarks about him. I’m sorry I said those things. I should be better than that, especially as a Christian.

But I’ll repeat the question: Where’s that spirit of grace and love? If the president wins a pretty meaningless award–just as a for instance–where a lot of people agree it could have gone to someone more deserving, do you use the opportunity to make snide remarks about the man and pretty much dump a bunch of crap on him? And if so, what does that say about your character?

One more quick note.

Let me say one more thing to cap off my last post about the situation in Ottawa.

I’ve seen a number of emails and Facebook groups basically parroting the Conservative talking points. This disturbs me. As people in general, but as Christians in specific, we’re not beholden to one party or one point of view. We aren’t bound to vote a certain way. We’re in a corrupt world full of corrupt people and organisations, and we’re called to be wise as serpents yet gentle as dove.

I know I’ve already made this point before, but I’ll make it again. Our identity as Christians isn’t tied up in any particular political ideology. You may dislike the NDP or the Liberals for various reasons, and you have every right to that opinion; but you don’t have to dislike them, and you don’t have to like the Conservatives.

One side note: it’s remarkable how few people actually understand how the Canadian parliamentary system works. Absolutely remarkable. Maybe it’s because politics in Canada is generally so very dull or something; I don’t know. Either way… keep in mind that we don’t elect governments in Canada. We elect Parliaments. Whoever can form a government from that Parliament forms a government. In recent Canadian history, the Conservatives has been able to form two minority governments. A coalition government has ever right to topple a minority government. It may seem like a game — doesn’t all politics seem like a game? — but that’s how our system works. And it’s worked well for over 140 years.

Dear Conservatives: Please Stop the Whining

Dear Conservative Party, can we stop throwing the word “democracy” around like a football please? Is that okay? You know how the Westminster Parliamentary system works: You know it’s not about who “got elected” but that it’s about “who can form a government”. If the people had given you a majority you could steam-roll everyone as you please. But the people in their infinite wisdom (I’ll go along with the trope for a moment, but there’s some bile rising here) decided not to. So that means that you get to form a minority government.

Seats in Parliament are what matters, not which single party got the most votes in the election. We don’t have a presidential-style system where the guy rules as long as he gets the most votes. If the Conservatives have the most seats, but not 50% + 1 of the seats, they form a minority government. If the Liberals and NDP get together and form a coalition, they suddenly have more seats and they can form the government. This is called “having the confidence of the House”, and if the ruling party doesn’t have that confidence, then the ruling party falls and is replaced by another party or coalition that does have the confidence of the house.

This is why, for those Canadians who seem too dense to understand this, we have a Governor-General. She’s there to oversee and make judgment on abnormal situations like this. She’s the ultimate arbiter of our democracy… and she wasn’t even elected. Gasp! Horror! She doesn’t have to answer to the people of Canada — she has to answer to the Constitution, the Ministers of the government, and (theoretically) the Crown. (Not to mention that the Senate isn’t elected either. Gasp! Horror!) She’s there so that, for instance, a Prime Minister can’t just dissolve Parliament and call an election every time he gets a vote in the House that he dislikes. You can google the King-Byng affair for a time when the Governor-General did just that.

The Governor-General is going to be making some interesting decisions. But there’s nothing back-door or anti-democratic about the proposed coalition between the Liberals and the NDP. It’s how the Parliamentary system was designed to work. The opposition doesn’t like a heavy-handed minority government, and doesn’t feel like being jerked around for the next three years with a confidence motion attached to every bill, budget, and bulletin that gets tabled in the House? Well, they’re free to topple the government.

There’s nothing anti-democratic about it. And if the people of Canada really feel like this is a bad idea, they’re going to punish the NDP and the Liberals in the next election. Which, of course, there will always be. A next election.

In the meantime, the Conservatives can jolly well stop their whining, and stop their deceitful attack ads. The Governor-General doesn’t make her decisions based on what the people think, okay?

There is no salvation in politics.

I recently read a screed by some American evangelical group harping on “Obamania”. Their central premise was that we’re expecting too much from this man; politics never saved anyone, and the system isn’t going to start now.

And you know what? They’re absolutely, 100% correct. Obama as a person and as a politician will end up disappointing us, compromising, letting us down, all the things that every politician has done and will do.

But this begs us answer the question: why is it wrong for the left to look up to Obama as a tranformative man, as a way to change things for the better, but it’s okay for the religious right to look at a certain policy or a certain civil servant or a certain elected leader and expect a proposition or a powerful evangelical lobbyist or a political party to bring the change they want to see? Why is that okay?

There are so many churches who have embedded themselves in the Republican Party, wrapped themselves in the flag, and sold their souls to the political process. I personally think they’ve forgotten their real mission, and forgotten what real change looks like. If we’re going to talk about how politics can’t save anyone, let’s not be pointing fingers at the left (who after all this time deserve to have a hero), but instead starting the sticky task of re-evaluating what the church is supposed to be doing.

Let’s start asking questions about how much allegiance one can have for a flag when ones allegiance is supposed to be to Christ; let’s start talking about why Christians favour this party over that party; let’s start at least asking whether or not we’ve forgotten how to be strangers in a strange land.

I am sick to death of causes and fighting for them.

I’m sick to death of fighting for things. There, I’ve said it.

I’ve stood on the same picket lines as many of you have and held the same sign and fought the same battle… and gotten nowhere at all. We haven’t toppled the abortion edifice. We haven’t changed many (or even any) minds. Look: it isn’t doing any good. We’re not making any progress here.

We live in a post-Christian culture. We really do. It’s no good pretending that the culture we live in is on some sort of axis, about to tip, and if we pull really hard maybe we can make things swing back our way.

The political and social means are out of our hands now. We’re the fringe. We’re the minority. In those realms, our time is past. This is the way it is; get over it already.

It’s time to move on to something worthwhile. Something transformative. It’s time to jettison these old tired ideas that Jesus’ will can be legislated. It’s time to get back to the core of our mission here.

I like to ask this question: How does change come about? What happens when you change your mind? What makes you do that?

For me, I change my mind when I am persuaded to do so; this can take a long time, but like Paul, I can faithfully say that I have been persuaded that Jesus is the Christ. Yet in order to be persuaded of that, I had to hear about it. In order to hear about it, someone had to say it. And in order for someone to say it, they had to believe, but also personify what they believed.

It took a community of believers deeply interested in living the truth to convince me that it was in fact the truth. You know what? I don’t think this is uncommon.

When I changed my mind, I changed my lifestyle. When I changed my mind, a bunch of old stuff went out the window. I got some new perspectives.

There is this dialectic between the heart and the mind, as I see it. If we think something, our actions probably follow; if we act a certain way, our minds follow as well.

This is why I think politics and social change, though important, will never advance the faith. They reach only a certain part of a person. A sign that says that abortion is evil, which it is, does nothing to persuade a heart that life is sacred and it is our duty to protect the weakest members of our society. A sign simple says what it says. A law is meant to be broken. A government agency is a faceless agent of change.

Heart and mind change will do the trick, though. Would a nation of Christian people simply accept abortion as a right? Or that gayness is acceptable or even desirable? Or whatever other issue you could name?

So, yes, I’m sick to death of fighting for things. Is it okay that I simply want to live a life of love instead? I want to love my wife, I want to love my church, I want to love my neighbour, and I want to love God. If that makes me some sort of hippie liberal reject, so be it. I have good company, I think, with Jesus and all.

I know where Obama got “Yes, we can” from.

Seinfeld, season 8, episode 1. Kramer says, “I looked inside myself and found that part of my spirit that said, ‘Yes, I can!’ And now I dominate the dojo!”

Obama, you see, is dominating his dojo. Like Kramer and his karate, he has found that, yes, he can.

Bullet Points for a Friday Afternoon

  1. This evening Laura and I are going to Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. It’s a time where people in our church get together and share each other’s food and apparently also get to know each other in the process. I’m making vegetarian past and good old fashioned meat pasta. I can’t be bothered to be innovative for tonight.
  2. Again last night… four hour of sleep. This is not good. At all. I went to be at 2300, 2400, 0100, 0200, 0300, 0330, 0400… and the last one was the one that took. But now I’m functioning on nothing more than diet cola and coffee.
  3. Laura dropped by the office to say hello and bring me some food. Good wife, that one! And not just because she brings me food.
  4. I’m voting NDP this election. I like Jack Layton, I like a lot of their platform, but I especially like their IP stance. Ever since I saw Charlie Angus debating Jim Prentice in the House of Commons, I’ve kind of warmed to the party. But with the Green Party’s current leadership — she looks and talks like a troll and not even a funny GNAA troll or something, plus she seemed out of touch and just a little dumb — looking a little lacklustre, who else to vote for? Certainly not the Liberals, curse their rotten bones. Absolutely not the Conservatives and their Rove-style politics. So there we go.
  5. Canadian parliamentary politics is pretty interesting. The only thing that matters in these elections is the PM. All his MPs vote with him on all matter except the rare free votes. All his backbenchers vote with him unless they’re resigned to being backbenchers for the rest of their careers. I don’t like this. What’s the point of having MPs if they can only vote as the PM wills? We may as well just vote for a 4-year dictator and his assorted civil servants: After all, what are the MPs doing but spearheading policy issues for the PM and party brass? The MP voting and selection process is broken and meaningless.
  6. I don’t like change any more. I generally don’t like new people. I like the people I already know and the faces I’m already familiar with and the places I’m used to going. Maybe that makes me old or something, but I don’t mind. The only thing I really like is new music. I can get into new music.
  7. Oh, and I pretty much hate a lot of worship music. It’s bland, boring, artificial, meaningless junk for the most part.
  8. Soon I will be at home cooking a mean. This is good.

Bullet Points for a Tuesday Evening

  • It’s rare that I blog in the evening, much less that I assemble a list of bullet points in the evening, but I haven’t had a moment to slow down today.
  • The economy may be slowing down, but business is heating up at work. We’ve had several really solid sales days. If we could keep that up — by getting the salesmen to actually be on the road selling things! — we’d be rolling in it. Part of our current success is several new contracts with Bombardier and Heroux Devtek. Our tooling is knocking them dead. Though not literally, I hope.
  • Listening to Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm is an exercise in noticing they used to be fun and interesting to listen to but are no longer fun or interesting. Several big producers and big albums later and they’re just well-coordinated noise. Remember “Positive Tension”? Great song.
  • Nathan was playing a Collective Soul song at work today. It reminded me of a more innocent time, when the Mix 99.9 played actual music, and I was dating Laura #1. Not a particularly great time in my life, but still, a more innocent time. I drove a blue Saturn! (Was it blue?) It had those seatbelts that automatically sealed you into your seat but annoyingly required the lap belt to be done up manually. In any case, the point of this point is: Collective Soul sucks. They always have, and they always will. They aren’t innovative. They’re bland. They aren’t interesting. They’re stale. If you like them, that’s fine; just don’t expect me to share your excitement.
  • How I Met Your Mother is in the download queue! Yes!
  • It strikes me that morality is, after all, innate. A priori. Arts and Letters is right on that count.
  • Part of me wants the US government to bail out the banks. Another part of me wants the US government to nuke the banks from space. I’m torn.
  • Cats can really smell up a place real quick. Especially younger cats.
  • I’m reading “Dune” again right now. It’s a lot more interesting than I remember. But it’s still ruined by its surrounding novels, the prequels especially but also the sequels. Neither Herbert’s continuing vision or his son’s diving into its past have added anything to “Dune” but taken much away. It should be the only book in the canon.
  • I got something like 4 hours of sleep last night. I rather hope some of my friends’ sleep problems aren’t catching or anything like that.
  • People using the laptop on the toilet really freaks me out. What if, right now, you were talking to someone and you had no idea they were sitting on the can? That’s uncool!
  • I’m making a main course for a thing our church does. It’s called “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and it’s a basically a way for people to meet other people they might not know. It’s pretty much awesome, but I haven’t the foggiest clue what to make for it. Do you people have any good recipes I should make? Keep in mind I can do multiple dishes!

Sarah Palin

Those of you who know me know I don’t talk about politics much. That doesn’t mean I’m not interested, of course, and nothing interests me more than US politics. Mostly because Canada — my birth nation — sits right on top of the States and when they jump, we usually feel the impact.

I’m a little late to the game on Sarah Palin, yes. I’d like to get a word in edgewise anyhow.

I like Sarah Palin. I know I’m not supposed to, as a Canadian, like a Republican vice presidential candidate, especially one who so vocally opposes a lot of the values I hold dear. Still, I like her. She does, however, scare me.

She’s probably a great person. She looks like she’d be a lot of fun to be around. She seems to be vivacious and spunky, and if you’ve ever met my wife you’ll see I like to be around those kinds of people.

Yet for all the things I like about her personally — for all the things about her personality I admire — I can’t help but be scared by her. The policies she represents, the sort of religious Republican right-wing agenda she embodies, and the stunning lack of knowledge she displays all roll together to make me extremely leery of what she would do as a vice president.

Vice presidents for the longest time did absolutely nothing. They sat around and waited for the President to die. They were the guy in the wings who reads novels while the main actors perform the play. That era is clearly past, with the Vice President — along with the First Lady, should she be so inclined — filling a much more activist role. That is to say, VPs are the bully pulpit to the President’s political manoeuvrings. Vice Presidents use their position to nudge policy their way, even though their role in the Executive Branch is ill-defined and essentially powerless. Recent Vice Presidents, such as Dick Cheney, have had a great influence on the direction the government takes. They are spokespeople for their various causes, and have a great platform from which to raise awareness and money for whatever they put their minds to.

Sarah Palin looks ill-equipped to properly serve this function. Even if she were informed about issues other than oil and bridges to nowhere much, her agenda would probably be too right wing even for me.

Bear in mind that a hundred years ago I would have probably been a Republican. I’m pro-life — I despise abortion, but also execution and euthanasia — I hate big government, and I believe that history bears out the free market as the best solution for quite a few problems. Yet in the USA, the Democratic party seems to be the one leading, from FDR on, the charge for innovative policy that actually helps people. The Republicans have become a sort of big-government, military-industrial party, completely separated from their roots while every once in a while appointing or choosing or electing a politician who harkens back to the good old days, back when neo-Conservatism wasn’t more than a loosely grouped glimmer in that back of Leo Strauss’s head.

This person is Sarah Palin. She has been chosen as a Vice Presidential candidate in a stunningly crass bit of political cunning, at once appealing the Republican base — mixed up Christians who have somehow integrated politics and religion, much to the diminishing of Christ — and making the party seem fresh and young, despite being anything of the kind.

She is the veneer on the reality of the Republican party as it stands today. It’s a party speaking out of both sides of its mouth. Sarah Palin is pro-life. This is good. Yet the Republican party has said that it wants “the debate” about abortion to continue, which is to say that they would very much like for everyone to keep talking and no-one to do much about it. She is anti-homosexual. This is good, or bad depending on what you take that term to mean. Yet the parade — pardon the pun — of gay rights marches on unabated in the United States, and the Republican party wishes nothing more than to stop that march. Yet legislating lifestyle and denying genetics is just the sort of thing one might expect from Big Government. Or Big Brother, if you’re particularly pessimistic. Sarah Palin is pro-gun, despite the avalanche of evidence that guns are harmful to society at large. Sarah Palin is pro-oil, willing to spoil the last great reserve of American wildlife to drill for it, willing to sacrifice anything at any cost to feed the American oil habit. She shows no interests in alternatives, even though drilling can only satisfy this craving for so long. Drilling for more oil a a thumb in a dam full of holes. Sarah Palin is, in the last analysis, critically lacking in knowledge about things — the Bush Doctrine being a recent example — that even I, a humble Canadian, can elucidate with almost embarrassing ease. She is not a crash-course away from being knowledgeable. She is fully unprepared to fill any bully pulpit whatsoever.

I could go on. I won’t. I have a glass of scotch calling my name. Just let me say thing: I don’t dislike her as a person, but I disagree with her politics and thing she is a crass and irresponsible choice for a VP candidate. Biden, though I don’t particularly like his style, seems a much more wise and measured choice. The sort of choice one might expect from a man who seems to be fairly wise in his own right.

I’m supposed to be a Conservative.

I’m a Christian in Canada. I’d probably be considered an evangelical Christian by anyone bothering with the taxonomy. For the most part, this means I should be voting FCP or Conservative.

The FCP is just dangerous. Mixing politics and religion is a recipe for the corruption of both.

But the Conservatives are much more benign, right? They’re like the Liberals, except just a bit more trustworthy and industry-friendly, right?

I don’t care anymore. When the current Conservative government introduces its copyright legislation, when I read that legislation and it appears carbon copied from the disastrous US DMCA and practically written by American corporate interests, they will have lost my vote. And I don’t mean in this election, I mean for as long as I feel they are corrupt and beholden to interests other than the interests of Canadians.

This is what bothers me. They are not serving voters. How will DMCA-like provisions in Canade aid people on the ground? Not at all. It will not provide them with jobs or health care or safety or any other measurable public good. It will simply make yet another class of thing against the law, and trust me, we already have enough ridiculous things that are against the law here. (For instace, smoking pot. There’s no way that should be illegal. Ill advised? Sure. Illegal? No.) There’s no public good here. There’s a supposed good for American content producers, of course, and for an American copyright regime spreading almost virally around the world.

We’re not even acting in our own national interests here. We’re acting in the interests of the USA. We’re the Eastern European nation that does whatever the might America says in the hope that one day we’ll be shown a photo of a pot of jam.

We’re helping to propagate the myth that the USA and its knowledge economy can dominate on the world stage as long as everyone everywhere obeys the same set of laws. And these laws are not, I might add, tilted in the favour of customers and citizens. The USA is using its international power to create and Information Technology Hegemony where it creates the content and the rest of the world has no choice but to consume said content.

It won’t work in the long term, of course. But in the meantime we’ll be saddling ourselves with a law whose intentions are not to help Canadians but instead to hinder them. Not to hinder them in order to help them, but to help media companies stick their hands further in citizens’ wallets.

I’m supposed to be Conservative, and for the most part I am still conservative. But this party and this government is slowly but surely starting to represent the interests of the industries and countries it has aligned itself with. They should be representing me and people like me who voted for them.

But they’re not. And if this policy comes to pass, I simply will not vote for them. It’s that simple.